Below, you’ll find a series of “Podcast Spotlight” blogs I wrote in 2017. Each of them highlights a podcast that I like (or like to hate) listening to, and each includes a few episode recommendations. I hope you enjoy!
Ah, a sad day has come: Today’s is the last podcast spotlight, at least for the foreseeable future. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey. Stay tuned to camdenjones.com and follow me on Twitter for more stuff! Thanks for reading.
When thinking about which show I wanted to showcase for the final podcast spotlight, I figured that—if you’re actually taking the time to read this blog about podcasts written by a random trying-to-be journalist—you probably like reading, thinking and talking about media.
Enter On The Media, WNYC’s podcast about, well, media. Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone, two highly accomplished radio journalists, recount recent goings-on in the world of journalism and other forms of media, providing commentary and discussions with various experts.
It’s a great, post-“news-storm” listen to help you digest all you’ve been seeing and hearing. Take, for example, the Nov. 27 episode “About that Nazi Next Door.”
The episode, which Garfield called an extra, “emergency” episode, centers around the controversy surrounding The New York Times correspondent Richard Fausset’s recent article “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland.” The article profiled Tony Hovater, a white nationalist, as a “Nazi sympathizer next door.” It was criticized for not emphasizing the real hatred in Horvater’s beliefs, focusing too much on his nondescript, “normal” lifestyle.
In On The Media‘s piece on the article, Garfield discusses “Voice of Hate” (and the Times‘ response to its controversy) with Charlie Warzel, senior technology writer at Buzzfeed who had previously written a response to the Times‘ article.
The two discuss the issues with Fausset’s reporting, including the discrepancies between what he was told by Horvater about Horvater’s beliefs and what Horvater posted online. It’s a great discussion that both critiques Fausset’s reporting and acknowledges the difficulties in producing the kind of nuanced journalism necessary for painting a picture of the apparent “social acceptability” of white nationalists’ terror without glossing over it.
Another great episode was released this Thursday, following The Washington Post‘s work to unveil the “undercover sting operation” against the Post by Project Veritas, as well as several other wild media happenings this week.
“Flim-Flam Nation” opens with what is possibly one of my all-time favorite podcast moments, as Gladstone (who just has an awesome voice and cadence, by the way) rattles off all of the crazy media news to the tune of some goofy, circus-esque music. It’s a wonderfully written and edited piece of audio, and I recommend listening to the episode for that bit, if nothing else.
If you’re like me, then when you subscribe to On The Media, you won’t listen to every episode that releases. But when you do, you’ll gain some useful insight on the other things you have been listening to.
Sawbones is a podcast from Dr. Sydnee McElroy and Justin McElroy (My Brother, My Brother and Me). The show is a “tour of misguided medicine,” in which Dr. Sydnee recounts the history of some medical topic—a famous figure, a (supposedly) medicinal substance, a disease, etc.—and Justin, essentially, makes jokes and adds other commentary.
Sawbones is my favorite podcast to listen to on long car trips. Granted, that may just be because I started listening relatively recently and so I have a huge backlog of episodes I haven’t heart yet, but still.
Dr. Sydnee’s history lessons are really interesting and informative, and Justin’s commentary is hilarious, as usual. For me, though, the main draw is just how chill (for lack of a better word) the podcast is. I guess it’s that a medical history podcast is just sort of “low-stakes?” Like, there’s no news or big issues (usually) or considerable suspense. It’s just good listening.
And even the hosts voices are relaxing—Dr. Sydnee’s has a sweet, calm feel to it, and Justin’s always seems more smooth and “bass-y” than in his other shows.
The show is just purely enjoyable to listen to. While I wouldn’t necessarily drop whatever I’m doing to listen to it like I would Outside/In or The Adventure Zone, it’s by no means any worse than those shows. It’s a perfect show to listen to while you’re doing something else that might distract you for a second, since you probably won’t miss anything vital to understanding the rest of the episode.
