Saturday, April 18, 2020

Top 10 Podcasts (COVID Edition)

Now I've been staying at home a lot more, I've been relying on podcasts to stay sane. Though I haven't made a blog post in almost a year, and this isn't beauty content, I thought I'd share some of my favourites. I'm mainly into "culture" podcasts with a dash of current affairs and psychology.

Slate's Culture Gabfest
My #1, forever and always. I don't know how else to describe Culture Gabfest except is it truly one of the highlights of my life. I never want to stop hearing what Steve, Dana and Julia have to say. It's almost unbelievable that week in, week out, they produce one hour of perfect, wonderful listening. And it's free!

Keep It
So entertaining. So relevant to my pop culture interests. Louis's witty, keen observations and Ira's bursts of mellifluous, flowing laughter in every podcast are a balm to my soul. Aida is settling nicely into the mix and I much (MUCH) prefer her to the previous female co-host who was just a little too prone to ranting and unrelenting negativity.

Still Processing
A relatively shorter podcast, but very well conceived and produced. There's a genuine rapport between Jenna and Wesley, two empathetic, urban, politically/socially engaged individuals, as they discuss and mentally unpack the topic at hand. (By the way, they both have such pleasant-sounding, perfectly calibrated voices.) The level of analysis and critique is a cut above the rest.

Armchair Expert
If you're into podcasts, I doubt you need any introduction to this one. The best thing about Armchair Expert is the loving, playful, close-as-close-can-be friendship between Monica and Dax. Like, truly #goals. It's the backbone of the show and makes it what it is. I love how Monica has slowly been coming into her own and sharing more of her personality and life with the listeners, including her podcast Monica & Jess Love Boys (also GREAT). Dax is honest, curious, open, self-deprecating, warm, and a great interviewer.

Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend
It was this podcast that finally made me a bona fide Conan fan. I paid $150 to see him at the State Theatre in Sydney last year and I was there because I love Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend. It's hilarious, he has the best guests, and Sona is a breath of fresh air and the perfect foil to Conan. There was an extended comedic bit that Conan did at the end of one of the episodes which had me bowled over, crying in laughter. The part with Wanda Sykes imitating a 911 call reporting a murder and the caller feigning innocence is something I had to go back and find just to listen to again and laugh and laugh and laugh. But it's not all just fun and games. The episode with Stephen Colbert is truly wonderful as they share stories about their Catholic upbringing. Despite acting like an arrogant, self-obsessed overlord and denigrating Sona and Matt constantly, you always know deep down inside, Conan radiates thoughtfulness and humanity.

Slate's Spoiler Specials
Sometimes listening to Spoiler Specials is better than the experience of the actual movie. I listen to this podcast when I have no intention to watch the movie they're spoiling, when I'm too chicken to watch it and need the whole plot uncovered and explained first (Hereditary), or right after I've watched a movie or TV show and want to hear the thoughts of the hosts. I love Dana and the guests that she has on are always so articulate and engaging.

Blank Check
Yes, sometimes it's just a touch too self-indulgently meandering, and it really is some "nerdy shit", but there's an undeniable charm to Blank Check's unedited, shooting-the-shit-with-friends vibe. After a while, you like the fact you can understand the in-jokes, despite how close they dance to tedium (but perhaps that's the point?). Griffin's knowledge of the box office is actually ridiculous and scarily impressive. Both David and Griffin just know SO much and love movies and are the best of buddies, and that is a joy. Also, from this podcast I've discovered Griffin's sister Romilly, and umm ... is a 22 year old allowed to be this cool?

Making Sense with Sam Harris
Not every episode is something I jump to listen to, but this is a good option for a dose of even-keeled, largely academic discourse. I know this podcast is a favourite of Dax and Monica's (along with Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History), and the few episodes I have listened to have definitely been worthwhile, including two recent ones dedicated to COVID-19.

Off Camera with Sam Jones
For the sheer detail and depth that the featured actors go into about their careers, successes and disappointments, processes and methods, and how they face their fears, Off Camera is in a league of its own. I can imagine how inspiring it is to anyone wanting to 'make it' in the film industry. Memorable episodes include Emily Mortimer, Javier Bardem and D'Arcy Caden.

Staying In with Emily & Kumail
With just five full episodes so far, Staying In has become a fast new favourite. I mean, first of all, it's topical, being about the couple's experience while quarantined in the time of coronavirus - and hence the most relatable to what we're all going through. It's revolutionary to hear Kumail talk about what made him cry during the week in a way that normalises male expression of emotion that isn't just anger. But most of all, the relationship between Emily and Kumail is truly just so beautiful that it just gives you hope there is such a thing as 'the one', because they seem to be exactly that to each other.
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