Excelsior podcast discusses “nerd culture”


Ariella Frommer, Staff Writer

Last year, members of the Excelsior podcast used their phones to record episodes. This year, the podcast, which covers movies, TV shows, video games, and comic books, is created in the school’s recording studio with access to more tools, President and host of Excelsior Jordan Wasserberger (12) said.

Excelsior is dedicated to discussing and reviewing any topic within the “nerd culture” umbrella and creates a space for students to have a good time while talking about their passions, he said. 

Founded in 2017, Excelsior was formerly a magazine. As Editor-in-Chief last year, Wasserberger spearheaded the change in medium. Now, three to five people record the podcast at least once a week, with an episode releasing weekly on Spotify and Apple Music, he said. 

Each episode is 45 minutes long and takes around one and a half hours to edit, Editor-In-Chief and editor of the podcast Ethan Waggoner (12) said. 

The structure of each episode is similar. Waggoner starts with a recording of himself talking about the school’s community norms and a disclaimer that race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status will be respectfully discussed in the podcast because they are important ideas in films and television shows. Then, the host of the episode, usually Wasserberger, introduces the guests and the topic. When two episodes are being recorded simultaneously, others step in to host. 

At the height of COVID, Excelsior — then a publication — started having discussions over Zoom instead of writing articles, club advisor and Director of Admissions Jason Caldwell said. “This pandemic has given us so many awful things, but from that, we got this podcast,” Caldwell said. As a podcast, more people are involved in the club, more episodes have been put out, and the content is more focused, he said. 

Moreover, the accessibility of Excelsior increases the number of listeners, club member Jaden Piccirillo (12) said. “For other publications, you have to sit down and read it, but if you have a podcast, you can just listen to it on the go.” 

For each episode, the leaders determine what to discuss based on trending or recent releases. For example, last week, the podcast released an episode on the Netflix show “Squid Game.” The host and guests discussed how the show is more than violence — it shows viewers the emotions of humans in dire circumstances. In the upcoming holiday episode, all the podcast members will rank the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a media franchise on superhero films produced by Marvel Studios.  

Excelsior differentiates itself from other podcasts as students talk about topics of intersectionality, Caldwell said. “We’ve rubbed up against issues of race and gender in conversations that we’ve had about Wandavision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Black Widow, and I love the fact that we can talk about these issues pretty seriously, but at the same time have a dialogue that’s completely enjoyable,” he said. 

Those topics of intersectionality are Le’s favorite to discuss, Le said. “Falcon and the Winter Soldier was a great episode because we talked about what it meant culturally as the Black Lives Matter movement was happening at the same time of the release,” he said. 

Additionally, the podcast is interesting because the students are passionate about what they are discussing, Caldwell said. “During the ‘Injustice’ episode, Jordan and Alexei had a little bit of a meltdown because this is a storyline that they liked quite a great deal in the comic book form, and they made it into a movie that was not very good,” he said.

Piccirillo’s favorite memory is his first episode being on the podcast. “I just remember how much fun I had having a conversation where we made jokes, and we played around, but we were also talking about something that we were really passionate about,” he said. 

The variation of content in the podcast is unique and Piccirillo hopes to start an anime series and bring Eastern media representation into the podcast in the future, Piccirillo said. 

Wasserberger hopes the future of the club will involve discussing a larger variety of topics and recording multiple episodes per week, he said. For now, he wants to make sure that the club has a stable base from which students can grow so whoever leads the club next year is prepared to take the club to new heights, he said. 

Waggoner is proud of the podcast’s success, he said. “The podcast was something we were sort of throwing together last year, but now I’d like to say it is a real thing, so it felt great to put in a lot of effort into something and feel like we actually made something.”