Format: Canadians talking about everything and nothing, continually ratcheting up the stakes of elaborately unappealing sex or general disgustingness, usually in public
Episode duration: 30m-1h30m
Frequency: 3-9 per month
“A bunch of guys get drunk at a bar, and some dickhead keeps recording it.” The prospect does not immediately appeal. Several of you may find the deal sweetened if I reveal the identity of that dickhead as Keith McNally, the podcast auteur behind XO, one of the shows I’ve respected the very most in all my years Podthinking. XO repays your listening time with both its high-caliber production — some of the most intricate craft I’ve heard in a podcast that doesn’t also air on the radio — and its seemingly untrammeled access to the psyche of one not-particularly-inhibited young man with a lot on his mind, a high-intensity way of saying it, and the inexplicable ability to combine those qualities without descending into obnoxiousness. A real marriage of the raw and the refined, you might say, which most conceptually strong podcasts officiate in one way or another.
The Vinyl Countdown [RSS] [iTunes], now. This show sits on the opposite end of the production spectrum from McNally’s other brainchild: a bunch of guys get drunk at a bar, and some dickhead keeps recording it. For half an hour, an hour, two hours, two and a half hours, you can hear McNally and a handful of dude- or lady-friends gross each other out; reminisce about antics past; swirl the ice in their glasses; and speculate about what, in a series of made-up realities, each with their own rigid rules, does or does not count as gay. His friends have names like “Robocop Craig” and “Mustard Mike.” When something or someone comes up a lot in these conversations, McNally will occasionally splice together an episode illustrating it, as when he made one out of Louis C.K.’s visits to Opie and Anthony [MP3] (hosts whose manner, worn to a featureless dun by years upon years of morning-zooishness, makes you especially grateful for a challengingly personal program like this one).
To think this began as a video game show. I hadn’t actually started listening back when — if — McNally and his coterie stuck to that agenda; when I first tuned in, things had clearly long fallen into the kind of free-for-all that, listened to from certain angles, almost sounds like chaste formalism. But catch me on a good day, and I just feel delighted at the very fact that, at the touch of a button, I can listen in on a couple hundred hours of some Canadians talking about everything and nothing, continually ratcheting up the stakes of elaborately unappealing sex or general disgustingness, usually in public. I tend to think that certain types of podcasts have grown popular because they give us a line to the sort of conversations that have fallen out of our lives; it certainly hasn’t fallen out of these guys’.
Read the whole thing at Maximumfun.org.