Help me find the podcast that's just right!
April 27, 2011 11:54 PM   Subscribe

Podcast recommendations sought! Snarky, humourous, preferably with some sort of informational content.

I'm really picky about my podcast content. It needs to be quick (both in terms of tempo and in terms of wit) enough to keep me entertained through boring chores or workouts, but still have some sort of coherent narrative. I especially like snarky or ranty podcasts that tell me something about something - the economy, movies, the news, etc. I would say my sense of humour is probably more Jon Stewart than Stephen Colbert, if that makes sense. Also, McSweeney's and The Onion are both pretty hit-and-miss for me.

I currently subscribe to and love:

Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me
Planet Money
Kermode and Mayo's Film Review
MetaFilter Podcast

I have tried, and rejected:

The Bugle (good in small doses, I check in occasionally)
This American Life (the episodes kept piling up and I kept deleting them)
You Look Nice Today
Jordan Jesse Go
Never Not Funny
Age of Persuasion
The Young Turks (too much punditry)
The Nerdist (really don't get them)
Back to Work / After Dark
The Talk Show
The Best Show

My interests are: Technology, psychology, sociology, social issues, productivity, marketing/advertising, politics (I lean pretty far left), social media, and meta-analysis of pop culture, but usually not pop culture or music per se.

I only sync my iPod every week or two, so preferably nothing with daily content, since I likely won't listen to it until it's irrelevant.

Do you have any suggestions for (picky, picky) me?
posted by Phire to Computers & Internet (46 answers total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh! Addenda! I subscribed religiously to Savage Love for about two years, and then I got really exasperated with Dan Savage's skewed views on certain aspects of sexuality. I've tried subscribing to Real Time with Bill Maher, but for some reason, every time I do iTunes has trouble downloading the episodes.
posted by Phire at 12:15 AM on April 28, 2011

Have you tried any of the HowStuffWorks podcasts? I particularly like Stuff You Should Know and Stuff They Don't Want You To Know (the latter is a vidcast). SYSK runs about half an hour and STDWYTK runs around 5-10 minutes. They have many other podcasts ranging between those lengths.

Many Mefites (including me) enjoy 99% Invisible, which is a very short podcast around 5 minutes in length.

Another favorite is Penn Jillette's Penn Point. He talks quite a bit about atheism and politics.

I usually do subscribe in iTunes but I only listen to the episodes that sound interesting to me. That helps to keep me from getting overloaded and bored.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:04 AM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you don't mind streaming, The Daily Show and HowStuffWorks have apps to pull audio/video on demand.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:17 AM on April 28, 2011

Judge John Hodgman is as amazing as it sounds.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:17 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Le Show
posted by rhizome at 1:19 AM on April 28, 2011

Best answer: Answer me this !
Collins and Herrin
posted by stuartmm at 1:36 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm in Canada, so streaming The Daily Show is a lot more complicated than it should be, unfortunately. I'd definitely prefer downloadable audio, though, since I usually listen to these on the go.

Thanks for the suggestions so far! Keep 'em coming :)
posted by Phire at 1:39 AM on April 28, 2011

Best answer: Have you tried the BBC's More or Less podcast? It's about statistics and their use in the news, and does it engagingly, informatively and with a very light touch. In tone it's somewhere between Planet Money and Kermode's film reviews, though without ranting. It's quite UK-centric, but gives plenty of context. Worth a try.
posted by tavegyl at 1:59 AM on April 28, 2011

The Infinate Monkey Cage: Witty science and comedy chat with Prof. Brian Cox and Robin Ince.

Little Atoms: Talk show on 'ideas of the Enlightenment' - science, culture, humanism and scepticism.

The Pod Delusion: Weekly rationalist news magazine on politics, philosophy and 'interesting things'.
posted by Acarpous at 1:59 AM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Skeptic's Guide to the Universe
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:11 AM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you like Planet Money, you'll love Radiolab.
posted by Acton at 3:11 AM on April 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: A Way with Words
posted by fuse theorem at 3:39 AM on April 28, 2011

Citizen Radio? I don't listen to every ep, because they do four hour-long episodes a week, and when I do I fast forward past their personal problems, but they are really, really left. Very snarky too.
posted by jenlovesponies at 4:37 AM on April 28, 2011

+1 For Radiolab. Best thing I've ever put into my ears.
posted by tkbarbarian at 5:00 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I suggest TankRiot. New episodes come out only every three or four weeks but they have a pretty good backlog. The topics are rarely current ( although some of the discussion always touches on current events ) so the older episodes hold up well.
posted by metadave at 5:18 AM on April 28, 2011

I mentioned this on Twitter, but Radiolab is the best podcast ever. For serious. It's more or less the only reason I listen to podcasts at all.

