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This year so far has been a bumper year for new podcasts, packed with interesting new producers making work that challenges, pushes the boundaries and the medium, and gets even more niche.
Every month here on PodStuff we’ll highlight the best of the new crop of podcasts on the scene, and give you a definitive range of new, weird and wonderful podcasts that you can get stuck into. This week it’s a RuPaul podcast, a documentary on a suspect YouTube spiritual healer, and a bizarre self-improvement show.
1. Best new documentary podcast: The Gateway (Gizmodo)
“I am the most complicated person you’ll ever meet. You can think of me as a miniature universe” – the opening lines of The Gateway, and I’m immediately into it.
This miniature universe is Teal Swan, a YouTube spiritual healer with a huge following of loyal devotees. This podcast tells her story – and the story of her followers and detractors. I find myself being lulled by Teal’s oddly hypnotic drawl, and sucked in by her persona – she’s compelling, confident and charismatic as she promises freedom from pain and mental illness through shamanic medicine and meditations. Her devotees are often mentally unwell or unstable; many are suicidal and openly talk about their problems in her private Facebook group.
We hear Teal lead her followers in intense ‘death meditations’, where she asks the group to “get suicidal”, and is accused of actively causing one of her followers to die by suicide. She is the ultimate modern day cult leader, a priestess for the YouTube generation; and you get a sinking feeling you could be listening to the next David Koresh.
2. Best new self-help meets storytelling podcast: Personal Best (CBC)
Personal Best calls itself a self-improvement show that helps you be your best you. But it’s about as far from Tony Robbins as it gets. Personal Best is a hilarious, surprising, at times touching and always weirdly captivating look into people’s weird goals and dreams, with hosts Norman and Andrew helping them to make them a reality. This podcast has a lot of the oddball charm and delight of stand-out Heavyweight from Jonathan Goldstein – an absolute favourite of mine in the weird and wonderful podcast category.
From the city slicker lady who dreams of an idyllic country persona and delivering baby cows, to the man who wants to be less awkward talking to shop assistants, to the girl who just cant communicate by text; the hosts approach each person’s specific hopes, dreams or weird issue in the most roundabout and lateral-thinking way possible. The result is delightfully bizarre, and these sensitive portrayals of regular people and their quirks and foibles will make you feel very sane, very normal, and very happy.
3. Best new niche-as-shit fandom podcast: Race Chaser (Forever Dog)
[Extreme JVN Voice] Wigs in ORBIT henny, because Willam and Alaska, RuPaul’s Drag Race Royalty have a new, no holds barred podcast, reviewing every single episode of Drag Race and dropping some steaming hot tea about what goes on behind the scenes of the iconic show. Fair warning, if you have not seen a single episode of this show, this podcast is probably not for you. But of all the podcasts in the RPDR fandom – this is essential listening.
Race Chaser, the colloquial term for people who stalk, shag and obsess over RPDR alumni, is not a boring blow-by-blow of “this happens, then this happens” recap podcast. Rather, it’s a hilarious, intimate and rare opportunity to hear Willam and Alaska talk about the skill and dedication drag takes, the pressures of the show, and share ‘the man behind the curtain’ production secrets.
It really comes through how much Willam and Alaska both respect the show, its producers and contestants, but they aren’t afraid to call out elements of the production they think are bullshit.
The magic moment for me is the segment Tammie’s Tidbits which is pure podcast gold, and I will never get tired of how weird Tammie Brown is. The only question I’m left with is if they keep going at this pace, it’s going to take about 3 years to get through the whole show…
For more RPDR podcast binging to get you through the off-season, try Rupaul’s Drag Race Recap, It Bears Repeating, Alright Mary, Squirrel Friends Cocktail Hour, Grizzly Kiki, and The Shade of It All.
- Mothers of Invention: a new climate justice podcast from Maeve Higgins and Mary Robinson is as wonderful as it sounds.
- Zigzag: the brilliant, whip-smart and totally lovable Manoush Zomorodi (Note to Self) and her producer Jen Poyant go on a tumultuous quest to fix journalism’s sustainability and funding problems: with blockchain.
- Meet Your Maker: Irish producer Liam Geraghty is a stand-out talent on the international podcasting scene, and his podcast Meet your Maker is back with a bang for season two, with the creator of Cow and Chicken and the puppeteer of Miss Piggy. Made with Liam’s signature whimsy, passion and quirky interview style – the follow up season is once again brilliantly produced and, to quote Blindboy, is a real ‘podcast hug’.