Edit: I talked a lot about how relaxing it is, but there are a lot of episodes that include some pretty messed-up history, some gross descriptions, and other unpleasant stuff. I listen mostly to the more “fun” episodes, but it’s still worth noting.
I’ll be back next weekend with another podcast spotlight.
Well, this is an odd one…
Til Death Do Us Blart is a podcast from the McElroy brothers (My Brother, My Brother and Me) and Tim Batt and Guy Montgomery (Worst Idea Of All Time Podcast). The show borrows Worst Idea‘s central concept: The hosts watch a terrible movie over and over again, and then they talk about it. But instead of watching a movie once every week for a year or so, Til Death Do Us Blart has the hosts watching Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 once every year “until the end of linear time.”
Episodes release every year in late November. The latest episode—the show’s third—is probably my favorite yet. (I’ve never seen Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, but this group of hosts can make anything funny.)
In the 2017 episode, Griffin McElroy reveals to the other hosts that he, for some reason, decided to watch PBMC2 synced up with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. This turns out to be a deep well of goofs, as the album apparently matches many of the movie’s scenes pretty well.
That being said, I think the highlight of the episode for me was when Batt kicks off the conversation with an enthusiastic, “Hey, let me say this…”
“Great f—ing movie.”
And a great f—ing podcast, too. There’s honestly not much else I can say about Til Death Do Us Blart. It was a perfect, lighthearted listen for my 3 a.m. drive back to Missouri after Fall break. If you’re craving more McElroy humor (and you’ve got some healthy patience), give it a listen.
I’ll be back shortly with another podcast spotlight. Fall break was a busy one, so I’m rolling out two spotlights tonight. Hope you enjoy!
I was going to talk about Gimlet Media’s Uncivil this week, but then I realized I hadn’t talked about Heavyweight. That sin could not go uncorrected.
Heavyweight is a show about do-overs. Every episode tells the story of a person who’s lost touch with someone in their life, who never understood the motivations behind someone’s actions, or who never got back something important to them. The show acts as a vehicle for them to answer unanswered questions, to tie up loose ends and to rebuild broken bridges.
Most importantly for you and me, Heavyweight is an excellent podcast. Its both hilarious and heartwarming, thanks to the show’s host, Jonathan Goldstein. Goldstein is a “radio weirdo,” to borrow a CBC article’s description of him. The article also uses the word “oddball” to describe him, which I think is pretty apt. His extremely dry, matter-of-fact, often-self-deprecating humor permeates nearly every line of his narration.
It’s almost frustrating that there’s no one in the recording room with him to laugh along with you. The way Goldstein spews out line after line of his strange, goofy humor almost mandates pausing the podcast to occasionally say to yourself, “Wait. Wait, what the f— did he just say?”
But Goldstein is also a distinguished weirdo. He was a producer on This American Life for three years (new stories of his are still occasionally featured on the show), and he hosted Wiretap on CBC from 2004-2015 before starting Heavyweight in 2016.
And his experience shows. Goldstein’s had years to develop his personality, and Heavyweight is absolutely saturated with it. His social awkwardness makes for quite a lot of humor in a show so inundated with potentially uncomfortable social interactions. And yet, he and the show are completely aware of his awkwardness, and they capitalize on it perfectly.
But the show naturally also has a very serious side. Goldstein’s humor helps cushion the dramatic content, but at heart, Heavyweight is about real people’s feelings and relationships. It can get pretty intense sometimes, and the number of times I’ve cried/almost cried while listening is pretty impressive considering there’s only 12 episodes out at this point.
If you’re looking to get into the show (which you should be), here are a few episodes I’d recommend. They’re probably the funniest of the bunch, but as with all of Heavyweight‘s episodes, they’ve got some emotional punches in store for you, as well:
“Jesse,” where Goldstein and a therapist oversee the meeting between a man biker who was hit by a car and the man who hit him.
“Gregor,” where Goldstein’s friend tries to get an important CD back from a famous musician.
“James,” where Goldstein and two others perform a heist-like ash-spreading ceremony at an exclusive golf course.
I’ll be back next week with another podcast spotlight.
UPDATE: Immovable Pod is no longer active. Due to scheduling constraints, we’ve had to put the show on hold, indefinitely. Hopefully we can eventually start it up again. For now, thank you to those who listened!
Is it cheating to spotlight my own podcast? Oh well.
Here’s the show’s full description:
Immovable Pod is an actual play D&D podcast about typecast-prone, insecure frog-men and easygoing ex-“fantasy FBI” agents, among other things. New episodes post every other week on SoundCloud and iTunes.
In Immovable Pod’s first arc, “Underfoot,” our heroes Franklin Barnaby Jaspers (Riley Jones) and Lance (Eric Trapp) find themselves transported to a mysterious gigantic castle filled with talking mice, gossipy spiders, humongous beasts and enigmatic rats. Join them on their journey through the dark spaces of this massive castle, DM’d by Immovable Pod’s host, Camden Jones.
Immovable Pod’s theme song was produced by luvbird. You can luvbird’s music—including the song from which IP’s theme is derived—on SoundCloud: @luvbirdbeats.
Immovable Pod’s logo was created using Alan Light’s “Clouds” photo under an Attribution 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license. You can find the original, un-altered photo here: flic.kr/p/6ENahT.
Immovable Pod has been a long time coming. We’ve been wanting to do a D&D podcast for quite a while, so it’s extremely exciting to finally get the ball—or, the die, rather—rolling on this.
In our first episode, “Two Jacks, No Beanstalk,” Franklin and Lance are suddenly transported to the castle of a giant named Gibrold. They’re rescued by giant, talking animals and come to the aid of some mice with an ant problem.
I’ll be back next week with another (non-self-promotional) podcast spotlight.
This week, it’s Lore—just in time for Halloween!
Lore, as its name suggests, is a podcast about folklore. Each episode retells a spooky tale from deep within history.
It’s an excellently written and produced show. Aaron Mahnke, Lore‘s writer, host and producer, is an expert at the “setup, pause, spooky-line-delivery” tool. Seriously, there’s probably at least two of those in each episode, and they still give me chills almost every time. Give the show a listen and you’ll see what I mean.
But Lore isn’t just special for its quality alone; it’s also noteworthy because it’s an excellent example of the growth and power of podcasts as a medium.
Lore is one of the most prolific podcasts, particularly when we’re talking about podcasts that were born as podcasts. What I mean is that, sure, podcasts like This American Life and The Joe Rogan Experience usually hold down the top podcast charts, and they should be recognized for their popularity.
But I’ve seen Lore consistently float around in the top 50 for the last few years, and it didn’t have any of the the pre-existing radio/TV/newspaper-born audience that these other shows had. Mahnke made it all happen on his own, and now it even has its own TV show on Amazon and its own book series.
I have yet to check out the show or the books, but I can certainly recommend some episodes from the podcast. It’s hard to chose, since there are so many good ones (especially in the series’ early days). But here’s a few that really stand out:
“Dinner At The Afterglow” centers around an unusual, supposedly-haunted grave/monument. This one’s more interesting than anything, but that’s a big attraction of the show, too—the historical basis makes it just as informative as it is unnerving.
“Covered Mirrors” tells a seriously chilling story of a serial killer roaming through the Southern U.S. I’ll warn you: it’s real disturbing. It’s the kind of episode that’ll make you rethink your own safety.
And my all-time favorite episode is “A Stranger Among Us.” It tells of the roots behind the classic Pied Piper folktale, and the truth behind the legend turns out to be even spookier than the legend itself, as well as fascinating in its own right.
But seriously, check the show out for yourself. There are so many good episodes. My recommendation? Snuggle up on Halloween and binge some Lore!
