What makes a good podcast? I’ve been pondering this question for the past few weeks ever since I asked The Morning readers to recommend their favorites.
For me, a good podcast is one that makes every ride too short, making a flight in the middle seat bearable. A good podcast takes the hassle out of folding laundry or preparing dinner, and turns waiting in line at the post office into something fun.
I listen to any type of podcast as long as it’s distracting – an interview, a historical summary, a true crime story, two friends chatting. I have a friend who doesn’t listen to podcasts that don’t teach her anything, another who doesn’t go to the “normal people who think themselves hilarious shoot the wind” style.
Readers sent in hundreds of suggestions, many of which I had never heard of. Like “Back from Broken,” an addiction and recovery podcast from Colorado Public Radio, which kept Wynn Jones of Mancos, Colo. company on a cross-country road trip. And “That’s What They Say,” on language, which Chicago-based Steven Hunter labeled as “perhaps the nerdiest podcast out there.”
Here are a lot more to check out:
“Looking for Esther.” A Scottish woman is looking for her biological mother. “As a narrator, she radiates hope, honesty and vulnerability in a way that really touched me,” wrote César González of San Juan, PR.
“Base!” The History of Basic Cable — hosted by Doug Herzog, a former network executive, and Jen Chaney, a TV critic at New York magazine — is recommended by San Francisco-based Amy Black. It features interviews with Cindy Crawford, Jemele Hill, Tim Gunn and others.
“everything is alive.” Interviews with inanimate objects. “The perspectives and stories you get from these objects (voice actors portraying a bar of soap, a lamppost, a subway seat, etc.) are hilarious, thought-provoking and wholesome,” wrote Dana Nelson in Eugene, Oregon. “Perfect for a spring cleaning weekend – episodes are about 20 minutes long and are so uplifting.”
“I was never there.” “A combination of true crime story, cultural history of a 1970s and 1980s West Virginia township, and a compelling mother-daughter story,” wrote Pamela Gray in Santa Barbara, California.
“It’s a clue.” Two sisters talk about Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown and other sleuths from their favorite childhood mysteries. “It just makes me smile,” wrote Jeanette Guinn in Columbia, SC. “Amid Covid, the memory of a simpler time was a balm.”
“Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen.” The search for a con man from the film industry. “I couldn’t stop listening,” wrote Naga Nataka of Pahoa, Hawaii. “The pace, the way people are interwoven, the central mystery that drives the story. A few times I thought, ‘Wait a minute, is this all some kind of mockumentary metanarrative joke?’ It was that weird.”
“Fly on the wall.” David Spade and Dana Carvey interview former ‘Saturday Night Live’ cast members, hosts, writers and others. “It’s hilarious and also really nice to hear the stories about working on SNL,” wrote Karen Gibson in Los Angeles. “There are so many great impersonations and jokes woven together – I laugh quite out loud while listening.”
“My unsung hero.” Michael Vujovich of Washington, Illinois, said it makes him feel good about himself and the world around him. “I always end up smiling, crying, or both, but in the best ways.” If that doesn’t tempt you, check out the show’s official description: “Each episode reveals what the news ignores: Everyday acts of kindness and courage that have changed someone’s life.” Sold.
I saw a theme running through these recommendations: podcasts that offer a break, make people smile, or feel relief. I’d love to hear about the music that does just that for you. Which song just makes you feel better lately? Tell me about it. Provide your name and location, and we can include your entry in an upcoming episode of The Morning.
THE WEEK IN CULTURE
🍿 “Bullet Train” (Friday): I always enjoy Brad Pitt in goofball mode, as he appears to be in this colorful film about a group of killers (including Brian Tyree Henry, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Joey King) aboard a Japanese high-speed train. This one is directed by the stuntman turned director David Leitch, whose work on “John Wick” and “Atomic Blonde” showcases his skill with downcast and dirty hand-to-hand action. Bad Bunny also appears. Benito!
📺 “Reservation Dogs” (Wednesday): This beautiful FX comedy, which premieres this month for its second season, follows four native teens on a reservation in Oklahoma. Co-created by Sterlin Harjo and the nearly ubiquitous Taika Waititi (“Thor: Love and Thunder,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” “Our Flag Means Death”), it was on our 2021 top TV show’s best list. reviewer. He knows what he’s talking about.
🎧 “Renaissance” (available now): Last week I mentioned the new Beyoncé album. And I’m doing it again! It will be one of the biggest talking points this weekend, next week, this month. And since it’s packed with “generally upbeat songs” that hint at “disco, funk, house, techno, bounce and more,” as our pop music reporters write, it could be in charge for the rest of the summer.
RECIPE OF THE WEEK
Is there ever a bad time to bake a batch of classic Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookies? Even in the middle of summer, they’re the ideal chewy cookie, with bittersweet chocolate chips forming melting puddles in the brown sugar dough and a pinch of crunchy sea salt on top. Mr. Torres likes to make the dough a day in advance so that the flavors can meld. But I baked them right after mixing and they’re almost as good – still the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made. I love keeping balls of the dough in my freezer, perfect for popping in the oven (or toaster oven) when a craving strikes. If you don’t have both cake flour and bread flour on hand, you can just use it for all purposes; they will become a little less chewy, but just as deeply chocolatey.
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Full time on the beach: A New Yorker was drawn to the unusual architecture of a Fire Island home.
England vs. Germany, European Championship 2022 women’s final: England’s tradition of international football woes includes the women’s team, which has made it to the semi-finals of the past three major tournaments – two World Cups and the last Euro Cup – but never won. However, in this year’s semi-finals, England not only won, but also had a lot of fun. (Exhibit A: this goal on the heels of Alessia Russo.) Germany, England’s opponent in the final, has won the tournament eight times. Sunday at noon, ESPN.