📣 Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders 🏈 satirical true crime 🕵🏾♀️ stolen car 🚗 The Christmas Movie wars 🎄 looted artifacts 🗿
🍭 👂 You're in for a treat! 🌈 🤸♀️
Today is Monday, December 13. There are 176 days until I go on my next Disney cruise. In case you don’t have time to read the whole newsletter: this is back and I have questions, this checks all the boxes, this is the kind of Christmas spirit I’ve been craving.
This week we’re getting to peek into the listening life of Jaxson McLennnan, host of Can We Help You? His love for audio started in high school, volunteering at the local radio station. Over a decade later, he has carved a worldwide career as a Producer and Sound Designer, working with national radio brands and providing full spectrum services for film, television and podcasts. Prior to moving to LA, he was the Audio Producer at the Jase & PJ breakfast show in Melbourne, Australia.
The app I use: Apple Podcasts. I'm basic. My entire life runs on Apple products, so I figure I just have to embrace
Listening time per week: This is a tricky one, and varies depending on how much spare time I have. Anywhere from 1 to 20. Depends how bad the traffic is and how far behind I am on my favorite shows....
I like to have a wide variety of shows in all genres. When I'm deep in a show's sound design or edit, I can get a bit fatigued listening to intense podcasts, so I'll either opt for something lighter or take a break entirely and come back when I'm working on something that isn't a podcast.
When I listen: Primarily in the car and when out for a walk. Often before bed (although sometimes I end up falling asleep and have no idea where I'm up to when I wake up...). And when doing stuff around the house. The podcast I listen to depends on my mood, so sometimes I'll prefer to listen to a radio show catch-up while I'm baking. That way I don't have to hit pause so I don't miss an uber important plot line while the mixmaster's going.
How I discover: My wife is even more podcast-fanatic than I am, so my discovery almost entirely comes from her. She has a superhuman ability to sniff out incredible podcasts and she won't tell me how - maybe she should set up her own recommendation service!
Anything else? I love connecting with, collaborating with and just chatting with anyone who is interested in the podcasting or audio space, so feel free to hit me up @madeforamerica on Instagram.
Also, if you need any general life advice, and want the help of two Australians with no qualifications, send us a question here.
ps If you are pleased with Podcast The Newsletter, please spread the word.
👋q & a & q & a & q & a👋
You are always the first person to hear about Disney news your listeners are dying to know about. How do you stay in the loop?
To do this job you have to be obsessive. News travels fast and wide because it’s tied to some of the most popular vacation destinations on earth — which also happen to be owned by major media conglomerates — so it’s pretty non-stop, but I love it.
I have a network of colleagues and friends and tipsters who keep me in the loop, but in reality, collaboration is key to keeping folks informed on everything that’s happening in the theme park space. You can’t fact-check and cover it all yourself, and since my only goal is to ensure correct information makes its way to readers and listeners, sharing other reporters’ great findings helps us all collectively cover these locations as best as possible.
There are tons of Disney podcasts but none are quite like yours. (I know yours isn't a Disney podcast but you cover Disney better than anyone.) How is Very Amusing different than the Disney podcasts that have been around forever?
Oh wow, thank you! I’ll start by saying there are a handful that I love — Podcast The Ride, Disney Dish, Dis Unplugged and D23 Inside Disney to name a few — but Very Amusing was always intended to be a space for the kinds of stories I found myself unable to report at my magazine outlets.
People reading this newsletter may not realize it, but Disney’s massive fan community has yielded a robust podcast space packed with experts who’ve been putting in the work for years. Most focus on the week’s news and do an exceptional job of covering it, so I was reluctant to enter the arena for a long, long time. As I immersed myself even deeper within this world, I realized audio could open me up to a kind of storytelling I hadn't been able to do thus far and decided to take the plunge.
More than anything, though, Very Amusing is just an extension of myself. Each episode has a main “feature story”, followed by a Q&A with calls to my Churros Hotline (747-Churros, yes it’s real!) and, at the end, a voicemail from my mom about the previous week’s episode. The format is very natural and fell into place on its own, and I’m exceedingly happy with where it’s at in our second year.
One of my favorite moments in podcast history is when you were on Greetings from Somewhere talking about the enlightened nature of adult Disney fans. Can you explain that here? They don't believe me when I say it because they know I'm biased.
It’s interesting, because I began this career as an outsider who didn’t know much about Disney fans and theme park culture, and now I’m as inside as one can be. Having seen it on both sides, I will never understand why adult Disney fans are so discriminated against — truly, they are — when they are tapped into a superior way of living that many others will sadly never experience. Adult Disney fans have allowed public displays of unbridled joy back into their lives, something society has squeezed out of us by the time we’re grown, and that innate knowledge of what makes them happy and the ability to publicly celebrate that is something I’m so grateful to be a part of.
