My appetite for podcasts is nearly insatiable. As a photographer, there just so happens to be a huge amount of post-production involved in what I do. And if any of you have ever had to cull and edit 5000 images in one sitting, you probably understand how mind-numbing the experience is without some other sort of mental stimulation.
I also happen to be pretty picky about my podcast listening. I may be a little more unforgiving than some listeners due to my extreme sensitivity to mouth noises and how well the mic picks up the p's and k's of some speakers (I know I am not the only one, look up misphonia). I have started and stopped my subscriptions to several podcasts because of the endless banter, lack of storyline, or anything esoteric that seems to speak to only a few individuals who are in on the joke. But again, with the wet, sticky mouth noises. Please NPR, I beg of you to address this.
I get asked on the weekly what I listen to and what I recommend. So, without further ado, I have compiled my definitely uncomprehensive list of the best content that is consistently good (this list will change since I am digesting new and fabulous podcasts on the daily. I will post blog updates when I find new and noteworthy podcasts). Lucky for you, many of these podcasts have extensive archives. Please to enjoy.
The formation of my personal project, The Folk & The Lore, was almost entirely inspired by this podcast. Their tag line, “True Stories Told Live” got me to thinking about why we don’t have a live storytelling event in Reno. And then my next thought was, “Well, I should start one.” And that is basically how TFTL got off the ground. Okay, that is super simplified and does not explain the blood, sweat, and tears that go into this personal project, but that is story for another time.
The Moth has three types of live events that end up becoming the content for their podcast: Mainstage Events, StorySLAMS, and GrandSLAMS. Mainstage events are crafted and curated and feature "five tellers who develop and shape their stories" with Moth directors. Storyslams, on the other hand, uses the open mic 5 minutes rule, you never quite know what you are going to get. From these open mic stories, the best make it onto the podcast. The GrandSLAM is a battle of the storytellers. The winners from ten StorySLAMS that take place in one city, battle for the ultimate title of GrandSLAM Champion. These stories make for the best Moth episodes in my humble opinion.
The Moth has made me cry more times than I can remember.
The content is almost always amazing.
The production value is consistently good.
When I recommend this podcast to someone that has never heard a Moth episode, I am genuinely jealous that they get to discover all the goodness that The Moth creates.
I cannot emphasize this enough, this podcast is GOOD.
Episode You Must Listen To: Motherlove, Money & War
So, when people think of Podcasts, this is usually the first thing they think of. It has been around since the late 90’s, and it has accompanied me on many a road trip. TAL’s stories are not told live but are rather very well produced audio documentaries.
In the last 5 years or so, TAL has really worked hard to develop their journalistic voice, telling the stories of the recession, the election, and how educational experiences can vary in the same district.
This American Life is classic when it comes to podcasts, but don't let that fool you into thinking that their content is dated.
Episode You Must Listen To: Testosterone | Episode 220
A look at the world through science, and told from two amazingly charming hosts: Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. You might think, “Eh, science podcast. Sounds boring.” But I promise you this is nothing close to boring. In fact, you will find yourself enlightening your colleagues on your newfound scientific knowledge on a regular basis. You will be the star of the water cooler.
Extremely well produced. Perhaps the best produced podcast out there. And I would consider this to also be a “classic.”
On a side note, this is the podcast that made me fall in love with Oliver Sacks, the fascinating neurologist I mourn the loss of every time I hear his distinctive voice.
Episode You Must Listen To: Animal Minds | Episode 7
WORTH CHECKING OUT
“Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” This podcast makes me happier than you will ever know. I am a big believer in stories that tell the more complicated side of us as humans (hence my own personal project “Grayish”). Hosts Lulu Miller, Hanna Rosin and Alix Spiegel gracefully handle some of the most delicate topics such as how personalities are not fixed and static, “faking it till you make it,” and challenging your gut reactions in difficult situations.
This podcast will make you analyze your own life in so many amazing ways. Run, do not walk to this one. It is currently my favorite.
