If you’re like me, you woke up yesterday morning in a profound funk, and could feel a cold, grey depression coming on. Overnight, the unthinkable had happened. A monstrous candidate we had been assured over and over and over again had absolutely no chance of being elected President had triumphed – over conventional wisdom, common decency and the iron-clad assurances of a punditocracy that Trump might huff and puff but was ultimately nothing more than bluster – to unexpectedly assume the highest office in the land, if not the entire world.
The bad guy won. The really bad guy won. The bully triumphed over the obscenely over-qualified would-be pioneer. Hillary was left stranded at the altar of the presidency yet again, increasingly the Susan Lucci of presidential politics. By the time the election was held I suspect Clinton, like everyone else I know, but obviously not everyone in the country, was exhausted by the long, humiliating circus, and just wanted it to be over so we could go back to at least pretending to be adults, and not pussy-grabbing, racism-spreading, narcissistic degenerates.
I felt like I’d run a hundred mile super-marathon, only to be told at the finish line that I’d need to strap hundred pound weights onto my legs because I was now obligated to run another 400 miles, only this time someone would be calling me a “fucking Jew” the entire time. What I had hoped and prayed, and in my naïveté, completely believed, would be a historic repudiation of bigotry and hate and out of control narcissism has instead become an enthusiastic, potentially long-lasting endorsement of those awful qualities.
Yesterday morning left me with some tough questions. Some of these were practical questions like, “Will I able to afford health insurance for my baby now?” But others were more existential. I found myself looking in the mirror and wearily wondering, “How on earth are we going to survive four, or potentially more, years of Donald Trump being the most powerful, famous and talked about person in the world? How will we get through this unprecedented political, social and psychological crisis?”
I am the father of a two-year-old boy, so I do not have the luxury to give in to fear and self-pity and abject depression. No, I need to be invested in this scary world for my son’s sake as well as my own. So I decided that doubling down on my obsessive love of podcasts would be among the survival tactics I would employ to help me survive Trump.
Podcasts fill a big entertainment role in my life. I listen to podcasts more than I listen to music or watch movies and television, and you know I love me some 90 Day Fiance. But beyond the enormous practical role podcasts fill in my life, they fill an even bigger emotional role. For years, listening to otherwise vastly different people discuss their battles with mental illness in ways that I can relate to on a profound emotional level on podcasts like Mental Illness Happy Hour and Wrestling With Depression has been cathartic for me, almost a form of free therapy.
The motto for Mental Illness Happy Hour is “You are not alone” and that is a message that people particularly need right now, because when a candidate whose clear superiority you imagine is apparent to anyone with a heart and/or a brain over a malevolent dunce is thoroughly trounced by said rancid orange ignoramus, it’s easy to feel hopelessly cut off from humanity, and particularly countrymen whose thoughts and actions you can’t begin to understand.
It’s easy to feel blindsided and overwhelmed and confused and terrified right now. I know I do. Those are all exceedingly logical, rational responses to what just happened. So it’s good to listen to podcasts where voices you know and trust can also discuss how blindsided, overwhelmed, confused, and terrified they’re also feeling.
Listening to podcasts is a good reminder that despite the alienation of contemporary life, a lot of people feel the way you do, that they wrestle with the same pain and anxiety, that they have the same wishes and the same fears. Right now it’s safe to assume that Trump is an overwhelming fear in many people’s minds.
I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that if I were to go back into therapy (which, full disclosure, I very well might, and for a very specific reason I assume you can probably figure out) I’d list my biggest issues as financial anxiety, professional uncertainty, and Donald Trump, and not necessarily in that order. And that’s when I still labored under the comforting delusion that Trump would be soundly defeated rather than unconscionably rewarded and empowered.
I’m certainly not the only person afflicted with a bad psychological case of the Donald Trumps and I’ve found that listening to other people open up about their own experiences with depression, even if it’s on an otherwise light-hearted and hilarious podcast like The Flop House, can be enormously comforting and consoling.
Podcast fans fearing the long, cold winter that will be Trump’s presidency can find solidarity and companionship in the sense of community a lot of podcasts provide, whether in the form of feverishly active Facebook groups, meet-ups or intense message-board bonding. The followings for podcasts like The Best Show, My Favorite Murder, Comedy Bang Bang, Hollywood Handbook, and The Flop House are so intense that they almost qualify as quasi-sub-cultures and heaven knows that the public has formed an unhealthily intense, pathological relationship, bordering on co-dependent, with Marc Maron. Jesse Thorn has turned Maximum Fun into something resembling a benevolent cult, and Chris Hardwick came back from the void of alcoholism, depression, and a professional bottoming out to become an architect of contemporary culture alongside peers Scott Aukerman and Maron.
In these uncertain, troubled and terrifying times, podcasts can be an exhilarating source of escape, into a world of pure silliness and joy. Yesterday I listened to the latest episode of Hollywood Handbook and for a blissful hour or so I was in the moment and laughing and not wracked with absolute terror over the looming prospect of a Trump presidency. Let yourself laugh. Let yourself get distracted. Binge-listen to Andy Daly episodes of Comedy Bang Bang. Find a new podcast to fall in love with. Be curious. Widen your net and exit your comfort zone. Or why not face your fears and anxiety head-on and listen to the wonderful new political comedy podcast Hard Nation, which alchemizes the terror of the current political landscape into big, cathartic laughter?
As someone who has wrestled with depression, I know how the ritual, repetition, and consistency of podcast super-fandom and podcasts can be incredibly useful for the depressed and anxious. There have been periods throughout my life when knowing that a new episode of Comedy Bang Bang or The Long Shot was awaiting me when I turned on my iPod played a huge role in giving me the strength to get out of bed.
Don’t think of your comfortable retreat into the cocoon of your favorite podcasts as self-pity. Think of it instead as self-care. So be sure to to avail yourself of the myriad pleasures and consolations podcasts can provide, from ecstatic laughter to tear-jerking emotional catharsis, because in the months and years ahead it, we’re going to need it, and each other, more than ever.
Nathan Rabin is the author of five books, including Weird Al: The Book (with Al Yankovic) and the recently released Ebook “Short Read”, 7 Days In Ohio: Trump, The Gathering of The Juggalos And The Summer Everything Went Insane.