Leon Stamatis—a man with anxiety so severe that he schedules every aspect of his life into Google Calendar to maintain some sense of predictability—wills himself to death on a roller coaster. His sister Nica sits next to him as it happens and spends the next few months alone and directionless. His best friend and roommate Michael, an unemployed recovering alcoholic, takes the job Leon was about to start and tries to imagine how Leon would turn Michael’s life around if he was alive.
Did I mention this is also a comedy?
Greater Boston (2016–), a fiction podcast written by Alexander Danner and Jeff Van Dreason, takes place in an alternate Boston where ghosts communicate through pneumatic tubes and residents lobby for a subway line to become its own independent municipality. It features such iconic characters as Chuck Octagon, Fake Nica, Guy Without Truck, and Dipshit Poletti, who only sort of deserves the name.
The absolute absurdism of Greater Boston makes it difficult to describe, especially when I pitch people the above premise and my friends do not believe me when I tell them it’s made me laugh out loud in public. One of the funniest moments in the series is an argument over the plural for “hippopotamus,” which takes place in the middle of a stressful kidnapping. For further example, here’s a list of things in Greater Boston that are more connected than you might think—things that you will love, hate, and get really, really passionate about:
- Crystal balls
- Getting a major in small animal surgery
- Hamsters (Unrelated to the small animal surgery)
- Cheese-making robots
- Squeezy stress balls
- Gastromancy (Fortune telling via interpretation of stomach sounds. Yes, it’s real. Look it up)
- Olive Garden food trucks (It’s even worse than it sounds)
- Google Calendar
- Baked beans (This one makes me livid to this day)
Each episode of Greater Boston introduces new connections between its large and colorful cast, a growing and glorious web of who-knows-who and -what. The way in which the plot grows, though, is completely natural, and before long the strange map of connections and events becomes like second nature as Danner and Van Dreason guide the listeners through this strange city. Along the way it tackles such difficult topics as mental illness and institutional racism regarding housing crises and redlining (which you should really look up. It’s evil.), all the while creating a incredibly well-rounded and interesting cast of characters portrayed with such conviction that every shift in perspective is welcomed. What is it about James Oliva (Michael Tate) doing a monologue that makes me so teary-eyed? What is it about Jessica Washington (Isabelle Powell) that makes me so ready to follow her to the ends of the Earth? That’s just the power of Bostonians, I guess.
At the center of it all remains Leon, whose story doesn’t end with his death by a long shot. Without giving too much away, Leon’s death influences more than just his inner circle, causing ripples throughout Boston that drive the plot in ways that are distinctly un-Leon-like: chaotic and unpredictable. Let’s just say, he isn’t resting in peace.
Ultimately, Greater Boston is a show about home: What it means to lose them, how we can build them, and how hard we must fight for them. Home isn’t always a place. It’s not always a city, or an apartment, or a subway car, or even an abandoned theme park that you commandeered from a retired art thief and his cheese-robot making underling (Long story). More often than not, a home is a community of people whom you may not have much in common with, but whom you might need more than you think.
My rating: 9/10 Squeezy Stress Balls
Listen to Greater Boston on your commute for the best listening experience.
Available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, I Heart Radio, Pocket Casts, SoundCloud, Youtube, and Podcast Addict.