Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Some More of My Favorite Podcasts: Six

The Mental Illness Happy Hour

"A Podcast & Forum about mental illness & depression ~ especially among artists."

Okay, I'm gonna have to go serious on you here for a minute. As I think most of you know who are reading this, I was raised in an environment that was dysfunctional in some key ways. Largely but perhaps not entirely because of that, I suffer from depression.

In fighting this, I've been taking medication, and I've also tried to open myself up to a little Buddhism-influence (or a lot). I'm not going to turn this into an entry all about my reactions and feelings in this fight (I have a whole other blog for that), but some ways in which the depression manifests itself are hopelessness, fear, isolation and shame.

Well, here's a show the stated goal of which is spreading the idea, not that everything's coming up roses...but that roses can still grow. Of figuring out how to stay safe against those things, real and imagined, that you're scared of. A show the motto of which is "You Are Not Alone." A show that honors the suffering.

It does this in the form of remarkably candid interviews with people, usually in the comedy performing and/or writing business, who've suffered from depression and/or other mental illnesses.

This makes for an excellent use of the intimacy of the podcast format. You really feel as though the people conversing have forgotten that their words are being recorded and will be "broadcast" (or whatever it is podcasts do). Though obviously, that can't be so.

This is another one that I subscribed to after hearing only one episode. However, although it still pushes some of my buttons is mostly good ways, I do have a couple of qualms; they're both about the host.

Paul Gilmartin is not a mental health professional. Nor does he pretend to be (he's not Dr. Laura); the website for the show states clearly:

This site is not intended to replace the need for medical diagnosis. Please leave that to professionals. It’s not a doctor’s office. Think of it more as a waiting room that doesn’t suck.

Yet I still feel sometimes uneasy, or at least...not completely at ease.

Gilmartin is a comedian who himself suffers from some of these illnesses. On the one hand, his situation means he knows something whereof he speaks. But it also means he's playing with some very valuable (and volatile) things, the emotions of his audience; perhaps without fully knowing what he is doing. I think perhaps it might make me, personally, feel better, if he would make a statement similar to the above quote a part of the show's usual intro.

However well-intentioned--and I believe that Gilmartin's intentions are nothing but good, to help himself and to help his audience--there's still at least as much of a chance that could hurt as heal. I also kind of wish that he'd do a little more research sometimes.

If my expectations for this are higher than they are for something like good old WTF, it's because WTF hasn't hung out a shingle advertising for the neurotic (the neurotic just show up there).

Okay, I've talked enough--maybe/probably more than enough. Listen to a few and make up your own mind. Recommended episodes: Wendy Liebman, Greg Behrendt, Marc Maron and Frank Conniff.


This podcast is a series of true stories told by the people they happened to. Most though not all of these are entertainers and writers; some you'll know, others you won't. At least one that had me laughing out loud was told by someone I had never heard of before.

The idea being that these should be events the tellers never in a million years thought they would be telling to anyone, let alone an audience. Hence the name for the show. The results are always interesting, often funny and entertaining.

But I should be clear: The stories are by no means all meant to be funny. Many of them are, but some of them are just devastating. Some are stories you'll wish had happened to you, others you'll thank whatever name you put "god" under in the book have never happened to you.

The weekly-changing variety of storytellers makes it a bit like an anthology--okay, maybe exactly like an anthology: If you don't enjoy one particular story, you have a chance that the next one will be better.

And like many anthologies, each episode has a theme around which each tale is supposed to spin. Some of the connections made are weird, but who cares?

At least one recent episode does suffer from the same flaw for which I chided Rob Paulsen: An irritatingly hard sell for a project the host wishes to promote, but it remains to be seen whether or not this will prove a habit.

Recommended episodes: Son of Strange Sex, In Harms Way, and Sneaky Choices.

How Did This Get Made?

I've talked about this one of my favorite podcasts a couple of times here already. It's a show that, to quote the opening theme song, "wallow[s] in the mediocrity of sub-par art." Twice a month their goal is to take aim at some movie which is not just bad, but amazingly so.

Paul Scheer hosts along with Jason Mantzoukas and June Diane Raphael. And there's a fourth "chair" filled by a different guest each episode.

The discussions sound very much like the participants have loaded up on Coke and M& M'S before each recording. They're highly stimulated, talk fast and often over each other, remarkably without sacrificing much clarity--though it is sometimes difficult to tell who's speaking.

(Especially when the guest is a woman. Raphael's take on the movie under review is nearly always worth hearing, but she does not have, to my ear, an especially distinctive speaking voice.)

They're not much for a plot synopsis, but usually reveal enough in the course of their discussions that you can follow along even if you haven't seen the movie. In one--and only, so far--case, they made me want to see it (that case was the episode for Crank 2: High Voltage.)

Raphael is Scheer's wife, incidentally. But completely not incidentally, all three of the regulars are working actors and/or writers in Hollywood. This means their speculation on just what the hell was happening on the sets of the movies they report on can be well-informed, certainly more so than mine would be, and maybe yours.

It also means that sooner or later, if they're at all fair, they're going to have to get to a movie that one or more of them were in. There comes a time when if you're going to deal out blows, however funny those blows may be, you have to pay the piper.

Scheer had a supporting role in Piranha 3-D and returns in its upcoming sequel, and has floated the idea of a special show on one or both of those movies, perhaps with other members of the cast and/or crew.

While I'd like to hear that episode, it does drift a bit far astray of the "so unintentionally stupid they're funny/so bad they're good" criteria. Piranha 3-D is intentionally stupid, funny, and good.

No, the movie I await their taking on with baited breath I'll admit right now that I haven't seen, but most everyone who has seems to think sucked. It's one not only that Raphael and Scheer appeared in, but that Raphael actually co-wrote with one of their guests, Casey Wilson: Bride Wars.

Till that happy day, I recommend checking out one, more, or all of these episodes: , The Back-Up Plan, The Love Guru, Old Dogs, Burlesque, and All About Steve.