Podcasts of the week: from motivational speakers to Vegas magicians

Featuring The Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett, How to Fail, Exactly. With Florence Given and Wild Things

Steven Bartlett
Steven Bartlett at the British Podcast Awards 2021
(Image credit: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

Motivational podcasters “may just be the Billy Graham-style evangelist leaders” of our secular age, said Patricia Nicol in The Sunday Times. One of the leaders of this pack is the 29-year-old business mogul Steven Bartlett, who recently became the youngest investor on BBC1’s Dragons’ Den.

Bartlett, who co-founded the digital marketing firm Social Chain aged 21, has a “paradoxical” public persona: inspirational but inescapably “brash”. This is a man who gave his memoir-cum-self-help book the title Happy Sexy Millionaire. Yet get past that, and you will find that his podcast – The Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett – is impressive: he is a skilful and “well-researched interviewer who, by listening carefully and not interrupting, often winkles out real insight”.

Also recommended in the motivational genre are The High Performance Podcast from sports broadcaster Jake Humphrey and organisational psychologist Professor Damian Hughes; Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place; Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s Feel Better, Live More; and Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail.

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Another emerging star of the podcast world is Florence Given, said Miranda Sawyer in The Observer – the 23-year-old illustrator and author of Women Don’t Owe You Pretty, a zippy guide to modern intersectional feminism. Her writing is “punchy, feminist, sexual and funny”, and she has acquired a 600,000-strong Instagram following made up mostly of other young women. “You could be snooty about this… but some people are born for the public eye, and Given is one.”

The subjects she covers in Exactly. With Florence Given range from sex and social media to feminism and body image – and her first guest is Erica Storm, a dominatrix who also runs sexual self-empowerment classes. Together they are “loud, funny and relentlessly positive”. The podcast needs a few tweaks but it is a “proper blast; a pie-in-the-face slap of upbeat enthusiasm” and sex-positivity.

The gripping new podcast Wild Things tells the outlandish story of Siegfried (Fischbacher) and Roy (Horn), the German-American illusionists who became Las Vegas’s biggest-ever magic act in the 1990s, only to have their immensely lucrative career curtailed in 2003, when a white tiger called Mantecore attacked Roy on stage, nearly killing him.

In his “excellent” eight-part series, the Emmy-winning film-maker Steven Leckart goes into that fateful night in depth, said Alexi Duggins in The Guardian, and also runs through the pair’s “outrageous career in compelling detail. Think cheetah smuggling, tigers in swimming pools and the most bizarre police investigation you’ve ever heard of.”

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