AUTHOR'S NOTE: Some of you may know that I write two (mostly-) weekly blogs, one for my software development firm in my day job and another for my music interests. Keeping up with ever-looming deadlines and a content pipeline to fill is not always easy. Every once in a while, I find a topic like this week where I can write one article that fits in on both blogs.
Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast - Paul Shaffer
You might think this would be all edgy joke telling from Gilbert but he and co-host Frank carved out a beautiful space on the internet to appreciate underappreciated art like characters actors, Sidney Lumet films, bad Bob Hope specials and one hit wonders. I could list so many episodes like Paul Reiser, Dana Gould, Mario Cantone, and especially Dave Thomas. But go ahead and scan the episodes and find whatever legend you like and dive in. Showbiz lifers you might think are ho-hum like John Amos or John Schuck are compelling as fuck. And a guest you think they'd be making fun of like Wink Martindale or Adam West are genuinely beautiful conversations. All of that aside, when it comes to show-biz stories and pound-for-pound laughs, jump on the Paul Shaffer episode. I really miss Gilbert Gottfried.
Dead Eyes - Episode One
You know the premise, right? An actor revisiting (over and over) how he was fired (or just un-cast) from Band Of Brothers because Tom Hanks thought he had "dead eyes". It's such a quotidian premise but explored so very well over the course of multiple seasons. Also, for my money it has the best sound production design, it should be an example to all podcasts. I could have listed the Seth Rogan episode or of course the ultimate Tom Hanks episode. But the whole point of this thing was laid out in Episode One.
Doug Loves Movies - Harry Dean Stanton
I loved this format and I am a total sucker for the "Leonard Maltin game". But hearing perpetually stoned and amiable Doug Benson trying to draw out a terse and difficult Harry Dean Stanton is a special kind of comedy gold.
WTF With Marc Maron - Paul Thomas Anderson
There were lots of other choices of film legends in this series. But I'm going to go with a freewheeling conversation that is alternately serious and wacky. If you know PTA only from his films, you would guess he's a moody genius. Nope. Instead between the speculation on what the hell Thomas Pynchon is actually all about, you'll also get first-hand stories of what pranks Anderson's announcer dad and Tim Conway were up to in the 70s.
Better Call Saul Insider - Bonus: Mailbag (Last Season)
There are a ton of podcasts with recaps and episode reviews - Office Ladies (meh), West Wing Weekly (strong) and Succession (stronger). The peek behind the curtain on the Better Call Saul Insider podcast was not only just satisfying from a show recap perspective, but this show is kind of a master class instruction for anybody looking to work in film and tv. The calm and fun professionalism is inspiring and this show, perhaps more than any other, is dedicated towards logic and for every element in the show having a reason for being there, more than just seeming cool. On this particular installment you got both show-runners, Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan so start here.
Flying Coach With Steve Kerr And Pete Carroll - Michael Lewis
The first season of this podcast was my favorite limited run podcast of anything, anywhere. I've always loved and respected Kerr and this is where I gained new respect for Carroll. COVID shutting down sports gave these two the time to be able to do this. Of everything in this post, this is my strongest, must-listen-to recommendation for a new podcast for you. Any episode is really deep and I should have recommended the Brene Brown episode. But the talk with Michael Lewis is so wide-reaching that there's something to love for everyone here, particularly about our lack of coaching in life and society generally treating all "referees" like assholes. Just listen and subscribe.
30 For 30 - BIKRAM Part 1: Arrival
This whole audio series is a great spinoff of the great 30 for 30 documentaries. If you love sports, you've undoubtedly seen a lot of them. You need to try their podcasts. Episodes "Hoodies Up" and "The Trials Of Dan & Dave" are early favorite. But their series about Bikram Choudbury and his organization are compelling as hell. If you've heard of Bikram's yoga (or "hot yoga") you may know some of the insidious story of Bikram's gross predatory behavior (and his apologists) and the podcast does a great job presenting how an awful person introduced a program that has truly helped so many people.
30 For 30 - Part 1: Donald Sterling
Let's run it right back with another 30 for 30 audio series, this one about Donald Sterling, his racist audiotape and basically his whole Clipper ownership. Great stuff from Ramona Shelbourne et al. Do it.
Revisionist History - The Big Man Can't Shoot
I've got to confess that I have some Malcolm Gladwell fatigue. This podcast kind of overtook his writing career (you can't run ads in the middle of a book). He definitely is interesting and an original thinker following a thesis to an intriguing conclusion. But he can get precious, and his weird episode hit job on Elvis Costello's worst song is still a head-scratcher. That said, I love this episode about the success of underhand free-throw shooters in basketball and still how almost no players have ever employed it, basically because they don't want fans calling them a "pussy".
The Bill Simmons Podcast - Charles Barkley
Again, I'm not breaking news here or changing minds or turning anybody onto anything they didn't know. If you're reading this, you know the Bill Simmons Podcast. That aside, I am and NBA-hole and listen to every episode of at least four NBA podcasts. And there's nothing better than Charles Barkley cutting it up with Simmons.
The Daily - The Coronavirus Goes Global
The New York Times daily podcast called, duh, The Daily, was and is a great use of the podcast format for something closer to old school journalism. In the era of all of us choosing our media instead of relying on trusted curators, you can trust things like The Daily, All Things Considered, The Moth, Radiolab, etc. to put interesting stories in front of you. That said, this late February 2020 episode shows a moment in time about the coronavirus threat BEFORE it really shut down the United States and changed all our lives. I think it's a fascinating time capsule to revisit four years later (or more).
Missing Richard Simmons - Episode 1
Though there are better bombshell episodes of this podcast, it doesn't make sense to parachute into any of these. Yes, we all know about the Serial podcast. But when it comes to unraveling an odd mystery with several fascinatingly odd real-life characters, don't sleep on "Missing Richard Simmons" which is a personal story about why Richard Simmons completely disappeared from public view.
Radiolab - Space
They really do a consistently great job although I confess that I don't listen to every episode. I've been searching some "best podcast episodes ever" lists to make sure I didn't forget something I loved and they reminded me of this cool installment. I'm totally of two minds about space exploration - how valuable it is and simultaneously the sentiment of Gil Scot-Heron's song "Whitey On The Moon". I've always found the human time-capsule-ish Voyager expedition fascinating and Neil de Grasse Tyson isn't as annoying as he sometimes is here.
Small Town Murder - Too Many Dead Husbands In Gun Barrel City, Texas
There are thousands of true crime and murder podcasts out there, I'm generally not a fan. Generally, they're all too flippant about the murder porn ness of it all. But this show leans into what's funny (it's hosted by comedians) but still takes a deep dive. Note: This is my sister's favorite podcast. I picked this episode because I remember one particular line that made me laugh out loud as hard as I have in a while.
The Press Box - Top-50 Fast Food Items With Bill Simmons And Joe House
Normally this podcast feed is my favorite media podcast anywhere with the perfect Bryan Curtis and David Shoemaker. But this very special episode is the Podfather and his friend Joe House running down the omissions, good calls and grievous mistakes of The Ringer's top-50 fast food item list. I've made my own fast food list so this is a huge area of interest for me