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Slate's Culture Gabfest

By Slate Magazine/Panoply

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New York Times critic Dwight Garner says “The Slate Culture Gabfest is one of the highlights of my week.” The award-winning Culturefest features Slate culture critics Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens, and Julia Turner debating the week in culture, from highbrow to pop. Part of the Panoply Network.

Customer Reviews

Needs a little pepper

Sadly, the Slate Culture Gabfest doesn't hold a candle to the Political Gabfest. Even for a culture snob like me, this show is a little hard to take. One problem is the main host, Stephen Metcalf. He has a creepy way of overenunciating—it sounds like he chews each word twelve times before swallowing it. That, combined with his use of pretentious phrases like "the creative underclass" (referring to himself) and occasional lapses into French, induce mild nausea after prolonged exposure. The other participants, Turner and Stevens, are easier on the ears and slightly more down-to-earth. And all of the hosts are clearly intelligent and well-informed. But since they all have two conflicting opinions about almost everything, the conversation gets bogged down and goes nowhere. Everything good is a guilty pleasure, and everything bad has some sort of redemptive flipside. And you can cut the pretension in the air with a knife. The Culture Gabfest needs a co-host with a functioning BS detector. Someone smart and funny, who can state strong opinions in an entertaining way, and who can stick a pin into Stephen Metcalf once in a while to let the air out. (How about Emily Bazelon and David Plotz, from the Slate Political Gabfest? They deflate John Dickerson regularly.)

I love to hate you

I agree with most of what has been said -- both the good and the bad -- yet this is still my favorte Slate podcast. Hearing the writers present such overly complicated, pretentious arguments about trivial details of pop culture makes me nostalgic for my college years. Outside of academia, there are few places where you can hear such trumped up commentary of, say, Miley Cyrus's decisions. There are lots of cringe-worthy moments, but, like that old college boyfriend who compared Seinfeld to Beckett, I actually find them endearing. Metcalf's accent is hard on my ears, though. Is it from a region I haven't visited, or is it the vocal manifestation of pretentiousness? I agree that Stevens and Turner are easier to take. Perhaps they will start to deflate more of Metcalf's pompous comments in the future. I wish the cultural gabfest recorded more than twice a month. In contrast, I find the political gabfest more grating by the week. They veer into in-jokes and tedious personal anecdotes that detract from the conversation. I long for that part of the summer when they go on vacation and bring in more interesting / less annoying replacements. Both of the gabfests would benefit hugely from more diverse perspectives, if Slate had any to offer.


As a big fan of other Slate podcasts, I was pretty excited about this one, but it really is the weakest of the bunch. The participants are sooo snobbish, which I suppose makes sense, but it is not immediately apparent upon what grounds they are snobbish. On the Political Gabfest, Dickerson knows politics, Bazelon knows the law, Plotz...well, he's editor now so he does what he wants. On the Culture Gabfest, you get a couple of mildly literate twenty-somethings and a thirty-something talking down to the world. No thanks.