The big news from the world of podcasts last week had nothing to do with any actual audio produced but with leaks about the subject of Serial’s next season. The makers of Serial, like a new celebrity parent pleading for privacy from the paparazzi, responded with a statement neither confirming nor denying the report and asking fellow journalists to give them room while they work on their next season. Regardless of the accuracy of the reports, the news and rapid spread thereof shows that the interest in podcasts continues to grow and podcasting is entering the realm of mainstream entertainment worthy of whispers, rumors and leaks. But why consume yourself with news about a show that hasn’t even started when there was plenty of good podcasting going on last week, including an interview with the man whose show produced Serial as a spinoff: Ira Glass of This American Life.
Longform Podcast: Max Linsky turned the tables on This American Life host Ira Glass, interviewing Glass for last week’s Longform Podcast. For anyone interested in the business of radio and podcasting, this is a great listen. The interview was done in two parts because Linsky, who was clearly a little nervous interviewing Glass, left the first interview without covering a couple of items he wished he had. Through both interviews, Glass talked about the humble beginnings of This American Life and how he pounded the pavement to get his show on the air in its early days. Glass also talked about the tools and methods he uses to create compelling stories for his show, from making sure there’s a driving narrative to not letting his voice get too high when he’s tense. Linsky was also able to get Glass to talk about his impact on radio and podcasting as well as the success of Serial, which Glass noted took only four weeks to reach one million listeners per episode versus the four years it took This American Life to reach the same audience.
Hidden Brain: Fans of Shankar Vedantam from his work as a social science correspondent on NPR were happy with the release of his new podcast last week. The podcast promises to be “a conversation about the unseen patterns in our lives” living in the far regions of our brains. The first episode, which was released last Tuesday, looked at the subject of switchtracking, or our unconscious tendency to derail feedback we receive from another person. The end result of switchtracking is two separate topics of discussion going on at the same time and a fight over which topic is most important. This is a subject to which anyone involved in a relationship can no doubt relate. Vedantam also looked at the importance of ritual, dished out some quick communication advice, and wrapped the show up with a song written about the episode by musician Adam Cole.
Nerdist Writers Panel: Ben Blacker’s guests on last week’s Nerdist Writers Panel were responsible for writing and producing some of the biggest sitcoms of the last 40 years, including All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Modern Family. The all-star guest panel of Norman Lear, Steve Levitan and Phil Rosenthal joined Blacker to talk about their experiences writing as well as directing and producing hit television comedies. Blacker, Levitan and Rosenthal all bowed in acknowledgment to Lear, whose shows broke new ground in their time and made way for the modern sitcom. As Levitan put it, “He changed the face of television and we’re all riding his coattails.” The panel brought a wonderful mix of funny (Rosenthal), practical (Levitan) and philosophical (Lear) reflections on their incredibly successful work, and left Blacker with one question: where does he go from here?
Comedy Bang! Bang!: If The Nerdist Writer’s Panel had a trio of all-star sitcom writers, Comedy Bang! Bang! had a duo of all-star podcast improvisers in Lauren Lapkus and Paul F. Tompkins working together to make one of the funniest podcast episodes of the year. Scott Aukerman started the show with guests Tatiana Maslany and Kristian Bruun, from the cast of Orphan Black. Not long into their conversation, they were joined by syndicated radio show hosts Chazmin and Sunny (played by Tompkins and Lapkus). Tompkins and Lapkus delivered a fantastically funny performance that included a group of characters who will no doubt find their way back to CBB in future episodes.
WTF: Last Monday’s WTF had Marc Maron interviewing his lifelong idol, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. Clearly ecstatic over the opportunity, Maron interviewed Richards in the New York NPR studios sounding more like a fan than an interviewer. The two discussed a lot of rock-n-roll history, not the least of which included the heavy influence of the blues on Richards and the Rolling Stones. By the end of the conversation, Richards had Maron smoking his first cigarette in ten years inside the NPR studios, a perfect culmination of Maron’s interview with the man he credits with getting him into smoking and drinking in the first place.