As a proud card carrying member of the elite class of people that listen to podcasts when they work, I go through podcasts fairly quickly. My spotify told me I spent 90 continuous days in 2020 listening on the app, I’m aware I have a problem. I’ve been in a bit of a rut with my podcasts, but here are a few that I’ve been enjoying lately.
Not Past It — history
In my opinion, the issue with modern era history podcasts is that they all seem to follow trends of stories to tell. For example, some past ones that have been popular are: Courtney Stodden, Synanon, the history behind Kellogs. Not Past It does a really great job avoiding this trap, covering stories I have not heard of in any capacity. The information is well researched and cited, and they cover a variety of periods and stories. They also try to play with the format of storytelling, in one episode they tried out this domino effect trend that linked historical trends through the ages to bring context to a popular movie from today. The episodes are about 30 minutes long, which makes them perfect for your commute to work/very digestible.
You’re Dead To Me — history
This is an official BBC podcast where historian Greg Jenner pairs up with a rotating British Comedian and a rotating history professor to cover a specific period or historical figure. The history is typically ancient history up until the 1930s. As it is run by the BBC, the coverage is very accessible, and the radio edit version of these episodes are made with children in mind.
For the format, each episode the host covers what he thinks people know about the topic, and then he runs through a set of questions with the historian to provide an overview of the persons life or what life was like for the average person in that period. The historian is given a couple of minutes to monologue about something they think is particularly important for the listener to know. The episode wraps up with the comedian being quizzed on what was discussed.
My main problem with the series lies in the fact that Jenner is a historian and not a queer historian. For episodes like Mary Shelly, who many queer historians would qualify as queer, Jenner and his guest insist that Shelly just has close female friendships. They quote this passage from Mary Shelly
I was so ready to give myself away – and being afraid of men, I was apt to get tousy-mousy for women
and insist she is straight. The terminology around sexuality has changed through the ages, and it’s hard to put 21st century labels on an 18th century figure. But the insistence that people from that period were straight until they use the terminology we have now is just ridiculous.
Jenner clearly has good rapport with his guests, and when he is wrong they quickly correct him. In one episode about Boudica, he keeps insisting she was a feminist icon and the Professor guest that week corrected him that being a woman in leadership doesn’t mean you’re a feminist. And he acknowledged he was wrong and thanked her (the bar,,, so low).
Each episode is about 40 minutes and they come out in seasons.
Behind the Bastards — history
Okay, I just really like history podcasts okay…. Behind the Bastards is hosted by Robert Evans, an antifascist journalist that covers white supremacy movements, particularly the one in Portland. Each week, he covers one Bastard from history from Birth to death (or present day). While he doesn’t rank any of the bastards, each episode is sufficiently dark.
While I really enjoy how well-researched the episodes are and the variety of figures covered, but the humor of the host is really cringey to me. The subject matter of the podcast is just so incredibly dark that making jokes in any form reads as poor taste, even if its supposed to provide levity. If you connect with the humor or can put up with it, I really enjoy these longer form historical episodes. Episodes are typically two parts lasting an hour to two hours each, and are released every Tuesday and Thursday.
Pivot — News
Tech journalist Kara Swisher and NYU Marketing professor Scott Galloway cover the past week in tech news and offer their hot takes and future predictions in Pivot. What sets this podcast apart from other news podcasts is the background of the hosts. Swisher is one of the most preiminent journalists covering Silicon Valley, being on the ground floor from the early days of Amazon, Google, and Yahoo. Galloway is responsible for the annual viral report on brand loyalty and brand value (aka Garter IQ).
Each episode, Swisher and Galloway talk about the news stories of the week, and then they bring a guest in or they answer listener questions. Most of the time, Swisher is a good interviewer, but every once and a while she strikes out. At the end of every episode, Galloway offers his future predictions and he absolutely swings for the fences. He does what few in the aerospace industry are willing to do publicly: critique Elon Musk’s companies. The predictions aren’t just pulled out of nowhere either, Galloway and Swisher were some of the first to critique WeWork as a fraud.
Episodes come out every Tuesday and Friday and each episode is about an hour. If you would like to be kept up with a working knowledge of what is happening in SIlicon Valley, this podcast is perfect.
Sibling Rivalry — humor
Drag queens Bob the Drag Queen and Monet Exchange just chat shit and playfully argue with each other for about an hour every week. Sometimes they get really deep and talk about the difficulties of being a Black visibly queer masculine person in America. Most times they argue over really dumb stuff like why we don’t have flying cars yet. When they want to be insightful, the podcast really poignant, and Bob and Monet have really helped me better understand some of the struggles of Black Queer Men.
With gay clubs closed during the Pandemic, this podcast has filled my need to be around proud, over-the-top queer people. Episodes are about an hour and air every Wednesday
My Dad Wrote a Porno — humor
This podcast follows a son and his two friends as they read and react to the porno his Dad wrote. The father’s writing is in a league of its own, like I’m genuinely convinced he has never seen a woman. The adjectives, the comparisons, (pen name) Rocky Flintstone just pairs things together that fundamentally were never put together in erotica before. The son is a talented voice actor, and hearing him read the book is very enjoyable. The friends are a good pair and make the writing even funnier with their banter without detracting from the story telling.
The episodes come out in seasons whenever Rocky Flintstone manages to finish a book. Each book is about 12 chapters, with each episode following a chapter. The episodes are about 45 minutes long.