I don’t remember when I first started listening to podcasts but the first one must have been the Fernando & Greg’s Sideshow, which I was introduced to through Jessica in 2014. F&G are two radio DJs in the bay area, and they have a somewhat unknown, unadvertised weekly show that they record after their live morning radio program concludes. I have no idea how their side show got its start – at the time I started listening, it was pretty raunchy, definitely too raunchy to be put on the live station. I started listening to their episodes not even through iTunes, but through the radio website! It was an AWFUL site, and I actually had to play the episodes through REALPLAYER, that’s how janky their site was! The webpage would constantly crash mid-episode and take down all of my tabs, or ads on the website would slow down my CPU. The show wasn’t well archived and there wasn’t a good way to navigate through the episodes. You just had to keep pressing next page… next page… The archive didn’t even show every episode since the beginning! (I hate when that happens). Despite all these technical issues, I listened to every available episode until I reached the end of the archives. I STILL listen to this podcast, so it’s the oldest podcast I have in my rotation. It’s much more tame now, almost boring, and I probably would’ve stopped listening to it by now, except it’s perfect for work because I only have to give it about 20% of my attention. In the past, they’d share sex stories, Greg would read out loud gay porn narratives he found on the web, and they’d call up some of Greg’s friends, my favorite of which was Patty. There was a time when they’d call up Greg’s friend Rudy, who I LOATHED. When I first started, there were episodes twice a week. At some point, there was even the possibility of it coming on 3x a week! Now it’s just once a week, it runs exactly for 1 hour and will cut out at the hour mark. The lesson from this podcast is: sometimes, setting a strict time limit to a podcast series is detrimental to the flow of conversation.
The SECOND podcast I started listening to was The Read. Jessica also introduced me to this one (though I don’t think she listens to this regularly). She liked F&G so much, she wanted to find more comedy podcasts, and she saw that The Read was consistently #1 in Comedy for podcasts. What had hooked her was an episode that referenced this moment from Iyanla. I thought I’d give this podcast a whirl and I’ve stuck to it ever since. I like it because it’s good to work to. I always tell people that I don’t know their pop culture references 40% of the time, and I used to vehemently disagree with the advice they gave. Their podcast duration has gone from one hour to consistently 2+ hours. Because of this, the fact that I have listened to it from Episode 1, and because they seemingly NEVER take a break from recording weekly, I’ve done the math and this is the podcast I’ve spent THE MOST time on. This podcast is often credited for paving the way for many other black podcasts.
The THIRD podcast I ever listened to was Savage Lovecast, which I stumbled upon while looking for relationship advice. I must have found a really good written column by Dan Savage, which then directed me to his podcast. As of today, he’s done 575 episodes, one a week, and I think I started listening around #450 or so, in 2015. He’s been doing this podcast thing way before podcasts were a thing (and his written column for EVEN LONGER). I went to his website and started listening from episode one. Then, about two years ago, a friend shared with me a relationship problem. I said “omg Dan Savage had this EXACT QUESTION before!” but when I tried to recount his advice, I became kind of distraught that I couldn’t recall his advice word for word. I then made the decision to start tracking every question and answer, and the obsessive in me decided this meant I would have to go back and document the ~250 episodes I’d already heard. My progress was significantly stymied by the 20+ other podcasts I got into in the past two years, but I’m getting there! Anyway, I generally agree with 98% of his advice. I ADORE him and find him to be incredibly eloquent and precise in his language, particularly since he seems to do everything on the fly. I’ve seen him live twice, and while he does cover a rotation of repeating topics, you never tire of it. Also, the advice columns are gossipy fun!
I was pretty content with just this rotation of three for a while. But then at some point in 2015, I thought I’d look for podcasts with a data science slant and I ended up listening to What’s the Point, the podcast that probably ignited my exponential obsession in discovering podcasts.
What’s the Point is probably one of my top fave podcasts of all time – its shtick was every week, it’d do a deep dive into a number/data and the issues surrounding it. Topics would range from privacy, Pixar, politics, movies… This was my first foray into the “learn something” podcast genre. It’s produced through FiveThirtyEight, which introduced me to the 538 Significant Digits newsletter, and Nate Silver, who I followed throughout the 2016 election and immediately unfollowed on November 9th. This was a SUPER informative podcast, and would peel apart a lot of interesting subjects that aren’t often touched on. Unfortunately, they ended the podcast, and the host, Jody Avirgan, went on to do some sports podcast. This was the first podcast I listened to that ever got cancelled, which made me feel very old to have seen a podcast come and go. Even though it’s since been cancelled, I’d highly recommend going through their entire archive.
Favorite episodes: A Privacy Mea Culpa and the Dark Side of Forensic Data
From here, WTP inspired me to search out informative, interesting podcasts on society, culture, etc. Naturally, this led me to NPR. First was Planet Money. Then came NPR Politics. Then all the other NPR podcasts (see my NPR podcasts post!) I think my podcast obsession just coincided with the general proliferation of podcasting and my waning interest in indie and EDM music. I always say 2010-2014 was the height of EDM, and indie bands became really indistinguishable because everything is just run through a synthesizer. (Here’s the proof!) Save for the Hamilton soundtrack, music just didn’t interest me anymore, so I cancelled my Spotify subscription and began to obsessively collect new podcasts to subscribe to and marathon through at every moment.
So of course, NPR is not the only provider of informative podcasts. I also had StarTalk, which I think I may have found because Neil DeGrasse Tyson was on the first episode of What’s the Point, and Dan Savage was on an episode of StarTalk (cross promotion is fairly popular in the podcasting world, I’ve noticed). Startalk is now in its eigth season and I only recently finished ALL the archived episodes (there are a LOT of episodes per season). I love this podcast because I really do learn so much and Neil DeGrasse Tyson is just so masterful at teaching, communicating, and answering each question in a unique, thoughtful way. I love the format of always pairing a scientific expert with a comedian – it makes a HUGE difference. However, I have noticed that the show’s format changed slightly since its early years. The segments have gotten shorter, and Neil himself is not always in the episode or the segment, so it almost feels like a variety show rather than the typical sit down interview. They’ve also created two spinoff shows, which I decided not to listen to because that’s just TOO much knowledge.
Other “let’s learn something!” podcasts that I got into during this podcast bubble were Linear Digressions and Raw Data (two podcasts about data/data science), Surprisingly Awesome (a Gimlet podcast which has since been cancelled) and the Bowery Boys (a podcast about NYC history, my current “project” which involves listening to ~85 podcasts in the archive). As you can see, a TON of informational podcasts, which gets to be a bit much. So I started to branch into more conversational podcasts like Another Round, Katie Couric and Bitch Sesh.
I’m currently subscribed to TWENTY SEVEN podcasts which might be over doing it. But I’m still constantly on the search for more! It’s crazy but fun. Maybe one day I’ll read this and think “haha what an outdated form of communication!” or “my god I wasted so much of my life listening to information that I never retained!” or else “ah yes, the voice of my old friends.”