If anyone doubts how trendy podcasting has become, note the recent Season Five finale of HBO's Girls. While Lena Dunham's character, Hannah, waits in line for her slot at a storyteller's event, another monologuist tells her, "I have a podcast - I care," to prove both his universal concern and utter hipness.
During its decade of existence, podcasting has gone from rudimentary, nerdy chatterboxing and being an arm of public broadcasting to gorgeously produced, often live, geek culture audiobooks.
Along with that, says longtime Philly sports-comedy radio personality and more recent podcaster Big Daddy Graham, podcasting has moved "from what, I suppose, is a young man's game" to one that anyone with a voice, a passion, and simple production tools can access.
As the idea behind podcasts is to be accessible any time just by dialing one up on an iPod (hence the name "Podcast"), smartphone, and such, podcasts live in space and are universal. In that way, they are not specific to any city.
That said, this city comes up with some diverse examples. Consider that popular, recently departed Pennsylvania Ballet principal dancer Lauren Fadeley, now in the Miami City Ballet in Florida, this week launched a podcast, Rediscovering the Dream (on iTunes), about her transitioning career, including her time here.
What seems to define many Philadelphia podcasts is their absolute Philly-ness, such as Loud! Fast! Philly! by Joseph A. Gervasi, which takes an always hard-core look at topics ranging from punk rock to film and politics.
"I think there's something gruff about Philly that comes through," Graham says. Podcast producer Allen, who calls her new Both X's an "unapologetic look" at what smart women think, also says moxie is what sets Philly podcasts apart.
"We're fiercely opinionated and unapologetically bold," she says.
Some Philly podcasters have experience in radio, such as Dan Buskirk, the man behind Fun 2 Know. He labored in local noncommercial radio for 33 years before his father's death in 2015 led him to create a podcast to talk himself through the loss.
"Plus, like Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon, I'm a man who likes talking to a man, or woman, who likes to talk," Buskirk says. Fun 2 Know is a highbrow conversation such as might happen during a great meal, with Buskirk chatting every two weeks with artists in various media, telling "origin-story-type narratives."
"I don't interview anyone unless I'm profoundly curious about them," he says, a passion that comes through in fireside chats with Chicago cellist Tomeka Reid, Philly rocker Kenn Kweder, and San Francisco poet David West.
Then there's Graham. For him, podcasting is a deeper extension of the talk-show format and its live response to all he's discussing. He always saved some time on his radio show for music, but for two years now, he's had an hour-long podcast devoted to the subject, Big Daddy's Classic Rock Throwdown.
On the show, recorded live at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Graham, a self-described music freak, talks to fellow music freaks about every obsession he's ever had, from film music to guitar solos and the concerts of his youth.
Who is his audience? Rather than check the ratings with Wildfire, the local online host for his podcast, Graham measures interest the old-fashioned way. "From the man on the street to endless tweets to repeated advertisers on the site - and I have a waiting list - I know it's succeeding," he says, noting that podcasts are more accessible than ever. "With Bluetooth, you can get it as easily in your car as you can FM radio or Sirius/XM."
Kennedy Allen knows how many hits the weekly Black Tribbles podcast that she coproduces, and its monthly WHYY-sponsored Tribble Nation get - roughly "35,000 to 50,000 downloads" a show, she says.
Then again, Allen is a focused student of the podcast genre, a producer of all shows in her Tribble universe, which encompasses all things smart and geek-cultural as it relates to the African American experience. This includes The Grrrl Show, about professional black women's geek obsessions, and her annual Spaceheads podcast, where Allen discusses things intergalactic and NASA-related.
"The fun thing about podcasting is that it is accessible, a guerrilla underground, uncensored way of broadcasting and communicating," Allen says. "We have a voice, an opinion, an obsession, and we want to make it available."
She also has a mission to correct the lack of representation in podcasting when it comes to people of color, especially women. "With this show, and within geek culture, the more we do it, and successfully, others will see that their opinion matters - that they don't have to hide their comic books under the bed."
Otis Gray, a local photographer, started his popular monthly HUNGRY podcast, dedicated to tales of Philly's food world, with no background in audio or radio production "[This American Life] makes it look easy," he laughs, referring to the public-radio show. He tells "raw, romantically unraveling" stories of local chefs.
Not only does Gray want people to appreciate their food more, he wants to tell intricate Philadelphia stories in a tactile fashion. "I want you to hear and feel your history. That's what podcasts can do."
Staff writer Ellen Dunkel contributed to this article.