Podcast of the Week: This Podcast Has Fleas
Podcasting pets, Alec Baldwin as a goldfish, and hilarious songs. What’s not to like?
This Podcast Has Fleas: the series has the feel of a Pixar movie, just without the visuals. Illustration: WNYC Studios
I went out on a limb and asked my sister what podcasts she’d been listening to recently. She looked me dead in the eye and said, “This is a podcast for small children, and I am obsessed with it.” She’s 23.
She was talking about This Podcast Has Fleas, from the American public-radio podcast specialist WNYC Studios, which is about a sarcastic, scheming cat, called Jones, and an earnest, enthusiastic dog, called Waffles, who record rival podcasts from under the same roof. It is weird, clever and high octane, and it hits the sweet spot of being written for children but also being funny for adults – without relying on cheap double entendre or winks and nudges designed to go over younger listeners’ heads.
This Podcast Has Fleas: Episode 1
The pair’s rivalry is mediated by Benny, a naive hamster played by Eugene Mirman. Jones and Waffles are played by his fellow comedians Jay Pharoah and Emily Lynne, who gives a performance as spirited as any of Amy Poehler’s turns. Alec Baldwin even shows up for a moment or two each episode as Mr Glub, the wise house goldfish.
The lack of condescension lends the podcast the feel of a Pixar movie, just without the visuals. This is where its high-energy pacing kicks in: with nothing to look at, a child might otherwise find it hard to sit still to listen to a podcast. Enough’s going on here to turn a long car journey into a hilarious adventure, or to provide a cheerful soundscape to a sunny day in the garden. Songs and jingles are littered throughout; Cats Are Totally Purrfect, from the first episode, is hilarious.
Nobody is trying to teach anyone anything in This Podcast Has Fleas, which is refreshing. Silliness still has an important place in entertainment, and there are buckets of it here. It holds chaos and wit and drama in an invisible world that still manages to feel colourful and very much alive.