Today’s Gratitude Exercise:
While collectively alternating between spells of panic, paranoia, dread, and delirium, it’s important to thank Mother Wi-Fi for the media bounty our generation has at its collective fingertips. Amen.
It is impossible to avoid the—mostly dire—news about the coronavirus, or to escape the reality that our reality, for now, is summed up in two words: STAY HOME.
How best to spend the time? How about lounging on the couch—or going for a walk—with a podcast playing to distract you? Here, some suggestions from some of our most beloved local podcasters.
Great podcasts for your quarantine
AUTHOR; HOST, COMMITTED
Heavyweight, by longtime This American Life producer Jonathan Goldstein brings comic relief and resolution to other people’s regrets.
Terrible, Thanks for Asking, by my friend Norah McInerney curates real, complicated, beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking stories that will make you laugh and cry, often at the same time.
Hitman is a much overlooked true crime drama.
Forever 35 is the perfect podcast for beauty junkies looking for a little self care and a big dose of friendship right now.
Naughty But Nice, by gossip columnist, talk show host and former celebrity publicist Rob Shuter, delivers the only celebrity gossip you need in a day to feel like you know things without feeling gross.
HOST AND PRODUCER, PHILLY WHO?
My Daily Philly Podcast: The Why on WHYY. Annette John-Hall and Shai Ben-Yaacov—two of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and insanely talented audio journalists—dive deep into a current Philly news story every day. I sat in on a day of producing the show, and I still can’t understand how they crank out such quality stories every single day.
Philly Art Meets Philly Current Events: Streets Dept Podcast by Conrad Benner (See Conrad’s picks below!) Conrad is a photoblogger, activist and great interviewer. He seamlessly combines art and current events with a Philly flair. Funny story: Last January, Conrad and I completely accidentally released episodes in the same week with the same guest, Philadelphia City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart. My episode is a deep-dive into the story of her unlikely election to City Controller in 2017, and Conrad’s picks up right where we left off and talks about her priorities and actions as City Controller since 2018. We couldn’t have coordinated a better one-two punch if we tried.
For Philly Entrepreneurs/Side Hustlers: Ideas Elevated by Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs. Produced and occasionally hosted by yours truly, this show features conversations with Danielle Cohn, Luke Butler, and the many founders, venture capitalists and thought leaders that come through LIFT Labs in the new Comcast Technology Center. Each episode leaves the listener with a concrete takeaway that can help them with their business or company.
A Sports Podcast For When There’s No Sports: Why Sports Matter, by Religion of Sports. Each episode tells a moving story of how sports have impacted lives in profound ways, proving that they’re more than just a game. The show’s producer, Adam Schlossman, is based in Philly, and season two is coming later this year.
Stories that Make Me Believe in True Love: Committed, by Jo Piazza. (See Jo’s picks above!) A Philly author and podcaster, Jo tells stories of couples who have made it through seemingly impossible circumstances, yet still want to wake up next to each other the next day. Will make couples quarantine feel like a breeze! Definitely have tissues close by, some of them are tear-jerkers.
A Show That Makes Work Not Suck: Work Life, by Adam Grant/TED. Penn professor Adam Grant uses each episode to dive into a piece of American work culture that can and should be improved. He does the best job I’ve heard of distilling psychology research into intuitive, actionable tips and tricks. In the podcasting sub-genre of authors who have invaded from print-land (read: Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, Cal Fussman), this one is my favorite.
As it happens, podcasts are a really big part of my life right now. I have lots of favorites! But I’ll talk about three right here:
Do By Friday is a weekly podcast hosted by three friends (Alex Cox and Max Tempkin, who both work for Cards Against Humanity, and author/productivity nerd Merlin Mann) and it’s only vaguely formatted—mostly they talk about current events, politics, their lives, etc.—but for the “challenge” aspect of the show: Each week, the three will have each completed a personal challenge agreed upon the week before. One week it might be “watch Picard”; another week, they all swabbed their doorknobs and work spaces and had a microbiologist analyze the results. There was one week where they all had to sous vide their shoes. It is the greatest podcast and I feel like these people are my friends. I love them.
Akimbo. I am the last person in the world who would ever read a book about marketing or self-help, and I have had such a historically bad reaction to Ted Talk hoo-hah that for years, I was convinced that they were all secret Scientology recruitment tools. However: Seth Godin has this remarkable way of talking about “the big picture”—your work, your life, the world around you, how to be good, etc. —that I find as reliable as I do, say, Rob Brenzny’s horoscopes, which I have been taking in since the 1990s. (Reader, that’s *my* kind of hoo-hah.) Anyway, that Godin does this in a one-man-one-mic podcast, on this both intimate and universal level, is a marvel.
