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The best podcasts for Comedic Close Reading

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Who am I?

I'm a culture critic, royal watcher, podcast host, and author. I've hosted shows for Stitcher, Slate, CNN, the New York Times, Newsweek, and other outlets, and I regularly appear as a talking head on the BBC, Insider, and NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. My shows - which have been named to best-of lists by O The Oprah Magazine, Time, and Buzzfeed - include By The Book, How To Be Fine, Movie Therapy, and The Daily Fail. My book, So You Want to Start a Podcast, won the Audie Award for best business/personal development book of 2020. In all of my work, I try to examine not just the text, but also the subtext of the popular culture we're consuming - whether that text is in the form of a movie, book, tabloid, or TV show. For example, what do self-help books mean when they promise to make us more "optimal" versions of ourselves? What are UK tabloids implying when they refer to Meghan Markle as "difficult"? And what can we learn from the popularity of made-for-TV holiday movies? I'm interested in these questions not just as an avid consumer of pop culture, but as someone who believes pop culture speaks to our values and ideals in a more immediate way than the culture of the "canon" does. Note: It may sound like my approach is incredibly academic, but rest assured, I laugh a lot in all my dissecting and discussing. No one likes to be lectured. And more often than not, there's a lot of organic comedy in the world of pop culture.

What is my podcast playlist about?

My podcast playlist is a celebration of shows that simultaneously dissect and laugh at the texts they're examining. Even the most ridiculous texts can have a bit of wisdom. And often the most celebrated texts have problems worth ridiculing and laughing at. The shows on my list know this, and present their findings in a way that keep me coming back for more.

The podcasts I picked and why

1. If Books Could Kill

Why this podcast?

If Books Could Kill looks at the airport bestsellers that helped shape our ideas about the economy, crime, relationships, and health. From Nudge to The Rules, Michael and Peter dig into the contradictions of the texts and the qualifications of the authors to better understand why these books spoke to the masses, how they shaped policy, and why they largely fall flat when put to the test.

If Books Could Kill

If Books Could Kill

Michael Hobbes & Peter Shamshiri

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4.8

The airport bestsellers that captured our hearts and ruined our minds

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63 Listeners

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7 Comments

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2. How to Be Fine

Why this podcast?

In How to Be Fine, and it's predecessor By The Book, Jolenta and Kristen examine the mixed (and often dangerous) messages of the wellness world. From diet to personal finance to decluttering to relationships, they look at the coded language, inherent classism, and pervasive message that we're not good enough as we are. In the case of By The Book (in the same feed as How to Be Fine), they even road-test self-help books so listeners can eavesdrop on how the books' messages enhance and - more often - destroy their lives and marriages.

How to Be Fine

How to Be Fine

Stitcher & Jolenta Greenberg, Kristen Meinzer

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4.7

Half advice show, half cultural critique, and one wild ride through the world of wellness. Join podcast besties Kristen Meinzer and Jolenta Greenberg as they dissect the inner workings of the betterment industry - and offer up some advice along the way. Their goal? To help get you a little closer to fine. Kristen and Jolenta's first show By the Book is on this feed. To hear back episodes of By the Book, just scroll down!

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24 Listeners

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1 Comment

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3. Glamorous Trash: A Celebrity Memoir Podcast

Why this podcast?

Memoirs by female celebrities are often dismissed as froth, fluff, or inconsequential drivel. But Chelsea Devantez knows there's more to these texts than just page-turning juice. There are also insights into what our society thinks of women more broadly, revelations of the extent to which women are still marginalized, and reassurances that we're not alone in our struggles and successes.

Glamorous Trash: A Celebrity Memoir Podcast
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5.0

Celebrity Memoirs, Pop Culture, and Books! Join us as we book club female celebrity memoirs through a thoughtful lens

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7 Listeners

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4. Daily Fail

Why this podcast?

In the Daily Fail, Maura and Kristen dissect and laugh at the world's most-read tabloid newspaper, choosing three stories each week that embody the worst of what tabloid culture is all about - sexism, ageism, racism, nativism, anti-fatness, and misinformation. From dog-whistle language to outright abusive headlines, Maura and Kristen find humor both in what's being said, and what's not-so-subtly being implied.

Daily Fail

Daily Fail

Kristen Meinzer

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A weekly podcast about the worst of the tabloids - from Page Sucks to Hell No to the very rag that inspires the name of our show. Hosted by journalist Maura Currie and culture critic Kristen Meinzer.

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5. Book Vs Movie Podcast

Why this podcast?

Book Vs. Movie isn't the only podcast out there that looks at books that have been adapted into movies - but it's definitely the smartest and funniest, calling to task antiquated texts that never should have made it to the screen, and laughing at the liberties filmmakers take in adapting even the slimmest texts into popular movies (I'm talking to you, Harper Valley PTA!).

Book Vs Movie Podcast
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5.0

Book Vs. Movie is the podcast that ponders the question: "Which was better...the book or the movie?" We spoil away the details, uncover the plot points, discuss casting choices and shower with praise (or pummel with snark) as we see fit. Hosts are Margo P. (She's Nacho Mama's Blog) and Margo D. (Creator of Brooklyn Fit Chick.com) and we are not afraid to tell it like it is!

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5 Listeners

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