The following are reviews of podcasts with different themes, genres and stories.
Priscilla Hopper media manager
Serial: Season One
Investigative journalist Sarah Koenig narrates the true story of a young teenager who was murdered in 1999. From the makers of “This American Life,” the first season of “Serial” is not a “Criminal Minds” episode nor the newest case in “Bones”; this case divided a small community due to race, religion and gender.
In 1999, a teenager named Hae Min Lee went missing. Her body was found in Leakin Park and her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was charged with murder and sent to prison for life. This case is not straightforward, but Koenig gives the listeners all the information in a very specific order.
In many cases, crime stories like these can feel inhuman. And what is special about Serial is that the listener meets Adnan through the crime report, through Koenig’s perception, but most importantly, through Adnan himself. The listener has the ability to develop the story through Adnan’s perspective; by hearing him speak, the listener can understand a lot about his personality, tone and grammar choice. Koenig not only gives a voice to Adnan, but also to the Muslim community.
Koenig manages to humanize these seemingly random people through her investigation. However, at the time Koenig and her team are creating this podcast, 15 years have passed since the crime took place. A strong case she makes is that in real life, most people have trouble remembering what they did six weeks ago, let alone 15 years ago.
In this podcast, Koenig, and simply the story itself, allows the listener to create his or her own ending. Unfortunately, there has been no further evidence found to uncover the truth of Lee’s murder. However Serial’s impact on the case led to the scheduling of a new trial for Adnan. Serial continues reminds us how unclear and complicated these cases really are.
Sam Bernstien staff writer
Pardon My Take
Pardon My Take is a tri-weekly interview-based sports podcast presented by Barstool Sports. The genius of Pardon My Take lies in its normality. PFT Commenter and Dan “Big Cat” Katz are two normal guys that love sports. They’re easy to relate to for the average sports fan because they pride themselves in their averageness. Another plus of the show is their lackadaisical demeanor. It’s clear that the duo cares quite a bit about their show, but their humor comes from a place of not caring at all. The PMT guys are also excellent interviewers. The interviews given by Big Cat and PFT are by no means conventional, giving listeners a fresh angle on sports personalities that they know and love. One of the charms of the pod is that the PMT guys are not afraid to cross conventional sports boundaries. Most sports fans love ragging on commentators during sports games and PFT and Big Cat rag on commentators masterfully. Their impersonation of former ESPN analyst Chris ‘Boomer’ Berman is absolutely exquisite.
One way they grow their audience is by getting famous recurring guests. Their most notable recurring guest is Jacksonville Jaguars’ QB, Blake Bortles. Bortles, a 3rd year player, has been coming on the pod since its debut in Feb. 2016. Their segment, the Blake Bortles Wikipedia Club, has gained traction as Bortles led his team to the NFC Championship Game. Their lineup doesn’t stop at Bortles, however. The PMT guys have gotten commentator Joe Buck, former MLB all-star Dan Haren, University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh and Super Bowl Champion Chris Long to come on the pod at least twice each. They’ve created a bond with the New Orleans Saints social media team. They’ve even gone to the private cabin of the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt. Their charming yet bold presence makes them likable and it is undoubtedly the funniest sports podcast on the Internet.
Jude Binkley staff writer
The Pat McAfee Show
Presented by Barstool Sports, The Pat McAfee Show puts retired NFL All-Pro punter Pat McAfee in the recording studio with co-host Shaun Latham to discuss everything from NFL playoff predictions to Oprah’s bid for the 2020 presidency. This interview-based podcast has conversations that flow from topic to topic, as episodes can span the length of over two hours. McAfee is very comfortable in front of the microphone, due to him being a frequent guest on The Bob and Tom Show during his tenure with the Indianapolis Colts. McAfee’s comedy is fresh, especially after listening to the same repetitive jokes that can get old on shows like Pardon My Take. The Pat McAfee Show finds a way to put a twist on sports-based humor while also commenting on other hot topics in popular culture. New episodes come out three to four times a week, and McAfee will be frequently appearing on Barstool Radio on Sirius XM, which launched January 17th.
