B.S.

7 Comedy Podcasts to Replace Your Friends

For when your friend Dan isn't as funny as he thinks he is.

A bunch of bored researchers already published the obvious finding that 2019 was one of the loneliest times in human history.

2020 is looking to handily break that record. Considering social media's emphasis on constant human connection, it usually takes hard work and dedication to avoid people at all costs. But now, with over half a million podcasts streaming on Apple alone, we're finally free to go about our daily routines without speaking to another living soul. Still, when the number of available podcasts is bigger than the population of Miami, choosing which hosts should replace your real-life friends is a challenge.

But since your friends were never as funny as they thought they were (DAN Kahan), here are the top seven comedy podcasts you should be listening to:

1."My Favorite Murder"

Exactly Right

MFM is hosted by Karen Kilgariff, a long-time comedian who will always remind you, "Fuck off, I'm almost 50," and Georgia Hardstark, a food blogger who hates on her own vocal fry. The two friends are "lifelong fans of true crime stories telling each other their favorite tales of murder and hearing hometown crime stories from friends and fans." But their natural banter and anecdotes about how worthless their 20s were rank MFM as one of iTunes' top four comedy podcasts.

2. "Last Podcast on the Left"

Actor and comedian Henry Zebrowski co-hosts with fellow comedian Ben Kissel and their nerdy friend Marcus Parks. Last Podcast on the Left covers "all the horrors our world has to offer, both imagined and real, from demons and slashers to cults and serial killers." Tackling the most bizarre conspiracy theories and true crime stories has clearly driven the guys insane, and it's a miracle they can get through one cohesive story.

3. "Armchair Expert with Dax Shepherd"

Armchair Expert

The actor hosts "a podcast that celebrates the messiness of being human." After parodying a love expert on The Ellen Show, Ellen Degeneres praised Shepherd's genuine talent for listening to strangers' problems and giving them sound advice. He launched Armchair Expert from the loft above his garage shortly after; now it ranks near the top of the iTunes chart.

4. "How Did This Get Made?"

Is there ever a good excuse for a terrible movie? Grace and Frankie's June Diane and her husband, Paul Scheer, co-host with Jason Mantzoukas, as they examine how a film can be "so bad it's amazing."

5. "WTF with Marc Maron"

The veteran comedian's weekly podcast has been going strong since 2009. Maron interviews guest-starring comedians and actors about controversies, allegations, and inflammatory current events with the same no-bullshit approach used in his comedy.

6. "The Flop House"

Brooklyn-based hosts Dan McCoy, Stuart Wellington, and Elliot Kaplan also dive deep into bad filmmaking. Every two weeks they select a critical and/or commercial failure to break down how and why it failed. Sometimes they try to explain the debacle with behind the scenes gossip; other times, Dan has no idea what the fuck was happening in the movie.

7. "Why Won't You Date Me"

Comedian Nicole Byer is extremely single and wants to know why. Even though "she's smart, funny, has a fat ass, and loves giving blow jobs," Byer talks about drowning in the dating pool under role-play fetishists and weird penises. Bonus: if you leave her a dirty comment, she might read it on-air.

WIRED

For the few who haven't noticed by scrolling Twitter to the point of agony, the political climate sucks right now.

Partisan politics are pretty much always messy, soul-crushing chaos, but especially these days as the fate of the 2020 presidential election gets closer (but not too close...it's still March, people). Still, during these trying times, what better way to break up the centrist white man narrative than with some female-hosted political podcasts?

Whether you're a full-speed-ahead progressive or a more subtle centrist, there's a podcast to help you feel less alone.

The Electorette

Among the slew of podcasts that spawned from the fateful 2016 election is the Electorette, which features interviews with brilliant female minds—politicians, authors, activists, you name it. What each guest of the semi-anonymous host, Jenn, share is a passion for progressive policy and leading the resistance.

