Thursday, February 3, 2011

Podcast Enlightenment

Being someone that seems to subsist on indie music exclusively, you might be surprised to find out that I listen to a lot of Podcasts too. Sometimes I get bored listening to albums again and again, or just get tired of the predictable formulae. For days like this, I subscribe to a swath of Podcasts that fill my every need. If I'm feeling intellectual, there's one for that. If I'm feeling cheeky, there's one for that too. What I'm trying to say, is that there are thousands of Podcasts out there, and you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't take the time to find a few that you like. Here are my favorites.

1. Filmspotting - I think this is one of the first Podcasts I ever downloaded, and I still listen to each new episode the day it comes out. The premise is simple. Adam and Matty review films in the Windy City. They bicker, there is a back and forth, and they usually agree to disagree. Matty is more an auteur, and Adam is more of an everyman, but they are both articulate and their love for cinema is undeniable. They also countdown a Top 5 list every week, often score interesting interviews, and are especially gracious to their fans. They are one of the most popular film Podcasts for a reason. Check them out.

2. Uhh Yeah Dude - Probably my favorite Comedy podcast. Jonathan and Seth generally riff on the past week in news and their lives and inevitably get into laughing fits and absurd situations that make my coworkers question my sanity for laughing so hard alone at 8AM. They call themselves "Two American Americans, saving America from herself", and it's pretty accurate. Seth is a complete riot, jumping from tangent to tangent and pushing everyone into hysterics, and Jonathan is more introspective and philosophical. It's the Seinfeld of Podcasts. SEATBELTS.

3. Radiolab - I wish I could remember where I was the first time I listened to Radiolab, because I'm sure it was a seminal moment in my young life. Without being overly dramatic, if you listen to ONE Podcast from this post, let it be this one. If you like This American Life, you will kick it to the curb. Where This American Life can be rambling and preachy at times, Radiolab is peerless. Featuring several stories on a common theme, it gets me misty more than I would care to admit. But it's not the stories alone that are so amazing, but the sound design. If you've ever listened to old radio broadcasts, you will understand how important sound is, and Radiolab has taken this to heart. There is music, sound effects, and other odds and ends that suck you completely into the story in a way that most films can't even do. Please please please check it out.

4. Doug Loves Movies - Doug Benson is a comedian whom I had foolishly dismissed as a pothead from what little I knew about him. As it turns out, he is one of the wittiest comedians out there, and his Podcast showcases this admirably. Each episode involves Doug inviting 3 famous people (other Comedians, actors promoting a film, etc) to talk about movies and generally have a good time. At the end of the episode they all play the "Leonard Maltin Game", where Doug will read them snippets of a Leonard Maltin film review and tell you how many actors are featured on the IMDB. The guests then bid and outbid each other (lower and lower numbers of actors) until one calls another ones bluff and they are forced to guess the movie based on the number of names they claimed. For instance, if a person bid 3, that means they can determine the movie from the bottom three actors in the credits. This is a small part of each episode, but always hilarious. I especially like it when guests are being annoying and Doug puts them in their place with scorching sarcasm that's often over their head. Give it a whirl if you like Comedy and/or Movies.  

5. The Pod F. Tompkast - Paul F. Tompkins is probably my favorite comedian, so when I heard he was coming out with a Podcast, I was positively giddy. Unfortunately, it only comes out once a month, but what he lacks in quantity he makes up for in quality. The episode usually features him riffing on things seemingly willy-nilly, usually until he gets himself giggling too much to continue, at which point he usually plays a clip from a live show for a few minutes. When he comes back, he often has guests or calls his friend Jen Kirkman to make small talk and generally be goofy. Additionally, he has reoccuring skits during the show that feature him doing uncanny impressions of celebrities. Well, sort of celebrities. He does a John C. Reilly that I actually thought was John C. Reilly for the first 3 episodes. He also does an Ice-T, the Cake Boss guy and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Somehow he worked all of these guys into one storyline that gets more and more preposterous with each episode. Get in on the ground floor of this hilarious podcast.

6. Stuff You Should Know - Stuff you should know is exactly what it claims to be. It features Josh and Chuck talking about a new topic every few days, and telling you all you'd care to know about it for half an hour or so. If it sounds like a snoozefest, it's not. The guys are really funny, and extremely thorough in their explanations. Their most recent episodes are called: How Munchausen Syndrome Works, How to Control a Riot, and What Has the World's Deadliest Venom? They do not disappoint, and I found myself going to afterward to find out even more after listening to an episode. Often times, I find myself listening to episodes about things I have no interest in, only to be completely rapt within 5 minutes. Try it and see.

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