October was a fun month full of great podcasts, whether they were #2spoopy or not. I’m a little late in finishing up this list, but I’m happy to share what caught my ear over the last few weeks. I have my favorite shows, so this is hardly a comprehensive list of what’s out there. Consider it a filtered list for people who have similar taste to mine (whatever that is!). If you know fantastic shows or episodes that I’m missing out on, please share them below or on social media!
The featured image is a still from the Friday the 13th video game that personality/games critic turned consultant Adam Sessler was promoting in October. He appeared on (and I listened to) more episodes than the ones that made this top list, and it fit the theme! Go support the game if it interests you!
Without further ago, here’s the list:
I just love Sawbones, and this podcast episode, early in October, got me in the mood for Halloween and general spoopiness. Sydnee, the doctor, shares the origins of many monsters we all know, like vampires, werewolves, and zombies, from a medical perspective. Turns out that a lot of the characteristics we associate with these creatures may have origins in real illnesses. She’s accompanied not by her usual cohost Justin, but rather by her sister Rileigh, who became an instant favorite from her last appearance. Rileigh is amazing and charming and you are required to appreciate her by listening to this. So get to it!
One other podcast, early on in the month, really got me in the spoopy mood. This music show features a wide range of artists in the instrumental and surf rock genres, and this month it was themed for the season. Who knew there were so many songs about creepy monsters or terror, while all still being a great, fun hour of music?
Reply All always starts with something relating to technology and frequently branches out into a much larger story. This episode starts with a woman’s Instagram feed and uses it to chronicle her path through the ups and downs of depression. It’s a rare glimpse of what recovery and relapse look like not only in the content of the photos but also in their composition, like the filters. The host also relates with his personal experience in this somber, but touching story.
I’ve been picking and choosing my Nerdist episodes for a few months now, and this “hostful” one featuring updates from the three hosts on their lives was a treat. Matt got married, and Chris’ new relationship has helped him appreciate relaxation and stability. When you’re a long-time listener, you value the lives of the hosts because of how much the style of Nerdist involves sharing their stories as much as the guests’.
TAL is consistently wonderful, but this episode was especially memorable because its subject matter fit perfectly into my activities while listening. The first act meets the people behind some of the strangest fast food trends in recent years, kicked off by the “double down” burger. Of course I was eating a burrito at Moe’s at the time. The third act asks the question of how Volkswagen, in light of their emissions inspection fraud, can properly apologize and regain consumer trust. The shining example to compare to? Jack in the Box!
Reasonably Sound is always good for thoughtful exploration into some niche corner relating to sound. This episode dives into the musical genre of chiptune, and in the way that the host, Mike Rugnetta, does so well. It’s not a surface overview; he explores a bit of the technical side to explain the basis for the music, but he notably focuses the culture of the genre. What does it mean to create music out of old devices never meant to be manipulated in this way? How does that create a counterculture vibe, and how does that blend with nostalgia?
Adam Sessler was the guest that first clued me into Spawn On Me earlier this year. The show about gaming and diversity brings him back to chat not only about the projects he’s been working on since leaving games criticism but also to riff on current news. He makes a great addition to the team with his instant chemistry while also sharing great insights into the design of the game he’s promoting. His perspective since largely leaving the public eye has been refreshing to hear, as I’ll mention more in a later entry.
Jeff Rubin does it again by coincidentally knowing personally the man, the myth, the legend: the hero who filmed a rat on the New York City subway that created a massively viral sensation at rapid speed. Rubin goes through in excruciating detail not only the moment itself, which was brief, but also the process of dealing with a hugely viral video when news organizations want to show it, scammers want to steal it, and organizations want to help represent you. It’s a rare look into this niche business when memification strikes a person off-guard.
StartUp is back for a mini-season focusing again on Gimlet. The podcast about starting a business is returning the gaze inward now that the company is more mature. An interesting question has arisen: should CEO Alex Blumberg’s wife, who has tons of experience in television and media, join the staff? How weird will that be? Is everyone lying about how it won’t be weird? The final conversation about the potential change in family life and childcare was one that really highlighted everyone’s susceptibility to gender norms, too. Even in thoughtful radio producers you’ve heard for years.
Spontaneanation is always good for a laugh. Usually many. My favorite part of the improv scene that takes up the second two thirds of the show was how complicated the number of characters became, and especially keeping track of the relationships between them. I was amazed at how the performers managed it all while a completely-unpretentious wine tasting is supposedly going on. The guest’s question is hilariously absurd and ripe for hilarious commentary: what color is every day of the week?
Linked is the free episode Sessler did with the WHC folks, which in turn has a link to the longer patrons episode. Sessler was all over different podcasts in October promoting both a film he was in and the Friday the 13th video game! In this bonus episode, however, he, Carboni, and Cannata talk about online culture and what makes it so frequently extreme, hostile, and without nuance. It’s a valuable conversation objectively and even more interesting coming from people who have spent parts of their careers talking to cameras online and facing comments and ire.
This Planet Money episode uncovers a fascinating industry within our healthcare system that is filling a hole patients rarely see. Hospitals and clinics charge different rates for the same procedure, and insurance companies sure would like to pay less for your medical expenses. Charging more for expensive institutions would make customers very mad, of course. But offering them money to go somewhere else makes everyone happy! The hosts even interview one of the workers who receives calls and coordinates these cost-saving switches.
On Halloween, Bruce Campbell appears on the Nerdist podcast! He’s a brilliant guest, full of great stories and such a fantastic sense of humor that I must insist he returns as soon as possible. I loved getting a sense of his experience and influences by the references he pulled and the actors he idolized and valued meeting. Also, it turns out we lost our virginity at the same age! (That was kind of reaffirming.)
What have you been listening to? Share your own!