👸🏾These co-founders need a white guy 🙋🏼♂️The Tiffany Problem 🤷♀️ a celebration of fan theories 🧠 the best podcast theme song ever 🎼
🍭 👂 You're in for a treat! 🌈 🤸♀️
Today is Monday, May 30. There are 128 days until my next Disney cruise. In case this email is too long, the story behind the best podcast theme song here, I’m getting real Rear Window vibes here, Jason Feifer shits on your fun facts here.
ps If you are pleased with Podcast The Newsletter, please spread the word.
👋q & a & q & a & q & a👋
How did In Your Hands come about?
During the lockdown I was alone in my apartment except for a giant peacock who plopped down outside my door every morning and left gifts in the form of excrement. I couldn't maneuver around the peacock to physically leave my apartment. When my lease was up I told my therapist the only place I could think of that made me happy was New Mexico. He said, “Then go.” So I put all my stuff into storage, drove to Santa Fe, and waited out the worst of it in a tiny Airbnb above a crystal shop. It made me wonder what would happen if other people made big choices like that for me–because had he not given me that extra push I probably wouldn’t have gone. I also probably wouldn't have spent two full days searching for George R. R. Martin's house.
How did you come up with ideas for adventures? Did you map out the whole season?
No. I wanted each event to flow naturally into the next. It’s been tricky though because, surprisingly, there are weeks where no one offers me a job or asks for my hand in marriage.
What has making the show taught you about yourself?
I like pretending I’m a journalist so I can get more information. My apologies to everyone at the turtle race who thought I worked for the “LA Globe."
What has making the show taught you about the internet?
When two roads diverge in the wood, most people choose the one involving sex.
What do you hope people get out of In Your Hands?
I want them to feel like the protagonist, and I want them to have an adventure. Oh and I hope they get a tote bag out of it once I start selling them!
How did this show change from the moment of its inception to the first episode?
I originally wanted to call this show 11 and do 11 episodes. I wasn’t sure if it was sustainable to live like this. I’m still not sure. Time will tell! I say this as I sell plasma out of the trunk of my car.
Were you nervous about any of the challenges?
Yes for sure. I really wanted to up the stakes with the Journal Purge / Lotto Splurge episode and once the votes started coming in I realized I had given the listeners two outcomes that could both have negative effects. I was planning a different episode and the options just kept falling through so a half hour before we recorded I settled on Lotto Splurge. The fallout was intense. The first time I've ever stared into my hands.
If you were going to start another podcast—don’t worry about the logistics or whether or not anyone would like it—what would it be?
I’d do something really simple and with little to no planning involved! Like talk to a friend on the phone and just record it or something.
✨Enter your podcast in the Podcast Partnership Database here.
🚨If u only have time for 1 thing🚨
I know it’s a little early to say, but I think I am dead for Realm’s audio drama The Co-Founder. In order to try to save their video game startup company, Valerie and Juliet, two young women of color/best friends, have their white-dude neighborhood barista Toby pretend to be the third founder for just ONE meeting in order to raise money. All I know is this: Toby ends up sticking along for more than one meeting, trying to strip Juliet and Valerie of everything worked so hard for. I SENSE that he won’t succeed and I’m looking forward to watching that happen. The show has fantastic voice acting, (by Sunita Mani from GLOW and Alexandra Shipp,) and I was struck by the quality of the writing. The credits for The Co-Founder are long. So many people put time into this and it shows. This is absolutely more enjoyable than most scripted shows I’ve watched on TV.
⚡️News from Sounds Profitable⚡️
In Sounds Profitable, Tom Webster (who joins Sounds Profitable next month) makes an impassioned plea to everyone releasing research in and around the podcasting space: do better with transparency about the methodologies used. Read here. Listen here.
