I was going to talk about Gimlet Media’s Uncivil this week, but then I realized I hadn’t talked about Heavyweight. That sin could not go uncorrected.
Heavyweight is a show about do-overs. Every episode tells the story of a person who’s lost touch with someone in their life, who never understood the motivations behind someone’s actions, or who never got back something important to them. The show acts as a vehicle for them to answer unanswered questions, to tie up loose ends and to rebuild broken bridges.
Most importantly for you and me, Heavyweight is an excellent podcast. Its both hilarious and heartwarming, thanks to the show’s host, Jonathan Goldstein. Goldstein is a “radio weirdo,” to borrow a CBC article’s description of him. The article also uses the word “oddball” to describe him, which I think is pretty apt. His extremely dry, matter-of-fact, often-self-deprecating humor permeates nearly every line of his narration.
It’s almost frustrating that there’s no one in the recording room with him to laugh along with you. The way Goldstein spews out line after line of his strange, goofy humor almost mandates pausing the podcast to occasionally say to yourself, “Wait. Wait, what the f— did he just say?”
But Goldstein is also a distinguished weirdo. He was a producer on This American Life for three years (new stories of his are still occasionally featured on the show), and he hosted Wiretap on CBC from 2004-2015 before starting Heavyweight in 2016.
And his experience shows. Goldstein’s had years to develop his personality, and Heavyweight is absolutely saturated with it. His social awkwardness makes for quite a lot of humor in a show so inundated with potentially uncomfortable social interactions. And yet, he and the show are completely aware of his awkwardness, and they capitalize on it perfectly.
But the show naturally also has a very serious side. Goldstein’s humor helps cushion the dramatic content, but at heart, Heavyweight is about real people’s feelings and relationships. It can get pretty intense sometimes, and the number of times I’ve cried/almost cried while listening is pretty impressive considering there’s only 12 episodes out at this point.
If you’re looking to get into the show (which you should be), here are a few episodes I’d recommend. They’re probably the funniest of the bunch, but as with all of Heavyweight‘s episodes, they’ve got some emotional punches in store for you, as well:
“Jesse,” where Goldstein and a therapist oversee the meeting between a man biker who was hit by a car and the man who hit him.
“Gregor,” where Goldstein’s friend tries to get an important CD back from a famous musician.
“James,” where Goldstein and two others perform a heist-like ash-spreading ceremony at an exclusive golf course.
I’ll be back next week with another podcast spotlight.