Sunday, January 23, 2011

Poets and Comedians, Part Two: Podcasts I Have Loved

Poets and Comedians, Part Two: Podcasts I Have Loved

In Part One of "Poets and Comedians", I stated that I would list some of my favorite comedy are some highlights! Check them out if any of them sound interesting. (You don't need an I-pod to listen to a podcast.)

Wiretap with Jonathan Goldstein

I know it’s become trendy to call everything “quirky”, but the CBC’s Wiretap with Jonathan Goldstein truly is. It’s a brilliantly scripted show that follows the exploits of Jonathan and his assortment of eccentric, moody friends. It usually opens either with a monologue or short story from Jonathan, or, to his perpetual exasperation, a badly-timed phone call from one of his buddies who are either in need in advice, or just plain bored. Some of the conversations are hilarious, (like when the hyper-Type-A Josh calls to rant about his new job at a peace-loving, hippy-dippy Yoga magazine), some are highly silly, (two words: Howard Chackowicz), and a few have actually been intense enough to make me cry. Wiretap is never just one shtick; it’s collection of conversations, weird snippets, stories, and deeply affecting moments that come together in a lovely sound collage that has become an integral part of my inner world. For a great read, check out Jonathan’s book, “Ladies and Gentlemen: The Bible”, a collection of short stories re-telling famous tales from the Bible. And, a special shout-out to frequent guest Heather O'Neill, author of "Lullabies for Little Criminals", and a writer who I am sick with envy over.

WTF? with Marc Maron

How do you solve a problem like Marc Maron? This man is smart, a gifted interviewer, and a talented performer. He’s also an angry, neurotic, self-destructive mess of a human being, which is what really what makes me like him so much. Just when I start to think I should put my shrink on speed-dial, Marc says something like, (and I paraphrase) “You know, at age 45, I’m just beginning to realize that I don’t have to walk around all day waiting for other people to confirm my worst fears about myself”--and I’m so familiar with that way of being that it suddenly becomes absurd and loses its power, because I can laugh about it. Thanks, Marc, for being faster and cheaper than therapy! (And for regularly assuring your fans that you’re not about to become a normal, happy person and abandon us). The New York Times recently wrote a great article about Marc that describes him and his work very accurately.

The Adam Corolla Show

Dear NPR: I’m breaking up with you. When I’m driving to work through the 520 gridlock on yet another oppressive, gloom-ridden Seattle Monday—I’m sorry, but I can no longer emotionally cope with your earnest, in-depth stories about the untenable plight of mole farmers in outer Sandlovia. All that gets me through this commute nowadays is Adam-- dear, loud, cranky, foul-mouthed, hot-tempered Adam, with his endless, petty gripes, verbal diarrhea, and hilarious vitriol. Also, his guests are generally awesome (when Adam lets them talk), and although he comes across as Joe Six-Pack on the surface, he actually possesses a shrewd, analytical intelligence, and a Renaissance man’s mentality. He can give you smart, in-depth advice about love, house repairs, cars purchases, food preparation, and child-raising (he has four-year-old twins). Plus, he invented the “mangria”—a combination of wine and vodka--and, according to his book, he hates spiders almost as much as I do. What’s not to love?

Larry Miller

Larry Miller, a recurring guest on Adam Corolla’s show, is a wonderful, laid-back contrast to Adam’s intensity, and a fine podcaster in his own right. I cherish those thirty minutes a week I get to spend listening to Larry natter on about soap chips and the five levels of drinking, or about nothing in particular. He’s a warm, amiable, calming presence, funny, with great stories and a happy-go-lucky outlook that never descends into sentimentality or vapidity. I kind of wish he were my best friend and next-door neighbor, but for now, just listening to his podcast will have to do.

Too Beautiful to Live (TBTL)

Technically, Luke Burbank is more of a part-time stand-up comic, and full-time radio and podcasting personality. But that doesn’t make him any less engaging and funny. I’ve been a huge fan of his show ever since I started catching it by chance on KIRO (before they stupidly canceled it), when I drove to a volunteer gig in the evenings. Since cancellation, TBTL has reached new heights as a podcast, and I find myself embarrassingly over-involved (in my head, at least), in the lives of him, producer Jen Andrews, and regular Sean DeTore, whose on-air chemistry is truly special. I’m not making that up—radio god Ira Glass gave TBTL an amazing shout-out last year, saying that the show was changing the face of radio. Me and the other “tens” (TBTL fans) agree. The show is really less about Luke, Jen and Sean, and more about forming a community of caring people and bringing a positive, hopeful and uplifting spin to the Gen X plight. Not that it’s a generational thing—TBTL has listeners as young as four and as old as ninety-three. Luke, Jen, Sean…you barely know me, but…*sniff* I love you guys!

These are just the highlights of the podcasts I listen to and love; however, true to the pattern here, none of them have female leads and few have a strong female presence. Part Three of “Poets and Comedians” will explore the question of why, with so many amazing and talented female comedians thriving in the biz now, there is still a dearth of female-led podcasts. In the meantime, if you do know of any kick-ass, funny, lady-podcasts, please let me know about them in the comments section! (Because God knows, I don’t have enough to listen to!)

--Kristen McHenry

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