“Heavyweight” is dedicated to what could have been and what is yet to be, if only the right moment were to come around. Host Jonathan Goldstein and his podcasting team are helping people make peace with the past and resolve long standing hurt by going on cross-country road trips, facing thorny reunions head-on, and being a part of difficult conversations. It’s surprisingly funny and deeply authentic, all wrapped up with a simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking bow.
This Gimlet production has recorded around 45 regular length episodes, usually just 40 minutes each. They’ve also been performing shorter check-ins on past participants and Jonathan’s fellow hosts, as well as 20-minute “Heavyweight Shorts.” Episodes are extremely well produced and are truly a work of art.
Recommended to us from podcaster Kate Casey during her recent visit to Podsauce’s studio, “Heavyweight” has mastered the art of the confrontation. By email, people send their situations to the “Heavyweight” team – the mysteries keeping them up at night, the relationships lost to unknown causes, the secrets revealed that have only led to more. Every episode is vastly different, from a woman tracking down the man who cared for her uncle as he died of AIDS decades ago, to sisters who need to know what happened to their babysitter who seemingly vanished 20 years ago.
Goldstein was the original host of “Heavyweight,” contacting the people they were going to help, making cold calls to friends and family, helping find closure in any way possible. Now, Kalila Holt and Stevie Lane have stepped in to help the process with Goldstein’s guidance, and their presence provides a new level to the podcast as we hear them interact. Goldstein pushes them to be uncomfortable and supplies the profound wisdom he has gained since he started doing this in 2016. The wisdom mainly being, you can’t rush people to mend.
Maybe we are making this podcast sound more serious and philosophical than it projects itself. Because the content is often weighty, but the way the hosts, and even their subjects, go about it adds a lightness that is needed if you are to embark on a journey with a potentially unwanted ending. Sometimes, at the end of the road, the answers are wilder than anyone had imagined, and sometimes they are simple.
Hear Bobby’s story, which somehow involves getting tangled up in the worst McDonald’s commercial ever produced. Hear from the fierce and fiery Annie, who just wants to know why her family always excludes her from their plans when they’re in town. Then there’s Adam, who swears he met Fidel Castro in Montreal 25 years ago, but no one believes him. But Goldstein is determined to prove his story true. And Brandon, who was the high school misfit suddenly asked to prom by one of the prettiest, most popular girls in school. And all these years later he just wants to know why.
Some episodes are about daughters trying to find out if their father’s wild stories about bank robbing and winning Jeopardy! are true. Some are about Goldstein trying to figure out his own mysteries, like what would have happened if he became a rabbi like he always thought he would.
“Heavyweight” is intensely charming and serenely insightful. No matter the hindrances, no matter the awkward interactions, Goldstein, Holt, and Lane persist to lift the weight from the people asking them for help. Their subjects are interesting, sometimes on the verge of eccentric, and the story being told is better than most anything out there. You’ll chuckle, gasp, and relate to these stories more than you’d ever expect. “Heavyweight” will have you hooked from the instant you start listening, and with hoards of people emailing them, we don’t anticipate this podcast will be leaving us high and dry anytime soon.