Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Think I'm in Love: Podcasts

In the midst of stress and worry, can come something new and wonderful.

Back when I was mired in law school misery, I listened to music constantly.  Because I was hungry for new tunes in my ears to relieve the darkness in my heart, I accepted any and all suggestions from friends, and discovered The Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie, The Shins, and the Broadway brilliance that is Avenue Q.  (Because I have yet to meet an individual whose day ISN'T automatically brightened upon hearing "It Sucks to Be Me.")  I clutched my iPod lifeline and learned all the words, and eventually things got better.

Right now, I'm still in a funk.

And I have discovered podcasts.

Late to the party, I know.  I'd previously rejected podcasts as being waaaaay too "This American Life."

Unpro's Sidebar re: "This American Life"
I do not enjoy "This American Life."  Though I was never a big O.C. fan, I think Summer said it all with the following: "Is that where a bunch of pretentious hipsters talk about how fascinating ordinary people are?  God!"

I always figured: why listen to talk talk talk when I can groove on the sidewalk?  But then I opened my closed little mind, and discovered podcasts provide a different kind of groove.  A slow burn, a calm voice, a giggle.  A just-what-I-need-right-now buzz.  And they're FREE.

When I asked my friends to share their faves, getting through the day got just the tiniest bit easier.  And every little step helps, right?

Below are some podcasts I now heart, in chronological order of when I discovered them.  Better late than never, right?

1.  YogaDownloads.com
I first discovered yoga podcasts shortly before embarking on my writing residency.  The small town I would call home for two whole weeks wasn't exactly bursting with yoga studios, and I'm not yet at the point where I can comfortably practice on my own.  Behold: YogaDownloads, which provides 25-minute yoga sessions, gentle voices, and user-friendly poses.  In my little writer's studio, I could take breaks and get my namaste on.  Awesome.

2.  The Nerdist
Nothing is more fun than listening to Jon Hamm goof on pubic-hair beards.  I totally hated Singled Out in high school, but host Chris Hardwick's come a long way: dude is genuinely funny, and appreciative of the funny in everyone else.  Where else can you hear Joel McHale's best Transformers impersonation, Weird Al geeking out over Malcolm McDowell, and the Muppets dish on social media?  Comedy is both an art and a science, and listening to The Nerdist provides one hell of an education on the form.

3.  The Moth
For those of you who are unaware (like, ahem, me), The Moth is a storytelling slam taking place in New York, L.A., Chicago, and any city that can get a grant.  It's essentially an open mic with a different theme each time, and performers cannot use notes.  Improv was never my strong point, and I'm sure I'd be floundering were I given a turn at the mic.  However, the ones who are good at this, are really, really good.  Listen to author Meg Wolitzer recount her first experience with love, and her camp boyfriend's dogged attempts to get to "first base."  You'll be laughing all the way to work.

4.  Doug Loves Movies
Comedian Doug Benson presents a sort of Nerdist on celluloid: instead of comedy being the main topic, it's movies.  Stand-ups and stars like Steve Agee and Ellen Page, respectively, join Doug in live shows to dish on what they've been watching lately.  However, the highlight of every podcast is when everyone plays "Leonard Maltin," a "Name That Tune" for movie geeks.  I'm sad to admit I correctly guessed that a movie from 1993 featuring a bunch of random people was To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.

5.  Savage Love
I'd been a fan of Dan Savage's explicitly frank writing for years (try his weekly print/online column or his book on relationships, Committed).  He's bitchy, biting and most importantly, nonjudgmental.  Name a kink, a fetish, a problem in the bedroom, and he'll give it to you straight (pun intended), with a wicked sense of humor.  But as fantastic as reading Savage Love is, there's something about hearing this dude school people over the phone.  He's the best kind of call-in show host there is, Sleepless in Seattle if Meg Ryan had a foot fetish.

Know any more good 'uns?  Leave a comment!


  1. Thanks for the podcast suggestions! The only one I've listened to regularly is "RadioLab", but I've been wanting to listen to more!

  2. Hey Goodreau!

    I think you would enjoy any and all of these. I have heard of Radiolab but not yet downloaded it. Will have to give it a try!

  3. I suggest RadioLab as well (and This American Life, but...), also NPR's Fresh Air and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, and if you are a TV dork, The Firewall and Iceberg Podcast from TV critics Alan Sepinwall and Dan Fienberg.

  4. Hi Sarah,

    I know, I should give This American Life another chance, as a lot of my friends are into it and I know they tell some interesting stories. For me, though, every time I've tried, it's been something like "look at the fascinating farmer working in the fields." Now, I respect the hell out of farmers, but I grew up in a farm town, so things like that aren't all that fascinating to me. Have heard really good things about Fresh Air, too.

    I am a HUGE TV dork, so I will check those out, thanks!

  5. I've never even tried out Podcasts! Kind of embarrassing when I think about it.

    Someone I know did a few segments of This American Life. I think in the first one, he was talking about masturbating. I wasn't sure I wanted to hear him talk about that, actually.