Video Killed the Radio Star
For a long time I was addicted to talk radio. I’m not talking about political talk from right and left wing nut jobs that use every trick in the book (except for actual facts, of course) to try and blame the other side for every ailment our society has while taking credit for anything good that is happening. I suppose the best description for this is “guy talk”.
I know the first thing people think of when the here the term “guy talk” in relation to radio is Howard Stern. This couldn’t be further from the truth. My radio was made up of The Junkies, Big O and Dukes, and the Mike O’Meara show. This was my lineup on WJFK, 106.7, in the Washington, D.C. area. Each of the shows are different but they were all a family. The Junkies, originally and currently deemed The Sports Junkies, is four guys from the area that sit around and talk about sports, food, gambling, life, and just about anything else they choose. Big O and Dukes was made up of Oscar Santana and Chad Dukes with the tag line Two guys from two different worlds, or something like that. Oscar Santana was (is) the “high class” member of the duo talking bottle service at the club, extravagant cars, and high tech gadgets. Chad Dukes was (is) the “regular joe” of the duo talking video games, comic books, guns, and beer. The Mike O’Meara show was (is) headed by none other than Mike O’Meara along with Rob Spewak and Buzz Burbank. The Mike O’Meara show would cover any and all topics that the group wished to discuss, ranging from politics to pot smoking.
I loved WJFK. I had it on in my car to and from work. My day would start with the Junkies giving me the rundown on fantasy football (which I enjoy even through I’m not a big football fan) or Lurch’s most recent visit to Bonefish Grill. My day would continue through lunch and the afternoon listening to Big O and Dukes in the office. Oscar and Chad would keep me apprised of the news that I would care about, especially relating to movies and other nerd related gossip. I’d end my day driving home with the Mike O’Meara show hearing about Mike’s love of golf and booze, Rob’s enjoyment of his jukebox and Elvis, and Buzz keeping me up-to-date on news and his ukulele practice.
In July 2009, WJFK flipped its format moving to an all sports talk station. They kept the Junkies, reverting to the original name of the Sports Junkies, added some additional shows, and Chad Dukes teamed up with former NFL player Lavar Arrington for afternoon drive. I stuck with the station for a while since the occasional “lifestyle” segment would creep in but soon I couldn’t take the repetitive nature of sports talk (there is only so much Redskins coverage I can digest). This is not to take anything away from the Sports Junkies or Chad Dukes as they both do a great job and if I was a full on sports fanatic I would certainly be listing to the shows. However, the change of format soon drove me away in search of new listening options.
At first I listened exclusively to National Public Radio through my local station 88.5 WAMU. I really enjoyed the Saturday morning shows of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me and Car Talk. Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me is the weekly NPR news quiz that recaps the big news stories of the week with the help of a panel of comedians and humorists. Car Talk, as you may have guessed, is a show about car repair. I couldn’t care less about car repair but the Tappit Brothers are very entertaining while dishing out vehicle-centric advice. I even listed to A Prairie Home Companion to find out what was happening in Lake Wobegon but I felt I needed more. These few shows were entertaining but the weekly lineup felt exactly like the sports station, just replaying sports with politics. I was bored with radio.
It was at this point that I learned about podcasts. I’m sure nearly everyone is familiar with a podcast but here is a brief description for those of you are not. A podcast is a radio broadcast made for and disseminated via the internet to be consumed by the listener on-demand. “Pod” is from the originally intended consumption medium, an iPod, and “cast” from the word “broadcast”.
Podcasting was brought to my attention during one of my drives home from work listening to Lavar and Dukes. Chad Dukes was sharing with the sports radio audience that his previous radio show, Big O and Dukes, would live on in the form of a weekly podcast. I was estatic because Big O and Dukes had been my favorite radio show seeing as the hosts were in my age range and shared many of my interests. I downloaded the first show and every weekly show for years giving me my weekly fix. But I needed more.
Oscar Santana of the Big O and Dukes show had teamed up with Mike O’Meara to revive The Mike O’Meara Show as a daily radio show and podcast. Now I had a daily show to listen to for an hour each day and didn’t have to only wait for the weekly Big O and Dukes. Still an hour a day plus another hour weekly wasn’t enough to meet my entertainment needs so I continued to explore. That is when I came across what should have been the most obvious location for my personality, Smodcast.
I am a massive fan of the work of Kevin Smith. The first Kevin Smith film I ever saw was Mallrats thanks to my good friend and hetero-lifemate (get it), Joe Loyacano. I enjoyed it so much that I started to consume everything Kevin Smith. I, obviously, went backwards and watched his first movie, Clerks. I own the books he has written. I own the comics he has worked on. I even received some help for the now famous Ming Chen (star of TVs Comic Book Men and webmaster for all things Kevin Smith) to procure tickets to a film festival in Red Bank, NJ called Vulgarthon where I got to meet the man himself and see a screening of Clerks 2 before it hit theaters. You would think that with my man-crush on Kevin Smith I would have come across Smodcast sooner but, you know, I do have some semblance of a life.