BBC iPlayer Radio App is technically not a podcast, I know, but rather an unbelievable trove of its own radio history, probably the best radio news in the world, home to some of the world’s greatest DJ’s, and yes, they make podcasts too. In fact, they’ve been making them for 97 years, from the radio dramas they still make to one of my faves, Alexei Sayle’s Imaginary Sandwich Bar, which I have listened to in its entirety and still can’t tell you what it’s about, only that I adore it. But this app is where I go, daily, for something, and I always get it.
PROFESSOR, WHARTON; HOST, WORKLIFE
Here are some of my favorites:
Invisibilia: The NPR podcast by journalists Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin explores “ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.”
The TED Interview: Chris Anderson, TED’s leader, lets us in on conversations with some of the most interesting people on the planet.
Cautionary Tales with Tim Harford: Come, focus on what we can all learn from errors…
How’s Work? with Esther Perel: The relationship guru applies her lens to the workplace.
The Shrink Next Door: People aren’t always who, or what, they seem.
The Next Big Idea: Host Rufus Griscom dives deeply into game-changing ideas.
The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish: Fascinating guests explore topics to help you live better.
Next Question with Katie Couric: Couric explores current events, pop culture, and more.
HOST, STREETS DEPT.
Mindscape by Sean Carroll. I’m rarely happier or more excited than when, (1) I’m learning, or (2) I’m thinking big-picture. Sean Carroll’s Mindscape podcast offers deep dives into the theory of quantum physics, inequity and capitalism, consciences, and countless more ideas from science, society, philosophy, culture, and the arts. Each episode features an expert guest whose work Sean expertly researches allowing for conversations that feel easy yet filled with information!
KELLY CROCE SORG AND AURORA ARCHER
Here’s what we are loving right now:
1619, by the New York Times, is a necessary look at the effects of slavery from the foundation of the USA to present day.
Seeing White on Scene on Radio is a must-listen 13-part series breaking down the social construct of whiteness.
Good Ancestor with Layla Saad is a curated cast of antiracism educators and influencers interviewed by bestselling author, educator and speaker Layla Saad.
AUDIO ENGINEER, CITIZENCAST
Today, Explained by Sean Ramerswaram: The format for this excellent news daily is similar to The Daily by the New York Times, Post Reports by The Washington Post and What Next by Slate. Ramerswaram is an instantly likeable host and is able to walk listeners through complicated issues in the headlines. It’s well produced and the newest addition to my daily news lineup.
Bundyville, hosted by Leah Sottile: I was living in Las Vegas during Cliven Bundy and his family’s standoff with the federal government over cattle grazing rights in 2014. I remember the images on local TV of armed fanatics staring down scopes of AR-15s at federal agents. It seemed surreal and absolutely nutty. Little did I know those images just scratched the surface of the truly bizarre cult that lies behind the Bundy family—a cult rooted in an obscure interpretation of Mormonism and Manifest Destiny. The second season of this excellent audio series is out now, but I highly recommend starting at the beginning.
The Frontline Dispatch: Frontline, the acclaimed television documentary series, actually releases an audio track of each episode, which is fantastic, but Dispatch—an award-winning podcast “spin-off”—is created from the ground up with audio in mind. It is a brilliant example of documentary journalism made to be experienced through sound. Don’t miss it.
Escape From Planet Death: This 10-episode series is a little gem that won’t take long to gobble up (each episode is about 12 minutes long). It’s a parody and loving homage to the B-movie sci-fi genre of pre-Corona days (far pre-Corona days). This fully produced radio play is a treat to listen to and a welcome distraction from the heavier news around us. And hey, it stars Kyle Mooney from SNL and Louie Anderson. Tune in to hear how NASA engineers using advanced algebra tried to prevent the collapse of Earth’s crust overburdened by the weight of human overpopulation. Or something like that…
Cold, hosted by Dave Cawley: This true-crime series about the vanishing of Susan Powell in 2009 breaks just about every rule when it comes to podcast length. There are 18 episodes, each an hour long. And yet! It’s absolutely engrossing. Cawley burrows himself into obscure aspects of this cold case that positively stunned the West in its heartbreaking final scenes. Normally I steer away from podcasts that go this long, but Cold locks onto you and doesn’t let go until you’ve lived and died in its twisted worldview.