Not everyone can relate to the idea of defining yourself through popular culture, but anyone who gets it, really gets it. And for the last year Denver has been blessed with a sonic sanctuary for these poor souls: the These Things Matter podcast. This week TTM hosts Taylor Gonda and comedian Kevin O'Brien celebrate the one-year anniversary of their audio ode to trivial trivia, debuting a new website as well as their fiftieth episode, where the two pop geeks forgo their usual guest spot in order to dig deep into the book/film High Fidelity. And why not? Their podcast namesake was taken from this John Cusack line: "What really matters is what you like -- not what you are like. Records, books, films, these things matter. Call me shallow, it's the fucking truth."
In honor of their achievement, we caught up with Gonda and O'Brien to discuss their favorite TTM episodes over the last year. In the tradition of High Fidelity's strict rules about top five lists, they insist that this is chronological list, not a hierarchy.
See also: - Kevin O'Brien on These Things Matter and Mile High Sci Fi - Cartoons and Comedy brings hilarious nostalgia to Deer Pile - Arguments and Grievances second anniversary edition at Vine Street Pub
Episode 8 - Weezer with Adam Cayton-Holland
Taylor Gonda: This was the episode where we figured it out. Kev and I had an idea of what we wanted to do with the show, but I don't think either of us was able to articulate it until this episode. Maybe it was because Adam and I had been having the Weezer conversation for months before this -- so we'd been in practice? I couldn't tell you, but I think it worked.
Kevin O'Brien: Taylor's right. Adam was the first guest that clicked on all levels. Like Taylor and Adam, I had been talking about Weezer for years. Mostly to myself or at my dog. This was the first episode where the music editing really came together as well.
Episode 11 - The Road with Sam Tallent
Taylor: Sam is incredibly funny, a reluctant leader of men, and a hell of a storyteller. Kevin assured me that all we had to do was get him in front of the mic and we'd have a show. He was right. He likes to think he's always right. It's my job to point out when he's wrong. Which is more often than he would ever admit. Right, Kevy? Eh?
Kevin: Only Taylor can pay a compliment by being wrong and then turning it into an insult. It's moments like this that remind me that I created a monster in asking Taylor to do this podcast. I love this episode for all the reasons that I love Sam, and I think listeners probably feel like they know him after listening to the show. He WTFed the shit out of this episode, and that is a compliment, Gonda.
Episode 15 - Concerts with Kevin Johnston
Taylor: K.J. and I went to my first concert together, and it was a momentous occasion in my life, as I documented on The Narrators podcast. He was truly a great guest and this was a great, heart-filled episode.
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Kevin: Nice plug, Gonda. How much are Andrew and Robert paying you for that endorsement? I was on board with Kevin Johnston right away. We were both members of Taylor's "Army of Kevins," so we had a natural chemistry. K.J. and Taylor had some great sexual tension in this episode. Plus, I tell a killer joke about Prince because I rule!
Episode 20 - Super Mario with Jordan Doll
Taylor: I love the way Jordan's mind works. I could listen to him talk about anything, but it's especially great to hear him talk about something that has existed as a magical world in his mind since he was a kid. I had no idea video games could generate such flights of fancy.
Kevin: Jordan is one of the funniest people I know. I was in the throes of a Super Mario addiction at the time, so nothing made me happier than to be swept up in Jordan's imagination. Taylor brought it pretty hard this episode too -- for a girl.
Episode 28 - The Rolling Stones with Taylor's Mom
Taylor: I must admit, I was nervous to do this one. I guess I just wanted to do my mom justice. I've heard her talk about The Stones my whole life, so I wanted to capture her love of Mick, Keef and the boys. I think I succeeded, but more than that, I think it was inspiring for her to reminisce -- as a result of this episode, she's thinking of writing a book about the old days in Joliet!
Kevin: This is a beautiful episode. It was a true joy to edit this episode and get to know Taylor's mom. She is charming, Midwestern, and she thinks I talk too much, so she knows what she is talking about.
Episode 30 - LEGOs with Andrew Orvedahl
Taylor: Kevin was worried that this wouldn't work, but I figure if we sit Andy down in front of a bunch of LEGOs, something good would happen. Sure enough, it was one of the most fun episodes we've done. Anytime Kevin gets to be a little self-righteous, it's going to be good. Handing him a bunch of random pieces was enough of an insult to garner a classic-Kevin "I'll show you!" response.
Kevin: I was skeptical, but for the record I have never said no to anything on the podcast. It's an old improv trick. You've probably never heard of it. I loved doing this show. I would mention Andrew's podcast; however, he didn't cut me the same deal as Taylor.
Episode 31 - Pro Wrestling with Nathan Lund
Taylor: "People love that episode!" Kevin and I tend to say this in unison. Nathan's obsession goes deep, and he's really thought about the larger social and artistic merits of wrestling. Plus, I like the episodes where I get to learn new stuff.
Kevin: Much like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Nathan "Lumpy" Lund is the "People's Champion." This show was fun, but I had no idea it would be the one that people talk about the most. Things get surprisingly earnest and then get DDT-ed by impressions of pro-wrestlers. Ohhh Yeeeeeeaaaaaaaaah!
Episode 40 - Outkast with Sean Patton
Taylor: If you get to hang out with Sean Patton in any capacity, you are a lucky person. We were extra lucky because we were able to talk to him about one of his favorite things. Gotta love a guy who loves Andre 3000 and Big Boi as much as Sean does, plus it's one of the funniest of our episodes.
Kevin: I'm pretty sure Sean Patton studied the tape of Adam Cayton-Holland's Weezer episode for months before we recorded this show. He's the Bird to ACH's Magic. Sean brought everything out that makes for a great episode. He was opinionated, honest and insightful, while still being one of the funniest guests we have had.
Episode 41 - NickToons with Randy Washington
Taylor: Another gentleman who knows his shit. Randy is truly fanatical, and it was so fun digging deep with him. Sometimes you forget how much you love things until someone reminds you. Randy did that for me with Nicktoons. Also, there can never be enough Kevin talking like Mr. Horse in the world.
Kevin: Randy was another guest who fucking brought it. Randy's enthusiasm is contagious, and I think you can feel that in this episode. And, as Taylor says, any show where I get to do a Mr. Horse impression is going to be a fun one. I'm sure after spending time with Randy even Mr. Horse would say, "Yes, sir. I do like it."
Episode 42 - Radiohead with Daniel Ralston
Taylor: And finally, one of my favorite topics discussed by one of the creators of one of my favorite podcasts, Low Times. Daniel has been nothing but gracious to me since I met him in Chicago, and it was such a thrill to have him on. It means a lot that someone I admire likes what Kev and I do. There's nothing better than a mutual admiration society.
Kevin: I felt like Daniel was the post Gen-Xer that I always wanted to be. This was Taylor's big fish. A guest of Daniel's standing was a big step up for us, but you would never know it listening to the episode. He was one of the few people on the show who I politely disagreed with instead of talking over.
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For more comedy commentary, follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.