As always, I hope you're having a great Monday morning.
Before I jump into the list, I want to provide a hearty plug for a call-in show I've been loving lately. It's called Indivisible. A co-production from The Economist, WNYC, and Minnesota Public Radio—and featuring hosts from each of those outlets on a rotating basis—it airs live at 8 PM (ET) Monday through Thursday nights.
I've decided not to feature an individual ep as there aren't really any standouts or format breaks. Each installment includes two guests, usually politicians, policy people, journalists, attorneys, activists, etc., providing analysis and responding to callers in real time. Though callers tend to skew left (it's a public radio show, after all), the hosts take great pains to provide time for people all over the political spectrum and all over the world. It's a great way to take the temperature of the day's news and to hear stakeholders work out their positions when things seem to be happening so quickly.
Host John Moe speaks with funny people about mental illness—depression in particular. What makes this show tighter and more engaging than your run-of-the-mill, just-shooting-the-breeze-with-a-comedian show are the snippets of the guest’s stand-up act woven throughout. An extended joke will introduce a real-life anecdote or provide an exaggerated example of something described in the interview segment. As for this episode, if you don’t know Maria Bamford, you should! She’s one of the most amazing, next-level performers alive, and also one of the most eloquent and human voices in the mental illness conversation.
Former host of The Run-Up Michael Barbaro presents this podcast, which typically consists of two stories/interviews, one political and one more broadly newsy (though cultural happenings like Beyoncé’s pregnancy find their way in, too). This ep: Mosul is the Islamic State’s last urban stronghold in Iraq, and the eastern half of the city was liberated last month. The always-insightful reporter Rukmini Callimachi, who made a name for herself infiltrating radical Islamic terror groups on the internet, is on the ground there describing what day-to-day life is like in the divided city. She explains how ISIS funds its brutal regime (it’s not oil) and why all men’s trousers have to be the same length.
“Missing Richard Simmons = the new Serial. Calling it now.” This is a text I got this week from a friend/prognosticator (hey, Kevin). It’s a much-hyped show, and here I am, stoking the buzzy, buzzy flames. The premise: After decades of celebrity and total accessibility at his Beverly Hills gym (called Slimmons), Richard Simmons has disappeared from the public eye. Why? Where is he? Is he okay? The show’s producer Dan Taberski, also a friend of the fitness icon, speaks with his inner circle to figure things out.
Alex and P.J. have put out some great shows lately, but I haven’t been able to shake this one since it aired a few months back. While it’s ostensibly an explainer on Pizzagate, the second act has been stuck in my craw. Alex interviews a moderator of Reddit’s pro-Trump community, who basically says that looking to bring the country together—or even to compromise with lefties and moderates and seek common ground—is missing the point of a Trump presidency. This ep might be unchill for people-pleasers/consensus-seekers to hear, but it seems to speak to the bitterness of partisanship at the moment.
This is the story of a trans woman named Rajee Narinesingh getting some light work done on her face. She knew she wasn’t getting legit medical treatment—it happened in an apartment—but went through with it anyway because she felt an overwhelming desire to pass. To avoid being a spoiler, it doesn’t end well. This is a tough episode, but it’s super moving, and Narinesingh’s overall vibe is admirably upbeat.