It's that time of year again when turkeys are devoured, holiday shoppers climb over each other to get the latest "must have" chotchkies, and all your favorite shows take a hiatus until the new year. I was reading a fun Christmas Trivia article by Bohica and was pleased to see there was at least one question about The Christmas Story. In our household, it has been a long tradition to view this wonderful movie at least once around the holidays (usually several times), so reading the article sent my thoughts drifting to Red Ryder BB Guns, Bumpus Hounds, and Little Orphan Annie. Then an amusing notion crossed my mind: While the height of radio popularity was several generations ago, the proliferation of modern technology has resurrected the spirit of a long ago era. With the ever developing world of Podcasting, we are literally seeing a Golden Age of programs that harken back to the techniques used by the greats before the television took firm hold of households across the nation. The stylish, informative, hysterical radio operas and variety shows of yesteryear are the spitting image of the entertainment we plug into our ears on a daily basis.
This is certainly not some groundbreaking revelation, but as an avid Podcast listener, it got me pondering over some of the favorites that I regularly download off iTunes and spend hours delighting in. My choices are mainly comedic and/or educational in nature, but I've gone through quite a few and maybe some of my gems will become your new obsessions by the end of this article.
By the way, "aureation" is a fun word I was recently introduced to and thought it would be perfect for the title, but don't let that fool you into thinking that this is a list of "serious" Podcasts with mountains of flowery rhetoric... Some sure, but most of these programs are just great conversations (with a lot of cursing) that truly elevate this media.
An educational show with style and spirit, this Podcast taped from the WNYC Public Radio Show of the same name has been informing and entertaining listeners for years. Jad Abumrad (don't worry if you can't pronounce it right, Jad's cool with it) and Robert Krulwich are an odd couple that make magic together. With such a satisfying blend of youth and experience, modern and traditional, enthusiastic exuberance and time-honored values, this duo can definitely be considered dynamic (but that title has to be reserved for a podcast later in this article). Whether the subjects they touch upon are as morbid as "blood" or as lighthearted as "laughter" you can always count of Jad's masterful soundwork and Robert's wise touch to spin their well-researched material into a compelling story that is sure to keep your attention through to the end and warrant a repeat session.
Right off the bat, I can tell you NOT to listen to this podcast if you have any issues with the heavy use of profanity (as I can safely say for the majority of podcasts featuring Kevin Smith). But, if you can get passed this hurdle, you're in for a raucus good time with two of the funniest guys to rock the mic. Kevin's laid-back, good-humored, pothead antics mesh so well with Ralph Garman's rage and liquor fueled rants of hatred that the moniker of "Dynamic Duo" can be rightfully bestowed upon this potent partnership. (At this point, Kevin would make a joke about "potent" and Ralph would follow up with an Al Pacino, "HooAhhh!") I also don't use the term merely as a prop, these guys back it up with a combined love of Batman that would send Shakespeare grasping for a quill. Kevin Smith, has voiced his deep passion for the Dark Knight since he was a twinkle in his father's eye and even has a podcast called "Fatman on Batman" where he talks about all things Batman with comic industry superstars... but we'll come back to that later. As for Ralph's cred, the guy has been obsessed with all things Batman for as long as Kevin, is a personal friend of Adam West (going so far as to raise money to get West a star on the Hollywood Walk), has a vast collection of Batman paraphernalia, and even had The Batmobile at his wedding.
I know, I know, "How did these guys ever get dates let alone get married?" I believe if you listened to this podcast, you'd understand the kind of quality lip service these guys are packing. AND I barely even mentioned Ralph's impressions, the hollywood-inspired entertainment business segments, or Kevin's fascination with Liam Neeson's, erm... member. Just go listen.
Comedy Film Nerds
They are Chris Mancini and Graham Elwood, The Comedy Film Nerds! A long running program that continues to deliver insightful comments on a myriad of movies with an entertaining brand of comedy that still makes me laugh. On top of the encyclopedic cinema knowledge these guys have, they are also at the helm of a burgeoning CFN empire that has been cultivated over time with the help of several outstanding guest contributors that always keep the content fresh and light, even when there's a knock-down drag-out over a film like "Tree of Life" or a Michael Bay reference turns into a heated rant. If you like weight benches, gargoyles, coconut milk, and spot-on accent work, then you've gotta give this podcast a try. Also, always remember... Han shot first!
