The Helen Zaltzman Perfect Podcast Trifecta
This is the second entry in a new series of posts about perfect podcast trifectas. Lately I’ve been hearing podcasts in threes! Sometimes it’s three podcasts all about the same topic, sometimes they’re tangentially related, and sometimes there’s just a theme I keep hearing. From the recommendation standpoint, there’s a good chance if you like one of the shows in the trifecta, you may like another.
Helen Zaltzman is well-known in the podcasting world as the host of The Allusionist and Answer Me This! The Allusionist is a member of the Radiotopia network, and you can often hear Helen guest on other Radiotopia shows. Her recognizable perfect-for-audio voice brings a smile to my face whenever I hear it.
I’ve written about my love for The Allusionist multiple times over the last few years, but it was actually one of my first reviews back in 2015. I find it so delightful to learn about something and laugh hysterically in the process. Language is a complicated building block – there are so many nuances and double meanings and culturally different interpretations of the same word. But of course we need it and use it constantly, so The Allusionist shepherds us through the craziness. Two of my favorite episodes have been 88: Name Changers and 50: Under the Covers Part I.
In Pounded in the Butt By My Own Podcast, a purposely terrible erotic fiction podcast, Helen reads pseudonymous writer Chuck Tingle’s “Monday Pounds Me in the Butt,” in which the actual day of the week and the narrator (who is male) engage in a torrid relationship. Helen/the narrator realize that Monday has in fact been pounding them in the butt every week, right after Sunday. The day’s member is glowing yellow, by the way. And huge. Helen gives her own commentary along the way, which adds to the hilarity of the gay erotica.
If you haven’t listened to Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness, you’re missing out on more learning-while-laughing. Each week Van Ness meets with an expert and asks them questions most of us probably want to know the answer to. Some examples – what’s going on with the special counsel investigation?, is Saudi Arabia cute now?, and what is medical marijuana and how does it work?
Our dear friend Helen appears with JVN in a fabulous pod-mashup in episode 58: British English and American English: What’s the Diff? In it they discuss one of my favorite Allusionist topics, immigration. They talk about the very negative words that have become common vernacular with regard to migration – swarms of people (as in insects), illegal immigrants (as if the people were illegal people), and aliens (that one I don’t need to explain). Helen and Jonathan also laugh about how the Brits have such disdain for American English.
Helen Zaltzman is a pleasure to listen to because she has a universal appeal as a voice you can picture being your friend in real life. She’s funny, she swears, she’s smart, and she engages with her listeners.
If you are already a fan of The Allusionist, check Helen out on either of the other two shows. If you already listen to Getting Curious, you’ll enjoy a deep dive into more about language with The Allusionist and you’ll also appreciate the humor of Pounded in the Butt By My Own Podcast. And if you like (getting) Pounded in the Butt, try the episode of The Allusionist that I recommended (#50) and look for a couple other episodes about swearing. And then tell me this Helen Zaltzman trifecta doesn’t make you smile.
Helen Zaltzman also has a long-running show called Answer Me This!