Jun 1, 2011

My Favorite Podcasts

Since late November '10, I have found an obsession that has replaced a certain emptiness. Something, that on a weekly basis filled up 15 hours of my day and has kind of turned me into a monster towards TV, has cut down on my movie watching, yet somehow has made me a more productive citizen.
In late November, while having an average discussion with Alex, I got word to check out Kevin Smith's SModcast. I had bought Shootin' the Shit the previous year, but rarely did I listen to it (with exception to that one episode we all know about). He also told me about the other shows on Smith's network, including Jay and Silent Bob Get Old and Hollywood Babble-On.
Somehow, in that two month gap, I didn't necessarily become a nut for podcasts, but my weekly dose increased, most of which were from his network. I listened to all the shows, kind of excited to hear someone I admired giving out free, 90 minute programming every week.

It wasn't until this article from the AV Club that my life kind of changed. In no point did they mention the Kevin Smith produced podcasts that had fueled my life. Instead, I was introduced to names like WTF with Marc Maron and the Nerdist. At that time, Chris Hardwick and Marc Maron were no names.
Yet somehow, I was convinced to listen to a few to broaden my horizons, and since January '11, the revolution had begun, shifting me from the nature of Smith's lazy formatting shows to interviews and comedy with the who's who of today.

I mostly gained increasing interest in the podcasts because of my work on Nerd's Eye View, which saw me host an hour long show about movies and TV. I'm no public speaker, but when I listened to those, I was inspired in new ways to find my voice and make the show something viable. I honestly wanted to make a mark next to these shows and hope that maybe, the success would equal my passion.

Well, with the radio show now kaput, the Nerd's Eye View team has turned their attention to podcasts. I am excited to begin my goal of making a mark, finding an audience, and just doing something I really enjoy with two of the people I have probably had the most compatibility with my whole life.
I figured it's as good a time as any to take a look at my 15 favorite podcasts (and a few I dislike) and explore reasons why that is and how I can apply it to my own doing.

Since discovering it in January with an old, two part episode with my hero Judd Apatow, there's been something that has made me idolize this man week to week. It felt personal, it felt raw, and somehow I envied him because he could talk so cohesively and bring mundane topics to life. He may be a man from a different generation, but his desire to explore his subject's careers without being crass and promotional have made him my favorite interviewer to date. He has charisma and knows how to be honest without pandering. He can also make me interested in people that I never heard of or disliked. I pretty much became a Whitney Cummings fan after listening to that episode. To this day, I long for that double dose every week because it's entertaining, and keeps me inspired to try and be just as good as guy who interviewed Louis C.K. out of his garage.

2. The /Filmcast/After Dark

When it comes to podcasts, I try to mix the business with pleasure, and for the most part, this will fall under business. While I have a strong stigma towards two hour plus podcasts, I make grand exception to this show. The premise is simple and follows a similar style to Nerd's Eye View in that it goes from movie watching to movie news to an in depth review of some film. In my time (which is actually a little longer than SModcast) with the show, I have discovered varying opinions on things I hold sacred and while I disagree on a lot of things, I kind of envy these guy's ability to analyze a movie for 40 minutes and maintain my interest. I've tried to do that, but it takes a true professional, and these guys, I bow to. Also, they taught me how much of a jerk Armond White is and put a voice to the face. Thanks a lot. They've also persuaded me to see at least 5 movies over the past few months, including Roman Polanski's Repulsion.

Okay, this is not really a podcast per se. It's actually a show on Current TV that satirizes the news. In my early stages of Nerd's Eye View, this was the prime show I idolized. The numerous performers each had their own segment in which they would rip the hypocrisies of gay rights, feminine problems, music, and viral videos in the media with a subversive wit that keeps me coming back every week. I am also a strong admirer of Brett Erlich (above), who I discovered on Rotten Tomatoes Show and I felt like I wanted to be THAT guy. While the show is still airing, a lot of the videos make the scene on video podcasts, and I enjoy watching my favorites over and over, hoping to be ever as eloquent or entertaining.

Many movie podcasts have come and gone. A lot of them I felt had potential, and I ended up seeing the demise of IFC News and (probably), AV Club's AV Talk, Collider's Running Dialogue... However, in recent times, I have come to discover that this CinemaBlend podcast is one of my favorites that is still trucking. It's hosted by Katey Rich (above) and features an ex-writer of Cinematical (a website I once loved) David Erhlich. It's essentially /Filmcast Jr., but where that show is two hours of in depth analyzation, this is just three people talking about news, movies, and everything in segments that change from week to week. They may not produce the most profound reviews, but they are a lot of fun to listen to and I can only hope to have as interesting a chemistry as they do here.

I'd like to think that if we can brand Nerd's Eye View well enough, we could be this successful, but it may never happen. For starters, they are in the industry, know people, and write Web Soup. Maybe one day, but it seems like this show has become one of the most successful podcasts in recent times with panels featuring people from Doctor Who, Black Dynamite and the Walking Dead. While I find their ramblings sometimes too schizophrenic, they do have a nerdy energy that when they are glued in, they nail perfectly. I think this show lacks the clarity and structure of, say, WTF with Marc Maron, but the amount of nerd energy they can throw into a review is enviable. Wish I could say half of those things to Patton Oswalt.

This show has one thing going for it that I admire above every other show on this list. It has the best use of sound effects. Where majority of my memory can recall sound clips being used to death, this show manages to strike a balance and use it mostly for transition and emphasis. The segments and jokes aren't always that great, though the chemistry sometimes works. I mostly admire this show for it's ability to convince me that if I was naive enough, I could attempt to add a million sound clips per show and sound half as decent as these guys.

