Nonfiction podcasts that are nothing like NPR or This American Life?
January 8, 2016 12:20 PM   Subscribe

I've never bothered with podcasts because I hate NPR and This American Life (and TED Talks and Moth-style storytelling and John Hodgman, etc.) Part of it is the sound, and part is the emotionality (and/or cleverness) of it all.

But now that I'm training for a half-marathon, I've become bored of my music collection, and I'm willing to entertain the idea that my hatred of podcasts is irrational/unfounded. My interests are extremely, extremely broad. Suggestions? Things like Serial and Radiolab seem like they'd be irritating, given my NPR/TAL objections, but feel free to correct me on this.
posted by unknowncommand to Media & Arts (70 answers total) 122 users marked this as a favorite
I hate the same things you do. Especially RadioLab and the TED talks, ugh. I enjoy funny people talking about a wide range of topics without dumb sound effects and drama, so I highly recommend Throwing Shade (a gay man and a straight feminist woman discuss "all the issues important to ladies and gays...and treat them with much less respect than they deserve", laugh out loud funny and lewd) and Stop Podcasting Yourself.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 12:24 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Girl on Guy - Comedian Aisha Tyler interviews her friends, colleagues, and whoever else's agent will take her call. Conversations vary widely but in general Aisha likes to talk about the creative process, comedy, hollywood, how shit gets done, how someone's past motivates their art, weird childhoods and strange hobbies, etc. etc.
posted by muddgirl at 12:34 PM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

I am only mildly familiar with podcasts, but I have been traveling with my son, and I have really enjoyed the WTF podcasts of Marc Maron.
It took my a bit to get past his voice (which is certainly not NPR), but he has such interesting conversations.
My favorites include the one with Obama and the one with Terry Gross.
posted by MtDewd at 12:34 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

I really enjoy Last Podcast on the Left. It's a comedy podcast that's mostly about true crimes, but sometimes dips into the occult, real-life horror (Donner Party, Japanese war crimes), and boogeyman type stuff. You can tell they do tons of research from multiple sources and often go into great detail. The hosts are funny, while still treating the subject matter with respect -- mostly.
posted by plasticbugs at 12:36 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

A few of my current non-NPR/Moth-like favorites:
The Nerdist
The Dinner Party Download
99% Invisible
Offramp (although this may be of limited interest to people outside the Los Angeles area)
posted by erst at 12:37 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you like films, can I recommend the BBC Kermode and Mayo podcast (aka wittertainment)? Funny, informative and it doesn't really matter if you go to the cinema a lot (I haven't been in over a year but still enjoy the podcast).
posted by threetwentytwo at 12:37 PM on January 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

Seconding Marc Maron. I don't care for his show or his standup but damn if he isn't one of the best interviewers out there.

I'm not sure if these are too NPR for you (well produced? I don't get it.), but Serial is certainly less polished than TIL. There's also Judge John Hodgeman. In which comedian John Hodgeman passes judgement on people's petty (and sometimes not so petty) disagreements. Not so much informative as great for recreational arguers.
posted by cmoj at 12:39 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

What are some other media things you like? Books, movies, etc?
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:44 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

That said, I freaking love The Flop House, in which three guys (two of whom are Daily Show alums) discuss a bad movie. It's hilarious and you don't need to have seen the movies in question. No NPR voice in sight.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:45 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Maybe Futility Closet, which goes along with the website of the same name. The website is described as "[...] a collection of entertaining curiosities in history, literature, language, art, philosophy, and mathematics, designed to help you waste time as enjoyably as possible.", and that describes the podcast pretty well too.
posted by bjrn at 12:46 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've gotten surprisingly into Ask a Clean Person, an advice podcast about cleaning. If you're interested in feminist-type things, you may enjoy Call Your Girlfriend, wherein two ladies discuss politics, current events, pop culture, race, and menstruation news.

