“I live in a basement in Marietta, Georgia,” Nathan Rabin tells me, from, well, a basement in Marietta, Georgia. The writer moved near his wife’s family before the couple had their first child. His location hasn’t slowed his output. Not only has he authored three books — most recently the Phish and Insane Clown Posse fan work, You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me — he is a columnist for The A.V. Club (where he was the first head writer), Splitsider, Rotten Tomatoes, and Decider. He has six columns currently, in addition to other freelance work, and he’s working on two “very small” books. Whoosh.
Rabin doesn’t know how to drive and says, “Life right now consists of the three miles between my in-laws’ home, the places where I write and eat corned beef sandwiches during the day. It’s a weird life.” So, I ask, is most of his media consumption the online kind? Oh yeah. He used his cell phone so much that he just noticed — in the last two weeks — that data overages were going to run him an extra $350. It’s all about the podcasts.
“I’d probably say that’s my favorite form of media. I tend to be really rapacious and borderline pathological in my consumption,” he says. Rabin just got into Hollywood Handbook, “which is either the least popular podcast or one of the two or three least popular.” It’s a satire of Hollywood superficiality that he first heard about from Tom Sharpling. “I went from ‘Oh, I should give this a listen’ to ‘I’ve downloaded all 100 episodes,’” Rabin says. He started listening two weeks ago and he’s plowed through 45 of the one-hour-long episodes. He has 55 to go.
He did the same when his friends recommended The Flop House, listening to all 175 episodes (at that point) in a month. Mental Illness Happy Hour is another fave. “I walk around a lot,” Rabin says. “Over the course of five or six miles, I can listen to four or five or six podcasts.” That’s a lot of ‘casts for a rambling man.
“I like to go on podcasts to make podcasts I love a little worse,” Rabin says, in his own meta, cheeky way. He’s thought about his own podcast — perhaps one based on You Don’t Know Me, trying to convince people to dig things they otherwise wouldn’t — but, ultimately, says, “One problem is that people don’t enjoy the way that I talk.” He writes a column about podcasts for Splitsider.
His media diet, like yours, also includes heaping, sugary scoops of social media. “I spend so much time on Facebook. I spend so much time on Twitter,” he says. “My wife is very unhappy about it, I’m unhappy about it. When I read a book, when I see a movie, when I go to a play — which I never do — I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time.” Tired of “digitally sucking his thumb,” Rabin says he’s weening himself. But, he says, a lot of media he consumes is directed to him via Facebook — like Jezebel articles he sends to his wife.
Does the binging translate to other consumption, like television? “I think there’s a real OCD part of my brain that really, really likes order, likes completion, likes neatness. So, when I get into a television show, it helps if I can watch it all in one sitting,” he says. He just jumped into BoJack Horseman and its “sad, weird, very specific world” along with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. As for recent movies? They were because of columns but he liked Ex Machina and, ha, just watched Tales from the Hood.
He praises the Netflix model, saying watching network television seems “anachronistic, something people in the past did.” Rabin, in a way, was consuming television in Netflix-like manner before streaming existed: He used to tape episodes of The Daily Show and The Simpsons to save up for marathon watches on the weekends.
Rabin doesn’t get any publications in print anymore. “I used to have these giant piles of New Yorkers and giant piles of The New York Times. And they would stand as enduring testaments to my failure.”
He consumes a lot of media around whatever he’s working on. He points to a story he’s been writing on wrestler Colt Cabana, which led him to watch The Wrestling Road Diaries. “That was great,” he says. “You think you don’t need to make three-hour documentaries unless you’re doing like Shoah.”
Rabin is working on a book about the video game and movie Postal. He’s re-immersed himself into the world of video games because of the ultra-violent shooter. “On the one hand it’s about something I don’t know a lot about, which is video games. On the other hand, it’s about something I do know a lot about, which is failure,” he says, half-jokingly.
He recently dug the book, Marvel: The Untold Story, which inspired him to write a column about Marville. “It’s unbelievably self-indulgent, weird, juvenile, and incredibly pretentious meditation on, first, comic books. And, then, they’re like: Let’s just make this about the meaning of life, and the origin of life.” You might not know Rabin, but you’d like him.