Talk used to be cheap, but in the iGeneration it’s free. Everyone and their dog has at least one podcast these days, and it seems more and more digital airwaves are toes-to-nose chock-a-block chit chat. As a New Yorker with a daily commute on the…wonderful…New York City subway system, my earholes are regularly filled with a plethora of podcasts. As such, I’ve built a digital collection that could rival the Library of Alexandria. You name it, I’ve probably heard at least five minutes.
Today I’ll be sharing some of the more lesser known podcasts I think you should check out. They’re all free and they’re all on iTunes. All you gotta do is press play…
WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE
If Orson Welles, David Lynch, and Douglas Adams magicked themselves into a room together, this would be their podcast. Welcome To Night Vale is a news show of sorts detailing the various goings-on in the small desert town of Night Vale. Stories might include the upcoming school bake sale, the status of getting a stop sign put in at Grove Street, or how a portal to an unknown dimension randomly opened up in the high school basketball gymnasium and how anyone who peeks their head into it ages hundreds of thousands of years. And then there’s the weather.
If you’re tired of hours long gab-fests and would like a little more fiction in the non-fiction heavy world of podcastery, Welcome to Night Vale is for you. Episodes rarely exceed thirty minutes, and the subject matter is often literally out of this world. Tap dancing between sci-fi, horror, comedy, satire, and sometimes weird bits of esoteric little beauty, Welcome to Night Vale stands apart from most podcasts by being wholly unique in a sea of so many wordy imitators.
Of all the podcasts I’ll be writing about today, Welcome to Night Vale is the hardest to accurately describe. Just give it a listen. Oh, and kindly disregard the hooded figures standing outside your door as you do. They’ve always been there, you just hadn’t noticed them yet…
DOUG LOVES MOVIES
Who doesn’t love movies? Not comedian Doug Benson! Only he takes his love to a level most cinephiles only dream of: a game show. There are a million and one movie podcasts out there, but while most are just people arguing over Tarantino’s camera angles, this podcast is by the geeks for the geeks, with a little Pat Sajakism tossed in for flavor.
With a rotating ensemble of celebrities ranging from Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings to the maddest man of all Jon Hamm to a surprising number of appearances of German filmmaker Werner Herzog, Doug plays a new-fangled form of Name That Tune he calls “The Leonard Maltin Game.” In it, Doug will use film critic Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide as source material, giving his contestants Leonard’s score and review of a particular film without giving away the film’s title, then having the contestants decide how many actors they need to hear before they can guess the flick. Yeah, it’s the kind of game you invent on a rainy day with the power out, but Doug keeps it creative.
He does this, of course, by being a comedian. Whereas most trivia games might give you categories like Drama or Comedy, Doug Loves Movies will give you “Will Smith Loves Pussy”, which means the movies in question feature Will Smith saving a cat. Combine this with at least one or two comedian in the contestant pool per episode, and you’ve got a fun little game show with some truly hilarious human beings.
And hey, you can play along at home! How many interactive podcasts have you heard of hmmm? And no, your pretentious (though wonderful!) NPR game show podcasts don’t count (even though they do!)
For those of you who like to take the coffee of your life black, by golly do I have a brew for you. Caustic Soda is the kind of show you would just love to turn off and never think of again, but one which you will ravenously devour episode after episode. Subject matter includes such lovely little topics such as decapitation, fecal matter, being buried alive, TB, Ebola, and a rainbow medley of other charming categories.
This is the type of show that asks the questions you’ve always been too embarrassed or scared to. And then answers them in far more detail than you’d ever want. You’ll be shocked, disgusted, and, often, destroyed. And you’ll come back for seconds.
Don’t worry, though, there’s plenty of sugar to help the horrible diseases and natural disasters go down. The hosts and rotating guests keep the conversation just as comedic as it can be horrific, and gallows humor is most often the name of the horrible, oh my god are they really talking about infanticide game.
If you’ve got the stomach for it, or if you’re just wanting to jump into the deep end of an empty pool, this show’s for you. You sick bastard.
FATMAN ON BATMAN
You all know Kevin Smith’s a big ol’ fatman, but did you know his favorite hero is Batman? This is the only show on this list that I’d say should be required listening. I’m gonna go out on a limb here, Unrealtors, and assume a good number of you are comic book fans, and that all of you have had exposure to the Caped Crusader. Batman has become an indelible figure in the pantheon of American pop culture, and this is the quintessential Bat-cast.
Whether you’re a fan of the movies, comics, cartoon show, or even vaguely interested in the history of mythos of the Bat, you simply cannot miss this show. Artists from all walks of life join filmmaker, geek icon, and Batfanatic Kevin Smith for an interview that always finds roots leading to the mean streets of Gotham City.
Wanna know how Batman and Superman wound up in school together? Listen to the episode with Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman. Curious as to how Grant Morrison was nearly killed by inter-dimensional scorpion gods? It’s a two-parter episode, but believe me you’ll wish there’s more. Wanna know what Stan the Man Lee thought of Bob Kane? It’s all here, old chum.
I’m a geek like you, guys, and, of course, I love this show for it’s subject matter. But there’s a much stronger aspect to it that I think is largely ignored. So often we strive so hard to have these things we love so much legitimized. Usually, they’re shrugged off as kid stuff, even in today’s world of the Nolan Batflicks pulling in over a billion bucks. No matter what we do, the world doesn’t seem to take us seriously.
But Kevin takes it all completely seriously, and this love and dedication is on perfect display here. And that passion translates. What could easily just be a total geek-out of a show, which would, admittedly, be fine with me, instead becomes a fascinating exploration of so many individuals that rivals interview legends Charlie Rose or Larry King. And it’s all so beautifully tied to geek culture, and, even better, with one of the most beloved, cowled figures in it.
This is the podcast Batman deserves.
And that’s it for me, Unrealtors. Got any suggestion for maybe some lesser known podcasts? Sound off!
Adam Esquenazi Douglas is a playwright who was born in Texas, grew up in Arkansas, was raised by a Jewish man and a Cuban woman, and, somehow, he doesn’t have an accent.
He is co-host of two podcasts, The JimmyJew Podcast Extravaganza and Schmame Over, which can be found at http://jimmyjew.libsyn.com/ and http://schmameover.libsyn.com/ respectively, as well as on iTunes. He is a contributing writer to www.GamersSchmamers.com.
He currently lives in Brooklyn where he drinks far too much coffee.