9 essential podcasts for 2016 as chosen by The Worst Idea of All Time

by Alice Harbourne / 29 January, 2016
 

The Worst Idea of All Time is New Zealand's most internationally successful podcast ever. Currently nearing the end of its second series, it has had over three million episode downloads, garnered a Facebook following of over 10,000 and has afforded its presenters multiple real-world opportunities they never anticipated.

The premise is both simple and idiotic: Auckland comedians Tim Batt and Guy Montgomery watch the same, terrible film once a week for a year and talk about it (weekly) afterwards. The resulting hour(ish)-length podcast documents the near-insanity induced by watching the inane, offensive films Grown Ups 2 and Sex and The City 2 more than once. They're also a weekly window into a uniquely charming friendship, one forged out of the increasingly desperate viewing situation they have voluntarily signed up for.

Listeners bear witness to the mental defense mechanisms that come out of this process, such as the invention of fantastical backstories for specific film extras, which in turn become regular podcast segments. The organic accumulation of these elements engenders a bond between listener and presenter that feels like friendship; listeners are in on the joke from day one. This special relationship has turned listeners into loyal fans, so much so that last year Tim and Guy crowd-funded a trip to LA for the finale of season one. Since then, they have been welcomed into a network of American podcasters and have collaborated with other successful broadcasters, most notably Paul F Thompkins and Paul Scheer.

With just four episodes left of season two of The Worst Idea of All Time podcast to go, we asked Tim and Guy to share their podcast recommendations; if you like them, you'll probably like these too...

 
Guy Montgomery's picks 

I started listening to podcasts when I was living by myself in Toronto with more free time than friends to fill it with. I'd walk from open mic to open mic, listening to WTF with Marc Maron, trying to learn how to be a comedian. Performing five minute sets to silence in the back of a Mexican restaurant was much more palatable having just listened to my comedy heroes talk about doing the exact same thing. As you can tell by the fact I am now writing an article for the internet, I have since 'made it' in the biggest way possible. Podcasts are great company if you are stuck in traffic, cleaning the house or going for a walk.
Podcasts are best listened to in isolation. Nothing worse than some talkative idiot 'harshing your buzz' when you're trying to go full aural immersion.

Podcasts are best listened to in isolation, or in company only if there is unanimous agreement that all parties in listening proximity do indeed want to listen. Nothing worse than some talkative idiot 'harshing your buzz' when you're trying to go full aural immersion.

 

 
1. With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus

Lauren Lapkus is an American actress and comedian (thanks Wikipedia) and her podcast is freaking outstanding. Each week a fellow comedian or improviser will host the podcast under the guise it's their regular show, introducing the premise before introducing that week's special guest, a character played by (some of you are ahead of me here) Lauren Lapkus.

Lauren has one of the sweetest, most unassuming voices, which is what makes it so fantastically hilarious when she starts running her mouth as an oft ill-mannered, socially backward guest. The hardest I've laughed in public was listening to 'The North Pod' episode where Santa Claus (played by Paul F. Tompkins) talks to Ho-Ho the Naughty Elf (Lauren).



 
2. The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project

Andy Daly (probably best known now as the host of Comedy Central's Review) has an everyman quality that gives him scope to get very, very dark. Through years of guesting on Comedy Bang Bang, Andy has developed a slew of oddball, misanthropic characters that are brought back to life as they each host a pilot episode of their own podcast. 'The Travel Bug with August Lindt' features Andy as August Lindt, a salt inspector at a German pretzel factory discussing travel with Werner Herzog, H. R. Giger, and Pope Benedict XVI. If that doesn't sound like something you are interested in then frankly, I don't even know who you are anymore. (In thinking further about this, even if you are interested I probably don't know who you are. Unless I do know who you are, in which case, thanks for reading.)



 
3. Desert Island Discs: Archives

Pretty much the only reason I get out of bed in the morning is in the hope that one day, I will become good enough at something to feature on Desert Island Discs. A BBC radio show as old as time (time beginning in 1942 according to this author) that has since been edited down to podcast form. Each week a guest is interviewed by the presenter (there have been six in the history of the show) and asked to share eight records they'd take to a desert island. In doing so, they in turn share an overview of their life. It's a perfect way to learn about your idols while hearing a choice selection of music.

Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4

 
4. Comedy Bang Bang

Kind of a forebear for a lot of comedy podcasts, this started as a live stage show which crossed over to podcast form and to this day keeps getting better and better. The show is pretty much just a bunch of friends getting together in a room and going ballistic for a few hours. The show is loaded with in-jokes and call-backs but is still funny enough without context for entry-level listening.

Host Scott Aukerman begins by interviewing a contemporary in a fairly straight-forward manner before they are joined by another comedian in character as ANYTHING THEY SO CHOOSE. Scott then skilfully navigates an interview/narrative-driven conversation using both guests. Oftentimes more people will enter the fray until the whole thing reaches boiling point and either collapses in on itself, or gives some sense of closure. It's podcasting in its best form; a bunch of people getting together, having fun and releasing it to the great unwashed so we can all feel like we were a part of it.



 
Tim Batt's picks 

I love podcasts. Mainly because they're free. So unbelievably, beautifully free. Free-to-air tele has done a terrible job of remaining watchable with the constant ad breaks and broadly-aimed generic content that thrills nobody in its quest to avoid controversy and offence. Radio, with its constantly repeating playlists, doesn't fare much better. Podcasts, on the other hand, are a constant stream of exactly what I want to hear, at precisely the moment I want to hear it. For free. And there is truly podcast series for everyone, regardless of taste.
Generally podcast ads are far more palatable than a man screaming about a TV sale in the middle of the news.

Generally the ads, even on the larger shows, are kept to reasonable lengths and because they're usually delivered by the shows' hosts, they're far more palatable than a man screaming about a TV sale the middle of the news. It's amazing how good this free medium is. Of the regular series' I tune into, here are my top five faves.

 
1. My Brother, My Brother and Me

MBMBaM is, on the face of it, an advice podcast hosted by three brothers: Travis, Justin and Griffin McElroy. It's comedy perfection. The combination of absurd improvised comedy riffs, obscure pop culture references and the kind of connection that can only be created by familial bonds, this is a wonderful weekly listening experience - where listeners (particularly people of Gen Y vintage) can escape and laugh their ass off for an hour. It's warm, hilarious and never fails to make me laugh.

Listen to My Brother, My Brother and Me.

 
2. Slate Political Gab Fest

Slate is a liberal American magazine/website which produces several excellent podcasts and the long-running Political Gab Fest is one of the only podcasts I never miss an episode of. The weekly run-down of what's happening in American politics is hosted by former journalist David Plotz, writer and law expert Emily Bazelon and Face The Nation moderator, John Dickerson. The trio are all heavyweights in their respective arenas and while complex discussions about US current affairs can be pretty deep dives for the uninitiated, for someone like myself with a keen interest in this subject, it strongly scratches an itch.



 
3. Time of the Month: A Weekly Podcast

Full disclosure, I produce this podcast, so call it insider trading, but I love this show. Hosts Maddy Budd and Kelly Pochyba are two young Auckland women who are struggling through work, romance, friendships and family. The pair are hilariously funny, with Kelly acting as a perfect sardonic foil to Maddy's upbeat take on most situations. They're both deceptively self-reflective and refreshingly honest on the show. Above all though, it's just nice to hear two smart, funny FEMALE voices in a medium that is overwhelmingly dominated by males yabbering into microphones about gaming.

Time of the Month on iTunes. 



 
4. How Did This Get Made?

One of the great comedy podcasts, this show regularly and deservedly tops 'best of' lists online. The premise is simple: the podcast reviews mediocre films and asks "how did this get made?". The magic comes from the hosts: writer/actor/comedian Paul Scheer; actress June Diane Raphael and comedy actor Jason Mantzoukas. The dynamic between the three of them is dynamite and it's one of the first podcast shows I got heavily in to.



 
5. Planet Money

Brilliant 20-25 minute episodes explaining economics and the world we live in, contained within accessible and engaging stories. It's made by the same expert storytellers as This American Life (NPR) and it achieves that rare balance of informing and entertaining to a very high level, all in the time it takes to drive to the supermarket.

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