Even though Kids Listen is focused on audio storytelling for kids, we’re all huge fans of a variety of podcasts. So each week I’ll recommend a (not kids) podcast that’s a personal favorite of someone in the group. Today’s suggestion comes from Lindsay Patterson of the Tumble science podcast for kids.
While Serial is often credited for kickstarting the Podcasting Big Bang, it also ushered in what might be the medium’s most popular genre: true crime. In the same way This American Life spawned shows full of first-person narratives, and WTF sparked the celebrity interview craze, Serial has led to a slew of shows where amateur sleuths investigate cold cases.
And there is no sleuth so amateur nor case so cold as what’s at the center of Whatever Happened to Pizza at McDonald’s? The show, hosted by UCB comedian Brian Thompson, bills itself as a work of investigative journalism, digging into the question of why McDonald’s stopped serving pizza. That’s it. McDonald’s once served pizza, and now it doesn’t, and Brian wants to know why. Each episode, which rarely passes the 10-minute mark, features him calling up managers at McDonald’s and asking them whatever happened to pizza at McDonald’s, and following his questions down dark, absurd paths.
Deadpan to the point of flatlining, Whatever Happened to Pizza at McDonald’s? is the funniest podcast I’ve heard in ages. Never mind the fact that he pretty much answers the question by episode eight or so, it’s worth listening to see what wrong turn he’ll take next. Podcast superfans will also love his one-sided relationship with the Panoply Network, and the fake ads for ever-present podcast advertisers, like “Stamps.com: Don’t mail your mail through the mail,” and “Dollar Shave Club: The hair grows from your face, but will the little knives cut it?”
As of this writing, a change.org petition to put the show on the Panoply network is stuck at 38 signatures, and a Kickstarter to fly him to Ohio to try the pizza at one of the lone McDonald’s that still serves it has attracted three donors. It’s always been difficult to convince the public to support the no-holds-barred, inside-the-establishment investigative journalism Thompson is practicing here. But he remains unfazed. As he said in a recent episode, “cloaked in the padded jumpsuit of maturity, equipped with the night-vision goggles of hindsight, and riding in the armored car of been-there-done-that,” he soldiers on.
Jonathan Messinger is the host of The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian.