Some Good Reading & Listening for the Dog Days of Summer

August 14, 2009

sexdrugscocoapuffsHere’s a light topic for a Friday Peepshow post.  A quick look at what’s been entertaining me lately.  With the Twins grinding their way through an unsatisfying, sub-.500 summer and reality TV dominating the airwaves, I’ve turned to reading and podcasts to save the day.  A couple people who have come through for me in the clutch with consistently compelling material have been author Chuck Klosterman and comedian Adam Carolla.

I’m currently working my way through my third Klosterman book (with two more waiting to be read) and I regularly enjoy Carolla’s rants and storytelling on his popular podcast.  It’s a good mix of smart, funny, cynical and juvenile – and if that describes you in any way, read on. 

I’m late to the game on some of Klosterman’s books (Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey In Rural North Dakota was published back in 2001), but I’m catching up in a hurry. From what I can tell, we share a lot in common – we were born 3 days apart and both grew up in small towns in the upper Midwest loving sports, hair metal and pop culture – so his commentary falls right in my wheelhouse. 

He does a great job of making you think while covering scattered, wide-ranging topics – all while weaving in personal stories along the way. In fact, he’s clearly given much more thought than most people to the cultural significance of things like MTV’s “Real World,” “Saved By The Bell,” or why nearly every woman born between 1965 and 1978 is secretly in love with John Cusack.

If you’re new to Klosterman, 2003’s Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs is probably a good place to start. And be sure to watch for his new book Eating the Dinosaur scheduled to hit shelves in October. Asked to give a little preview, Klosterman told the Boston Globe: “I talk about the relationship between Nirvana’s album In Utero and David Koresh. I talk about time travel, ABBA, Ralph Sampson, Garth Brooks, things the Unabomber was right about, the process of interviewing people and why it’s fun to spy on people.” 

Sounds good to me. 

Meanwhile, more than a few people have seen me laughing out loud while rollerblading around the lake or mowing my lawn thanks to Carolla’s daily podcasts.  He got axed in February from his syndicated radio job when the station changed formats and immediately launched a podcast to keep himself in the mix instead of sitting around while his contract and non-compete played out.  I don’t think he could have imagined how quickly it would take off.  “The Adam Carolla Podcast” received more than a million downloads the first week and is currently one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes.carolla

Carolla is paying for everything out of his own pocket and asking only that listeners help spread the word.  After listening for months, I’m now trying to do my part.    

Once a day, he sits down with a guest for roughly an hour and conducts sessions that are more conversations than interviews.  Guests include everyone from comedians and celebrities looking to plug something to his childhood friends from the neighborhood who recount tales from their troubled youth.  The best part is that no matter who he’s talking to, you have no idea where the dialog is headed.  Carolla can rant about anything without prepping – always very humorously – and the podcast comes off as if you’re listening in on a few people swapping stories over beers.

Carolla’s a guy’s guy who draws on all of his life experiences, including blue collar jobs ranging from carpenter and carpet cleaner, to bring his rants and analogies to life with his unique way of describing things in fantastic detail.  And, it’s those little extra nuggets he tosses in to help paint a picture that really makes his style work for me. 

Be warned, he’s not for everyone. It’s free-form, uncensored content, but it is usually more clever than crass.

It will be interesting to see how quickly he can turn the podcast profitable by securing sponsorship or creating some kind of “freemium” model where subscribers get exclusive access or content. Here’s hoping he can make a good living from the podcast without compromising too much to satisfy advertisers.