Dan Savage hosts "The Savage Lovecast," a podcast largely focused on sex and politics, which listeners will either love or hate. Dan Savage via Wikimedia Commons

‘The Savage Lovecast’ provides refreshing take on sex and relationships

After being mentioned in the Oct. 9 installment of the arts column “New York Style Deli,” “The Savage Lovecast” seemed in need of further examination. For the uninitiated, “The Savage Lovecast” is a podcast hosted by national media personality and syndicated advice columnist Dan Savage. Savage is, among other things, known for his caustic criticism of right-wing homophobia; his 2003 crusade against former Senator Rick Santorum stands as perhaps the most salient example. Savage crowdsourced a sexual definition of Santorum’s name from his readers, and the highly searched ranking of their hilarious response has dogged Santorum’s presidential campaigns ever since. In the weekly “Savage Lovecast,” Savage adapts this trademark mix of sex and politics to the podcast format, resulting in a show that is equal parts op-ed, advice column and interview.

“The Savage Lovecast” opens with a short theme song comprised of charmingly tuneless vocals — that nevertheless manage to deliver clever rhymes — and delightfully upbeat music. The levity of the opening theme contrasts sharply with the op-ed-like monologue that follows, where Savage gives no quarter on a particular issue. Recently, gun control and the plight of LGBT youth with conservative parents have drawn Savage’s attention.

Savage’s opening monologues are almost always laden with references to current affairs and are often viciously critical of Republicans and the political right in general. Regardless of your political position, Savage’s monologues will make you angry. Whether you’re a social conservative who resents being characterized as a homophobic bigot or someone who shares Savage’s outrage at right-wing America, the opening of “The Savage Lovecast” will invariably elicit in you a visceral emotional response. While engendering such feelings might be the mark of an effectively executed think piece, the heightened blood pressure that accompanies Lovecast’s opening monologue can be difficult to endure over the course of a binge-listening session.

After his monologue, Savage answers callers’ pre-recorded questions about sex and relationships. His listeners are a diverse bunch and, therefore, so are the relationship problems they face. Their issues, like most human stories, range from the bizarre (how to respond when, on a first date, someone proposes marriage) to amusing (how to avoid personal grooming mishaps in intimate areas) to heart-breakingly depressing. (Many callers find themselves struggling with break-ups or trapped in toxic relationships.) After playing a caller’s plea for guidance, Savage dispenses often obscenity-laden — and usually sage — advice before moving on to the next question.

Sometime after his opening monologue, Savage also has a conversation with a guest. Like his callers, the guests Savage invites onto the show are diverse; they have recently ranged from NPR hosts to academics researching sexuality to porn stars. These interviewees are generally charming and speak articulately and engagingly about whatever topic is on the table.

“The Savage Lovecast” operates on a “freemium” business model, with “micro” episodes available for free and “magnum” episodes behind a pay wall. “Micro” episodes include ads, which, surprisingly, are actually interesting and often read by Savage himself. As a result, the ads never feel like an attempt to exploit a large audience for profit. According to an FAQ page on the podcast’s website, the “magnum” episodes include “an additional 40 to 50 minutes of new content, usually with guests,” as well as no ads. And, yes, the names of both the episode tiers are, in fact, penis jokes.

The subject matter and obvious political bent of “The Savage Lovecast” might make the show seem distasteful to some, but the podcast’s high production value, its equal parts funny and sage advice and advice and its interesting guests make this podcast worth your time.

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