You should also checkout instacast if you have an iPhone.
posted by chunking express at 6:05 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Quirks and Quarks is probably something you might enjoy. It's from the CBC, who have a lot of their shows online. I asked my friends this same question on my blog, and got a few responses there.
posted by chunking express at 6:35 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah... Judge John Hodgman is awesome. I have somewhat similar tastes and I've really been digging Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, My Brother, My Brother and Me, How Did This Get Made?, and Sklarborough Country.
posted by ph00dz at 6:39 AM on April 28, 2011

have you tried "The Sound of Young America"
Even though i know you don't like JJ Go, SOYA has some great interviews, in more of a public radio sense...

Also, Nertist is pretty good
posted by fozzie33 at 6:50 AM on April 28, 2011

posted by fozzie33 at 6:51 AM on April 28, 2011

Collins and Herrin is pretty rambly, you either like it or don#'t, but it's worth trying. I wasn't so keen on Never Not Funny, You Look Nice Today or The 40 Year Old Boy, all well-recommended by others.

I really like The Flophouse. Three guys dissecting bad movies - it's the American snark to Kermode#s English curmudgeoness.
posted by mippy at 7:07 AM on April 28, 2011

Best answer: Answer Me This
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:47 AM on April 28, 2011

Seconding The Flophouse - but really only the episodes with Elliot, Dan, and Stewart (or guest Lou Fernandez occasionally).

Also, not too informative,l but I've been enjoying Seven Second Delay quite a bit.

And Uhh Yeah Dude is pretty great too. Might take you a couple of episodes to get into it.
posted by pilibeen at 8:40 AM on April 28, 2011

Forgot two more:

Ricky Gervais podcasts and Guide to: series are all worthwhile.

Also I loved The Hater w/ Amelie Gillette. There aren't any more new eps but lots of archived shows on itunes for free.
posted by pilibeen at 8:44 AM on April 28, 2011

Best answer: Friday Night Comedy hosted by Sandi Toksvig is often very similar in structure to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, just British.
posted by General Malaise at 9:01 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

How to do Everything. Podcast of two guys who used to work on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, which is in itself quite snarky.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:22 AM on April 28, 2011

just British

And better. Wait Wait's a bit too baggy; The News Quiz is tight. Plus it has Jeremy Hardy.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:34 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Friday Night Comedy hosted by Sandi Toksvig is often very similar in structure to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, just British.

I came in here to suggest this. Note, though, that the "Friday Night Comedy" feed linked to above generally alternates ~8 weeks of the News Quiz (which would be right up your alley) with five weeks of the Now Show, which is a topical sketch comedy show not unlike the Royal Canadian Air Farce. I find the latter kind of dull, especially compared to the former, but YMMV.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:38 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

These don't fit the snarky/ranty criteria, but are entertaining and informative:

In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg
Thinking Allowed with Laurie Taylor

Both are from the BBC and have a good pace, interesting guests/topics, and sharp hosts. I like Melvyn Bragg as host more than Laurie Taylor, but that may be more about the topics/format (one 45 min panel discussion vs two shorter segments).

I also second the recommendation for NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, it's one of my absolute favorites. And can we call Linda Holmes MeFi's own™ yet? Too soon?

Finally, two of my favorite general science/tech news podcasts are the Guardian's Science Weekly and Tech Weekly. I subscribe to a lot of science and a few tech podcasts, and these are some of the funniest, IMO. Good hosts and regular panel interplay. There must be an organizational dictat to be amusing.
posted by clerestory at 12:28 PM on April 28, 2011

I've been enjoying the "Best of the Left" podcast. It's a digest of serious economics, well-presented rants from Rachel Maddow, along with heaps of satire from Jon Stewart, Dan Savage, and other funny people with things to say. It's fast and fun and you will still learn something. The issues are topical but not up-to-the-minute so it's not like you're reading an old newspaper if you don't sync every day.

Savage Love is fun if a bit samey once you've heard the schtick a few times.

TED talks are often short and interesting. Subscribe to the audio versions, skip the videos for when you can be at a computer.

I share your impatience with This American Life. It's always good, but it's so produced I often find myself not in the mood. Also with you on the Nerdist. Seems like it would be a slam dunk but I find it tedious and have unsubscribed.

Not sure if you have an iPod with a wireless connection, but if you can run apps, I recommend Pocket Casts for wireless downloading podcasts without the hassle of managing them on your computer.
posted by JindoFox at 1:40 PM on April 28, 2011

Seconding Slate's Culture Gabfest. Also their Political Gabfest. Smart, funny, informative.
posted by vecchio at 2:46 PM on April 28, 2011

Also check out the New Yorker website. The podcasts aren't as strong as the articles but still a cut above.
posted by vecchio at 2:47 PM on April 28, 2011

The best possible answer is most definitely Radiolab, but you've probably already figured that out by now.

I think another good option is The Memory Palace, but it's very sparsely updated. However, when it does come down with an episode, it's always interesting and a short hit of interesting stuff.

