Invasion of the Pod People
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The Slate Culture Gabfest is both a stalwart and a pioneer of American podcasting, and one of its most consistent successes. For almost a decade, the show’s fizzing erudition has been collecting fans with its precise, entertaining and illuminating discussions of culture – high, low, and other – and its social and political implications.
Each week, hosts (and Slate staff critics/editors) Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens and Julia Turner choose three topics to discuss, sometimes joined by an insightful guest. Their quick-witted (and typically self-effacing) rapport underpins lively, substantial arguments about their chosen texts. They’re funny. They disagree, sometimes furiously. But whether they’re elevating or eviscerating each other’s points, their love of culture – and awareness of how inescapable it is, for what it says about how we live and understand our lives – is a constant.
In Australia for the first time, and live in Melbourne, Turner, Stevens and Metcalf will record an episode in front of an audience, joined by indie rock auteur Courtney Barnett. So, whether you’re into music or film, or premium or reality TV, or books, or theatre or longform essays – whatever your entertainments – come and talk it out.
Stephen Metcalf is Slate's critic at large and a host of the Culture Gabfest. He is working on a book about the 1980s.
Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic. Previously, she wrote the Slate television and pop-culture column Surfergirl for two years. She has also written for the New York Times, the Washington Post Book World, Bookforum and the Atlantic. She has a PhD in comparative literature from UC–Berkeley and lives in Brooklyn.
Julia Turner is Slate's editor in chief. Working from Slate's New York office, she oversees the magazine and edits pieces on technology, culture and design. She also writes regularly for the magazine (all too often about the TV show Mad Men) and is one of the hosts of Slate's weekly Culture Gabfest podcast.
Before joining Slate, she worked at Time Inc. – first in magazine development and later at Sports Illustrated Women.
Since the release of her debut album debut in March 2015, Courtney Barnett has been celebrated as one of the most distinctive and compelling voices in indie rock, a singer-songwriter who mixes witty, often hilarious, occasionally heartbreaking observations with devastating self-assessment.
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Over the past couple of years, podcasts have matured into the storytelling format du jour – with a little help from a certain sensationally popular true crime serial (ahem). Yet the surge of interest and excitement around audio features and podcasts has been gaining momentum for several years, propelled by a diversity of formats.
Take the narrative artisanship of This American Life or the sonic vivacity of Radiolab; the topical deep dives of Slate’s Culture Gabfest or Phillip Adams’s Late Night Live; the animated storytelling of The Moth or Snap Judgment; or the intimate conversations found in Lea Thau’s Strangers or WTF with Marc Maron. The influence of these and countless other shows can be felt in today’s most interesting podcasts (insert shameless plug for the Wheeler Centre’s own successful foray into richly-produced feature-making, Andrew Denton’s Better Off Dead, here).
Beloved for their sense of proximity, their active listenership, portability and in some cases, ambitiously-crafted audio, podcasts have a unique ability to keep listeners in the company of their own choosing – and to render mundane tasks bearable. And since design show 99% Invisible’s record-breaking Kickstarter campaigns – podcasts have also shown promise in otherwise dim times for media businesses. What’s next for podcasting – and how could it be done better?
In celebration of all things audible, we’re bringing you some of podcasting’s best and brightest to share their thoughts and insights on the art (and business) of listening.