I think I hold the That’s Normal Distinction for Introducing Podcasts to our audience. That’s right. The indelible podcast. That medium that you absolutely could not live without on your commute or while you fold laundry. I BROUGHT IT TO YOU back when Serial first came out and no one could function doing anything else.
If you’re like me, you’ll listen to the short-season-format podcasts in furious succession – binging eight episodes before breakfast. Like a good audio book, a quick podcast binge can take place anywhere, almost anytime and when it’s over you are practically an expert on The Black Dahlia. #thatsnormal
But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about those podcasts that you can’t quit. That update daily or weekly or at least enough that you have come to rely on them like your PopPop used to rely on Walter Cronkite. They inform and they soothe. You need them. And to be honest, this go-to podcast list is pretty … personal. I mean, these are the journalists and entertainers and scholars that get me through life right now. This is the secret recipe for the stew that nourishes me best. These are the prophets who help me sleep at night. Welcome to my head.
My Go-To Podcasts
Just like it sounds, The Daily hits my podcast app every morning with 25 minutes of the right kind of news I need to hear. Sometimes it’s heartwrenching, like One Family’s Story of Survival and Loss in New Zealand. Sometimes, it’s terrifying, like five-part series on nationalism in Europe. But every time, it’s informative and timely. I get my news here, and I get a sense of the import of what is going on in the world. The Daily is powered by The New York Times, and whatever you think of that particular institution, you know that the journalism is the gold standard. And host Michael Barbaro’s smooth tone is at the very least going to keep you from wanting to rush into traffic.
I’ve mentioned Keep It before. But it’s Wednesday morning, and a new episode just dropped and you should know: every Wednesday starts out this way for me. I wake up (too) early, sit down with my French Press, start my post for That’s Normal, and if I don’t need my brain, I listen to Keep It. (I can’t really listen to a podcast and write at the same time. I can barely listen to Lizzo and write at the same time). Keep It is Ira Madison III giggling and Louis Virtel snarking on the best and worst of pop culture right now. It never disappoints. The guests are always top notch, and sometimes they indulge in the perfect pop culture rant. Like the time they went off on people in fandom demanding people be “kind.” Or the time they discussed Netflix’s YOU the exact day I wrote about it. Or when Louis says anything.
— Beth (@bethorne) January 9, 2019
Pod Save America
The same company that brings me Ira and Louis was created to first bring us Pod Save America. After the 2016 election, Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor, all former Obama staffers in communications or foreign affairs, started this juggernaut to make sense of it all. I subscribed immediately and haven’t missed an episode. If you even have a toe dipped into political waters, you’ve heard of PSA. They truly do keep me sane. My kids can differentiate their voices, and he doesn’t know it, but my husband hums the theme song sometimes. Smart, experienced and judicious, these guys have created a conglomerate that does good things in the world. Their sponsors give money to Planned Parenthood or Moms Demand Action. They host Unify or Die, which is a fundraising effort for WHOEVER becomes the Democratic nominee, who will need a ton of help to defeat Trump. They’re collectively an important voice, and I’m glad they’re on my AirPods.
Lovett or Leave It
Yes, the same company. Yessss I love Jon Lovett enough to listen to him on Saturday mornings while I’m cleaning my pool and watering my house plants. Lovett or Leave It is recorded in front of a live audience, brings writers and comedians and politicians to the stage to play games, talk shit and make ridiculous sense of all our current nonsense. If they ever come to Memphis, I know *exactly* the jokes Lovett will make.
(They will be about BBQ, BBQ nachos, the state of our airport [terrible], humidity and comparisons to Nashville that might get him killed on his way back to Hotel Indigo).
The Bible for Normal People
This one may not make it to most of yall’s lists, but it has truly been a lifeline for me over the past couple of years. Pete Enns and Jared Byas interview scholars, priests, historians and activists to make sense of the bananas-ness of The Bible, Jesus, Judaism, Christianity, Mysticism, and more. It’s honest and heartfelt and in the thick of conversation, it’s holy. I have been in what has been called a Bible-believing church my entire life. I was raised by a pastor in a family of pastors. I went to Christian school for 13 years. And I have learned and heard things on this podcast that blew my mind apart, things I never considered or believed, but things that answered questions I’ve always had.
Oh, this podcast will PISS YOU OFF. Unlike the others, it doesn’t update regularly. When I see a new Trump, Inc episode in my queue, I have to psych myself up to listen. And I’m always glad that I did. Trump, Inc delves into the one thing that we all knew about Trump when he announced his candidacy, the one thing that gave him endless talking points during the run up to 2016, and the one thing that we SHOULD have paid real attention to before we allowed him to be the most powerful person in the world – HIS BUSINESS. It will blow your mind how someone so wholly devoid of ethical practices, so corrupt, so inept and so blatant about it scored the highest office in the land. It’s meticulously reported, I have learned more from it than any other politically themed news source since the election, and every episode again will PISS YOU OFF. How dare he, honestly.
So … there is a look-see inside my over-stimulated brain. Let me know (@bethorne on Twitter) if you love these or if you try one of them out. I have other resources and recs as well. Get personal with me and answer this question …
What are your go-to podcasts?