A very special transatlantic comedy – podcasts of the week


Picks of the week

The Special Relationship (from 4 Aug)
The Pin (Alex Owen and Ben Ashenden) are perfect mockumentary fodder in Audible’s new podcast about a pair of delusional comedians on a mission to break America. Their stand-up routine is interspersed with documentary-style footage as an investigative reporter reluctantly follows their every move with disappointment dripping from every sentence she utters. Meanwhile, Americans make jokes about “British banter”, Harry Potter and Monty Python. Stath Lets Flats’ Jamie Demetriou, Veep’s Sally Phillips, Saturday Night Live’s Cecily Strong, Fred Armisen and more also pop up in the cast. Hannah Verdier

Bad People
Why do people do bad things, and why do so many people want to hear all about them on podcasts? Sofie Hagen (The Guilty Feminist, Made of Human) is out to find the answer, and as a self-confessed true crime lover she’s fascinated by the idea of what makes people evil. Criminal psychologist Dr Julia Shaw gives the expert view, looking back at real cases and giving her perspective on false memories, what it means to be a psychopath and why people confess to crimes they didn’t commit. HV

Frankstein writer Mary Shelley.
Frankstein writer Mary Shelley. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Chosen by Madeleine Finlay

Anna Williams, an English Literature PhD student, has taken the dissertation — what is typically a huge, incomprehensible tome — and turned it into an entertaining and deeply insightful podcast. For that at least, she deserves to pass with distinction.

As with all good dissertations, Williams begins by setting out her stall of what the series will and won’t do, and how it’s different from the typical monograph. It may be a slow start, but it allows her to finally jump head first into her thesis: critiquing today’s graduate schools by way of gothic literature. On the surface this sounds niche, but Williams draws out observations that will feel familiar to many listeners, from the constant emotional invalidation of young women, to only believing in the worth and value of your work when it impresses that one cruel but brilliant teacher (or boss, perhaps).

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The charm doesn’t just come from the astute interpretations of The Mysteries of Udolpho and Frankenstein, but in the way she crafts her story. It is cleverly put together, and combines academic commentary, personal experience, and choice book quotes. Williams does something that – despite her dusty, venerable subject matter – sounds fresh and new. A surprising highlight is the occasional ‘ding’ that signifies a reference, which the most committed listeners can search out.

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