Arts & Culture

On Culture: Crazy about podcasts

Craig D. Lindsey.
Craig D. Lindsey. jleonard@newsobserver.com

Since I’m a single man with no kids, I have plenty of time on my hands. So, when I’m not in my home, staring at the ceiling and incessantly wondering why I’m still a single man with no kids, I fill up my time by listening to podcasts – lots of them.

My iPhone currently holds apps where I find lots of my favorite programs: the addictive, fascinating interview shows “WTF with Marc Maron” and “The Treatment”; “The Read” and “How Was Your Week”, two hilarious, weekly roundups of gossip and pop culture news; comedy podcasts where motormouthed comics Bill Burr and Jen Kirkman each rant for an hour a week; and the movie-themed shows “How Did This Get Made?” and “You Must Remember This.”

I’m not the only one who gorges on these online, on-demand audio broadcasts. Chapel Hill-based comedian Steve Brady enjoys these uncensored conversations he can listen in on anytime he wants.

“The content is truly unfettered, and real conversations are had outside of a corporate, P.C. environment,” he says. “There is no corporation that is regulating the language, content, etc. This provides for a more well-rounded view and opinion of topics, which as a comic I am a fan of.”

Heck, I’ve even hosted a couple of podcasts in my day. But I’m not the only podcaster in the Triangle.

Kevin Brewer and Daniel Johnson (who writes the film picks column in Friday’s Weekend section) converse on the pop culture-heavy “Postmodcast.” Sports nut James Curle has anchored several podcasts. His latest, “Deconstructing Disney,” has him breaking down animated films from the Mouse Factory. If you go to stfpod.com, you’ll find two Triangle-based shows: “A Local Joke,” where comics John Sideris and Michelle Maclay Herndon talk about comedy and interview comedians, and “Drunk SportFan,” which is kind of self-explanatory. And “NB2CR (No Big Two Comic Review)” is here for all the comic book-loving fanboys around here.

Another podcast that transmits out of the Triangle is “S.U.G.O. (Straight Up Geek Out) Radio,” with musicians/vinyl collectors Nick Speaks and Vince Carmody coming up with a mix of music every Wednesday. Even though it gets just 30 to 50 downloads a week, having a weekly chance to spin records certainly brings out the frustrated DJ in family man Speaks.

“Not only is it an opportunity to play stuff you know and that you like because you can’t play it at your house because it offends your wife or really bugs your kids,” Speaks says. “But it’s also opportunity to even hear things for the first time.”

While podcasts can sprout up anywhere at any time, most attract a specific, cult audience. It’s rare that they take the world by storm – that is, until “Serial” came along. The “This American Life” spinoff, which had host Sarah Koenig investigating a 1999 Baltimore murder for 12 episodes, recently wrapped its first season, garnering more than 5 million downloads, making it the most popular podcast in the world.

“The story is genuinely interesting, with a lot of bits of information that are tantalizingly just out of reach,” says Glen Baity of Chapel Hill, an avid listener. “It’s popular for the same reason a lot of crime writing – fiction and nonfiction – is popular: The big reveal always seems just around the corner, and that’s a powerful force.”

Steve Holmes of Wake Forest says he has a love/hate relationship with the show, noting how the story makes you have as many questions as Koenig does.

“ ‘Serial’ is also interesting because it shows the flaws in our justice system and our memories,” Holmes says. “The fact that it isn’t going to be wrapped up neatly is a contrast to news reporting on crime or ‘Cops,’ which try to make things make sense, but things really don’t make sense.”

But Holmes enjoys podcasts for the same reason I do: You just get wrapped up in people having insightful conversations or telling amazing, personal stories.

“They draw you in and make you poke your feelings,” Holmes says. Sometimes, when you can’t have real talk with actual people, hearing real talk from people online is the next best thing.

Lindsey: talkingfurniture@aol.com

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