Monday, October 17, 2011

A Quick Word... On Podcasts

I sometimes feel like people are ashamed to listen to podcasts.  We're quite happy to talk about movies, television, and music - perhaps a little less so about audiobooks - but podcasts? Surely no-one wastes their time with those! 

I do of course, and I think that - if you don't already - you should too.  Perhaps there is something about the perceived lack of complexity in listening to radio shows that people find lesser.  Actually, radio offers an exciting challenge to the imagination, and for me podcasts are followers and company - on walks, drives, or just while doing the washing up.  Podcasts turn the necessary into the interesting, and they can teach too.  So if you're keen to discover something new, here are a couple of my favourite podcasts to help you catch the bug:

1. Judge John Hodgman

Some of you may know John Hodgman as a reporter for The Daily Show, a comedy actor, author, or the PC from Apple's famous advertisements.  What you may not know, is that he also occasionally performs in his own judicial court as a thoroughly unqualified judge.

The 'Judge John Hodgman Podcast' is a weekly event in which people may post their gripes and grizzles to Judge Hodgman and hope for a trial where he will finally decide who's righteous.  Examples include a group of college freshmen arguing over the rules of 'beard chicken', and long term travelling companions who can't agree on the appropriate time to disembark a plane.  The more minor the gripe, the more fun Judge Hodgman has, and the results are hilarious.  For those who like their comedy nerdy, this is seriously worth checking out.

2. Writing Excuses

"Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry - and we're not that smart!"

So opens every episode of 'Writing Excuses', a weekly writing podcast which acts as a round-table about writing, featuring Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler and Dan Wells.  Being only fifteen minutes long I've been slamming these out in the last couple of weeks, going back through previous seasons to try and catch up.  The advice is really thorough and useful, and they manage to slip in a writing exercise and book recommendation each episode too.

My favourite so far has been episode 6.18, featuring Lou Anders on the 'Hollywood Formula'.  Lou describes in very short form some of the crucial elements of the classic Hollywood story, including a fascinating deconstruction of my favourite film, 'The Dark Knight'.  This one's particularly for writers, but there is plenty to learn even for just an interested reader.

3. The Ricky Gervais Show

I was tempted not to put this one in, because both of the other two podcasts I've listed are free, and I think it's a great idea to let you discover podcasts without having to pay for them first.  Unfortunately, it's simply unavoidable that 'The Ricky Gervais Show' is probably the funniest podcast on the internet, and deserves mention accordingly.

This one comes out pretty sporadically, and features Gervais, and his friend and co-creator of The Office and Extras holding discussions with their former producer, and current 'round-headed buffoon' Karl Pilkington.  Somehow Karl manages to turn a topic of almost any level of inanity into a long and strange tirade of almost unfathomable ridiculousness.  Fans of Gervais and Merchant's work will lose hours of laughter and hilarity to this one.  Now made into an HBO cartoon series (see clip above), you can experience it that way too, if my podcasting talk has still not seduced you.

4. The Moth

And finally it's 'The Moth', a series of trues stories told live and without notes.  It's amazing what people will say when they just get up in front of an audience to tell the truth of their lives - sometimes it's incredibly funny, sometimes it can be devastatingly sad.  It's always inspiring though, and changes the way you see the world.  I really love listening to 'The Moth' - it rips right into the heart of things.

Have favourite episodes of these, or other radio shows you think deserve listing? Let me know in the comments!


  1. Love podcasts.

    I'm already a fan of Judge John Hodgman and The Moth.
    Some others I enjoy are This American Life, Conversations with Richard Fidler, WNYC Radiolab, The Sound of Young America, NPR Planet Money and WTF with Marc Maron.

    Yep, I listen to a lot of podcasts. They keep me company on night shifts.
    Sorry I don't have time to go into why I like them all. But thanks for giving me some new ones to try.

  2. Well I've got a few more to discover now! Thanks Melanie!