Episode You Must Listen To: Flip the Script
Host Hillary Frank left a career in public radio production to get this podcast off the ground, and my god, is it good. I tell my girlfriends that one of the biggest needs of a new parent is to commiserate with other new parents, and this podcast fills that need and then some. Hillary has this very special and very loving way of letting parents tell their hilarious and often difficult stories. She describes it as, “...a bedside companion for parents who want to hear in the middle of the night (or day—what’s the difference, really?) that they are not alone.” And let's face it, parenthood can be really lonely.
When you listen to it, you will definitely feel a camaraderie with other parents.
Episode you Must Listen To: W. Kamau Bell Asks His Mom About Sex | Episode 102
Their tagline should also feature a correction, “The best stories from the internet.” Hosts Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt do some good’ole fashioned investigative journalism to get to the bottom of some of the internet’s best stories and mysteries. This podcast is always timely, funny, and relateable. Even when they are talking about techy stuff that is out of my field of knowledge, it is always brief and then always explained in layman’s terms when they are done.
While this is a podcast about the internet, it is really a podcast about people, which is why it is so interesting.
Episode you must listen to: Lost in a cab | Episode 76
The Memory Palace is hosted by Nate DiMeo, who is an Artist in Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He tells the incredible and amazing historical stories from items in their collection. I have listened to his podcast long before he became the Artist in Residence for the Met, and to be honest the structure and method of his storytelling hasn’t really changed at all. As a lover of history (and especially art history), this podcast gets me right in the core. Every story is so thoughtfully done, I just cannot recommend it enough.
His podcast is unique in its style. I appreciate his cadence and relaxed way of speaking. I can't help but feel that he is doing the exact type of work he was meant to do.
Episode you must listen to: High Above Lake Michigan
"Stories of people who've done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle."
Before there was Serial, there was Criminal. The co-creation of Lauren Spohrer, Phoebe Judge and Eric Mennel is just as good. There are many crime podcasts, many of which can be distasteful at times in their reverie of the gruesome. This crime podcast is different. While they does not shy away from the cruelty of humans, they don’t wallow in it. There is more of a desire to tell the complicated story of why the crime was committed. To tell the nuanced story of how a crime ripples through families and communities.
There is a significant archive from this podcast. It will not disappoint.
Episode you must listen to: 53 & 54 Melinda & Judy
"Stories of love, loss and redemption."
Modern Love is one of those examples of how old stories can become new again by digesting it through a different medium. Modern Love takes the best reader-submitted essays from the New York Times popular series of the same name, and has famous actors read them as if they were their own. This podcast is beautifully done and beautifully produced. The best part is the follow up after you hear the story. Often times they revisit the author of the letter so we can get an update.
Episode you must listen to: A Heart of Gold | Modern Love 43
(As an aside, I listened to this one while walking through the park and had to hide my tears from passers by. So good.)
The premise of this podcast is simple, but genius. Adults get on stage and read from their childhood journals. This gets to my favorite past time: self deprecation. It is deliciously good. The stories are NSFW, but are always roll on the floor funny.
Episode you must listen to: Angela, I have bad gaydar | Episode 60
Karina Longworth is the historian and creator of this podcast “about the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century.” Man-oh-man, is it good. You get the dirt on icons like Barbara Stanwyck, Howard Hughes, and Greta Garbo. You learn about monolithic studios, contracts, and the burden of being typecast. Even if you don’t love history podcasts, this is one you will really love. "You Must Remember This" is beloved by many, and has been gushed about in The Atlantic, Vulture, and Entertainment Weekly. Indulgently good.
Episodes you must listen to: Six Degrees of Joan Crawford: Bette Davis and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Moshe Kasher hosts "The Hound Tall," which is recorded live and follows a similar format to Doug Loves Movies, which is essentially a handful of comedians on stage trying to outdo one another. But instead of movies as the topic, "The Hound Tall" offers a new topic every week, such as: Scientology, Brexit, and Baseball. Moshe introduces an expert, often times a scientist or historian, and then the comedians work their magic (which can be maddening at times if interrupting is a problem for you) and turn what might be a dry subject into hilarity.
Episode you must listen to: The History of Hip Hop