Every commuter knows the feeling of dismay that comes with forgetting your earphones at home. Our earphones are a security blanket, a flimsy yet significant barrier between us and the everyday horrors of the public transit system.
With your eyes closed and music blasting, you can block out all distractions, such as those high schoolers discussing the intricacies of pubescent relationships or that man taking up three seats to cut his toenails.
Lately I’ve taken to podcasts as a way to multitask on my commute; it’s an attempt to learn something or entertain myself while I ignore the world around me. Below are a few recommendations to pass the time, sorted by length of commute and area of interest.
My commute is…
Half an hour, and I like mysteries:
Recommended episode: “Mandatory”
Artwork via player.fm
This narrative offering from Gimlet Media is both a psychological and conspiracy thriller. Set at a rehabilitation facility in Florida for soldiers returning from deployments overseas, the unanswered questions mount with each new instalment. Episodes are stitched together through conversations between the characters, phone calls, and interviews, causing the listener to feel as though they’ve discovered an archive of evidence in a top-secret investigation.
While I can’t say much more without giving away major plot details, trust that these six episodes will make your commute fly by, if only because of Oscar Isaac’s voice in your ears, sotto voce.
One hour, and I like politics:
Recommended episode: “Anatomy Of A Scandal”
Artwork via fivethirtyeight.com
It’s only a few months into Donald Trump’s presidency, and phrases like ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ have already become so commonplace so as to lose all meaning. Nate Silver and the rest of the team behind FiveThirtyEight have been addressing the problems associated with mainstream reporting for years, prioritizing a data-driven, evidence-based approach to journalism rather than cultivating sources and access.
All of this is on display in the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast where host Jody Avirgan, political reporter Clare Malone, analyst or ‘whiz kid’ Harry Enten, and Silver himself dive into a week’s worth of news with thoughtful analysis and more than a pinch of skepticism.
Beyond its weekly instalments, the podcast also features miniseries like Party Time, in which Malone and her counterpart Galen Druke speak to representatives and stakeholders from both the Democratic and Republican parties in order to glean insight into what’s next for bipartisan politics in an era of increasingly blurred lines.
An hour and a half, and I like Gilmore Girls and witty banter:
Recommended episode: “They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?
Artwork via twitter.com/gilmoreguysshow
What could be better than listening to grown men passionately discuss a show aimed predominantly at teenage girls? On Gilmore Guys, veteran fan Kevin T. Porter and Gilmore newbie Demi Adejuyigbe dissect every episode of the long-running show that was recently revived on Netflix.
Porter and Adejuyigbe’s backgrounds in comedy — Adejuyigbe currently writes for NBC’s hit sitcom The Good Place — definitely take centre stage in the podcast, resulting in always entertaining extended ramblings and Twitter-celebrity guests such as Megan Amram.
What might be most interesting about the podcast is its development from the guys’ side hobby to something that’s attracted a major fanbase. Many of the show’s original stars have made appearances on the Gilmore Gabs episodes, from Milo Ventimiglia to Liza Weil.
Perhaps it’s not entirely fair for me to include this under the hour and a half heading — analysis of particularly gripping episodes, like the “Fall” instalment of the Netflix revival, have run upwards of five hours, so pencil this one in for a gruelling week of TTC delays.
Two hours, and I like listening to comedians talking about themselves:
You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes
Recommended episode: “Aaron Rodgers”
Artwork via nerdist.com
Comedian Pete Holmes recently debuted his new HBO show Crashing, which is about an aspiring standupcomic who is shuffled between various friends’ couches in the aftermath of his divorce. Longtime listeners of You Made It Weird will recognize these themes easily, as Holmes has been discussing them with a nearly pedantic level of detail on his podcast for years. Everything is fair game in an episode of You Made It Weird, with topics ranging from the existence of God and life in outer space to the nomadic lifestyle of the comic. More than anything, Holmes is an earnest interviewer, and the listener senses every nuance of his delight and curiosity about the lives of his friends and acquaintances.
Two hours, and I like listening to celebrities talking about themselves:
Anna Faris is Unqualified
Recommended episode: “Mike Birbiglia part one” and “Mike Birbiglia part two”
Artwork via popsugar.com
You might know Anna (pronounced “Ah-na,” as she often reminds listeners) Faris from her iconic roles in The House Bunny and the Scary Movie franchise.
On her podcast, cohosted with producing partner Sim Sarna, she proves she’s much more than the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotypes that fill her IMDB page. In fact, Faris becomes someone much more recognizable — your completely unqualified friend routinely providing dubious advice.
Some of the podcast’s best moments include the calls Faris and company receive from fans each week, asking for advice on everything from difficult mother-in-laws to long distance relationships. Other highlights are games like How Do You Proceed?, where guests are presented with a series of surreal scenarios and asked for their reaction — for example, you run into Oprah in the bathroom, smoking a joint. She asks for your urine to pass a drug test. How do you proceed?
Unqualified’s lineup features big names like Seth Rogen and Allison Janney, but knowing that they’re sitting around Faris’ kitchen table, talking to strangers while tipsy, makes them all oh-so-relatable, if only for a few hours.