It seems my corral of podcast subscriptions can’t quite keep up with my post NYE, pre-going-back-to-work gym routine, so I’m in the market for some new stuff. Yesterday I looked at a “best of” list of podcasts online, and chose two promising shows. The first was WTF with Marc Maron, a comedian. I like to laugh so I went into it with high hopes. Jesus Christ, who is this guy? I had to stop mid-run and turn him off he irritated me so much. No offense to his 4 million listeners, but his brand of person-ness is not for me. Listening to him felt like being trapped in an elevator with a guy chosen “class clown” in his ninth grade yearbook who had just done two fat rails of crystal meth. He was ramping up to interview Bruce Springsteen but I couldn’t get through the preamble.
Next I turned to someone whose name I can’t remember but whose podcast is about panning bad movies–called something like I Can’t Believe They Made That. I love mean-spirited reviews of movies. It’s easy material to wring comedy from, but this guy didn’t seem able to handle the job. There’s a fine but crucial line between being funny and trying (desperately) to be funny. Running around the track while this guy shouted into my ears, I felt like visiting someone whose large, enthusiastic, and smelly dog won’t quit jumping into my lap and licking my face, all while its owner stands by smiling at my misery. What I learned about myself after those two attempts was that I require my podcasters to have the ability to chill out.
I should also say I’m not a fan of the super-produced NPR style podcast. The Sporkful? No thanks. (Sorry Adam.) I found the one episode I listened to dull, saccharine, bogged down by unnecessary cuts and sound effects, a lot of flash trying to cover an essentially dull story. (Let’s follow around all day a guy who sells truffles for a living. Wow, they’re really expensive. Wow, they’re really perishable. Will he sell them all before they go bad? Maybe we’ll find out after the break! …zzzz….)
My favorite podcaster is Dan Carlin. I’d even pay to listen to him if he put out an episode more than once every several months. I also like the Stuff You Should Know guys okay. I’m never excited about their latest episode (two per week), but I find them a solid backup plan in case nobody else has anything going on. The funny fellows at Worst Idea of All Time are definitely my speed, unpolished, goofy, smart. I balance their silliness with Dear Sugar. Sure, Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayd can get a little…a little what? Too much the cliche of the bleeding heart liberal? Too accepting and too sweet? I’m not sure, but overall I enjoy losing myself in other people’s problems, often finding they are a lot like mine.
I don’t think I’m hard to please. I just want something like the interesting, occasionally witty conversations I have with my drinking buddies. In fact, I listen to podcasts mainly to recreate the feeling of friendship while I’m sweating on a treadmill or puttering alone around the house. My real life friends are smart and funny, sure, but they aren’t exceptional, nor am I. We’re regular people who can talk about something that interests us without trying super hard to impress. We don’t require elaborate sound engineering to make ourselves understood. That’s what I’m looking for in a podcast. Is it too much?
Recommendations most welcome.