🎙️Fan Theory Queries is a show where pop culture nerds Lara Williams, Spencer Williams, and Michael Sewell track down both brilliant and unfounded fan theories from all over the internet about things like Peter Parker, Scooby Doo, and Beauty and the Beast. The thing about ridiculous fan theories, I’ve learned after listening to several episodes, is that they often sound beyond ridiculous but are argued by an obsessive person who has done their homework, and sometimes they aren’t as nuts as they first appear. You might not end up convinced that Herbie, the Love Bug, is actually a Decepticon gone AWOL or that Toy Story’s Sid became a garbage man to save toys, but it’s an interesting world to live in for just a little while, and it’s fun to consider the worlds that pop culture creates, and allows us, if we’re loyal fans, to let our imaginations run wild about what could be. It’s a podcast about logic, canon, fandom, and the interesting way people are taking their thoughts to the internet. Listen here.
🎙️When Kendrick Lamar’s dropped, the internet seemed obsessed with studying it but slow to comment on it. It’s a thinkey album and I’ve spent hours listening to it again and again to figure how how it makes me feel. The things that feel awkward about it might be genius…I just don’t know. Switched on Pop reviews the album in a way that might help us find our own path to a better understanding of it, by isolating the samples Kendrick used in some of the songs, which feel like tiny codes that translate what might be going on in Kendrick’s head. Nate and Charlie treat the samples as something that doesn’t just contribute to the audio of the songs, but hints to explain what Kendrick is trying to say in these seemingly all-over-the-place songs. I was grateful for an episode that was less “here’s what we think of the album” and more “here are some musical elements of the tracks that might help you figure out what you think on your own.” Listen here.
🎙️My heart skipped a beat when I saw that Soul Music is back. Each episode takes one song and brings on voices that describe the emotional impact these songs have had on them. They’re devastatingly beautiful, often funny, heart-breaking and warming stories that will make you appreciate the power of music. The first episode of the new season is about Young Hearts Run Free by Candi Staton, a song that tells a story of getting out of a toxic relationship, and how it helped one woman leave her own abusive boyfriend. Listen here.
🎙️On BBC’s Lady Killers, Lucy Worsley is taking a feminist look at Victorian murderesses, asking: What do they tell us about the world they lived in, and how different is it today? So that’s interesting and reason enough to listen to it. But I was totally transported by the tone. It feels like you’re in a dark study with a fireplace, leaning in closely so you can hear Lucy tell you a story. She whisks you around the city, in conversation with Lady Killers in-house historian Sasha Wass, a QC Judge, Prosecutor and Defender, to give a 360 degree view of everything we know about these women. The first is Florence Bravo, who was unfairly tried after killing her husband (there were no women women in the police force, in her legal team, on the jury or in the press,) whose accusations about her husband’s cruelty were ignored by the inquest. Listen here.
🎙️Listening In is a scripted mystery thriller that poses the question, “If you were able to know exactly what goes on behind closed doors, would you want to?” After Julia (Rachel Brosnahan,) a lonely writer and recent New York City transplant, hears her home speaker device start to play her neighbor’s private conversations, she becomes wrapped up in not only their everyday problems but in a series of suspicious and escalating happenings, one of which may include her husband. (Who sucks so much it’s almost unbelievable, but I’m going with it.) It’s kind of Rear View Mirror-y. The sound is so immersive it feels like you’re listening to these conversations right alongside Julia. It’s super tense and has me on pins and needles, and is a creative storytelling device that makes you feel part of, almost a character in, a psychological thriller. Listen here.
🎙️If you’re like me you listened to More Than a Feeling and was blown away by a) how good it was and b) how much the theme song slapped. I was thinking, “has podcast intro music ever been this good? It is allowed to be?” For a special episode More Than a Feeling host Saleem talks with singer Piya Malik and musician, songwriter, and leader of El Michels, Leon Michels, about their collaborate process to come up with this track. With hints of Wu Tang Clan and Bollywood, and lyrics that were written with the show in mind, the song deserves some unpacking. They were able to create a song for a podcast that is original yet feels nostalgic (a feeling they then explore,) something that raises the bar for podcast music in the future. Listen here.
