There are lots of podcasts, and it can be hard to find good ones. The medium is criticised, quite fairly, for often being just a couple of people having a long chats loose on structure.
Occasionally, a podcast does that really well.
Scroobius Pip’s Distraction Pieces is such a podcast. Each week he chats with someone interesting. It isn’t the type of interview you get on the radio. He’ll never give a guest a Paxmanesque grilling. Instead, he is simply interested in what the person does, setting a natural, relaxed tone, where people open up because they want to, not because they’re forced.
The host, Scroobius Pip, is undeniably a part of the podcast’s appeal. A spoken word poet and hip-hop artist, he chose the pseudonym from an Edward Lear poem about an utterly unique creature. It reflects the smart, playful approach he has to language, which, along with his own interesting anecdotes, is present in each episode, though he takes care to keep the focus on his guest.
One of the show’s strengths is the variety of those guests. Maybe it’ll be a fellow performer like Killer Mike or Kate Tempest. Maybe it’ll be an established name, like Russell Brand or Simon Pegg. The best episodes, however, often have less famous guests. When he interviewed people from FullFact, an independent factchecking organisation, it was an eye-opening look into the quality of information that spreads around the UK. The most recent episode, with science blogger Dr Suzi Gage, was a fascinating look into science, and people’s understanding of it.
The episodes are long, often hitting 90 minutes or more. This makes it a great accompaniment to cleaning the house, or making risotto, but probably won’t fit neatly into a commute. The conversations are open and freewheeling, often going deep into a shared passion between guest and host. If you share it too, this is great, but may be bewildering if you don’t. Luckily, due to the show’s casual tone, skipping ahead a couple of minutes isn’t that big a deal.
This is also the only show I know of in which the host not only has speech impediments, but makes no attempts to hide them. This is refreshing and keeps with the show’s relaxed vibe, particularly as they never obscure meaning. On a more personal note, I love it. I have speech impediments as well, and there was a time when people who didn’t know me would struggle to understand me. Over the years, I have become great at managing them, and they only crop up if I’m flustered, tired or drunk. I got that good by doing everything I could to get away from them, and it feels so refreshing to hear someone not be fussed by them.
Still, that is a fairly niche reason to enjoy the podcast. It excels regardless of that. At the moment, there is not another podcast that does the open-ended chat so well, with such interesting and varied people.