By Ms. Stephanie Rizas
Many of us find ourselves these days mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram….Finstagram? Is that a thing? Anyway, twiddling around on our phones with no aim seems to be the hot new fad. Why not use that time to listen to a podcast that takes you away from the strange impending doom that seems to be lurking just outside?
1. B!tch Sesh: A Real Housewives Breakdown
When I’m nearing a breakdown, this podcast is what often saves my sanity. Whether you watch the cinematic genius that is the Real Housewives franchise or not, this podcast will have you laughing at the ridiculousness of what “Bravolebrities” are up to. The hosts are Danielle Schnieder, who has been a writer on Always Sunny in Philadelphia among many other comedies, and Casey Wilson, former SNL cast member and current star of the comedy Black Monday. They’re (obviously) pretty good at the comedy game, and host a guest each week to dive into what some might consider television trash and others television gold. Are you a fan of Love is Blind? Don’t worry, they cover that too :)
2. Dolly Parton’s America
I bet you didn’t peg me for a Dolly Parton fan. I don’t exactly meet her target demographic - I’m not from the south or midwest, I don’t really like country music, and I’m a little too young (I’m serious!) to have fallen in love with Dolly in her breakout fame of the 60s and 70s. But….I LOOOOVE her. And this podcast is what led me to discover the woman I now consider Saint Dolly. The podcast begins by looking at a recent Nashville Dolly concert that was packed with both old timers in cowboy boots and hats...and hipsters tweeting out such gems as “SHE’S PLAYING THE EFFING PAN FLUTE!!!” How did the queen of country suddenly become a unifying force among these strikingly different slices of America? The podcast tells the story of Dolly’s career through interviews with former producers, friends, and even the woman herself. The podcast will take you from Dolly’s childhood home (she grew up in Appalachia with eleven siblings in a one room cabin!) to Dollywood and Nashville - it’s an amazing story and I promise you’ll find yourself feeling more hopeful after listening.
3. Endless Thread
I’m not really hip to ‘reddit’ or what exactly that even is...but this podcast essentially dives down a different reddit rabbit hole in every episode. They locate the reddit posters in real life to talk about the information/ideas they shared on reddit and usually end up revealing more than you ever thought possible about topics that began as random thoughts deep in the depths of the internet. I’d recommend starting with a few of my favorites - “The Greatest Squirt Gun Ever Built,” a deep dive on the creation and success of the Super Soaker; “Test of Time,” an episode where the hosts reunite people who had had a love connection at some point (think an elementary school valentines card, a fleeting kiss at a music festival, etc.) to see if their feelings have withstood the test of time; or “I, Ken Bone,” which takes you inside the life and times of that guy who sat behind Hillary Clinton at a townhall in 2016 wearing a very Mr. Rodgers-esque red sweater. You’ll know him when you see him.
4. By the Book
Ever wondered what all those self-help books are actually telling you to do? This podcast does the hard work for you. Each episode follows two hosts as they try to follow a different self-help book very strictly for two weeks. Was any of the advice useful or worth it? They examine that at the end of week two. I really enjoyed the episode on the book “The LIttle Book of Hygge” - I know my Scandanavian students will appreciate this! The self-help book is about trying to cultivate the Danish concept of “hygge” - and I’m still not quite sure what it means. But the hosts trying to ‘live hygge’ end up quite hilariously achieving it in some ways, and failing in others. It’s worth a listen.
5. Slow Burn Season Three: Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G
If you didn’t live through the boom of hip hop in the late 1980s and 90s (and I know you didn’t!) then this podcast is spellbind. The host, Joel Anderson, has been a writer for ESPN and knows how to tell a story from all different angles. He interviews all kinds of high profilers of the 90s hip hop scene and tells the story of the East/West split within the rap community, ultimately building to the untimely deaths of both Tupac and Biggie. What’s more fascinating than the rivalries and murders of these two young men is really how much things have changed - and stayed the same - in terms of the race and power in America.
I could talk about podcasts all day - but these should have you busy for a while. Plug in your air pods or air buds or whatever they are and go for a walk with one of these playing - you won’t be disappointed!
Graphic by Yael Chiappori