- 06 Sep 18
Stephen Porzio rounds up a list of top podcasts for students – perfect for long commutes, to get ideas for essays, or to distract from the pressures of college life.
Comedy Bang Bang
If the stress of academia is getting to you, Comedy Bang Bang will cheer you up. Comedian Scott Aukerman hosts this surrealist take on the talk show format. Things generally start normally, with a celebrity appearing to discuss their new project. However, before long the show turns into a two-hour improv set – with various comedic greats coming on to play strange characters with often bizarre back stories that are gradually dissected by the perpetually cheery Aukerman. Comedy Bang Bang character highlights include the demented horse fight promoters the Calvin twins (SNL’s Taran Killiam and Paul Brittain); acclaimed German director Werner Herzog (Paul F Tompkins); weed dealer ‘Bro’ (Adam Pally); and Father John Misty knock-off Papa John’s Misty (Jon Daly). Meanwhile music fans should also seek out Auckerman’s sister podcasts dedicated to U2 and REM - U Talkin’ U2 To Me? and R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: ME?
Fans of Netflix docs like Making A Murderer, The Keepers and Wormwood will surely be gripped by this true crime podcast. It centres on New Zealand’s 1994 Bain family murderers – in which Robin and Margaret Bain and three of their four children, Arawa, Laniet and Stephen, were shot in the head with a .22 rifle. The surviving son David was convicted of the killing in 1995 but later acquitted in 2009 following a re-examination of evidence. Beginning where a HBO murder mystery would start – with David Bain going into shock following his conviction, saying repeatedly ‘black hands have taken them away’ – this-ten part series just gets creepier as it continues. Journalist Martin van Beynen, who spent years covering and researching the Bain murders, recounts the intricate details of this shocking true story.
The Blindboy Podcast
Hosted by Blindboy Boatclub – one-half of Irish comedy hip-hop duo The Rubber Bandits – this eclectic podcast has in the past covered conspiracy theories, disco, LBGT issues, mental health and sexual assault. While this blend of lighter material with more serious matters sounds risky, the always well-informed and outspoken host keeps things from getting sticky. Whether he’s monologuing or interviewing a high-profile figure, Blindboy always comes across as if he is genuinely fascinated about what is being discussed – and it’s infectious. Recently, Blindboy landed his biggest guest to date – BlacKkKlansman director Spike Lee. People will have an opportunity to watch a live recording of his show at Vicar Street, October 7 as part of the Dublin Podcast Festival.
As with Black Hands, fans of documentaries will get a kick out of this true crime podcast. Discussing a different case each episode, the series covers a vast array of different topics, including a mother-daughter coroner team, a student who manufactured counterfeit banknotes, an investigation into the true origins of the term ‘420’, and how to fake your own death and get away with it. The narration is punchy, while the avenues down which the hosts take us in dissecting the crimes are delightfully eccentric. Newcomers should start at the beginning with debut episode ‘Animal Instincts’, which discusses Michael Peterson and ‘the owl theory’ – now well-known thanks to The Staircase – and the strange history of animals in court.
Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review
For those studying culture or movies, this BBC podcast is a must. Mark Kermode – one of the greatest film critics alive – runs down the UK and Ireland Box Office Top 10 and reviews the week’s new releases, while co-host and acclaimed radio presenter Simon Mayo interviews a high-profile guest. Kermode And Mayo is an edited version of a live radio show. As a result, it’s pacier than the typical languorous film podcast, never settling for too long on one topic. Although, in theory, Kermode’s immense film knowledge should alienate non-cinephiles, Mayo’s everyman persona keeps proceedings accessible – to the extent that some fans of the show claim not to like films but listen for the two hosts’ constant, winning banter.
The Guilty Feminist
Hosted by whip smart comic Deborah Frances-White, The Guilty Feminist deals with feminist issues, particularly people’s hypocrisies and double standards with regards to the movement. Each episode kicks off with Frances-White and a guest admitting to doing things an ideal feminist woman wouldn’t (e.g. loving the song ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’) before launching into a discussion on a chosen theme such as stereotypes, periods and women in popular culture. The series is always funny and thought-provoking. Meanwhile, Hot Press recommends catching the show live when it comes to Dublin on October 1, as part of the Dublin Podcast Festival. Taking place in Vicar St., Irish comedian Alison Spittle will be Frances-White’s co-host for the night.
This Irish podcast is the audio equivalent of a warm hug. Every two weeks an interesting person in the arts or culture scene picks something that they were obsessed with as a child and talks about it with hosts Alan Maguire, Ellen Tannam and Sarah Marie Griffin. The tone is warm and laidback, and the conversation is always fascinating. However, the podcast’s true strength is in showing that what we are fascinated with as children or teens often plays a big role in what we become as adults. My favourite episodes include comedian Peter McGann discussing Goldeneye, publisher Lisa Coen talking Stephen King, and author Caroline O’Donoghue raving about Frasier. If you like the show, you can see it live on September 30 at Sound House (located above pub The Wiley Fox) as part of the Dublin Podcast Festival.
For those with long commutes to college, there’s no better podcast companion than WTF? Hosted by comedian and curmudgeon Marc Maron (currently starring in Netflix’s wonderful comedy-drama GLOW), the entire show centres on his in-depth conversations with famous people (including Barrack Obama, interviewed while still President), recorded in his garage. In this odd, intimate setting and with Maron’s laidback approach, celebrities typically appear more relaxed than usual, and the listener comes away with a better sense of what they are really like. However, while the guests are always interesting, WTF? is also one of the only talk shows where the host is often more of a draw than the interviewees. Having lived a wild life of alcohol, drugs and touring, Maron’s personal anecdotes and candid nature are often the reason listeners tune in.
RTÉ Docs on One
Scared of running out of podcasts? Fear not: RTÉ’s multi award-winning Documentary On One series has a free archive of over 1,500 documentaries to listen to. The network collaborates with both amateurs and acclaimed documentarians, mentoring them and helping flesh-out their ideas into 40-minute shows. While mostly focusing on Irish stories, the collection is refreshingly diverse – covering pretty much everything, including death, family, health, music, politics, sports and more.