… of The Voices in our Head(phone)s

Sometime around the start or middle of 2010 [1] I got heavily into Podcasts [2], and now that I write that at aloud sounds like I had a ‘podcast problem’, which is certainly not the case. I can stop any time I swear. I just don’t want to.

Podcasts then weren’t a new thing at that time by any means. I remember first listening to a lot of Ricky Gervais’s show when that was popular (people often credit him for pushing the format out to the masses), but I never strayed far from there. I remember trying out a few other Podcasts at the time, however most of them failed to live up to the same standard set by Gervais. While the content or the talent would be entertaining enough, they’d usually sounded like they were being recorded in the world’s biggest airplane hanger on a single microphone made out of a toilet roll. You’d spend half of your time straining to hear one presenter, and the rest jumping on the volume-down button for fear of making your neighbours think you were fighting with the other. And I never really took advantage of the ‘Pod’ aspect of the Podcast, instead preferring to listen to them on my laptop, usually when I couldn’t get to sleep. Don’t ask me why but the sound of Gervais’s high pitched giggling at his off-sider Karl Pilkington would help put me to sleep [3].

So while you could say Gervais was my gateway, it wasn’t until 2010 that I dove into a deeper and more dedicated relationship with Podcasts.

At this point we could go in one of two directions with this. One direction is a fairly innocuous post about a handful of my favourite podcasts and why I listen to them on a regular basis. It’s pretty dull, probably forgettable, but will hopefully point you towards some Podcasts you may not have heard.

The other direction is a deeper look into why I think I started listening to Podcasts. About how I was finding it harder and harder to listen to music through my headphones when I was out and about. About how music for me is such an emotional experience, and that how I’ve begun to struggle with the emotional roller-coaster that is listening to music that I love.

Generally speaking, if I like a song or an album it’s because I have formed an emotional connection with it. And generally speaking, I find whenever I listen to that song or album I start to feel all of those things again. I’m finding as I get older, those feelings are becoming more intense. If it’s a sad emotional connection, I’m overcome with an intense sadness when I listen to that album. Or if it’s a happy emotional connection, I become happy almost to the point of mania; as if I’ve just chugged seven triple shot coffees. And while that often produces around 5 minutes of focused hyper-productivity, it’s not worth the following 30 minutes of unfocused hyper-distraction, and the good three or so hours of mind numbing come-down.

It’s an incredibly and increasingly frustrating experience; loving something so much that you have to distance yourself from it for fear of enjoying it *too much*. And while I’d love to ‘fix’ the problem I fear that that would create too much distance between me and the music, to the point that I wouldn’t be able to create any sort of emotional connection with it. And while that would make me marginally more functional  I wouldn’t call it a win. So because the idea of walking, or taking public transport from point A to point B without wearing headphones scares the bejesus out of me, I thought perhaps focusing on the sound of discussion and voices as opposed to music would be an easier way to pass the time without the emotional side effects [4].

Long and story short and less emotionally told (we’re taking the dull and probably forgettable path), here are some of my favourite Podcasts that I listen to regularly (or if you like, the Podcasts that keep me sane).

Doug Loves MoviesDoug Loves Movies
Doug Benson loves movies, and so do I! What I love about Doug Benson’s love of movies is that he loves them as a fan of movies, not just as a “film snob”. Each week or so, Doug presents a panel-slash-quiz show with comedians, musicians, movie and television stars. Together they talk about movies that they’ve either seen recently or have been in, and play games – my favourite of which is “The Leonard Maltin” game.

In a pre-internet world, I would receive a copy Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide for Christmas each year, and each year I’d thumb its pages, looking at the new additions and reading Leonard’s reviews. As a family we’d run to its pages any time we saw a familiar face in a movie and play “What else was he or she in?” While imdb has pretty much destroyed the need for a printed movie guide, Leonard Maltin will always be a part of my movie loving history.

Doug Benson’s Leonard Maltin Game asks players to guess the name of a movie based on reviews from Leonard’s book (and now app). Participants then ‘bid’ how many names of the cast it will take them to name the movie (with the cast list read from bottom to top). It’s a lot of fun, and there have been many times where I’ve almost yelled the answer while listening on a bus, or in the dairy isle at the shops.

WTF with Marc MaronWhat the Fuck? with Marc Maron
It took me a while to get into Marc Maron’s Podcast. His often rambling and unfocused introductions are frequently the punchline of other Podcast’s jokes. After a few episodes though you start enter Maron’s world – you learn about his cats, his girlfriend, his life – and everything comes together. Marc’s ‘What’s going on in my world’ introductions become like a catch-up with an old friend.

Marc is a stand-up comedian who has over the years struggled to come to terms with his own level of success. He’s spent his career watching peers such as Louis CK, Janeane Garofalo and David Cross (amongst others) find fame, while he struggled in almost obscurity. Musicians that aren’t popular with the masses, but have a large following amongst other musicians are often politely referred to as “musician’s musicians”; Maron was a “comedian’s comedian”.

Rather than sit and wallow, Maron decided to take his fate into his own hands. He bought his own recording equipment and started recording WTF in his garage (or wherever would let him use studio space), interviewing comedians, actors, musicians – basically anyone that is interested in talking to him – about their history, their work and what makes them do what they do.

