This week, I decided to delve into the offerings of Earwolf. I binged. Hardcore. I listened to things that made me cringe, squirm, laugh out loud, and cry. I didn’t get to everything. But it was an intense weeklong endeavor.
Over the past few months, I’ve been asking to hear about your favorite podcast episodes. I’d like to ask a slightly different question now: which podcast networks are you addicted to? What makes you a Radiotopian? An Earwolfian? A NPR addict? Where do your real allegiances lie and why?
Also, if you’re a podcast producer and you want listeners to pitch you stories, send me a link, and I’ll try to include it in my weekly rundown.
If you have specific suggestions on how to improve podcast review culture or just want to chat about why you listen to podcasts, hit me up on Twitter or e-mail me your thoughts in audio message or other forms at firstname.lastname@example.org. Would love to hear from you!
#60: Negin Farsad
Writer Susan Orlean (The New Yorker) and actor Sarah Thyre (Late Night with Conan O’Brien) start out strong: talking about the pitfalls of Ohio pot. On the show, to talk about tears, weeping, and woe is Negin Farsad, actress, comedian, director, and writer. She chats about her latest film, 3rd Street Blackout, or what she aptly calls “maybe the only rom-com out there that stars an Iranian Muslim lady.” This episode is, among other things, an ode to Shonda Rhimes, Grey’s Anatomy, the “delicious, purge cry,” Brian Eno’s song, “The Big Ship,” and the “phenomenon of extra-crying on airplanes,” and breaking up with privacy-oriented, un-Googlable men. Farsad reflects on the YouTube videos she turned to, while trying (and failing) to figure out pot.
Line of note: “People who dislike cilantro should know that it is a lot like Game of Thrones.”
#6: Naomi Ekperigin—#jungmoney
Naomi Ekperigin is an insanely honest comedian; four minutes into the show, she tells hosts Chris Gethard and Gary Richardson that she tends to sleep in four hour chunks, that she rarely dreams and that she might average one paycheck a quarter. In this episode, one caller explains her reoccurring dream: she tries to play Dance Dance Revolution and all of the arrows on the screen were “completely screwed up.” Another calls in with a funky, drug-oriented dream and stews on the possibility that she might need a dog and a Xanax prescription. Unfortunately, Chris has none of these things on hand.
Line of note: “My question is: why can’t I play Dance Dance Revolution like the nerd I am?”
#118: Julie Shapiro, Radiotopia Executive Producer
Midroll Media’s Lex Friedman and Chris Bannon talk about the podcast industry, the Third Coast Festival, and the ever evolving world of audio. What did the independent podcast producer community look like in the early aughts? What is creative storytelling? Julie Shapiro, Radiotopia’s Executive Producer, talks about her journey from America to Australia and back. What sorts of systems make podcasters, who don’t like systems, happy? What is Radiotopia as a collective force? What does it want to be? What is the connective tissue that underlies all Radiotopia shows? Who are the people and financial supporters, who keep the network afloat? What was Podquest Tune in for insight, introspection, and an overall incredible interview.
Line of note: “The one that ultimately won, a podcast called Ear Hustle, was in the top fifty, but might not have been in my top ten. But, it was by and large [the] runaway top choice from these donors. I thought it was so interesting. They, are of course, the listeners. They want to hear this show.”
#170: What One Law Would You Get Rid Of?
Stephen J. Dubner and James Altucher talk about the single U.S. law they’d like to be eliminated from the legal system. What’s the upside of making all drugs legal? What might happen if we could take any drug we wanted, whenever we wanted? What would it take for the U.S. government to legalize and regulate all sex work? Do you have complicated feelings about the F.D.A. and other regulatory bodies like it? This episode tackles medical interventions, lobotomies, deformed babies, income taxes, how gas stations can ruin relationships, and voter I.D. cards.
Line of note: “I want to abolish the F.D.A.”
#37: The EPA, CBO Report Fallout and Gun Silencers
Sopan Deb (New York Times) and J.R. Havlan (The Daily Show) join Negin Farsad to hash out POTUS 45’s tax returns, the C.B.O. report, and the bizarreness of gun silencers. What is the 1040 tax form? What’s interesting about the White House’s response to the release of two pages of his 2005 tax returns? Farsad gives us the facts and the projected figures behind the human cost of healthcare. Deb and Havlan add context about coverage and the Catholic Church’s rules and regulations. There’s a lot of talk about priests and their flocks and their futures. It’s soul-warming stuff…even when the hilarious trio take on the tricky and thorny topic of gun silencers.
Line of note: “Don’t worry! [Persian New Year] is a secular holiday. So if you celebrate it, you’re not going to turn into a terrorist. You won’t spontaneously grow a beard that smells like lamb…We’re going to party like it’s 1396.”
#100: Is 100 That Exciting?
Abigail Keel is an old soul, who produces a podcast show about parenting with Hillary Frank who created and hosts the show. Now with more than 100 episodes under its belt, The Longest Shortest Time is on fire; it’s meditative, full of all sorts of tidbits on little people, old people, all people. To celebrate this achievement, Keel decided to do something that few podcasts have done: chat with nonagenarians and centenarians. What are the secrets behind making it to 100? (Hint: don’t die!) This is a fantastic pod for those of us looking to escape our millennial bubble, to think about age, and to get some solid wisdom from our elders. There’s a lot of randomness here, the good kind. If you ever wanted to know what it’s like to have children who are already septuagenarians, this episode is definitely for you.
Line of note: “I’m not going to make it to 100. I don’t have good manners.”
Raised on a strict diet of NPR and C-SPAN, Muira McCammon is a war crimes researcher by day and a podcast reviewer for Paste Magazine by night. She can be found on Twitter @muira_mccammon or walking about the woods of western Massachusetts. Her writing has previously appeared in Slate, Waypoint by VICE, Atlas Obscura, the Massachusetts Review, and other publications.