I've always loved talk radio.
In the early '90s, I used to listen to Jim Rome's show religiously when it was in its infancy and airing from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. on the now-defunct "Mighty 690." I was hopelessly hooked on KFI's Phil Hendrie Show for years, and was a loyal fan of The Howard Stern show until he jumped the terrestrial ship for Sirius satellite radio.
As high school seniors, my best friend Paul and I finagled our way into getting a gig doing sports updates at the local college radio station, KUCI. Those updates quickly devolved into us humorously embellishing on actual sporting events. At it's lowest point (which could have been the entirety of our short-lived stint at the station) our five-minute spot was aptly described as "a vehicle for childish meanderings" by a fellow DJ. We were "fired" shortly thereafter.
Undeterred by our inauspicious radio debut, I enrolled at Pepperdine in 1994 as a telecommunications major. I got myself a show at the campus radio station which was supposed to be a strictly-formatted college rock show. Like a junkie going back to get his fix, I disregarded the station-mandated format, started calling Paul (who was at school in Arizona) from the studio, and our show became two hours of us shooting the shit about music, sports, life, and whatever nonsense our brains felt the need to unload on our hearty listenership (read: less than fifty people; more than five.) I left Pepperdine after two years (motivated by a falling out with my baseball coach, a desire to play elsewhere, and a complete disregard for working towards a career with better odds than playing professional baseball) and with that, the radio show perished.
A couple of years later, after we'd both had transferred to Long Beach State, we found a way onto the airwaves (the cable airwaves, mind you--available only via televisions in on-campus housing.) The format, or lack thereof, was the same; two guys, sitting in a room, riffing, rambling, and discussing (read: arguing) about whatever seemed worth shooting the shit about during the two hours we were allotted. I loved it. I looked forward to it every week, and those two hours flew by like they were two minutes. Unfortunately, conflicting schedules and impending graduations put an end to that show. Without college radio at our disposal, our radio days were over. I miss it terribly (although we might end up giving a podcast a shot very soon.)
As terrestrial radio has gotten progressively worse, and satellite radio only seems (to me) to be financially feasible for those that have a ton of time to listen to it in the car or at work (I have neither), the podcast has exploded as a viable and more importantly, portable, alternative to mainstream radio. I'm hooked. I listen on my doctor-ordered bike rides, in the car, while cleaning the house, with my morning coffee, and while I'm on tour. I'm hooked because these podcasts remind me of what Paul and I used to do; sit in a room and riff, ramble, and discuss whatever we wanted to.
There are three podcasts that I'm particularly fond of at the moment, that remind me why I loved radio in the first place, and that give me hope that maybe one day Paul and I will have a "vehicle for our childish meanderings" again...
1) Sklarbro Country with Jason and Randy Sklar
I first heard the Sklar Brothers when they filled in for the aforementioned Jim Rome a few years back. I enjoyed their take on the Rome show so much that I ended up getting into their work as stand-up comics, and found myself looking forward to the weeks that Rome would take a vacation just so I could get my Sklar fix.
Thankfully, they started a podcast a couple of months ago. The hour-plus show is full of the quick-witted, pop culture and sports-referencing humor that hooked me when I heard them on terrestrial radio. They've also got a staggering knowledge of '80s and '90s-era sports (which is my wheelhouse, as far as useless sports knowledge is concerned) that makes listening to them feel like I'm sitting in on a conversation I usually have while watching sports with my best friends. Add to that, A-list comedians as guests, and some hilarious and dead-on impressions (Racist Vin Scully, Tiger Woods, Jerry Jones) by show contributor, Chris Cox, and you've got yourself an outstanding podcast.
2) Walking The Room with Dave Anthony & Greg Behrendt
I feel like an idiot for sleeping on Greg Behrendt's work as a stand-up (and author.) I know I'd heard the name before, I know I'd probably seen him on Comedy Central, but for whatever reason, he'd slipped under my stand-up comedy radar. That all changed when I went up to LA to see "Patton Oswalt & Friends" at Largo last month.
Greg opened the show, and absolutely killed. I'm a long-time fan of Patton, but I left that show talking about Greg's set, and immediately went home to buy any and all of his stand-up and find out more about what I'd been missing out on.
That's when I found out about "Walking The Room", the podcast that Greg does with friend, and fellow comic, Dave Anthony. As those of you that are familiar with 3hree Things or my prior blogging exploits probably already know, I am prone to (and a huge fan of) a good rant. Dave and Greg are some of the best ranters around, be it fury, shit-losing, slaying, what-have-you. I've feared for my safety while listening to "Walking The Room" while driving, because the laughter has rendered me functionally retarded. This podcast is highly recommended, but accompanied with a warning you not listen while operating heavy machinery/vehicles.
3) FilpCast with Paul Shirley & Mick Shaffer
I read Paul Shirley's Can I Keep My Jersey: 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years In My Life As A Basketball Vagabond a few years ago and found a lot of similarities between his take on life in professional basketball and my life as a musician. At the core of those similarities (beyond what I've already written about, here) is an almost hyper-observant, fairly self-deprecating, feeling-like-you-belong-while-also-realizing-that-you-have-very-little-in-common-with-your-cohorts kind of personality. Beyond what the book gave me as a basketball fan, it made me feel less alone in my own head while I'm out on tour, doing what I do--rubbing elbows with the "stars" (from time to time.)
Paul's writing, both in print and for espn.com, led me to Paul's new-ish website, FlipCollective, which is a collection of Paul's friends, writing about a variety of topics from sports, to life, to history, to pop culture, etc. This spring, Paul started the Flipcast with his friend, and local Kansas City sports anchor, Mick Shaffer.
The podcast airs weekly (or sometimes bi-weekly) and is roughly an hour and a half of music; discussion (or arguing) about social issues, single life vs. married life, music, and sports; and the fan-favorite "Impossible Trivial Pursuit" where they grill each other with '80s-era trivia questions and berate each other accordingly. Whether you're in search of great new music, want to test your knowledge of a 1980s-version of Trivial Pursuit's cache of questions, or want to hear two witty fellows discuss current events, the FlipCast is well worth your time.
Honorable Mentions: Marc Maron's WTF Podcast, Adam Carolla's Podcast
I'd love to hear suggestions for podcasts I'm missing out on, in the comments. Fire away.