I’m a huge fan of podcasts. They’re (mostly) free, feature content that mainstream media would never touch and range from “polished and professional” to “fresh from mom’s basement”. It’s a really exciting time for content creators, the tools of production are cheaper than they’ve ever been, and distributing the finished product is easer than ever. At some point I’ll do a rant on the rise of social media, Web 2.0 and the democratization of content, but for now, let’s talk reviews and recommendations.
Here’s a list of my Top 10 podcasts. This list consists of shows that are only available as podcasts, NPR rebroadcasts, etc don’t count.
1. The Totally Rad Show (weekly, video and audio)
In my humble opinion this is the best pop-culture/geek review and preview show out there. Three guys (Alex Albrecht of Diggnation and Ex-Tech TV alum, Jeff Cannata, actor and Dan Trachtenberg, director) review Movies, Games, TV, Comics and anything else that pops up. With regular segments like “Dan Becomes A Man” and one of the best intros to Geocaching ever, it’s a fun run through everything geek
(weekly, audio only)
The SGU is a co-production of the New England Skeptic’s Society and Skepchick.com and it’s probably the most popular science/skepticism show on the web right now. Hosted by Dr. Steven Novella and his group of skeptical rogues (Steve Novella, Bob Novella, Evan Bernstein and the 1st and greatest Skepchick, Rebecca Watson) it’s your weekly round-table run down of scientific and pseudoscientific news. Funny, irreverent and knowledgable, it’s a must listen. It usually features an interview with some of the shining lights of the skeptical movement as well as science newsmakers and even true-believers. Don’t miss it!
3. The Bugle
(weekly, audio only)
The Daily Show’s John Oliver and his friend from back home Andy Zaltzman take a scathingly sarcastic and stunningly satirical look back at the week’s news. Imagine the Daily Show if it paid attention to the rest of the world. Tied with YLNT as the top source of my “laughing out loud in public for no apparent reason” moments.
(sporadic, audio only)
“A Journal of Emotional hygiene” and the absolute best thing to come out of Twitter, no question . Merlin Man, Adam Lisagor and Scott Simpson get together and brainstorm business ideas both ridiculous and sublime. Seemingly random topics are used as launching points for conversations that end up in territory such as “Baby Butlers”. Simply put, it’s three very smart, very funny guys trying to one-up each other with stream-of-consciousness weirdness masquerading as a serious conversation. This is one of the few podcasts where I would recommend, nay, demand going back and listening to the entire run.
5. Scam School (weekly, video only)
The podcast that introduced the world (and myself) to Brian Brushwood. This pointy-haired wizard of the bar-room bet teaches you no-lose propositions that can get you a free beer, stunts that will get you stunned stares and tricks that just might impress someone enough to get you the elusive “phone number”. Basically, it’s how to do real world, kick-ass magic tricks for the non-magician. On top of all that, Brian is just a really cool guy if you ever get the chance to see his show, DO IT and tell Mr. Happypants that Dezrah sent you.
6. iFanboy (weekly audio with occasional video)
a.k.a. The podcast I curse because it got me back into comics. Ron Richards, Josh Flanagan and Connor Kilpatrick review the week’s comics and each week they take turns with the unenviable task of choosing which book will be the “Pick of The Week”. The guys know their stuff, and discuss the craft and structure under the surface of the comics as well as spoiling the hell out of the plots. Funny, snarky and passionate about the medium, it’s like the comic conversations you have with your friends, except these guys are actually fun to listen to.
7. iTricks Magic Week In Review (weekly, audio only)
(Full disclosure, I’m an assistant and weekly contributor to the iTricks.com parent site) iTricks is probably the premiere magic-based podcast right now. Justin Robert Young reviews the week’s magic news with the help of a guest magician/co-host every week. You get the perspective of working pros on some of the hottest issues in magic, while avoiding the simple Q+A of a straight-up interview. Barring the return of Go Magic Go, this is the must listen podcast for magicians.
8. Buzz Out Loud (daily, audio w/ live video broadcast)
Tech news, headlines and rants from the best tech reporters in the business. Tom Merrit, Molly Wood, Jason Howell, Natalie Delconte, Brian Cooley, Rafe Needleman, and more tell us what’s going on and try to sift through the FUD. I listen every single day, it’s perfect commute listening, and keeps me up-to-date on gadgets, gizmos, and the vagaries of patent law.
9. This Week In Tech (weekly, audio w/ live video broadcast)
Leo LaPorte of Tech TV fame has gone insane. Part of the insanity is building his own $10,000 recording and live broadcasting studio and hosting over 30 hours of live content a week on the TWIT network. The flagship show is This Week In Tech, where Leo, other Tech TV alumni dissect the week’s news and use their years of experience to parse the press releases. Entertaining, but very free-form and not for those who are afraid of rat-holes.
10. Reasonable Doubts Where the SGU turns a skeptical eye on pseudoscience and the paranormal, the folks at Reasonable Doubts aim all of their considerable knowledge and critical thinking skills at the heart of religion. It’s the best casual introduction to in-depth counter-apologetics available without a prescription. Personally, I think it’s mandatory listening for anyone with an interest in religion, no matter what your beliefs are. All three hosts are ex-Christians, with an impressive amount of religious education to draw from. They know their stuff. Great to listen to because they’re challenging without being dismissive or insulting. (Usually 😉
11. Point of Inquiry (weekly, audio only)
Yet another “must listen” for anyone on any side of “the culture wars”. This podcast is sponsored and hosted by the Center for Inquiry, the parent organization for groups like Center for Scientific Inquiry (once known as C.S.I.C.O.P.), the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion and the Council for Secular Humanism. The host D.J. Grothe (apostate, activist, mentalist and all-around interesting person on his own accord) interviews some of the most intriguing, controversial and thought-provoking guests imaginable. He asks tough yet respectful questions of everyone, no matter whether he agrees with them or not. I can absolutely guarantee that you will find something thought-provoking in every single episode .
12. Film Riot (weekly, video only)
I just started watching this a few weeks ago, and I’m in love. It’s another show from the geniuses at Revision 3. (Scam School and The Totally Rad Show are also Rev3 productions) Put simply, it’s a “how-to” show on video effects and movie-making for DIY directors. It covers practical effects and digital effects, both done on the cheap. A typical episode is full of vignettes and skits that use the effects described in the how-to portions. Aside from all the great information, it’s FREAKING HILARIOUS!!! Now be warned, the guys’ tastes run a little more to the extreme side of things, so it’s not exactly kid safe, but if you want to know how to smash in your friend’s skull with a toolbox on-screen, this is the place to go.
That’s a good start, but really it’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as free podcasting content goes. I’m into tech, magic, religion and pop-culture geekery, so that’s my list, but there are literally podcasts for ANYTHING you can think of from knitting to kinking. Explore and enjoy!