WWALT Missing Richard Simmons

What is it?
I heard about this show from a friend who put it like this: “It’s about some guy who vanishes but nothing bad has happened.” And that’s pretty succinct. To flesh that out, the show is an investigation into the sudden disappearance from public life of a well known (in America) celebrity.

What do I like about it?
My friend summed it up very well. And yet, despite me not knowing who Richard Simmons is or was before listening to it, not knowing who host Dan Taberski is, or really even caring why Richard was so important to him, and knowing that this was no crime drama, within 10 minutes I can’t get enough. I’m hooked. So well is this done that after a handful of episodes I almost feel like I had Richard in my life, and now I’m trying to find him.

How do they do this? The first thing that grabs me is the way the narrative is weaved together. The multitude of clips of Richard through his public career, the talking heads of the people that knew and loved him, interspersed with the thoughts and personal insights of the presenter, and driving force behind it, Dan. Part of that narrative is the kind of stuff that would normally hit the cutting room floor, bits of conversations in cars before and after interviews, recordings of early production meetings and moments where it just goes wrong, all feature in here. And they way they do just make it feel even more real.

But it’s the honesty that really allows you to connect to the story. The vulnerability of some of those interviewed as they discuss their hopes and fears, the deep sense of love you get from Dan, and the fact they made the show in real time, flowing with it week to week, changing direction, reacting to and influencing real world events. And considering so much of the subject matter revolves around the inherently fake world of celebrity, this honesty enables you to engage with the humanity in the situation.

What could it do better?
Every ounce of me is screaming “Make more episodes” but once you listen, you’ll appreciate why that won’t be happening. And though even towards the end there is still a lot of conjecture, this is once again balanced by turning the light back on the production team, introspectively asking why this was so important to them. And again, by being honest it comes good.
In short, despite having never seen or heard of him before, now that I have finished this podcast series, like the title suggests, I am now Missing Richard Simmons.

Who could learn from this format?
Everybody. I’m serious. Whatever you want to podcast about, I highly recommend you listen to this. There are so many lessons and great examples contained within. First and foremost is the honesty that underpins it all. From the way it’s presented to the very genesis of the show, honesty is what carries it. And it reminds us that a podcast can really be made about anything.
And you’ll not find many better examples of how to weave a narrative, but do not underestimate the time and effort that has gone into this. Just revel in the results.

“Have you heard the Missing Richard Simmons #podcast? Great review by Abrupt Audio!”