I’d like to talk about one of the main things that got me through 2017. Beyond all of the horrible real world shit that was going on in the real world, I was diagnosed as bipolar in March of 2017. It wasn’t a huge surprise; I had been dealing with depression and anxiety for years up to that point. It was nice to have a firm diagnosis though. It helped narrow down the possible medications I could take to help me. And, after maybe six months, I finally hit on a combo of meds that have significantly improved my life.
But before that, and still to this day, I’ve used art both to escape my own mind, as well as to help control my moods. Of all the art forms that I consume, that one that provided the most consistent relief was: podcasts.
I listen to a shit-ton of podcasts. I’m a technical writer by day, so I typically listen to between eight and 10 hours of podcasts a day. That’s not an exaggeration. I also listen to podcasts on my drive to and from work. And I listen to podcasts when I’m at home.
If you couldn’t tell, I love me some podcasts.
There are a few different categories of podcasts I’m drawn towards:
There is significant overlap between these categories, of course, and very few of the casts I listen to fit neatly into only one.
My goto comedy podcasts, in no particular order, are: Comedy Bang Bang!, Dr. Gameshow, Big Grande’s Teacher’s Lounge, improv4humans, SPONTANEANATION, Off Book, and Hello from the Magic Tavern. Some of these podcasts are newer (Off Book, Dr. Gameshow), while some others have hundreds of episodes (Comedy Bang Bang! celebrated its 500th episode this year).
These podcasts are released weekly, and are between half an hour and two hours in length. Most of them are also what some define as “alternative comedy” or “anti-comedy.” The jokes are by turns surreal and line-toeing. I love them all so much, and I recommend all of them to people who enjoy off-kilter comedy that pushes against the boundaries of “good taste,” whatever that may mean to you.
Comedy Bang Bang! is a faux-interview show. Most weeks, the host, Scott Aukerman (and if you aren’t familiar with him, you can’t call yourself a podcast fan; seriously, the podcast police will find you), conducts an interview with a celebrity/musical/comedian guest. Then, about halfway through the show, he switches to “interviewing” one or more bizarre characters, played by a wide-range of amazing improv-ers. It’s so goddamn funny.
Dr. Gameshow is the most family-friendly of all the podcasts I listed, as well as the newest (although it started its life as a radio show). Hosted by Jo Firestone, the concept here is listeners create games that they send in to the show. Then the guests and a caller play the games, and a winner is determined, or not determined. It’s a ton of fun.
Big Grande Teacher’s Lounge is my second-favorite podcasts period. The concept is simple: four “teachers” record a weekly process about the goings-on of the school and their lives. I rarely laugh as hard as I do when I listen to an episode, and I’ve listened to the entire series multiple times. I don’t want to give too much away, but seriously, before you read any more, add this to your queue.
improv4humans is hosted by Matt Besser. Every week, he brings on a few of his improviser friends and they do scenes based on listener suggestions, YouTube videos, and more. While it’s not their weekly format, I highly recommend listening to their three-part Moops series from last year. I’ll pay for your funeral costs when you die laughing. Or I’ll at least start a GoFundMe for them. Maybe.
SPONTANEANATION is hosted by Paul F. Tompkins, another man you should know if you consider yourself a podcast fanatic. Similar to improv4humans, Paul brings on several improv friends, but the difference here is they improvise a single narrative improv for the entire show.
Off Book is a newer show, but it’s hosted by podcast vets Jess McKenna and Zach Reino. Every week, they have a guest on the show. Then, after a brief interview, they improvise a musical on the spot inspired by something they spoke about in the early part of the episode. It’s both hilarious and amazing.
Hello from the Magic Tavern may be the podcast most interesting to listeners of Skiffy and Fanty. The concept here is that the host, Arnie Niekamp, fell through a portal by a Burger King in Chicago, and, along with his podcasting equipment, got transported to the magical land of Foon. Here, he met his two co-hosts — a talking Badger/shapeshifter named “Chunt,” and Usidore the Blue, a wizard — and they interview denizens of this magical land. It’s all improv-ed, so fucking funny, and sends up pop-culture and fantasy tropes expertly.
There are only a couple informative podcasts I listen to on a regular basis. One is Writing Excuses, which I’m sure readers of this blog are familiar with. They were one of the first podcasts I listened to when I started writing back in highschool, and I’ve listened along with them almost weekly for their entire run.
I also listen to My Favorite Murder. Two hilarious women discuss, well, their favorite murders/serial killers. It’s so much more than that, but I’m shit at summarizing. Just listen to it.
My favorite informative podcast — and my favorite podcast, period — is Last Podcast on the Left. This podcast is a rattlesnake mating-ball of dark information and darker humor. They cover topics such as serial killers, government conspiracies, the occult, the demonic, aliens, and so much more. It is highly, highly vulgar, which, to me, is a plus, but may be a turn-off to others. We call these others “losers,” and you should not fraternize with them.
The story-based casts I listen to all tend towards the dark. The three main ones I listen to are: TANIS, RABBITS, and The Black Tapes. All were created by the same organization — the Public Radio Alliance — in association with Pacific Northwest stories.
All three podcasts are faux-documentaries, but are performed and written so well, it’s hard not to overlay them on your reality. There is so much I want to say about all three of them, but I don’t want to spoil a single, goddamn thing. I would recommend listening to RABBITS first, as only a single season has been released (so far). TANIS has been complete for a few years now, and The Black Tapes just had its grand finale. I still have to catch up on both TANIS and The Black Tapes, so no spoilers.
I suppose I should mention that I have a podcast. It’s called Videogres. While we started it years ago, we just had a format change, and I would recommend starting with our episode titled “Videogres Discuss – Episode 1: Grim Reaper” (which you can find at http://videogres.libsyn.com/
So that’s it. That’s my time. If you want to yell at me, I’m on Twitter @adamcallaways.
Love all of you nerds,
PS Some of the podcasts I listed are available only with a subscription to Stitcher Premium. I use Stitcher to listen to all of my podcasts, and they’re well worth the $34.99 annual subscription fee.
PPS You’ll notice I didn’t list Skiffy and Fanty. I’ve been beefing with Shaun since he ousted me from power using a strychnine-dusted copy of The Shadow of the Torturer. I recovered, but the quality of the podcast without me wasn’t so lucky.