Pod People: AFS Lead Programmer Lars Nilsen Suggests Some Favorite Podcasts
AFS Lead Programmer Lars Nilsen here:
Back before the fall of civilization I used to commute to work at the AFS Cinema six days a week and during that time I, like many of you, became a devout podcast listener. My go-to package of podcasts includes – not surprisingly – a fair number of movie and TV related podcasts – I will spare you the basketball, political, and history podcasts.
Well, my daily commute is now bed-coffeemaker-couch, but my consumption of pods has not diminished significantly, so I decided to kick off a new series called Pod People in which we and our pals share some of our favorite podcasts that are relevant to film and moving image culture, and I get to be the first one off the diving board so here goes. P.S. AFS has a podcast you can subscribe to here.
First up is a podcast that is well-known to many of you, but I will bet that some people who would absolutely love it have not yet jumped in to podcasts, so to those people I say, let this be your gateway drug. It is Karina Longworth’s “You Must Remember This.” It is scripted and well-produced and, in fact, is more like a series of audiobooks than you might expect. The choice of subjects is adventurous and excellent. Classic Hollywood from the silent era through the ’70s is examined from every angle. Longworth is interested in more than the material on screen, or even just the behind-the-scenes stuff. She brings the culture into the picture and it’s extraordinary and fascinating and altogether brilliant.
Where to start: There are a LOT of great miniseries. I particularly like the “Charle’s Manson’s Hollywood” series. Its dramatis personae include Doris Day, The Beach Boys, Michelangelo Antonioni and more. Longworth ties some pretty diffuse threads together and it’s really riveting.
Ok, while that one was for virtually everyone I know, this next one is a toughie for some folks. “Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast” is of course hosted by the titular adenoidal comic, along with – thankfully – a cohost named Frank Santopadre, who keeps things more or less on track as the pair interview some pretty outstanding, top-flight talent. Most of the guests are old-timers. Some interviewees are convention-hardened, with stock replies that aren’t getting any fresher as they head into another decade of use, but some of them seem to be dying to talk and to share their best stories, and that’s what makes the show good. Now, I should also mention that the humor is often pretty juvenile – in good and bad ways. The production tends to be a little cheesy and Gilbert can be grating, particularly to anyone who can hear sounds through their ear holes, but the quality of interview subjects makes it all worth it – to me anyway. Mileage may, as the kids say, vary.
Where to start: The great Dick Cavett has been on the pod several times, most recently here. As you might expect, the subject of the Marx Brothers does come up, and Gilbert does his impression of “old Groucho” yet again. Bottom line: it’s an hour and a half conversation with Dick Cavett. You’ll be needing to hear that.
This next one goes way down the bunny hutch of obsessiveness, and my religious devotion to it probably accounts for all those targeted Metamucil and catheter ads I have been seeing in my social feeds of late. It is Mark Malkoff’s Carson Podcast. Now, I don’t especially like Johnny Carson or think he was funny (sorry!) but there’s no doubt that his show, which ran for 30 years before Jay Leno took over, was at the bullseye of a particular kind of showbiz culture. The pod covers virtually every angle of the show, with a Balzacian completeness. In fact, by listening to this show, you can more-or-less construct a mental hologram of ’60s and ’70s show business with the Carson desk as its heliocentric focus. Malkoff interviews movie stars, producers, gag writers, jugglers, even cue card men, with the same bulldog-like persistence. It’s a show that should not be this fascinating but it is. Every guest is handled with respect, and what goes unsaid is nearly as interesting as what is said.
Where to start: This is tough, but this one is a favorite. Director John Ford’s grandson Dan Ford was a stagehand on the Tonight Show and he tells some pretty great stories about his life and the show. Also, Malkoff keeps it clean, with no curse words allowed, but the Ford family curse of total bluntness and freedom of verbal expression does not allow for self-censorship, so the bleeps are hot and heavy.