Nov 1, 2016

Podcast Portal: Kurt Vonneguys

Welcome to Podcast Portal: a spontaneous column that will highlight podcasts of all genres that are lesser known or new shows that are worth giving a listen. With the medium continuing to grow, it is hard to acknowledge all of them. However, I am going to try and find as many noteworthy titles as possible to share and hopefully expand your mind to the greatest growing medium out there. If you have any podcast that you feel is worth adding to the Podcast Portal, please make sure to inform me whether through the comments or through an e-mail (information in sidebar). 

SHOW: Kurt Vonneguys
HOSTS: Alex Schmidt, Michael Swaim
NETWORK: Cracked

There are few authors with quite the reputation as that of Kurt Vonnegut. His cutting edge writing style made him stand out among his contemporaries and produced some of the most philosophical, comical prose of his time. If there was an author fitting of a serialized podcast treatment, he definitely would be on the short, short list. That is likely why The Cracked Podcast decided to do their first ever spin-off podcast that intends to explore the writer's work at length on a monthly basis. If you're not familiar with their premiere series, it's one of the most enjoyable weekly looks into all things pop culture and everything tangential. If you're not familiar with the main website, then you've probably been living under a rock for quite awhile.

With all of this said, Cracked contributors Alex Schmidt and Michael Swaim have credentials to back up the need for this show. They have done exhaustively researched videos, articles, and appearances on the podcast that reflect a deeper education that goes beyond the deceptive "comedy" label that this show is given. Is it funny? In parts. However, it's more informative of Vonnegut's career and ideals than anything else. If you first heard the episode via The Cracked Podcast, you'll hear the suggestion that this can be enjoyed without having to have read a single word of the author. As someone who fits that description, I figure that I'm qualified to answer this question.
The first episode logically is about the author's first book, which doesn't have much of a reputation to begin with. It's about "Player Piano," which is immediately criticized for its lack of popularity and not being a fully formed Vonnegut novel. While the concepts are explored in great detail, there's something curious to the hosts about this novel's differences from later works. There's a dated mindset about women in the workplace as well as potential racism. Is it all for satire, or does Vonnegut believe it on a deeper level? Over the course of the first episode, the novel is given due diligence in pros and cons, including how it inevitably laid the groundwork for intricate writing on TV series like Arrested Development.
So the question should be asked: does this work to a casual listener? To be honest, I am not one who hates spoilers. In fact, I sort of relish in it. However, that was far from my problem with the episode. My issue came more in the fact that discussing Vonnegut was so fascinating that it made me regret not being able to read along. Beyond the hosts' effective bantering, I found myself wishing that I had a book on my shelf to look at the vibrant language that they cited. I wanted to see how they insisted that "Player Piano" tied into Westworld (though the title does give some of that away). It makes me regret having a life that makes it impossible to read all of Vonnegut at the pace that these episodes will presumably be released.
Whatever the case may be, I definitely think that podcasts dedicated to authors has untapped potential. I think that there's limitations to what can be done with older writers, but there is room for analysis that is both entertaining and informative. Kurt Vonneguys definitely sets itself up strong, and I look forward to hearing what they do next. It may get me to read some of Vonnegut's work when I have free time during this winter season. Most of all, I am fine with this being smart enough to make me confident in eventually choosing which that will be. While I find it dubious that they'll keep up their segments in their current form (the music cues are a bit silly, I do think that the structure is equally promising. I just need to set aside time to listen to episode two very soon.

OVERALL RATING: 4 out of 5
WORTH A SECOND GO?: If you like Kurt Vonnegut, I definitely would say yes. If you're on the fence, I would still say yes. Cracked always delivers quality, and this is no exception.

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