🎙️I binged season one of Strange Air over the weekend, an audio drama that introduces us to the radio program about the paranormal called “Strange Air,” and its host Malcolm Smith, who disappeared one night during a live broadcast. Nobody knows what happened to him but ten years later, his daughter Chase Smith, is hot on the case, creating a documentary about her dad’s disappearance for her final project at film school. Part pieces of Malcolm’s show, part pieces of Chase’s documentary, it’s a mystery that doesn’t cut corners on the audio, or the casting. (Patrick Fabian of Better Call Saul is the voice of Malcolm.) Season two is coming soon, so catch up now.
🎙️Too Much Information is delighting the shit out of me. Pop culture nerds Jordan Runtagh and Alex Heigl give us the secret history, behind-the-scenes details and little-known fascinating facts about our favorite movies, music, TV shows and more, and are dropping episodes at an alarming rate, 3x/ week. I can hardly keep up but I definitely want to. Maybe it’s because I’m the right age, but they are hitting all of my nostalgic soft spots—Beauty and the Beast, The Spice Girls, Hook, and more. A recent episode of Blue’s Clues brought me back to two-inches in front of my TV, which is where I was when I was watching the show every day before school, way too old to be doing it. But Alex and Jordan fill us in on all the facts about Steve, the show’s staying power, and the unusual way it was made. This isn’t even typically the kind of show I like, but I love the hosts and it doesn’t feel like they’re reading off a Wikipedia page. This is something I am thrilled to save up for the weekend. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and hearing details—some things I knew, some things I didn’t—makes this show a very happy place for me. Listen here.
🎙️Science Vs. has a scary story about a young girl, Ella Kissi-Debrah who mysteriously died from an asthma attack. Or that is what it said originally on her death certificate. Her mother, Rosamund, went on the warpath to figure out what really caused her daughter’s death, and the culprit was pollution—Ella grew up near a highway and was ingesting fumes from cars for her entire life. This is an extreme example of something that’s probably happening to all of us. I live in a busy city, surrounded by cars (though I do not drive one of them) and I’m just lucky their exhaust hasn’t gotten to my lungs yet. Ella’s mom worked to update the death certificate to indicate that she died from pollution, making Ella the first person to have this distinction. It probably won’t be the last. Listen here.
🎙️For two years, Jen Kinney studied the “armed teacher” movement for Vice News Reports to paint a picture of what it really looks like in practice. I always thought that this was too unhinged of an idea to actually happen, but it’s already been happening…for years. Jen takes us to Madison Local High School near Cincinnati, which is one of 19 states that have armed their staff. Jen talks to Cooper Caffrey, who was shot at school, and some of his classmates and teachers. The issue has divided the community from the sane people and the rest, who think that arming the teachers is what safety looks like. This is a rerun but it’s a good time to relisten to it. (Or listen for the first time.)
🎙️When you say the same word too frequently it loses all meaning, but I heard Helen Zaltzman say the word “Tiffany” approximately 50 times (more?) in this episode of The Allusionist, The Tiffany Problem, and I felt the opposite—it brought me so much appreciation for the name. I am sitting at the airport and I feel like standing up and shouting, “Oh my god you guys, Tiffany is a very good name!” I won’t, that’s what Twitter is for. The episode is about Tiffany the name as an anchronisnt, a name that people think popped up in the 70s but has been around for 800 years. People are so confused when a the name is used in historical fiction. So After Helen sings a rendition of the song “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” we learn that "The Tiffany Problem" isn’t really about Tiffany but about the disparity between historical facts and the common perception of the past. Listen here.
🎙️After I listened to The Tiffany Problem I listened to this “fuck your fun facts” episode of Build for Tomorrow in which Jason Feifer shuts down so many cute saying we think are true but are false, like “you swallow seven spiders every night” and “a goldfish only has a ten-second memory.” I started to realize that nobody knows ANYTHING about anything, we are all misled and perpetuate lies and make up new ones and we don’t understand things or remember them correctly, we are wrong about everything—one of the most popular podcasts is called You’re Wrong About…And now the Tiffany thing, and the fish thing. And why do we even try? Help me, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. I know I sound depressed, but this was a fun one as always. Listen here.
