Podcasts -- Top 5

Rufus and JimmyC both referenced podcasts in the past couple of days… so it’s a good opportunity to glean some good podcast info by sharing… as we’ve done with books, movies, etc. So “Top 5” isn’t really a “Best of” it’s more my favorites over the past few months or year or two. On a related note… I am a devoted Android user so I eschew iTunes for an app I really like called Podcast Addict which suits my needs. Anyway… here goes in no particular order.

1. You Must Remember This… As it says in its description it “is a storytelling podcast about the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century.” If you like Hollywood history then Karina Longworth’s slightly hipster (but in a good way) snark — think Rosalind Russell in the 21st century — podcast is for you. She runs 10-12 episode themes arcs… the Manson Family-Hollywood connection, dead Hollywood Blondes, MGM stars, etc. Everyone once in a while she injects some politics into the mix, but rarely and not enough to drive me away. She clears up myths, provides all sides to any mystery and they are heavily researched.

2. MMQB Podcast with Peter King. I like Peter King of Sports Illustrated. He has access, gets the big stars and isn’t afraid to ask good tough questions. He’s a good conversationalist to boot and that is important in a good podcast.

3. BBC Radio 4’s “In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg” This is a podcasted radio show of course, but each week, with a July/August hiatus, Bragg and a panel of three academic experts delve into some topic. Just the past few months they’ve covered The Battle of Salamis, Louis Pasteur, Enzymes, The American Populists (a great episode), Purgatory, The Battle of Lincoln 1217, and the archive goes back 8 years or so. He chooses the panels well and you can tell which ones are new to radio as they find their voice and which ones have been on his show awhile. Bragg is an expert moderator so he keep the discussion conversational and lively.

4. Lore Podcast by host Aaron Mahnke. “Sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction” is this one’s tagline. No shit. I had to give this one a rest after it scared the bejeezus out of Zach. Each episode covers some true crime, folklore, urban legend or myth (some well known like HH Holmes of Devil in the White City fame, many not as well known) — mostly regional so while you might recognize some from your neck of the woods you’re bound to learn things you didn’t know from other areas of the country and the world. He gives them the appropriate creep factor and also any factual evidence… but what are you to make when President Andrew Jackson — no wuss he — admits to seeing a ghost? Or some German werewolf is really a serial killer in today’s parlance? We used to listen to another called “Myth and Legend” but the host’s bass mix was painful to hear and it detracted. Mahnke reads the stories just right. This is also supposed to be a TV show on AMC or now maybe Amazon. Check it out if you like scary/creepy/historical stories. The episode on The Resurrectionists was one of my favorites.

5. Signposts with Russell Moore “Russell Moore is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.” The latest was a sit down with Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse. Moore gives a good discussion of current events from an evangelical Southern Baptist perspective. He’s a Gen Xer so he’s also well versed in the pop cultural references in jokes, etc. This is no staid sermonizing. He’s a smart guy and a great conversationalist.

Honorable Mention:
BBC 4’s Desert Island Discs — a resurrected version of the old show where the new host puts the guest on an island and they have to pick 8 pieces of music, one book (besides the Bible and Shakespeare) and one luxury item. It’s a great way to get to know someone. Many of the guests are known only to UK audience, but every once in awhile there’s a Tom Hanks, Paul Johnson, Keith Richards or some other Hollywood, U.S. figure on there.

“Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin” — I really want to hate Alec Baldwin and I don’t listen to the eps where I know it’ll get political. If he could contain himself Alec Baldwin could be the Jack Paar or Johnny Carson of this generation. He is a really good conversationalist. His interview with Megan Mullaly and her husband Nick Offerman was a great listen.

Smithsonian Institute’s “Sidedoor” — great history

The Nerdist Podcast is also great when the guest is great. Christopher Hardwicke is the host and a pretty good, though foul-mouthed — conversationalist. Great discussions with Patrick Stewart, Jim Gaffigan, Mark Hamill, Tom Cruise, Metallica, William Shatner, etc., etc. When it’s on it’s really on and when it’s not meh.

Radiolab Presents A More Perfect Union” — despite the often liberal slant — they present really interesting takes on legal cases and Supreme Court cases — getting behind the legal issues to the personal stories.

I also listen all the time to “Talking Cowboys” — the Dallas Cowboys official podcast on Tuesdays (though on a break til summer camp in Oxnard in a month).

There are others but those will suffice for now. What are you listening to?

6 comments to Podcasts — Top 5

  • Steven Crowder. Smart, laugh-out-loud funny, and a staunch conservative. His commentary, satirical sketches, and guest interviews are all great. The only podcast that I consider essential.

    Freakanomics. Can occasionally get political, but mostly gives an interesting and unique look at a whole variety of topics.

    Stefan Molyneux. An anarchist, atheist libertarian from Canada, I only agree with him about half the time, but when he’s right, man is he right. Some of his rants are insufferably pretentious and maddeningly biased, particularly when it comes to religion and national defense, but as he’s gotten older he’s mellowed and gotten to be more of a traditionalist about morality. And some of the long-form discussions he’s done on topics like slavery, poverty and the big government mismanagement of cities like Detroit have been absolutely brilliant, like nothing else I’m seeing on the right.