Ben Dahan news editor
The Axe Files
David Axelrod’s Axe Files is a treasure trove of information, interesting conversations and everyday insights. From the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, and in collaboration with CNN, Axelrod interviews celebrities and power players bi-weekly, diving into their life story and asking them to dissect something in the news.
The caliber of guests never disappoints, fielding heavy hitters like former-president Barack Obama, to whom Axelrod has been a longtime friend and aide, and acclaimed actor Tom Hanks, to hidden gems whose names you may have never heard before, like political operative Bill Daley and White House photographer Pete Souza.
No matter who the subject or what the subject matter, you can be sure you’ll be in for a fun, but very educational, ride.
Evan Minniti staff writer
Chapo Trap House
Part of Bernie Sander’s appeal came from his boldness. He comes off to many as a say-it-like-it-is grandpa who isn’t afraid of offending billionaires, bankers and the media. To millions of working and middle-class people, above all the youth, Sanders and his devil-may-care perspective on political correctness are a completely justified response to the economic and political elite responsible for the 2007 financial crisis, the Iraq War, police brutality, etc. A hilarious cult podcast, Chapo Trap House, has helped serve as an important vanguard for this new political movement, nicknamed the “Dirtbag Left.”
Chapo Trap House was started in March of 2016 by three minor internet-famous twitter commentators: Felix Biederman, Will Menacker and Matt Christman. They were well known on “Left Twitter” for their irreverent humor and vulgarity. Whether it is analyzing the sexual pathologies of Republican politicians, trashing the conservative ideology of Zac Snyder movies or jokingly making “death threats” to “people who annoyed us online,” it is undeniable that Chapo is probably the funniest news and politics based podcast around.
Their early episodes, while a little amateurish in audio quality (which honestly just adds to their charm), provided a humorous commentary on the 2016 primaries and elections, as well as the seemingly insane reactions of the inept media class. A large portion of their early commentary is making fun of the increasingly right-drifting “centrist” politics and calculating personalities of Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush; the seeming pointlessness of John Kasich’s extended campaign; the hypocrisy of Ted Cruz; and the open xenophobia of Donald Trump. Even if one doesn’t agree with everything they say, Chapo is undeniably hilarious.
It should be noted that Chapo is well known for its numerous inside jokes and sarcastic references to many political topics that average Americans might find obscure, such as the Turkish deep state or Shia Islamism. On multiple occasions that say that they are funded by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the authoritarian President of Turkey. Chapo jokingly refers to their devoted fans as “Grey Wolves,” a Turkish neofascist terrorist organization. These obscure Middle Eastern political references might put some viewers off, but the hosts do a good job of explaining for unprepared listeners what they are joking about. Probably the funniest inside joke, what Chapo refers to as their “hyperreality” or “mythology”, comes from an extended inside joke about Kasich being a hobo who only runs a presidential campaign to get free food.
Another thing that may turn unsuspecting people away is Chapo’s sarcastic embrace of the “Bernie Bro” culture that the media claimed existed throughout the 2016 election. It should be noted that the hosts of Chapo are all socialist feminists, and later brought on a woman (another minor Left celebrity) Amber A’Lee Frost as a host. The point of their joke was not only to make fun of how the faux feminism of Clinton, but specifically to point out how ridiculous it was for the media to brand Sanders’ supporters (who were mostly young women) as being hyper-masculine white men.
But in addition to their sense of humor, Chapo is inspiring. That’s big for any work of art, let alone a podcast. And they have rewarded for that: Chapo is currently the top Patreon account.
Chapo’s biggest goal is probably for Americans to come to the same conclusion that they came to: that the ruling class and their political/media establishment aren’t only machiavellian sociopaths but also incredibly stupid. According to Chapo, the billionaire class, the media, the Democrats and Republicans deserve not only critique, but ridicule. In the eyes of Chapo, whoever could seriously endorse the Iraq War or Intervention in Syria has no right to criticize the hard-right policies of the Trump Administration. And these sentiments have struck a chord with a lot of people.