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)…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.