There are many great things about living in Los Angeles. Anything relating to driving is not one of them. From navigating the confusing, pothole-ridden roads to enduring seemingly endless traffic to hunting down that elusive parking space that may as well be the Holy Grail (oh, and trying not to scratch up the vehicles on either side of yours if/when you finally find it), well… Let’s just say that driving in LA may explain the popularity of yoga around here. Anyone who’s been stuck on the 405 (or the 5, or the 101, or the 134…) during rush hour (i.e. all hours) can understand the need for zen.
That said, driving in Los Angeles is – unfortunately – pretty much a necessity. Until we achieve enough fame and fortune to have a driver (or afford to Uber everywhere) or alternate forms of transportation like the TARDIS or a metro that’s actually useful become available to the public, every Los Angeles resident must learn how to live with being a slave to the
open traffic-ruled road.
We all deal with our mind-numbing commutes in our own ways. As I mentioned last month, it helps to make your car as comfortable as possible – with sunglasses, snacks, whatever you need within reach. But one major factor in why traffic is so frustrating is the lost time, so I’ve found that it helps to fill my commute with something useful or interesting… Something like podcasts.
I first got into podcasts several years ago, when Welcome to Night Vale and Serial were rising to become the hugely popular programs they are today. Since then, I’ve become totally addicted. There are podcasts for literally everything – from comedy to relationship advice to fandom talk to thrilling storytelling – and all of this incredible entertainment is absolutely free. What’s not to love? Listening to them in my car lets me learn something, laugh, or enjoy a great story on my way to or from work – which keeps me from getting too stressed out or discouraged from driving and makes me feel like the time on the road isn’t a total waste.
I’ve never considered myself to be a Nerdfighter, but I’m obsessed with this podcast from VlogBrothers John and Hank Green. Each week, the brothers answer listener questions, give dubious advice, and update us on the latest news from both Mars (Hank’s forte) and AFC Wimbledon (an English football team that John is very invested in). The questions and advice segment – which makes up most of the show – is so entertaining and insightful. John and Hank address topics from existentialism and the nature of grief to what one should do about a wasp in their bedroom or their sibling eating the last piece of pizza with equal thoughtfulness and care. The podcast also features the occasional special guest, from Maureen Johnson to Felicia Day. It’s both educational and entertaining, and whether you’re a dedicated fan of John and/or Hank or not, you’ll probably really enjoy it.
There seems to be a lot of talk about Millennials in the news lately, but most of it is coming from people who definitely can’t lay claim to the title. This podcast offers an authentic Millennial perspective on everything from politics and current events to entertainment to sex and dating, all from a panel of four young adults/friends (whom you may recognize from podcasts like Smart Mouths and MuggleCast). This is another show that is both fun and informative, and – love or hate the word – it really captures the Millennial lifestyle. Though #Millennial can get pretty political, as we really come into election season, it’s helped me to understand what’s going on in Washington much better – and the recent Super Tuesday episode was actually one of my favorites yet. For someone whose main insight into politics comes from House of Cards, that’s saying something.
This podcast is almost too good to be true. Beloved actress Anna Faris (The House Bunny, Mom) recently started this show, in which she and a celebrity guest (past appearances have ranged from Aubrey Plaza to Lance Bass to Jenna Dewan Tatum) shoot the shit and offer unqualified relationship advice to callers. Anna Faris Is Unqualified is laugh-out-loud funny, insightful, and totally entertaining. You’ll love Anna Faris even more than you already do, you’ll pick up some useful relationship tips, and you’ll forget how long you’ve been sitting in traffic. The occasional Chris Pratt cameo is just a bonus.
Getting a little more refined, we have The Dinner Party Download – “a fast and funny hour of culture, food and conversation.” Even speaking as someone who can probably count the number of dinner parties she’s been to on one hand, I love so much about this podcast. The segments range from cocktail recipes based on current events to interesting etiquette tips (which are fun to know whether you put them into practice or not) to short story/poetry readings to interviews with some of Hollywood’s finest. You’ll come away feeling like you’ve been invited to the classiest dinner party around, which is all that matters.
Radiolab is a very popular podcast – and for good reason – but it’s kind of hard to explain… So I’ll let it speak for itself. The show is “an investigation told through sounds and stories, and centered around one big idea.” Sometimes this means exploring a conspiracy from World War II or the secrets of professional wrestling, and sometimes it means going inside an Amazon-like fulfillment warehouse or talking about pushing buttons (literally). The stories are captivating – no matter what your interests – and the production value makes them so enjoyable to listen to. This is one you’ll have to check out for yourself.
If you listened to Serial Season 1, you probably came away wanting more. What happened next? What about Detail XYZ or Theory ABC? If you can relate, you’ll definitely want to check out Undisclosed: The State Vs. Adnan Syed. This podcast – put together by attorneys Susan Simpson, Colin Miller, and Rabia Chaudry (yes, that Rabia) – examines Adnan’s case in further detail, going into elements that didn’t make it into Serial as well as new discoveries. Sometimes it does get a bit technical, but more often than not you’ll get the familiar feelings of discovery and intrigue familiar to everyone who was hooked on Adnan’s story.
Delving back into the fandom side of things, The Nerdist is pretty much required listening for nerds. Professional fanboy Chris Hardwick spends each podcast interviewing one or more celebrities, talking not only about their latest project but also about their lives, interests, fandoms, and other interesting things you don’t generally get to hear about on the press circuit. Start with a few episodes featuring your faves (Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Radcliffe, and Andy Serkis are all on there, just saying), and go from there. Hardwick’s talks with Wil Wheaton – his longtime friend and fellow geek – are always standouts as well.
Winter is coming. Game of Thrones‘ return is less than a month away – and if you don’t have time to binge-watch all 50 episodes (again), this may be the podcast for you. Game of Owns delves into every aspect of Westeros – from the latest show news to discussion of past episodes to book talk – and will reignite your wildfire for all things Thrones in no time.
I’ll be back with another monthly missive from Los Angeles in April. If you’d like to get my take on some aspect of LA life, challenge me to do something (like a certain hike or visiting a museum), or ask a question, hit me up! You can reach me on Twitter or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are the best podcasts to listen to in the car, in your opinion?
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