Doug Loves Movies
Hmm... well, Doug loves food. Doug also loves plays. He especially loves getting high...on life of course (well, among other things). But, what Doug loves most of all is Leonard Maltin (in an uncomfortably passionate manner). No, what I meant to say was Doug Loves Movies, and whenever he goes off on some obscure fact about a 1982 film that just happened to be obliquely referenced by a guest, you know there's a LOT of film trivia bouncing around that stoner head. There is no doubt that Doug's antics are gut-busting fun, but he also invites stellar panels of comedians and celebs to turn out ridiculously humorous programs no matter how much the show seems to be falling apart as the inmates trample over the guards and run the asylum. That last reference was basically regarding times when rather loud and flamboyant guests run amok on stage and Doug just sits back as the crowd revels in the anarchy. (Denver! Yeahhh!) On top of the revolving door of talent that appear randomly on the show, there's also a staple of great repeat performers that keep you coming back for more. I defy anyone to listen to a Werner Herzog episode and not want to download another. Doug's show revolves around a number of games he likes to abuse the guests with, most notably the main event of any episode, "The Leonard Maltin Game." (I should note that Leonard has been on several times to play the game and he's not particularly good at it) If you like funny, and you like games, you'll love Doug Loves Movies.
Did I mention that Graham Elwood from the previously mentioned Comedy Film Nerds is a regular of the DLM? Don't worry, I will.
The Thrilling Adventure Hour
Remember when I spoke of those radio shows of yesteryear like Little Orphan Annie? Yeah, this podcast is the modern equivalent with an adult twist. No, no profanities involved, and the great music and voice actors could easily be enjoyed by the entire family, but the writers "Acker & Blacker" are the wonderful type of wordsmiths that are able to intertwine mature and racy humor in such a way that you can laugh guilt-free while the little ones sing along with such musical intros as "Sparks Nevada: Martial of Mars" or "Captain Laser Beam." The show constantly draws in new voice talents who can't help but be allured into the classic brand of comedy with modern sensibilities and a wry self-awareness that never fails to please. Such guests and regulars like Nathan Fillion, Paul F. Thompkins, Marc Evan Jackson, and SO many more just continue to raise the standards of podcasting with undeniably sharp wit and tight performances that it's almost impossible to tell when someone is improvising lines. Every time I listen, it's abundantly clear that the players, orchestra, writers, and everyone else that bring this production to life are having just as good a time as the audience who have to be literally rolling in the aisles at every one-liner. Be prepared to get looks when you suddenly laugh out loud while these improv stars are pumping the funny through your ear buds.
The podcast that launched a 1000 podcasts. The show that created an empire. Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier have been buddies and working partners for a long time so the chemistry is fantastic whether they're talking about hockey, anal fissures, or odd news stories to capture the imagination. To listen to this show feels very much like cracking open Kevin and Scott's heads and perusing all the gooey goodness that spills out. Remember that the regular disclaimer regarding podcasts featuring Kevin Smith still applies, do not listen if profanity is not your cup of tea. This is a stream of consciousness program that can meander all over a wide range of barely-related topics and you never know where the conversation may end up, but you can be sure there's always something interesting, silly, thought-provoking, and so personal that you may even blush at times. Kevin and Scott are open books and you'll surely enjoy every page.
Time to mix a little serious in with all the funny, but not too much. The beauty of this cerebral podcast hosted by David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton is the ability to fit such large subjects into a refreshingly short format. The interviews with brilliant contemporary philosophers are heady and in-depth enough for any philosophy enthusiast while being brief enough to finish before the average listener's eyes glaze over and roll to the back of their head. It's usually just the right amount of intellectuality to satiate my need for a change-up between comedy podcasts. A shining beacon of erudition... and come on, you gotta admit, "Nigel Warburton" is the coolest British name you've heard since Benedict Cumberbatch.
The Partially Examined Life
While Philosophy Bites is great for those satisfying morsels of scholarly edification, sometimes you really want to get your debate on with some folks that want to focus on deep discussions yet be irreverent enough to inject a good amount of levity with the literature. The real appeal to the approach of the hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Seth Paskin, and Wes Alwan is the sincerity beneath the shenanigans. These guys give the listeners the reading material that they focus each episode on, delve into the material with an eye for accessibility, are practical with the arguments given, and always try to keep the conversations grounded in relevance to everyday life. The Partially Examined Life is a great kickstart for critical thinking, so if you want a little inspiration to spark some real analysis in your daily life, give these guys some attention and you'll be expanding your mind in no time. (No drugs necessary)
WTF with Marc Maron Podcast
Marc will be the first to admit that his Podcast is not the oldest, or funniest, or deepest, or any "-est" that one can think of, but fans of this long-running show would be quick to point out that Marc's dogged ability to lay bare his life and the lives of those he interviews is nothing short of brilliant. Much like Kevin Smith, there's no filter here, so the profanities flow freely. He has this unique abrasive style that seems aggressive and vulnerable at the same time creating a rare atmosphere where guests of the show constantly report feeling "intimidated" to even come on yet end up being so disarmed by Marc's genuine personality that they reveal more on this podcast than they would to their own priest. But, don't think episodes are always heavy. While Marc does use it as a platform for his own confessions, insights, and neuroses, the podcast rides the edge of the abyss because of his incomparable ability to mine depression for hilarity, refining diamonds of precious wisdom from the deposits of darkness clinging to his soul. Listening to this podcast can be akin to a mental colonic, but trust me, you'll be laughing through it, and end up feeling better that you did.
