Podcast Crazy!!!

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As you probably know, The Outland Institute is not my only podcast. Oh no. I pod around. And this week the Boxcutters podcast celebrated it’s 200th show – to put that in perspective, in dog years we’d be dead by now. Our guest was Myf Warhurst, meaning I’ve now interviewed two-thirds of the Spicks & Specks team (and Adam Hills did once hold a door open for me, which is much the same thing). You can hear Boxcutters by going here, and remember you can download The Outland Institute podcasts here. Curiously, the TV Tonight website ran an article about Boxcutters‘ achievement calling us “a guilty pleasure”, which surprised me. I think of guilty pleasures as “eating a whole packet of Deb instant potato” or “jerking off in a supermarket carpark“. I would have considered Boxcutters to be simply “a pleasure“. Or even “a delight“.

Anyway, reaching this milestone made me think – what are these podcast things, anyway? So I decided to find out what the crazy kids were doing by actually listening to some of them. They’re surprisingly good – I had no idea. Here are some I’ve been enjoying lately (click on the titles to go to their websites)…

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Stephen Fry’s Podgrams

There are a few people who have heavily influenced my life – most of the time I find I can solve any problem by thinking “What would Audrey Hepburn do?”. Unless I’m buying earrings, of course, in which case I substitute the name “Margaret Pomeranz“. But when it comes to broadcasting and general wordmithery I always aim to attempt to aspire to emulate Stephen Fry. His podgrams are a sheer delight, to hear Fry‘s liquid tones pouring down your ear canal and into your brain is like taking a bath in hot chocolate. With Stephen Fry. And his podgrams are a thrill both in phrasing but also originality – when charmingly ranting about how he doesn’t like dancing, he stresses he is not trying to claim that one type of music is superior to another; in his fascinating discussion about language he surprisingly turns out to dislike grammar Nazis, arguing that a language is a living thing. Don’t listen to the one about him breaking his arm first, though, as he is so doped up on pain-killers and sleeping pills that his voice is alarmingly muddy sounding. To hear Fry all slurry and sad feels a bit like walking in on your parents. DOING IT. In a bath of hot chocolate.

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Radio Lab

Recommended by Josh Kinal, Radio Lab has been criticised for being “over-produced”, a term I refuse to believe has any meaning.  Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich (if those are their real names), each show looks at a theme – say “dying” or “choice” – and explores it through interviews with various guests. There’s a “story-telling” approach to the show that took me a little while to get into (it can feel a little twee at times) but I’m now a fan. It’s full of  startling information about experiments on human behaviour and the workings of the mind that makes you want to stop people and shout things at them. In fact, it was only in the third episode I listened to I realised the show is ostensibly a science program. Yes, they make science interesting, it’s that good.

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The Moth

Recommended by listener Rob Boxcutter – in response to the Almost Fabulous segment about US sitcom The Facts Of Life The Moth is a fascinating series of fifteen minute shows in which people tell stories. And that’s it. True life stories, without notes, in front of an audience. So essentially it’s like stand-up without so many jokes, but they’re a fascinating collection of people and the stories can be surprisingly unexpected and moving. Here’s a direct link to the episode where writer Andy Borowitz talks about his time writing for The Facts Of Life.

The Cubby House

Joy 94.9‘s first podcast-only show, The Cubby House is admittedly more niche than the ones listed above. The Cubby House features  hosts Cookie, Jack and Ryan discussing issues of interest to the Bear community (“bears” are basically hairy gay men who – in the Northern Hemisphere – go for a sexy trucker look and – in the Southern Hemisphere – all seem to work in I.T.). Bear podcasts are very popular (see that previous I.T. comment) but most of the ones I’ve heard tend to be unfocused and…well… a bit camp. The Cubby House is structured more like a radio show, with distinct segments, and also does interesting things such as radio drama and live debates.

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BBC Radio 4 anything

Well, mostly The Media Show and arts show Front Row, but I love the BBC Radio 4 sound. I love the way it combines intimacy, new technology, bold ideas AND a 1950s tweediness, all at the same time. Sadly not podcast is the brilliant Listen Against, a Newstopia-style parody of the Radio 4 style, but if you can find it on the interwebs (nudge, nudge) you definitely should. It’s comedy gold.

