Monday, July 30, 2012

Top 10 Podcasts To Keep You Sane During Rerun Season - By Matty Jacobson

Matty Jacobson edits and contributes to
The Skewed Review.

So there are definitely a few TV shows I watch religiously, and I'll be the first to admit some of them are a waste of time. But whether or not they're good, they typically have two things in common: They're scripted, and they rerun throughout the summer.

So summer is typically the time I get caught up on all the reading I want to do. But even then, I can get through books pretty quickly. So I turn to podcasts.

If you're not a fan of podcasts, then that's OK. I'm just a little confused as to why you'd click on an article clearly marked as being all about podcasts. Nonetheless, I'm glad you're here.

So I've compiled a nice little list of podcasts that are regularly broadcast/published/listed/produced/whatever. In the podcasting world, it's not unusual to come across something that's podcast gold--only to find it's a sporadical affair. Plus there are entities out there that should be available in podcast form, but aren't (Like Coast-to-Coast AM!). So I won't be talking about those podcasts that are awesome but aren't produced on a regular basis. And, unfortunately, I won't be talking about Coast-to-Coast AM.

And like anything created by humans, not every episode of every podcast I've listed is great. Keep in mind that each of these shows may have a fall-flat episode. So, should you decide to subscribe, give each podcast at least three episodes before you make your final decision.

Now, in the reverse order of the shows I listen to, which I just realized is a complicated way of listing them, here are my recommendations for summer listening. Oh, and all these shows are available on iTunes, or you can click the links I've provided!

10 - Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me

Oh, the news. It's sometimes such a chore to go through every news website, Twitter, Facebook, and television, just to get caught up on the week's headlines. This is where NPR actually comes in handy.

"Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me" is a show hosted by Peter Sagal where three panelists (usually comedians, authors and political pundits) are quizzed about the week's news. The show also has segments where callers can play games to win a prize that I personally don't get, but that's beside the point.

This show is an entertaining way to get caught up on the news without having to dig through or watching CNN all day.

Oh, and the best episodes will be those where Paula Poundstone is a panelist. I know, right? I thought she stopped being funny years ago. But, I guess when she's surrounded by the likes of NPR, she's hilarious.

9 - The Fort

"The Fort Podcast" is just plain silliness. Comedians Mike Constantini, Kevin Ford, and Ed Galvez get together to produce this biweekly cacophony that's basically three friends talking about (and laughing about) random events in their lives. They have guests on each week, and every episode includes several script-based skits.

This is definitely an explicit podcast, but it fits my personal sense of humor quite well--lots of swearing and lots of low-brow, off color humor. If you've got thin skin and can't take a joke, then perhaps this podcast isn't for you. But take it from me, the man who defended Chick-fil-A's right to open just so I could have something to boycott, I love this show. It's hilarious.

As an aside, check out these guys on Twitter, too. Ed Galvez is worth following for his Twitter avatar alone.

8 - How Did This Get Made?

Lovers of bad cinema will be lovers of "How Did This Get Made?". Comedians Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas watch the worst of the worst movies and then talk about them on this bi-weekly podcast produced by Earwolf.

I don't listen to every episode because they're not always talking about movies I've seen or care to see. But they release "prequel" episodes that fill you in on the films they're going to be addressing in the upcoming podcasts, so you'll have time to track down the movie and watch it if you haven't seen it before.

However, be prepared for spoilers (obviously), and don't expect the hosts to address issues in chronological order. You'll find this show talks about bad movies like you might talk about bad movies with your friends. They pretty much bash aspects of films when said aspects pop into their heads.

Pay extra attention to Jason Mantzoukas. He's got some of the best commentary.

7 - Geekshow Podcast

This particular show is a little near and dear to my heart. I grew up listening to a Salt Lake City based morning show called "Radio From Hell." One of its hosts, Kerry Jackson, heads up this show that sums up its content right in its title.

The podcast features a slew of panelists who discuss movies, comics, games, toys and other things that fall within the geek (which is basically now the mainstream) realm. This show is recorded in three-episode increments. The panelists all gather in Kerry Jackson's basement studio, drink alcohol, and record three shows at once.

It's great when you get to "the dreaded third show" as the hosts like to call it. By that point, most of them are pretty drunk and the commentary gets ridiculously wonderful. They keep the second and third shows fresh with a segment they call "Broken News" where Kerry and other panelists cut in to update listeners on geek news that's happened since the initial recording.

Some of the most hilarious things you'll hear will come from one Shannon Barnson. So keep your ears, uh--peeled, I guess--for his unique comments.

6 - Professor Blastoff

So I guess I'm a stickler for learning new things. This podcast is dedicated to just that. The hosts don't necessarily succeed, but it's still fun to listen to.

