It’s been quite a while since I last talked about podcasts I enjoy and explained why Welcome to Night Vale wasn’t on that list. (Short answer: because you’re all listening to it already.) And you know what I never hear anybody saying? “Cartoon Sara, I do not need any podcast recommendations.” With that in mind, here are four of the many podcasts that are on my current list of favorites.
The premise of I Was There Too is simple: comedian and actor Matt Gourley interviews actors about their experiences on a particular famous film or films. The twist is that these aren’t the stars of the movies who constantly get asked about their famous roles, but actors who played smaller parts or who aren’t as frequently interviewed. The result is a series of unique and intimate looks of the making of movies that range from critical successes to cult classics. Ever want to know what it was like watching Daniel Day Lewis perform the “milkshake” scene in person, how it feels to be yelled at by Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules in Pulp Fiction, or the challenges of acting while wearing a turtle suit? Then this is the podcast for you.
Recommended Episode: If you’re having trouble picking an episode to start with, I highly recommend the interview with Jenette Goldstein, best known as my personal hero Private Vasquez from Aliens. Turns out she really did think they meant “illegal aliens.”
You can find public domain radio shows all over the place. The Great Detectives of Old Time Radio is kind of like a sampler set for the mystery genre, serveing up once a week episodes of a variety of classic detective programs. They’re also aired in order, which doesn’t make a huge difference most of the time but does let you see how the show evolved over time and catch the occasional callback to a previous episode. These are shows from the 40s and 50s, which means you’ll run into the occasional cringe inducing racism or sexism. But overall, these are highly entertaining whodunnits, ideal for when you’ve got a few baskets of laundry to fold.
Recommended Episodes: The variety of programs featured on The Great Detectives of Old Time Radio lets you try out everything from the most straightforward police procedurals to the most gimmick heavy shows to find what suits your tastes. If you need a good starting point, you might want to give “The Saint” a whirl. The titular hero, Simon Templar, is sort of a gentleman detective who requests donations to charity from his wealthy clients in exchange for his services. The main draw of “The Saint” is the actor who played the main character for a time: Ladies’ favorite Vincent Price.
Podcasting has been great for the world of comedy, particularly prolific podcaster Paul F. Tompkins. His latest podcast, Spontaneanation, is a combination of interview and improv. The first segment is an interview with the main guest, centered around a question provided by the previous episode’s guest. The guest then provides a location for the improv segment starring Thompkins and a rotating cast of three other comedians, who frequently incorporate ideas from the interview into the story. The results are frequently silly, sometimes nonsensical, but always funny. Podcast ads are usually a necessary evil that keep the episodes free, but Spontaneanation‘s ads follow a similar format to the show and often reuse characters from previous episodes. So they’re nearly as much fun to listen to as the show itself.
Recommended Episode: You could start at the beginning if you enjoy doing things in order and want to know which guest provides the question that gets asked on the following episode. You could also star with Episode #0 if you’re the completist type. But if you’d rather dive in with one of my personal favorites, try the fourth episode: Savannah, Georgia, which includes the following exchange about the seven known dimensions.
I may be a little biased on this one, since the host is a friend and I’ve actually recorded an episode for it that should be available sometime in the near future. But it’s yet another podcast with a simple yet brilliant premise: host Nick Nadel invites people he knows to watch and discuss the movie that everyone is shocked to learn that Nick’s guest has never seen. The films covered fall into two basic categories: ones that are shocking oversights only because the people who haven’t seen them are big fans of the particular genre – rom-coms, for example, and ones that are shocking because how could anyone avoid seeing Jurassic Park? The conversations lead to lots of fun and surprising insights on all kinds of films, such as how they hold up decades later or on a smaller screen, how strongly a film has influenced pop culture, and seriously, my local second run theater had Jurassic Park for literally a year straight. How did somebody not see it??
Recommended Episode: It may be better that my episode is not up yet so my love-hate relationship with the sound of my own voice doesn’t influence my choice. That said, I’m going to let personal bias rule the day and pick the Gremlins episode guest starring another friend of mine: Tim Finn. Tim is really articulate when discussing film and narrative, which makes this an entertaining and informative listen. Plus, as someone who only saw Gremlins in the last ten years or so, I can relate.
The Ladies are always looking for new podcast recommendations. If you have a favorite that we may not have heard yet, be sure to share it in the comments.