Posted in Books, Podcasts

“Everybody Has a Podcast (Except You)” by the McElroy Brothers

If you’re familiar at all with Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy, you probably know that their careers have been rather eclectic. If you are not, strap in.


The three brothers began a podcast over ten years ago, My Brother, My Brother and Me, which is the cornerstone of their podcasting empire. Their body of work is substantive, with each of the brothers working on multiple podcasts, sometimes including other cohosts, like their father, or their respective spouses. Their success is widely attributed to their brand of comedy, which is somehow both wholesome and incredibly vulgar. The McElroys (or, as my partner and I sometimes refer to them, the McElboys) have a devoted fanbase of listeners, including myself. This is your warning that this review is biased, as I have literally listened to every episode of MBMBaM. Yes, including the first twenty. Yes, even the one with that weird sound thing.

The premise of Everybody Has a Podcast (Except You) is fairly straightforward. As the McElroys have a pretty solid expertise in the world of podcasting, this book is intended to advise fledgling podcasters, be they aspiring professionals or hobbyists. While I was skeptical going in, as I do not have a podcast of my own, this book was delightful and amusing. If you are familiar with the particular McElroy flavor of humor, it really shines through in the book. The illustrations are adorable, and the design overall is gorgeous, making the reading experience a true pleasure.

My main worry going into this book was my utter disinterest in technical matters. Because the subject matter is podcasting, there have to be chapters on equipment and sound editing, and that’s just not my area of interest. Fortunately, I found even the chapters I thought would least engage me to be charming and entertaining. I think that any reader interested in McElroy content will be happy reading this book, and it also does provide actual, attainable steps and practical advice for your podcasting pursuits. I think that those interested in creative pursuits outside of podcasting will also find inspiration between these pages.

I think one of the biggest issues a lot of how-to guides face is bogging themselves down in logistics. This excludes the voice of the instructor, and can make these rather dry books. In this case, I found that I learned a lot while enjoying myself, and I definitely think this book is worth a read. I would also be interested in an audiobook version, as audiobooks are like reaaally long podcasts and it would be interesting to see how that would pan out given the collaborative nature of the book. One of the biggest tests of a book written by well-known people is whether or not the book can find an audience outside of die-hard fans. Given the content and quality of this book, I would not be surprised if enterprising podcasters pick it up as a textbook, though admittedly, a very funny one.

Everybody Has a Podcast (Except You) can be purchased wherever books are sold, or borrowed from you local library. This reviewer was provided a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Podcasts

Katherine Ryan’s Ice-Cold Take on MLMs

Katherine Ryan is best known as a comedian and actress, for her work with Netflix and appearances on British panel shows. Since April, Ryan has been releasing a podcast called Telling Everybody Everything, which is basically what it sounds like. She shares her life with her fans, in a slightly more vulnerable and real tone than she typically uses for her public persona and on stage. She has had several moving episodes, including one on pregnancy loss, but this week she really stepped in it, and seemed conscious of doing so.

Ryan begins by saying that she got some flack for saying something positive about an MLM on social media, and that she doesn’t understand the hate for MLMs online. She then begins by calling her younger sister Carrie, who has had experiences with MLMs. “I’m not a fan,” Carrie says, saying that she likes the products but doesn’t like MLM culture. “They- it’s a group of like really super positive people, and they’re like ‘slide into people’s DMs’.” She doesn’t love the hard sell. Carrie doesn’t sell, she just uses the products, and she says that it is expensive to try.

Katherine shares some warnings against MLMs that she has found, to be balanced. 1) Social relationships can be ruined by MLM recruitment drive 2) the market can be oversaturated 3) MLMs use feminist language to push a #girlboss narrative. She then goes on to talk about the many Latine families who have lost their savings to Herbalife, including selling their businesses to invest. Ryan essentially victim-blames these families, saying “I don’t think anyone’s asking you to sell your construction business.”

Then, Katherine rings up a friend in an MLM, Amy, a friend who is an MLM-made millionaire. Amy is basically exactly the MLM demographic- she’s a mom, who started in MLMs young, and then found one she could get in on early enough to actually make money. She is also charismatic and friendly enough to get people to join her downline and buy products from her. She admits that she did fail, over and over, in various MLMs. She and her husband agreed she would stop, because she kept losing money, and then she decided to get into another MLM as a distributor anyway. She claims that she was successful because she worked when no one else would have- when she was on bedrest while pregnant (should anyone have to work on bedrest while pregnant just to be successful? Because civilized countries have maternity leave). Amy provides the usual MLM platitudes, saying that the “the difference is the mindset.” She claims that other people aren’t successful in their MLMs because they don’t think big enough. Amy basically uses all of the MLM party lines, and even reiterates the MLM-is-a-business-model-not-a-scam shtick. She even compares her experience to Ryan’s stand up career, which Ryan agrees with. Amy says that her success doesn’t come from getting in early, but from being ready for the opportunity, more MLM language. When asked, Amy confirms, “I 100% believe that this could be for anyone- there’s no requirement for getting into network marketing.” Except to shell out money for the products and starter kits. I’m not going to keep transcribing all of what Amy says, rest assured that she’s exactly who you think she is, albeit very friendly-sounding. At the end, Ryan offers Amy some time to promote the business book she has coming out? Seems like all of this was to help a friend promote her scam business, but okay, go off.

