I love podcasts, but I’m not a “subscriber.” I have lots of go-to shows I listen to frequently, but I’ve never fully embraced the subscribe-listen-to-every-episode lifestyle. But I’ve been thinking about why some of these shows seem to have such an enormous following (and cultural effect.)

It seems to me that the best podcasts are the ones that reflect, rather than predict. We listen and love podcasts when they remind us of something in our own lives or reflect our own experience. This is evident in three or four of my go-to shows.

NERDIST – The Nerdist podcast seems to have cracked the code of creating amazing interviews with newsmakers of all kinds…by avoiding promotion. Listen to how many episodes of Nerdist (featuring some famous person promoting something) spend the entire show talking about everything except the thing that needs promotion. Chris Hardwick has figured out that no matter how famous the person, he or she just wants to talk. And we want to listen. The culture is tired of some star spending their full five minutes on late-night tv bragging on their newest project. In fact, most of us much more likely to buy those goods after getting to know that person. As a person.

WTF w/ MARC MARON – Maron is grumpy and crass and angry. I’m sure that’s a draw for some, but I think the beauty of WTF is found when Marc brings in someone he doesn’t know. They don’t sound like interviews; they sound like we’re eavesdropping on Marc meeting someone at a party for the first time. There’s a newness and a sense of discovery that’s contagious. I’d much rather listen to Marc make friends with somebody new than hear him rehash old hurts with former enemies.

COMEDY BANG BANG – I don’t follow the Comedy Bang Bang universe very closely. (It’s massive!) But I love hearing a show where friends goof off for an hour. We’ve all been there: those late night hang outs where the jokes get weirder and more inside and the laughter gets better and better. To be fair, the people on Comedy Bang Bang are geniuses when it comes to improvisation and performance, but there’s nothing more enjoyable than hearing funny people who like each other make each other laugh without any sort of plan or rehearsal.


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