Finally, this may have already occurred to you, but I recently perused a few 2015 best-of lists and am trying out new podcasts that way.
posted by mchorn at 12:47 PM on January 8, 2016

99% Invisible is great but I suspect unknowncommand will hate it for the same reasons she says she dislikes the other NPR stuff.

Do you like history? Stuff You Missed in History Class is good, as is the Revolutions podcast.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:47 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you like history, Dan Carlin's Hardcore History is going to be way different than the types of podcasts you dislike.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:48 PM on January 8, 2016 [7 favorites]

I subscribe to a number of podcasts but never listen to most of them. (I'm with you on RadioLab. I also hate The Moth, which a lot of other folks love.)

I like the ones I like because they don't grate on my nerves. They are:

Backstory (my very favorite; barebones, but interesting)
Splendid Table
Life of the Law
99 Invisible
Mystery Show (which I love, but there's some TAL crossover, so you might not)

Radio Diaries is a sometimes for me. I'm not sure yet how I feel about this season of Serial.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:50 PM on January 8, 2016

I think I might hate what you hate... I end up listening to a lot of comedy podcasts. Besides The Flop House linked to by showbiz_liz, I also follow HarmonTown, Stop Podcasting Yourself, and Uhh Yeah Dude. None of them will teach you anything, but they're fun.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 12:51 PM on January 8, 2016

Another MeFite turned me on to Answer Me This, which I quite enjoy. It is cheeky and British. Definitely not in the NPR/storytelling mold.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:52 PM on January 8, 2016 [9 favorites]

I generally prefer podcasts that are a lot less produced and a lot more like talk radio. Unfortunately I listen to podcasts almost exclusively about gaming. Not because I'm obsessed about gaming (I mean I am, but..) but more because this kind of podcast can be hard to find on some subjects.

I will refrain from listing a ton of those unless you are into gaming, but one more general one on my list is Tested's "Still Untitled" which is a podcast with Adam Savage (from mythbusters) and Will (formerly Tested) and Norm (currently Tested) and they just sort of chat about geeky stuff for a half hour or so weekly. It's nice and low-key.
posted by selfnoise at 12:53 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I like the Slate Culture Gabfest. More of a panel discussion. I like the Double X Gabfest and (to a lesser degree) Mom & Dad Are Fighting, both from Slate, also.
posted by vunder at 12:57 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

It occurs to me, seeing quite a few podcasts mentioned that are part of the same network of podcasts (Maximum Fun) as my two favorites, that you might peruse the Maximum Fun website. They have a wide variety of shows that mostly follow the "a few people talking about topics they are interested in, with guests" format, and if the two I mentioned don't sound good, I bet there's at least one that pings your interests.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 12:57 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Stuff You Should Know, Mark Maron (WTF), and Savage Love are all great, and they have a style that reminds me of classic talk radio (kind of the opposite of the highbrow NPR style).

I personally really like the Revolutions and the History of Rome podcasts (both by the same guy). He's just one dude, telling you about some history he's really interested in. I also wonder if you might like StarTalk with Neil DeGrasse Tyson? I haven't listened to much yet, but it's on my list, and it seems pretty non-NPR in style.
posted by ourobouros at 12:58 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

My favorite podcast is "Against the Stream" which is about Buddhism but is not very hardcore about it. My favorite thing about it is that it's composed of people giving talks to an audience, so it doesn't have that self-conscious NPR "Hello, I'm talking into a microphone" feeling (as parodied by SNL very well back in the day) that every other podcast seems to have.
posted by bleep at 12:58 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I enjoy Revolutions mentioned above
and Making it which has three woodworkers/makers talking about their projects and process, one a New Yorker, one a ex marketing guy and one an ex programmer. I enjoy their banter.
posted by bdc34 at 12:58 PM on January 8, 2016

Jerry Springer?

No, seriously.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:59 PM on January 8, 2016

99% Invisible is great but I suspect unknowncommand will hate it for the same reasons she says she dislikes the other NPR stuff.