Smodcast started as an excuse for Kevin Smith to get together with his friend and longtime production partner, Scott Mosier, and talk about their lives, the news, entertainment, movies, and anything else they find interesting. Smodcast grew from a two man show to an entire network with more than 20 shows to choose. The Smodcast network has grown to represent what I love about podcasts. As Scott Mosier says in many an advertisement on the Smodcast network, “There’s so many to choose from!”
That is the beauty of podcasting. There is something for everyone and every interest. This is a short list of the podcasts I currently listen to just to give you an idea of the variety of shows available as well as how deep in minutiae podcasts can dig:
- Nerdist: This is my newest obsession. Hosted by Chris Hardwick who, if you are a child of MTv in the ‘90s, you will remember as the host of the terrible dating show Singled Out with first Jenny McCarthy and then Carmen Electra. As it turns out this guy is a nerd of the highest level (that is indeed a complement). The Nerdist podcasts is primarily and interview/conversation with a celebrity that range from a Sir Paul McCartney to a Mr. Ralph Garman. I love this show because of Hardwick’s disarming style that the show is a conversation, not an interview, so you can get lots of insights into the work of actors and musicians; finding out a lot about how an artist may work and not just the project of the week. If this is a show you want to get into I suggest you start with the show featuring Shirley Manson, lead singer of the band Garbage. She is not at all what you would expect and the interview is fascinating. Nerdist.com.
- James Bonding: I love James Bond. I’ve seen nearly all the 007 flicks. I’ve read many, but not all, of the 007 books and short stories by Ian Fleming and even some of the other authors that have tackled a Bond book. Well, the hosts of James Bonding, Matt Gourley and Matt Mira, have seen more and no more about James Bond than I could ever hope. This podcast is exactly what it says, two guys bonding over James Bond. Most episodes play as a commentary track to the movie they are watching with other shows mixed in to discuss developments in the James Bond world, such as the trailer that has been released for the latest 007 flick Spectre. The Matts are joined each week by a guest host to add color and comments to the movie of the moment. Guests have included Greg Proops, Paul F. Tompkins, and Emily Gordon. If you are a fan of Britain’s greatest spy then you will love James Bonding. Nerdist.com/podcasts/james-bonding-channel
- Fatman on Batman: Kevin Smith, of Smodcast fame, hosts this podcast that began as a podcasts centered around interviews of people that have been involved in the evolution of Batman. The show has turned into an all-inclusive nerd news show with co-host Marc Bernardin that covers any and all news that may be in the “nerd” universe, Batman centric or not. The show includes reports for the latest comicons, reviews of movie trailers (comic related or not), and any other pop culture news that the hosts want to discuss. If you love watching the latest movie trailers and are in love with comic book movies (and based upon the box office totals you are) then you will enjoy Fatman on Batman. smodcast.com/channels/fatman-on-batman
- Hollywood Babble-On: Another Kevin Smith joint, Hollywood Babble-On provides a weekly recap of the latest pop culture news. Hosted by the aforementioned Ralph Garman, famous (or infamous) radio personality from KROQ in LA (if you don’t know the name look him up kids, because he is a talented dude), Hollywood Babble-On provides all the news you need from Hollyweird. Segments of the show include Geek News (clearly the most creative title), Hollywood Stiffs (celebrating the careers of those celebrities that passed away), Hollywood Helpers (celebrating those famous folks who get out of the way of their own ego to help others) and How Big is Liam Neeson’s Cock (exploring the size of Liam Neeson’s ample groin. I promise this is funny). If you like shows like Entertainment Tonight or magazines like People but you want the same news in an entertaining way, then you should check out Hollywood Babble-On. Smodcast.com/channels/Hollywood-babble-on
The beauty of podcasting is that there is something for everyone. At this point I want to point out that I have written 1,869 words without mentioning what has become the most famous podcast on the planet, Serial. Serial is a podcast that explores a nonfiction story over multiple episodes and is probably most responsible for bringing the concept of podcasting into the mainstream more than any other podcast. Rizzo was obsessed with Serial. She couldn’t wait for the next episode and would listen intently, as did most of the world. I personally couldn’t get into Serial. I listened to the first episode but wasn’t interested.
That just goes to show you that there is a podcast for everyone. If you are interested in fantasy sports, there is a podcast for that (one of my coworkers if forever listening to fantasy football podcasts). If you are into geek culture and being a nerd, there are lots of podcasts for that (see above). If you want to catch up on the news, NPR has a long list of podcasts for you. If you want a podcast that watches every episode of the show Frasier and analyzes the humor and writing of the show, there is a podcast for you (I’m not kidding, I can give you the link). Whatever your interest or desire, there is a podcast just for you so just go out there and find it. You won’t be disappointed.
P.S. Even if you are disappointed with your first venturing into podcast don’t worry, there are more. There are always more. Some a good, high quality shows with professionals at the helm (Kevin Smith, Chris Hardwick, Mike O’Meara, Oscar Santana, Chad Dukes, Adam Carolla) and others a low quality shows produced by kids in the basement of their parent’s house. That is the beauty of a podcast. Just keep searching. You will find something you enjoy.