Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Calling An Audible: What I Was Listening To In 2023

I really need to look into how much of Audible is included in my Amazon Prime, but I got an Audible subscription towards the end of 2022, and I use it fairly regularly.  I can’t really focus on listening to an audio book when I’m doing virtually anything, but when I’m doing something fairly brainless, like cooking dinner, I can catch up on the podcasts that I listen to.  By which I mean, I need to either be doing nothing at all to feel like I’m listening and taking in my audio book, or I can only do something simple and mindless like cooking to take it in, and otherwise, it’s not getting in my brain at all.


The main reason I had wanted Audible was for the adaptation of The Sandman.  I’ve listened to the first 4 “episodes” of Act 1 so far, and fallen behind, but I find it’s a fantastic adaptation of the words that were on the page of the early Sandman issues.  I can call up the pictures of the pages in my head just by listening, so it’s a big win on that note.  I need to get back up to listening to this, it’s really good and I like it.

I can’t remember which Harlan Ellison books I was listening to, but some of them came with the Audible subscription, but were going to change back to behind the paywall (so I’d have to purchase them to listen).  Turns out they came back to the free side, but not before I took a listen to parts of the books, like “I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream”, or “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman”.  Good stuff read well by Luis Moreno.

Space:1969 was a full cast extravaganza led by Natasha Lyonne, and written by former (?) Simpsons writer Bill Oakley, about a world where JFK survived Dallas and continued to be President as we started to colonize the moon.  It’s a bit of a murder mystery where Jerry Lewis is the first victim, a bit of sci fi craziness because JFK is having fits, and a lot of fun because we find out fairly early on that Richard Nixon is narrating this to us.  I fell asleep while trying to binge this before it went behind the paywall, so I don’t know what all happened, but what I heard was very entertaining.

There was an interview with Jimmy Carr, the British master of dark one liners, where he talked about a memoir he wrote.  It was decent.

Andy Weir, author of The Martian, I believe, also wrote some short stories for Audible about James Moriarty, Consulting Criminal, about the Holmes nemesis selling his services to help other criminals, taking place before he clashes with Holmes.  It wasn’t awful but it was fairly forgettable.

The Road to Redunktion was a bit of a memoir by Tenacious D, the comedy band that Jack Black and Kyle Gass rock out with.  It was entertaining, and even a bit heartwarming since KG needed an extra helping hand from Jack.

Stephen B. Heard PhD wrote the book Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider, about naming conventions in the scientific world, and how scientists sometimes name creatures after famous people in order to get some attention to their work.  I listened to only a couple chapters, afraid it was going back on the paywall, but they were about Gary Larson of The Far Side fame and some other famous people like Bowie and Frank Zappa, who also had a spider named for him.

VIP Pass: SF Sketchfest (2018) is a short behind the scenes look at the annual Sketchfest that is held in San Francisco.  I’ve been aware of this due to the RiffTrax appearances that I watch on various streaming services, but I wasn’t aware of how vast the fest is.  Lots of good people on this behind the scenes look.

Approval Junkie by Faith Salie was a “one woman show” type adaptation of her memoir of the same name.  I’ve heard of her over the years as a panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and her self-reflections are very interesting, as well as giving a bit of a behind the scenes look at WWDTM, where she definitely came across as someone who felt the need to win as much as possible.

Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories is just what it says, the stories of the detective with the “mustaches grande”, narrated by Hugh Fraser, I think.  The ones I’ve listened to so far have been the early, Holmes and Watson style stories where Poirot repeatedly outthinks his friend the ex-soldier (whose name escapes me).  I’ve listened to about 10 stories, and there are still about 31 hours left of the book.  Ay yi yi!  One problem I have is that my attention trails off just about the time that the story wraps up.  Then I have to re-listen to the end of the story.  But it’s good stuff.

I’ve listened to two Dave Barry books, The Book of Bad Songs and Stay Fit and Healthy Until You’re Dead, and both are funny, of course, but would be better narrated by Dave himself.  It did my heart good to see that he did his regular year end wrap up for the Miami Herald, since he is an actual dinosaur/Boomer, but he is very very funny.  I hope some of the other books they have of his on Audible are narrated by him.

Failure is an Option is a memoir by H. Jon Benjamin, the voice of Bob from Bob’s Burgers (and the titular Archer), among other things.  It’s fun to hear his voice reading this work, as Bob Burger is very comfortable, but it’s taken me forever to get through the book.  It’s interesting that it’s cool to hear Jon read his work outside of the cartoon’s context, but hearing Dan Mintz, the voice of Tina, the oldest daughter, doing his stand up comedy, which is pretty raunchy at times, in the same voice as Tina — very disconcerting.  They’re not great actors in the sense that they can change things up well, but they are good at what they do.

One podcast that my girlfriend discovered on YouTube that I will eventually listen to on Audible is Handsome, with Tig Notaro, Fortune Feimster, and Mae Martin, 3 very funny people.

My other go-to podcasts are Wait Wait, as mentioned above, which celebrated 25 years this past year and had a pretty good year overall.  Says You is a now-defunct NPR show that appeared on Audible earlier this year, and intrigued me, because it’s almost a New Yorker column come to life.  The regular guests are very genteel, and host Richard Sher runs things very loose but fun.  The show is about wordplay, and word meanings, and one of the regular segments is the bluff, where one side’s players come up with a definition for a unique word, and one of the 3 players is reading the actual definition while the other two made up a definition.  Other games include a game where authors “team up”, so if say, Shakespeare and Aerosmith teamed up, they might release A Midsummer Night’s Dream On.  Ugh, I know.

My last go-to podcast is Car Talk, of course.  I’ve talked about them before, and I still love to listen.  Not only do I listen to the now twice-weekly podcast, but I also listened to the audiobook of their 25th anniversary from many a year ago.  The twice-weekly show is probably available at their website and I wouldn’t be beholden to any particular platform, but I believe they’re going chronologically, and are about at summer ’96.  They cut out calls that are too specific to a certain type of car or time, I assume, but the calls left in are either still somewhat relevant, or are really funny.  They recently featured the Andy Letter, about a call Click and Clack got about electric brakes and the idea that two or more people might go further out on a limb about a subject they don’t know about while a single person will only go so far.  It’s still great fun, and I love it.

So that’s just the stuff I actually listened to some of this past year.  I have the other 2 Sandman Acts downloaded, as well as the Alan Moore short story collection, and a number of other works, and I just need to start listening to some of them.  I’ll try to tell you more about them as I listen.


  1. I generally listen to podcasts on Spotify; my son pays for a family plan for himself and his fiancée, and he lets me mooch off him. The one I surprisingly found most interesting is Quentin Tarantino & Roger Avery’s Video Archives. The premise is simple: Quentin & Roger met while both were working at the Video Archives store in Manhattan Beach. Years later, after they both found success in Hollywood, the shop finally closed, at which time, Roger bought the store’s collection of laserdisc movies, and Quentin bought the rest of the store’s inventory. He then recreated the store in one of the (presumably massive) rooms in his (presumably massive) home. The two record the podcast in the faux-store, with Roger’s daughter, Gala, serving as producer-host-announcer-participant as they review films from the Video Archives inventory.

    The films they choose very widely, from well-intentioned flops like THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER to Russia’s most popular science-fiction/superhero film, AMPHIBIAN MAN, covering comedy, drama, documentary, along with obscure examples of Tarantino’s beloved low-budget exploitation genre. It’s very good, and I’ve discovered a lot of films I would otherwise never have heard of.

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