PRX Podcast Garage: Roman Mars Five Things

Roman Mars’ Favorite Things

Greatness is inspired by greatness. Five Things is an ongoing live event series at the PRX Podcast Garage hosted by Julie Shapiro (EP, Radiotopia).

Five Things invites some of today’s most talented and successful producers, artists, writers and thinkers to share five things —audio, visuals, books, objects or something else entirely — that have shaped their creative practice over time, and inform how they approach their work now.

To kick off the series, Julie welcomed Roman Mars (host and creator, 99% Invisible) to share his five.

Number One: Murder Can Be Fun, a zine by John Marr

“[John Marr] wrote these long, really well researched stories about death and crime and mayhem in very cool ways, and I was really impressed by them. When I was devising my first show in 2002 (it was called Invisible Ink) I wanted to create a punk rock This American Life. I wanted a zine-based This American Life. So I called it Invisible Ink: a Radio Zine, and John Marr was on my first episode. Zines crafted who I am and how I told stories.”

Number Two: Your Radio Nightlight, a radio show by Benjamen Walker

“After I got into the idea of making radio, it was at a time whenThis American Life was really going gangbusters and everyone I knew wanted to go work for Ira. But Benjamen and I wanted to run our own shows, and we found each other through Julie [Shapiro]. This is the weirdest story but [Benjamen] found my website, I called him the next day because I got his number from Julie, and he thought I could tell he was on my website. Which explains a lot about Benjamen Walker…

I just loved the way he was, he was so weird. I was also a really big fan of Joe Frank, but he was Joe Frank for my generation. I actually related to him more than I related to Joe.”

Number Three: Chicago Architecture Boat Tour

“It made me think, you can do architecture on the radio if you tell the right story. In fact, you might even be able to do it better.

My visceral reaction to [the Montgomery Ward tower], which has sort of a ho-hum modernism… it didn’t really do it for me. But the story does it for me, and therefore the building does it for me. That was hugely instrumental.”

Number Four: POTUS Challenge Coin

“It’s nice to have a thing. I need it for my nervous disposition.”

Number Five: Dischord Records

“When Hrishi [Hirway] was independent and started Song Exploder, he had just left another group and was figuring out what to do and everyone was courting him. I said to him, ‘But our label is the Dischord label’, and that’s what put him over the edge. He actually said yes to another network and then backed out. I knew the way to his heart! For people who know, Dischord is really meaningful to us, and luckily Hrishi is one of the people who knew.”

About Roman Mars

Roman Mars is the host and creator of 99% Invisible, a short radio show about design and architecture. With over 120 million downloads, the 99% Invisible podcast is one of the most popular podcasts in the world. Fast Company named Roman one of the 100 Most Creative People in 2013. He was a TED main stage speaker in 2015, currently the most popular TED Talk about design, with over 3.5 million views. His crowd funding campaigns have raised over $2 million and he’s the highest-funded journalist in Kickstarter history. He is also a co-founder of Radiotopia, a collective of ground-breaking story-driven podcasts.

“99% Invisible…is completely wonderful and entertaining and beautifully produced…”
— Ira Glass, This American Life

About Julie Shapiro

Julie Shapiro is the executive producer of Radiotopia from PRX — a curated network of extraordinary, cutting-edge podcasts. From 2014–15, she was the executive producer of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Creative Audio Unit. In 2000 she co-founded the Third Coast International Audio Festival, where as artistic director, she prioritized innovative audio and a cross-pollinating international listening culture. Shapiro has taught radio to university students, presented at conferences all over the globe, and produced stories for the airwaves and podcasts in the US and beyond. You can find her on twitter @jatomic.