Open the pod bay doors, HAL…

(Featured image: my studio mixing desk in work)

Now I’ve introduced myself, it seems natural that I can recommend things… that makes sense, doesn’t it? You know me better now… you trust my judgement (a bit, at least), right? Or at least, if you’re still here, then maybe you might be interested to know some of the stuff that I’m interested in. Sure, we’ll see…

One of the things I do to pass the time, particularly to pass my 2 and a half hours of driving (an hour and a quarter each way to work) each weekday, is listening to podcasts. Sure, I work in a radio station, and you may be forgiven for thinking that podcasts are a direct threat or competition for the medium I’ve professionally committed to. “Not at all!” I say – they sit comfortably alongside it, complimenting it, supplementing it and often inspiring it – and there are parallels that can be drawn too – being an audio based medium, they can also be described adequately as “theatre of the mind” – but the difference is that they are unconstrained by either broadcasting laws & regulations (you can get away with a lot more), scheduling (you can publish/”broadcast” when you like) or indeed employment (you don’t need to work in a radio station to do it).

Some ask if the station I work in is so good (and it is, thanks), why I don’t listen to it all the time? Well I do – sometimes… but the thing is, I already know what it sounds like, as what it sounds like is a product of my day-to-day job – so, while what the presenters do still interests me and while I’ll still make a point of listening in to some of them in particular, I’ll draw more inspiration from moving the dial to other stations and/or podcasts. That said, and without blowing my/our trumpet TOO loudly, I often have to head to Internet radio for real inspiration when it comes to innovations in commercial or station sound because, while I really do think we’re pretty close to the top of the game here in Ireland, I don’t agree that “the only way is down” – we can always be better.

Anyway – back to the podcasts. Here are some that I’d recommend. If, like me, you’re into great radio, intelligent discussion, good  comedy and looking after your mental health (among other things), then these may be the kind of podcasts you’ll like. I find them on Apple’s Podcast app on my iPhone, but I’m sure they’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, Spreaker, SoundCloud and other websites and apps that may or may not begin with ‘S’.

OnAirCoach Podcast –
Nails Mahoney and Tracey Lee are two radio presentation experts who have been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, been around the block, bought the t-shirt about being around the block, been around the block of t-shirts, been there again and done that a few times more. Then they started selling the t-shirts so that everyone else could get in on the action. Both of them have considerable experience (over 50 years between them, they say) of presentation and production and have built up a stupendous knowledge base of tips, tricks and common-sense methods of how to be brilliant on air, which they could certainly have kept to themselves, but instead decided to impart to all and sundry on a regular basis in training and coaching sessions and yes – their now weekly must-listen podcast. Everyone, from the most basic bedroom jock with on air aspirations to the programme directors of the biggest stations, could benefit from the help these two broadcasting brainboxes can provide.

The Blindboy Podcast –
Blindboy Boatclub (not his real name, shockingly) is one half of Limerick comedy hip-hop duo the Rubberbandits (the other half being Mr. Chrome) – famed mainly, it seems, for their 2010 hit “Horse Outside”, which almost denied Matt Cardle (who?) the Christmas Number One spot in Ireland. They are – and he is – of course, so much more than just that song. Blindboy himself, who never appears in public without his trademark plastic shopping bag (from JC Savages supermarket in Swords, incidentally) covering his face is a strong advocate for mental health awareness and a vocal campaigner for LGBT and womens rights. His weekly podcast which, duration-wise, fits my daily commute nicely as it’s usually in the range of 55 to 75 minutes, is the first – and probably the only one so far, to be fair – that I can truly say has had a properly positive effect on my own mental health, as – alongside his casual musings, artistic meanderings and passionate aural presentations on topics that truly drive him, he gives good, proper and meaningful advice on mindfulness. If you’re not too offended by the odd bit of “expressive” language (the podcast is occasionally peppered with “F” and “C” words), then you may well enjoy this – and you may well want to buy Blindboy a pint or a cup of coffee for his trouble – he’ll explain how.

No Such Thing as a Fish –
As a fan of the intelligent quiz show “QI”, hosted formerly by Stephen Fry and nowadays by Sandi Toksvig (both of whom I greatly admire both for their comedy skills and their intense intelligence), I’ve been listening to this podcast for quite some time. Being created by the researchers (or ‘elves’) behind the TV show, it takes some elements from it – namely the quest to find not just everyday facts but interesting ones, and some damn intelligent (possibly too ‘high brow’ for some) humour. In a show that they have now taken on tour (including, recently, to a packed Vicar Street in Dublin and onward to Australia and New Zealand), the four ‘elves’ – Andy, Anna, James and Dan each discuss their favourite facts that they have discovered that week – a simple premise that you may think wouldn’t necessarily lead to much hilarity… but inevitably does. It’s usually released into the wild (or, at least, onto iTunes) at around 6pm on a Friday evening – just in time for me to devour it, which I eagerly do, on my final commute home for the week. Highly recommended.