🎙️Last week Lemonada pivoted many of their show's topics to help us try to process the last two mass shootings. An episode of Last Day opens with a moment of silence and goes on to trace the racist roots of the second amendment with the help of author/professor Carol Anderson. Carol points out why the second amendment stands out like a sore thumb, and hearing her explain it made all these things in my brain come together for a moment of clarity around our gun problem is tied to anti-blackness, and the recent uptick in Black gun ownership. Listen here.
🎙️In June 2019, 17-year-old trans girl Nikki Kuhnhausen went on a late-night walk and returned wearing the jacket of a man she just met. Soon after another nightwalk, she didn’t return at all. Should Be Alive is bringing us close to the case, talking to her mom and friends, who were exceptionally worried—a missing person is troubling and scary, but a missing trans person is more likely to be in danger than a runaway. Host Ashley Korslien pieces together what we know about Nikki and why it’s so unlikely she ran away, and investigates a man who was discovered to have been communicating with Nikki on social media. Unfortunately, he seems to be missing, too. This is an intimate, uncomfortable story that walks you through the investigation with expertise. Listen here.
🎙️Multitude's Eric Silver noticed when searching for a new video game that most of these podcasts are stuck talking about industry news and whatever New Game everyone’s playing. And most D&D shows are telling a serialized fictional story. So he created Games and Feelings, a podcast simply what games they make people feel, outside of the news cycle. (We’re talking all types of games: board games, escape rooms, party games, games you play on the beach, old internet browser games you played in middle school, and much much more.) It’s an advice podcast about how games make us human and connect us with ourselves and others. It feels like a nerdy hug in the best way. Listen here.
🎙️I love you!
This week we’re getting to peek into the listening life of Marlene Sharp, a creative and business-savvy entertainment multi-hyphenate who is top dawg at Pink Poodle Productions and Head of IP Strategy and Acquisitions for Rainshine Entertainment, foremost Indian/Southeast Asian podcast company and global multi-media powerhouse. Due to her robust creative exec/writer/producer history with Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog and other video game-based franchises, Marlene is an in-demand guest on nerd-oriented audio talk shows, such as Geek Talk with Tyler, The Geekzip Podcast, and World Gone Geek. She was just named executive producer on the animated movie project Young Captain Nemo.
The app you use to listen: I use Apple Podcasts most often. Apple’s ease of accessibility is hard to beat!
What speed do you listen to podcasts? For recreational purposes, I listen at 1x speed. If I am in research mode for work, then it is higher.
How do you discover new shows? Apple’s ‘Browse’ function is very effective for finding new shows! Also, I pay close attention to podcast series advertisements within my favorite content and then investigate accordingly. I found Sacred Scandal, Disgraceland, and Even the Rich in that way. Finally, I love to listen to the recommendations of my podcasting peers from the exceptionally talented Pod People community, such as Nate DuFort’s crowd-pleasers Unspookable, Reach, and My Neighbors Are Dead.
One show you love that everybody loves. Wondery’s Over My Dead Body never disappoints!
One show you love that most people don't know about. I enjoy the honor of being an inaugural Pod People mentor, and my mentee Bri Moore hosts and produces a wonderful series entitled Power Not Pity. From the show description: ‘Through storytelling, commentary, and analysis, the podcast aims to amplify the lived experiences and perspectives of disabled people.’ Highly recommend!
Anything else you want to say... As a card-carrying busybody, I love to bring people together, especially for business purposes. A recent triumph was uniting incomparable podcaster Broadway Bob with my friend Amy Powers. Bob helms a tour-de-force audio extravaganza entitled The Sunset Project, which details the origin story and juicy behind-the-scenes factoids of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical Sunset Boulevard. Ace lyricist Amy is a big part of that gripping tale, and she now appears as star attraction on Episode 16 (which dropped on Friday, April 8).