This podcast, hosted by comedian Paul Gilmartin, features interviews with comedians, musicians, actors, podcasters, and ordinary people. Paul has suffered from mental illness himself, and each of his guests has dealt with mental illness directly and/or indirectly. He’s spoken to people with eating disorders, with depression, with anger management issues, with addiction. He’s spoken to people who grew up in dysfunctional families, who suffered from sexual abuse, and who had post-traumatic stress order. Paul talks to each person about their experiences and how they dealt with them afterwards. Some of them went to therapy, or took medication, or started blogs about their experiences, or channeled the negative energy of their childhoods into comedy routines years later. Some of the interviews that had the most impact on me were the interviews with Mike Schmidt, Nikki Glaser, Morgan Murphy, Mike Carano, and Katie Yeargain Palacio. But the one that made me cry the hardest was the interview with Teresa Strasser.
This show, the podcast version of the NPR radio show, covers a plethora of different topics. This is a very intelligent program, and most of the episodes make me feel uninformed while I’m listening to them and smarter afterwards (kind of like watching Jeopardy). I can definitely say that this program has led me to reserve lots of books from the library so that I can learn more about the topics discussed on the show. Right now the biggest backlog of “new” episodes on my iPod are from This American Life, because I will only listen to this podcast from home. That seems to be the safest option, since I never know which episodes will make me cry, and strangers tend to give you weird looks when you start crying on the bus.
In each episode, participants (both famous and ordinary) tell true stories that they never thought they’d dare to share. That means that the stories they tell are usually interesting, sometimes explicit, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes tragic. Some episodes will include all of these types of stories, so listening to each episode can be like riding a roller coaster. Another added component that strengthens the impact of these episodes is the use of music between the stories — sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, sometimes the kind of music that makes you want to dance. The music is so important that they will occasionally release episodes featuring just the songs that were used on previous episodes, and when you listen to one of those all the way through you can really appreciate what an unusual mix of music they use. And on a related note, I’m grateful to this podcast for introducing me to the slow, quiet, and amazing song “Riverside” by Agnes Obel. I recommend watching the music video once so you can appreciate how cool and artsy it is, but afterwards when you need to hear the song again just listen to it through your headphones … and close your eyes.
And yes, in answer to your next question, I will be following up very soon with a post about podcasts that make me happy, and often make me laugh out loud. I don’t want to be a TOTAL downer, especially not on Christmas. So how about I cheer you up for the new year, okay?