Friday Fives – podcast edition

Do you listen to podcasts? If not, why not.

Oh man, this is great.  I did not pick these question, but this is my wheelhouse.  I am crazy for Podcasts.  Yes, I listen to podcasts daily.  Many.  I think we will attack that more below.

What are your favorite podcasts?

Adam Carolla, Car Talk, This American Life, Fitzdog Radio, WTF, Stuff you Should Know, Mohr Stories.  I listen to all of these every week.  Generally speaking, which ones I listen to depend on the guests.  Except This American Life.  They don’t have guests, and I NEVER miss that show.  It is the best hour of radio and storytelling imaginable.  And, these are all free.  And uncensored.

Any podcasts to ignore?

Sure, probably thousands.  At this point, Podcasts are like magazines.  You can find one for any interest.  Anyone on earth with a computer and an internet connection can have their own podcast.  Do you like knitting blankets for only calico cats using Peruvian wool, but a Persian weave?  Yeah, I bet there is a podcast for that.  Don’t ask me how I know… just trust me.

For the most part, all the podcasts mentioned above are entertainment.  If you are looking for thinky, cerebral stuff, try ‘RadioLab‘.  These guys are great, it’s just a little too dry for my tastes.  Another great one?  Ted talks.   Do you know about Ted talks?  Well, click here and learn.  They too have an awesome and free podcasts of these talks.

Will the podcast world take over radio?

For me, it absolutely has.  I gave up on rock radio about ten years ago.  I just couldn’t listen to the same shit over and over again.  So, I listened to my cd’s or books on tape.   Once podcasts came around, I was hooked.  I have a 35 minute drive each way to work.  This is valuable time.  Too valuable to spend listening to music, even though I have a seriously bad ass stereo system.

Two years ago, I busted my radio antenna and still haven’t fixed it.  You get content completely uncensored by any corporations.  Would you like a podcast about a guy who says “fuck my dog” over and over again for an hour every week?  That probably exists, and it’s legal.

Who/What subject would make a good podcast?

Interesting people talking freely.  It is that simple, and that is what is most compelling to me.  Would you like to have Adam Carolla and Seth McFarland chatting in your living room?  Telling jokes and downing booze?  Discussing just whatever comes to mind?  That is a podcast.  It makes my drive super enjoyable.  I don’t know why I love good conversation so much, but I really do value it.  It isn’t just that it is uncensored… it is the length of time.  You can’t get to know someone from 3 minutes on Conan.  Listening to them for an hour, though, gives you a much better feel for these people.

If you told 16 year old me “Hey, when you are 40, you will have a big ass truck with an amazing stereo system.  You will have access to every piece of music you own in that truck.  You will also drive a few hundred miles a week.  Also, you will only use this amazing stereo to listen to talk radio.” – well I would be an upset 16 year old.

Should I listen to a podcast?  What’s so great?

The beauty of podcasts is not just the entertainment, which is considerable, it is that I learn at the same time.  Not too mention, they are free and easy.  Here is how easy.  If you are Apple, use iTunes, if you are Android use any free app.  The podcasts are delivered to your phone automatically, and updated automatically.  You don’t have to do anything.  You can also see who the guest is on each show.  For Carolla, This American Life, and Car Talk, I listen regardless.  For Jay Mohr (Mohr Stories), Greg Fitzsimmons (Fitzdog radio) and Mark Maron (WTF) I only listen if I am interested in the guest.

There are other notable ones, too.  Just about every NPR show is available via podcast.  Sound boring?  Then you are dumb.  How about Teri Gross chatting with Tom Waits for an hour.  Anything better than that?  No sir.

NPR (national public radio) calls these ‘driveway moments’.  It means you are listening to a piece on your drive home.  You get home, but the story isn’t over.  It is so compelling you sit in your driveway to finish the story.  It is a very real phenomenon for aging rockers like myself who listen to talk radio on their $1200 radio.

Well, the podcast is even better… because you can simply pause the story until you are back in the car.  You don’t even need the internet to listen to the podcasts.  You need it to get them, but you can download them at home and have them queued up to listen to on your next drive, even if you won’t be in cell phone coverage.

The content ranges dramatically.  For example, Carolla’s show (the most downloaded podcast officially per Guinness book) is very formatted.  He has intros, guests, bits, a news segment… it is just like a one hour talk show, but with no commercials and no editors and no standards and practices legal team telling you not to do rape jokes.

Where do I begin?

Car Talk is just what it sounds like.  It is a radio call in show where two brilliant and hilarious old Italian guys diagnose car problems over the phone.  They have been on the air on NPR for 20 years, but recently the technology made it also available to podcasts.  I can’t say enough good things about Car Talk.  You learn a ton about cars, and it is incredibly entertaining.

For a starter kit, do this.  Find this episode of “This American Life”.  This specific favorite of mine is called ‘the greatest answering machine message of all time’.  That is a hell of a teaser, isn’t it?  Well, it pays off.  This was a legendary voice mail that circulated around a college campus for years.  This was back when they were on those micro-cassettes.  So, the staff hears the story.  They track down the message for us, and play it.  It really is that great.  Then, because they are all journalists at This American Life, they track down all the principal figures in the story.  Who left the message, who it was left for, and the story about it.

