Something which I really enjoy is the good old fashioned podcast. Much maligned, I think it’s an unappreciated art form and perhaps surprisingly therefore one of the most readily accessible. You can get hours upon hours a week of entertainment from these little undiscovered gems and the best part is that more often than not they’re free. To me it’s crazy that some people have never even listened to one. The motivating factor for me writing this article is one show in particular, This American Life. This is a podcast that a friend of mine introduced me to a couple of months ago and is something I’ve devouring voraciously ever since.
Presented by Ira Glass for WBEZ 91.5, a public radio station in Chicago, and with over 500 episodes, this is a show I find almost impossible to categorise. Every single episode is about a completely different topic (titles of the shows ranging from Small Scale Sin to Kindness of Strangers and Running After Antelope) and combines interviews, music, radio plays and much more. It is, perhaps, through the interviews though where I feel this show is at its strongest. What I really enjoy about these is the way the sound-bites are interspersed with insightful and a lot of the time witty musings from Glass. This is a show that provides a truly authentic and unpretentious slice of Americana but goes beyond that, exploring themes that resonate with people throughout the world. I have found myself absorbed by topics as esoteric as growing up in the Jehovah Witness faith to computer hacking.
In a country that is so dependent on the power of advertising, a public radio station such as WBEZ thriving is a testament to the strength of its programming. This American Life is perhaps at the core of that programming and subsequently has become popular not just as a result of syndication across the United States, now with over 1.8 million listeners, but podcasts and the Internet has given this show a global audience with it being downloaded by 900,000 fans worldwide.
I strongly urge you to give it a try and immerse yourself in This American Life. Episodes are available weekly, and are downloadable from iTunes (other stores are available) but if like me you listen to one and have the compulsion to listen to them all you should consider buying the This American Life app from the iTunes store. This awesome piece of software will give you access to all of the 500-plus shows for the ridiculously good price of £1.99. Further details can be found via the website, www.thisamericanlife.org, if you need any more convincing