    • JimmyC

      I’m also a big fan of Andrew Klavan, Ben Shapiro, Adam Carolla, and Joe Roman’s podcasts, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day to listen to them, so I catch the highlights on YouTube whenever possible.

      So much content, so little time.

  • Rufus

    You couldn’t have timed this better, Floyd. I’m about to embark on a crazy adventure that will have me sitting around in airports, camping, relaxing on beaches and sharing the driving with one of the Little Fireflies on a l-o-n-g roadtrip from near you, past Porvaznik and on to the University of Arkansas. Go Fighting Banana Slugs!

    I’ve been thinking I need to have a bunch of podcasts loaded up, and was looking for some good suggestions.

    I too use Podcast Addict and find it quite good. Do you know you can set it to auto-download and auto-queue podcasts of your choice? The downloads can even be set to only activate when you’re on free wi-fi, to save cellular data charges.

    A few comments before my list.

    My absolutely favorite is Andrew Klavan’s nearly daily podcast, but I’ve referenced it so much here I’ll leave it off my list. Every day isn’t a home run, but most days are quite funny and many, many days he says one or more things so philosophically brilliant I replay sections over and over, to fully absorb what he’s saying. He is an amazing intellect. Since I’ll have time for reading on this trip I just purchased his book, “The Great Good Thing,” along with Shapiro’s book on the World Series winning Chicago White Sox. I need some solace to assuage all the annoyance and attitude from my Cub fan friends.

    Second comment. I am very excited to check out your “Lore” podcast recommendation. About a year ago I listened to a lot of Ben Kissel and friends’, “Last Podcast on the Left.” They seem to cover the same ground as what you reference, and that subject interests me, but one of Kissel’s two co-hosts is so repetitively vulgar (he’s also often funny) and such a proponent of black magic that I had to stop listening. They did a great job of deep, deep dives into supernatural phenomenon, serial killers, bizarre, Nazi-UFO bases in Antarctica theories, religious cults… But the one guy often spends 20% or more of the broadcasts obsessing about the occult and encouraging drug use and I eventually unsubscribed. It sounds like “Lore” may be just what I’m looking for. And great for keeping me and the Little Firefly awake and alert during our road trip.

  • Rufus

    Now my list (see, Outlaw, I can be concise):

    Paul F. Tompkins grabs a gaggle of his improv friends each week and, after a personal interview of one, the group go into about a 30 minute, nearly random improv. Different folks every week, some near regulars, but almost always groups who have never all improv’ed together. Always funny. Often hilarious.

    “Remarkable Lives, Tragic Deaths”
    Very well done, high level biographies of famous people and events. Half narrated, half voice acted. Amazingly even-handed. The Dr. Martin Luther King episode was the most unbiased biography of the man I’ve ever encountered. They go into a fair amount of depth, but it’s hard to cover someone’s entire life and death in 20 minutes, or so. They also seem to have an affinity for ancient philosophers.

    “Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Podcast”
    This is mainly Frank Santopadre’s baby, and he does amazing research. Gilbert often annoys me and gets in the way, but they share a love of old, obscure Hollywood and television actors and, like Frank, Gilbert has an amazing, encyclopedic knowledge of the subject. If you want to hear an hour interview of Tippi Hedren, Jamie Farr, Hal Linden, Burt Ward, Adam West, at least 2 of the Cat Women, Dawn Wells, John Amos or Rich Little, this is your podcast. Also, countless mainly behind the scene folks who have wonderful stories about the old days. If you start with the “Sonny Fox” episode I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

    “How I Built This”
    NPR’s Guy Raz interviews entrepreneurs on how they got their businesses up and running. I think most folks will enjoy at least some of these (I think Nolan Bushnell was my favorite), but these have been especially good for road trips with the kids. They’re interesting enough to hold all of our interests (Mrs. Firefly really likes ’em), and it’s a great device to talking about business and capitalism with your kids.

    “GLoP Culture”
    Ricochet’s Rob Long joins Jonah Goldberg and Jon Podhoretz for a sort-of monthly discussion on culture and how politics interfaces with culture. Rob Long is almost always antagonistic and looking for ways to mock and abuse his two co-hosts, and Goldberg usually gives back fairly well also. All three have good knowledge of cultural trivia and Podhoretz is especially scary. I believe he won “Jeopardy” on one or more occasions. I wish every Liberal would listen to this podcast. First, they’d enjoy it. Second, they’d learn what so many Conservatives truly are. Regular people. Nice, caring people. Often somewhat pompous, East Coast boarding school and Yale attending people who have simply woken up to the idea that “a government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”

  • Great picks here! I’ll throw in my two cents:

    “The Franchise” — Two film geeks dissect movie franchises film by film. I confess I used to hang with one of the co-hosts. He was the younger guy who knew too much for his own good, and I mean that as a compliment. He’s teamed with Daniel, an old chum, and they have great chemistry.

    The hosts do their homework, bring great context to their banter and have excellent taste. They also have a spoft spot for goofy genre fare (the Friday the 13th series).

    Highly recommended.

    They’re both very liberal but it rarely comes up and when it does they essentially squash it before it overtakes the conversation.


  • Penelope27

    Great list (except for the Smithsonian). I will be adding to my podcasts. You all have been great in expanding my horizons – thank you.