Yeah, I tolerate some of the NPR-style stuff, but I can't stand 99% Invisible basically for the reasons given in the question.

I really like No Such Thing As a Fish, but it might not tick the right boxes; also The Gist, although Pesca is a former NPR guy, so ... try it and see.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:13 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

These are the most non-NPR-style podcasts in my list, on a wide variety of topics - maybe some will appeal?

Hardcore History -- various historical topics, in a decidedly non-NPR fashion. Especially fantastic is the series Wrath of the Khans.

Tom and Lorenzo's Pop Style Opinionfest -- if you like fashion/celebrity gossip/media-type discussion

Galactic Suburbia -- awesome Australian women review various science fiction (mostly books, but including a variety of media)

Backstory -- U.S. history podcast featuring professors, and frequent guests. Each show is centered around a particular interesting topic (my recent favorite was on American-born religions).
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:14 PM on January 8, 2016

Comic Eddie Pepitone has a podcast called Pep Talks. Guaranteed not NPR-friendly. He's the angriest vegan around, but he always punctuates his anger with a laugh.

He seems to be taking some kind of hiatus right now, but there are quite a few episodes in the backlog. He's especially great with his women guests.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 1:17 PM on January 8, 2016

I also enjoy various podcasts from the New Books Network. They're interviews by an academic in a particular field with an author of a book in said field. I grab these whenever there's a topic of interest. I usually find myself listening to New Books in History ones (it's turned me onto a lot of great books), but there's also New Books in Science and Technology (full list of interviews here), and a whole bunch of other subject areas.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:17 PM on January 8, 2016

Many of these suggestions are similar to what you don't like. I'd avoid anything by any of the big American-based podcast networks, they tend to have similar production styles, humour and emotional manipulation.

To go for something actually different you should try In Our Time from the BBC. It's rather dry, just three academics and the host talking deeply about a very specific subject, but also interesting and informative. If you want some more humour with your talking heads, try The Infinite Monkey Cage (one of my favourite podcasts ever) which is just science subjects.

Then if the British style turns out to be more your thing, the BBC has a lot of great podcasts. I tend to like BBC 4 the best, e.g. More or Less is way more fun than you'd think for a show about statistics and the Business Daily Elements series is also great.
posted by shelleycat at 1:19 PM on January 8, 2016 [11 favorites]

Seconding Still Untitled, the Adam Savage project, and No Such Thing As A Fish, a comedic take on a collection of random facts.

Adding The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe (all things skepticism and science)
Geek's Guide to the Galaxy (geek culture: comics, books, movies, TV shows)
Filmspotting (an intellectual movie discussion)
The Next Picture Show (an in-depth discussion of the latest movies through the context of the classic films)
Sawbones (a comedic podcast about all the dumb, bad, gross, weird and wrong ways we've tried to fix people)
posted by ringu0 at 1:25 PM on January 8, 2016

Perhaps Another Round?
posted by babelfish at 1:25 PM on January 8, 2016

seconding BackStory - conversational, but good rapport among the speakers, not show-offy.
posted by mmiddle at 1:27 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg. It's a BBC project. Bragg has a topic for each episode, invites 2 or 3 experts in the topic's field, and they have a quick-moving structured discussion about the topic. It's about as opposite to the TAL voice as it gets, and there's a huge back catalogue (this is my go to podcast for long flights).

Marc Maron's WTF is great, but I almost always skip through the first ten minutes or so of his monologue/oratory. He really is an amazing interviewer. My list of his best episodes: RuPaul (really), Todd Glass, Laura Jane Grace. I listen to the RuPaul every couple months. It's that good.

Dan Carlin stuff has been recommended above. His pieces can be quite good, but hoo boy do you have to get in to them and get carried away by the narrative before you (er, I) can stop cringing at his delivery. It put me off from his work for a long time. Then I drove from SF to LA via the 5 after dark and listened to a lot of his Roman history (which is excellent).

Some of the older Scott Thompson (from Kids In The Hall, etc.) podcasts, Scott Free, are truly wonderful, too. More recent ones have gone a little haywire.

