Surprisingly Awesome: The Show That Is ★★★★
I’ve been waiting for this show to have enough episodes for me to review it – it’s up to five now and there is a lot of consistency in the episodes so I feel confident that 1) this show is here to stay and 2) you’ll probably like it. I listen to dozens of shows so I love when I find one where I don’t want to miss a single episode.
Hosts Adam Davidson, a Planet Money co-founder and NYT economics columnist, and Adam McKay, a writer/director/producer who has just premiered “The Big Short,” team up to investigate seemingly boring topics that have unusual and sometimes exciting roots and applications. The first five episodes are about mold, free throws, concrete, the song “Tubthumping,” and interest rates. Excited yet? Of course not. But that’s the point of the show-trust me that most of these things have something interesting to teach you. Even good ol’ Chumbawumba.
The beauty of this show lies in the juxtaposition of the backgrounds of the two hosts and their banter which often includes one of them trying to convince the other that the topic at hand is actually surprisingly awesome. Davidson knows economics, McKay knows pop culture, and they combine their knowledge to each learn something new and then share it with us by building up a great amount of suspense about the “boring” and then blasting us with the fascinating stuff.
The latest episode, Interest Rates, is my favorite so far. Davidson interviews McKay’s teenage daughter about whether she thinks interest rates are interesting. By the end of the show Ms. McKay is finally convinced that interest rates are surprisingly awesome – or at least surprisingly interesting. Interest rates have shaped history for thousands of years and have arguably contributed to some major shifts in world economics.
I didn’t love how the show started off, I thought the episode on concrete was plodding but by and large the topics do turn out to be pretty fascinating. This engaging podcast deserves a spot in my weekly playlist. If you like shows such as Planet Money, The Allusionist, and Reply All – all shows that teach you something and sprinkle a good dose of humor into them – you’ll like Surprisingly Awesome.
What do you think of this podcast? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss!
Audible Feast Ratings
Educational Value (4 / 5)
Pop Culture Value (4 / 5)
Host Listen-ability (4 / 5)
I wish McKay and Davidson had introduced a few times why they are hosting this show and what their particular backgrounds are because it enhances the show to know this info. They mention their non-podcast lives occasionally and their website explains why they host together, but if you didn’t know this, you might not appreciate their banter as much.
Flow & Production Value (3 / 5)
The live-read commercials are pretty annoying and detract from the flow. However, they’re very common in the podcast world.
Humor (4 / 5)
Investigation (4 / 5)
Storytelling (5 / 5)
McKay and Davidson weave a beautiful story that is more humorous and full of a-ha moments than Planet Money, but a little lighter on the details. They use personal anecdotes, historical facts, jokes, and pop culture phenomena to explain something that seems boring, and it’s genius.
Makes Me a Better Person (5 / 5)
Overall Audible Feast Rating: (4 / 5)
You May Also Like …
Planet Money, Radiolab, How to Do Everything, Reply All, The Allusionist, 99% Invisible, Freakonomics Radio