Wednesday, January 14, 2015

6 Podcasts You Should Be Listening To

I recently conducted a reader survey to get a feel for what you guys (my readers) are all about and what you would like to see more of on Avoiding Atrophy. Many of you responded, and to you wonderful ladies (and one dude. What up, one dude!), I am eternally grateful. I learned a lot, and I'll be sure to do a more thorough evaluation of my findings from that survey later in the week. But for now, I want to focus on just one aspect that I found particularly interesting. Take a look at this chart:

I have my own reasons for asking this out-of-nowhere question (which, again, I'll get to at a later time), but I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by just how many people NEVER listen to podcasts. Podcasts are so much a part of my daily life that I guess I just naturally imagine that they are a part of everyone else's. Before I leave my apartment, I always make sure that I have one queued up and ready to play, but I suppose it was a bit ethnocentric for me to assume that everyone does this exact same thing.

Still, I believe there is so much value in listening to podcasts, especially because, for me, they make my commute about a thousand percent more bearable. They keep my mind sharp, they often invoke wonderful storytelling methods, and they certainly keep me distracted from that guy next to me on the B train who has decided that the subway is the optimal place to clip his toenails. 

So for those of you who are new to podcasts, or even for those of you who are seasoned veterans, I thought I'd share some of my all-time favorites. I promise these will be well worth your time. Or maybe they won't. I don't even know anymore.

1. This American Life

This American Life is basically the gateway podcast. It remains my first love of the podcast world, and I know I'm not alone in this since it's pretty much always listed as #1 on iTunes. The show is hosted by Ira Glass, whose delightful voice and mannerisms are reason enough to tune in. Each episode is centered on a theme and each act features a story based on that theme. They are usually interviews told with narration, but sometimes they feature short fictional stories, poetry, comedy -- anything that artistically portrays some human truth. You will laugh. You will cry. You will reexamine all of your life choices.

Typical episode length: One hour
Recommended episode: Episode 484 -- Doppelgängers

2. Serial

Even if you didn't listen to it over the last few months, you probably still heard all about the buzz surrounding Serial. It's a spinoff of This American Life hosted by one of the show's producers, Sarah Koenig. For twelve weeks straight, Serial bumped its parent podcast from the #1 spot and became the most-listened to podcast in the world. This last season, the show recounted and reinvestigated the details of a 1999 murder of a high school girl in Baltimore. The show was so gripping that it even spawned podcasts solely centered on discussing theories from Serial. As in, people were actually making podcasts ABOUT ANOTHER PODCAST. The next season is still some time away, and there is no word on what the story will be, but if it's anywhere near as compelling as this last one, then you should tune in. 

Typical episode length: 45 min.
Recommended episode: In order to do this thing right, you have to start at Episode 01: The Alibi

3. Comedy Bang Bang

Do you like funny? Well, here, have some funny. Comedy Bang Bang, hosted by Scott Aukerman, can best be described as podcast interview improv. Some of your favorite comedians (Jenny Slate, Nick Kroll, Paul F. Tompkins, Lauren Lapkus, and so so many others) come together on this show as either themselves or as ridiculous characters. It's a good time. Don't overthink it.

Typical episode length: An hour and a half
Recommended episode: I could not stop laughing during this episode with Jenny Slate and Nick Kroll.

4. Radiolab

Remember that one biology teacher you had who made science fun? Radiolab is like that. This podcast combines science and storytelling in a way that makes the two seem more related than we ordinarily might think. This show serves as a continual reminder to always be curious about the world around us. Plus, hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich have such a seriously adorable banter.

Typical episode length: It varies. Usually 30 minutes to an hour.

5. The Moth

I honestly can't imagine a person alive on this earth who would not like The Moth, but perhaps, as a storyteller, I'm a bit biased. The Moth podcast features true stories told by real people at live storytelling events. Originally based in New York, there are now Moth story slams happening all over the country, possibly the world, and the podcast showcases some of the very best. If you ever start to lose faith in humanity, please listen to The Moth. After all, storytelling is one of the greatest tools humans have in promoting peace and understanding in this world (if this is sounding at all familiar, it might be because I've written about storytelling a lot on this here blog).

Typical episode length: 20 min.
Recommended episode: Seriously, any of them. 

6. Professor Blastoff

Okay, this one is pretty special to me. Many of the aforementioned podcasts take me on adventures to worlds that I would otherwise not know, but Professor Blastoff just feels like coming home. The show stars comedians Tig Notaro, Kyle Dunnigan, and David Huntsberger. The premise of the show is pretty flimsy, honestly (they receive and interpret transmissions from a genius scientist in outer space). In truth, though, this gimmick is just a platform for everyone to be hilarious. The show usually features an expert in a given subject, and recently, the guests have mostly been other very funny comedians. This is one of those podcasts that makes me look crazy on the subway as I sit there laughing to myself, and I am honestly okay with that. Highly recommend.

Typical episode length: One hour
Recommended episode: I liked this episode on Voice (with guest, Lake Bell)


Friends, give podcasts a try. Shove those earbuds in your earholes, and join me in one of my favorite past times. I really think it will be a game-changer for you.

And for those of you already listening to podcasts:
Do you have a favorite? Share! Share!


  1. Podcasts are my love language! I've added some of your faves to my queue, but here are some of mine: History Chicks (two women talking about women in history), Stuff You Missed in History Class (some crazy interesting stories), Gilmore Guys (two dudes bro-ing out on Gilmore Girls), The Lively Show (Jess Lively interviews some amazing men and women about all kinds of topics), and the Outlander podcast (the producer drinks Scotch and talks about each episode while he watches it).

  2. I'm also here to recommend Gilmore Guys! One of its hosts went to high school with my husband. I also love listening to The Village Church's sermons and A Prairie Home Companion.


    Also Death, Sex and Money, Strangers!, WTF with Marc Marron (His Robin Williams Interview made me sob like a baby), Start Up, Here's The Thing, Slate's Political Gabfest - Also their Serial Special was AWESOME - and I just started the new NPR show Invisibilia which only has one episode but that was pretty good!

  4. I'm a big fan of This American Life and Serial (dat ending tho) but I'll have to check out your other recommendations. Thank you for these!


  5. Hey! I'm the dude! I've always been curious about podcasts but didn't know which were good and where to find them. This post is very helpful on that. Thanks.

  6. I just started listening to podcasts last year and wrote a post about my favourites here: Since then, I've also fallen in love with This American Life and Serial! I can't believe it took me so long to realize how wonderful podcasts are!

  7. After Serial ended I went nuts looking for something else to add to my podcast playlist. I really like Criminal, Love + Radio, and You Must Remember This (a must if you have any interest in old Hollywood). Just added The Moth thanks to your recommendation :)

  8. Thanks for posting this! I had never listened to a podcast before Serial and now that Serial ended I have been looking for others!

  9. Thank you for sharing these! I'm currently listening to Serial, and loving it! :)

  10. I have a super long commute to work, so thanks for sharing these! I'm so excited!

  11. You've gotta add Welcome to Night Vale to the list! (Definitely start at the beginning on that one, too.)

  12. Great list Christy! I'm an avid podcast listener but I'm unfamiliar with some of these, I look forward to listening to some great new stuff. You should check out Start-up, it's also created by a former producer of This American Life.

  13. OK my internet is being whack so sorry if this is the 3rd time I'm posting this...but. This post encouraged me to finally step into the world of Podcasts. I'm apprehensive but here we go!


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