I’ll be back next week with another podcast spotlight. Thanks, as always, for reading.
Yup, it’s time for another McElroy show. Already? Yes. As much as I want to avoid falling into the “good, good boys” fanboy trap, these—uh… These… These boys are just that good (good).
The Adventure Zone is a bi-weekly, “actual play” Dungeons & Dragons podcast, which basically means it’s not scripted. (Or, well, it a D&D podcast. Now I suppose it’s just a more general role-playing podcast, since the newest mini-arc has moved onto a new system, but I’ll explain that later.)
For those unfamiliar with the concept of D&D (I imagine there are very few of you reading this, since D&D podcasts are pretty common nowadays), it’s a tabletop game in which one person acts as the “Dungeon Master” (DM). This person makes up story scenarios for 1+ other players, who can approach the scenarios with the tools given to them by the game’s system.
For example, a DM might say “The three of you are walking down a path. Suddenly, 10 goblins jump out of the bushes and demand you hand over your weapons. What do you do?”
Then the players can choose to respond however they wish: “I draw my sword and ready myself to attack,” or “I act like I’m going to hand my knife over, but at the last second I draw back and attack one of the goblins,” or even “I try to reason with them using my impressive interpretive dance skills.”
Then, so see if the players succeed, they roll a 20-sided die. If they roll a number higher than the one the DM has decided they need to beat, they succeed. If not, they fail. It’s sort of like a choose-your-own-adventure book, but the choices and outcomes aren’t pre-determined.
The reason D&D podcasts are so common right now is that this system allows for spontaneous storytelling that’s easier to produce than scripted narrative. It also leaves room for out-of-character comedic elements and narrative commentary, which makes it much more palatable than heavy-handed amateur radio dramas.
The first 69 episodes of The Adventure Zone collectively tell what the McElroys have dubbed “Balance,” the story of three adventurers discovering the secrets of the mysterious “Grand Relics” and of their own pasts.
The “Balance” campaign began in December 2014 and wrapped up this August, and the almost three years of storytelling paid off. What began as a one-off bonus MBMBaM episode turned into a masterfully crafted, truly epic tale. It’s certainly a commitment to binge the whole show, but it’s so worth it.
Speaking of “Commitment,” that’s the name of the show’s latest campaign. Since the end of “Balance,” the McElroys have decided to start experimenting with short, “experimental arcs” to see what kind of story they (and their fans) want the show to focus on in the future.
The first experimental arc, “Commitment,” tells the story of a group of superheroes called the Do-Good Fellowship. This time, the McElroy’s father, Clint McElroy, is running the game. With the first episode having just debuted on Thursday, Clint’s story is shaping up to be an interesting one.
So far, his DM-ing skills certainly aren’t on the same level as Griffin’s, but that of course can’t be expected, since Griffin’s been doing it since 2014.
As far as recommendations go, I’d say your best option is to just marathon the whole show. But if you need some more convincing, I’d definitely recommend checking out the “Murder on the Rockport Limited” arc. It’s a great example of one of my favorite, hyper-specific story premises—train-based murder mysteries—and it has some really great humor and fun story twists.
Come back next weekend for another podcast spotlight. ALSO, stay tuned to my Twitter account (@CCJ1997) for some exciting, D&D podcast-related news. I should have some fun developments to share with you shortly.
It’s about time I wrote about a video game podcast. The first podcast I ever listened to (at least as far as I can remember) was IGN‘s “Podcast Beyond Episode 250,” published in August 2012.
In the five years since then, I dabbled in IGN‘s Game Scoop!, but mostly I was a loyal listener of Podcast Beyond until Greg Miller and Colin Moriarty left IGN to start Kinda Funny Games in 2015. I listened to the Kinda Funny Gamescast and PS I Love You XOXO until Colin left Kinda Funny earlier this year.
