I’ve gotten really into podcasts lately. Relatively speaking, at least.
I’ve been listening to them for about two years now, but for the majority of that time, I’ve listened sporadically. Recently, however, I’ve been listening to at least a couple of episodes per week of one series or another.
Spending time doing things you enjoy is straight forward enough, but given that podcasts weren’t a form of entertainment I thought I’d be interested in prior to these past two years, my recent uptick in listening has made me wonder why I now consider them to be worth my time.
This is what I came up with.
For the love of fiction
I have always been a fan of fiction. TV, movies, books; anything that allows me to enjoy a good story and a bit of escapism is likely to be something I’m willing to dedicate some of my time to. So, I think it’s safe to say, that if I had become aware of fiction podcasts earlier on, then I probably would have given them a chance much sooner.
As it was, I didn’t.
In fact, before I started listening to them, I was convinced that all podcasts had the same basic format. I thought they all involved people discussing a particular topic. (Though I’m not averse to that kind of thing if I like the people involved and I’m interested in the topic, I also hadn’t been aware of any podcasts of that type that attracted my interest.)
My misconceptions about podcasts in that regard changed when someone recommended Welcome to Nightvale to me.
Welcome to Nightvale – from independent podcast network Nightvale Presents – is set in the fictional town of Nightvale. In the series, radio host Cecil Baldwin updates listeners on the strange desert town’s news.
The odd, yet likeable characters, interesting creatures – like the five-headed, multi-coloured dragon named Frank Chen – and the exciting adventures that take place in the town make the podcast an engrossing listen. Over the seasons, I’ve enjoyed getting to learn more about the town and how it operates, as well as the people. Also, as a wanna-be-author, I have a great appreciation for the fictional creation and consider it to be quite aspirational – I continue to be in awe of the detailed, fantastical world that the creators have developed.
Though Welcome to Nightvale wasn’t the first podcast series I listened to, I think it was the one that solidified my interest in podcasts. And, it encouraged me to give other fiction podcasts a try.
Other fiction podcasts I’ve found since Welcome to Nightvale include other productions from Nightvale Presents. One I’ve just completed is Alice isn’t Dead, which tells the story of a woman with anxiety travelling the US roads, encountering hidden terrors, as she tries to find the wife she’d thought dead.
Another fiction podcast I’ve become a fan of is The Magnus Archives, from online production company Rusty Quill. The podcast reveals the creepy and supernatural occurrences of a similar to this one, as recorded in the titular Archives.
Each of the fiction podcasts I’ve listened to over the years tells its own unique story, but they all also do what any good story does, they connect to the human experience. They tell stories about love, friendships, society, the things that make people happy, fears, and more. And, that’s my favourite part of any fiction. Because, as much as I enjoy the escapism of it, fiction always feels more worthwhile to me when it speaks to something real.
The benefits of conversational podcasts
I said above that if the people and topic are right, a conversational podcast could be something that would interest me. This was proven true by the very first podcast I ever listened to – My Dad Wrote A Porno (MDWAP).
Hosted by Alice Levine, James Cooper, and Jamie Morton, MDWAP is kind of a hybrid podcast, in which the hosts read the Belinda Blinked book series written by Rocky Flintstone (not his government name), aka Jamie’s dad.
The miscellaneous adventures encountered by Belinda – aka “the sexiest woman in business” – as she goes about her work in the “pots and pans” industry are strangely captivating and provide their own entertainment. However, what makes the podcast really fun to listen to is the hilarious commentary the hosts make as they read along. They have great banter, and its just nice getting to listen to what sounds like a good group of friends having a good laugh.
The footnotes episodes of MDWAP offer the chance to enjoy even more of the chat, typically with the added bonus of celebrity guest fans joining the conversation. (Guest highlights for me Mara Wilson – who coincidentally has a recurring role on Welcome to Nightvale – Emma Thomson, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.)
Whether it’s a reading episode, footnotes, or some other bit of content, MDWAP never fails to make me laugh. That’s not entirely beneficial given that I sometimes listen to the series while commuting, but even the awkwardness of laughing in public has yet to stop me going back for more.
Unfortunately, MDWAP isn’t currently releasing new episodes, but I’ve found another conversational podcast to fill that gap and give me my regular dose of fun listening material, coming in the form of Fake Doctors, Real Friends with Zach Braff and Donald Faison. The series is also known as the Scrubs re-watch show.
If you don’t know what Scrubs is – though I don’t know why you wouldn’t – it was a hospital-based situational comedy which aired from 2001 to 2010. I wasn’t a fan of it from the year it first aired – given that I was five years old at the time – but I found it at some point, and it became one of my favourite shows. The show had humour, drama, great characters and friendships, and interesting character dynamics. The fact that 10 years after it ended Scrubs still has enough fans to make the re-watch show popular speaks for itself, in my opinion. It was a great show, and one that I can enjoy re-watching even now.
Listening to the Fake Doctors, Real Friends is an opportunity to get nostalgic about the show and to gain some interesting behind-the-scenes knowledge from Donald and Zach, as well as from guests, including writer Bill Lawrence, other actors from the show, and crew members. Plus, the general good mood and chemistry between the hosts, and their easy interactions with their guests, fan callers, and their production team, make the show light and pleasant listening to chill to, or when I’m out running or shopping, or when I’m doing chores.
That’s what’s great about podcasts in general actually; they’re entertainment on the go. They help fill the silence when my mind isn’t otherwise occupied with work, or hobbies, or something else that requires my intentional focus.
During the lockdown I’ve really appreciated having podcasts to listen to. Though I still have work and other things to occupy the majority of my time, there are still sometimes silences to fill and podcasts have been handy for that. Also, with new episodes of The Magnus Archives and Fake Doctors, Real Friends currently coming out weekly, podcasts have given me something to look forward to during this relatively dreary time of coronavirus, lockdowns, and unrest.
So, I guess its fortunate I took that recommendation for MDWAP a couple of years ago, because it opened up the world of podcasts to me, and gave me a new way to make life a little more enjoyable.
There you have it, my second post since I started experiencing some writer’s block. I did lots of writing in circles before I was happy with this post – I’ve been at it for weeks – but hopefully it turned out alright and you enjoyed reading it.
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