No Such Thing as a Fish gets a lot of mentions above. It's good, too, but it wore thin really quickly for me. It has a grating voice of its own, and there's only so much scattered, smarmy trivia I can take at a time.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:27 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

Death, Sex and Money is really great
posted by JenThePro at 1:27 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm into current events so:
Slate's Political Gabfest (weekly)
Vox's The Weeds (weekly)
KCRW's Left, Right & Center (weekly)

I know you said no NPR, but Fresh Air (daily) pushes such frequent episodes on a wide variety of topics, I find I can delete about half that don't interest me and still have stuff to listen to on my runs.

Also, I'm in tech and find Security Now a good weekly listen.
posted by LoveHam at 1:29 PM on January 8, 2016

The Dana Gould Hour is the only "comedy" podcast that makes me laugh.

Maltin on Movies is the only movie podcast that doesn't make me roll my eyes.
posted by Flexagon at 1:33 PM on January 8, 2016

Here's a list of my "top tier" podcasts, meaning my absolute favorites.

The Allusionist (language, British, a bit blithe)
Anglo-Filles (pop culture, non-professional audio quality)
Another Round (pop culture, humor)
Ask Me Another (game show, NPR)
The Cracked Podcast (I KNOW BUT IT'S SO GOOD)
Fresh Out of Tokens (video games, interview format)
Isometric (video games, panel discussion format)
Métis in Space (pop culture critique)
Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men (X-Men; name change coming up soon to Jay/J and Miles)
The Read (pop culture, humor)
Switched On Pop (pop music analysis)
Tea & Jeopardy (sci-fi/fantasy interviews, ongoing podcast plotline)
Totally Uncool (intermittent funny stories)
Unconsoleable (phone/tablet video games, interview format)

Other's you might like include:

Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period (Denzel Washington's Movies)
Ditch Diggers (practical writing)
GeekCross (popular culture and religion)
Girl on Guy (interviews, primarily actors)
I Should Be Writing (experiential writing)
Inquiring Minds (science, pop culture)
Latino USA (news program)
The Light Bulb (pop culture)
Mental Illness Happy Hour (interviews with people involved in mental illness)
Note to Self (technology, NPR)
Popaganda (feminism, pop culture)
Rocket (technology)
Sex Nerd Sandra (sex)
Song Exploder (music)
Spawn on Me (video games)
Tea with Queen and J (pop culture)
A Way With Words (language, NPR)
Writing Excuses (writing)
Yo, Is this racist? (I think you can figure it out)
posted by Deoridhe at 1:40 PM on January 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

nthing In Our Time, and assuming you want factual non-fiction, try BBC Radio 4's Seriously podcast; it's a (sometimes quite random) bi-weekly selection of one of their many ~30 min-ish documentaries. Wide range of topics, almost none NPR-ish (most BBC R4 programmes aren't NPR-ish, if you avoid Josie Long's Short Cuts).
posted by AFII at 1:40 PM on January 8, 2016

The main focus of Starship Sofa is fiction, but I love J.J. Campanella's non-fiction "Science News Update" segments that appear occasionally there. Smart guy talking about papers and research that he finds interesting.

Along the lines of all of the Mark Maron suggestions, I have enjoyed It's Funny Because, just a couple of generally regional comedians (the hosts are from Sacramento, CA) talking shop and what makes jokes work. Without trying to be funny.

StrongTowns has a particular focus, so I've largely stopped listening, but enough of those that you get a good feel for their arguments and point of view (a more economically conservative justification for urbanism) is very worthwhile.