The Electorette Podcast

The Electorette Podcast open.spotify.com

Reply Guys

Julia Claire and Kate Willett are comedians, political activists, and hosts of Reply Guys, a podcast in which they discuss progressive politics with like-minded guests with a healthy dose of filterless humor. If hating billionaires is a hobby of yours, this one's for you.

Reply Guys

Reply Guys open.spotify.com


Pantsuit Politics

Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers host Pantsuit Politics, a bipartisan podcast that values connection and conversations to help us all understand politics a little better. This country isn't going to get any better if we don't learn how to cohesively and calmly discuss it, right?

Pantsuit Politics

Pantsuit Politics open.spotify.com


The Rachel Maddow Show

You know Rachel Maddow for her namesake commentary show on MSNBC, but her liberal hot-takes are available on-the-go in podcast form, too.

The Rachel Maddow Show

The Rachel Maddow Show open.spotify.com

On One With Angela Rye

Angela Rye is a CNN political commentator. Her podcast, On One, searches for honest, nuanced answers to the most important issues in politics, particularly how they pertain to race and pop culture.

On One with Angela Rye

On One with Angela Rye open.spotify.com


Stephanie Miller's Happy Hour Podcast

Hating Donald Trump has never been so uncensored. On Stephanie Miller's Happy Hour Podcast, the original "sexy liberal" talks politics and pop culture with her comical friends over stiff drinks.

Stephanie Miller's Happy Hour Podcast

Stephanie Miller's Happy Hour Podcast open.spotify.com


Hear the Bern

National Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray hosts this podcast about everyone's favorite democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders, featuring discussions with campaign staffers, organizers, activists, regular people, and sometimes even the man himself.

Hear the Bern

Hear the Bern open.spotify.com

CULTURE

5 Creepy Podcasts Perfect for Halloween

Adult Halloween sucks, so why not make it creepy, too?

stmed.net

The hardest part of adult life—other than health insurance, inflation, student loan debt, and imminent climate disaster—is not being able to embrace the full-body terror and joy of Halloween like you could in childhood.

From disturbing PG-rated Nickelodeon cartoons to the good old days before every costume was bastardized with a "sexy" version, Halloween should be the time of year we embrace our inner witch, demon, zombie, or punny Optimus-Amazon-Prime identities.

But you can't. Since Halloween falls on a boring Thursday this year, you'll probably be stuck working or trying to supervise hellish children so they don't die or get kidnapped or whatever. So while you're stuck at the office, or holding a smelly plastic orange pumpkin full of stale chocolate eyeballs, or holding a smelly child's hand while he fills an orange plastic pumpkin with stale chocolate eyeballs, you should listen to these creepy and chilling podcasts. Some are true crime stories, some are urban legends, and some are real-life unexplained events from listeners' traumatic childhoods, but all of them set the mood for the perfect adult Halloween: sleepless, paranoid, and full of f-bombs.


​Jim Harold's Campfire

Jim Harold's Campfire

Thousands of listeners write to Jim to share their eerie and unexplained experiences. Each episode is like an hour-long reading of r/creepy if Reddit were filled with better writers who didn't lie their faces off but claim it's real. Or, think of it like Post Secret postcards except with demons.

TV Lists

7 Worthy True Crime Shows Coming in 2019

The cycle of true crime is moving from podcasts and documentaries to prime time re-enactments.

CBS News

We've entered the next stage of the true crime phenomenon.

While podcasts like Serial fueled the first wave of investigative content and docuseries like Making a Murderer made true crime bingeable, true crime dramas like Dirty John re-enact criminal plots so bizarre they have to be seen to be believed. 2019 will be flush with new podcasts and docuseries, but Netflix, Hulu, and TNT will also take on the challenge of artfully dramatizing real-life crime stories without looking like Lifetime Movie Network rejects.

Here are 7 true crime series worth giving a chance:

1. Conversations with a Killer: Ted Bundy Tapes (Netflix, January 24)

PulpNewsMag

Netflix's upcoming docuseries will feature previously unreleased interviews with Ted Bundy conducted during his time on death row. Mixed with archival footage that traces his criminal rise in the 70s, Conversations with a Killer will be released on the 30th anniversary of Bundy's execution.