At the end of the day, if people allow others to passionately root for a sports team, why is it weird that someone could enjoy a fireworks show? Or the nostalgia of a decades-old parade? Or waving back at an anthropomorphic mouse? I’m proud to be a part of a community where people allow themselves to be outwardly happy, I never want to be on the outside of that again.
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
When I find out that Jesse Lawson is on a project, I get very excited. Their work is some of the best-produced stuff I can find. So I was excited to hear they worked on The Unfiltered History Tour, which dropped last week. It’s a show that tells the story of colonialism told through ten looted artifacts that can be found in the British Museum, interviewing people from the communities the objects were taken from. If you like Stuff The British Stole, you’ll be thrilled—it’s similar but the production is out of this world. I almost teared up, completely in awe during the description of Rapa Nui. I really wish I could be in the UK, because there’s an added interactive benefit for those who are. Visitors to the museum can use Instagram filters to reveal true stories of several of these objects, and how they ended up in the Museum. Whether you can be there or not, this is a unique collection of stories that illustrates what it’s like to be stripped of your art and culture.
🎙️Holiday shopping for a podcaster? (Yourself?) I’m discounting sessions of Podcast Therapy until December 25. You can get an hour with Arielle Nissenblatt and me. We’ll come prepared to ask you questions about content, marketing, partnerships, and growth, and answer your questions, too. (Price: $200, regular price: $300.) Fill out this form and we’ll be in touch.
🎙️The best gift you could ask for is the Bello Collective’s 100 Outstanding Podcasts From 2021 list, recommendations from the biggest-hearted, nerdiest podcasters and podcast writers. I recommended teikirisi, This Land, VICE News’ Bloodlines, The Invisible Hand, It’s Nice to Hear You, and Tell Them I Am. Although I’m excited to be involved, it is even more thrilling to check out the rest of the list.
🎙️Stephanie Fuccio put out a detailed piece about the benefits of having a podcast newsletter. My joy for podcast newsletters is limitless, and I want more people to have them. Here’s why you should consider doing it!
🎙️The monthly episode of The 11th came out, a beautiful collection of three stories that carefully observe spaces. The third story is from a daughter who wants to remind her mom about a plaza in Mexico that her mom went to when she was young, by asking a photographer to capture audio there. It completely transports you to the plaza in a way that highlights both its regularness and what makes it a special place.
🎙️One of the smartest conversations about a Christmas movie that is seemly unsmart can be found on You Are Good, the episode about Jingle All The Way, a film so much funnier and more complex than it’s credited for. B.J. Colengalo joins Sarah and Alex to talk about the zero sum dad world created by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, and Phil Hartman. The trio take us through the strong dad themes but also the nihilistic. nature of the film and the early critique of holiday capitalism, something we might not have been ready to talk about in the 90s. In this conversation the best moments are sliced and diced in a way that makes you appreciate the nuances of what the film was both accidentally and purposely trying to say.
🎙️Family Secrets is back for another story that defines what Family Secrets is all about. Qian Julie Wang is just seven when her family moves from China to America, and she seems to go from fairytale to horror movie. Impoverished, isolated, and considered “illegal,” Qian Julie is hiding an entire secret along with her family that shapes her entire identity. She opens up to Dani Shapiro about her childhood hardships with reflection and self-realization of how they shaped her future, and how she is still learning to let her younger self heal. This story is about what holding a secret can do, it’s a worst-case scenario story. I was holding my breath throughout this episode.
🎙️Boys Like Me is getting into the story of two autistic men who grew up together in the same class—Evan ended up being a filmmaker, Alek Minassian ended up plowing into a crowd in Toronto after joining the incel community. How did these guys get set on such different paths? It’s not so easy to see as Evan, the filmmaker, remembers when he was a teenager stalking and confronting a girl who wouldn’t hook up with him. This story reached into both my memories of being a teen girl and my fears of being the mother of a teen girl, the landmines girls are forced to maneuver through. Evan was able to right himself and his relationship with women. But Alek was not.
