“PEOPLE ARE OUT PROTESTING a lot in Portland, so I feel bad telling ’em to stop protesting and come to my show so just, you know, follow your heart.” This was Doug Benson’s invocation to Portland comedy fans on the most recent episode of his podcast Doug Loves Movies, as he made his “Doug plugs,” announcing his upcoming touring schedule to a giggling crowd in Sacramento.
It was a gracious little verbal high-five to Portland, and the laughter that followed felt like a tiny miracle beaming through my earbuds.
Like any good millennial, I subscribe to more podcasts than I can keep up with, and listen to them all the time. But after Tuesday’s heartbreaking shitshow of an election night, I found I wasn’t ready to distract myself from what had happened, and I didn’t really want to, anyway. Grief is important. We should give it the space it requires.
So I skipped past chatty programs that didn’t acknowledge the bleak state of things. In an unfortunate convergence between the infrequency with which some podcasts are updated, or perhaps a misguided idea that distraction was possible and necessary, too many podcasts simply carried on as if nothing had happened. A few did not—Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow’s post-election episode of Call Your Girlfriend is essential listening, and Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark’s normally true-crime-focused My Favorite Murder surprised me with its hosts’ unabashed disappointment and Hardstark’s comparison of living in America under a Trump regime to being brainwashed into joining a cult (“You’re in a cult, call your dad!”).
Benson’s podcast is one of these too, surprising though that may be for a show that’s dominated by stoner jokes and movie-trivia games and circuitous conversation that avoids boring tangents thanks only to Benson’s delightful, magnanimous presence as a moderator. Doug Loves Movies is kind of like NPR’s Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me!, if that show was as funny as it thinks it is, or Leonard Maltin’s weird preface to Star Wars, if it was funny at all.
Doug Benson is someone you’re going to want to hang out with this week. Because we don’t need comedy to distract us from the state of the world. We need it so we can laugh about it, or see it differently, or at least understand that we aren’t alone in our sadness. So am I recommending that you attend a podcast recording scheduled at 4:20 pm stoned so you can cozy up to the horrors that surround us, the better to change them?
Yes, yes, I am doing exactly that. Or, you know, go to a protest. Follow your heart.