You’ve got a problem. You’ve started on the path Podcast Nerdom, but it feels like the road has run out and you don’t know where to go now. Is NPR all that exists in the world?!
Don’t get me wrong, I love NPR. In Part 1 of our series of podcasts you should be listening to for your intellectual well-being, three NPR podcasts made an appearance. However, this behemoth of public broadcasting is not the only producer in the game. This week I went deep into the depths to find some podcasts you may have never heard of. Let’s dive right into it.
Charming Wendy Zukerman attacks a new challenge every week in this bite-sized (12-20 minutes) podcast. Every episode, Zukerman addresses a different bit of popular science and attacks it with the scientific method in a battle for truth. Topics such as the Paleo Diet, race, the female brain, and happiness are lightheartedly yet mercilessly dissected. I’d recommend starting out with this excellent one about race.
Have you ever wondered why the DMV is always the fourth pit of hell? I mean, really wondered? Reply All, “a show about the internet,” breaks down what is essentially a combination of government glut, slow systems, and outdated technology. The subject sounds a bit limiting, but really, the internet is everything. PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman explore the way Isis uses Twitter, hold music, and the unpleasant business of online dating as an Asian woman.
Don’t listen to this one with kids in the room! Dan Savage is my sexuality guru and while I don’t always agree with his advice, I always enjoy his program. Dan teaches his audience about safe sex, advises them on when to dump their significant others, and rolls his eyes at the idiocy of the world. He frequently interviews guests with more of a science background than himself and takes his position as a sex educator very seriously. And hey! I made it onto an episode!
The Smartest Man in the World
Greg Proops claims he titled his show as a joke, but he really is extremely frickin’ smart. He’s also incredibly warm and friendly, freely giving hugs as he goes throughout his audience. If Dan Savage is my sexual guru, Greg Proops is my spiritual advice-giving uncle. Greg opines on subjects as from the Negro Baseball League to politicians and their motives. Live tapings of the show are particularly fun; you get to see just how amazingly quick Proops is, responding to audience questions about English royalty like it was your co-worker asking you what you ate for breakfast this morning.
The Dead Authors Podcast
This one’s cheating: it should really go into Part 3 of this series, “Podcasting for Fun” (which may or may not ever exist.) It’s not just fun, though, it’s really damn smart. Comedy genius Paul F. Tompkins plays H. G. Wells, inventor of the science fiction genre and possessor of a time machine. This character interviews authors he has plucked from the past. Emily Dickenson makes an appearance, as do Dorothy Parker and Carl Sagan. L. Ron Hubbard shows up in a 2-part special, played by the insanely hilarious Andy Daly. The actors playing these various authors don’t always come prepared, but Tompkins always is. The resulting interviews are pure magic.
Oh man, now you’re ready to continue that learning journey! Many of these shows also have other great podcasts on the same network, so get exploring. If I missed one of your favorite podcasts, please let me know in the comments!