How I Podcast: Left Handed Radio’s Anna Rubanova

The beauty of podcasting is that anyone can do it. It’s a rare medium that’s nearly as easy to make as it is to consume. And as such, no two people do it exactly the same way. There are a wealth of hardware and software solutions open to potential podcasters, so setups run the gamut from NPR studios to USB Skype rigs (the latter of which has become a kind of default during the current pandemic).

We’ve asked some of our favorite podcast hosts and producers to highlight their workflows — the equipment and software they use to get the job done. The list so far includes:

Science Vs’s Rose Rimler
Election Profit Makers’ David Rees
Welcome to Your Fantasy’s Eleanor Kagan
Articles of Interest’s Avery Trufelman
First Draft and Track Changes’ Sarah Enni
RiYL remote podcasting edition
Family Ghosts’ Sam Dingman
I’m Listening’s Anita Flores
Broken Record’s Justin Richmond
Criminal/This Is Love’s Lauren Spohrer
Jeffrey Cranor of Welcome to Night Vale
Jesse Thorn of Bullseye
Ben Lindbergh of Effectively Wild
My own podcast, RiYL

Image Credits: Anna Rubanova

This week, we talk to Anna Rubanova. A comedy writer-turned podcast producer, she’s worked on myriad podcasts, including “The Thrilling Adventure Hour” and “Election Profit Makers” (featuring recent How I Podcaster, David Rees). Rubanova serves as an executive producer at Forever Dog and has hosted programs for WNYC Studios and Stitcher Premium. She co-produces and hosts the narrative sketch comedy show “Left Handed Radio” with Adam Bozarth. 

I use my phone a lot. I used to write down ideas for sketches and would inevitably forget what made them good. “When I win the lottery, I’m gonna teach a fish how to smoke.” That’s in one of my notes and I have no idea what it’s referring to. With a voice memo, I can capture the feel of the bit immediately. The recording can serve as a jumping off point for a fully written sketch, maybe a prompt for improv. I might re-record it using a better mic or, screw it, use it as is. I go with whatever is funniest or, sometimes, good enough. You can always justify it later with context. With enough music, restoration or SFX, the worst-quality audio sounds intentional. Plus, there’s no point in doing something “correctly” in podcasting. It’s like trying to make the perfect sandwich. Anyone who thinks there’s one way to podcast or do radio or utilize two slices of bread is a fraud or a solipsist.

Image Credits: Anna Rubanova

Speaking of podcast perfection, Left Handed Radio is my everything. It’s a portfolio, creative outlet, comedy scrapbook and excuse to play with my best friend and partner in all things, Adam Bozarth. We make sketches, stream-of-consciousness monologues, anything that strikes us as funny or interesting.

Over the last decade, we’ve accumulated a good deal of recording equipment. Nothing fancy: a couple of Zooms, two AudioTechnica 2020 USB mics, and a Rhode shotgun. Most of what we have was meant for DIY filmmaking. There was a post-YouTube short-form comedy boom about a decade ago. When all those branded content sites went down, we stopped messing with video and leaned harder into animation and podcasting. 

Image Credits: Anna Rubanova

Narrative audio is my passion. Podcasting is my job. Like I said, we don’t collect equipment but, as producers of up to 12 shows at a time, we needed to invest in plug-ins and software. The easiest DAW for dialogue has to be Audition. Logic is great for building out soundscapes and, obviously, music. We record remote calls to Audition and mark edit points like we would in a studio. (Thank you, Loopback!) Two years ago, I dropped a whopping $1,000 on restoration software. In the pandemic, that software has saved me hours of work. When everyone is recording from home, literally anything can go wrong.

Gone are the days when clipping and plosives were our biggest concern. One time, a podcaster (i.e. someone with their own podcast) called into a show I was producing from a rooftop party. By the time I finished restoring the recording, nobody could tell. (Thank you, RX-7; I wish I could afford RX-8.) Plug-ins aren’t just useful, they can be delightful. We have one that can make audio sound like it’s coming from a loudspeaker underneath a woolen blanket. Have I found a good use for it? No, not yet. But I can imagine the possibilities.

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