Very kink and sex-friendly, but even though I'm pretty mainstream vanilla I find Why Are People Into That? fascinating. Tina Horn interviews guests who are into things you probably aren't, and in the process makes the why and how of those things accessible and understandable. There are a number of non-fiction sex-related feeds in my podcast, I think this is simultaneously the most "out there" and accessible of them.
posted by straw at 1:49 PM on January 8, 2016

I tend to like podcasts that are people discussing things rather than podcasts that explain things or tell stories. I love all the Slate podcasts that I listen to (Politics, Double X and Money). Seconding both Another Round and Call Your Girlfriend (both mentioned above), if you like funny ladies talking about stuff. Back To Work is another favorite, just because Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin are such a great team and make me laugh even when they get in the weeds on things I don't take as much of an interest in (mainly tech stuff).
posted by triggerfinger at 1:52 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Under the Influence is a Canadian podcast about marketing and branding, but it's way more interesting than you're probably thinking. Also it's nothing at all like TAL, Radiolab, or TED Talks.
posted by barnoley at 2:33 PM on January 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

This Is Actually Happening consists of raw, largely unedited first-person descriptions of “disturbing” situations.(The fallout of both having a stroke during orgasm and your partner having a stroke during orgasm, being shot by your father, going broke, getting lost in the jungle, etc.) It may be too grim and strange for your runs. Awful Grace and Everything Is Stories are similar, but more produced.

Amicus is a Slate podcast that discusses recent and upcoming Supreme Court Cases. If you're interested in listening to oral arguments, the Oyez podcast (for the appropriate year) is a good -if lagging- partner.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:55 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you like science and biology, This Week in Parasitology - Start with the hookworm episode and work your way out from there if you like it. My feeling is that after about 100 eps they start running out of really interesting and accessible topics.
posted by mzurer at 3:13 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is another MeFite recommending Answer Me This. (The original another MeFite.) Think just three ridiculously charming Brits running Ask MetaFilter with only a little bit of advance prep.

Another Round is also charming as fuck. Check out the Kwanzaa show or The Audacity of Despair.

Imaginary Worlds is one guy talking about about SF and fantasy aaaand don't run away! It's both modest and smart and doesn't tread the same old fannish ground. Try King Denslow of Oz, or The Golem and the Jinni, or The Mysterious James Tiptree.

The Story Collider is a little NPR-ish/Moth-ish (nerds on stage telling stories about science), but it can be incredibly touching and ridiculously funny. Recommended: The Sea Urchin Massacre, Is This Biology!, and The Last Hours of a Rabid Woman.
posted by maudlin at 3:20 PM on January 8, 2016

Love and Radio? It is the story-telling type, but different. It's by the person from the story so different person each episode. I find it much more captivating and the editing is generally really well done.
posted by monologish at 3:21 PM on January 8, 2016

Mystery Hour is great.

It's a British show where people call in to ask questions for other callers to answer, like "Why don't dolphins get the bends?".
posted by duoshao at 3:23 PM on January 8, 2016

I am a wide ranging fan of most things maximum fun, and some of the shows on that network (Sawbones, Throwing Shade, Stop Podcasting Yourself, and others) have been mentioned.

My top pick for you would be Oh No, Ross and Carrie where the titular hosts experience and discuss alternative religions, spirituality, and pseudoscience.

Bullseye is a pop culture grab bag hosted by Jesse Thorne. It does air on NPR, but is... different. His set of interests doesn't fit in with what you'd expect, and there's very little top-40 kind of stuff.

Jordan, Jesse, Go! is the podcast I listened to incessantly when I moved into my own apartment and needed to stave off the loneliness of living alone. Funny guys with funny guests having funny conversations.

MBMBAM is a bad-advice podcast which for some is very enjoyable, but one of the voices is incredibly irritating to me.
posted by itesser at 3:45 PM on January 8, 2016

The entire time I was reading the article you linked my inner monologue voice switched to Ira Glass. In fact... it's still happening, as I type this.

Stop it brain.


