‘Tis the season for family gatherings. Unfortunately, such events can lead to tension of various kinds. Whether it’s family members taking sporting events too seriously, relatives having too much to drink, or political arguments, sometimes during the holiday season you want to tune it all out. On the other hand, even with the happiest of families, you still need some alone time. With all that in mind, what’s a way to unwind for some personal time? By listening to a podcast.
Here are some suggestions for podcasts to listen to when you need time to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of family gatherings. These podcasts aren’t necessarily Christmasy, but they’ll provide you with a lot of information and a lot of entertainment. Whether you’re looking for conversations to comfort you when dealing with your conservative cousins or tales of classic Hollywood, these podcasts will give you a lot of enjoyment, even as some of them cover unpleasant topics. With most of the podcasts I discuss in this article, I’ve linked to either favorite episodes of the show, or episodes with connections to talents I myself have interviewed.
To start off with, there’s Behind The Bastards. Hosted by journalist Robert Evans, not to be confused with the late film producer of the same name, Behind The Bastards is a podcast known for multi-part deep-dives into some of the most repulsive people to walk the planet. A wide array of people and organizations, and the effects of their behavior, are covered in this podcast. From entertainment industry scumbags like Harvey Weinstein and R. Kelly to callous and cold-hearted political figures like Roy Cohn and Roger Stone to dictators like Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Haiti’s Duvaliers, they’re all covered by Robert Evans and his guests as an example of how one must laugh to keep themselves from crying.
On a lighter note, we now come to The Devil’s Music with Pleasant Gehman. Pleasant Gehman is a former interview subject and a current friend of mine, but even if we didn’t know each other, I would recommend checking out this podcast anyway. Among the many hats that Pleasant wears, and wears well, is that of the journalist, and The Devil’s Music is an excellent extension of her wonderful writing skills. In every episode, she has in-depth conversations with entertainers of all kinds. Whether they’re musical contemporaries like Belinda Carlisle and Jane Wiedlin or comedians like Margaret Cho, Dana Gould and Paul Reubens, listening to an episode of The Devil’s Music is like listening in on a conversation with people who have lived the kinds of lives you only wish you could live.
Next up in our podcast parade is The Dollop. Hosted by Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds, this podcast is also a historical podcast, but they talk about the occasional good people and events as well as the bad on both fronts. The duo’s skills in improvisational comedy help make distressing topics easier to sit through, and they do cover a lot of distressing topics. For example, their 300th and 400th episodes covered two US presidents in two parts. The 300th episode covered Donald Trump, while Patton Oswalt joined Dave and Gareth for the 400th episode, which covered Ronald Reagan. Although I love the pop culture of the 80s, I can’t say I like either Trump or Reagan, and hearing the two men’s lives being eviscerated is, again, a perfect example of the previously mentioned idea that one must laugh to keep from crying.
From world history to show business history, we now come to Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast. Hosted by comedian Gilbert Gottfried, whom I met at the Chiller Theatre convention a few years back as shown in this article’s cover photo, and another Facebook friend of mine, writer/producer Frank Santopadre, I came across this podcast about a year or so into its’ long run, and I’ve been a fan ever since. We’ve interviewed some of the same people, like Dee Wallace, Sandy Helberg and Bruce Vilanch, but Gilbert and Frank have also landed interviews with names I could only dream about. Although the episodes are almost always hilarious, Gilbert and Frank occasionally discuss more serious matters with their guests as well. For example, the episode they did with New York media personality Sonny Fox, the host of Wonderama, went into some tear-inducing territory with his recollections of being a P.O.W in World War II. No matter what stories the guests have for Gilbert and Frank, you’ll learn a lot of fascinating stories along the way, as well as some intriguing rumors about people like Cesar Romero, Danny Thomas and Milton Berle.
Staying in the show business history vein, and fusing it with the true crime genre, we now come to Hollywood Crime Scene. This podcast is hosted by longtime friends Rachel Fisher and Desi Jedeikin. Whether it’s through their own research or with the help of books, Rachel and Desi share their takes on some of the most famous and infamous entertainers in history, as well as criminals with connections to the entertainment industry. While most of the topics are only covered once, some episodes are two-parters while my personal favorite episode, one that covers The Cotton Club Murders, is actually a four-parter. Rachel and Desi utilize their own experiences in and/or adjacent to the entertainment industry to offer personal notes, reflections and the occasional joke as well. I always like hearing podcasts where the hosts offer their own experiences in relation to the stories being told, the main reason being that it can make it easier for you to relate to the subject as well, even if you don’t have a connection to the entertainment industry.