Ryan purchasing or supporting a friend in an MLM doesn’t make her a bad person, but promoting MLMs to her audience is harmful. Ryan does compare her work to MLMs, even though selling items through a pyramid scheme is very different than developing a talent. Basically, this is a bad take, and I really hope that no one is going to join an MLM based on her recommendation. I normally am a big fan of her work, and it’s disappointing that she didn’t do her research in-depth and relied on anecdotal evidence.

If you’re interested in further information about MLM scams, YouTuber Savy Writes Books has a great anti-MLM playlist.

Posted in Books, Podcasts

“Just Between Us” From YouTube to the NY Times Best-Seller List, a podcast is born

Allison Raskin and Gabby Dunn are best known for their YouTube channel, Just Between Us, where they do sketches and a more talk-y couch show. They got their start together a couple years ago, and have since developed a strong online following. Raskin has been open about her struggles with mental health while Dunn is a prominent LGBTQ+ activist, or what she calls a bi-con, or bisexual icon.

Dunn and Raskin have since co-authored two novels, NY Times best-seller I Hate Everyone But You and recent release Please Send Help. Individually, Raskin is a writer and director and Dunn has a financial memoir based on her podcast, Bad With Money.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the first live recording of their podcast, also titled Just Between Us, which was recorded at the DC Improv, to a packed house. The podcast covers similar ground to their couch show, where they pick a subject, and discuss it at some length. On the podcast, they do a couple little bits about their current goings-on, have a guest, and then talk about a topic of personal or professional interest.

One of the reasons I personally have really connected with this podcast is that Allison and Gabby are Jewish, and they provide a different representation of what that looks like in media. Jews in media are pretty one-note, and it can be difficult to find anyone that looks or feels like me, but Allison and Gabby are relatable. They both have their own unique personalities and ambitions, and are not defined by any one aspect of themselves. Both have also been forthcoming about their mental health struggles, which is incredible. Their whole shtick has been that they are an odd couple, but you can also clearly tell that they are a unit. They really care about one another, and know each other well. They have amassed a following because they are so genuine, and because fans gravitate towards that realness.

The first segment of the show was devoted to their misadventures in traveling, some bits about the show being live, and an introduction to the podcast, for the uninitiated. Dunn wore a killer print suit, very summer and super on-brand, and Raskin sported a black jump suit, which is true to her simple but classic style.

The show’s guest was Dani Sauter, AKA Blonde in the District, who is a fashion blogger and style queen, also showing up in a summer printed suit, although hers was in a citrus color. I was not previously familiar with Sauter’s work, not being super plugged in to the fashion blogging community, but she was delightful. She was funny, engaging, and I cannot emphasize enough how much she was killing it in that suit. She is everything I imagined a fashion blogger to be, honestly. She’s put together, she’s glamorous, she’s what I imagine Eloise at the Plaza would be all grown up. In short, I am in love.

The three discussed Sauter’s work as a blogger, as well as her role in the body positivity movement. What really struck me about their conversation was something Sauter said. “People think body positivity is just for curvy girls, it’s not. It’s for everyone.” She could not be more right. She inspired me so much that I wore something fun to work today, instead of just one of my regular outfits from my rotation.

After their guest, Dunn and Raskin introduced their TOPIXXX segment, (my personal favorite part of the podcast) where they discussed Bachelor Nation, the Bachelor family of products, including the Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise. I’m familiar with the concept, as I too hate-watched the show guiltily in college, but it lost my interest after I realized I only really got negative emotions out of it. Basically, I don’t really care about the show, but I thought it was interesting to hear them talk about it. They were trying to figure out if they can ethically justify watching and engaging with the show, considering how destructive it seems to have been, especially in the past. Personally, I’ve watched Unreal, and found it to be a very entertaining satire of the whole Bachelor genre, so I’d prefer to watch that than the actual show.