BrainStuff –
Can you really ‘catch up on sleep’? Do some national and local governments really put restrictions on what you can and can’t name your baby? Will paper be made out of poo in the future? Why don’t airplanes have shoulder seat-belts like cars do… and should they? Does coffee really stunt your growth or give you heart problems? All these questions and more are answered in a handy bite-sized (usually less than 10 minutes) package by a bunch of all-knowing (yet not too condescending) Americans from “How Stuff Works“. It’s handy for learning new stuff you may not have otherwise, which could potentially lead to either fascinating or ostracising your friends with your stunning intellect. Similar brain-expandingly interesting shows from the same network include Part-Time Genius and Stuff You Should Know.

Dermot & Dave (Today FM) –
If you’re on air and not enjoying it, that affects the listener. They’ll notice – they’ll feel it, and they’ll mentally and otherwise tune out. These guys (pictured here with an unnecessary horse) don’t have any such problem. They may not be to everybody’s taste (but who is?) and I know them personally, so while I may be a little biased, I just think what they’re doing works and works really well. Dermot (the stand-up comedian who’s good on the radio) and Dave (the radio guy who can still be funny in his own way) have been best buddies for many years. On air, they have a natural chemistry and clearly & obviously enjoy both each other’s company and their jobs, and this comes across really well on air and makes for a great fun show. They’ve got radio podcasting right too – snipping out the “best bits” and top features and making them available online pretty swiftly. I don’t get to listen to them in work (obviously… as I work for a ‘rival’ station) but I can “listen back” on the way home to the likes of “Say Stuff that Suits the Music” – where Dermot has to use his improv skills to react to bits of music he hasn’t heard before, and which regularly has me in stitches with laughter, and “Dave’s World” – where Dave tries to bring a bit of intelligent banter to the day’s proceedings and actually teach you something (something along the lines of what you *might* hear on the likes of BrainStuff – above)… usually. They also find time in their weekly schedule for two almost Blindboy-ish slots – one called “Mind yourself, now!” which promotes positivity and mental health awareness (good work, fellas!) and the other being the anarchic humour of Dermot’s character, the extreme Limerick accented chocolate peddler “Noni” which, being from the city myself, I always find hilarious and also… potentially embarrassing (did I EVER talk like that???).

BBC Radio 4 Comedy –
Rather than linking to their podcasts here (of which there are a fair few on iTunes, including Friday Night Comedy and Comedy of the Week), I’m linking directly to their web site as it – and the iPlayer Radio (see and get the app here) as it’s easier to find what you’re looking for there AND they’re better maintained. My personal favourites from the BBC Radio 4 Comedy stable would be Just A Minute – the game of verbal dexterousness which the superb Nicholas Parsons has amazingly chaired for 5 decades, The Unbelievable Truth – the panel game based on truth and lies, hosted by the excellent David Mitchell, and The News Quiz – which “does exactly what it says on the tin”, being as close as you’ll get to a radio version of TV’s “Have I Got News For You” which has run for over 40 years with numerous hosts including the aforementioned Sandi Toksvig, and which is currently chaired by Miles Jupp. All these take an irreverent, humorous and off-beat look at something – in the case of the timeless Just A Minute and The Unbelievable Truth, it’s the English language, while in the more contemporary case of The News Quiz, it’s the week’s events. (As an aside, I actually once negotiated with the producers of The Unbelieveable Truth with the upshot that they were quite happy to have me produce an Irish version of it and were ready to record a pilot episode… the only thing that stood in the way was a complete lack of funding on my part at the time!). It’s also worth flicking around to some of the more classic BBC Radio 4 (or “The Light Programme” in its earlier days) shows such as “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” (chaired nowadays by Jack Dee) and the legendary Spike Milligan driven anarchic genius gran-daddy of them all “The Goon Show” – which was one of my early catalysts for my fascination with the medium of radio itself. Any Goon Show fan is a person after my own radio loving heart.

This is far from an exhaustive list – there are plenty of others that it’s well worth tuning into in your own time – including BBC Radio 1’s excellent “Life Hacks” which covers everything from depression and anxiety to veganism, writing and identity to porn, and – also from BBC Radio 1, “Unexpected Fluids“, the creation of my friend Riyadh Khalaf (his YouTube channel is heredon’t have your volume up full when you click!) and his co-host Alix Fox, in which they talk very frankly, openly, graphically and honestly about sex and “when it goes a bit awry”. There are also some musicians with excellent podcasts including George Ezra – who interviews his various celeb friends, and comedians such as David Baddiel – who tries to understand everyday puzzling topics, in the hope that while doing so, he’ll help others to understand too.

So there you go… I like podcasts to be able to help me laugh and learn and for them to be positive where possible. What do you think of these? And what podcasts would you recommend? If you have any recommendations or thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Until next time…


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