Since the number of podcasts I regularly listen to has gotten out of hand, I’ve started managing them in iTunes.
Yes, I have reluctantly allowed Apple to control this one tiny part of my life. Blame Ira Glass. Actually, blame public radio in general. A review of my podcast subscriptions shows that a whopping proportion of them are public radio programs. And while I won’t give you a rundown of every single one, allow me to recommend my top four.
The first public radio show I started listening to, and easily the one I would want if I were stranded on a desert island. It’s a panel quiz show about the week’s news, including the big headlines but also those weird stories you find on the back page of the arts section. Contestants call in, and I hope to someday be one of them. First, I must conquer Jeopardy!, because you don’t just call in to Wait Wait without something good to talk about.
I’m still divided on TAL, because when it’s good, it’s great, but when it’s sad, it’s lying-on-the-floor-in-the-
sad. And I estimate it is sad about 90% of the time. This American Life? Not
for the faint of heart.
I accidentally stumbled on Studio 360 on a long drive home from Butt of Nowhere, Maryland.* It’s an interview program, like TAL, but with just one guy. And sometimes on just one subject. You might have an hour on Superman, for example. Not just the movie, but the entire ethos and its psychological overtones. Recently, they did an episode on Aaron Copland, the song “Dixie,” and Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, and that sound you heard was me dying of happiness.
You guys, I’ve saved the best for last. I think this show is my new favorite (don’t tell Wait Wait). An hour of trivia and wordplay. Jonathan Coulton is the in-house one-man band, and he writes the musical clues. Yes, there are musical clues. Trivia + wordplay + music. I know you’re already convinced, but here’s a bit from a recent game that will seal the deal. The game was called “The Philosopher’s Comedy Club,” in which contestants heard a bad joke and had to guess which famous philosopher would have told it. Here goes:
So a guy goes to a talent agent and says "Have I got an act for you. It's a family and the dad realizes that achievement of his own happiness is the only moral purpose of life. And the mom, she rejects ethical altruism. And the son knows that government help is just as dangerous as government persecution." And the agent says, "I love it. What's the act called?" And the guy says "The Objectivists!"
I don’t know about you, but that was easily the funniest effing thing I have heard this year. If the combination of an Aristocrats reference and the works of Ayn Rand doesn’t tickle your funny bone, maybe we shouldn’t be friends.
Go forth and download.
* Name changed to protect its identity.**
** Nah, I just want to pull in all the Google searches for “Butt of Nowhere.”