Finally, when the two usually bring on a producer to talk about what they’ve learned and rate the show, they surprised Allison’s dad and brought him up. He was adorable and they had clearly not warned him, but they ribbed at each other and wound down the show in a good-natured way. He is pictured here, looking flustered and dressed almost identically to my dad, another middle-aged Jewish man who is a lawyer. He got a few good bits in, and was a good sport about being called to the stage without warning. Allison’s mom was perhaps the most amused, the look on her face when he jogged up to the stage was itself worth the price of admission.

Overall, I think Just Between Us, in whatever iteration you prefer, is worth a watch or a listen. You can find their podcast wherever you find podcasts, and their books are available wherever books are sold. You should try your local bookstore, because if you listen to Bad With Money or read the news, you know Amazon is probably evil. They also have merch available, and you can find out if they’re coming to a city near you here.

Posted in Podcasts

“The Anthropocene Reviewed” A podcast reviewing the human-centered planet

Podcasts have a foothold in the zeitgeist right now, and as such we are seeing a lot of them crop up in unexpected places. A lot have even found mainstream success, like Serial and other productions from public radio. Internet creators, too, have embraced this medium, and there are podcasts that have been ongoing for almost a decade. I have been listening to podcasts since acquiring my first iPod shuffle in 2005, and fell in love with Mugglecast, a show made by the staff. I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting podcasts, and I have already discussed my love for John and Hank Green’s joint venture, Dear Hank and John, but I’m a relative latecomer to John’s podcast, The Anthropocene Reviewed.

Green’s podcast isn’t really what I’d call “talky” although it features pretty much only talking. It’s more like a tiny nonfiction blog post, read to you in the comfortingly low tone of a bedtime story. The topics are interesting, although I have sometimes read the episode titles and thought “Ugh, Hawaiian pizza?” and been closed-minded going in, but then found myself both surprised and impressed. While I have favorite episodes, the podcast is so well-written and of such universal good quality, I have found myself re-listening to every episode. The quality of production is also great, which is to be attributed to Rosiana Halse Rojas, the producer of the show and one of Green’s frequent collaborators.

What makes The Anthropocene Reviewed so special is the personal nature of the show- for someone who has made hundreds of YouTube videos, Green is a relatively private person. In a recent episode, he told a story about his daughter, who has never appeared in Green’s social media. What is different about this podcast is that Green welcomes the listener into his world, not just showing us his day-to-day, but telling deeply personal stories about his life, specifically his early adulthood.While the show purports to be one that reviews aspects of the human centered planet, it feels more like a carefully curated collection of short poems interspersed with interesting facts. Each episode, only about twenty minutes, feels like a small gift Green is giving us, a little window into the soul. “I made you a present,” he’s saying, “I hope you like it.”

I do.

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You can find The Anthropocene Reviewed wherever you get podcasts. There are thirteen episodes, which are released pretty regularly once a month.

Posted in Books, Podcasts

“Bad With Money” by Gaby Dunn

bwmThe book’s title is a mouthful, Bad with Money: The Imperfect Art of Getting Your Financial Sh*t Together- though the book itself is surprisingly accessible, for a financial memoir. It weighs in at a slim 304 pages and boasts an excellent cover, pictured here. You can say that a book is not its cover, but I promise, a cover decides who is going to pick up your book. Maybe half of readers, like me, are already invested in Gaby Dunn, but people unfamiliar with her work have to decide to pick up the book. Bad With Money has the pick-up factor in spades.

Gaby Dunn is primarily known for her work with her comedy partner, Allison Raskin, on their shared YouTube channel, but in the last couple of years she has also been doing a podcast on the Panoply network. “Bad With Money” the podcast has been on my radar for a while. It’s a good listen, and it’s enlightening for those of us who have only ever seen money through a specific lens. In my family, money was an open conversation. Reading about Dunn’s circumstances is anxiety-inducing, but makes the financial decisions of people different from me a lot clearer.

I was taught to save, save, save. Eat at restaurants infrequently, take-out occasionally, buy new things when you need them, but abstain when what you have is perfectly good. I always had everything I needed, but reckless spending was not what I was taught. Reading about Dunn’s financial foundations is an exercise in empathy. I come from a similar background, but had an entirely different experience with money. Dunn’s honesty, both in the podcast, and in her book, is refreshing. It’s hard to admit what you don’t know, especially when you are a woman. Gaby freely admits her youthful ignorance and recklessness, while acknowledging the people who have helped her get her financial life together since she began this journey.

