Fifteen podcasts I liked in 2018

Christian Patterson
2018-01-06
Underground Mall

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I listen to a ton of podcasts. I listen to podcasts on the bus to and from work. At both my current job, and my past job, I have/had the opportunity to listen to podcasts a lot. So, I probably listen to 5 or so hours of podcasts on an average day.

In this post, I won’t highlight podcasts that penetrate the mainstream and are more widely known. Also, I much prefer podcasts in a more talk show format, so that’s what all of these shows are like. And finally, the first half of the list are more political podcasts, and the latter half are about other things.

So here they are:

Media Roots Radio

I’m starting with this one because it’s probably my favorite podcast I discovered this year. I have been a fan of host Abby Martin for a long time, and she hosts this podcast with her brother Robbie Martin.

One thing I personally like about this podcast is I grew up and lived almost all of my life on the west coast. I always knew I had a very west coast mindset, mentality, etc. Now, I live on the east coast, and when I moved here, I noticed my west coast tendencies much more than I ever did. When I went back home for Christmas, I felt instantly at home with an intensity I never anticipated.

The reason I say this is because the way they talk about politics, and the way they talk in general, gives me a little bit of that feeling. Maybe it’s how often Abby Martin gets worked up and is like “Dude, are you fucking kidding me?” in a way that people in Philadelphia don’t usually talk when they’re worked up. It’s hard to explain, but I like it.

More broadly though, I really like this podcast for a lot of reasons. I like how its the only explicitly and primarily anti-Imperialist podcast I know of. I like how they unequivocally oppose the U.S. Empire. I like how they don’t dwell on electoral politics, and how they don’t devolve into sectarianism.

I also like how they have a variety of different styles of episodes, and they’re all strong. Some episodes are Abby and Robbie getting indignant (while staying very analytical and informative) about different current events, interview segments, deep dives into specific things (like their episode on the documentary ‘The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes’), and audio documentary style content (like their episode on the Anthrax mail attack).

Overall, I can’t recommend this podcast enough, and consider Abby Martin a huge inspiration, and Robbie is becoming one too.

49th Parahell

This podcast is hosted by Rob Rousseau, who I’ve followed on twitter for awhile now, and I greatly enjoy the way he trolls conservatives with ease. This is actually one of the VERY few podcasts I can remember starting to listen to from the very first episode.

A lot of the guests are top notch. A lot of them are in the media sphere, but just enough on the periphery I’ve never heard of them, and get exposed to their writing.

I also like it because, even though it tends to be more of an American political podcast, Rousseau is Canadian, and often goes into Canadian politics as well, having some episodes primarily about Canadian politics, as well as contextualizing American politics against Canadian politics.

Having Rousseau be Canadian adds a unique perspective on American politics. In one sense, he is “outside” the political system, which gives him certain insights Americans may not have, while at the same time, being more informed about American politics than most Americans.

Majority Report with Sam Seder

Sam Seder was the guy who got kicked off of MSNBC by right-wing rapist Mike Cernovich for an old tweet mocking Roman Polanski supporters, which was mistaken as earnest.

Overall, it’s a good podcast if you want a lot of content. It’s released five days a week. He has a two hour version if you’re a subscriber. You can subscribe online, and he’s mentioned on the show that people can become members even if they can’t afford it, although I haven’t tried, so I’m not sure if that’s universally true.

The regular podcast is still five days a week though, but usually about an hour. He talks about politics from a “progressive” perspective. In other words, he is pretty liberal in principles in ways that I’m not, but he almost never punches to his left, and his main political project seems to be moving the democrats left, so I can accept some of his more liberal tendencies. My political goal isn’t moving the Democrats to the left, and although I see it as mostly a lost cause, I respect that people are trying.

He also has a guest on the free version of almost every episode. The guests tend to be journalists and academics, giving fairly streamlined, but informative interviews. They tend to be niche topics, so even though the interviews can occasionally be short, dull, or surface-level, you still will get something from them.

Also, video clips from the “fun half” (what he calls the membership half of each episode) are uploaded to his youtube, so if you don’t want to listen to a bulky, daily podcast, you can always watch clips online.

Michael Brooks Show

Michael Brooks is the most vocal cohost on the Majority Report, and will host the Majority Report when Sam Seder is not there.

Michael Brooks also hosts his own show, which tends to feel looser in format. It’s more like a conventional podcast whereas Majority Report is more like conventional progressive radio. Michael Brooks also tends to appeal to a younger audience, for those same differences.

In terms of his politics, Michael Brooks is a Democratic Socialist. Now, I rarely describe people that way, because I think most people who use that label, especially in an American context, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie, would more accurately be called social democrats. Democratic socialists are socialists who want a revolution done by parliamentary or senatorial means, a social democrat is someone who wants to institute more social programs within a capitalist framework.

