If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this pandemic, it’s this: I can’t do anything in quiet. I need some sort of audio to keep me going and not only music. I need to hear another person’s voice explaining something in a way better than I can. It just helps me not feel as alone when I’m working, running, or doing nothing.
Thus, while podcast audiences have been shrinking, I’ve actually upped my listening so I don’t feel as alone, which is helpful during a very anxious time. A lot of the world has felt like it’s stopped and since it doesn’t feel like this is going to change for some time, I’ve decided to jot down some of the podcasts that have kept me entertained, informed, and not lonely when the Zoom hangouts are not enough.
The simplest description for this selection: black, queer internet personalities Kid Fury and Crissles can shit talk better than anyone. The varied ways they make fun of Donald Trump, The Real Housewives franchises and really anyone who earns their ire is impressive, mainly because the criticism is intelligent and all-around funny. The two internet-turned-real-life friends have been at this for seven years, providing hilarious criticism of mostly black pop culture and the world around them. As well, they always take the time to uplift black excellence in every form they can find, give more light in these dark days, and provide considerate advice to their listeners on a range of topics from relationships in the dumps to moderating brother-sister arguments. Honestly, even though they have a tv show, Fury and Crissles should pivot to a Rikki Lake-esque talk show because the advice really appears to be that helpful.
I love basketball. I’ve been watching since I was a baby, been going to games since I was a toddler, and missing shots my entire life. It’s inspired my desire to be a writer so that I could continue to be around the game, because no one is paying to see me play, ever. I also love history; it’s why I read so many autobiographies. Dream Team Tapes episodes consist of the actual interview tapes from “retired” Sports Illustrated NBA reporter Jack McCallum who covered Men’s Basketball during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, following the United States’ Men’s team from inception to medal collecting. Originally done for his 2012 book on this team, McCallum and his subjects, from Michael Jordan to Christian Laettner, discuss what it was like trying to get the USA back on top of the international basketball scene. Sprinkled in are stories on the last run of Magic Johnson, and the infamous Monte Carlo practice.
Recommended episode: The Cool Kids All Sign On…But They Don’t Include Isiah — Looking back, the exclusion of Isiah Thomas from the Dream Team reeks of collusion, but peeling back the veneer is not as simple as saying Jordan hated him.
I love a bad movie. Superman III?Terrible, but iconic. Wild Wild West? The dumbest Will Smith film ever made, but it has a nice soundtrack. Green Lantern? Too far, that is just terrible. How Did This Get Made? ponders out loud how movies like these and other, lesser-known films actually got made, riffing and imagining different scenarios for the acting and writing choices featured in the critiqued movies, for fun. Hosted by actors Paul Scheer (Black Monday), June Diane Raphael (Gracie and Frankie), and Jason Mantzoukas (Big Mouth), who know the inner workings of how television and movies get into production and use that knowledge to hyperbole how such artistic endeavors like Little Italy get made. Mantzoukas particularly has a thing for playing wild, out-there characters, but often makes strong points about the decision-making from actors, directors, or producers who try to force non-existent sexual chemistry between characters. Or, he is honestly pointing out the real plot holes that never get answered (for both, look to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets).
Recommended episode: Hobbs & Shaw (featuring Adam Scott & Nicole Byer) — If only for constantly asking who wanted this movie and finding a sort of answer.
Every NBA player has a podcast now. It’s kind of like their entry-level way to get into post-athletic career broadcasting while still playing. Someone should really abandon their draft rankings and catalog and critique those offerings. Nonetheless, the perspective and questions from New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard J.J. Redick and TV producer/writer Tommy Alter are thoughtful and interesting. Alter is more of a fan in this duo, never a professional athlete, but someone with enough curiosity and poignant questions that get everyone to think before answering. The young television producer (The Shop, Desus and Mero) is never out of his depth or truly star-struck, allowing him to get personal with guests, without crossing any lines. Redick is the athlete, but also at one point the most hated college basketball player in America. Now, towards the end of a journeyman’s career built on his three-point shooting, the Duke graduate knows the highs and the lows of being a professional athlete and is well-connected/popular enough to get guests like Carmelo Anthony and Mark Cuban to Stacey Abrams and Andrew Yang. Their frank engagement with guests often just sounds like friends catching up, even when the parties aren’t familiar with one another.
Recommended episode: Episode 17: Grayson Allen — Two of college basketball’s former most hated players catching up on what it was like to play for Coach K and how Twitter would have retired Redick before he even tried for the NBA.
I hate true crime podcasts. I get their appeal: murder-mystery/thriller style stories are full of intrigue. There are so many twists and turns to a simple story. Maybe it’s my hate of hearing and seeing how people die. Scam Goddess fits into the genre but openly flips it. Laci Mosley’s comedic nature gives the idea that this entire podcast is a parody, but she is serious at every turn. As a working actress, Mosley understands the need to be creative in getting the cash together, and as a Black woman, she is well aware of how society tries to take advantage of her work, so why not get as much out of people as you can? Goddess mainly praises scams in a tongue-in-cheek way, while making sure not to ruin the bag for its listeners who write in what they’re doing, in addition to looking back on historic cons with guests like Nicole Byer and Lamorne Morris.
Recommended episode: The Sha*n K*ing episode with Ashley Ray-Harris — Honestly, if you don’t know about King, this is a good place to start your education on the charlatan.