2. I Am the Night (TNT, January 28)

IMDB

Chris Pine and director Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) helm this period drama about the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, infamously remembered as the Black Dahlia. While the six-episode series takes plenty of creative liberties, Jenkins was close friends with the real-life figure the series is structured around, Fauna Hodel.

3. The Act (Hulu, March 20)

Just Jared

Oscar and Emmy Award winner Patricia Arquette will star in the debut season of Hulu's true crime anthology series, The Act. Each season is slated to explore one story that shocked the true crime circuit with its bizarre nature. Season 1 will feature the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard (played by Arquette) by her daughter Gypsy and the lifetime of abuse and manipulations that preceded it.

4. Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix, TBA)

JoBlo

The classic 1987 true crime and paranormal series is being revived by the executive producer of Stranger Things. The upcoming 12-part series will re-enact one real unsolved crime or phenomenon in each episode.

5. Interrogation (CBS All Access, TBA)

GoldDerby

Peter Sarsgaard will star in this nonlinear true crime series that spans over 30 years. The 10 episodes are based on real police interrogations about a young man who was charged and convicted of brutally murdering his mother. The network is concealing the name of the real case the series is based on, but the goal of Interrogation is to turn the viewer into a detective as the crime unfolds.

6. Central Park Five (Netflix, TBA)

Awards Watch

Netflix is taking on this infamous case of five black teenagers falsely accused and forced to confess to the rape and assault of a female jogger in 1989. The four-episode series will feature Vera Farmiga as the lead prosecutor and Michael K. Williams and John Leguizamo as two of the boys' fathers.

7. Uncertain Terms (TCPalm podcast, January 2019)

TCPalm

This new true crime podcast tackles the issue of children who are convicted of murder and the adults they become while incarcerated. Specifically, the podcast explores Florida convicts who have grown up in prison and are facing re-sentencing or release, depending on the details of their crimes, how the victims' families feel, and who they've become.


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung.


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Culture Feature

What Good Are Monsters? Why We're Drawn to True Crime

Series like Making a Murderer and Serial place crime in the eye of Millennial culture, transforming true crime into a participatory study of society, our psyches, our fallibility, and our strength.

bl.UK

When Mary Went Missing: What's True Crime?

Mary Rogers was a 19-year-old working at a cigar store in downtown Manhattan, not far from her mother's boarding house, when she didn't come home one Sunday evening. No one realized that Mary was missing until Monday night. The teenager's body was discovered in the Hudson River three days later. She'd been floating near Hoboken with clear signs of sexual assault, ligatures, and strangulation. The perpetrator was never found.

If you're interested in finding out more about the case, you have nearly 180 years of investigation at your disposal. Mary Rogers' murder took place in July 1841. The press coverage that followed set a precedent for high profile crime stories. In particular, Edgar Allan Poe was living in obscurity in Philadelphia when the country was gripped by the story of an undetected predator having brutalized the young girl. When Poe published his fictionalized account of the murder, "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt," he cemented his own literary reputation and defined the American detective story.

Today, we see in the Mary Rogers story the familiar characteristics of true crime media: a victim (usually female) unanimously described as young, attractive, and innocent; the widespread threat of an unknown malefactor hiding among us; and an investigation rife with internal corruption and scandal, perpetuating a cycle of public speculation in the press.

Penny press coverage of Mary RogersAtlas Obscura

In the last 5 to 10 years, the genre of true crime has surged in popularity, but what about the genre keeps audiences captive? From podcasts and Netflix documentaries to true crime books and television series, the last decade has fostered a cultural fascination with our most anarchic and nihilistic impulses towards criminality.

