Conservative pundits are the only demographic more likely to have a podcast than New York City comedians with less than 2,000 Twitter followers. Considering that most Republican voters just found out about Facebook last year, this seems inexplicable, but the iTunes charts tell no lies. From studiously vague “classical liberals” to MAGA zealots, every conservative of note has an unreasonably successful podcast where they sleepwalk through D-grade takes about the daily news. Conservative podcasts never have a gimmick or a clever title (save for The Daily Shoah, which is too racist for me to talk about here), instead serving as freeform repositories for a pundit’s excess ranting energy. They aren’t meant to be successful on their own merits, but to extract excess money and engagement from the most undiscerning segment of an existing audience. Naturally, they are terrible, and I will explain exactly how.
The Ben Shapiro Show
The Daily Wire founder and former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro, whose demographic (college students who wear suits to class) skews slightly younger than that of his contemporaries, has the most popular conservative podcast on iTunes. The show’s description bills it as “the fastest moving daily program in America,” which seems both hard to quantify and generally undesirable. “Ben brutally breaks down the culture and never gives an inch,” it continues. Fast and brutal is an overly kind description of Ben’s delivery, which is better described as nasal and haranguing. Ben’s smug debate-club persona is less effective when speaking alone or to a producer — there’s a reason so many of his videos feature him DESTROYING a distraught 18-year-old — but he maintains his signature tone nonetheless.
Content-wise, he mostly just dispassionately summarizes whatever pointless labyrinthine conflict between Senate committees and mid-level FBI bureaucrats took place the previous day. Compared to The Daily Wire or YouTube, this is a medium mostly hidden from Ben’s ideological opponents, meaning he has little incentive to “trigger” anyone with comments about how Arabs prefer to live in open sewage. Instead, his true fans get to hear him patter on about the front page of the New York Times in between endless ads for life insurance, Stamps.com, and a company that converts retirement savings accounts to gold bars.
Femsplainers is a wretched thing. The title, generic flowery icon and description featuring the words “Warning: There will be cocktails” suggest that it might be one of those deals where Teen Vogue writers talk about how Heidi Heitkamp is Khaleesi. Unfortunately, it’s a Trojan horse for something slightly worse. The hosts are Christina Hoff Sommers, a self-described liberal who works for the conservative American Enterprise Institute (known to the internet’s smelliest men as “based mom”), and Danielle Crittenden, who is married to terrible Atlantic writer David Frum. Naturally, Femsplainers has the worst guests of any podcast in history, and it’s not just because David Frum stops by every few episodes. Sommers, a member of the “Intellectual Dark Web” whose favorite subject is the supposed “war on men,” is unsurprisingly cozy with the founder of race science journal Quillette and all the professors who got Fired4Truth, but media hacks of all persuasions are welcome here. David Brooks stopped by in March to promote his new book about rediscovering sex in his late fifties. New York’s Olivia Nuzzi regaled the hosts with tales of doing totally inconsequential access journalism in the White House. The Atlantic’s Emily Yoffe, who exclusively writes articles about how men are being victimized by false rape accusations, came on to talk about what she always talks about: how men are being victimized by false rape accusations. The rogue’s gallery here is truly astounding. Femsplainers is like Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band for people who write articles that piss me off. The audio quality is pretty good, though.
The ancient conservative blog Townhall.com has a podcast, it turns out. Townhall employees Storm Paglia and Matt Vespa host Triggered, which is worse than anything else I listened to for this article. Per its description, Triggered offers “the hottest takes on politics and weird news, sports, and hot-button topics,” which seems awfully tame for such a provocative title. Where’s the edge? They tricked you — this is a different type of conservative dork. Paglia and Vespa are the sort of prematurely-aged boomer/millennial hybrids who trickle through George Mason University to D.C., where they provide the conservative establishment with reinforcements when guys like Charles Krauthammer die.
