We don’t get too personal here at Radio Survivor, but what I’m about to share is pertinent to the task at hand. This summer I left my day job, moved to Portland, Oregon, and started focusing much more time on Radio Survivor. One result of this is our weekly podcast coverage with the Podcast Survivor feature.
An unintended consequence is that I’ve listened to fewer podcasts in the last six months, because I’m not commuting and still trying to nail down a regular schedule. So I wasn’t feeling fully researched enough to responsibly construct a best-of. Lucky for me, and lucky for you, dear reader, I was able to call upon the superior talents of two friends and podcast fans to nominate their favorite podcasts of 2013.
Jenny Benevento is an information architect who lectures on branding, social media, musicians and pop culture. She is one of the foremost experts on the Insane Clown Posse and their fans, known as Juggalos, and recently attended the Atlantic Ocean Comedy & Music Festival, a/k/a the “podcast cruise” sponsored by Maximum Fun. I’m also lucky to have Jenny as a co-host for our podcast, where we recently discussed our favorite ’casts.
Kyle Riismandel is a university lecturer in history at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and has written a couple of podcast reviews for us. He’s also been a guest on Jenny’s and my podcast. Oh, yeah, he’s also my brother.
They each gave me a ranked list that turned out to have no overlap between them. I could have just declared editorial privilege and ranked them, but that would have taken too much effort. Instead, I will put their selections together in the count-down.
A Podcast Survivor’s Top Podcasts of 2013
#5 – Jenny: Go Bayside
April Richardson watches every episode of Saved By the Bell in order. Each episode features a guest viewer. In addition to a synopsis she uses the show to discuss how different teen life and entertainment is now, and how weird Mr. Belding’s relationship with teenagers is.
#5 – Kyle: chose none. (We assume no podcast is worthy. -ed.)
#4 – Jenny: DisinfoCast
DisinfoCast is a mix of complete-loon conspiracy theorists, legitimately famous artists, and non-famous people with weird jobs, all treated with completely sincere respect. Like Disinformation’s publications, it has an anti-establishment bent. Sometimes that results in an intelligent political discussion you’ll get nowhere else and sometimes it’s about the lizard people’s new world order. Where else will you find Henry Rollins, Jesse Ventura, and a guy who sells reptiles all in the same podcast?
#4 – Kyle: The Fogelnest Files
I have already written about why I like this show so much. One thing about this past year of shows is that Fogelnest has worked hard to have guests from all over the pop culture map including one of the directors of Hall of Fame traded VHS tape Heavy Metal Parking Lot as well as notorious LA sleezeball Kim Fowley. What makes the show is a genuine reverence for the ephemera that permeated daily life and made a lot of meaning for its audiences even though much of it is not aesthetically “good” or revered.
#3 – Jenny: Like I’m an Idiot
Josh A. Cagan is a comedy screenwriter who is a self-professed idiot on a number of topics. He invites people to simply explain topics like having hippie parents, mansplaining, or anime. What sets the show apart is the format—he explains his ignorant idea of what the topic is, the person actually explains it, he summarizes the newfound knowledge, and then they can ask him anything about a subject he knows about.
#3 – Kyle: How Did This Get Made
For me, this is a show with an irresistible formula–trying to make sense of illogical and oddball hollywood movies. By applying basic reason to the incomprehensible, the co-hosts, comedians Jason Mantzoukas, June-Diane Raphael, and Paul Scheer, mine comedy by thinking hard about Gymkata, Over the Top, or Howard the Duck. However, they don’t just make fun. They revel in the insanity that is the creative process in Hollywood while actually highlighting good work writing, directing, or acting when it exists. There is a surprising amount of empathy for a podcast that has one of its hosts consistently exclaiming that something is “Next level bonkers!”
#2 – Jenny: This is Actually Happening
Storytelling podcasts (The Moth, Risk!, Storycorps, etc.) can be hit or miss. Each episode of TIAH is a single unedited story told just for the podcast, meaning there’s consistent sound and no live laugh track. The episodes are titled with the main idea of the story, such as “What if you were falsely accused of molesting your niece?” or “What if you lost your sense of smell?” and they tend to be pretty serious crises. You can pick and choose which ones interest you based on the title—an appreciated rarity in the storytelling podcasting genre.
#2 – Kyle: Comedy Bang! Bang!
This show benefits from the consistent vision and presence of host Scott Aukerman. His belief in silliness and the extended logic of the illogical makes the show insanely funny most weeks. Plus, he works with most of the funniest stand-ups and improv comedians in LA who love to go down deeply weird tangents about their characters. I think my favorite episode from this past year (though it is very, very hard to choose) is episode #236 “Murderer Heaven” broadcast live on the Video Podcast Network featuring Rob Corddry and Paul F. Tompkins as Richard Harrow from Boardwalk Empire. They explored the various heavens and hells and what ghosts do. Like most comedy, it is much funnier when it is not being explained. I quickly want to note standout work from Andy Daly, Lauren Lapkus, and James Adomian particularly as disgraced shock-jock Tom Leykis.
#1 – Jenny: Roderick on the Line
So many podcasts tend to be “two white guys riff aimlessly!” but this is the height of the genre. For men and “manly women,” musician John Roderick and Merlin Mann hilariously discuss Hitler, classic rock, cars, and John’s Utopic dictatorship called Supertrain. If you like to read Hannah Arendt while listening to Steely Dan on your Dodge Charger’s 8-track, but funny, this is for you.
#1 – Kyle: The Dana Gould Hour
It has been infrequently released over the past year but is great when it comes out. Each edition is thematic and features Gould interweaving recurring bits with one or two separate conversations spotlighting an eclectic mix of comedians and writers. Gould is not only hilarious but knows a ton about Old Hollywood lore so he spins a tale in every podcast about some forgotten but amazing story about old actors, monster movies, conspiracy theories, etc. Truly laugh out loud funny and well-produced.