The transformative effects of new media have allowed true crime to catch the eye of Millennials, in particular. Streaming services have bolstered the genre with a deluge of content. When "podcast" was barely a 10-year-old word, This American Life producers released the first true crime podcast Serial in 2014. The series unpacks the multifaceted details of one true crime story per season; to date, it is the second most popular podcast in the U.S, out of more than 525,000 available streams.

Around the same time, Netflix started creating original content and reached binge-worthy status with crime docuseries like Making a Murderer in 2015, followed by hits like The Keepers (2017) and The Staircase (2018). On television, the Discovery channel rebranded its Investigation Discovery (ID) network in 2008 to almost exclusively feature shows recounting stories of kidnapping, stalking, and unsolved disappearances.

True crime podcastsMyAJC

Our media choices are shaped by our environments, but we have agency as consumers to reciprocally shape not just media culture but collective social interests. Sociologically, media consumption is a form of social engagement through which we create and respond to public narratives. With Millennials coming of age with social media, their culture is heavily influenced by the power of public stories. Harvard historian Tim McCarthy argues that a moment's zeitgeist is always shaped by the power of public narrative. Reflecting on the upheavals of the 20th century, he says, "All of these movement moments that changed hearts and minds and moved a nation in the direction of justice have been rooted in storytelling."

In the last decade, media has continued to demonstrate its ability to mobilize and empower individuals with sharper social awareness. The 2010s flooded screens with hashtag movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo, wherein media consumers rejected racial prejudice, spotlit institutional flaws, and demanded agency to change the status quo. If consuming media is a form of social participation, then increased consumer power is increased social empowerment.

Illustration by Ryan InzanaThe Nation

Read the Omens: Crime-solving Media

As a genre, true crime queries the social factors that foster and punish humanity's malefactors. Hosts and narrators examine the upbringing of victims and criminals for damaging social influences, question the quality of the investigation for prejudiced or sexist mishandling, and afterward opine on the integrity of our justice system. True crime audiences are situated in an ongoing conversation about what justice means in modern society, with their media choices acting as their response.

True crime author Harold Schecter expounds that "crime is inseparable from civilization—not an aberration but an integral and even necessary component of our lives." As such, true crime isn't intended to fetishize the perpetrator or the victim. Rather, the genre frames crime as an analysis of the contexts and sources of social violence. True crime audiences pin culpability not only on the criminal, but on the society that created him.

Investigative historian Peter Vronsky interprets our preoccupation with killers as our instinctive concern over monsters—by their truest definition. Vronksy notes that the Latin root monstrum denotes "an omen or warning of the will of the gods."

The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli, 1781, oil paintingDetroit Institute of Art

Vronsky's own work builds from not one but three instances in which he crossed paths with various serial killers on otherwise unremarkable days, including bumping into Richard Cottingham, "The Times Square Torso Ripper," in a midtown hotel lobby while the textbook "sexually sadistic serial murderer" still held the duffle bag containing two heads of his most recent victims.

"I experienced a monstrum," Vronsky reflects, "one not so much bearing omens of the will of the gods, but of us, of ourselves, of our society. I came to see [serial killers] as monstrous, misshapen reflections in a distorted mirror to human civilization."

Moreover, the participatory nature of true crime can occasionally result in a feedback loop between media, public interest, and ongoing investigations that can benefit the outcomes of cases. For example, Michelle McNamara, true crime fan-turned-author, helped stymied investigators finally pinpoint the killer of 13 women, Joseph James DeAngelo. McNamara's independent sleuthing in her book I'll Be Gone in the Dark shed light on DeAngelo as the California spree killer and rapist whom she re-named "The Golden State Killer." Similarly, the producers of HBO's documentary The Jinx may have solved the murders of at least two women after they recorded suspect Robert Durst confessing that he "killed them all, of course" after an interview.

As true crime media proliferates across digital streaming services, the genre serves as more than escapist entertainment, but a participatory study of society, our psyches, our fallibility, and our strength. We're compelled to examine the worst of human impulses – like " fairytales for grown ups," Schecter notes. "There's something in our psyche where we have this need to tell stories about being pursued by monsters."