The description for the latest episode opens with the sentence “Storm is going to see Billy Joel in New York tomorrow, so the guys had to get in the studio to record.” I’m not sure if anyone is “triggered” by 26-year-old Billy Joel fans in pleated khakis pearl-clutching over Cory Booker’s proposed gun legislation and the threat of “radical Islamic literature” in schools, but to each his own. Paglia and Vespa are very concerned about censorship and free speech on the internet, but they’re also very concerned about their audience hearing swear words. Even though one of the hosts is routinely so close to the microphone that every other syllable sounds like someone is physically blowing into your eardrums, they painstakingly go back through the recordings solely to bleep out the word “shit.” There aren’t even any ad reads or pitches for brain pills, making the whole endeavor even more pointless and depressing.
Louder With Crowder
The Canadian-American comedian and political commentator Steven Crowder thinks he is funny, which results in infantile gags like the Joe Biden Spongebob parody shown above and the unironic use of the phrase “chicks with dicks.” This is to be expected. Crowder is more shameless and obnoxious than your average conservative commentator, preferring stunts like the infamous “change my mind” booths and public pranks where he dresses as a woman to pure verbal sophistry, and that attitude is carried over to audio.
Does he have a chip on his shoulder because he voiced the soft-spoken bear who loves math on Arthur twenty years ago? Or because he was raised in a socialist nation? The insecure pubescent aggro-ness of the rapport between Crowder and his producers reminds me of that old clip of Tucker Max storming out of The Opie & Anthony Show because they didn’t believe his made-up stories about group sex. Crowder makes money through subscriptions to BlazeTV, a chimera of Glenn Beck’s and Mark Levin’s failing TV networks, and through frequently advertised merchandise sales. The merch is pretty boring and not especially well-designed. However, if you have severe social anxiety and want to completely eliminate the risk of anyone making eye contact with you in public, Crowder’s “THERE ARE ONLY TWO GENDERS. CHANGE MY MIND” shirt will probably do the trick.
The Charlie Kirk Show
Charlie Kirk, the founder of the sad but hilarious nonprofit Turning Point USA, launched his own weekly podcast earlier this month. In the show’s description, he brags about being “Twitter’s 5th most engaged personality,” which, much like his nonprofit, is sad and hilarious. At first I assumed this was a misleading way of saying lots of people reply to his tweets with insults and gross pictures, but he rarely even gets ratioed. There’s just no way he didn’t make that statistic up out of whole cloth. He has fewer followers (just over a million) and gets fewer replies than just about any Fortnite streamer of note, and that’s after the absurd amount of astroturfing and ad buys TPUSA conducts to attempt reaching even a single person under 30 who isn’t looking for a job as the next Charlie Kirk.
Anyway, I almost respect Charlie’s commitment to squeezing every last cent from his status as a temporary mouthpiece for oil billionaires. The very first episode opens with an ad for home security company SimpliSafe (are a lot of college students homeowners?), a move which is sociopathic but unfortunately not unheard of in the podcast world. It then cuts to an “unfiltered” interview with Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. This apparently means that the recording begins mid-sentence, with Junior already excitedly discussing the false accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, and without any precautions taken to ensure that the audio would be usable. Some horrible, bassy noise keeps happening to my ears whenever Charlie talks, which is either him quickly and lightly slamming the meat of his hand on the table for emphasis or him kissing the microphone. (For the sake of my sanity, I have decided it’s the hand.)
Discussions between Charlie Kirk and Donald Trump Jr., two intellectual equals working off the same drool-proof laminated sheet of talking points, are far less entertaining than Charlie’s rapport with the president himself. He was given the opportunity to interview Big Trump once, in real life, and it was 20 minutes of Charlie asking “Sir, do you ever get tired of being so popular and having the economy do so well?” and being told some shit like “a lot of people, and more than some people think, very smart people, are telling me with tears in their eyes, they’re crying, that things are very, very, tremendously good.” The one thing The Charlie Kirk Show has going for it is that it could very well be the first dedicated podcast to have President Donald J. Trump on as a guest, so long as Charlie plays his cards right and Marc Maron doesn’t get any bright ideas.