Jack Tame: Getting drunk on podcast punch

Podcasts trailblazers include comedians Stephen Merchant, Warwick Davis and Ricky Gervais.
Podcasts trailblazers include comedians Stephen Merchant, Warwick Davis and Ricky Gervais.

I didn't expect the Orlando massacre to lead to many laughs. Forty-nine people murdered and 53 others shot by a madman with an AR-15.

It's not the sort of thing that would usually make for rich comedic fodder. But just a few days after the carnage at Pulse nightclub, the Bodega Boys started their show with their usual tongue-in-cheek list of sponsors. "Shout out to Red Bull studios," said either Deezus or Mero, hosts whose voices I can't quite tell apart.

"Shout out to the Zika vaccine. No shout outs to Isis." The guys offered their condolences.

Then, although Isis only claimed responsibility for the Orlando attack about two days before their podcast, the Bodega Boys picked apart the extremist group in the best way they knew how.

Imagine this exchange in thick New York accents, dripping with swagger and expletives.

"Yo, Isis is mad phony cos they're fake flaggin'. All you gotta do is some f***ed up shit and be like, 'Yo! I'm down with Isis!' and Isis be like, 'Yeah, we was bangin' with them from day one.' Come on, this ain't a baseball team. You can't hop on/hop off.

"You just know that Boko Haram is looking at that and saying, 'Naaah, that can't be right. They're inflatin' their numbers! They're cooking their books'!"

The transcript doesn't do the exchange justice. But having just returned from reporting on the horror in Orlando, listening through my ear buds, I laughed aloud.

I was only introduced to the Bodega Boys a month ago, but their Friday podcast has fast become a highlight of my week. All they do is banter, discussing the news, basketball and whatever's going on in their lives.

One time they spent a good 10 minutes debating the definition of success. One host reckoned success is being able to buy anything you want at a department store. The other reckoned a better standard is affording a fresh towel every time you shower.

The podcast by the two comedians from the Bronx is perhaps the single most "New York" thing I've ever experienced.

That's the wonderful thing about podcasts.

Of all the trash served up by the iPhone revolution, the narcissist-enabling media and technology, podcasts give me more pleasure and satisfaction than any selfie could. It's wondrous what any of us can listen to and learn from at any time and in any place that suits.

Podcasts are, of course, really just radio shows on demand. Except that podcasts are freed from radio's rules. You can curse and swear. You can tackle any subject you like. And best - or perhaps worst of all - there are no time constraints.

I began with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's show more than a decade ago.

But as smartphone audiences have grown and access has become more intuitive, an enormous range of podcasts has developed, and most of them are free.

On Wednesdays and Fridays, a 20-minute economics podcast downloads to my phone. On Sundays, it's This American Life, the gold standard in long-form radio storytelling.

There's an elections podcast I subscribe to in which statisticians break down various political polls. A quasi-cerebral podcast profiling artists and creatives. An architecture podcast, a cricket podcast, a psychology podcast. A podcast where a comedian interviews a complete stranger for exactly an hour without ever learning that person's name.

I have a mate who made a regular podcast, below decks, when his shift finished onboard a large fishing vessel.

In 2016, we are spoilt by content and information and I'm drunk on podcast punch. And as the Bodega Boys would say, in their approving New York slang, "It's lit".

Jack Tame is on NewstalkZB Saturdays, 9am-noon.

- Herald on Sunday

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