Podcast Roundup

Photo by Patrick Breitenbach CC BY 2.0

I did not get as much sleep as I should have this weekend.  There was a lot going on, and it was fun, and we had a great time and also got a lot of things done, but the problem is that I have gotten into a habit where I’m not in bed before 11 pm, and I have a bad habit of looking at facebook or instagram or just nonsense on my phone just before going to sleep, which is not only bad for me in and of itself, it’s just delaying the moment when I finally put my phone down and try to go to sleep.  The point is, I’m tired, and it’s entirely my own fault.

Luckily I’d been planning on talking about my favorite podcasts, so instead of doing some in-depth discussion about why you should listen to podcasts in general, this is more the stuff that “keeps me coming back” instead of “what’s new and cool in the podcast world”.  I have long resigned myself to not be on the bleeding edge, or even the cutting edge anymore.  It’s just nice to be on the knife of “with-it-ness” at all.

Let’s start from the beginning.  The first podcast that I listened to with any regularity is The Nerdist.  Hosted by the ubiquitous Chris Hardwick, with regular co-hosting from “the sister wives” Matt Mira and Jonah Ray, the Nerdist is essentially a celebrity interview program.  What makes it different is that Chris tries very hard to make it feel conversational, to talk about whatever is being promoted that week, but to get the guests to talk about strange things that may not come up in other interviews.  Recurring bits include “have we started already?” (when the guests didn’t realize they were already being recorded in the initial stages of the interview because it’s so conversational), Chris’s discussion of being sober or his father’s death, Jonah talking about being from Hawaii or being a super hipster music nerd, or Matt’s obsession with [left-handed] guitars, Star Trek, James Bond, or Frasier.  It’s a lot of fun, and if you’re listening to them all in order (as I try to do, and which is why I’m nearly a year behind!!!) is a way to learn about new people and things that you might not have chosen otherwise.  And it’s nice to recognize a guest and sometimes bump that to the top of the queue too.  The one downside is that most episodes are an hour or longer, which can make it difficult to catch up.

The next podcast that I really got into was Serial.  The entire first season was nearly over by the time I finally got started listening, but I was hooked.  It was fascinating.  The single-topic of this one legal case explored in depth through a season, tackling all the different angles.  The first seasons focused on the trial of Adnan Syed for the murder of Hae Min Lee, and that’s the one that got everyone talking.  There was even an SNL skit about it.  The second season was not as well received, and perhaps that’s because it felt more political despite the fact that it tried to focus on the FACTS surrounding the case of Bowe Bergdahl.  Theoretically we could be getting a new season any moment now, but it’s the kind of thing where you don’t want to hold your breath waiting.

Those were the ones that I listened to when I was working from home one day a week at my old job. But at my new job, we have a project that lasts for a few months every year, and is the perfect time to listen to podcasts – it involves a lot of mindless and repetitive actions, and having someone tell fun stories or have interesting discussions in your ears is the best way to stop from going crazy after a few months.  Here’s what else joined the lineup:

I first knew about Young House Love through their blog.  When they stepped away from it a few years ago, I was very sad, because they felt like my friends and I knew them.  I definitely missed them.  And then last year they came back…in podcast form.  They’re still blogging occasionally, but I think the podcast is working for their life choices better, and I totally respect that.  I still get my YHL fix, and they get to manage their time the way that works best for their family.  It’s a lot of discussion of home, decorating, and DIY (that’s the theme), but there are lots of other things that come up too.  My favorite segment is “We’re Digging“, because it’s how I found out about these duvet cover clips that have saved my sanity when it comes to the girls bedding.  Since episodes average about 30 minutes or under, I’m all caught up, and only have to listen to a new episode each week to stay abreast of what’s happening in the Petersik household, or with decor trends.

Before our family trip up to the Adirondacks last year when I knew we would be in the car for more than a few hours, I did some research on interesting podcasts that might appeal to all in our car (me, the Boy, Ben & Nicole).  I discovered Reply All, which is a podcast whose theme is very loosely “The Internet”.  This can mean memes, or stuff about technology or blogs, or problems that people are having with internet services.  I always feel smarter (sort of?) after listening, or at least like I understand the latest meme that’s going around.  Episodes tend to be on the shorter side too, so this is another one where I’m all caught up.

