In honor of international Podcast Day and my inability to post regular blogs, here are some podcast recommendations nobody asked for. (“Writeups Nobody Asked For” could be an alternate title for this blog. So many blogs, really.)
I’ve already spent a couple years hyping a number of established podcast sensations like The Guilty Feminist, My Dad Wrote a Porno, No Such Thing as a Fish, The West Wing Weekly and Wooden Overcoats. Here I’m going to highlight some of my more recent and/or less-frequently hyped discoveries.
Griefcast: Comedian Cariad Lloyd talks to a guest (usually another comedian) about a loved one who’s died. The conversations include loving memories of the person, their life and relationships, as well as the circumstances of their death, and the aftermath. As she says in her intro, Lloyd lost her father when she was 15, and she since developed a borderline obsession (in a charming way) with death and how we handle it.
This podcast, too, is a big hit and an award-winner, and listening to these conversations week after week can really affect the way you think and talk about death and grieving. It’s heartfelt and earnest without being cloying, with plenty of levity because, y’know: comedians. It’s catharsis and a sense of expanded humanity, like an aural hug.
All of the eps are great, but go ahead and start with Robert Popper. It’s amazing.
Do The Right Thing: Also an established hit, it’s a comedy quiz show in front of a live audience pitting two teams of comedians trying to figure out the right thing to do in emergencies or socially awkward situations. As follows the British live comedy panel show tradition (or, say, our Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me), the quiz questions double as prompts for the comedians to do their thing, and through some kind of comedic wizardry, DTRT always winds up being frenetic and hysterical and frequently very very dark and dirty and sweary. It helps that the core team—host/creator Danielle Ward and “team captains” Michael Legge and Margaret Cabourn-Smith—are unequivocally ruthless with one another, so the comedy floodgates are always wide open from the get-go.
They haven’t released any new episodes since I discovered it last Christmas, but it looks like they’re recording more now, and there’s a big back catalog to go through in the meantime. Might as well start, as I did, with the most recent ep, which early on contains the phrase “vagina boat.”
Worst Foot Forward: Two comedian friends (Dubliner Barry McStay and Geordie Ben Van der Veld) and a guest (usually either a comedy performer or an expert on the topic—often both) pitch ideas for the world’s worst thing in whatever the week’s category—from the worst horror movie to the worst monarch to the worst cocktail. In a similar vein to NSTAAF, there’s something satisfying about a podcast that requires its participants to do research and come prepared, so you get a great blend of comedy and fascinating trivia.
World’s Worst Horror Movie and World’s Worst Actor are good pop-culture-y ways in, but even less familiar topics—footballers, for instance—result in fun, funny, fascinating chats.
Things Wrong With Things: I feel as though all of my one-sentence summaries of this one fall well short of its charm and instead sound reasonably unappealing:
- Hyper-articulate meditations on utter nonsense.
- A low-key Irishman and a chatty Brit discuss everyday annoyances and other issues.
- A rambly drive-time radio talk show about…things.
- Like if Rosencrantz and Guildenstern never got summoned to Elsinore.
I think those are all technically accurate, but you’d have to add “…in a lovely, funny way.” The two guys (Will Green and Michael O’Mahoney, whom the website describes as “a failed actor and a drunken poet”) start with a few topics in mind—their own, or things suggested by listeners—with the idea of highlighting, as it says, the things wrong with those things—could be a restaurant or a movie or just a thing that happened to someone once.
Still not sold? The thing is, they have an easy commitment to following their own conversations off into absurdity. Whereas in a normal conversation, suggesting that Birkenstocks have a sexuality would be its own punchline and then back to the topic at hand; here they follow through: If Birkenstocks have a sexuality, then what is the sexuality of other shoes? Like the most relaxed, easygoing comedy improv game of “Yes, and…” Like, you’re listening to two people have a casual, low-key chat and then find yourself going, “Hang on, why are we talking about how best to marinate our phones?”
There’s also something very satisfying about how articulate they are. No matter the ridiculousness of the statement, it will be well said. Or as Will says at one point, “That nonsense you’ve just spouted has a lot of charm to it.”
There haven’t been any new episodes after the original 10, but it seems a second season is afoot. Start at the beginning to hear the development of various gags (the WTF Slaw campaign, Jehovah Mathsman, etc.).