On… podcasts

Let’s talk about podcasts, which fill a radio-shaped hole in my life (and man, I miss the radio, especially London’s XFM, which has music of the indie-rock persuasion, and was the soundtrack to my 20s).

I find storytelling podcasts confusing and boring (maybe because they haven’t been edited enough and I’m a grumpy ol’ bitch). I feel ill even thinking about murder podcasts (do people who love brutal murder stories realize a person DIED, I wonder? The answer is obviously yes but they don’t care and I think, as I do quite often when humanity disappoints, ‘well I guess that’s how 53% of white women voted for Trump’, because I am also a liberal ol’ bitch).

And I quickly get irritated with those educational podcasts where endless factoids are rabbited at me by giggly insecure-yet-self-congratulatory-yet-probably-depressive geekboys, because it’s just mansplaining and I don’t fucking want to know anything they have to teach me, and did I mention I’m a grumpy ol’ bitch?

So here are the ones I do like:

Marc Maron’s WTF is basically the granddaddy of great podcast interviewers, and he was my first podcast love. At his best, he is thoughtful, self-deprecating, gentle, witty and human. At his worst, he’s ethnocentric, self-obsessed, bullies men he sees as weak and treats most women with either a benign patriarchal detachment or sexual combativeness. I nearly quit after the fiftieth time I heard him ask a dude “so is that when you discovered pussy?” as though women were all just running around at the age of 14 with our bodies cut off above the pudenda. But the Katie Couric interview really made me love him again, and he’s become increasingly thoughtful, open and wise over the years. So stick with Marc. He makes the world a better place.

Nerdist with Chris Hardwick is another very funny interview series. Gentler than Marc Maron, more funny small talk than an actual interview, and sometimes it makes me laugh out loud. I really love his sidekicks, Matt and Jonah. Start with the Tom Hanks interviews, wander over into the Andrea Savage one, and go from there. Nerdist has a genuine kindness, it always makes me smile. They could do with some more women on this podcast. Why not get Andrea Savage in every week?

If you love New York history (and who doesn’t?) The Bowery Boys is great. Well-written and fascinating. One of these guys has a voice very similar to the kid who played the brother’s friend in Adventures In Babysitting. Same guy was in Dazed And Confused and Rent. You know the guy I mean, right? Yeah, you know. I’m not going to look up his name because I’m CRAZY like that, and anyway, I prefer to think of the podcast guy as the brother’s friend from Adventures In Babysitting and I bet he prefers it, too. (Side note: I wish there was a dedicated podcast about the history of London, but I can’t find one. Anyone?)

Pod Save America. I know, Trumpxiety is real, and sometimes it seems like adding another reason to think about Trump is an impossible ask. But I am trying to look at this whole fucking nightmare as the prison in Shawshank Redemption. The only way for the average person to escape – and to mitigate the despair and anxiety we all feel now and again slash every fucking day - is one teaspoon at a time. So I have a #dailyactofresistance (go here and here and here or here or here and a million other places), I make five phone calls a day, I host postcard parties, I turn up for marches and protests, I donate money and I will continue to, and like that, we’ll get through this, one teaspoon at a time. And I listen to this podcast, because once I started, I immediately felt better about the world, and remembered that very very very very smart and good people are fighting too, and they have giant bulldozers to help my tiny teaspoon. Pod Save America bills itself as a ‘podcast for people not yet ready to give up or go insane’, and it’s hosted by Obama’s aides when he was in office - Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor. It’s extremely funny and smart. If I was single, I would date the shit out of those guys.

And now I am also listening to a new podcast, With Friends Like These, with Ana Marie Cox, which bills itself as “political columnist and culture critic, sits down with liberals and conservatives, pastors, writers, activists, and other people you should know for an open, funny, in-depth conversation about what divides us – a show about listening instead of arguing”. In just one post, it’s been pretty eye-opening, particularly for – as established – a grumpy liberal ol’ bitch like me. Check it out, it’s great.

Tell me your podcast favorites! I need more. Especially more women. Are there any podcasts with female interviewers AND music of the indie-rock persuasion? That is the question.





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14 thoughts on “On… podcasts

  1. Heather

    I love the request for podcasts with female leads!

    I don’t listen to many interview-style podcasts, but here are a few podcasts I do listen to that have female leads:

    (1) Bitch Sesh. Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider talking about The Real Housewives. I have never seen a single episode of TRH, but Casey and Danielle are hilarious, so it really doesn’t matter.
    (2) How Did This Get Made. Four comedians – including June Diane Raphael – discussing horrible movies.
    (3) Planet Money (NPR). Often features female reporters.
    (4) Science Vs (Gimlet Media) hosted by Wendy Zuckerman
    (5) Invisibilia (two female hosts – can’t tell them apart)

    Back in the day, Carrie Brownstein used to co-host NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast year-in-review or round-up episodes. It’s been a few years, but if you look through their archives you may indeed find a female host on a show also featuring great indie music. :-)

    1. GemmaBurgess Post author

      I am listening to all of these asap. Thank you so, so, so much. How Did This Get Made sounds particularly excellent. Have subscribed totem all and will start asap. x

  2. Sarah

    “Criminal” is excellent. It’s hosted by Phoebe Judge and explores multiple angles of crime. The official summary of it is, ” Stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” It sounds a little sensationalist, but it’s actually very thoughtful, measured, and well researched. I learn something fascinating in every episode. The tone of it is relatively serious because of the overarching crime theme, but I think it’s different from true crime podcasts that often seem insensitive in how they handle subject matter. They’re relatively short episodes (15 to 20ish minutes), and often include excellent music and original songs.

    Of course, “This American Life” is an oldie but a goodie. That’s a pretty popular one and most people I know have heard of it.

    I thought the second season of “Serial” was so compelling. I learned a ton about an important news event and it gave me a better perspective on how complicated that situation actually was. Also, Sarah Koenig is amazing, but that probably goes without saying :P

  3. Jessica Boyle

    The High Low with Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes is my favourite thing! I think it’s only on SoundCloud at the minute, but I imagine it will be on iTunes at some point. It used to be called PanDolly and was sponsored by The Sunday Times Style magazine, but they’ve both left ST now, so have had a rebrand… I’d definitely recommend it.


    1. GemmaBurgess Post author

      OH man I LOVE THOSE GIRLS. Literally Pandora Sykes is my sartorial spirit animal. I will listen to it asap. x

  4. jen

    The Axe Files. David Axelrod was Obama’s campaign guy and he has a very interesting podcast interviewing people of interest. Very soothing voice too, and he callllms you down if trumpworld is getting to you.

  5. Rae

    2 Dope Queens is my favorite hosted by women, in this case Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson. Sometimes it makes me feel like an old prude but that’s okay; I’m not in my 20′s anymore and maybe I am a bit of a prude! They are hilarious and sweet, supportive friends to each other and all the other comedians that they welcome on the show.

  6. Carolyn

    RE: Indie Rock persuasion, any podcast (and streaming radio) out of KEXP in Seattle is worst investigation; particularly Music That Matters.


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