(first of the month) stories on the radio


Last week for Joey’s birthday, we went down to New York for the day so he could see his favorite podcast, RISK!, live and in person. That show was so good, it sparked a whole new round of us talking about it with friends who don’t listen to podcasts, retelling the stories (always ending in “Oh, I can’t do it justice- you just have to listen!), explaining how we access them, and trying to convince them that they, too, can be someone who listens to podcasts. This morning I saw that the entire RISK! show we saw (the second and last stories are my favorites, especially) was up and available for anyone to listen to, and I though it might be a good time to talk about podcasts, how we access them, and start a running list of podcasts you might want to check out.

There are as many different podcasts as there are anything else out there in the world of media. We don’t have TV, and we listen to a lot of radio, so Joey and I end up downloading mostly storytelling podcasts, and this is a big part of our weekly entertainment. I do a lot of cooking to podcasts, too. You might be familiar with The Moth, which is the the most famous of this group. There are also more podcasts that tell stories in more crafted ways, like This American Life, which I think most people have heard at some point by now.

You can access most podcasts through iTunes or through the shows’ websites, but I use a free app on my phone called Stitcher. You can look up the podcasts there, add them to a favorites list, and the program refreshes those favorites as they become available.

Here are the podcasts on my favorites list right now:

RISK!: This is a storytelling podcast, mostly culled from live shows like the one Joey and I went to. It’s totally not appropriate for kids, as some of the stories have pretty explicit sexual content. Kevin Allison, formerly of The State, is the host and curator, and the main theme of the show is “stories you never dared to share”. The result is storytelling that’s usually pretty raw, emotional, and often really funny. And live shows are every month in NYC (as well as a few other places), and tickets are cheap and easy to get. I recommend that, too.

Snap Judgement: This is a more produced story telling podcast. Some of the stories are appropriate for older kids (so you can listen in the car or in the kitchen), and Glen will let you know if something inappropriate is coming up. My favorite part of this is Glen’s own stories, which are always fantastic.

This American Life: Again, I’m assuming you’re familiar with this! But I can’t do a podcast line up without a nod to Ira.

Hot Grease: This is Nicole Taylor talking about food. I just love the way she talks about food and pretty much everything else, too, and it gives me just enough of the hip Brooklyn food scene without actually having to really experience it.

The Moth: The king of all storytelling shows. I think it’s more formulaic than RISK! or some of the more raw shows, but there are some great stories on there.

Radiolab: This is science, edited and artsy. The editing style drives some people nuts, but some of the content is really thought-provoking. And some shows are appropriate and great for kids, too.

Savage Lovecast: This is a call-in show with Dan Savage, a sex advice columnist I’ve been reading since I was a teenager. It’s totally not appropriate to listen to around kids, and can get really explicit. But Dan is so smart and thoughtful, and above all, he gives some of the best relationship advice I’ve heard. Also, whether or not your own sex life involves crazy fetishes or polyamory, I think it can be really helpful to hear people talk about the more extreme corners of what people are doing sexually. In my experience, it makes it easier to get used to talking and thinking about sex in an open and healthy way.

KCRW’s Strangers: This is a storytelling podcast with a great host. Essentially, she interviews people with a question in mind, and then reflects on what she learns from the interviews.

The Truth: Strange and often creepy radio drama!

99% invisible: This is a short and really brilliant show about architecture and design. I always love the stories, but mostly I listen because the host, Roman Mars, not only has an amazing name, but he has one of my favorite voices out there. He could talk about anything and I’d hang on every word.

For today’s first (8th) of the month, let’s talk podcasts! Anything out there you’ve discovered and  want to share? Questions about how to listen?  Or if you’re looking for something in particular, let me know that, too! I’m sure there’s a podcast out there for you.



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34 Responses to (first of the month) stories on the radio

  1. fascinating. I’ve been checking books on tape out of the library because I’ve been wanting to listen to more stuff. Our public radio station has content that doesn’t interest me at all right now, except for the weekends, so I haven’t been listening to much.

    I’ve enjoyed Christine Cyr Clisset’s podcasts ThreadCult – they’re all about sewing and fibers. She interviews people and I’ve learned a lot.

