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Perhaps you’ve been regaled by an old fogey about how the entire family used to gather round the radio. But those times are lost, they always lament. Not so! The spirit of old radio shows has found new tenable ground in the digital age. Folks listen with relish to the sound of the human voice and the stories that matter to all of us thanks to the magic of podcasts. Hey, maybe we’ll all regale our grandchildren with tales about the days when podcasts were new. And these are the Top 5 that we treasure the most.
5 WTF with Marc Maron
Already an established standup comedian, Marc Maron is an obvious choice for someone you want to listen to. Originally intended to focus on Marc and his comedian friends (including Louis C.K., Chris Rock and Zach Galifianakis), Maron has expanded his podcast to include other hobbies and interests. Now, rock musicians and movie directors have their chance to interact with Maron on a personal and organically funny plane. Every time, Marc’s personality shimmers through even as he examines and engages the personality of the person he’s interviewing.
Another science-oriented podcast, Radiolab discusses interesting subjects in unique ways. Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich invite speculation on ideas that are difficult to define – such as time or courage – often involving members of the scientific community to weigh in. Perhaps most impressive, though, is their ability to meld the scientific method with a light-hearted, listener-friendly approach. To their credit, they take pains to draw their subjects from intriguing and relevant stories. That way, the audience doesn’t have to consider their philosophical musings in a strictly abstract way – that’s your seventh grade biology teacher’s job.
For the anal-retentive fact purists among us, Skeptoid is like manna. The format is pretty straightforward: Brian Dunning presents a myth or urban legend, dramatizing the supposed event as if it were true. Dunning then exposes the story’s logical fallacies and blind spots, revealing the truth in short order. Skeptoid’s stated goal is to deconstruct ridiculous pseudoscience, and supplant it with appropriate scientific actuality. Which is all pretty badass.
2 Snap Judgment
“Daring listeners to see the world through the eyes of another,” Snap Judgment offers a hip-hop oriented approach to riveting storytelling. In truth, the stories are usually the type you don’t want to hear, but can’t stop listening to. The music gives the spoken stories a sense of rhythm and propulsion that other podcasts envy – and it also adds to the menacing atmosphere of the stories when the mood is just right. Be sure to check it out if you’ve got a hankering for the harrowing and macabre set to smooth beats.
1 This American Life
Yes, Ira Glass’ over-anxious speech mannerisms can be off-putting at first. The more you listen, however, the more warm and inviting it will feel. This American Life touches on the inspiring, odd and honest stories that crop up every day in America. Even when it veers into short fiction, TAL remains earthy and realistic, helping to keep literature relevant in our modern media age. Its journalistic style reminds us of the importance of stories for the persistence of the human soul, without even having to raise its voice.