These  Radio 4 podcasts are usually just cut-down versions of the on-air shows (or often just the on-air show itself) but they still show an attention to detail with careful selection and editing. You can also hear a lot of the shows on demand on the BBC iplayer, which blocks video content to non-UK users, but allows all radio content through. It’s worth it to hear the Radio 4 newsreaders, who all sound like saucy schoolmarms or dominatrixes. You picture them sitting there wearing glasses and their hair in bun, pulling out the hairpins during the economic news to a cry of “Good heavens, you’re beautiful”. Also, Radio 4 seems to have more lesbian presenters than any other media service, which should definitely be celebrated. (Unless you’re James Murdoch, of course, in which case you’ll have a whiny little bitch about how it’s all just not fair. How dare the BBC provide excellent material for free! Boo hoo hoo. Bloody sook).

Now I’m aware that if you are a podcast fan then this list is a little bit like someone saying “Hey! I’ve just discovered this great new band called U2!” So this is where you get to be all hip and cool and whatever and leave a list of other great podcasts in the comments below. And in the meantime, why not download the latest Boxcutters and Outland Institute podcasts? Lovely.

Boxcutters newsflash logo by ActualChad – buy it on a T-shirt!
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7 Responses to Podcast Crazy!!!

  1. MurrayNE says:

    I should get back to the Stephen Fry one… there was one that found less interesting… and then *&%&^*& iTunes decided all by itself to stop downloading them for a while, and I’ve not really gotten back to them. I have, however, purchased a few episodes of his paid audiopodblognovelinteractivebook thing, “The Dongle Of Donald Trefusis”, though I can’t help but think since that the £5 that I think each 30 minute episode costs is something of a poor investment compared with other places that I could put my audiowotsit dollar. I really like the character of Donald Trefusis, but don’t find this incarnation of him quite as satisfying as his original form. Perhaps if I had more of an inclination to follow the trail of clues (I followed up one or two, but only what I could remember when I next reached a computer).

    I am subscribed to all of these apart from the Cubby House – I believe that Radio4 is represented by their Friday Night Comedy podcasts (NewsQuiz/Now Show/I Guess That’s Why They Call It The News seasonally). I think that my number one “look I know it sounds kind of mathsy but it’s really about people” podcast (okay, that’s number one of one, I think) “More Or Less”, which gets two series of about 6 eps a year, comes from there too.

    Having written this much already (in a break that is supposed to involve the consumption of coffee at some point) I will simply recommend “The Bugle” (Times Online) and “Answer Me This”. Handily, while they share no presenters (though presenters share some genes), adding the word “Zaltzman” to either podcast name will maximise your chances of finding them.

    Oh… oh… and “This American Life” too…

  2. MurrayNE says:

    “one /episode/ that /I/ found less interesting…” that should be; I’m experimenting with removing the subject from sentences.

  3. Sophie says:

    I dream of taking a bath in hot chocolate with Stephen Fry. *sighs*

  4. Sophie says:

    Ooh, ooh! Stop Podcasting Yourself is a lesser-known comedy podcast out of Vancouver, hosted by two comedians, Dave Shumka and Graham Clark, with a guest comedian every week. They’re hilarious and everyone must listen. http://www.stopodcastingyourself.com
    Also, the howstuffworks.com podcasts are all great- my favourites are The Stuff of Genius, Stuf Mom never Told You, and Stuff You Missed in History Class.

  5. Rob Boxcutter says:

    I must put in a word for BBC radio 5’s weekly film review segment with Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo. Kermode is brilliant, insightful, hilarious and a real pleasure to listen to. Even if you have absolutely no interest in film whatsoever, you will enjoy this podcast. Together with RRR FM’s Film Buffs Forecast, I’m as happy as a shitty pig.

    For fans of LOST, I’ve waded through the scummy, frothy ocean of podcasts for you and can recommend only one: The Transmission. Ryan and Jen are husband and wife (nerds, of course, in the best possible way) who live in Hawaii and have been steadily podcasting about Lost since it began. Their episodes follow a strict format which is, to me, comforting in much the same way stepping into a small caravan with all your belongings stowed in precise compartments is comforting. Perhaps I’m strange that way. The last few minutes of each podcast – the “Forward Cabin” – brings news of the latest filming on the island as spotted by Ryan and his network of informer observers, adding not some small element of excitement to their current (roughly 3-weekly) hiatus schedule of Season Three deconstructions.

  6. wynand says:

    In your post on Radiolab you object to the term “overproduced” as having no real meaning yet yourself describe the show as “twee”. Be consistent my man. I, as well as you, find the show full of interesting information but am constantly annoyed by their production style. It’s way too much and assumes their listeners have no attention span. That’s what I mean when I say its “overproduced.”

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