Our Favourite Podcasts
- WNYC’s Radiolab: Radiolab is an aural extravaganza of interesting stories with a scientific or philosophical slant. Presenters Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich pose endlessly fascinating questions about human nature, the meaning of existence and the nexus between science, philosophy and human experience. The Radiolab team uses sound to breakdown complex ideas and relay them in an innovative and engaging way.
- This American Life: Everyone has a story to tell and that’s what This American Life allows people to do. Each episode follows the same format: the host, Ira Glass, introduces a theme and the stories told relate to that theme. They are mainly true stories about peoples’ lives. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re sad, but they are always interesting. Like Radiolab, This American Life focuses on big ideas and how they relate to human experience. The Giant Pool of Money episode, which explains the subprime crisis in an intelligible way, is a particularly good example of what This American Life does best: taking complex themes and letting ordinary people do the talking.
- This Week in Tech (See also This Week in Google): The name is a give-away, but this is a podcast about all things technology. It’s hosted by Leo Laporte and other former Tech TV employees and is basically a panel discussion of what’s going on online and in the area of consumer electronics that particular week. The podcast is fun, accessible and informative even for those with just a passing interest in technology.
- Freakonomics: You all know the books, but did you know that Steven and Stephen have a podcast about the freaky side of economics? It’s well worth a listen.
- Stuff You Should Know: Josh and Chuck explain the stuff you should know about. You know, stuff like James Bond, Nicotine and, err, the Muppets. The easy back and forth between the guys makes it feel like you’re listening to a couple of old friends catching up on the important and oftentimes random issues of the day. Oh, and did we mention that it’s hilarious?
- Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Review: Kermode and Mayo make a great team. Kermode knows movies and tends to launch into a highly entertaining and withering rant if he finds a film particularly offensive. The chat between the two is great with Mayo doing a good job of keeping Kermode’s ego in check (for the most part).
- Berlin Stories: Berliners recount their personal stories of life in the German capital in these earbud-sized podcasts. A great snapshot of life in Berlin.
- 99% Invisible: Roman Mars (great name or what?) produces this self-described “tiny radio show about design”. It may be tiny but it deals with some big ideas and goes about it in a big way. Like Radiolab, the show is technically excellent. It has a certain musicality (in that it finds music in the most unusual of places like in this piece on escalators) and uses sound to deconstruct each topic in an ingenious way.
- The Moth, which has been around since 1997, is a non-profit organisation that brings peoples’ true stories to an audience — live and unscripted. In similar fashion to TAL, The Moth, centres in on a particular theme and the storytellers explore this, lending an air of authenticity and intimacy that only radio can achieve. It reminds Tam and I of why we love radio as well as of the ability of sound to draw a powerful narrative.
- Planet Money does a twice-weekly podcast covering the global economy. The show launched in 2006 after the team investigated the aforementioned “The Giant Pool of Money” for TAL. The podcast was so great that NPR gave them their own, well deserved radio time. The team explains economics and the financial industry in an interesting, understandable and often funny way, cutting through confusing jargon and figures.
- Savage Love: Dan Savage writes the sex and relationship advice column Savage Love and is known for his frank and humorous approach to such subjects as well as his inspired contribution of the word Santorum to the English language (following Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum’s homophobic comments comparing gay sex to sex between a man and a dog). His podcast follows the same tone and often has a political bent. I particularly love the show’s theme song.
That’s it! If you know any good podcasts let us know.