However, Michael Brooks really does have a lot of radical elements in his ideology, while still being interested in electoral politics. So I think Democratic Socialist is an accurate representation of the show’s tone and approach. There’s a lot of focus on labor issues, especially in an international context on this show, which is nice.

Antifada

This show is also related to Majority Report, because one of the hosts, Jamie Peck, is a co-host on Majority Report, and the other host is named Sean KB. Of the three Majority Report connected podcasts listed (there’s another one called “LIterary Hangover” I haven’t listened to), this is the most explicit in its political stances. They’re very clear about being libertarian socialist.

This has some upsides and downsides. One downside is, since they’re more explicitly engrained in far leftism, they tend to dabble in sectarianism. I might be a hypocrite though, because if they were more Marxist, I might not be as put off by sectarianism (they may even consider themselves Marxists, but that’s deemphasized). An example is one episode where they read a document from a Maoist faction in Florida with plans to wage a protracted people’s war against the US.

The document was funny, but they acknowledged several times how it had to be fake, and before it was on the show, it was floating around the internet with people immediately identifying it was fake. I don’t want to criticize them too much for making fun of the document, because it was funny. But I think it’d be a lot more funny and interesting to make fun of the document as a counterfeit, ie, assuming it’s fake, rather than assuming it’s real.

I had to get that gripe off my chest, but all in all, I do highly recommend this podcast. Despite my gripes about sectarianism, part of it is a gripe out of familiarity. I’m exposed to a lot of sectarianism in leftist discourse, so it also indicates that they talk about politics in a way that’s very familiar. They talk about politics from an orientation that feels natural to my understanding of the world. They’re knowledgeable and analytical, and can be very funny.

Jimmy Dore Show

Jimmy Dore Show isn’t an especially deep political show. Jimmy Dore doesn’t have remarkable ideas about politics. For example, he often suggests a third-party system, which I don’t see as a politically viable option (I briefly wrote a little more about third parties here).

But, I like and recommend this show, because he’s probably the closest thing to a left-wing version of a right-wing radio host. Sure, there’s plenty of center-left Democrats who operate in a polemical way the way right-wing radio hosts do, like Pod Save America. But Jimmy Dore is hypercritical of the entire spectrum of American politics, from a left perspective.

In other words, it’s not a particularly deep podcast, but it’s a good example of left-wing righteous indignation. I like to listen to it when I get really pissed of at how poorly Democrats fight for us. Also, there’s a lot of cheeky, irreverent jokes at the expense of Democrats and Republicans.

Struggle Session

This is mostly a pop culture analysis podcast, but it does get into politics and does have a leftist perspective. I don’t find it as interesting when they talk straight politics, but they’re very skilled at analyzing pop culture, and it definitely helps that that analysis is often rooted in a leftist perspective.

Some of their analysis about specific pieces of media is a little hit-or-miss, mostly because they are fans of the things they talk about and it feels like friends gushing about something they like or don’t like. This works better when it’s a piece of media you are familiar with though, as you may imagine.

Where this podcast shines the most though, is they’re all knowledgeable about the minutiae of contemporary Hollywood and the entertainment industry. They have very good insights into how the entertainment industry will likely evolve. This is where the podcast shines.

Rob has a Podcast

Rob has a podcast is a podcast about reality tv. They do coverage on many many shows, with the main show they cover being Survivor, because the Rob from the title is Rob Cesternino, from the sixth and eight seasons of Survivor.

However, I don’t listen to their Survivor coverage, because I don’t really watch the show (although I do know someone who was on it and watched that season!). I do watch Big Brother though, and listen heavily to their Big Brother coverage.

The three main people who host their Big Brother podcasts are Taryn Armstrong, who does their daily live feed updates. He has a very strong analytical mind for the game, and as far as I’m concerned, is doing very important pop culture preservation work, because he truly has created a documented audio archive of every day of Big Brother since he was hired. The other two hosts are Brent Wolgamott (who, funny enough, was the prostitute in the documentary The Staircase) who is the fun and bratty host who tells it like it is, and Melissa Deni, who I see as the audience conduit, because although she’s just as knowledgeable about the show as the others, brings a more layman perspective.

Also, Rob Cesternino, mentioned earlier, is present for many of the podcasts as well, mainly in a moderator role. This last summer for Big Brother 20 also had a weekly show hosted on the platform with Eric Stein, from Big Brother 8, who is very funny, and this show was a good highlight.

Overall, this show covers a very specific niche interest in a very in-depth way. It’s very worth listening to if you watch Big Brother, not worth it if you don’t.

