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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Review: “Love and Radio” podcast proves reality really can be stranger than fiction

Sometimes life gets a little dull. Before long, anything can turn into a routine: wake up, eat breakfast, go to class, eat lunch, do schoolwork. Relish your precious slivers of free time. Go to sleep. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. For years.

Of course, there are always those people who just can’t seem to stick to “normal” and “routine.” They live on the fringes of society, living stories that require a hefty amount of imagination — the people who inspire imitation due to sheer amazingness or a newfound gratefulness for my boring, uneventful life. These people are the focus of “Love and Radio.”

“Love and Radio” is not for the faint of heart. I still remember the first podcast episode I ever experienced: “The Wisdom of Jay Thunderbolt.”

Jay Thunderbolt was an unsavory character who ran an illegal strip club out of his house in Detroit. Mr. Thunderbolt was so bizarre, I initially thought “Love and Radio” must have been about fictional radio dramas. Jay Thunderbolt is a 6-foot-5 ex-military man bearing the scars of being shot in the face at age 11. A man who casually mentions receiving an Army award from Newt Gingrich one minute, and the next talks about his multi-thousand dollar donations to cancer research. A man who pulls a gun on podcast host Nick van der Kolk.

The absurdity and inherent danger of Jay creates a tension that hangs throughout the entire episode. It’s only after van der Kolk feels that his welcome has finally worn out that he leaves Mr. Thunderbolt’s house/strip club.

Brilliant editing creates the tone of each show. For the Jay Thunderbolt episode, the editing contributes to a feeling of raw and unedited coverage. Shortly after the episode opens, we hear a recreated phone conversation of van der Kolk asking if he can interview Jay when he’s in town. Thunderbolt agrees, but then repeatedly asks to be paid to for the interview.

Throughout the episode van der Kolk leaves the recorder running, although it’s often blatantly obvious that the situation we are hearing does not align with what’s being said. Prime example: when Jay Thunderbolt casually pulls a out a gun and points it at Nick while explaining the gun is his version of health insurance.

“Love and Radio” thrives by painting a non-judgmental profile of the strangest people on Earth, no matter whether it’s a gifted musician who spent much of his life fixing boxing matches in “Sesquipedalian,” or a cyclist who begins to rob banks out of sheer boredom in “Choir Boy.” He also tells the unorthodox story of Daryl Davis in “Silver Dollar,” in which Davis recounts his time befriending Ku Klux Klan members as an African American man.

Some stories are so poignant they leave a crater in the mind. “The Living Room” follows the emotional rollercoaster of one couple’s relationship, all told from the viewpoint of their neighbor, Diane Weipert, as she witnesses their story through her window.

Nick van der Kolk takes you to every nook and cranny of this strange world; he flips over stones to capture the creepy inhabitants underneath. Whenever life’s malaise and undying routine drags me down, I turn on an episode of “Love and Radio.” Sometimes truth is (much) stranger than fiction, and “Love and Radio” does its absolute best to prove it.

Follow Alex Furrier on Twitter.

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