How Did This Get Made?
"What is going ON here?! What is HAPPENING?! Can you BELIEVE this?!"
If you've ever thought this while watching a movie, or were compelled to yell it out loud, then you've probably watched an awesomely bad movie that's already been on this Podcast. Between Jason screaming about how ridiculous the movie is, Paul keeping the conversations moving, and June giving her singularly amazing takes on the box office bombs they submit themselves to viewing (not to say the movies were all financially unsuccessful, just that they are mainly thought of as really, really bad) one can't help but be entertained by the commentaries this show offers. To add more bang for your buck (not that you have to pay for the podcast, it's free) Paul usually takes the time to pepper in some fun facts about the productions of these flops including budgets, mishaps, conflicts, and anything else that may have contributed to the movie's less than stellar development. These guys may not always get to the answers of how such movies got a green light, but you'll be happy you listened.
What?! Another Kevin Smith Podcast? Yup, you caught me, I'm a big fan of the fat man. Kevin just knows how to give good mic and seems to have great chemistry with anyone he partners up with. Edumacation is one of the newer podcasts he has taken on hosting along with his professorial pal, Andy McElfresh. He's not an actual professor, but he is certainly a fount of knowledge that one would be lucky to sup from. Kev's exuberance at sitting across from Andy while being edumacated with the rest of the audience is genuinely palpable as these intrepid knowledge seekers deflty negotiate the Sci, Fi, Why, and Bye segments of each episode. Of course, when I say "deftly" I mean that Kevin usually flies off on wild tangents and comes up with outlandishly fantastic explanations that Andy dutifully corrects. This podcast is crazy fun, with really interesting information, so you end up with a lot of laughter and you may have even learned a thing or two. Kevin plays "Sherman" to Andy's "Mr. Peabody" every week and we're all the better for it. Don't hesitate to give this podcast a listen. (Do I even need to give the profanity warning again?)
Wrapping it Up
The above podcasts are just a sampling of some of the very best programs I love to follow, but this is certainly not a comprehensive list of my podcast habits. Some honorable mentions are:
- The Nerdist Podcast: Much like Smodcast, The Nerdist podcast hosted by Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Mira, was another show that created an empire. These guys turned a madly funny show into a madly popular network now boasting dozens of podcasts a popular YouTube channel and the NerdMelt Theater. Pretty good for some nerds.
- Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn: A no-nonsense, unflinching look at every angle of earning passive income. Pat's enthusiasm and candor when discussing his endeavors into making money and interviewing other successful people is probably well known to the IB community. But, to anyone else who's unaware of this clever guy, do yourself a favor and look him up.
- Fareed Zakaria GPS & The PBS News Hour: I put these two together because I've found that the way these shows supplement each other give a fantastic overview of world events while still taking the care to delve deeply into specific topics that may not be touched by many of the daily news outlets.
- Fatman on Batman: Way back when I was talking about Hollywood Babble-On, I told you I'd be coming back to Kevin's Batman cred. The beauty of this podcast is how it seems that Batman literally touches every other comic in existence. When Kevin talks to big guns like Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, or Greg Capullo, he doesn't just talk to them about Batman, but rather meanders through every title, character, and project these guys have crossed paths with in their careers. It's not uncommon for the conversation to wind through the annals of DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, or any other publisher you can think of before building up to that Batman momentum and dropping a load of Dark Knight magic on listeners. If you only listen to one guest, I would highly recommend the Grant Morrison interviews. Mind=Blown
- KCRW's Left, Right & Center: The show's moderator, Matt Miller, says it best, "Your civilized yet provocative antidote to the self-contained opinion bubbles that dominate political debate.
- Filmspotting: When you're looking for some hardcore analysis of movies from a couple of fantastic film critics, look no further than Adam Kempenaar and Josh Larsen. Their passion for movies is fathoms beyond the rest which is apparent from the first time you listen.
The podcast landscape is so rich these days with quality programming that I could effortlessly continue this article for several more pages, but it's best to just invite you to let us all know some of the great podcasts you enjoy. I invite you to leave your comments below and thanks for reading.