In my continuing effort to understand the new sensation of podcast and chill, I turned to radio hosts, creative directors, and producers for insight and advice. Many hosts showered me with episodes they thought I might want to incorporate in my own dating life. Some endorsed the practice wholly and without question. Others fought against it. Whether you’re a skeptic or a supporter, we here at the Pod People would love to hear from you on where you think “podcast and chill” belongs in the English lexicon. Send audio messages, written words, and all the things to me either on Twitter or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, stay tuned for our third and final piece in Paste’s Podcast and Chill miniseries coming out next Thursday!
These reflections have been condensed for content and clarity.
Photo by Christopher McIntosh cmcintoshphoto.com
The truth is that I think I might be a Luddite, where I’m behind in the times. I know what Netflix and chill is. I’m thirty. I’m not a seventy-five year old woman. I don’t know why I’m not up to date. But, Netflix and chill is where you have a date, and you watch a movie and f, right? You, like, make out. You spoon, you snuggle. You’re like, “Oh we’re going to watch Netflix.” But it’s totally an excuse to be on a couch together.
This is really funny, because I didn’t really realize this until this exact moment, but the inciting of the entire relationship that I’m now in was essentially what you guys call “podcast and chill.” I’m not even joking. Me and my boyfriend, we both work in radio, so we’re both huge radio nerds. It started out where we would have headphone splitters and listen to This American Life or Scott Carrier’s Home of the Brave. We would walk to places together listening, kind of attached via headphone chord in that kind of Lady and the Tramp spaghetti moment. Then I remember when we started to cross the line from friends that liked each other to maybe more than friends, we would have sleepovers. The next day, we would want an excuse to stay in the bed, and we’d be like, “Hey. Do you want to listen to some Memory Palace?” I remember just being like, “Please let there be another Memory Palace episode. Please let there be another Memory Palace episode.” It was an excuse.
There were two scenarios, right? In Scenario A, we’d had a sleepover, kind of a drunken sleepover, and we were looking for an excuse to stay in the bed, and we’d say, “Oh, let’s listen to Memory Palace.” And, in the other scenario, we’d be hanging out in my room or his room, and we’d be like, “Oh, do you want to listen to Memory Palace?” and then we’d say, “Well, let’s just lie down.” Then he would lie down, and we would spoon. And we would spoon for the duration of the listening. And as soon as we were done listening, there was no excuse to just lie on the bed anymore. And I very distinctly remember that experience of being afraid that we would hit the rock bottom of Memory Palace episodes. It’s weird. Memory Palace isn’t particularly turn-on material, but there’s something about the show’s host, Nate DiMeo.
Photo by WNYC
I think the term “podcast and chill” is hilarious. I think, yes, we should all be saying it, more and more often. I think it’s awesome. Because I feel like it’s even more apt than Netflix and chill. With Netflix and Chill, at the center of it, there’s this lie that you’re going to pay attention to what’s on screen. And with podcast and chill, you don’t have to.
The thing that I hear the most from listeners when it comes to relationships and our show is that “I listen to the show and then my partner listens to it. Then we talk about it.” I think it’s interesting that they listen to it separately. I think that speaks to the very private and intimate nature of the medium.
I also like that it’s a show, where you’ll be like, “Will you listen to this? I want to hear what you think about the episode on cheating or the episode about porn; It can open up ways to talk about things through the lens of the people you just heard.
You can date someone who isn’t very podcasty yet, but you want to know what kind of podcast listener they are. I feel like the way that you reveal that is kind of interesting. Of course, it’s safe to say that you like shows like This American Life or Reply All, but if you have deep knowledge of the back catalogue of Savage Love, when do you reveal that? I think it’s also important to know if they only listen to podcasts that are made by white people, by women? What’s their demographic? What are they digesting and thinking about in their worldview? I think that also says a lot about who they are. If you come across someone who isn’t listening to a diverse set of voices, as a podcast consumer myself, I would recommend that they diversify.