🎙️When Punch Up the Jam was hosted by comedians Miel Bredouw and Demi Adejuyigbe, it was one of the best podcasts in my library. Miel and Demi would go through a song with a guest, both poking fun of and finding appreciation for it, then they’d write up and preform their own version of it. I relistened to the Last Christmas episode and was actually pained to find how much I missed it. (Other great episodes are Amy Miller’s Love Shack episode, Jon Gabrus’ Kokomo episode, Jake Weisman’s You Outta Know episode, and Nicole Byer’s Believe episode.) I have been digging into Reddit threads for years to try to figure out why this wonderful show ended and was haunted by Miel’s final statement that she “didn’t know what would be done with the show,” meaning she didn’t own the IP. Which is normal. I was stalking the show again and noticed a new look and new trailer announcing a new season to debut next week—this time hosted by Andrew Rose and Evan Gregory. I would not have known who those people were if not for the episode of Endless Thread that I wrote about last week. Now I know that the Gregory Brothers are the guys responsible for all of those autotuned videos making fun of poor, Black people that went viral on YouTube. It will be difficult for these guys to take on a show as beloved as Punch Up the Jam—Miel and Demi built up a loyal fanbase. I’m 80% nervous, 20% excited.
🎙️Do you remember when, in collaboration with Issa Rae’s Insecure, HBO Max dropped a true-crime podcast about a detective tracking down a missing Black woman? And how bummed you were that it was only one episode long (because it’s that easy to track down Black missing women—cops are not looking that hard?) The idea continues with a scripted satirical true-crime podcast called We Stay Looking. Citizen sleuth Rose Cranberry vows to continue her search for missing Black girls and expose the corruption of the justice system as a whole.
🎙️Death Resulting is a new podcast that asks: should it be considered murder when a drug deal leads to death, bringing up questions about "death resulting" laws. Reporter/Host Jason Moon reports that “sending a message to drug dealers” by putting them in jail when someone ODs doesn’t solve the problem. They’re telling the murky story of Josh, a young man facing a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence in federal prison for his friend’s death. It’s the kind of true-crime story that challenges your beliefs, and fleshes out the fentanyl crisis that is bubbling up all around us.
🎙️The story of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders is unfolding in the podcast America’s Girls from Texas Monthly. Sarah Hepola brings us along to talk about the girls’ beginnings and the moment they moved from the sidelines to the center of the media’s attention. An interview with Vonciel Baker, the first woman to don the iconic Cowboys cheerleaders uniform in 1972, and stories about the team’s first choreographer Texie Waterman illustrate the contradictions and nuances the women faced, like constantly toeing the line between wholesome and sexy, and how their own stories seemed to spin out of their own control. It feels historical and dishy and sad and triumphant all at once. In a great moment, you get to hear a grown man read a letter he wrote to one of the cheerleaders as a kid. (Paging Mortified.) h/t Courtney Smith.
🎙️For those who could not get enough of Lemonada’s Believe Her, the conversation continues on Die-alogue, a show that explores the themes and subjects often found at the heart of true crime stories. Rebekah Sebastian’s interview with Believe Her’s host Justine Van der Leun ripped the story open again. The two talk about the blatant wrongs of the Nikki Addimando case, how Justine revolutionized the true crime genre by approaching the story from a place of belief, and the nuanced approach she took to profile a woman who went from victim to perpetrator simply because she didn’t die.
🎙️Ooh You’re in Trouble is a show that lets kids experiment in their minds about what it means to break the rules, by showcasing stories of people who have. Not Licensed to Drive is one of those episodes that is just as entertaining for adults—a 14-year-old is babysitting, and after promising milkshakes and french fries to her sister and sister’s friend, finds herself behind the wheel of her dad’s car. It’s a funny story exploding with colorful audio.
🎙️If you saw the movie Krampus, you may think you get the gist of the villainous Christmas character who punishes children for being bad. But on Imaginary Worlds, you get the whole story. Eric Molinsky talks to people who grew up fearing Krampus, and examines the role Krampus plays in childhood development in the countries that celebrate him. It forces you to wonder if Krampus is too scary for kids or a necessary ying to Santa’s yang.
🎙️I am in the midst of a 5-part series on The Christmas Movie Wars from Wondery, which pulls together the stories of Hallmark, Lifetime, and Netflix competing for our eyeballs over the Christmas season with their cookie-cutter, sugar cookie-smelling films. The cutthroat decisions these companies made to rise to the top are insanely smart and funny to hear about. This series tells us a lot about the history of these networks, but even more it tells the story of us. Why do we prefer scenes covered in snow? What kind of stars will make us choose one film over the other? Why are you watching what you watch? What is America’s relationship with Christmas?
🎙️Cover Story had a great first episode that introduces us to the story of Lily Kay Ross, but things escalated quickly in episode two, where we get a story of Lily going to a the Ecuadorian Amazon to work on a project with someone she trusted. Walking through Lily’s story, we see how easy it is to slip under the influence of evil. Lily was drugged, isolated, and raped, and may have never escaped if a passing tourist hadn’t urged her to do so.
🎙️I love you!