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Huffduffed (36)

  1. 1. WTF With Marc Maron, “Louis C.K.” (2010)

    Marc Maron’s two-hour-plus conversation with Louis C.K. is one of the best interviews you’ll ever hear, providing genuine insight into the mind and career of one of the world’s great comics, as well as thoughtful meditations on success, failure, friendship, and fatherhood. On top of all that, this episode, for someone who’s listened to a lot of podcasts, feels almost like a coming-of-age moment for the form. Maron started his podcast at a professional low point, out of a kind of desperation. When he first began recording WTF, he was sneaking into the studios of the radio station that had just fired him (and not for the first time), putting something out into the world via this new independent medium because he wasn’t sure what else to do. And then a following grew. Maron was self-consciously bitter about his professional disappointments, and many of his conversations were with more successful peers; though it wasn’t a stated goal of the podcast, you could detect in the early episodes Maron working out some of his resentments and coming to know himself better through the frequently intense talks with fellow comics. This all came to a head in the episode with C.K., whom Maron had known for more than two decades and who had become widely acknowledged as the best stand-up in the country. When the second part was over, it was clear not only that WTF was a wonderful thing, but that podcasts themselves were a remarkable form.

    —Huffduffed by thedaendy

  2. 2. This American Life, “The Giant Pool of Money” (2008)

    This episode about the 2008 financial crisis was a collaboration between NPR News and This American Life, a weekly public radio show that has become the 800-pound gorilla of podcasting. It spurred, in turn, the creation of Planet Money, an excellent NPR podcast about business and economics. The hourlong episode traces the collapse of the housing market to its earliest roots and is incredible for its ability to make complicated financial topics completely understandable. Wondering about a mortgage-backed security? A collateralized debt obligation? A subprime mortgage? Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson explain all of this with ease. You'll be hard pressed to find a better synopsis of what brought down the economy in 2008 anywhere. —Alison Griswold

    —Huffduffed by thedaendy

  3. 3. Radio Diaries, “Strange Fruit: Voices of a Lynching” (2010)

    This 2010 episode of Radio Diaries was rebroadcast this year after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the ensuing protests. The show uses long-lost historical audio to tell the story of the lynching in Marion, Indiana, that inspired poet Abel Meeropol to write the song “Strange Fruit.” The producers juxtapose voices of the witnesses who stood by while a crowd hanged the black teenagers Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith on Aug. 7, 1930, with a 1994 interview with James Cameron, who barely escaped being the third victim. The host, Joe Richman, makes minimal interventions after setting the initial scene, leaving a historian, those eyewitnesses, and Cameron’s steady voice—“I was pleading for some kind of mercy, looking for a kind face”—to speak for themselves.

    —Huffduffed by thedaendy

  4. 4. Serial, “The Alibi” (2014)

    Have you heard about Serial? It’s pretty good. It’s so good, in fact, that there are podcasts about this podcast—and its success has helped to create momentum for the entire medium. That has happened in part because, by telling a true story over 12 episodes of roughly 45 minutes each, and continuing to report that story as they go, the producers of Serial have created something genuinely new and expanded people’s notions of what podcasts can do. It helps, of course, that the story they’re telling, about the murder of a young woman in Baltimore in 1999 and the questionable conviction of her ex-boyfriend for the crime, is immediately gripping. But more important is the care with which they tell that story, from the reporting, to the music, to the eloquent but conversational narration by host Sarah Koenig. And it’s all there in Episode 1, “The Alibi,” which is now one of the most downloaded podcasts ever made.

    —Huffduffed by thedaendy

  5. 6. 99% Invisible, “The Sound of the Artificial World” (2011)

    Some 99% Invisible episodes make me crave a visual supplement. (What did the lost walled city of Kowloon look like?) But in this episode, Roman Mars’ beloved short-form design podcast asks how sound designers make “organic sounds for inorganic things.” The clicks, sproings, and clatters that sound engineer Jim McKee demonstrates for Mars are the background noise of everyday life for people who use digital devices. The episode singles these sounds out for analysis and deconstructs their origin, a classic 99% approach that works beautifully. You may find yourself looking toward your phone several times during the episode’s five-minute run, thinking you’ve received a text—a weird overlap of podcast and life that makes the episode’s point perfectly.

    —Huffduffed by thedaendy

  6. 7. Radiolab, “Space” (2004)

    Radiolab, like This American Life, is a gateway podcast, hooking listeners with a rich, 13-season back catalog of episodes that stand the test of time. “Space” was one of the first Radiolabs to have been produced during the podcast era, and the episode brings together many of the elements that make people love the show: interviews with a diverse slate of voices, scientists as well as artists and authors; an intriguing soundtrack (“Radiolab space episode music” is a Google search autofill); and, above all, an intelligent probing of the human, emotional aspects of an essential scientific topic. The most indelible part of the episode is the interview with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan. She tells the story of the pair’s collaboration on the “Golden Record” sent with the Voyager probes, a job they started as colleagues and finished as lovers.

    —Huffduffed by thedaendy

  7. 8. The Dead Authors Podcast, “Walt Whitman, Featuring James Adomian” (2013)

    The Dead Authors series, recorded live, features host Paul F. Tompkins—a podcast savant whose own Pod F. Tompkast also threatened to make this list—in the character of H.G. Wells. The conceit of the show is that Wells has whisked deceased favorites to the present day in his time machine. The authors, played by other comedians, submit to interviews, with varying results. James Adomian’s Walt Whitman is the best of the bunch. Never breaking character, Adomian responds to every question from Tompkins’ courtly Wells with a stream of Whitmanic prose. He stays in cadence, sticking with Whitman’s themes, spouting forth grandiose and nonsensical catalogs, only rarely finding himself at a loss for words. It’s a perfectly sideways interpretation of the poet’s signature style.

    —Huffduffed by thedaendy

  8. 9. The Moth, “Franny’s Last Ride” (2009)

    The Moth began organizing live storytelling events in 1997. Eleven years later, they began turning recordings of those stories into podcasts. Few are as heartrending and eloquent as the one told by Mike DeStefano in 2007, which was released as a podcast in 2009. DeStefano, a comedian who died of a heart attack in 2011, talks about his life with Fran, whom he met in rehab when he was trying to kick heroin. Fran was diagnosed with AIDS after they started dating and before they got married. When she was in a hospice, shortly before her death, he bought the Harley-Davidson they’d always wanted and took her on a ride. “I always imagined the wind on a bike making you feel free, you know?” DeStefano says. “It’s so powerful. For 10 minutes we were normal, and that wind just blew all the death off of us. … Nothing I’ll ever do will be that grand.”

    —Huffduffed by thedaendy

  9. 10. Welcome to Night Vale, “Pilot” (2012)

    Choosing a single episode of Welcome to Night Vale is difficult, since one of the show’s greatest strengths is the long-term world-building it’s done over its 57 episodes. Created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, Night Vale is a sprawling fictional series narrated by an unnamed radio host set in a small town located at the hellish nexus of all things sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. What makes the pilot particularly notable, then, is the confidence and certainty with which it presents this world from the very beginning. Jumping straight into such a fully realized, high-concept world of cosmic horror from the word go is no easy feat, but this episode somehow manages it with poise. —Chris Wade

    —Huffduffed by thedaendy

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