By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 5, 2016
Moments after publishing Thursday’s post about my favorite podcasts, I realized that I’d accidentally forgotten to include the newest addition to my podcasting stable, Retail Nightmares. I also realized that I’d neglected to include two honorable mention podcasts. I hereby present an appreciation of Retail Nightmares and a complete list of honorable mentions.
Retail Nightmares, co-ghosted by Alicia Tobin and Jessica Delisle. Each week, these two Vancouver comedians and “co-ghosts” talk to a comic or otherwise creative/artistic guest about unpleasant (but often amusing) experiences they’ve had either working in or patronizing a restaurant or retail shop. Tobin is one of my favorite guests on the Vancouver-based show Stop Podcasting Yourself, discussed yesterday, and I’m very glad I decided to begin listening to her podcast, which launched in July 2015. At the moment, Retail Nightmares has two recurring segments in which each person in the studio discusses her “Worst Present Ever from a Family Member” (straightforward enough) and her “Puppo of the Week” (also straightforward, except the puppo can be any person or animal that the hosts and/or guest finds adorable). It can be a bit challenging to distinguish Tobin’s voice from Delisle’s at first, but stick with it — the duo has a delightful rapport with each other and with their guests.
Honorable Mention — here are podcasts to which I used to listen regularly.
Fresh Air, hosted by Terry Gross. This is the excellent nationally syndicated National Public Radio interview show. It’s great stuff, but the show demands a lot more attention than my typical comedy or even sports podcast fare, and I found having five new episodes to listen to each week a bit daunting. This is the only podcast I’ve ever listened to regularly that was repurposed — that is, its material appears on the radio before then being repackaged into a podcast feed.
Serial, hosted by Sarah Koenig. I hate to go with the crowd, but the truth is, I have nothing original to add to all the things that have been written about this ground-breaking podcast: The first season, investigating whether a Baltimore teen was wrongly convicted for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfirend, was riveting; the second season, about the Taliban’s capture of Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl, much less so. As with Fresh Air, this podcast makes serious demands upon one’s attention, a major reason why I put it aside.
Risk!, hosted by Kevin Allison. Risk! is a weekly story-telling podcast. In many ways, it’s comparable to other story-telling shows, such as The Moth and its many local spawn or the public radio show This American Life, except Allison and his tale-spinners are wholly unbound by societal or regulatory guidelines on what should and should not be discussed in public. Guests have discussed all manner of misadventures, including explicit talk about sexuality and drug use. The stories are sometimes hysterical and at other times deeply moving. I stopped listening to Risk! for two reasons: One, sometimes the boundary-pushing topics would make me want to do a spit-take in public as I listened on my laptop, and two, this podcast also at times demands a lot of attention.
International Waters, hosted by Dave Holmes. Twice a month, two American comedians are pitted against two British comedians in a pop-culture battle royale to determine which nation is the best in the world. Heavy on wackiness and improvisation and light on rules, International Waters is a fun way to find out just how crazy America sometimes looks to its staunchest ally — and just how crazy it can seem to us.
NFL Rants & Raves, hosted by Steven Miranda. This podcast, one of the first that I ever discovered, is a sort of pro-football analogue to The Solid Verbal. Miranda is an enthusiastic, knowledgable and engaging follower of the National Football League, but I enjoyed the show more when Miranda co-hosted it with his brother-in-law, Jeff Ellis.
Sklarboro Country, hosted by Randy and Jason Sklar. The hosts, twin actor-comedians, have a ravenous appetite for sports, pop culture and wacky news stories. They now release two shows a week on the same feed: Sklarboro Country, which has a sports focus, and Sklarboro County, which focuses on wacky news that lacks a sports tie-in. They’re joined by an actor or comedian on each episode, while fellow comedian Daniel Van Kirk serves as co-host and newsreader when the Sklars make their forays into the County.