Listening to Reply All, which is part of Gimlet Media led me to the next podcast I listen to, because it too is on Gimlet.  When the new season of Science VS was about to start, Reply All did a short preview that sounded fascinating.  The premise is that each episode is about one topic in science that is either controversial or we can’t decide as a society if opinions about it are based in scientific truth.  The previous season tackled fracking, attachment parenting, guns, organic food and more.  This is one where I definitely felt smarter after listening because it’s all based in science.  I’ve definitely found myself surprised at some of the conclusions, but also validated in others.  So that’s a pleasant surprise.  The host (Wendy Zukerman) has a delightful Australian accent, and that’s also a fun and different sound to have in your ear.

Last summer when I was also blasting through podcasts while working on my big project, I asked around for recommendations.  My brother – trying to encourage my D&D nerdery – suggested listening to The Adventure Zone.  So I started listening, and it was fun and different.  I’m nearly two years behind at this point.  I don’t know if I’ll ever catch up to real time.  Maybe it’s nicer that way?  But unlike other D&D shows that I watch (*coughCriticalRolecough*), this one is broken up into one hour-ish chunks which makes it easier to get through than a three-to-five hour video stream.  They don’t do voices like on CR (not really), but listening to the McElroys laugh is just a joyous thing.  So if you’re looking for a fun D&D podcast that doesn’t take itself too seriously, despite not being caught up, this is one I can recommend.

And finally – This American Life.  I don’t usually catch the first run when it’s on the radio.  So I like to listen to episodes in podcast form.  This is another one where they’re an hour+ which can back things up, but they are SO GOOD.  And so interesting too!  Some of the stories that are told just punch me in the feelings, and it’s hard to respond in a proper way.  When I looked at my progress on my reading goal at the end of February and realized that my book club book for March hadn’t arrived yet, I decided to just catch up on TAL for a while.  It was worth it – and also bizarre.  The episodes that I heard towards the end of my time were those from just before and immediately following the election last November which was a gut punch for me.  Reliving it through the stories was sad and funny and enlightening all at once.  Listening to what people thought in advance of the election was fascinating and naive.  But it also gave us musical numbers starring Barack Obama, Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus.  So that helps?

That’s all I’ve got on stuff I listen to regularly.  There are a few others that I listen to one or two.  Or want to listen to.  But man, I am still very backed up on podcasts.  Despite that all, I’m interested in seeing what you guys like.  What podcasts do you like and recommend?

7 Comment

  1. Nicole Holstein says: Reply

    For the record, I have continued listening to ReplyAll since that car trip we took 🙂 My favorite segment is Yes, Yes, No, where they read an out of context tweet that references something obscurely or is a very “inside the Internet” kind of joke, and they ask themselves who understands the tweet. Then they explain it, and it is always one of those things that you have to be plugged into multiple layers of the Internet and the real world in order to understand. It is always interesting and funny. Their Pizzagate episode blew my mind.

    I also regularly listen to Nerdist, but I skip the episodes with guests I don’t recognize or have no interest in.

    A new find has been Holy Fucking Science, which is a general science interest round table in which each participating host brings a science story or lesson that is awe-inspiring enough to make everyone else a the table go “Holy fucking science!!!”

    PlanetMoney and Freakonomics have been hugely educational for me. And of course, I am a devoted listener to the West Wing Weekly and Call Your Girlfriend.

    I keep considering listening to the Adventure Zone….still unsure.

    1. maggie says: Reply

      The pizzagate episode of ReplyAll should be required listening. It’s here: https://gimletmedia.com/episode/83-voyage-into-pizzagate/

      Freakonomics Radio and RadioLab are also things I enjoy, but tend to listen to more on NPR as I’m driving around sans audiobook

  2. Ben says: Reply

    My Brother My Brother and Me is also some of my required listening! It’s the McElroy’s but they give *bad* advice to people who send in questions and they answer Yahoo answers questions in a semi-serious way. Also they are just such good guys and I love how much they care about making people feel welcomed and taken care of.

    1. maggie says: Reply

      Wait – the advice is actually bad? …why???

  3. Ben says: Reply

    It’s dubious advice. It’s meant to be silly and funny. The Green Brothers do a similar one.

    1. maggie says: Reply

      Ah, well if it’s meant to and understood to be dubious, that’s a different creature. It’s humor!

  4. Nicole Holstein says: Reply

    Speaking of dubious advice podcasts(!!!)-Dear Hank and John is a comedy podcast about death!! That is their unofficial byline, at least because with John Green around, the topic of death comes up a lot. Mainly advice (kind of serious but with a HEFTY dose of salt) plus news from Mars (a cold, dead planet) and AFC Wimbledon (England’s best 3rd tier, fan owned football club). So good!!!!

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