Home Blog Meghan, Gwyneth, Alec … it's time to filter celebrity podcast lists – The National

Meghan, Gwyneth, Alec … it's time to filter celebrity podcast lists – The National

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Megan Markle’s Archetypes podcast aims to ‘investigate, dissect, and subvert the labels that try to hold women back’. Photo: Spotify
Megan Markle’s Archetypes podcast aims to ‘investigate, dissect, and subvert the labels that try to hold women back’. Photo: Spotify
There are too many celebrity podcasts.
You can’t throw a Kylie Jenner lip kit without hitting a dozen or so famous folk who bought a microphone and a pair of headphones off Amazon and decided that what the world needed was more of them.
The pandemic still has a lot to answer for.
Temporarily relieved of their ability to make films, TV shows or music, and while the masses turned to sourdough starters and memes, celebrities turned to themselves.
Drinks brands, newsletters, make-up lines, skin care, clothing, baby food, vitamins, homeware … anything the rich and famous could slap their names on to encourage fans to part with their cash, they did. And yet, it still wasn’t enough.
Sure, they had snuck into people’s wallets, but wouldn’t it be better to be relentlessly wedged into their ears with a podcast instead?
Well, pass me a cotton bud. It’s time for a clear-out.
Celebrities on the podcast bandwagon include, clockwise from top left, Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling; Oprah Winfrey’ Megan. Duchess of Sussex; Alec Baldwin; Dax Shepard; and Gwyneth Paltrow. Photos: Spotify, EPA, AP, Bloomberg
Back in the day, podcasting wasn’t a thing famous people did. When the first podcasts started appearing in the early 2000s, under the slightly clunkier title of “audioblogs”, they were put together by people who had actual information to share.
The first podcasts were mainly tech-based, providing something of an echo chamber for hosts to talk about IT, BitTorrents and coding, which were largely listened to by those tech-savvy enough to be in on the ground floor of this fun new development.
IT Conversations by Doug Kaye, which ran from 2003 to 2012, is widely credited as the first podcast, while another early adopter was Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code, which also began in 2003 and is still running. Proof, if it were needed, that one person’s idea (mine) of podcasting tedium is another’s must-listen.
And now, 20 years later, anyone with a half-baked thought or opinion and an overwhelming urge to share can waffle on for an hour, then press upload.
But when it comes to entering the supremely crowded marketplace of the 4.7 million podcasts Spotify says it has and the 2.5 million Apple claims, there’s only one way to make your podcast stand out, and that’s to attach a celebrity name to it.
So, if there is anything you still wanted to know about Kate Hudson and her less famous brother Oliver, their Sibling Revelry podcast is for you.
The celebrity podcast can be divided into two categories: ones hosted by A-listers and ones by the B, C, D and so forth crowd.
And within those two categories are three subdivisions: celebrities interviewing other celebrities (Hollywood or otherwise); celebrities recapping their TV shows; and celebrity hot air waffle where no one has much to say.
The first category is awash with household names: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex; Michelle Obama; Emily Ratajkowski; Alec Baldwin; Oprah Winfrey; Seth Rogen and, of course, Gwyneth Paltrow.
Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin “takes listeners into the lives of artists, policymakers and performers”, with the actor chatting to the likes of Barbra Streisand and Chris Rock.
The Duchess of Sussex’s Archetypes, the goal of which was to “investigate, dissect, and subvert the labels that try to hold women back”, welcomed stars such as Mariah Carey and Serena Williams.
On her Goop podcast, Paltrow has spoken to fellow mega A-listers such as Julia Roberts and Scarlett Johansson.
But, to borrow momentarily from Baldwin, here’s the thing: at the heart of all these cosy chats – A-lister to A-lister – is merely the time-honoured celebrity flex of showcasing the names in their little black book.
Because if you can get the Pretty Woman herself round for a cup of tea and chat about her favourite lip balm, then the rest of us nobodies may as well just pack up and go home.
In the B and lower list celebrity podcast arena, Dax Shepard has become a stand-out with Armchair Expert in which he self-professedly attempts to “discover human truths”.
“What qualifies me for such an endeavour?” he asks. “More than a decade of sobriety, a degree in anthropology and four years of improv training.”
Shepard might have welcomed the likes of Jada Pinkett Smith, Dr Vivek Murthy and Monica Lewinsky on his show, and yet, I have to ask myself if the person who willingly signed on to star in Chips and Employee of the Month is the man I trust to uncover “human truths”.
The celebrity TV show recap podcast I don’t have a problem with.
Who am I to begrudge a way for slightly fading or in-danger-of-being-forgotten stars to stay relevant? Occupying this space we have Office Ladies hosted by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, who played Pam and Angela in the US version of The Office; 9021OMG with Kelly Taylor and Donna Martin (aka Jennie Garth and Tori Spelling), who are still mining vignettes from the show a full 23 years after it ended; and XOXO, dedicated to Gossip Girl and hosted by Jessica Szohr, who played Vanessa Abrams.
These podcasts couldn’t be made by anyone else because they’re hosted by the people who were there at the time and have the receipts to back it up. So, if it’s insights and human truths I want, I’ll take Pam and Angela over Goop or the Armchair Expert any day.
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