Maron has fast become one of my favourite interviewers. Despite his gruff voice, he’s has the ability to almost instantly disarm his guests and get them to talk about topics you wouldn’t normally near on a regular talk show. Interviews aren’t just about promoting whatever the guest is up to now, they’re about getting to the bottom of why we do what we do and what leads people to take up a career in trying to make people laugh. Sure, he still wallows on occasion, but now it’s with a much larger audience.

Harmontown

This Feels TerribleHarmontown & This Feels Terrible
I am (perhaps unfairly) putting these two together, even though they share very little in common when it comes to content. Dan Harmon and Erin McGathy are one of the most adorable, loveable couples and right now they’re on tour together, so it’s a good time to start listening to both podcasts.

On Harmontown, Dan Harmon (the genius creator of Community, as well as Channel 101 and Heat-Vision and Jack) along with his comptroller Jeff Davies, discuss (very loosely) the running of the theoretical Harmontown – what transpires is pretty much a view of “What if Dan was in charge of everything?” It’s rather rough and raw at times, and you’ll have to excuse the language – most episodes will start with Harmon free-styling ‘I fucked yo’ mama’ raps over a cheesy beat – but for all of his horrendously un-PC observations, Harmon can be incredibly vulnerable and insecure. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and shares his anxieties openly with everyone, which is a rare and awesome thing to hear.

His girlfriend Erin has her own podcast called This Feels Terrible, which evolved from the live show she did of the same name. She discusses relationships and love with her friends, comedians, writers – pretty much anyone who will talk to her – but it’s less about offering advice and more about people sharing their stories of relationship successes and failures, and different points of view as to what makes a good relationship. Erin is a great host, in that she’s good at starting the conversation and letting her guest go where they’d like to take it.

Non-CanonicalNonCanonical
And lastly but certainly not least-ly; NonCanonical is the show that made me want to branch out into other Podcasts. NonCanonical is a comic book podcast, but don’t let that dissuade you from checking it out. Josh, Joe, Larry, Kane and Lucas aren’t your regular comic book readers. Each week, our heroes talk about the comics they’ve been reading, as well as spending time on a feature topic, such as a particular genre, creator or herUnlike many other comic book podcasts I’ve listened to, NonCanonical doesn’t just spend time focusing on books from the big two publishers (Marvel and DC), and the discussion is far more than the “Who would win in fight?” debates you often overhear in your local store. Over the last year or so, they’ve also started interviewing comic creators, artists and writers about how they got their start and their views on current comic trends.

Above all else, it’s entertaining. More than just a comic book podcast, NonCanonical feels like a chat amongst friends at the pub on a Friday night. If you’ve got even a casual interest in comics, or want to know more about what you should be reading, NonCanonical is a great place to start.

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I could probably do another 2000 words on my honourable mentions and also-rans, but I think I’ll save those for another day. I would also love to hear about the Podcasts others listen to.

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P.S. This blog is a part of the 52blogs project I’m trying this year. The topic is posted on Monday and you have a week to update, so of course I post on the Sunday of deadline. Since this topic – Voices – went up last week, I’ve had this stuck in my head. Of all of the crappy, movie mash-up versions of the song, this just happened to be the best crappy, movie mash-up version, in that it’s actually pretty good:

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[1] I find now it was around April of 2010, as that’s when the first episode of NonCanonical was released.

[2] I’ve lost count of the times I’ve written Podcats rather than Podcasts. Also, I really wish we had the technology that would allow for Podcats. I can only hope Apple are working on this as we speak.

[3] Gervais’s comedy has a similar effect these days, albeit for entirely different reasons.

[4] As an aside to this, a realisation I came to when I first started listening to Podcasts was that, perhaps this is why older people listen to talk-back radio? Perhaps talk-back radio is a way that people fill the silence in the air around them, without having to create an emotional connection?

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Author: Mark Ampersand

Budding writer, connoisseur of fine popular culture and Batman fan.

4 thoughts on “… of The Voices in our Head(phone)s”

  1. I would like to second the motion for the creation of Podcats, as well as applaud your awesome taste in the less purr-y and furry world of Podcasts. I now listen to all of these with the exception of Dan Harmon and Marc Maron. Despite Erin McGathy’s best efforts to frighten me away permanently with prolonged chats about girly bits she still remains my favourite of the bunch.

    A great list and a fantastic starting point for anyone looking to dip their toe into the wonderful world of podcast listening! A+++++ would pod again!

    1. Thank you Seb! Ms. McGathy has become one of my favourite people ever, and seeing (or, hearing rather) her with Dan Harmon has been awesome. Harmontown is great, but pure chaos at times. Also, it’s made me really want to play D&D!

  2. Podcats – I WANT ONE

    Hang in there on the music front as you will treasure those feelings in 20 years and equally treasure the music that triggers those feelings.

    Music, the Illogical way to express you’re In Love, outa Love or so angry you’re on the verge of pressing the button to fire the LASERs attached to sharks.

    Great post I’m gonna check them podcats thingies

    1. Thanks John! I certainly do treasure the music… maybe a little too much? In any case, I’m not hoping the feeling goes away, just that it becomes a little more manageable.

      Have fun with the Podcasts! I’ll keep you posted on the Podcats also.

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