(sorry, I don't have any recommendations)
posted by zrail at 3:47 PM on January 8, 2016

Criminal is in the NPR family, but Phoebe Judge has one of the most pleasant, soothing radio voices I've ever heard. The episodes are short and they don't waste time getting to the point.
posted by landunderwave at 4:08 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Along the lines of Last Podcast on the Left, I really like Thinking Sideways, which is just three skeptical friends discussing unsolved mysteries and conspiracy theories, with decent audio quality but not especially good or fancy production . The Lake City Quiet Pills episode, I thought, was particularly good, so maybe see if that tickles your fancy?
posted by WidgetAlley at 4:29 PM on January 8, 2016

Hound Tall (i.e., 'Town Hall', which tells one nothing about the podcast except that it's done in front of a live audience). Three comedians continually interrupt some expert explaining his work - but infrequently enough that one learns about the work. Of course, the expert knows this will happen. The comedians self-censor when the expert's topic motivates them to be more politically correct than funny.
posted by Homer42 at 5:47 PM on January 8, 2016

Wow, no Best of the Web fans yet? Surely this is the elephant in the room. The Metafilter podcast reviews highlights of posts from Projects, the Blue, AskMe, and sometimes MetaTalk each month. It's super long, relaxed and rambly, often funny, and generally pleasant to listen to. Plus, lately it features a guest Mefite each month, which is neat.

Thanks, cortex and jessamyn!
posted by snorkmaiden at 5:55 PM on January 8, 2016

Yet another BackStory recommendation here. Really great stuff.

I like the Quarter to Three Movie podcast, a superb 3-person discussion of recent movies with an interesting approach: in each episode, one person picks the movie that the three will be watching during the following episode. Then they each view the movie alone, avoiding trailers and spoilers and buzz when possible. The speakers include Tom Chick, Christien Murawski and Kelly Wand, all of whom seem to have a veritable encyclopedic knowledge of movies from various time periods and genres. The show starts with an unbiased summary of the film and a satirical synopsis written by the very funny and talented Kelly Wand. Next they take turns critiquing it and finally they play a "3×3" game in which they contribute their personal "Favorite X in movies", such as last week's favorite candle scenes in movies and my current favorite, favorite watches and clocks. Discussions often spill out onto the Qt3 Forum, where more talented and knowledgeable viewers chime in.
posted by christopherious at 6:39 PM on January 8, 2016

Another fan of Revolutions here; he has his own mannerisms, but I enjoy anyway, and I love how he tells a story!

I actually find Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men really similar in ways I can't 100% articulate. Both involve enthusiasts narrating unusual histories....

The latter, btw, participated in a "comics podcast crossover event", and in listening to some of the other participants, I got a better sense of what I like in a podcast generally.
posted by epersonae at 7:24 PM on January 8, 2016

Children of Tendu has super shop-talk style discussions on the TV screenwriting business. Very conversation-y and pleasingly unpolished.

Wolf 359 is a scifi drama podcast that grew on me -- the use of music is especially neat. If you enjoyed the harrowing bits of Battlestar Galactica then season two might especially delight you.
posted by brainwane at 7:55 PM on January 8, 2016

Ha! I can't tolerate Radiolab, either. Everything about it reminds me of a show for pre-schoolers.

I love the DharmaPunx podcast. Also Buddhist talks (Josh Korda works with the Against the Stream guy), but it's great for anyone. Josh is funny, and he talks a lot about how neuroscience affects our moods.
posted by jessca84 at 8:06 PM on January 8, 2016

System Mastery is a couple of guys who read old, out of print RPGs, generally terrible ones, and talk about them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:22 PM on January 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd consider giving Serial a try. It doesn't strike me as overly TAL-like. The second season, about the captivity of Beau Bergdahl, is very different from the first, which you may have heard either good or bad things about. I can't say I was interested in the subject going in, but they're doing a great job of pulling me in again.
posted by lhauser at 8:38 PM on January 8, 2016

Good job brain is a very funny trivia podcast. Four people pick a topic and research and present something interesting. There are pop quizzes and tons of really cool useless knowledge. Learn while you run!
posted by schyler523 at 9:13 PM on January 8, 2016

The least NPR podcast that I know of is probably The Best Show with Tom Scharpling.