Moving along, we now come to a limited run podcast entitled In God We Lust. Spun off from Even The Rich, that podcast’s hosts, Brooke Siffrinn and Aricia Skidmore-Williams, take on the tale of the religious sleazes known as Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife Becki. As a lover of 80s adult films, I enjoyed the movie The Final Taboo, a movie about sleazy, cheating religious figures. The Jerry Falwell Jr. saga was like a real-life version of that movie, only without the good-looking and impeccably made-up and dressed-until-the-sex people. The way I see it, it doesn’t matter what you believe in, and it doesn’t matter if you believe in anything or not. You should just try to be a kind person, regardless, but Falwell Jr. was not a kind person, and this podcast is perfect to drown out the words of the people around you who believe in Republican Jesus.
Switching gears, we now come to the first of two podcasts about looking at poorly reviewed albums. We start with Jukebox Zeroes, hosted by Massachusetts musicians Lilz Martin and Patrick Barry. I can’t recall how I first came across this podcast, but I think it might have been through reading about it on TV Tropes. Either way, Lilz and Patrick do a fantastic job of discussing albums that aren’t exactly looked upon fondly. Although the duo and their guests are often able to find at least one good song on the albums they review, they’re at their best when reviewing the bizarre or the irredeemable. The two-parter on Corey Feldman’s Angelic 2 The Core is an excellent example of reviewing the bizarre, while the episode on Nostalgia Critic’s The Wall is a genius example of taking on the irredeemable.
Side note: I saw an excerpt of the recent interview Doug Walker did with Double Toasted, and while he is a good sport about the criticism that Nostalgia Critic’s The Wall received, in my opinion, he still doesn’t get why people are upset with the review. You can’t spend an entire episode making uninformed, hypocritical and unfunny jabs at both the album and the movie of The Wall, and then expect people to believe you when you say, at the end of the episode, “I liked it fine”. Nobody who listened to the lyrics of the parodies could honestly believe that.
Let’s return to the podcast parade, and more specifically, the second of two podcasts looking at poorly reviewed albums. Make It Stop: A Bad Music Podcast is another Massachusetts-based podcast, this one hosted by musicians Heather Mack and Mike Dunn. Although Jukebox Zeroes and Make It Stop have reviewed some of the same albums, and have crossed over a few times, most notably with a hilarious review of Hulk Rules by Hulk Hogan and the Wrestling Boot Traveling Band, Make It Stop does some things differently. For example, every Spring they do a March Badness tournament pitting poorly-received albums against each other, and occasionally they’ll do worst-of episodes where they discuss acclaimed artists, like Prince and David Bowie, and their not-so-acclaimed material.
I have the occasional disagreement with both of these podcasts. For example, I like The Monkees’ Pool It better than Jukebox Zeroes did, and I don’t get why Make It Stop, as well as many other outlets, think so lowly of David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s version of Dancing In The Streets. Still, though, the hosts of both Jukebox Zeroes and Make It Stop provide excellent reasoning for why they feel the way they do about albums of various kinds. Since this is the holiday season, I would recommend checking out Jukebox Zeroes’ Christmas music episodes and Make It Stop’s takes on Afroman’s A Colt 45 Xmas and Duck Dynasty’s Duck The Halls.
Moving into the world of adult entertainment, we now arrive at The Rialto Report. Created by Ashley West, another Facebook friend of mine, and hosted by West and April Hall, The Rialto Report is an intriguing series of stories from the Golden Age Of Adult Film as told by the stars and directors who made the era so memorable. We’ve also interviewed some of the same people, like GingerLynn and Michelle Maren, but they’ve gotten in touch with all sorts of names you would be surpised about. Whether it’s finding out that Kathy Harcourt, supposedly murdered in the early 80s, is still alive, or finding the whereabouts of F.M Bradley, one of the first black performers to make it big (pardon the pun) in adult film, you’re guaranteed to learn something new about an industry that deserves more credit than it’s gotten in the past. The Rialto Report does an amazing job of showing respect to these talents.
Wrapping up this podcast parade, we now arrive at You Must Remember This. Created and hosted by Karina Longworth, every season a topic in entertainment industry history is discussed over the course of multiple episodes. Karina and her team do amazing work in telling the stories of multiple eras of Hollywood. From Louis B. Mayer’s reign at MGM to the Hollywood Blacklist to the Manson family, every season utilizes one major story to tell many smaller ones that all connect to create portraits of Hollywood that will shock and surprise you. The show is currently doing a season-long look at Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin, and I’m eager to see what Karina and her crew will be looking at in the seasons to come.
These are 10 podcasts I like. All opinions, whether related to podcasts or politics, are my own. I’m sure you have your own favorites as well. If you do, feel free to leave a comment below with your favorite podcasts to listen to. I’m always eager to see what appeals to you, the faithful readers. By the way, keep an eye out for upcoming interviews I’ll be doing with Oscar-winning sound designer Mark A. Mangini and actor Gabe Jarrett, who has credits going back to the 1980s, my favorite decade for pop culture