When I picture podcast and chill, I think of the episode in Girls, where Lena Dunham and everybody were going hiking or something. Hannah was just like, “I don’t want to go hiking.” And, then she just laid down on the side of the highway and opened up her phone and began playing This American Life on her phone while she was outside. That is my idea of what podcast and chill looks like. You stop what you’re doing. It’s kind of an awkward thing. And you just have your phone playing to you. I think podcast and chill is inherently awkward but also funny.
We had an episode that we did a few years ago about cheating. We just asked people to tell us their stories about either discovering infidelity or even being involved in infidelity. And one woman told her story about the affair that she had and how she would text on the couch, while her husband was nearby. A listener later told us that he heard that episode and thought to himself, “Why has my wife been texting so much?”
He kept her phone and that’s how he discovered her affair. But I was like, “Holy shit! That’s really sad and also oh my gosh.”
But, to me, it’s like, a lot of shows get you connected to whatever is going on internally in your emotional life. It’s a way to meditate on your own and whatever you bring back to your relationship from your podcast time is interesting. But, the idea of sharing that experience of when you’re hearing someone reveal emotionally vulnerable things and listening with someone that you’re just dating feels kind of exposing. It could also speed along getting to a place of deeper connection, if you’re dating.
But I guess, to me, it’s like, there’s only so many things onscreen that you can screen. You’re going to run out of things you can watch. I’m in a moment right now, where we are between shows. When you’re in that moment, you go, “Shit, what should we watch?” I think there’s something kind of romantic about it, instead of saying, “Well, why don’t we turn off the overhead lights, turn on a lamp, lay here on the couch together, pour a glass of wine, and listen to something together?” I think it’s very romantic.
I think you want to go safe to start and go with something that’s a narrative adventure podcast. You don’t want something that’s going to kill the mood. I would stick with the classic podcast but wouldn’t go into the too deep interview podcast for that first podcast and chill date.
Photo by Christopher McIntosh cmcintoshphoto.com
Besides the entire Radiotopia catalogue, I have to say that ambient radio/sound art would be a nice background for… chilling. To that end—the now defunct Soundproof from ABC (disclaimer I did help launch that show) could be a great mood-setter. It has intricate sound design, subtle melodies, nuance, and careful production; it’s more experiential than narrative-driven.
Photo by Caitlin Sanders/NPR
For me, when I heard the term “podcast and chill,” I was scared of the idea of listening to podcasts with anyone else, because when I listen to podcasts, I’m listening for every word and for every sound, all the structure, the movement, and the things that happen. I guess, I’m kind of a super listener, because I’m so engrossed in the podcast community. But I never want to risk someone next to me talking over my podcast. So, first, I was just like, “Oh My God, this would never happen.” I’m the dude that will have a podcast playing and over the course of that half an hour, an hour of the podcast, I will hit that button and take it back fifteen seconds, like four, five or six times, cause I want to hear it again. I’m such an involved listener that I would shudder to imagine that I’d have to listen to a podcast with anybody else.
I suppose I treat the listening of podcasts a little too clinically, cause I take it very seriously. I would never want to chill. No, I haven’t tried listening with others. I’m scared to try.
There’s this whole phenomenon of people listing NPR in their online dating profiles, right? On first glance, you’re like, “Oh that’s great. These people love NPR.” But sometimes I think what happens is people are trying to send these signifiers saying that they are more intellectual and better than everybody else. So I’m reluctant to see NPR or podcasting be caught up in any kinds of discussions that seem to be intellectual snobbery, you know? And so, my fear with podcast and chill is that it’s not just saying what I like, it’s saying that I’m better than X, Y, Z.
It’s not a binary. Ideally, get you a boo that can do both, that can podcast and chill and Netflix and chill and explore and be excited about all parts of the culture.
I think the genius of podcasts is that they allow you to multitask, so just sitting idle while listening to something with someone isn’t really appealing to me. At most, I’ve played specific parts of a podcast to people that I love. But the tried and true method of listening together in the car is perfect, or splitting your earbuds on the subway. I think listening with someone is great, but it’s best when you’re taking passive time that wouldn’t be productive and making it more entertaining. If you’re just hanging out at home, you don’t need something to cut through the boredom. Plus, let’s be real: “Netflix and chill” is code for making out/having sex. I like to do those things without podcasts.