I discovered these guys through an episode that Marc Maron did on the Oscars in which they delved into each category. I found it entertaining enough to begin listening to their show. Ironically, the Oscar talk turned me off for a month, and then I picked back up and have been hooked since. They are essentially a less popular version of the Nerdist, but they're twice as entertaining because they have segments where they dish on movies and new releases, and Graham Elwood does bad accents and promotes Laffganistan. I do, however admire that these guys are once a week and therefore are able to saturate better than the Nerdist Hostful episodes, which sometimes are death knells.

It's only ten episodes in, but it's looking to be my runner up for Marc Maron's podcast. However, Maron has a more subtle approach to discovering his guest's secrets. Also, what separates Maron from this is that instead of seeing how career affects life, this show focuses on how life affects career, dealing with childhood, depression, and a serious discussion on pain medications, this show manages to analyze what it is about our past that influences us to feel certain ways. While the guests have been mostly comedians, he has managed to ring in ex-cons and just friends. I feel that in time, this show will become an essential just like Maron's in that it's at times therapeutic and enlightening on stuff that I find interesting.

Most of the shows on here deal with deep, intellectual pursuits. This show manages to ask a simpler question that as a member of the Razzies, I find myself asking a lot: how did this get made? The show it a twice monthly assault on really bad movies, notably the works of Nicolas Cage. By taking the /Filmcast approach of just tearing apart one movie, it manages to produce some of the greatest insults and simultaneously makes you question modern Hollywood. Also, I feel that this show should be doing some co-op with the Razzies because never have I found a more deserving, entertaining show, to fill that void.

It doesn't matter the episode, this is essentially the podcast that thrives because of the community feel. An average guy (Doug Benson) poorly interviews celebrities and creates comedy gold every other sentence as a result. Over the time, he has made laid back and kind of dumb a trademark that has benefited the show. His involvement of the audience helps to make this one of the most entertaining and unexpected joys on this list. His signature ending, the Leonard Maltin game, is always entertaining, and it's the only show I know to have featured both Edgar Wright and Ellen Page.

If Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid was a podcast presented in a faux serial format ranging from 5-7 minutes, this would be it. Rob Huebel is brilliant and knows how to parody detectives with clever twists on words and scenarios just as insane. If you have an hour to kill, please listen to all of season 1 (I hope there's a season 2, anyways) and you'll get why there needs to be more shows like this.

Easily the best thing to come out of SModcast. In this podcast's short run, Kevin Smith manages to put aside his stoner, dick joke persona for awhile to discuss what goes on in the production of a movie. He interviewed a D.P. who worked witl Paul Thomas Anderson, and various stars from the movie to better understand how the casting process works. If anything, this is Smith with passion. While most of his other shows seem pandering and smutty, this served it's purpose without too much conflict, and by the end, there's no need to wonder how Red State was made. This explains everything.

Another show I admire from a technical stand point. The thing about the segments is not so much in sound clips, but just that it manages to be distinct between interviews and transitions through music. Also, I find that while half the material is too gossipy for my tastes, when it covers something interesting, it tends to be in a very casual and interesting way. An early interview she did with Patton Oswalt had me hooked, and to date, she brings a weekly recap that will serve as my need for US Magazines.

Stephen Tobolowsky may be the equivalent of Troy McClure in Hollywood, and here he gets to share stories from the various sets he's worked on as well as journeys he's had with friends. It helps that he's a natural born storyteller and can make things persuasive with tonal deflects. An average episode manages to capture everything needed in a story, including a dramatic punch at the end that will leave you feeling something. I've listened to plenty of shows like the Moth and Risk!, and this is the only one that so far has kept my interest in the one story format.

This show took awhile to grow on me, but once it did, I was hooked. Every month, I long to sit in my bed at night and hear "It's night time on the internet," which adds some clairvoyance for me. The humor is rarely gut busting, but it does manage to keep me entertained and is one of the best variety show podcasts currently on the scene. I enjoy the enthusiasm and segments and can see all of the effort that went into it.

It is an interesting list that has been pretty true to my weekly listening. Of all of these, the things I strive for most from them are simple. I naively imagine making a market like SModcast or Earwolf. I want to be able to make it a job and have fun with it. However, with three people, that will be impossible. Until then, I'll admire Earwolf for being the network that I long to be thanks to additional shows like Who Charted? and the Apple Sisters.

And now, three podcasts that I kind of dislike:

This show is fucking despicable, if just for the fact it's a Kevin Smith pop culture show that sucks. Where this had potential to be a lampooning of celebrity shows, this manages to suck the fun out of it with a bunch of insults and dick jokes that take up more time than actual content. Also, Ralph Garman tends to just make cynical remarks about celebrities he hates instead of produce solid laughs. A lot of the jokes feel too mean spirited and none of this features charm you'd expect from Smith.

I felt while listening to this that this was a lesser version of Fitzdog Radio. True, I did kind of like Burr after an episode of Doug Loves Movies, but after listening to his show, it featured a bunch of cynical rambling without any real focus. Also, the lack of guests and features kept this from being interesting and I kind of longed for it to get interesting. I just hope I don't ramble this badly when I'm on the microphone.

As much as I admire Earwolf, I have never been able to understand why Comedy Bang Bang was such a successful show. True, they have some funny guests on, but rarely do I feel that they are funny and they fall into annoying characters that don't serve my interest. Also, I feel that personally the last half falls apart with games that have poor set ups of jokes and awkward zingers. This may be anti-comedy, but I just don't like it.

Also, check out one of my favorite shows To Be Announced as well.

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