The Pod Squad
If you’re an aul’ grump like me and you spent a good amount of your waking day complaining about this modern world, it is difficult to reconcile the occasional delight at discovery of some device or technology that, gosh darnit, just makes life that little bit better for us all. When I bit the bullet and purchased a smart phone, I didn’t want to draw attention and remarks to the fact, so I spent the first few weeks keeping it hidden in my sleeve and taking calls as if I was in the secret service, or perhaps just having a terse conversation with my elbow. You can of course use headphones with an in-built microphone, and this worked fine as long as I didn’t think anyone was looking at me. If they were, I found myself drifting into a slight sing-song as part of my end of the chat and bopping my head around, as if to suggest that I was just especially grooving along to a song on my “walkman”, or just slowly losing the plot.
I eventually got over myself and started to use my phone like a normal person, and one of the things that delighted me most about it was the world of…podcasts! So much entertainment and information and stuff out there, a lot of it for free! You can sign up to a podcast and get it to your phone or computer just like that! I know they’ve been around for a long time, but give this old lady a chance, yeah?! Here’s some that I’m especially fond of.
BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz is a rare bird indeed, clever, informative and very, very funny. Hosted by none other than Sandi Toksvig, it’s a half hour of two teams answering questions about the week’s news, adding plenty of wit and sarcasm, with just the right mix of journalists, pundits and comedians. It’s especially good because it’s not just four guys making fun of each other every week, they have a steady stream of super smart ladies on board such as Sue Perkins (we know her!), Susan Calman (she’s familiar!), Roisín Conaty (we’ll look her up!), Jo Brand (ah yes) and loads more.
I discovered The Smartest Man in World’s weekly podcast (or as he likes to call it, vodkast) last year, and wondered where it had been all my internetting life. You might remember Greg Proops from Whose Line is it Anyway, Mock the Week, Flight of the Conchords, the US version of Bob The Builder, about a million films – basically, he’s a hard-working man. This show takes place wherever his comedy life takes him, often in his home of Los Angeles but internationally too. It’s an hour of him putting the world to rights in his own very hilarious way. He loves old movies, baseball, political commentary, drinking, and giving his opinion on anything he damn well pleases, and he gets all the props for being ultra-liberal, feminist, pro-gay rights, and generally a very cool dude.
And now for a bit of, well, absolutely anything. The best thing about NPR’s This American Life is its encyclopaedic range of topics, from break-ups to economics, psychopaths to babies switched at birth, and every other human story you could think of. Each show features several chapters or “acts”, all centred around a unifying theme, it is radio documentary at its purest. I first heard about it when I learned that one of my favourite writers, David Sedaris, often featured on it reading his brilliant personal essays. Stories from the programme have inspired film scripts, such as The Informant and Sleepwalk With Me. I suggest you try the episode entitled Break Up, from July of last year, available on iTunes or the show’s website.
Ever wanted to know more about US politics and hear Rachel Maddow’s voice at the same time?! I’m telling you, it is possible! Her week night show on MSNBC is what you need, whether she’s interviewing senators, pundits or celebrities, she brings her trademark intelligence and wit to bear in all eventualities. She is currently drawing light on the wave of conservative legislation proposed in several US states regarding women’s reproductive rights, probably one of the few cable news shows to do so with any level of scrutiny and investigation. She’s funny, polite and makes a mean cocktail, and the day she interviewed Sarah Silverman, I squealed out loud on the bus. Find her show on iTunes, and then come and talk to me about it!
So tell me, who have I forgotten? Tell me about podcasts you’ve discovered, or as Rachel herself would say, what’s the best new thing in the world this week?!
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