Arts & Life

In praise of the podcast

There’s a new form of entertainment making the rounds, and its popularity continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Many of you have probably heard of it, others are most likely big fans and maybe some of you have yet to discover it – the podcast. Yes, the medium has been around for a while, but over the last year it has really picked up steam, especially in the comedy world. I first became aware of the comedy podcast phenomenon after reading a Tweet from one of my favourite comedy writers, Sara Schaefer.

Back in 2008 I began reading a comedy blog called Best Week Ever (sadly it is now defunct). Sara was a blogger there and she was brilliant. I loved her writing – it was smart, witty and made me laugh. Her blog posts quickly became my go-to Internet reading material. She stopped writing for that blog in 2009 and began writing for the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon blog, where she was for a couple of years. In 2011, after I had spent too much time clicking around Twitter (you know how that goes), I came across one of her tweets, which directed me to a new episode of her podcast. I immediately wanted to listen, and was intrigued by the very notion of two ladies just shootin’ the breeze for anyone to hear.

Her podcast, titled You Had To Be There, which she hosts with fellow comedian Nikki Glaser, became an instant favourite of mine. Here I found two women, close to my age, talking openly and honestly about everything – not just comedy, but really personal stuff like relationships, sex, disappointments, fears, body image and so on. It was electrifying to hear them talk, unafraid of what the people listening might think. Their podcast has become such a hit that they’ve landed a late night T.V. show on MTV (The Nikki and Sara Show), which will begin airing in January. Their story is an excellent example of how important and groundbreaking podcasting is. Start a podcast with your friend in her apartment, sign a contract for a T.V. show – does it get any better than that?

Nikki and Sara’s podcast led me to discover many more podcasts – WTF with Marc Maron, Last Week on Earth with Ben Gleib, You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes, Walking the Room and the list goes on. Podcasts have quickly become very important to me; they are a way to fill my home and my head with voices other than my own during the long, isolating days of working from home (being a freelancer is great, but it is lonely work).

More importantly, these podcasts have taught me things I never anticipated. At their core, they are all about human interaction – people conversing with one another on a very personal level. It is truly amazing what you can learn by listening to another person’s life story. In so many ways we are all the same. We all strive for success in whatever it is we choose to do. We all have struggles, deal with failure and loss and celebrate triumph. We all crave friendship, relationships and love. Podcasts have made it easier for me to relate to others, and be more patient with my friends and loved ones because I have learned that at our core we all want the same thing – to feel accepted, loved and heard.

Before all of these podcasts came into my life, I hadn’t been too aware of the stand-up comedy scene. Now I’m glad I know more about it, because stand-up comedy is fascinating. Since being introduced to this world I’ve made an effort to go to more comedy shows (even attending one at the famed Comedy Cellar in New York City). I have so much respect for people who get up on a stage and try to make people laugh. I also have immense respect for people who create podcasts, which are a stage of a different sort, and put themselves out there for anyone in the world to hear. This whole podcast immersion that I’ve been in lately has shown me that good stand-up comedians are some of the smartest people in the world. They are keen observers, who take every day happenings and turn them into something funny and often profound.

Another, more recent podcast discovery, is the Stuff You Should Know podcast. This offshoot from the How Stuff Works website (and documentary television series on the Discovery Channel), is intended to give insight and knowledge into the way many things in our world work. So far I’ve learned how Subway stations work (I’ve always wondered how they built it under New York City), how Alcatraz works, how lightning works and, in one of my favourite episodes, how black holes work. I feel smarter already. While this podcast isn’t based in comedy, the hosts do a good job of keeping the atmosphere light and silly while teaching their listeners about fascinating topics. In keeping with the other podcasts, I think this one is a hit because humans are curious and we possess a continual desire to understand the world around us.

If you have an interest in comedy, or just want to learn how Alcatraz works (which is totally fascinating) you can find any of the podcasts I’ve mentioned here in iTunes – just search for them by name. Happy listening, and happy learning.


Krista Wiebe is a freelance writer and editor based in Calgary, Alberta. Follow her on Twitter @KristaWiebe.

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