Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Learn to Listen

My Ten Favorite Talk Radio Programs/Podcasts

I don't think there's any entertainment medium that allows you to become more a member of community than talk radio. The best shows blossom only after months of listening b/c it's only then that you get the inside jokes, the tossed-off references, and the rhythms of the host or co-hosts. And once you get to that point, you can enjoy a bad show b/c you're not really listening to be entertained (that's a fortunate and, hopefully, frequent by-product); you're listening for a sense of comfort and place. This is a phenomenon that extends to other media, however; many a tv show I've watched religiously not b/c I particularly enjoyed it, but just b/c I got sucked in. Clearly, not all of the shows below allow this b/c some are too format driven. However, even with someone like Warren Olney of Which Way, L.A.?, I feel like I know him better than I do people I actually talk to on a daily basis.

I love talk radio and wish I could be a talk radio host, but I screw up too much when I talk. I also wish I could listen more often, but work gets in the way. How I loved those August days when I could lie on the couch and act like it was 1957.

(10) The Art Laboe Connection - This is less a talk show and more a show where the congenial but uncharismatic titular host fields listeners' song requests. It seems like most of the callers are Hispanic, and a lot of the requests are for unremarkable love songs from the past 25 years. It's hard not to wonder if the party to whom the song is dedicated is listening at that very moment. I think it would be awesome if someone dedicated a Gerald Levert song to me. Check it out.

(9) Which Way, L.A.? - Warren Olney's local political talk show is what all political talk shows should aspire to be. Knowledgeable guests, stern tone, compassionate nuances, and frustratingly unpartisan. Check it out.

(8) Pardon the Interruption - This is a TV show but I've podcasted it for the better part of two years now, and often listen to it while falling asleep. I love Michael Wilbon and the fact that he cares about the NBA. Tony Kornheiser has turned into (always been?) a killjoy (is it that hard to smile on camera on Monday Night Football?). I think I'm the only person who likes when Dan LeBatard fills in. I may be the only person I know who genuinely likes this show. Check it out.

(7) The Loose Cannons - This is a perfect example of a show I don't particularly like (in fact, I think I dislike it) but I listen to all the time. Considering the limitations of each host, it's a wonder they get 4 hours a day out of these guys. Someone once mentioned that if you combined Hartman, Vic, and MT you'd have a pretty great talk show host, but you'd still have 2/3 of a person predicting that the Lakers are gonna win 75 games. Check it out.

(6) Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me - I've cooled on Wait, Wait, but I still have a fondness for it. I'm just more inclined to accidentally tune-in to it on the radio than listen to the podcast. I read panelist Adam Felber's novel "Schrodinger's Ball" this summer, and it, like the show, was nerdy and mildly arrogant. It was pretty good. Check it out.

(5) Sound Opinions - Now, I know why I like this show theoretically: I like music and it's a talk show about music. But if this show were in print, it would be no better than Rolling Stone or another irrelevant magazine. But I like disagreeing with them, and I really enjoy when they review albums by artists I know I should know something about but am totally unfamiliar with (Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers, etc . . .). Educational. I listen to this on Sunday Nights when I walk to La Salsa for dinner. Check it out.

(4) The Kevin & Bean Show - Yeah, it can be frustratingly low brow (lesbians? really?) and the commercials are endless and the Incubus/Foo Fighters/Offspring shuffle is terrible at 7am, but I've listened to this show first thing in the morning since the mid-'90s, and they still have gold moments. Ralph is fantastically funny, Psycho Mike's a good addition (even if his parodies are a mixed bag, minus the K-Fed ones which are always pretty good), Bean is great and weird, and Kevin is even growing on me after these 15 years. I really wish they'd ditch Omar. Check it out.