I also would suggest The Moth Podcast, another short one, but it's a bit outside your stated interests. It's short, updated each Monday, and usually worth a listen.
posted by dnesan at 8:44 PM on April 28, 2011


and BBC 4's "In Our Time" is an amazing podcast
posted by tarvuz at 3:07 AM on April 29, 2011

Best answer: Too Much Information with Benjamin Walker
posted by marco_nj at 4:33 PM on April 29, 2011

The podcast of John Safran's Sunday night show on Australia's Triple J pretty much fits the "snarky, humourous, informational" bill, if you can bear to listen to a show about religion.
posted by tapeguy at 8:08 AM on April 30, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, for the everyone, for the incredible suggestions! I'll be updating the thread with best answers and follow-ups as I make my way through all of these in the next couple of weeks/months.

In Our Time: I hate to say this, because it makes me very much a boor, but I find myself disappointingly uninterested in history. I've tried to read up on it, I've tried watching specials, I've tried taking classes in it.... just doesn't do it for me.

Adam Carolla: Loved the first podcast I listened to, but his casual misogyny and racism bugs me a little because I'm not sure it's quite as ironic as he thinks it is. I'll keep it around to see how I feel about it in the future.

Answer Me This: Love it. Exactly what I was looking for.

Marc Maron: Not as funny as I was hoping for, but very insightful and thought-provoking.
posted by Phire at 10:40 PM on May 1, 2011

Risk! True tales boldly told.
posted by kidsleepy at 9:39 AM on May 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

SModcast (Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier talk about random stuff)--snarky but not especially informational
To the Best of Our Knowledge (each episode explores a different theme by interviewing a bunch of smart people)--informational but not especially snarky
The Answer Bitch (answers questions about how Hollywood works)--snarky AND informational!
posted by exceptinsects at 7:54 AM on May 4, 2011

P.S. I know SModcast isn't quite what you asked for, but I also couldn't get into Jordan, Jesse, Go! [Del Monte Fashion Peas? Please kill me now] or You Look Nice Today or The Nerdist [all nerds are not dudes!] so I thought maybe we have similar tastes and you would love it as much as I do. I'd start in the middle of the run, maybe not with the most recent episodes.

Also, here is a list of the Answer Me This people's favorite podcasts.
posted by exceptinsects at 8:03 AM on May 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Grammar Girl/Modern Manners Guy: The content is a little simplistic, and the tone feels a little fake. I'm also not too fond of the minute-long sponsor message in a 7 minute clip.

Outloud Opinion: Updates too frequently and the content is a bit all over the place.

The Moth: Amazing. Everything I like about TAL in a much shorter format.

Radiolab: Love it. Short, clever, fascinating.

Quirks and Quarks: More interesting than entertaining, which is totally fine, but I don't see myself listening to this more than once every couple of weeks when I have nothing else to do. The content is also a little broad as it covers all things scientific, but it's a well-produced show, and I'd totally recommend it for someone with more patience than I.

I'm definitely cutting the Adam Carolla show out. He's a funny guy, but I can't handle an hour-long daily podcast, and his misogyny is really hard to take.
posted by Phire at 4:13 AM on May 5, 2011

Thought of another one you might like: Widely Ranging Interests. Two guys, a mike and a grab bag of topics - usually interesting but not really newsy/current events.

Also, In Our Time does do some non-historical topics (recently, The Nervous System, Free Will and Islamic Law), but yes, mostly historical. Thinking Allowed is the more current, social science oriented of the two. Also very good.
posted by clerestory at 1:22 PM on May 7, 2011

Response by poster: My Last.Fm stats are all out of wack because I now listen to podcasts exclusively when I commute.

Friday Night Comedy: Love it, especially as it covers a few big pieces of news, rather than try to cram in a lot of small tidbits of information like Wait Wait, which also has a tendency to wander into the territory of the absurd a little too often.

Too Much Information: Again, exactly what I was looking for. An intelligent way of looking at important and relevant themes from unorthodox points of view.

More or Less: I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but this is also fantastic. He's a pretty hardhitting interviewer and isn't afraid of calling people out on their bullshit statistics.

Thinking Allowed: A little scattered and hard to pay attention to, for some reason, though they cover interesting information.

Keith and the Girl: Entertaining for the most part and they obviously have a good chemistry, but too chatty and a little inside baseball, and it updates way too much.

Sunday Night Safran: I've enjoyed the episodes I've listened to, but I find them a little all over the place thematically, so I probably won't be keeping it around.

A Way With Words: Holy crap, this is awesome. Such obscure information and knowledge about words and linguistics! Highly recommended for word nerds.

Thinking Allowed: So far it just hasn't been my thing, for whatever reason. I' The episode on the Civil War was interesting, but I found my mind wandering a lot when I was listening to it. Keeping it around for now to give it a few more chances.
posted by Phire at 3:08 PM on May 16, 2011

Response by poster: Shoot! The last comment was supposed to be re: To The Best of Our Knowledge, not Thinking Allowed.
posted by Phire at 3:10 PM on May 16, 2011

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