It’s the Fourth of July here in the US, and I’m here finishing up my list of favorite podcast episodes for June! There were some new series last month that I really enjoyed, as well as some longstanding podcasts that I’ve only now dipped into. June also had one of the biggest “gets” in the podcasting world, which you might notice in the header image, and as you scroll down!
Here’s the list:
I’m starting off this post on the wrong foot, I think, by both picking an episode that was released at the end of the last month as well as picking on that is specifically about me. This’ll be it, though, so don’t worry.
The pair of Georgia Tech faculty (Charlie Bennett and Pete Ludovice) respond to a blog post I wrote about an episode of theirs a few weeks back. They/we’ve been having a discussion about comedy: what are appropriate topics to joke about, and how do comedians respond to being called out on some of their routine? It’s a real treat to have a dialog with these fine folks, and I’m glad that sometimes conversation and support can be quite appreciated.
Stephanie Foo, from This American Life, shares a story about online dating and the additional challenges Asian women specifically have to go through. The title of this episode is referencing “yellow fever”, or the behavior of some men to exclusively date Asian women.
This is one of those episodes where several people share personal experiences that someone like me was vaguely aware occurred, but never fully grasped the impact it could have on someone’s life. This episode coincidentally pairs well with the StartUp episode from the dating website/matcher side of the equation, on catering to racial preferences in dating.
I really enjoyed how this economics podcast episode managed to capture an entire arc, a narrative, in one individual’s quick and dirty rise, then fall from success. He created a phone app that allowed people to pay others to give up their parking spaces. It sounds like a monstrous development, creating an economy around something intended to be free, selling something one doesn’t own, but in the context where it was created, where parking was ridiculously scarce, it made sense. Then the app creator’s attitude caused his downfall.
I hopped on the train of this design-oriented podcast a little late, I know, but I am thoroughly enjoying it. I wasn’t expecting, however, to have to be fighting off tears on my commute to work because of the second half of this episode. The first half discusses the design of horror music and reveals some imaginative origins to sound effects that creep us out.
The second half is a sampling of another podcast called Song Exploder that interviews songwriters and musicians about the fine details of one particular song they’ve created. The artist was John Roderick, and the song is “The Commander Thinks Aloud”, which is about the space shuttle Columbia disaster.
And you know I’m gonna cry when you start talking about space exploration.
(And obviously the second part of this couplet of episodes, as well.)
These two episodes of Night Vale seem like a transition point. The creators are taking some time off after this, and the split stories are from separate radio stations: one from the desert otherworld, and one from Night Vale. Cecil, the host of the show, is planning to leave the town to be with his boyfriend, Carlos. The opera house that’s been under construction over many episodes finally has its premiere, and a climactic event answers many questions longtime listeners have had. This is a must-listen for fans, and perhaps a good time to enter this world if you haven’t already.
The Indoor Kids podcast is a casual conversation about gaming with a guest. This episode struck me as unusually interesting because the guest, Anthony Rapp, heavily values his digital trophy collection. He’s a person who cares about achievements, and yet he’s in the entertainment world, an actor. The narrative I constantly hear from even just regular adults is that time will be spread thin, and the priority of a gamerscore will decrease. I would have guessed that for people having to keep up with pop culture (though maybe he doesn’t), that this would put an even bigger emphasis on never diving too deeply into a game. It was quite cool to hear from someone proud of his accomplishments in playing video games on the show.
Colbert’s been out of the public eye for some time, but he’s poking in now and again with short YouTube videos and this podcast while everything revs up for the premiere of his talk show later on this year.
This show is great because they give a ground-level view of what it takes to create a show like this, especially in ways you wouldn’t think. This episode is fascinating because they discuss in detail the space that makes up the theater they’ll call home to put on The Late Show. I could relate because I actually went to a live taping of a Letterman show in 2008, thanks to a friend of mine. The space is quite vertical and cramped. They talk about getting rid of some of the AC units and freeing up part of the room, which definitely feels like it would help! I love hearing about what makes a space good or bad for comedy, and even different types of comedy.
I’ve been loving Sawbones’ mix of good medical history and science combined with witty humor. This episode is a departure from the usual, because one of the cohosts, Justin McElroy, is replaced by a teen girl, Riley, the sister of cohost Dr. Sydnee. She is equally as charming and funny as Justin (which becomes a cause of concern in the next episode about him potentially being replaced!), and the episode makes talking about female puberty funny and fun.
This is the episode of Mystery Show that I think everyone found the best of its early life. Starlee Kine, the host, attempts to solve mysteries that can’t be resolved through Googling. In this case, she is given a belt buckle that is so elaborate and wonderful, but that its finder has no idea who it belongs to. The answer is satisfying, emotional, and rewarding, as is the journey and the people Kine encounters along the way. If you haven’t been sure about Gimlet’s latest podcast, this is the episode to see if it’s your thing.
I put this podcast episode on this month’s list before I even listened to it, simply because no matter how much I actually enjoy it, it’s vastly important for the podcasting community in general. Turns out it was quite good! The President is interviewed by one of the most popular podcast hosts in the space: Marc Maron. He (obviously Obama) talks a lot about his past and his influences, a lot of which I wasn’t familiar with at all. The tone and environment of the conversation felt different, more informal, than any other appearance of the President in media.
This Spawn On Me episode featured Tauriq Moosa, a South African writer in the gaming space (and elsewhere!) who is sorely needed to offer a perspective on a recent marketing push on the latest Deus Ex game. This series is based on a near-future sci-fi world where technology is replacing limbs and biology and creating disparate classes of people, which the developers term (and trademark) “Mechanical Apartheid”. Lots more is discussed in this episode, but I found the conversation on this subject to be very important, and I was very interested to hear the full story on why this phrase was problematic, risky, but ultimately has a chance to be redeemed if treated very accurately and realistically in the game (we can hope…).
Spawn On Me consistently brings in voices and perspectives that are so rarely heard in the gaming world, and this is a fine example of that effort.
Jeff Rubin has a knack for finding and interviewing people who are experts (or geeks) on very specific topics, and this time it’s on pizza consumption. My favorite aspect to Rubin’s show is how seriously he treats the subject, just like the guest he has on does, but he still relates it outwards to the larger world, acknowledging that most people don’t have this depth of appreciation or understanding. Be sure to listen for the big take-home tip about ordering delivery that will enhance your pizza-eating experience!
Mystery Show debuted in April, but this episode is what hooked me. The first episode was on a video store that went missing, and this mystery was whether Britney Spears enjoyed a book the “client” wrote when she was photographed with it in 2008. Kine’s style of finding mini-stories in every person she encounters on her journey weaves a thread of humanity through the episode that puts a little joy in me. It’s sonder personified.
Freakonomics always tackles interesting questions, and this is a corner of the world that is so obviously in a weird space in our racial landscape, and yet we never seem to notice it or care. Why do Asian restaurants always have Asian waitstaff, even if they aren’t all Chinese in Chinese restaurants, or Japanese and Japanese restaurants? Is “Spanish-speaking” just a cover when looking for employees for your Mexican restaurant, and the true goal to have Latinos visible inside? If it makes customers happy, should we be playing along and allowing this? This is a great episode exploring all of these topics!
Did you listen to anything fun in June? What are you listening to right now? Show me something way off my radar, and tell me why you like it! I’d love to know.