22 August 2009

Podcast Daisy Chain: For Children of All Ages, Except For Children

Once upon a time, almost a year ago, I was listening to the podcast of This American Life. One of the stories - sorry, acts - was about a guy who dresses up as Superman. This story was told by one Luke Burbank. The piece was pretty cool, but what really struck me was the little byline Ira Glass gave at the end, something like, "Luke Burbank is currently reinventing talk radio with his show, Too Beautiful To Live." Something about that title, or that quest, stuck with me, and several weeks later I got some of that TBTL on my iPod, and the rest is history.

(By the by, if you're new to this podcast thing, you can download these all, and bajillions more, for free from iTunes, the websites directly, or probably some other sources, too. Back-episodes of This American Life cost a dollar, though.)

I blogged about my TBTL love last winter, but I'm revisiting it now as the jumping-off point for a podcast discovery chain that continued today. So This American Life led to TBTL. Then, a few months into my TBTL listening, Jesse Thorn and Jordan Morris of "The Sound of Young America" (just Jesse) and "Jordan, Jesse, Go!" (both guys, obvs) were guests on TBTL. (It may have just been Jesse - I am vague on the memory and too lazy to check.) I enjoyed their thing, and filed away their podcast in my brain, as I had once done with TBTL. In similar procrastinatory fashion, I eventually, after some time, started downloading The Sound of Young America.

I actually started following Jesse on twitter first, which was a really weird way to go about things. But then I started listening to his podcast.

The Sound of Young America is basically an interview show. (I believe it also airs on some NPR stations, in case you like to roll old-school like that.) I stocked up on some back-episodes with my favorite people - Sarah Vowell, John Hodgman, two of the guys from The Kids in the Hall, Mike Birbiglia, Jenna Fischer, Mike Birbiglia again - and started listening.

Jesse Thorn is a consummate interviewer, and these podcasts feel more like conversations than anything else. Whether Jesse's talking to a comedian I love or someone I've never heard of, it's interesting, engaging, and funny. I recently grabbed an old episode with Steven Johnson, in which he talks about his book, The Invention of Air. Awesome. (Awesome conversation, and the book sounds great, and I look forward to getting it from the library shortly.) Jenna Fischer describing her career up and through "The Office"? Also awesome. Mike Birbiglia saying words? Can't get enough. It's a straightforward premise, and it works perfectly. I also can't resist a show that starts with, "I'm Jesse Thorn, America's Radio Sweetheart."

So then there's also "Jordan, Jesse, Go!" which might be the best podcast title ever. I don't remember what got me downloading it a couple of weeks ago - someone just probably reminded me that it exists. I've heard it described (by Jesse Thorn himself, on The Sound of Young America) as "a talk show for children of all ages... except actual children." It's Jordan and Jesse, often plus a guest (who is often a comedian), just talking about whatever. But because they are funny and smart, it's fun and interesting to listen, a great background for, say, traipsing about Harlem on a 90-degree day, if, like, the bus is taking forever, and then you accidentally get off a block early anyway? Just for example. It's very enjoyable for something like that.

It's also very guy-ish, in what for me is a really fun way. Like, I knew I was sold when the conversation somehow turned to smiting trolls with one's dick, and whether or not smiting necessarily involved fire, and then what that meant for one's dick. So that's what I was laughing about at the gym the other day, in case anyone was wondering.

And then this next podcast I knew I was in love with at: "Go fuck that boy! Fuck the shit out of that boy. Over and over and over." (Because it was about how maybe that boy was her true love! Maybe.)

Last night, on either side of grocery shopping, I listened to Jesse Thorn's The Sound of Young America interview with Dan Savage. Dan Savage whom I've recently managed to stop conflating with David Sedaris, Dan Savage whose beautiful piece on This American Life about his mother's death made me and the rest of the world sob in public, Dan Savage whom I know mostly for coining the term "santorum." (Learn about the origins of the term here!) But Dan Savage, aside from those laurels, is a famous sex advice columnist, and his conversation on TSOYA was awesome, so when I got home I loaded up with a handful of episodes of his podcast.

Can I also say that he was gifted with the most perfect name for a love/sex advice column? Dan Savage --> Savage Love. It's just not fair to the rest of the world.

And so today, especially because there was no TBTL last night because of soccer in Seattle, I listened to five episodes of the Savage Love podcast. I fear that this new thing in my ears may render me irrevocably obscene. But that probably already happened somewhere around smiting trolls with possibly flame-shooting dicks.

I would explain what makes Dan Savage a great advice-giver and podcaster - rational, sex-positive level-headedness plus the perfect balance of bluntness and compassion - but, A, I am extraordinarily late to the Dan Savage party, and would feel a little like I was telling you about this great new show, "30 Rock" (or, like, have you heard of these Decemberists?), and also he does the best possible job of that himself on The Sound of Young America. If you don't feel like jumping into this Jaime-Certified Podcast Cycle, and are even later to this party than I am, go read the Savage Love column, and get a feel for what the man does. And then forgive me if I work "sodomy" into every conversation I have this weekend. After about 200 minutes of Dan Savage in my ears, the inside of my head is a very strange place to be.

The Sound of Young America
Jordan, Jesse, Go!
the Savage Love-cast
the Savage Love column
oh, and: This American Life

[In case you are curious, two other podcasts that I love and recommend: Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me! & Filmspotting. I can't sing Wait Wait's praises - "a hilarious NPR news quiz show"? shoot me now - without sounding incredibly hate-worthy, but just trust me that it's wonderful. And Filmspotting is a great movie review & talk-about podcast, which is weird for me to say, because I see about two movies a year, but I loved listening to it anyway, which really says something, so if you actually see movies, you will probably totally fucking love it.

(Full disclosure - I know one of the Filmspotting hosts, but that is only why I started listening, not why I kept it up. He even told me to stop, because he's weird like that, but I was shamefully hooked.)

Can I work them into the podcasty web? Let's see... TBTL's Luke Burbank used to be a panelist for Wait Wait, and subbed for host Peter Sagal when he was on vacation. And since Filmspotting is on Chicago's WBEZ, they thank Torey Malatia during their credits, as does Ira Glass at the end of every This American Life, and whose name I was not even close to guessing how to correctly spell.]

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