Enter the Forest: Exposure and Empowerment

By consuming true crime, we subject our most fearsome monsters to close study and deconstruction. Criminology professor Scott Bonn finds that people exhibit "multifaceted and complex" fascination with true crime "because it triggers the most basic and powerful emotion in all of us—fear. As a source of popular culture entertainment, it allows us to experience fear and horror in a controlled environment where the threat is exciting but not real."

Yet adrenaline from simulated danger can still activate our stress responses and give way to cathartic relief. Bonn distills the formula of true crime catharsis: "They initially take you into the forest and scare the hell out of you, but then by the end of it they bring you back out of the forest and you're safe." Utilizing true crime as a limited form of exposure therapy, consumers can exorcise their fears and even confront past traumas through their active and participatory engagement with the genre.

To wit, yes, consumers of true crime are drawn to lurid stories of murder, corruption, and betrayal— but also survival. Studies suggest that fear of falling victim to a crime can actually fuel a healthy desire to examine social violence. In an oft-cited 2010 study in Social Psychology and Personality Science, most true crime fans are women. Amanda Vicary, one of the psychologists who conducted the study, surmised, "One of the reasons women may enjoy crime books and television shows more than men is because women fear being crime victims a lot more than men do."

On average, women are actually less likely to be victims of violent crimes than men (who are four times more likely to fall victim to homicide). Yet women are more vulnerable to specific types of violence. For instance, most male homicide victims are the result of drug or gang conflicts, while 70% of victims killed by a romantic partner are women.

Mary Vincent, survivor of Lawrence Singleton, 1978News.com.au

The study found that women are particularly drawn to stories of victims escaping their attackers or surviving despite extraordinary odds. For example, Mary Vincent received much fan support in the true crime community after appearing in Lifetime network's I Survived and being featured in Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark's My Favorite Murder podcast. Vincent recounted surviving a depraved attack by serial killer Lawrence Singleton when she was hitchhiking in 1978. Singleton sexually assaulted 15 year-old Vincent and severed both of her arms before abandoning her in the wild. Since her remarkable survival, the thriving wife, mother, and artist advocates for teenage assault victims through the Mary Vincent Foundation.

Vicary adds that women extract "potential life-saving knowledge" from true crime stories like Vincent's. In fact, engaging with true crime can transmute anxieties over potential victimhood into sharpened awareness for risk assessment and survival strategies. Vicary notes, "By learning about murders—who is more likely to be a murderer, how do these crimes happen, who are the victims, etc.—people are also learning about ways to prevent becoming a victim themselves."

True Crime Cases, March 1962Pinterest

To that end, true crime audiences respond to social violence by educating themselves about personal safety, coping strategies, and the justice system. Additionally, practicing empathy for the victims—and sometimes even the perpetrators—reframes would-be gratuitous crime stories as tales of survival and empowerment. Author Megan Abbott praises the uplifting effect of crime consumption in her LA Times article, "Why Do We—Women in Particular—Love True Crime Books?" She writes, "It begins as a tale of female victimhood, but in the end it becomes a testament to female intuition and survivor instincts. The script is flipped, and women are weaponized."

Modernity's Monsters: True Crime for Change

Of course, public fascination with death is far from a modern phenomenon. The thrill-seeking impulse to experience secondhand violence has existed from ancient Romans' bloodlust for gladiatorial sport to Victorians flocking to crime scenes to witness the blood smears, steal souvenirs from victims' homes, or purchase broadside pamphlets abridging all but the most dramatic and gruesome details. (Such publications were widely available outside crime scenes in 1850s England prior to the rise of newspapers).

April 3, 1852, broadside pamphlet on the crimes of Daniel GoodDocumentary Tube

Crime stories have always captured reality like negative photographs exposing shadow and delineating light. Schecter proposes, "Criminals can only fulfill their social function if the rest of the world knows exactly what outrages they have committed and how they have been punished—which is to say that what the public really needs and wants is to hear the whole shocking story." If so, then criminality serves the "social function" of reflecting our values, our vulnerabilities, and our capacities to adapt—to forgive, even.