As someone who is just beginning their independent financial life, this book actually helped me a lot. The main tool to playing the saving and investing game is one thing I have: time. You need time for your funds to vest, and if I start now, I’ll be in good shape when I retire in a half-century. There are a lot of great tips for people looking to save in a way that works for them, but my main takeaways from the book were similar to those I got from the podcast: no one has advice that works across the board, for everyone. My brother, who is disabled, cannot save the way I save, because he’ll lose his benefits. A lot of my friends live hand-to-mouth, and they don’t have retirement savings accounts. Some people I know support family, everyone’s circumstances are different. A lot of the takeaway from Dunn’s work is that capitalism is an iceberg that is on fire, and we are the Titanic. The rich have all pre-boarded the lifeboats, and the poor are all drowning. Also, the rich have publicly backed the fiery iceberg and bought travel insurance.

That dire prognosis aside, Dunn’s book was helpful for me to untangle some financial quagmires. As promised, I now know which kind of retirement savings account I need, and what kinds of debt I probably shouldn’t have. There’s a lot to love about Dunn’s book- it’s raw, and honest, and it doesn’t cause the reader to marinate in guilt about their own financial affairs. That last part might seem trivial, but it’s one of the most important ingredients to Dunn’s podcast and book: removing the shame of not knowing, putting the focusing on learning. Gaby expresses her own shame and embarrassment, while making it clear that she shouldn’t feel that way, that no one should.

In short, it’s worth a read. The book is fun, thorough, and interesting, without ever getting too bogged down in financial terminology for the average reader. I could have done without the chapter summaries, they were out-of-place and made me feel like I was studying for an exam, and most of the chapters were too short to need any review. I do highly recommend this book for anyone who is anxious about money, has a lot of money, or thinks they know a lot about money. You can find Bad With Money wherever books are sold, and you can listen to the podcast wherever podcasts can be found.

Posted in Podcasts

“Dear Hank and John” A Comedy Podcast About Death

Dear Hank and John is a podcast by duo Hank and John Green, also known collectively as the Vlogbrothers of Youtube fame. They began the podcast in mid 2015, and have been releasing them weekly ever since, with some brief intermissions and occasional guest hosts replacing either brother.

I came to the podcast since my job requires a lot of manual labor that is relatively mind-numbing, and requires some sort of soundtrack to make tolerable. As such, I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts and have plowed through hundreds of hours of audio in the last year. I have been a vlogbrothers subscriber since 2012, and I started listening to the podcast a month or two ago. I have since listened to all eighty-five episodes of the pod, and it’s very engaging.

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Hank and John (or John and Hank, as John prefers) have awesome chemistry, and hearing them talk to each other directly rather than through alternating video blogs is weird, but they have a really entertaining back-and-forth. They also manage to be both serious and silly, which is a hard spectrum to nail, and they clearly enjoy making the show together and talking to each other. The brothers dispense what they refer to as dubious advice (and it usually is) for the first forty minutes of the show, and then for the last ten or fifteen they talk about their personal interests, Mars and the British football team AFC Wimbledon. The beginning of the show starts with light banter, and John reads a nice short poem. There are a lot of inside jokes in the community Hank and John are part of, but the show has inside jokes inside the inside jokes.

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I personally enjoy the pod so much that I use it as white noise when I do work, or walk around. I would very much recommend it, it’s definitely one of my favorite talk-y podcasts at the moment. You can find it wherever podcasts are dispensed.

Posted in Podcasts

“The Thrilling Adventure Hour” A Star-Studded Adventure

While the Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast has been ongoing since March of 2005, they have only recently been posting their segments to iTunes and the Internet, and have quickly become quite popular. The podcast is initially recorded monthly, and then released online weekly as separate segments. These include Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars and the fan favorite, Beyond Belief. Typically, every show includes Sparks Nevada and Beyond Belief, and an additional segment, such as The Adventures of Captain Laserbeam, Amelia Earhart: Fearless Flyer, Desdemona Hughes, Diva Detective, or Jefferson Reid, Ace American. The format of the old-school radio show lends itself well to short stories featuring the recurring characters fans love.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 11.27.25 AMWhile the show has not had a lot of press, many stars have lent their talent (and voices) to its stories. Some guest stars have included Amy Acker (Dollhouse, Much Ado About Nothing), Adam Baldwin (Firefly, Angel), Emily Blunt, Misha Collins, Jorge Garcia (Lost, Once Upon a Time), Karen Gillan (Doctor Who), Colin Hanks,  Neil Patrick Harris, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Aimee Mann and even the great Weird Al Yankovic. One of the best known frequent recurring guest stars is Nathan Fillion, who voices the titular Jefferson Reid in Jefferson Reid, Ace American,  as well as characters in Beyond Belief and Sparks Nevada. Fillion is a critically acclaimed actor for his role in Firefly, various other Joss Whedon productions, and Castle, on which he plays the titular character. Patton Oswalt is another frequent guest on the show, the comedian has played a few different characters on Beyond Belief, including a hard-boiled detective known as Pterodactyl Jones.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 11.27.46 AMAside from a host of incredibly talented guest stars, the show regulars are simply delightful. The dashing Paul F. Tompkins and  lovely Paget Brewster play the hilarious duo of Frank and Sadie Doyle, Park Avenue residents who are just as comfortable with the affairs of high society and the nether realms. Brewster and Tompkins are simply hilarious as the married mediums, who solve paranormal mysteries, although they would prefer their own company and that of alcoholic beverages. Beyond Belief is by far the fan favorite segment of the show, though Sparks Nevada, covering the adventures of a space cowboy, is also a funny and interesting journey. His relationship with his martian companion, Croach the Tracker, is an ongoing joke by the writers, and they are not afraid to tackle the sexual tension. The show is breath of fresh air, and a great listen. Since podcasts have come back into vogue, hopefully The Thrilling Adventure Hour will become better known.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour does monthly shows, for tickets go to their website, A concert film is currently in post-production.





