The best podcasts you aren't listening to, according to your favorite podcasters

Rob Walker
Yahoo! News
Radiolab logo
The website logo for the podcast Radiolab.

Recently, I published my list of worthwhile podcasts you might not be listening to. I thought it was a pretty comprehensive list — until I started asking the very podcasters I’d recommended about what I’d missed.

Did they have suggestions? Good lord yes they had suggestions!

And so of course I must pass those suggestions on to you, readers. So here’s a whole slew of podcast tips from the real experts: the podcasters themselves. Fire up your iTunes and prepare to discover your new favorite podcast:

Jad Abumrad, Radiolab, adds two new picks. First, Tim Harford: Pop-Up Ideas: “Tim gets up in front of a live audience and tells these little short stories about big ideas in economics,” Abumrad explains. “He's a wonderful storyteller, and lately he's started inviting others,like Malcolm Gladwell, on stage to do the same.” Second: While it’s not clear how active You Look Nice Today is at the moment, this self-described “audio-based Journal of Emotional Hygiene” is a comedy podcast in which the “conceit is just three dudes bantering about nothing, really,” Abumrad says. “But it ends up being very funny and a bit surreal on occasion.” Thus, even the existing episode archive is worth checking out (but definitely for “adults,” as the show’s site cautions).

Kurt Andersen, Studio 360, seconds much of my original list and adds a cool one that was news to me: Getting On With James Urbaniak, a monthly radio drama featuring the actor whose career stretches from Richard Foreman plays to The Office. One of Studio360’s producers, Jenny Lawton, adds another pick: The Longest, Shortest Time, writer/producer Hillary Frank’s podcast about early parenthood.

Julie Shapiro, artistic director of the Third Coast International Audio Festival, which produces the great Re:sound show, singles out Strangers, from Lea Thau via KCRW. It’s a storytelling podcast about “the people we meet, the people we become, and the places we go.” She also endorses CBC’s WireTap with Jonathan Goldstein, described as “part monologue and part telephone conversation”; comedy podcast Answer Me This (“It grows on ya,” says Shapiro); and Everything Sounds, which explores “sound in art, science, culture and our everyday lives.” I had to limit people to five picks at a certain point, but Shapiro works around that via this piece she did for Transom focusing on podcasts hosted by women (which turn out to be under-represented in podcast popularity, for reasons she thoughtfully explores in that essay).

Sara Ivry, Vox Tablet, recommends Life of the Law — as the title suggests, it’s about law — and I should mention I had a few people tweeting at me about this one as well. (I’ve now heard one episode, and I’m in.) Also: The Broad Experience, a “women in the workplace” podcast whose title alone makes it worth your consideration; Poetry Off The Shelf, with readings, interviews and reported pieces; and the language-focused World In Words.

Daniel, The Sounds In My Head, is among several who put in a word for On The Media, the WNYC show about, you know, the media. He also points to two other WNYC offerings: Brian Lehrer’s show (I’m a fan of Lehrer, too), and the biweekly podcast series Here’s The Thing (hosted by Alec Baldwin). On the music front, Daniel suggests Music That Matters, a KEXP production that cycles among shows hosted by various DJs at that Seattle station, and particularly endorses those from John Richards, whose “tastes are supreme.” Also: the sporadically released Antique Shanghai Pop Music, which is … eclectic, and (as Daniel says) “totally worth a listen, if for no other reason than [the host’s] delightful commentary.”

Roman Mars and Sam Greenspan of 99 Percent Invisible, were among those who mentioned On The Media, and also second the Answer Me This! recommendation above (“People write in with questions from the personal to the trivial, and [the hosts] turn it into brilliant comedy that also manages to be intellectually robust and satisfying”). In addition: The Truth: Movies for Your Ears, is “a show that uses the tools of shows like This American Life and Radiolab to reinvent radio fiction,” says Mars; Love + Radio, “character studies of troubling characters with really innovative sound design”; Slate’s culture and politics Gabfests are “like being at the best kind of dinner party, where you're included in great conversation with smart people, but they can't tell how dumb you are”; and BBC 5’s Kermode and Mayo Film Review, “exemplifies everything great about live, personality driven radio,” even if you haven’t seen the movies or disagree with the opinions.

Andrew Leland, of The Organist, seconded that Love + Radio endorsement (“lots of great, weird stuff”), and also named Comedy Bang Bang as “probably my favorite comedy podcast.”

Andrew Davies, co-producer of Future Tense, suggested so many podcasts that I can only assume he never sleeps! But I’ll narrow it down. From Australia, The Bodysphere, all about the human body, and Rear Vision, which looks at current events via history. From Canada, two I knew about and should have mentioned earlier: The tech/culture-focused Spark, and marketing pro Terry O’Reilly’s Under The Influence. And from Great Britain: BBC Radio 4's Documentary of the Week: “I highly recommend this,” says Davies.

Last but certainly not least, I got some feedback from You Readers: Multiple comments spoke up for “pop-cult fix” The 404 Show. A couple mentioned NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. How Did This Get Made?, which has fun with really bad entertainment, and the themed storytelling show Snap Judgment were also praised. Thank you!

Feel free to add more in the comments, but I think the point I started out with has been proven: If the tech press doesn’t give a lot of attention to podcasting, it sure isn’t because there’s a lack of action, innovation and choice in that world. You heard it here.