The digital revolution has almost completely removed the traditional barriers that keep people out of all sorts of previously well-guarded places.
The rise of the podcast began as an alternative to radio shows, but has since mutated into its own hugely-popular medium, with break-out hits and artistic experiments. Who could have guessed that a podcast such as “Welcome to Night Vale” would get so huge?
The flood of podcasts that have hit the web in the last several years make it seem like everybody has one. Even in Louisville, there are a bunch of local choices.
So, how do you pick the right one? LEO has you covered. Below, you’ll find a few of our favorite podcasts that run the gamut from one that is focussed on crossword puzzles to a program based solely on watching movies that are adapted from video games.
While these are our initial selections, Podcast Watch will be an occasional series where we will break down some of the best and brightest podcasts in town. (And if you have any suggestions, shoot us an email at [email protected]).
“On the Cross”
You’ll find no shortage of Louisville comedians on this list, and Lucas Murphy is no exception. But his is the only crossword puzzle-focused podcast in Louisville — and possibly anywhere.
“I like language and words,” he said. “It seemed like a nice little niche. There’s no other crossword puzzle podcast that I know of. I did a little research. The puzzle is an excuse to get together with some other comedians and riff.”
Despite his insistence that it’s just for comedy, Murphy has put plenty of thought into the design of his show, and deciding what crosswords to try to solve on air and discuss.
“It’s always a New York Times crossword puzzle,” he said. “Because I feel like that’s the most world-renowned crossword puzzle. The gold standard.”
To make it easy for listeners to engage and keep up, Murphy features puzzles from The New York Times Crosswords app. The app includes half size puzzles, which Murphy prefers. He frequently picks a puzzle with a theme in mind, based on what guests he has on the show. He says he’s gotten good feedback from the guests and the fans.
“The guests seem to really like it,” he said. “We’ve had people ask to be on, we’ve had people come back. As far as listener response, it’s kind of new, though our following is going up every week. Last month was our best month.”
“On the Cross” has a recording set up that includes a board for mixing sound, a laptop for recording and three microphones.
“It’s about midrange,” said Murphy.
That “midrange” set up belongs to Nathan Woodard, another Louisville comedian and podcaster. Woodard also produces “Up Late with Oliver,” and “Under the Influence,” podcasts that deserve their own shout-out.
Listen to “On The Cross” on iTunes.
The Destination Nation Network (DNN)
The “one producer, several podcasts” model seems to be pretty popular. One person gets the basic equipment, and then starts making it better and better as they get new podcasts in their studio.
Perhaps the best local example of this is The Destination Nation Network (DNN), a collection of podcasts linked to a local comic shop, The Destination.
Since it first opened about five years ago, owners Brian Barrow and Evan Pack have tried out a number strategies to keep customers coming through the door, despite the increasing affordability of digital comics. The strategies now include an entire podcast network that currently includes eight shows. It’s generally pretty nerdy fare, which is exactly how I like it. We spoke with Barrow about the network.
It started with Barrow creating his own podcast, “Nerdstalgia.”
“It was something I wanted to do,” Barrow said. “I’m a stand-up comedian, too. I like the stage, so I decided to start one.”
It didn’t stop there. The Destination works as a… well, a destination, because they host shows and games — they even shoot web series there. It’s all to keep people coming back, make them part of a community. So when Barrow’s podcast started, some of the Destination’s frequent customers wanted in on the action.
“A guy came in, he’s a big animation fan, and asked if he could run a podcast out of the store,” Barrow said. “And I thought it was a cool idea. That was Animation Destination.”
After a little while, it happened again — someone asked Barrow if they could do their own podcast out of the humble studio that was slowly being built.
“‘Girl Gone Geek’ was the third one, and that’s really when the network started,” he said. “When I noticed more people wanted to jump on board and everything, I thought it would be a cool idea to start a network and help each other out, basically. That way we could buy equipment together, not everybody has to go out and spend all this money.”
