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Feeling Stir-Crazy Stuck At Home? Here Are Some KUT Recommendations To Help You (Mentally) Escape

A person reads a book at Blunn Creek Nature Preserve in South Austin.
Gabriel C. Pérez
A person reads a book at Blunn Creek Nature Preserve in South Austin.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us to both work and play from home. Two weeks into Austin’s stay-at-home order, it’s possible you’ve already exhausted your resources of fun things to do.

The KUT staff has compiled podcast, book and TV recommendations to help you pass the time.


Pensado’s Place

A look behind the scenes at how some of the most commercially successful music is made, Pensado’s Place is hosted by the prolific mixing engineer Dave Pensado. His long list of credits includes Mariah Carey, Beyoncé and Whitney Houston. Each episode is an interview with an artist, producer or mix engineer and covers broad topics like where they find their inspiration to narrow technical details like what kind of compressor they use on which instrument. A must for anyone who records their own music.

— Nathan Bernier, reporter and local All Things Considered host


If you, like me, are a fan of the macabre, the supernatural, the … weird, I've got a suggestion for you. To get my mind off the scares in the real world, I've been scaring myself with the work of Ian Gordon over at HorrorBabble. His YouTube channel (his show also plays on other platforms), features readings of horror stories and weird tales. Some he writes, some are from contemporary writers, but many originate from the pulp magazines of the early 20th century. These old weird tales now exist in the public domain and Gordon and his team have resurrected them with terrifying effect.

— Mose Buchele, energy and environment reporter

Modern Love

The New York Times’ Modern Love column has been publishing personal essays about love, loss and relationships for years. In a time when our social lives have been put on hold — or virtualized — I’ve found it comforting to lose myself for a few minutes in these moving stories of human connection. In the podcast, notable celebrities like Sandra Oh, Greta Gerwig and Jake Gyllenhaal read the essays, often ones written years ago. The reading is followed up by conversations with the writers, giving insight into where they are now. Some personal favorites: “When a Couch Is More Than a Couch” and “Let’s Meet Again in Five Years.”

— Marisa Charpentier, digital producer

The Moth

I have never outgrown my love of hearing good stories (that’s probably why I work at KUT!), but sometimes I am not in the mood to commit to an hour-long podcast or a seven-part series. That’s usually when I play the latest episode of The Moth. It’s a compilation of real-life stories told live in front of audiences in events around the country. Some of them are hilarious, some of them are heartbreaking. The format is fantastic and engaging. 

— Teresa Frontado, executive editor

RELATED | My KUTX: Our Favorite Quarantine Songs

Everything Is Alive

If you’re looking for something funny and often surprisingly touching, check out Everything Is Alive. It’s an unscripted interview show and the subjects are all inanimate objects: a can of Coke, a lamp post, a pillow. Yes, I’m serious. I know it sounds kind of ridiculous, but it’s actually amazing. The conversations have had me both laughing out loud and on the verge of tears. I think what I love most is that it proves we have the capacity to empathize with literally anyone … er, anything. 

—Nadia Hamdan, associate producer/on-air host

Reply All

This has been one of the most consistently good podcasts ever produced. Period. The show is mainly about the Internet — which is, of course, a broad theme. But the production, storytelling and timeliness of each episode are a cut above anything else you will find in your podcast feed. I highly recommend one of the latest episodes, “The Case of the Missing Hit.” You’ll learn a lot about earworm, memory and the American music industry. Plus, it’s just a joy to listen to. Recently, the hosts opened up their phone lines to talk to people cooped up during the coronavirus pandemic. Every episode has made me feel closer to our global community, which is nothing but helpful these days.

— Ashley Lopez, politics and health care reporter

Patient Zero

It may not be the best choice for someone living through a pandemic, but this podcast on Lyme disease is fascinating. It walks through one woman’s dogged trial to get scientists to pay attention to a slew of symptoms she and her children have. Eventually, well, they discover Lyme disease. 

— Audrey McGlinchy, City Hall reporter

Armchair Expert

Armchair Expert, hosted by Dax Shepard, is doing a 10-episode series called Monica and Jess Love Boys. It’s a deep dive into the dating habits of co-host Monica and her friend Jess. They want to change their dating habits and bring on experts to help them dig through it all. It’s funny, enlightening and very vulnerable.

— Claire McInerny, education reporter

Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend

I’ve been enjoying Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend since discovering it a few weeks ago. There are plenty of guests to choose from, among them Tina Fey, Dana Carvey, Keegan-Michael Key and Sarah Silverman. They tend to get deep into some rather weighty matters … not really. It’s a lot of goofy joking around.

— Trey Shaar, local All Things Considered producer


I Am Not Okay With This

I'm drawn to depressing, so a show about an insecure queer teen whose father committed suicide is right up my alley. But the fact that Syd has super powers makes it not depressing at all. The Netflix series is pretty much Breakfast Club meets Carrie. It's got a great soundtrack too, featuring Echo and the Bunnymen, The Pixies, Roxy Music and Billie Eilish.

— Stephanie Federico, digital news editor

Gilmore Girls

My road to the fictional town of Stars Hollow began long after the show aired. I first thought about watching it after listening to a segment on This American Life (a separate, 11-minute-long recommendation you can find here). It was about a Marine sniper unit deployed to Iraq that became obsessed with the show. Their watch parties started out almost as a joke but morphed into escapism and genuine fandom. Listen to this Marine get choked up talking about his connection to the show! I have now watched every episode of Gilmore Girls several times over. If you’re looking to be transported into a different world for a while, this is perfect pandemic TV viewing. 

— Andy Jechow, social media coordinator

Bon Appetit

If you haven’t already gotten hooked, the Bon Appetit YouTube channel is worth diving into. This well-known cooking magazine started filming videos in its test kitchen a couple of years ago and turned it into one of the best things on the internet. Their series of videos in which a gourmet pastry chef makes gourmet versions of Pop Tarts, Snickers and Cheetos is particularly fun. Come for the cooking tips you’ll need to get you through staying at home – and stay for all the lovable chefs having fun in a fancy kitchen.

— Ashley Lopez, politics and health care reporter

Pushing Daisies

This is a weird show about a pie maker who can bring people back to life with a single touch. But, if that person stays alive for more than one minute, someone else nearby must die. And if he touches the now-living person a second time, they are dead again. For good. This series lasted two short seasons. If you like weird stuff, you’ll like this.

— Ben Philpott, managing editor


Samantha Irby books

An author I am obsessed with is Samantha Irby. If you need a break from the firehose of anxiety-inducing information, her books of humorous essays are the antidote. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and Meaty are available now. You should also just follow her on Instagram and Twitter for consistent giggling, too.

— Claire McInerny, education reporter

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

I only recently read this 2005 memoir, but I was blown away and have been nudging every friend and family member to read it for a month now. The author writes about her and her siblings’ dysfunctional parents with a stark, yet surprisingly light and loving, voice. If you can’t get enough of Walls, you can also pick up Half Broke Horses, which is based on her grandmother’s adventures.

— Michael Minasi, multimedia producer

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

Yes, it’s another zombie apocalypse book. But this one is told through the eyes of the animals left behind when humanity has been wiped out. Follow a crow named S.T. as he journeys through Seattle with a dog named Dennis in search of humans … and Cheetos.

— Ben Philpott, managing editor

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