It used to be a live 3-hour radio broadcast on WFMU, and now it's a live 3-hour streaming broadcast (but also downloadable as a regular podcast). So because it's live, it's not at all slickly produced-- you get all the pauses and the technical glitches and guests fussing with a mic. Tom does not have an NPR voice. Hodgman is (rarely) a guest but he goes there in full weirdness. Everyone goes there in full weirdness.

There's a written comedy element, good guests, weird interviews, live actual non-famous human callers in all their glory, and MUSIC.

For a sampling, I give you Tom Meets Patti Smith
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:10 PM on January 8, 2016

Nthing In Our Time from BBC4. It's my favorite podcast. Well, it or Sound Opinions.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:23 AM on January 9, 2016

I hate all the same things you hate. I listen to Rick Steves podcasts about...well, technically they're about travel, but it's not just boring recitations of things to see. It's history, personal encounters with local cultures, off the beaten path things to see and do while traveling. For instance, he'll tell you how to get off a train in a tiny European town and find a local person who rents out a spare bedroom, rather than a hotel (without using AirBnB.) I would say give one or two of his shows a try and see what you think. I found a few of his guests on the show to be insufferable, but mostly they're interesting. He also has a few of his lectures recorded as podcasts, and they add a new dimension.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:35 AM on January 9, 2016

Thinking Allowed (BBC)
America's Test Kitchen Radio (if you like cooking)
All in the Mind (psychology - the BBC version and the ABC [Australian] version are very different and both good)
Dear Sugar Radio - advice
Here's the Thing (Alec Baldwin interviews)
KEPX Live Performances - discover some new music
Longform (interviews with non-fiction writers)
The Nutrition Diva (well-researched)
The Reality Check (skepticism - 3 Canadian guys debunk stuff)
What Hurts (Dave Pell from Next Draft)
Writers and Company (CBC radio - interviews)
You are not so smart (cognitive biases and such)
posted by Frenchy67 at 8:28 AM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I really dislike most of NPR, and cannot stand This American Life. I've tried. The Moth and TED, also... not my thing. :-)

There are two absolute gems from NPR, though; if you haven't heard five minutes of each, you should probably give them both a try.

Planet Money is people talking about money. Instead of "here's how you should invest it", or "here's how you should make more!", it's just focused on money and it's effects being pretty damn fascinating.

The tone isn't NPR's normal "how does that make you feel", but a half-classy version of "check this shit out". Mind games from gyms to keep you paying but not coming in, how t-shirts get shipped globally, why coca-cola was a nickel for almost a century, some dude who bought all the onions one year (all of them), why the japanese didn't consider salmon edible, and so on.

Car Talk, now in reruns, is either love it or hate it. It's two brothers, both 50+, who grew up in Boston, got stuck with the worst possible accent, went to MIT, said screw it, and opened a garage as mechanics, which they did until they moved over to doing this show pretty much full-time.

People call in and ask questions about their cars, but it's not about the cars; it's often hilarious to listen to these two guys banter with each other and the callers.

Outside of those two, the Hourly News Summary - listened to once a day, not once an hour! - is one of the best hard news sources out there. There's absolutely *no* "how does that make you feel", and no sensationalism; it's just the events of the day.
posted by talldean at 9:31 AM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

My local podcast expert and fiancee has this to add:
I do like NPR and I do dislike the specific podcasts you mentioned for the reasons you describe. Other podcasts I dislike in this vein- Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, Dinner Party Download, Mystery Show

But there are some podcasts from NPR you might like even if you hate those: Planet Money, Pop Culture Happy Hour, All Songs Considered.