Comedians Kyle Dunnigan, David Huntsberger, and Tig Notaro have dedicated this podcast to science and philosophy. Sometimes they have guests, and sometimes it's just the three of them (and their little helper, Aaron Burrell, who just happens to be from Utah!). They cover a wide variety of topics, but keep in mind that they're comedians.

The great thing about this podcast is that it opens the door to learning about interesting things. For example, they might talk about the multiverse theory. The logistics of it are just barely touched upon, but the listener does get enough information to get the gist of it.

The best part of this podcast is Kyle Dunnigan. You'll want to listen to every episode just for his comments and character voices. Even the most benign or boring subjects (e.g. "bees") are worth the listen thanks to Kyle.

5 - Stuff To Blow Your Mind

This is a gem from This podcast has elements of "Professor Blastoff," but without the comedy.

I love this particular podcast because, well, I love getting my mind blown. There's a lot of scientific topics explained in laymen's terms. The topics range from potentially fighting asteroids that threaten earth, to lucid dreaming. It's all fact-based, so when you hear that episode on science explaining life after death, you'll know it's not just some fictional account.

But, like all the podcasts, the hosts can be pretty bland. It takes an avid ear to discern when it's time to have your mind blown. The hosts can sound pretty blasé--even when they start talking about things like orgasm wars (yup. That's a real episode). 

4 - Stuff You Missed in History Class

This is proof that I love to learn. This particular podcast is fun because it helps dispel some of history's mysteries, as it were, but it also brings to light a lot of other mysteries. For example, a recent podcast topic was the lost colony at Roanoke. Sure, it's true the colony most likely just moved and integrated with the Native Americans, but the hosts will tell you things you didn't really know. For example, I didn't know that nobody really went looking for the lost colony to begin with. Weird, huh?

Another of my favorite features of this podcast is "the real life" episodes. These are dedicated to the real life people who inspired fictional characters. One of my favorites was the real life Professor Moriarty. Track that two-part episode down and take a listen. It simply baffles the mind to think people actually lived the lives we read about in fiction.

And yes, like the other podcasts, the hosts seem a bit nonplussed to be discussing such interesting topics as the conspiracy surrounding John Wilkes Booth, or how Rasputin actually died. So I have to wonder if they're not allowed to get excited at all.

3 - Ronna & Beverly

First things first: I'm sort of an idiot. It took me about three episodes to realize that Ronna and Beverly are not real people. They're two characters portrayed by Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo. So, keep that in mind when you listen.

The show is about two super Jewish ladies who interview folks. Well, they don't so much interview as talk over their guests, but that's the whole comedy of it. I can't really describe this podcast without doing it justice. Just listen to a few episodes.

Jamie Denbo's "Beverly" is a hit each episode, though. And you know you'll be listening to a good show if she starts talking about her twin daughters.

2 - Hollywood Babble-On

So, you like Silent Bob, huh? And you love Hollywood gossip? Well, this is the show for you. Kevin Smith and KROCK of Los Angeles's Ralph Garmen put together this weekly segmented show in front of a live audience. This is unique in that the jokes they tell get reactions, and that makes it all the more entertaining.

You will want to get familiar with their website, though. Ralph usually includes a lot of visual clips and images that the audience can see but, oddly enough, don't translate so well through a podcast. But they do put all those images and videos up on the website for those of us at home.

Some of my favorite segments of the show are "Headlines" and "Lindsay Lohan: Why Don't You Come To Your Senses?"

Keep an ear out for the hundreds of impressions Ralph Garmen does. My favorite is Ed Wynn (otherwise known as Uncle Albert from "Mary Poppins," or The Mad Hatter from Disney's animated "Alice in Wonderland). You'll usually hear his characters saying the most crass things a person could say. Perfectly off-kilter.

1 - Comedy Bang! Bang!

Nonsense. Pure, whimsical, beautiful nonsense. Host Scott Aukerman brings in guests each week to sit and chat and play games like "What Am I Thinking?" and "Who Said It?"

The best part of this show is that it's all improv and it always features character guests like two of my favorites, Fabrice Fabrice (played by Nick Kroll) and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber (played by Paul F. Thompkins). Hilarity ensues in almost every episode.

There's also a TV version of this podcast, which can be seen on IFC on Friday evenings. However, the television show isn't quite as funny as the podcast because it's scripted. The podcast is great because when something hilarious genuinely happens, then the reactions are hilariously genuine. Holy crap. Was that not the perfect tagline for a hack critic like myself?

Gone Too Soon/Soon To Come

There were a few podcasts I would have liked to include on this list, but unfortunately they're no longer being produced. Sad, huh?! I've also been sent suggestions for podcasts for any future top ten lists, so keep in mind this list could change in the future.

I think there's at least 20 new podcasts I've just subscribed to that I'll be listening to over the summer. So I'll keep you updated.

Now go and enjoy your summer. Oh, and you're welcome.


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