It makes the best 20 minutes of radio you can imagine. Though the link shows the program is an hour, you only need to listen to the first 20 minutes. Here is a link.

Sorry, that got too long and rambly.  As you can see, though, I am very passionate about podcasts.  So, when I got these questions from my editor this afternoon, I got all bubbly.

* in closing, Podcasts are being threatened.  There is a group of patent trolls who are extorting all the big podcasters and demanding a cut.  A group of businessmen bought some obsolete patent about sequencing radio programs, or something like that.  They wrote Adam Carolla a letter demanding 3 million bucks.  Carolla, quite wonderfully, told them to suck it.  Now he is raising funds for all his legal defense.  This is literally to protect the future of all podcasts.  You can help here.

** I don’t point out I have a $1200 stereo to tell you I am better than you and have nicer stuff (even though I am, and I do :)) – I point it out because since all I do is listen to variations on talk radio, any $40 stereo from Wal Mart would do the trick.  My subwoofer gets no work out these days, it’s quite sad.


Podcasting – the last frontier

I have a new addiction, Podcasts.  I feel this is the last untouched forum of both expression and entertainment.  I also know someone will ruin this.  So, I want to document and capture it’s awesomeness before we lose it.  The reason why I love podasts, and listen to at least one a day, is they are ungoverned and unregulated… for now.

At least with what I listen to, they are the province of comedians.  Adam Carolla just received the ‘guniness book of world records’ for most downloads.  I love his podcast, and have been listening for almost 2 years.  He is a huge pioneer in the field.  He is also incredibly funny and insightful.  Most importantly… he is entertaining.  Each podcast, no matter who it is from, is usually about an hour.  There is no MPAA, no ratings board, no Christian Right… nothing.   yet.

He sits with other comedians and they just riff.  chat.  Whatever you want  to call it.  These shows are rarely if ever edited.  Because the interviews are long form, unedited, and uncensored… you really get a feel for the guest.  I listen to about ten podcasts regularly.  half are comedians, and the other half are NPR.  They are:

WTF with Marc Maron

The Adam Carolla Show

Fitzdog Radio – Greg Fitzsimmons

Proopcast – Greg Proops

This Week with Larry Miller – Larry Miller

Ace on the House w/ Adam Carolla (home improvement podcast)

and these are all NPR podcasts.

Car Talk

This American Life

Fresh Air

Stuff you Should Know

Stuff you Missed in History Class


the other thing about Podcasts is they are generally free, and generally updated once a week.  You can listen online, but it’s way easier to do it through your iPod.  They update automatically.  Adam’s podcast also catapulted him to being a New York Times bestseller with ‘In 50 years, we’ll all be chicks’.  Anyhow, it is true freedom of expression by funny and interesting people.  This simply can’t last.  You can say on a podcast “I want to kill puppy dogs and then screw them in the eyehole”.  No one is going to stop you, especially if they understand you are joking… or using hyperbole.  Adam used to be able to say whatever he wanted, because only Adam fans were listening.  Well, once he started getting press for being the most successful podcast in history, I guess other listeners came in.

Adam took a modicum of shit for some riffing he was doing on transgendered people.  Specifically, he said ‘since when did we start giving a shit about these people?’  This didn’t offend me.  I didn’t even notice it when I heard it until the press caught it.  Adam Carolla has always been pro gay, and pro gay rights.  So, I don’t much care if he makes some tasteless jokes.   He is a comedian and it is his job to say thought provoking things.  I don’t see the scandal here, but others do.  That is fine, but here is what scares me.   Adam Carolla had to apologize.

I’m sorry my comments were hurtful. I’m a comedian, not a politician

I don’t care that he had to apologize.  His comments were dumb and mean spirited.  But, I do worry that he will have to censor himself going forward… or that interest groups will make iTunes rate their podcasts and rate their content.  This is coming.  He will  be told what is and what is not appropriate to discuss.  This, then, will neuter the podcast.  Anotyher dumb bomb dropped when Andy Dick was on Greg Fitzsimmons podcast last week.  Andy is on pretty often, and Greg’s podcast (like a suprising amount of others) is broadcast from his garage.  LoFi, low budget, two comedians riffing.  Then, for some reason Andy Dick went off on Howard Stern calling him a dirty jew bastard.  Obviously, a petulant and unwise comment to make.  However, if I am listening to a conversation between Fitzsimmons and Andy Dick… I am bound to here things like that.  I mean, Andy Dick is insane.  You know this.  He has no peerage in the self destruction pantheon… except maybe Courtney Love.

So, I expect to hear these things.  I like that volatility in conversation.  It makes it real.  Want to see real famous people talking in the olden days?  Watch this.  It is brilliant.  They are all getting tanked on live TV, and smoking… even Carson.  Watch what Dean Martin does at the two minute mark.  That is funny shit, and that would NEVER be on tv today.  Maybe it shouldn’t be.  If it were, though, I would watch it.  For now, the podcast is it… until whitey *gets a hold of it.

* Parents Television Council were resonsible for 98% of the content complaints the FCC recieves.  this is the guy, a single guy, who would rather your kids see dead bodies on all those cop shows instead of a boobie.  Who pissed in his cornflakes?