Without the iconic Greg-Colin duo I’d been listening to for years, I had to find another place to get my video game podcast fix.
Enter Kotaku Splitcreen, the video game news/discussion podcast from Kotaku‘s Kirk Hamilton and Jason Schreier. I knew of Jason from the many times Colin had spoken of his journalistic prowess, so seeing that he and Kirk had a podcast of their own peaked my interest.
Splitscreen is a pretty straightforward games podcast: the hosts run through the news of the week, discuss recent game releases and talk about what they’ve been playing. But what sets it apart is Jason’s in-depth knowledge of the video game industry.
Every time something interesting happens in the world of games, I make sure to tune in to hear Jason’s take. He has years of connections throughout the industry that give him a unique insight into the latest happenings.
Take, for example, his article about the infamous Mass Effect: Andromeda: “The Story Behind Mass Effect: Andromeda’s Troubled Five-Year Development.” Here, you can see the incredible access Jason is able to secure, something few other journalists have.
As far as Splitscreen itself goes, the show’s E3 2017 coverage was particularly interesting. Kirk and Jason produced episodes after each day’s press conferences, discussing the news from each. “E3 Episode 4 (UPDATED): Luke Smith On Destiny 2, John Garvin On Days Gone” is especially worth a listen for the interview with Destiny 2 game director Luke Smith.
But, honestly, like many other news shows, it’s hard to recommend any particular episodes of Splitscreen because much of its value lies in its immediate analysis of news topics. My advice is just to listen to the latest episode if anything in gaming news has caught your eye.
That being said, here’s a few of my favorites from the past:
Alright, that’s all for tonight. Tune in next weekend for another podcast spotlight.
Yes, it’s time for that post. I’ll try to keep it from being too fanboy-y. But this show is just that good.
It’s My Brother, My Brother and Me, “an advice show for the ‘modren’ era.” Hosted by Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy, this show consistently ranks in the top 25 comedy podcasts (it’s at number 21 at the time of writing this post, immediately followed by the McElroy’s The Adventure Zone at 22) for good reason.
This show, along with the rest of “the McElroy family of products,” has to be some of the best comedy I’ve ever heard. Many of the show’s bits would feel perfectly at home in a stand-up comedy routine.
The show’s basic format is that the brothers answer questions submitted by listeners and questions they find on Yahoo Answers. It’s a simple premise, but it’s the perfect platform for the brothers’ “good, good” comedy.
As brothers, the three of them naturally have years and years of playing off of each other’s goofs, and it helps that the way they talk in itself is funny. Justin and Griffin, in particular, constantly use weird phrasing and put emphasis on random words/syllables to create a wholly unique comedic style.
And the brothers have an excellent understanding of improvisational comedy, something listeners only realize because of how transparent they are about the importance of “committing to the bit” or “playing in the space they’ve created.”
That’s what really sets MBMBaM apart. The McElroys are totally open about the fact that they’re trying to be funny, and they often make jokes about that fact in hilarious “meta-comedy” bits.
The brothers seamlessly transition into the “bean bag” bit, playing off each other with almost no prompting, creating a scenario all around the fact that Justin made a bad joke (which he made as a joke in the first place).
Anyway, in talking about comedy, the best thing I can do is just show you some more examples of why this show is so good. Here’s two more animations; first, an animation by Louie Zong of a bit from “MBMBaM 354: Beanfreak”:
And next, this is possibly my favorite MBMBaM bit of all time (because of the brothers’ Jigsaw hilarious Jigsaw impressions and just the complete absurdity of the whole bit); it’s MBMBaM 358‘s “Detective Jigsaw, My Very Best Friend” (animation by Alexander Jenson):
MBMBaM is the kind of show that shows up in your feed, and you just can’t wait to listen to it. It’s excellent.
I missed last week’s post because I was at my brother’s wedding in California, so I’ll be back in just a bit with another podcast spotlight. Stay tuned!