Posted in Podcasts

Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale is an ongoing podcast from the mind of Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, a bimonthly podcast in a radio show format. The “voice of Night Vale” is Cecil Baldwin, a radio host who gives Night Vale‘s fans the details of the unusual happenings in the desert town. As this show has recently had its second birthday, and the fan base is only growing, I thought I would make a list, in no particular order, of great things about this show and why you should love it.

Mine Welcome To Night Vale animated GIF

1. Prominent and active female characters

Although the main character is Cecil, there are a lot of really compelling female presences on the show, including the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home, Intern (now Mayor) Dana, Intern Maureen, Tamika Flynn, and Old Woman Josie. These women take action, have positions of power, and have gripping narratives. They are all voiced by interesting and talented actresses.

2. Celos or Carcil? (Carlos/Cecil)

The Carlos/Cecil ship is too amazing to sink. It also was the plot catalyst for one of the best episodes, “First Date” (episode 27.) Cecil and Carlos have an adorable and mutually supportive relationship that is seen in multiple episodes to be just the cutest thing. Also, they are a great representation of a biracial relationship in popular media.

3. Racial Diversity

While people like to ignore the white-washed TV shows that are still very prominent, Night Vale takes this problem on by creating compelling characters of multiple races. Tamika Flynn is an interesting, driven and intelligent African-American woman, played by an African-American woman. Carlos is a bright latino scientist played by a latino actor. While race isn’t a huge factor in the show’s plot, it’s still really important to have a diverse and representative cast.

4. Sexuality

While shows like Glee have more than a few characters that have huge plot points revolving around their sexuality, Night Vale is far more casual. Cecil Palmer, the main character, is a gay man. He works in a professional environment, has a steady relationship and is a productive member of society. The show doesn’t march out with confetti cannons about it, but it makes it very clear that Cecil’s sexuality is part of who he is. AND THAT’S DAMN BEAUTIFUL.

5. The Weather

A creative excuse to play interesting and usually unusual musical selections. What’s not to love? Also, it makes the live shows more interesting. The weather is never anything you would hear on the radio, and is one of the most popular segments of the show.

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 11.12.13 AM6. Merch

A lot of shows just do merchandising to make money, but Night Vale subsists mostly on money donated by listeners and money from the numerous tours. The merchandise is awesome, from rotating shirt sales to a Night Vale flask.

7. Live Shows

I personally have attended one of Night Vale‘s live shows with a close friend, and the atmosphere was amazing. Everyone was incredibly friendly, the sheer amount of cosplayers was unbelievable, and the show was pure genius. While listening to the show is great anywhere, there is nothing like the joy of being surrounded by a crowd laughing just as hard as you are. It was totally worth it, and I highly recommend going to a show if there is one in your area.

8. The Fans

Initially, as the show is free on iTunes, Night Vale was completely supported by its listeners and creators. Now that its popularity has skyrocketed, the show is more financially secure, and the community made up by people who love it has only become stronger. Fans cosplay, make Tumblr pages and write great fanfiction. Building an organic community like this one is an unusual and special phenomenon, and just one of the reasons why Night Vale is so awesome.

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9. Supernatural phenomena

One of the most compelling facets of the show is the tenuous balance between fiction and reality. The coolness of  five-headed dragon running for mayor cannot be quantified. The Glow Cloud (ALL HAIL) is hilarious. The mixture of scientists and random supernatural events is one of the best and most interesting parts of the show.

There are a bunch of tour dates in the near future, so if you haven’t seen them live yet, you should definitely see if they’re playing in your area.