My name is Marcy and I am a Podcast Addict.
It began innocently enough, as most addictions do. Since I do my writing in the morning, I miss some of my favorite programs on public radio—Forum, Talk of the Nation, and Fresh Air. A few years ago, I noticed that NPR was recording their shows as podcasts (whatever they were!) so I subscribed. Magic! During lunch, I’d listen to a show or two, then catch the rest whenever I had a chance. If I didn’t like the topic, I deleted it. The whole scheme was, like so much new technology, brilliantly magical. Little did I know how much farther this would take me.
NPR podcasts kept me happy. Sometimes I listened to them on my iPod as I rode the bus—it’s a lot easier than trying to read along to AC Transit’s bumps and grinds.
One day while browsing iTunes for music, I noticed the category Podcasts. My heart skipped a little beat. I clicked–and found hundreds of podcasts, most of which were, like NPR’s, free. I read the descriptions and chose a few to sample, and subscribed to one based solely on its title: WTF, or What The Fuck? This consisted of interviews, most with comedians, hosted by Marc Maron, who was himself a standup comic. Now, I knew nothing about comics, recognized almost none of their names, and had never heard of Maron. I did, however, have some slight interest in the comedian psyche, since I’d once begun writing a novel with a female comic at its center. I’d gone to a few SF comedy clubs to check out the scene, but the book never got past three tepid chapters. (Having listened to WTF for several years now, I could probably do a better job on that book….hmm.)
Anyhow, Maron blew me away from the first listen, on several levels. First, like me, Maron is very, very angry. Unlike me, he’s not shy about saying so, and his rants made me laugh and made me cry. They made me feel connected. Whenever I feel isolated I can always turn on WTF to change my mood: Maron validates my default stance towards the world. Eloquently, hilariously, he shouts out my own frustration and fury.
Since he started WTF, Maron’s changed a bit. He’s gotten rid of some psychic toxins and dialed back the intensity some–not entirely of course, never fear! I hope Maron’s anger, as well as mine, remains fresh and relevant until the day we can no longer express it. Hey, it’s an exhausting job, but somebody in this fucking world has to tell the truth.
One of the reasons Maron was aching and angry came from a lack of suck-cess as defined in America. He didn’t have a tv show, he wasn’t as famous as Louis C.K. (a name I didn’t even know back then), he’d been through two divorces, and he sure as shit had no money. Naturally he was morose and resentful. I know this story well: his experiences in the comedy world are similar to mine in the publishing world, so I get it. Ironically, WTF opened new doors to Maron: he just finished shooting a sitcom, due out in June, he’s in a committed relationship, and the show is considered the gold standard of the burgeoning podcast culture.
I don’t listen to Maron for his anger alone. I’m also entertained by the very funny people he interviews, and fascinated by this community of comics. And, in case it isn’t evident, I fell in love with the man. I doubt I’m the only woman who’s done so. I was in love with him before I even knew what he looked like. When I saw the movie Sleepwalk With Me, in which he appears for two seconds, the deal was sealed. Unfortunately I’m a lot older, and he’s in a relationship that sounds healthy. I wish Marc and Jessica all the love and good luck in the world.
Meanwhile, back to podcasts…
Time passed. I was content having four or five regular shows. Then I discovered podded fiction. Selected Shorts, The New Yorker, and The Moth, respectively deliver high quality literature and hilarious oral storytelling. Wow! This was like free audiobooks.
More time passed. And then I stumbled onto the best freebie that’s not so easily found online.You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? MUSIC! Something called Interface showed up in my email box unbidden, and is still entertaining me with videos of the latest and greatest (Ani deFranco, Neko Case, Jakob Dylan). Then, while voting in a podcast contest for, naturally, WTF, I came upon Coverville, which presents, yes, covers of a different artist or theme on each program: The Beatles, Isaac Hayes, countrified rock (even that’s good on this show!). Brian Ibbitt, the Mayor of Coverville, knows more about music than almost anyone I’ve ever heard.
So here I was loaded with all this entertainment, when Comcast – who I’ve always said are the world’s worst goniffs (thieves)– suddenly raised my rates from $60 to $85 a month with the lame excuse that I’d been enjoying a “special promo” for two years. Without hesitation I ripped their shit outta the wall. Now, without television, I have more time to listen to podcasts. I’m getting Bill Maher, a variety of shrinks, politics… There’s more out there than I can handle, and I just might have to give up writing to keep up. Oops! When I started listening to podcasts in the morning instead of writing, I realized I was addicted. But hey, it’s mentally healthier than television, right?
I recently heard Marc Maron being interviewed on The Nerdist, going off on one of his tears. He’s pissed off at critics who don’t do their jobs, says half of them don’t even know what a podcast is, which I can believe, considering all the people who stare blankly when I tell them about my blog. They’re befuddled by these radical new genres, and when an editor asks them for a review of one or another podcast, they trash it out of ignorance; as long as they can rely on sarcasm, they figure they’re safe. Critics have always trashed the new, like rock ‘n’ roll, or hip hop. As Maron says, they listen to one or two samples, whether it’s a podcast or a rap song, then put down an entire genre.
I guess I’m doing the critic’s job now. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts, believe me, and as with everything else, there’s a wide range of quality
to them. I haven’t even mentioned the ones I’ve sampled once or twice and then deleted via the “Subscribe” button. At the moment a few are still under consideration—The Nerdist was, until recently, one of these. Some of their programming is great, like their interview with, of course, Maron, and one they did with Mel Brooks. Now in his nineties, Brooks was lively and super curious about podcasts and social media. Sometimes, though, the several hosts talk over one another, giggle among themselves, and tell ‘in’ jokes only they can possibly understand. But when they did an interview with The Muppets, which was one of the most hilarious and endearing interviews I’ve ever heard, — well, that’s when The Nerdist won a permanent position on my Podcast list.
One of the best things about podcast culture is going on right now, during this all-pervasive spending spree season when old media, even public radio, coerces our participation in Black Friday, Small Business Weekend, Cyber Monday, etcetera. This year I don’t have to make a choice between being a victim of their nattering or else live in silence: I’ve got my podcasts! One of them even echoes my holiday sentiments precisely: What The Fuck?
- The Best Podcasts for a Slow Day at Work (apartmenttherapy.com)