  2. Mary says:

    My husband and I love podcasts! Our favorites are:

    Stuff You Should Know, from HowStuffWorks.com. The podcast features two friends, Josh and Chuck, who research a wide variety of topics and spend each show talking about one particular topic. They’ve had the podcast since 2008 and have thousands of episodes. We like it because the flow is very conversational, they have a lot of dad humor (and who doesn’t love dad humor), and you learn about some pretty cool stuff. It’s pretty kid-friendly, too.

    Welcome to Nightvale. This podcast is a radio show for a fictional town. It’s absolutely absurd and hilarious.

    Bullseye with Jesse Thorn. Jesse is a public radio personality out in LA and probably my favorite interviewer that I’ve ever listened to. Bullseye mostly consists of interviews with various famous people. It’s like listening to a conversation between two friends and is often very funny and heartfelt.

    • alana says:

      Nightvale’s getting a good shout out here! My husband’s into it, but I haven’t loved it in the same way. You all are making me think I should give it another try.

  3. Kat says:

    We hit pretty much everything on your list plus Thrilling Adventure Hour (specifically Beyond Belief and Sparks Nevada, Marshall on Mars) and TED talks, of course.

  4. Hannah says:

    RadioLab is such a favorite here. Also Science Fridays (we listen on the radio, but I think they have a podcast too) and Forum, which is a program from our local public radio station where they talk about politics and current events – some of it is specific to our area but often it is of national interest …

  5. Jennifer says:

    What a good idea! I don’t do podcasts much, but I think it all has to do with not knowing what is out there. I’m looking forward to reading the comments and doing some listening.

  6. pamela says:

    this is so great! i feel so out of the tech world that even podcasts are foreign to me. yes, how how how can i listen to them? i know how to download this american life on itunes, is that what you do, and then play from your computer? thanks for sharing.

    • alana says:

      Yes, Pamela- you can download all of these on iTunes. But if you have a phone or iPad, stitcher radio (link is in the post) is really great. You can just create a list of the podcasts you like, and then the app makes the newest episode available on demand.

  7. I enjoy book podcasts. I listen to Books on the Nightstand – which is actually how I originally found your book! I also listen to Literary Disco.

  8. Kim Uhuru says:

    I second Welcome to Nightvale, which is about a town populated by aliens, apparitions, and other weirdos. Also A Prairie Home Companion, the granddaddy of them all, about life in a small Midwestern town. Also Slate’s Political Gabfest if you are a political junkie, or if you aren’t and just want a smart, balanced take on it.

  9. Deb says:

    I just wanted to say I enjoy reading your blog. You are so completely different from myself and I love it! I enjoy people different from me so thank you! I have never listened to a podcast and am in the computer industry. I am going to check into this when my job slows down. Thank you for being you!

  10. Kristen says:

    I walk a lot and some days I get so excited to go just to listen to my podcasts! My favorites include:
    Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me
    Books on the Nightstand
    NPR: Books
    NPR: Food
    Fresh Air
    This American Life
    60 Minutes (we don’t have tv either, and this has turned out to be really really interesting some weeks)
    and I just started trying Louisiana Eats! which foodies might enjoy

    Also, there are some for kids out there, too. I highly recommend Storynory (my kids adored this when they were younger and my 10 year old still likes it — lots of fairy tales, fables, and myths)

    • alana says:

      60 minutes! I never thought to look for their podcast, but I feel like I would really love that.

      And thanks for including kids’ podcasts too. I’m always on the lookout. We’ll check out Storynory for sure.

  11. Jenn says:

    I’ll have to check out Nightvale. I listen to all the Slate podcasts as well as Too Beautiful To Live (TBTL). TBTL isn’t for everyone, but it has an extremely dedicated core group of listeners. Right now it’s hosted by a couple of smart, 30-something males who just talk about their daily life, news and culture. However, their level of honesty makes it pretty engaging.

  12. Michelle B says:

    I also love Radiolab, The Moth, TAL. I also like Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me to hear news in a way that makes you laugh instead of cry. I also enjoy the Freakonomics podcast, no story telling there but lots of quirkiness that I feel helps me understand human nature so much better. A story telling one I do enjoy is WireTap, which is fictionalized reality but regardless a lot of fun.