And while this article is about podcasts, it’s worth noting that The DNN also has a video component, featuring everything from nerd-centric unboxing videos, to the web series “Bagged and Bored.”
“Bagged and Bored” stars Kent Carney, who also appears on the podcast “Killscreen Cinema!”
Of all the podcasts available on the DNN, this is my favorite. Dedicated to watching and examining films that were adapted from video games, the nerdiness is armed and fully operational.
Out on the web you can find a ton of “make fun of the crappy movie” podcasts, and some of them are genuinely funny. What makes “Killscreen” so great is that even when the host’s mockery is savage, which it often is, there is still a genuine love of the nerd world that shines through. It gives listeners, this listener anyway, a laugh and a feeling of community.
If you like to spend hours debating the relative quality of Dennis Hopper’s performance in the “Super Mario Brothers” movie, then Carney and co-hosts Lori Cline and Craig Williams are your people.
“Brunch with Black Folks”
In my book, Louisville poet and personality Brandon “B Shatter” Harrison can do no wrong. So when he helped start a podcast, I knew I had to check it out. Shatter, along with cohost Ted Jr and Queen Yero, do a weekly brunch, sending it out live, with the results available via podcast shortly thereafter.
The podcast’s description online says it features the trio’s thoughts on “news, social media and whatever else might be on their mind.”
But with a trio this eclectic there are bound to be surprises. Last week that included an excellent spoken word poetry piece about the black experience. It was intense.
The hosts start each episode off by talking about what they are having for brunch, which sounds a little prosaic, but they keep it funny. The food discussion can lead to some controversy, like the recent “sweet versus salty” grits debate. (#teamsweet)
I always enjoy the mix of comedy and social commentary, but my favorite is when the it gets nerdy, like a recent segment on the upcoming film “Black Panther.”
This one frequently clocks in at almost two hours (you can’t rush brunch, y’all) making this ideal listening when you’re doing something boring, tedious and long. This will make the purgatorial Monday morning at work fly by.
Listen to “Brunch with Black Folks” here.
LEO’s love for Girls Rock Louisville is pretty well documented. From the weeklong summer camp that teaches kids to rock, to their Glitteroke live karaoke nights, to the Ladies Rock Camp that GRL threw this year, we love it all.
They are only two episodes deep, so there isn’t much to catch up on. Girl Rock’s Jerika Jones talked with us about why Louisville needs the podcast.
“The purpose of the podcast is to highlight female and female-identifying voices and opinions, on various social justice topics in a way that promotes social action in kind of a punkish style,” Jones said.
Girls Rock’s punk aesthetic is worn on its sleeve, and the DIY nature of podcasts fits well with that ethos.
“We do everything grassroots,” said Jones. “We do everything ourselves. We try to promote punk music, especially within Louisville, Kentucky, that has at least one female or female-identifying person. The collection of all those elements makes GRLcast what it is.”
Their second episode, which just went live last weekend, looks for women in rock and asks, “Where are they?”
Jones teaches bass for GRL, and says that it was during this year’s Ladies Rock Camp that she was inspired to ask this question in the episode.
“I started looking at some of the people who were participants in Ladies Rock Louisville. I started to realize that there’s a story here,” said Jones, adding, “There’s something there about being a woman or identifying as a woman that makes the relationship between music, the industry, the education, the desire, and the roles that women take within the music.”
A podcast is an ideal form to take on thorny issues, and really dig into them. But Jones says the conversation about women in rock needs to happen.
“It needs to be put on the forefront of our mind, because if we really start thinking critically about the roles women play in music, there are all kinds of embedded isms,” she said. “Ageism, racism, classism, all those kinds of things. That where the inspiration for that episode came from.”
I shouldn’t have to tell you about “Strange Fruit.” You ought to know that this long-running podcast is the place to come for incisive looks at the issues. While nothing is off limits for hosts Jaison Ashley Gardner and Kaila Adia Story, you will most often hear about issues affecting or related to the African American community, LGBTQ folks, and the intersection of those identities.