Other Podcasts to try by category:

A History of the World in 100 Objects
British History Podcast
Russian Rulers History Podcast
A History of Rome
New Books in ____ (Also in non-history categories)

Call Your Girlfriend
Slate Money
Serial (it is not so NPRy. I dislike This American Life the most and Ira Glass helps/ed out but I wouldn't have been able to tell if they didn't mention it)
Appointment Television
For Colored Nerds
The Adaptors
Stuff You Should Know

I Was There Too
How Did This Get Made
Gilmore Guys
The X Files Files

KEXP Song of the Day
KEXP Music That Matters

The Splendid Table
Switched On Pop

Science in Action
StarTalk Radio
What's the Point
The Infinite Monkey Cage

The Monocle podcast network has some podcasts on food, urbanism, and culture that you would either enjoy or hate, I can't tell. I like The Urbanist and The Menu but dislike many of the rest, esp the news podcasts.

Other shows that may be hit and miss for you- Criminal; Death, Sex, and Money; Futility Closet; 99% Invisible
posted by grouse at 3:35 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Tank Riot seems to fit your criteria.
posted by Kale Slayer at 7:35 PM on January 9, 2016

Seconding Thinking Sideways, it's a lot of fun and very accessible. I've seen The 45th Parallel recommended before too, it's also about mysterious happenings.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 3:53 AM on January 10, 2016

"Street Stories" from Australia's Radio National was broadcast from 2002-2009, and podcasts are available of the last three years.
posted by garboils at 10:11 AM on January 11, 2016

yeah, I'm also not a big fan of the over-produced sincerity that's common with NPR syndicated shows (though I do like their hourly news summary). a lot of podcasts suggested above have that voice because it's fun to listen to when doing chores around the house but are real bad for working out. Radiolab and This American are especially bad because they always audio cue their pathos in a really obvious way and that's grating when you're trying to get into the rhythm of a run

the podcasts that have worked for me when I'm working out have always been pretty fast-paced and a little manic and they all tend to be pretty light. the whole Earwolf network is great and Comedy Bang Bang is their flagship. I'd suggest anything with Paul F. Thompkins in it for starters. My Brother, My Brother, and Me is another good, lighthearted, somewhat manic show. this week's show had a really solid intro section about the Great British Bakeoff and a pretty good rest of the show so I'd start there and work your way back. Sawbones is in the same vein where one of the brothers and his doctor wife talk about the ridiculous history of medicine. No Such Thing as a Fish is also great, especially if you like constant trivia facts about sciency things

on the non-comedic front, Foreign Policy's Editor's Roundtable is way snarkier and more casual than you'd expect. it's very West Wing, the 2nd-4th season in its delivery if you're into that. Robert Scheer's Scheer Intelligence has also been great. listening to John Kiriakou talk about progressive agents in the CIA was illuminating. Pop Rocket is probably the smartest show on pop culture out there today and the hosts are all hilarious, knowledgeable, and analytical in a way you wish most people were about pop culture

most of these shows are live, not heavily edited or produced, and feature people talking to one another as people and not journalists (zing). they should be pretty light on NPR voice and not nearly as heavy on the pathos. give em a shot!
posted by runt at 7:29 AM on January 14, 2016

I don't know what those podcasts are like but the podcasts I like are not emotional or cold-intellectual. They are usually by artists, writers, comedians interviewing other artists, writers and comedians. Someone already recommended WTF which i'll 2nd but I also like the following:

1. Bret Easton Ellis. I do need to point out that when he started he didn't seem to know how to breathe properly and he is VERY verbose. He dislikes millennials though he is dating one (which I think he has pointed out in every episode) but I like him as an interviewer, I think he's very generous with the more twatty guests and he has a lovely voice. Especially for someone from L.A.

2. Here's the Thing with Alec Baldwin. He's very knowledgeable and asks brilliant questions. Paul Simon was a bit cagey and if I was Alec i'd have floored him with the microphone and broken his teeth with his acoustic but then i'm sensitive. I don't recommend that one. Alec has a very arousing voice so be careful if you listen in public.

3. Adam Buxton. He's a British comedian and a lovely man. He has a charming voice.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 7:59 AM on January 14, 2016

I can't believe no one mentioned EconTalk.
posted by _Seeker_ at 8:21 PM on January 15, 2016

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