Best of 2015 - Favorite Podcast . . .
It is hard to believe that the "podcast" (in its current iteration and vernacular - the medium, itself, has been around since at least the early-80s) is only eleven years old. And I mean this in two ways - one it seems like it has been around for actual ever and two it feels like it is brand new.
I hate to sound like the burnt-mouth hipster who ate his pizza before it was cool but I really, truly was an early adapter to the (mainstream) podcast movement and I've listened to hundreds and hundreds of different podcasts (with thousands of episodes of many of them) . Don't believe me? According to Stitcher I've listened to 1,430 hours and 51 minutes of podcasts since July 1, 2013. That is, roughly, 1.6 hours/day every. single. day.
I love podcasts and, if not for KMUW-FM, they might be the only non-music audio I would listen to. So here, with the intent of dazzling you with my eclectic tastes and/or riling your feathers/taste - are my top ten podcasts of 2015.
10) Stuff You Should Know
I backed my way into this podcast by listening to "Brain Stuff" (they are both on the "stuff" podcast network) but I'm glad I went deeper. Where Brain Stuff is just a few minutes long, SYSK is far longer and more in depth by two fairly-funny, very bright guys. It is sorta trivia, sorta history, sorta random, sorta awesome. MUST LISTEN: "How Public Relations Works"
9) Slate's Hang Up and Listen
The first of two Mike Pesca shows to be profiled (and one of three Slate/Panoply network shows) this show is the sports podcast for any person who, like me, actually hates sports. "Hang Up and Listen" is about sports like "Friday Night Lights" is about high school football. The three main hosts (and a rotating cast of guest hosts and guests) talk about the origins and impacts of the games, the players, and leagues that they love so much - if only so you don't have to. MUST LISTEN: The guy who made sneakers cool and the guy that protects the Stanley Cup
As I have oft discussed, I'm sorta obsessed with being a Jew and the Internet is full of resources and educational materials and discussions and confusion. I can't ask my Rabbi EVERY question I have and I can't constantly expose my ignorance to fellow congregants (neither of those statements is true - they are all wonderful and kind and patient) but it is good to have an external support. Enter "Unorthodox" with discussion, analysis, context, and good humor. MUST LISTEN: "Holy Ground"
7) Slate's Culture Gabfest
In the mid-90s I was a student in college and I was introduced to a horrible, inappropriate expression . . . the "hate f*ck" where my abhorrent male friend explained one would have sex with someone they disliked for the sole purpose of somehow violating them through intimacy (I never got it, thought I never would) but then I came to know this podcast. I listen to this show - faithfully - with nothing but rage in my heart. The hosts are such snobs and bores who want, very badly, to be "of the people" and I disagree with just about everything they say and every time they swear through their pinched, uncomfortable mouths I laugh. Truly horrible. Truly required listening. MUST LISTEN: The Gang Pretends to Take on Furious 7
6) The Joe Rogan Experience
I'm not a smart man. To clarify - I'm of (maybe slightly above) average intelligence and I know what I know well but I don't "know" much of the world. You know who does? Joe Rogan. All I (once) knew of Joe Rogan was his roles on sitcoms and making people eat/drink animal pieces and by-products on "Fear Factor" but that is not fair. He's actually very bright, extremely well read and, like me - a master of the things he cares about. I've learned more about drugs, conspiracies, religion, nutrition, fitness, and a million other things that I ever thought a guy "like" (my flawed perspective on) Joe Rogan could teach me. MUST LISTEN: Deprogramming
5) NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour
I just talked, on Friday, about my love and adoration for Linda Holmes, Glen Weldon, and Stephen Thompson and their show but let me put a finer point on it. Not only is "Pop Culture Happy Hour" everything that Culture Gabfest might, otherwise, aspire to be (right down to the Slate snobs "endorsement" segment mimicking PCHH's "Things Making Us Happy" segment) but I listen to the two shows back-to-back to add additional fuel to the fire. I learn so much and so enjoy the learning from PCHH. Then I furiously Google and/or buy stuff based on their suggestions and get in the rabbit hole for hours to follow. MUST LISTEN: BoJack Horseman and People We're Pulling For
What's that? You haven't heard of Serial. Geddouda here. Seriously. If ever there was a podcast that MADE podcasting (apologies to the millions of other shows and episodes out there) Serial was IT. The exploration of the legal system that put a young man in jail for (maybe) killing his girlfriend is superb and maddening. So many flaws and challenges to the system we hold most dear are exposed through the eyes of just one case. Sure, sure, the first season came out in 2014 but it sorta "arrived" in 2015 and I - just two episodes into the second season (this time looking at famed AWOL guy Bowe Bergdahl) has me really, really hooked. MUST LISTEN: The Opposite of Prosecution
3) The Read
As a white, middle-aged, middle class male who works in middle management in middle America there are sooooo many parts of this world that I don't currently, never have, and never will really, truly "understand" perhaps key among them is what it would be like to be a late-20s, gay black American in New York City. But - thanks to The Read - I can observe that. Kid Fury and Crissle spend a few hours a week romping through everything from "Black Excellence" to reader letters to their "reads" where they spend several minutes, each, on a topic that has them fired up on any given week. You will need a few episodes to understand the cadence of the show. You won't enjoy or appreciate or benefit from all of it. But the things where you get the raw perspective of young, influential people that have different backgrounds and experiences is what makes podcasting great. MUST LISTEN: I don't know of just one episode but pick any one episode and listen to the last fifteen minutes first.
2) The Gist
I have so much affection for this show that I've actually had a friendship fall into disrepair over it and I think I chose the right side on which to place my loyalty. Mike Pesca is bright, funny, irreverent, astute, and absurd enough to make a thirty-minutes (ish) per day show work and work well and his producer, Andrea, is everything Paul was to David Letterman in the 80s. If you want to learn something something about something you didn't know you needed to know about nor would care about and then find yourself going out of your way to share said knowledge and perspective on something you had not, previously, cared about . . . give Pesca a listen. MUST LISTEN: The March to Zero (aka the (most recent) "What's UP with Kansas?" episode)
1) Mystery Show
This is one of those moments where people shake their head and go "man . . . you are just soooooo random" but - without denying that - I'll ask you to hear me out. Here's the premise of Mystery Show: take a long-burning question you have that can't be answered with a quick Google and let the host of this show solve it for you. There were just six episodes to season one (season two has been teased/promised) and I've listened to each of them at least thrice. The host's voice, her sense of humor, how twisty-turny her investigations are (when the search for the muse for lunchbox art turns to wrestlers and chronic pain and abuse, etc.) were what made it better than Serial and The Gist combined because I get the humor and the mystery AND the outcome. MUST LISTEN: Source Code (How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal?)
Honorable mention, of course, to the classics like PTI, WTF, Adam Carolla, and others that were once my favorites and really sort of got/kept me going in the early (and all courses but salad) days.