Pauline Nevins: What’s a podcast? |

Pauline Nevins: What’s a podcast?

What’s a podcast? The question came from my husband. A man who proudly carries a flip phone. Jim was responding to my request that he adjourn to his basement man cave during my podcast interview with Doug Devaney, the British producer-presenter of the “The Plastic Podcasts,” a series of interviews with members of the Irish diaspora.

Podcasts, I explained to Jim, are audio broadcasts available to stream over the internet or download onto computers, phones or tablets to enjoy at a listener’s convenience.

Remember a few years ago, I said to Jim, when you pressed your nose against the front window wondering why I was sitting in my car in the driveway? Or the time I tripped over your legs rushing to turn on the radio so I could hear the end of a public radio interview by Terry Gross? Now with NPR’s podcasts, I can listen anytime to Terry’s episodes on my iPad.

When Doug contacted me about being interviewed, I checked him out on the internet. First stop was his podcast, I listened to several of the interviews and was flattered he’d invited me to join this cadre of accomplished artists.

Doug’s a talent in his own right. He’s appeared in award-winning radio programs, is a writer, playwright, actor, television and radio personality. I also learned that during a local arts festival a few years ago, Doug appeared in a one-man show that became an international news story. I asked him about this. He laughed. The show, “Mein Gutt,” was a comedy about a man battling obesity. Organizers of the festival insisted he alert audiences that a prop chicken would make an appearance. He could offend the vegetarians. A newspaper quoted Doug’s response: “I’ve heard of strobe lighting or nudity being cause for audience concern, but never roasted chicken.”

Another internet search revealed a photograph of Doug and an actor friend, Karl Greenwood, shirtless on horseback. After six hours in a makeup chair, Doug was transformed into Donald John Trump, and his friend into Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. The pair rode around on a horse in London promoting the launch of a political betting platform known as Paddy Power. Very funny, I thought.

Doug, a British/Irish guy, is based in Brighton, a resort on the south coast of England. When I was growing up in Britain, going to Brighton for a summer holiday was quite the thing. Our family never went. Too many kids and not enough money. But I heard about others going, and they bragged about staying at a Butlin’s Holiday Camp.

Billy Butlin built a number of these camps around the country. One of my favorite authors, Bill Bryson, mentioned the camps in his book, “The Road to Little Dribbling.” The American-born Bryson wrote, “Campers were awakened by a loudspeaker in their room, which they could neither turn off nor turn down, summoned to meals in communal dining halls, harried into taking part in humiliating beauty contests and other competitions, and ordered back to their chalets to be locked in for night at 11p.m. Butlin had invented the prisoner-of war camp as holiday, and, this being Britain, people loved it.”

When I first read what Bryson wrote, I thought, “cheeky bugger.” Then I recalled that Bryson has such affection for Britain that he’s lived in England for decades, and has dual American and British citizenship.

Back to the podcasts. During a Zoom meeting, I asked Doug why he got into podcasting. He was, he said, always fascinated with the radio and the spoken word. What advice would he give someone interested in doing their own podcast?

Do your research, he said. There’s lots of information on the internet. Decide what you want to talk about. The recording equipment isn’t that expensive. Anyone can download Audacity, the audio editor and recorder, free off the internet. What about ambient noise? Doug held up a portable curved, sound-absorbing shield he’d purchased.

I had recorded an audio version of my memoir in a makeshift recording studio. My dear husband assembled plywood panels around the armoire in our dining room where I house my computer. He covered the panels with horse hair blankets from U-Haul to provide a sound barrier. If a plane flew over, I had to start from scratch. Same when the garbage truck backup bell sounded.

Jim flew down to his man cave one morning when the microphone picked up the sound of his rustling newspaper. We unplugged the humming fridge. I forgot to plug it back in one day. And to think I could have avoided all this with a sound-absorbing shield! I almost cried. I told Jim that for a fraction of the price and effort, I could have been all over the internet like a meme.

Jim asked, “What’s a meme?” Then he shifted his hip and pulled out his beeping flip phone.

Pauline Nevins is the author of the memoir, “’Fudge,’ The Downs and Ups of a Biracial, Half-Irish British War Baby,” and “Bonkers for Conkers,” a compilation of personal essays. She lives in Colfax and can be reached at

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