(3) The V Show - I rarely listen to this show for more than 5 minutes; it's on Fridays and Saturdays from 10pm - 2am, so it's usually on when I fall asleep. I think the host is Jimmy V's brother, and he just seems like the nicest guy ever. The theme is a version of a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy song and he's got some really antiquated drops that he throws in on ocassion (boos, applause, rim shots). Very charming and perfect for falling asleep. He talks about the horses ocassionally. Check it out.

(2) The Petros & Money Show - What a show, man. It's weird; these guys talk too much, even for a talk show - it's exhausting. Petros has that rare ingredient that other sports talk show hosts don't have: experience on the gridiron. This show is like the polar opposite of that douchebag Colin Cowherd's show. Good music talk, surprisingly obscure cultural references (I called in and talked about the New Bomb Turks and Guided By Voices on the air once), no tortured analogies or references to management theories. Check it out.

(1) The Best Show on WFMU - still the tops. 3 hours a week, every week. It's hard to decide what I like more: the interplay b/w Tom and his fans or Tom and the denizens of the fictional New Jersey town Newbridge. The show doesn't throw any lifelines to new listeners. You just have to jump in and start piecing it all together on your own. It demands your patience and rewards your investment. Check it out.


michelle mcmahon said...

Wow, Paul, you are so right about talk radio. I listen to it because it makes me feel peaceful and connected. I think one of the reasons for me it's so comforting is because it reminds me of sitting in the back of my grandpa's Volvo staring out the window at birch trees and red-painted barns for the 4-hour drive from Stockholm to Mora, listening to Swedish talk radio. I think I spent 100s of hours of my childhood that way...

Sarah Luppen said...

I listen to Which Way LA every day. Hopefully, I'm listening in the car on my way home. Typically, I'm listening in my office. Regardless, I love the show. I wouldn't have had any idea how to vote re bullet trains and chickens had it not been for their coverage.

Thomas McMahon IV said...

I've never liked talk radio or TV programs -- in fact, I think they can be pretty aggravating -- but this makes me feel like I should give them another shot. The Best Show would probably be a good place to start. That bit you directed me to about Brian Wilson's Pleasure Island was hilarious.

Adam said...

I too have neer really been a big fan of talk radio. I went from tapes to a Discman plugged in via tapedeck, to an iPod plugged in via tapedeck and rarely look back. I did briefly get into some shows on The Ticket, sports radio in Dallas, but they talked a lot more about the Sopranos than sports, so i could relate. That was probably the only time I was really into talk radio.

I do however frequently listen to Art Laboe, though I'm not sure if I consider it talk radio. I am fascinated by that show though. How do these people know the songs they're requesting? It's usually a 15 yr. old hispanic girl dedicating a little-known Gap Band jam. What??

Also, what ethnicity is Art Laboe? I can't decide.

Paul said...

I agree that Art Laboe may not be talk radio, but I feel like his show has a familiar and unique personality like that of a talk radio show.

Apparently he's been around since the '50s. The real deal he is.

Anonymous said...

Fine, Paul....leave me I merely number 11 to you now? Bitch.


Daniel D said...

Paul, you forgot to pay tribute to the PTI theme song “Shear Your Locks” by Asphalt.

Paul said...

I remember reading on the Matador message board that they tried to license "Cut Your Hair" but it fell through or something. Truthfully, that stock "indie rock in the vein of Pavement" song they play is pretty great.

Korea, career.

Colin McCormick said...

Maybe you wouldn't classify it as talk radio, but I'd just like to point out that This American Life is a fantastic program.

Paul said...

Yeah, This American Life is pretty extraordinary, and I would certainly call it talk radio. For some reason, though, I've never been converted to regular listenership.

Ricky said...

Paul - Have you ever listened to "Coast to Coast" with George Noory on KFI in the evenings (10pm to 2am)? It's such a strange show b/c they're talking about UFOs, alien abductions, government conspiracies, alternative medical treatments, etc...

I think most of it is completely wacky and outlandish, but on occasion I somehow find it interesting and comforting to listen to before going to bed.

I'm going to check out some of these radio shows. Thanks!