1. You don’t want to listen to slayer on your morning commute.
There was this guy who lived on my floor freshman year of college who casually admitted that he didn’t “really like listening to music.” Everyone thought this was equal parts hilarious and bizarre, as well as a potential warning sign that we lived amongst a future serial killer, but I still think of him whenever I’m not in the mood for tunes. Although modern technology allows us to put music in our ear holes pretty much 24/7, there are plenty of times (that dreaded morning commute comes to mind) when I’m too busy idly contemplating suicide to deal with the emotional demands of a song. In fact, the pleasant distractions of an engaging conversation are just about the only thing I can tolerate until about noon. This was presumably the thought process behind morning talk radio shows, but thankfully most podcasts aren’t hosted by the kind of wacky, prank-calling “shock jocks” that make you want to careen your car into oncoming traffic.
2. There’s a podcast for everything.
The internet has obliterated any semblance of subculture, exposing the underground (all vulnerable and exposed like an unready, shriveled penis) to the light of the mainstream. Gone are the days of tape-trading, obscure message boards, the fear that you might be the only one – now every possible niche, no matter how narrow in scope, is within reach, offering itself up in the form of “content” like some desperate, disease-ravaged hooker. Whether your odd obsession is Japanese death metal, Gumby, bad porn, or Bazooka Joe comic strips, I assure you there’s a podcast out there diving into it with a level of fanaticism that even you’d find a little creepy. Personally, I’d like to shout out the Live Audio Wrestling network, whose Review-A-Wai podcast analyzes wrestling events from the 80s and 90s for upwards of two hours at a time. It’s hard to imagine that there are more than a dozen people on planet Earth who enjoy hearing two random dudes banter about wrestling matches from 1993, but I’m one of them. My advice: think of your strangest, most obscure interest, and then go download 10 podcasts about it.
3. It’s brain-lube
Just like music can trigger creative impulses, podcasts are great for generating ideas – for some reason, there’s nothing like eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation to provoke your mind into new insights. Marc Maron’s WTF, my favorite podcast (and just about everyone else’s), is a particularly effective muse for my writing (like, uh, right now for example). The show finds Maron, a veteran standup comic, inviting an amazing array of guests into his garage for in-depth conversations on comedy, music, and the generally daunting task of living in the face of unceasing anxiety, depression, and anger. The guests range from beloved icons (Will Ferrell, Conan O’Brien, Mel Brooks) to enigmatic curiosities (Tom Green, Norm MacDonald, Michael Keaton) to cultural punching bags that always prove far more fascinating than expected (Rob Schneider, Carrot Top, Jim Breuer). Maron is a hilariously (and brilliantly) maladjusted eccentric, and hearing him bounce ideas off this odd parade of stars and freaks is like some kind of strange mind-porn, perfect for lubing up the ol’ synapses up before your next creative endeavor.
4. It even makes brushing your teeth interesting.
I have a nagging desire to constantly consume content. I hate what I perceive as wasted time – driving, walking somewhere, doing menial tasks or chores. Whereas someone else may think of these activities as time that could’ve been better spent vigorously enjoying life (like hiking or boating or whatever the hell people do), I think of them in terms of films I could’ve watched or books I could’ve read. On my death bed, my dying words will likely be something along the lines of, “Alas, ‘tis a shame! I never did get around to watching Season 5 of Quantum Leap!” I’m aware that this is a sign of some kind of advanced obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as a thinly veiled and rather pathetic attempt to escape reality at all times. But the point is, podcasts help me feel like I’m better utilizing my time – this 6-hour car ride isn’t a total loss if I can listen to people talking about movies, TV shows, and books! Suddenly, thanks to podcasts, even brushing my teeth can now become an informative process and another opportunity to steadfastly avoid dealing with myself.
5. They can replace human beings.
Listening to podcasts fulfills that same need for socialization as turning on the television in an empty house (I think the empty house is supposed to represent the lonely interior of your cranium in this metaphor). Sometimes it’s just nice to listen to someone talk, regardless of whether or not that person is talking to you or even, technically speaking, knows you exist. Podcasts provide the benefits of human interaction (engagement, distraction, enjoyment) without any of the downsides (actually speaking to another human) – finally, a world where we can eavesdrop without having to worry about putting on pants.