  13. Diana says:

    I’m so glad you gave a shout-out to the Savage Love podcast. The whole world could have a better sex life if they just listened to Dan and got brave enough to ask for what they want. My other passion is books, so I listen to the NPR Books podcast. It’s a great way to keep up with interesting new books that are being released..

  14. Marisa says:

    Thanks for the great list-I can’t wait to check some of these out! I always forget to turn on podcasts, or music, or anything while I’m cooking, but sometimes silence is nice too. When I do think to listen, I enjoy Good Food and The Splendid Table.

  15. Kendra says:

    We listen to the culture gabfest from Slate. I especially love lining up several of them to listen to when we make the trip from Richmond, VA back home to Rhode Island for our summer vacation. It is great way to help sift through all of the amazing TV, movies, books, articles etc…

  16. Leah says:

    So in love with Welcome to Night Vale, which is like a surreal Prairie Home Companion.

  17. mary says:

    This American Life and the Splendid Table are all great podcasts. Frontline also has a podcast. However they don’t update all the time.
    If you like movies, The Movies that Weaned us, is a great podcast. Several brothers from a large family talk about movies. They are very funny and knowledgeable. They talk about old movies and newer ones. It is fun to listen to while cooking. especially if you are in need of a good laugh.

  18. Lori says:

    How has no-one mentioned my two favorites: Planet Money and Marc Maron’s WTF (also not suitable for kids)?

    • alana says:

      Oh, I have such a love/ hate relationship with Planet Money! I love to listen to it, but it always makes me feel like I’m totally screwed, and I need to go to a financial planner RIGHT NOW. Still, yes, I love it.

      • alana says:

        Lori, I just realized it’s Marketplace Money that makes me feel freaked about about retirement. That’s a good one too! But Planet Money- I just have a love/ love relationship with that one :)

    • mary says:

      Marc Maron in so funny. He also has a few cooking shows on the web. He makes really good minestrone soup. Its fun to watch him cook in his tiny kitchen.

  19. Jessica says:

    I love this! My husband and I both listen to podcasts, though he listens to more than me, and I’ve been thinking of expanding my repertoire lately. Risk! and Bullseye are both maxfun (maximumfun.org) podcasts, and I’ve come to love that network. I highly recommend you go to their website and check out more of their shows. My favorites tend to be the comedy ones, but I love Bullseye, too. I listen to My Brother My Brother and Me (not for kids, but hilarious), Jordan, Jesse, Go! (not for kids), One Bad Mother (not for kids but great for stressed out parents), and Judge John Hodgman- which is appropriate for kids 99% of the time and if there’s an episode that won’t be they warn you in the beginning. Not only does it entertain my kids, too, but despite being a comedy podcast John Hodgman always doles out really useful advice at the end that I think is great for my kids to hear. He just treats people well, and I love that. I’ve been wanting to try out Sawbones and Song Exploder, lately.

    I also love Radiolab, Freakonomics, and Science Friday, as have been mentioned here. I’ll have to try some of the others on the list! I need more kid friendly podcasts, it won’t be long before they’re out of school and I’ll have very little time to listen to anything without them around.

    • alana says:

      I’ve been meaning to explore the maxfun network, and I haven’t gone beyond RISK!- but you’ve inspired me. And a podcast for stressed out parents? I’m there. Thanks for the recs- there are so many that are new to me here.

  20. JenniferTobey says:

    I listen to all the geeky podcasts!
    PotterCast was my very first podcast & I still listen when they have new ones! Hello Internet is a new favorite. The Incomparable is new to me but has been around for awhile; I love a good Star Wars chat. The Splendid Table is lovely as is The Good Life project. Welcome to NightVale is in my queue but I haven’t listened very far. New York City History: The Bowery Brothers is also great.

  21. Heather M says:

    I don’t think anyone has mentioned the New Yorker Fiction podcast or Selected Shorts! Maybe I missed it? They are SO GOOD! The New Yorker Fiction podcast is New Yorker short story writers picking their favorite short stories from the magazine, then discussing with the fiction editor. It’s wonderful, and I don’t actually get particularly excited about reading short stories in the New Yorker.

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