Entertain my ears, smartly!
October 30, 2015 6:36 AM   Subscribe

I know they've been a thing for a while, but I just found my way "into" podcasts when I discovered You're the Expert this summer. But now I'm all caught up and they only release an episode every two weeks! But I commute EVERY. DAY. This is where you come in: Help me find new podcasts to get hooked on!

What I want:

* Informative: I love it if I can come away having learned something(s), especially if it's about science, humanity, how things work, natural history, etc. I'm less interested in news and current events.

* Funny: The ideal podcast(s) will make me laugh at least once per episode.

I'll also take recommendations for funny podcasts that aren't necessarily informative, but only if the humor is friendly and not mean.
posted by spindrifter to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
There's a great open AskMe on this right here: Podcasts Please
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:37 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

My very favorite is Answer Me This, where 2 delightful Brits (3, if you count Martin the sound man) answer mundane questions from their audience. They are smart and funny. They are also only twice a month, but they used to be weekly, and there's a huge backlist.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:33 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Good Job Brain!
posted by lizbunny at 7:44 AM on October 30, 2015

Ooh! Ooh! I know this one!

Sawbones is a funny and informative podcast about medical history. It's hosted by a husband-and-wife duo—she's an MD; he cracks jokes. Each episode covers a different topic—bloodletting, patent medicines, typhoid, the "four humours" theory of disease, a notable individual from history, etc. I'm totally hooked.

Welcome to Night Vale is a (fictional) public radio program from a (fictional) small desert town somewhere in the American Southwest—a town where all conspiracy theories are true, comically sinister forces lurk behind every lamppost, and the weird is the everyday. It's extremely surreal humor with an overall lighthearted tone, which nonetheless plays with some fairly dark ideas. Later episodes introduced multiple characters and multi-episode plot arcs, and became a little more like radio plays—but I prefer the earlier episodes, where it's just one guy intoning silly/creepy surrealist poetry in the form of a news broadcast, over atmospheric music.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 7:44 AM on October 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

For history, science, learning, and some light humor check out the shows from HowStuffWorks. They all have their own personality and I like most of them, but if you don't like one show or host try another. There are sometimes current events, but most of the shows are more general knowledge or historical. I have found that you may want to fact check some of their info though because I've heard things that were just plain incorrect, so I listen more as entertainment and then if I want to learn more about a topic or event I go search out other good sources.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 7:45 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

No Such Thing as a Fish, where the QI fact-finding elves discuss facts they've found in their research that week.
posted by telophase at 7:55 AM on October 30, 2015 [5 favorites]

I agree with fiercecupcake, check out the recs from that AskMe, but I'll also add Radiolab and Caustic Soda as suggestions to my previous comment there. Caustic Soda is about the terrible parts of science and history -- if you look at their topic list and are put off, this probably isn't the podcast for you, but it is very funny and they often have guest experts. Radiolab is mostly science-related and generally very positive.
posted by possibilityleft at 8:05 AM on October 30, 2015

You are not so smart. Clever insights to self delusion (Decision fatigue, reframing.) Be a better you.

Hardcore history. Well researched insights from a fan of history. I never liked history and this podcast has me riveted. Bonus, some of the shows are 3+ hours - and I treasure that!

Futility Closet - a couple talks about odd things that have happened (like the one square inch of Yukon that was given away from Quaker oats to over a million people)
posted by filmgeek at 9:54 AM on October 30, 2015

Rex Factor is a fun one, covering English (and now Scottish) rulers. Don't be intimidated by all the Saxon kings you've never heard of; those are some fun ones.

The Ancient World is good, and he's gone back to make some new episodes.

The History of Rome is finished, and isn't really funny, but it's compelling and good. And, you know, monumental.

Revolutions is the follow-up to the History of Rome. The original plan was to do about a dozen episodes on each revolution he covered. He's just finished #3 (France), and let's just say he may have underestimated it a bit.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 10:40 AM on October 30, 2015

Oh, and obvious-but-still, and only sort of meets your criteria (but is funny!): there are two Metafilter podcasts, now called "Best of the Web" (monthly) and "Out of the Blue" (occasionally). Look for the Podcasts link at the top of the screen.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 10:46 AM on October 30, 2015

These are all slightly not what you're asking for in their own little ways, but for what it's worth:

Inquiring Minds is scientists interviewing scientists, and features some nice inside-baseball chats on RCTs, debates about publishing, etc.

The BBC's Discovery is half-hour documentary-style show on science. More 'Frontline' than 'TV Nation', but it's always super informative.

Criminal is a *delightful* 30-minute podcast that tells stories related to crime. Super diverse stuff, everything from amateur counterfeiters to prisoners sharing space with a leper colony.

More or Less is a super wonky dissection of numbers in the news. It's current events-related, but isn't partisan or snarky, and you learn a lot about how studies are carried out and how stats get misused by the media.
posted by Tenzing_Norgay at 12:18 PM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Dork Forest - Very Funny comedienne Jacke Kashian discusses the things about which people obsess with the people who obsess about them.
posted by hanov3r at 1:11 PM on October 30, 2015

Cool Tools recently reviewed the Best Factual Podcasts, where I discovered 99% Invisible, which is fascinating.
posted by TDIpod at 1:43 PM on October 30, 2015

If you like religious topics (but not from a traditional stodgy religious standpoint) or if you like modern music, The Bad Christian Podcast can be hilarious. It has three hosts, and two of them are from the band Emery, which I love.
posted by tacodave at 3:01 PM on October 30, 2015

NPR's Planet Money fits that bill. Informative with a sense of humour.
posted by thenormshow at 5:43 PM on October 30, 2015

On the comedy but not informative side, my favorite is Comedy Bang Bang. It is full of very smart and nice comedians being very silly.
posted by MikeFitz at 6:41 PM on October 30, 2015

I love love love BackStory, 99% Invisible, The Memory Palace, Sawbones, and Planet Money. They aren't necessarily on topics that I care about otherwise, but they're digestible and conveyed with enthusiasm and good cheer, and I end up caring!
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:46 PM on October 30, 2015

Too Beautiful to Live is just two guys talking, but it's oddly compelling. I have been listening to it for almost 5 years now! It's an hour every week day so great for commuting.
posted by apricot at 8:21 PM on October 30, 2015

Omega Tau is an amazing science and engineering podcast that has been linked here before. The host is German, but many of the episodes are in English.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:02 AM on October 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mystery Hour!
posted by duoshao at 3:26 PM on November 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

TWiV, TWiM and TWiP scratch that itch for me. Find links at twiv.tv.
posted by kathrynm at 4:54 PM on November 1, 2015

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