“[Sea turtles] actually have a groove that the semen comes down through.” “It’s a groovy dick.”
That is a quote from the “Ologies” podcast with Alie Ward: a salacious and informative look into various different fields of study. The premise is simple: each episode, Ward interviews someone engaged in a different “ology” and gets them to spill the beans.
Which specific beans? Well, Alie Ward alternates between questions about the subjects being studied and the life of being one of the people studying. Late in each episode are rapid-fire questions submitted by patrons. Usually, there are some cultural references interspersed, if not in the conversation through the use of editing. The editing is quite interesting actually: these are without a doubt some of the most heavily edited conversations in all of podcasting. Sometimes a culturally-relevant single-second audio clip is inserted in the middle of a sentence. Sometimes there are longer asides, educational or otherwise. They appear without warning and disappear nearly as fast.
Such chaotic editing would not suit the dry brand image of most interview podcasts. Alie Ward, however, is so energetic in conversation that the asides seem entirely in character. She is one of those people who is good at describing a mundane situation in the most entertaining way possible. Additionally, she pulls out so many of these asides that they become a natural feature of the podcast. This was used to pretty good effect all the way back in the Primatology episode: Ward forgot to bring up an important question, so she emailed the guest about it and read the email as an aside. If there is a niggling detail she missed, as opposed to an important question, she digs deep into hyperlinks, video and scientific papers in a search for answers, as well as for anything else of vague interest.
So what fields of study are within the scope of the podcast? Many are specific areas of biology: indeed both Testudinology and Cheloniology have separate episodes. However, there is also coverage of Volcanology (pronounced Vulcan-ology if I recall correctly), Gizmology, Museology and even Horology (probably not what you think it is). The conversations can veer very far away from academia at times: the Gemology episode, for instance, included some conversation of “crystal energy” and even “bad juju”. It seems the only true constant is Ward herself, along with the production crew operating silently in the background.
The podcast has distinctive outro music: just one of those little features I appreciate. There is intro music as well, sometimes after a spoken introduction.
The guest of the show also gets to pick a charity of the week to receive a portion of some of the advertising proceeds.
“Ologies” updates every week or so, and each episode is between 45 and 90 minutes long. Given the production value, the fact that each episode is an interview with an actual academic, and the number of different fields being surveyed, this is a triumph. Not just a triumph for Ward personally, but for the medium of podcasting as a whole.