99% Invisible – This is a podcast about design. But design in a much broader sense than you might imagine. It discusses design and how it affects the world that we live in. Some notable topics include the literal design of currency, and how it differs across the world; how the Chicago River came to be; Wallace Neff and his innovative bubble houses; a pavillion in Michigan that developed a cult following and it’s own mythology, how Superman sucks as a superhero, and the secret staircases of San Francisco. I find that almost every episode is interesting and I take away interesting little tidbits that enhance my understanding of the world around me.
Ace on the House – If you’re an Adam Carolla fan, and you are into home improvement, you will probably like this. About half the show is Adam either bitching about something one of his employees did, or reminiscing about trouble he and his friend/cohost Ray did when they were teenagers. The rest of the show is his version of advice, which is real and honest. “You really SHOULD do it this way, but you could totally get away with doing it a less costly/easier way if you did X, Y, and Z.” I find it entertaining, and but it’s usually one of the last things that I listen to, you know, if I’m out of other stuff and I still want to hear someone talking to me vs. streaming pandora.
Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend – This is easily my favorite podcast. Alison Rosen is open, honest, and real about what makes her tick. Every Monday she releases a podcast where she sits down and interviews a guest (usually a comedian, but not always) about what makes them tick. Every Thursday, she sits down with her producer, and a few other people(underlings) from the Carolla studios crew and they have important hard-hitting debates about what color skittles are the best, which way the toilet paper roll should be hung, if it’s acceptable to stand and wipe (people actually do this apparently), and other such significant topics. On both episodes of the show, she does a segment called “Just Me Or Everyone” where people write in on twitter #JMOE with strange things that they think or do, and everyone weighs in on whether or not that’s normal. These primarily address strange OCD behaviors, but also range into the pretty mundane, like how people load the dishwasher, or whether people like to pick head scabs (oh hell yes!). I actually started using my twitter account occasionally just so I could submit JMOEs. I can’t get enough of that podcast.
America’s Test Kitchen – If you are a fan of Cook’s Country, America’s Test Kitchen, or Cooks Illustrated, you will love this podcast. The basic format is Christopher Kimball and Bridget Lancaster answer a few caller questions, then they do a segment on something food related, then do a recipe/challenge thing, and finish up with more caller questions. It’s nothing groundbreaking or one of those podcasts that I am excited to have in my queue, but it’s always good discussion and I usually learn something when I listen to it.
Freakonomics Radio – Have you read the book or seen the movie? Freakonomics describes what they as “the hidden side of everything.” That means exploring associations between different statistics, and discussing different ways of looking at things. Recent topics have included different ways to look at tipping, was Jane Austen (author of Pride & Prejudice) a game theorist, and whether baby girls cause divorce.
The Mental Illness Happy Hour – Comic Paul Gilmartin discusses mental and emotional struggles and problems with a celebrity guest. I’ve just recently begun listening to this, but it is interesting to see what other people attribute their craziness to. Podcasts like this and Alison Rosen really seem to make you feel like whatever weird shit you have going on is at least somewhat normal and OK.
Porch Light – This is a great storytelling podcast. 2 women in the Bay area do monthly live shows where people go up on stage and tell stories about their lives. Then they record it and upload it as a podcast. The stories are funny, touching, sad, positive, you name it. I love hearing about people with vastly different lives than myself.
Radiolab – This is an NPR podcast, and it’s just chock full of interesting little observances and stuff you don’t generally think about. Like quicksand in movies. It’s not there anymore. Nobody is afraid of it. Or what happens to all of the sewage that NYC produces? How about learning more about Dr. Heimlich? They cover all that stuff. And in an interesting mixture of audio effects with speech. Great, well-produced podcast.
Risk – I love Risk. This is at the top of the heap of podcasts that I am excited to listen to when they come out, and am eagerly awaiting on Monday morning. It’s another storytelling podcast, but a little more produced than porchlight, and it sometimes tells great stories of embarrassment, sexy stories, but also deeper stuff. Great podcast. I recommend to anyone who likes stories.
Seattle Kitchen – This is just a local radio show that they release as a podcast. It features 2 local restaurateurs, including Tom Douglas discussing the restaurant business, food, and the seasons. It’s somewhat interesting to me as someone in the Seattle area, and someone who likes to cook/eat.
The Alton Brown Cast – Alton Brown (of Food Network fame) sits down and talks about food, whiskey, and fashion. What’s not to like?
The Moth – Another storytelling podcast. This podcast’s episodes are shorter than Risk and Porchlight, and the host has an irritatingly soothing voice. I just listen for the stories. They’re good, but tend to be a bit more PG rated than Risk’s.
This American Life – The NPR radio show, released as a podcast. Each week they examine a different aspect of humanity, culture, or the world, and then tell the stories of a few different people relating to that aspect. They provide an interesting perspective on life and stories.