Both Gardner and Story have spent time on the streets fighting for and supporting their beliefs, but also have academic backgrounds, giving this show a mix of the real world view, and well as the academic understanding of the issues.
Also they are funny AF.
Listen to “Strange Fruit”via WFPL.
When a soft and informative voice satirically tells you that “Bout Time” was filmed before a live studio audience, you suspect that you are in for a good time. It’s an underplayed but awesome bit that harkens back to the pre-digital age. Then, when the “Bout Time” theme song starts a second later, featuring hosts Sean Smith and Patrick Passafiume singing badly over the instrumental track of Boyz II Men’s “Motown Philly,” you know shit is gonna get real funny.
Most of the podcasts in this list are pretty funny, but “Bout Time” has a nearly frenetic air. The conversation bubbles with an energy that blows past many other podcasts, with a speed and comedic agility that lets you know you are in the hands of some damned funny people.
Listen to “Bout Time” on iTunes.
Many local podcasts try to get a listenership outside their hometown by addressing issues, or riffing on pop culture that is in the national zeitgeist. “Never Nervous” keeps it local.
It focuses on Louisville’s awesome music scene, but you can frequently catch its guests, bands, such as Shadowpact and Brenda, discussing local clubs, new restaurants and sometimes iguanas.
It’s been around for a couple years, but takes hiatus and breaks, so there are only 39 episodes available. But, if you listen to all 39 episodes, you’ll pretty much be an expert on the music scene.
Listen to the “Never Nervous Podcast” via their website.
The host of “Potluck Podcast” stopped herself halfway through giving LEO her name for this article.
“B-r-i-t-t-n-e-y. And then my last name is…. Well I really don’t want my last name in there,” said Britagious.
Britagious is the on air name for Brittney No-last-name uses when she cohosts the hilarious, and often offensive “Potluck Podcast.” She decided not to out her cohost either, who goes by the on air name LJ Tha Fiasco.
A lot of podcasters don’t use their given names, preferring to be known by their podcast personas.
Listening to “Potluck Podcast,” it’s easy to see why. The two hosts get petty fast, and the humor can be very offensive. Also very funny, but you were warned, so proceed at your own risk.
Britagious talked about how the two met, how the show got its name, and a brief caveat that Tha Fiasco, who was not present for our interview, would dispute her version of some of the events, and perhaps call her a liar.
“LJ and I are best friends, we met through a mutual friend,” Britagious said. “He also dates my best girl friend. He was on a podcast previously, and it was a sports podcast. So he came up with the idea to do a podcast with just he and I.”
But when Tha Fiasco invited Britagious to join him on air, she assumed he just meant as a guest on his sports podcast.
“And I was like sure, what day do you want me to stop by as a guest,” she said. “He was like, ‘No, no, no. We’re gonna do our own show.’”
She thought it over and did some research.
“I’m a person who had never listened to a podcast, so I had no idea how big it was, so I just started listening to podcasts,” Britagious said. “And I thought, ‘this, I can do.’”
And thank goodness she did. “Potluck Podcast” recently celebrated its 2nd “Pettiversary” with their 66th episode.
“The name comes from LJ,” Britagious said. “Anytime LJ hosts a house party, he makes it a potluck. It’s never like, he buys all the food. LJ is known as the frugal friend.
When the time came to start the podcast, Tha Fiasco was frugal with his money once again, and gave Britagious a list of things to purchase.
“He was telling me everything that I would need for the podcast, and I jokingly said to our mutual friend, ‘This fool is trying to potluck a podcast.’”
She estimates the overall cost of their set up was about $300, and couldn’t resist the temptation to take another friendly shot at Tha Fiasco.
“We got a big sound board, and I swear I have seen him move maybe three of the 40 things on the soundboard,” Britagious said.
The name stuck. And it took several episodes for Tha Fiasco to catch the joke.
And listen to all 60 episodes of the LEO Weekly podcast here.