Plug into these podcasts and tune out the noise.
“I was looking for a podcast that was a direct response to Trump, and I couldn’t find one,” says Summer Brennan, one of the hosts of the new show The FourFiftyOne (as in Fahrenheit), which calls itself “a podcast for the resistance.” “It’s the classic case of ‘Be the podcast you wish to see on iTunes.’ ” In this case, that means a freeform venue for Brennan and her co-hosts, Jesse Hirsch and Jonathan Mann, to digest the political news of the week, bad and good, talk about what activists and organizers are doing on the ground, and interview anyone who might have some insight into how to achieve political goals (including people on the right). The show can veer into the touchy-feely (in each episode the three hosts discuss their “hopes and fears” for the week), but maybe a little touching and feeling would do us all some good.
Since Slate CEO Jacob Weisberg launched his podcast last March, almost every episode has begun the same way: As an ominous string score plucks away in the background, a voice that sounds nauseatingly identical to Trump’s — it’s actually Trump impersonator John Di Domenico — begins reciting the latest barrage of un-hinged tweets. The effect is a disorientingly apt introduction to the show, which is built around casual topical interviews (usually with academics and journalists) that examine the Trump phenomenon from different angles. Weisberg says he wants to broaden the show’s approach so it becomes less reactive to Trump’s latest insanity, instead doing deep dives into, say, the inevitable corruption at federal agencies — topics that Weisberg predicts won’t get as much coverage in the media “because, you know, they’re not war with China.”
A very incomplete list of some recent targets of the CTHhosts’ cheerful evisceration: Paul Ryan (“dreams of dead orphans”), liberals who still think Clinton will come back to save them (“somewhere in the woods of Westchester, there’s a pulsating chrysalis….”), and the inauguration spectacle (“I honestly felt like a fucking altar was going to rise out of the middle of the fucking reflective pool with a strapped-down virgin on it and they were going to cut her fucking heart out”). The clubhouse of the self-proclaimed “Dirtbag Left,” Chapohas plenty of burn-it- down contempt to go around, for morally nonexistent right-wingers, spineless liberals, and a press that swoons in the presence of money and power. There is, however, a clear political vision underlying the Chapo hosts’ scorn, encompassed by their regular, helpful reminders that “Bernie would have won.”
The comedian Maeve Higgins’s podcast isn’t about politics, exactly; it’s about people. But because those people are immigrants, their personal stories now sound more political than ever. “One reason we started the show was to put a human face on immigration,” says Higgins, who immigrated to New York from Ireland three years ago. In each episode, Higgins speaks with a different immigrant about their experience coming to the U.S., from a Nigerian-born aquaponics farmer in Brooklyn to a Syrian luggage salesman who’s waiting for his asylum application to be approved (that episode will air in season two, which begins this month). Higgins’s interviews are meandering and funny and personal, with minimal soapboxing. “I don’t need to say, ‘How can you compare this man to Skittles?’ ” says Higgins. “He can speak for himself. And anybody listening will get it.”
It’s true that this weekly comedy show is more focused on pop culture than politics — each week, hosts Crissle West and Kid Fury riff on a variety of topics, ranging from the unexpected charms of Mariah’s World to a newly unearthed letter Tupac once wrote to a girlfriend, and respond to reader requests for advice. But when the segments in each sprawling, two-plus-hour episode do touch on politics, they’re insightful and funny, alternating between blistering exasperation and dry irreverence. The episode after BuzzFeed published the memo alleging Donald Trump’s interest in golden showers, for example, West predicted, “There is a well-meaning white girl named Sarah or something, somewhere in these United States of America right now, in Pages typing up an essay about why we should not kink-shame the president-elect.” (She was right.)
American politics has never suffered from a lack of dicks. But with Trump in the White House, politicians at all levels of government are gearing up to let their inner dickishness run wild. That’s the premise of Jezebel’s new podcast, Big Time Dicks, hosted by Joanna Rothkopf and Prachi Gupta (who made headlines last fall, when, as a reporter for cosmopolitan.com, she grilled Ivanka Trump, a known dick, about her father’s feeble maternity-leave proposal). In each episode, the hosts will offer an in-depth examination of a policy or proposal that will hurt women and/or people of color, call out the dicks behind it, and inform listeners about how they can fight back. Who’s on the radar? “Paul Ryan is a really good example of a dick who is hiding behind the idea of government, and the idea of party politics,” says Rothkopf, “when he’s actually just a dick.”