Now, more than ever, we understand monsters as omens—not just warnings, but calls for social change.


Meg Hanson is a Brooklyn-based writer, teacher, and jaywalker. Find Meg at her website and on Twitter @megsoyung


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Food 4 Thot goes live and goes hard

CULTURE | The podcast wraps up its first season with some friends, some drinks, and some trash talk

If you're looking for conversations about rosé, the Homosexual Agenda, and good books, turn your ears to Food 4 Thot.

Self-described as "NPR on poppers," the podcast, which debuted in February, brings weekly discussions on sex, relationships, identity, race, "what we like to read, and who we like to read" from a panel of queer multiracial writers. The "thots" include Indigenous American poet Tommy "Teebs" Pico, homojournalist and Editor at Hello Mr. Fran Tirado, fictionist and current MacDowell Colony Fellow Dennis North II, and scientist and memoirist Joseph Osmundson. In every episode, the gang divides their conversation into fun games (think "Gay Bar or Steakhouse?" and "Six Degrees of the Gay Agenda") and discussions about sex and culture, where topics range from reviews of Zadie Smith's Swing Time to what it means to be a gay scientist.

For their final episode of the first season, the thots hosted the event "Food 4 Thot LIVE" at the Ace Hotel in New York's Flatiron District. The evening was a live recording of the podcast where fans and friends were invited to come along and watch what goes down when the wine, the books, and the mouths of the panelists are opened up. Offering unique merchandise for sale and a bar menu full of customized drinks such as "Dark 'N Horny" and "The Thotini," the evening brought a good time to all — from hardcore fans to couples on nervous first dates. I was likely the only straight person in the audience, and that was a wonderful thing to see.

The panelists sat on stools against a backdrop of old-timey speakers and flickering white tea candles in the dimly-lit basement room, glasses of sparkling wine in hand as they smiled to the crowd. Poet Angel Nafis stepped in for North at the event as he is still working on his fellowship. "I trust that you're all here because you have good taste and because you're all whores," she said to the crowd to start off. The cheers confirmed she was, indeed, correct.

https://food4thotpodcast.com/

On the menu first for the evening was a game of determining which descriptions belonged to actual gay erotica (There's A Cock In This Book is very much a real thing, FYI), with lots of audience participation. Up next, Pico was given the floor to read from his latest collection of poetry, Nature Poem, which the event also acted as a kind of launch party for. Pico's work garnered shouts of approval and understanding from the room as well as even some laughter at times when relaying his thoughts on his casual hookups. To hear Pico read brings his already stellar prose off the page, giving it the fully capacity of life it deserves, something greatly understood and appreciated by the audience.

The panelists then discussed the reading and how the material relates to Pico's previous work in terms of tone, subject matter, and evolution. Discussions about what it means to be "natural" in a world flooded with technology also came up, where panelists unanimously agreed there is nothing fun about camping, unless it involves WiFi and a cabin in the woods.

The "dessert" for the evening involved a debate between Tirado and Nafis in regards to Aziz Ansari's Master of None, and whether or not the second season of the Netflix show was capable of curating content with the same level of thoroughness as the first. Nafis spoke to her frustration on the way certain subject matters were handled, in particular how white audiences are able to react to the discussion of racial tensions when they do not have the same knowledge of the subject as people of color. It spoke to a larger theme in the room for the evening about being given a place to hear your voice heard by people who similar voices, to garner the ability to take control of your own platform.

This is exactly what Food 4 Thot has appeared to do for the queer community at large. It literally puts these voices on a stage and gives them the visibility to say and think however they choose. The success of the live taping proves such, and should encourage listeners from all walks of life to keep on coming back for what I hope will be a second season.

The entire first season of Food 4 Thot is available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and iTunes. The podcast can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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