Giant Bombcast / Beastcast

Giantbomb.com has two many podcasts: the Giant Bombcast and Giant Beastcast. The Giant Bombcast is the “main” one, and has existed much longer, but for practical purposes, they’re both the same show with the same format, but different casts.

Funny enough, the Giant Bombcast is the first podcast I listened to. When I was in high school, I would get video game news from 1up.com, which, at the time, was similar to Giantbomb, because it focused on individual staff members’ taste and perspectives. That way, you can contextualize reviews and analysis based on your knowledge of that person’s taste. Also at the time, Patrick Klepek who wrote for 1up was now with the Bombcast.

The format of both shows is basically: they open with small-talk, devoting about ten minutes to non-game stuff. Then, all the hosts take turns talking about what games they’ve played that week. They then go into some video game news, then go into a section where they take fan mail. Both shows probably devote 60%-70% of the time talking about video games specifically, which is great for me, as someone who A) likes personalities talking about amusing stuff and B) can’t handle nerds talking strictly about video games for too long.

Overall, I think the Beastcast, the podcast by their New York office, matches my sensibilities a little more than Bombcast. The cast on Beastcast is a bit more eccentric: the host is Vinny, who’s a cliche New York area dad; Dan, who got married at a Taco Bell and loves pro wrestling; Alex, who is kind of the wet blanket; Abby, who is the girl, and probably the funniest one (at least deliberately funny); and Jeff Bakalar, who technically works for the website CNET, and occupies their “permanent guest chair”. Jeff Bakalar is a great touch because everyone else on the cast constantly makes fun of him, especially for things like reviewing refrigerators with calculators in them for a job, and yet, he’s the closest thing to a straight man the podcast has.

Cheap Heat

This is a pro wrestling podcast with a winding history. Originally, the hosts were radio DJ Peter Rosenberg and wrestling journalist David Shoemaker. Eventually, they added a fact checker, Stat Guy Greg, who would chime in from time to time and offer corrections at the end. Eventually, Shoemaker left (more on that later), and Rosenberg and Greg had rotating hosts, before eventually settling on Brian Campbell, now of CBS Sports, who cohosted for about a year.

Now, it’s just Rosenberg and Stat Guy Greg, and since the other hosts tended to be the propellor to keep the show on track of the weekly wrestling happenings, the show has become a lot more loose in format. At first I didn’t like the change, but they’ve settled into it. Stat Guy Greg’s growth from Stat Guy to genuine cohost has been great to watch, as he’s much more comfortable on the mic now.

But now that they’ve grown into their new, laid back approach, it allows the show to have the freedom to talk about wrestling culture generally, and refer back to more things in wrestling past, where many wrestling podcasts tend to be focused on recent events (excluding “Something to Wrestle With”, which isn’t on this list, but is still very good).

Masked Man Show

This is David Shoemaker’s wrestling podcast after he left Masked Man Show. It features a rotating chair for guest host, although there’s a lot of repeats guest hosts so you begin to recognize them. A common guest was Dave Schilling, so much so that he seemed to occupy the permanent rotating chair, but he hasn’t been on it in awhile. Comedian Dan St. Germain is often a guest host too. Sometimes, it’s just Shoemaker and the “heel producer Jim”, who otherwise only chimes in to say they’re low on time.

I will say, David Shoemaker and Peter Rosenberg had amazing chemistry, and both of their podcasts suffer slightly for them no longer working together. But they’re still in the same orbit, and occasionally reference each other, including having mini-feuds.

But one upside of their shows splitting up, is now Masked Man Show can be the show that’s more of a deep dive into this week in wrestling, and Cheap Heat can keep its looser format. And Shoemaker is still one of the best analysts when it comes to pro wrestling.

Angry Chicken / Value Town

I play the computer game Hearthstone sometimes (which I wrote about here). It’s a digital card game, and I really like it. These are two Hearthstone podcasts, which I don’t have much to say about, but thought I’d mention them, since I do listen to them.

Angry Chicken is a little more casual focused, and Value Town tends to be more of deep dive with people who are closer to pro level. Angry Chicken tends to have a nerdiness to it that doesn’t really match my way of thinking, but what do you expect for a digital card game podcast?

Who Weekly

I only listen to this podcast when they talk about people I’m familiar with on it, but the premise and execution of Who Weekly is good enough that I wanted to mention it. The podcast is about marginal celebrities who are famous on the internet, desperate for fame, newly famous in a trendy way, etc.

I think it’s a great podcast even if you don’t care about celebrity culture because it’s very elucidating a very specific niche of capitalism, with a unique way that capitalist culture manifests. For example, there’s a lot of talk about sponcon (sponsored content), that is not only a new development in celebrity marketing, but already has a system of cultural mores around it. The show gives an insight into ways capitalism is changing in the context of celebrities.


I hope you found some new podcasts to enjoy from this list!

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