Conversational, informative, entertaining, light nonfiction podcasts
July 2, 2020 2:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm realizing that some of the nonfiction podcasts I once liked are starting to feel more like a chore to listen to. Two which I do still like very much are Omnibus and Pop Culture Happy Hour. I'm looking for recommendations of more like those.

What do those two have in common that I like?
  • They follow the "two or more people having a conversation" podcast style.
  • They're both informative and entertaining, with perhaps more emphasis on entertaining.
  • The hosts have a sense of humor which comes through, but the podcasts aren't what you would consider "humor" or "comedy" podcasts.
  • The podcasts overall have broad scopes, although individual episodes may have very narrow subjects.
  • They mostly don't deal with "heavy" topics of the day. I do enough doomscrolling as it is and don't want the podcast equivalent of that.
  • They do NOT have guests directly involved in the topic at hand or interviews with such people. (PCHH has various people who rotate in and out but they're just another person taking part in the conversation, not someone directly involved with the subject of the episode. "Guests" in that sense are fine.)
  • The episodes are generally standalones, not serialized.
For contrast, some of the ones I'm growing weary of include This American Life, Radiolab, Hidden Brain, Freakonomics. (I do still like Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, but that's not the sort of thing I'm looking for with this question, given its game show format and emphasis on current events. I really just want more of a conversational feel.)

What do you recommend?
posted by DevilsAdvocate to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Judge John Hodgman


Appointment Television - general TV podcast. Margaret Willison, one of the Pop Culture Happy Hour guests is a host on this show

Extra Hot Great - another television podcast, that's my area of interest, mostly
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 2:22 PM on July 2, 2020

Best answer: You're Wrong About is one of my favorites.
posted by mezzanayne at 2:24 PM on July 2, 2020 [14 favorites]

Best answer: You're Wrong About is my current favorite podcast and ticks alot of your boxes. There is an ongoing OJ Simpson series, but most of the episodes are one-offs about famous women (Anita Hill, Monica Lewinsky, Lorena Bobbitt, Anna Nicole Smith...) or old news headlines (Stranger Danger, copycat suicide)
posted by cabingirl at 2:25 PM on July 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

It's about current events, but the best podcast is The Bugle, and ticks the rest of your boxes.
posted by General Malaise at 2:27 PM on July 2, 2020

You could try Answer Me This which is down to monthly now but has an extensive back catalog. (In fact, I would recommend starting with the older ones, which I think have a crisper rhythm for new listeners and mostly age fine, since they seldom hit current events.)
posted by mark k at 2:28 PM on July 2, 2020 [6 favorites]

Teenage Scream :the best and worst of 90's teen point horror books. Two funny and smart hosts, (mostly) terrible books. Can wander off sometimes, but focus is on a book a week and there is a fair back catalogue now.

I am a big fan of Answer me this, and have been for ages, so hopefully the above scratches the right itch.
posted by sedimentary_deer at 2:46 PM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you like movies, The Rewatchables.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:52 PM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

I wonder if you'd like Book Shambles with Robin and Josie. It meets most of your criteria but does have guests - however it feels like more of a conversation with the guest than an interview of them.
posted by paduasoy at 2:52 PM on July 2, 2020

Seconding mark k’s recommendation of Answer Me This! Podcast. It’s a conversation between Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann, and sometimes Helen’s husband Martin the Soundman chimes in. The hosts have been friends for a very long time and have excellent chemistry. It’s friendly, smart, and at times humorous, without being a comedy podcast. The production values are high, and it’s professional without sounding slick. Helen and Olly answer (generally light-hearted) questions from listeners about a wide variety of questions and have free form chats on the topics that come up. I like to say it’s like Ask Metafilter but with lots of chatfilter.

Today’s episode features questions like
  • What are the most unusual products to be found in vending machines around the world, and what is their history?
  • When you’ve had amnesia, what is the best way to handle awkwardness when an old acquaintance recognizes you, but you don’t remember them?
  • How concerned should I be about my landlord’s mystery cupboard in the basement?
This is one of the few podcasts I’ve been listening to for over 10 years. It has gotten me through some pretty rough patches and never fails to lift my spirits.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:00 PM on July 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

No Such Thing as a Fish has been my covid-era comfort listening to the point where I think I may have developed a strong enough association that I can't fall asleep without it. No current events, nothing heavy, just a bunch of funny people taking about interesting factoids they looked up and I can fall asleep at any point because there's no story or plot or narrative of any kind.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:59 PM on July 2, 2020 [6 favorites]

In the vein of people talking about topics, I like Slate’s Culture Gabfest. In fact I much much prefer it over Pop Culture Happy Hour in terms of a conversational culture podcast, because I think the conversation is more exploratory. I feel like so many of the conversational podcasts feel like they’re just exchanging their takes and not listening or talking with one another.

I also really like Reply All, though that is more a mix of reporting and conversational pieces. Some of the reporting is very serious. It’s ostensibly about technology (or, the Internet, I guess?) but it’s more than that.

Both have dealt
posted by vunder at 4:57 PM on July 2, 2020

Whoops, incomplete thought: Both have dealt with some of the more serious topics of tecent days, but don’t tend to be doom fests.
posted by vunder at 6:10 PM on July 2, 2020

"Stuff you should know" seems like it would tick a lot of your boxes.
posted by platypus of the universe at 6:20 PM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Stuff You Should Know absolutely ticks all those boxes. The hosts have been working together for years and they have an easy, funny rapport. Your level of lightheartedness depends on the episode. I recently listened to an episode on the history of bras.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:22 PM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

"Trashy Divorces" has really been hitting the spot for me. It's light, breezy, and just makes an hour of a day fly by.
posted by heathrowga at 7:44 PM on July 2, 2020

I like hearing people talk about non-fine dining food, and I've found Extra Napkins to be great. I do skip it when they talk about food in any Asian country, but they don't usually, so I just listen to these two guys talk comfortingly about frozen lasagna and chicken wings.

There's also the GeekNights family of podcasts. I think these two guys mostly do tabletop games and anime, but they also talk about kitchen appliances, chili, and stationery. I honestly don't know how they hold down day jobs and record a podcast almost every night, but hey, I'm glad they do it.
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:49 PM on July 2, 2020

This is also my fave genre of podcast. My recs:

- Gastropod, about the history of a particular food

- Every Little Thing, they answer listener questions about the most random things

- Dressed, about the history of fashion

- Stuff You Missed In History Class, what it says on the tin
posted by Tamanna at 8:59 PM on July 2, 2020

Unspooled is Actor & Comedian Paul Scheer and Film Critic Amy Nicholson discussing the movies on the AFI top 100 list, each episode is a different film, and it's definitely engaging and usually funny. I've learned a lot about movies, movie history, and the people behind them from Unspooled.
posted by mmc at 9:55 PM on July 2, 2020

I really enjoy Friendly Fire. It's three hosts discussing war movies in an interesting and fun way. Some of the episodes are a bit heavy because the movie that week deals with heavy stuff, but they're good about including content advisories. They have a great dynamic going on. John is a bit of the 'dad' of the show and they seem to all have a lot of fun together.

John Roderick, Ben Harrison, Alan Pranica - the latter two also have a couple of Star Trek podcasts ("The Greatest Generation" and "The Greatest Discovery") that are a ton of fun if you're a Trekkie.
posted by The Hyacinth Girl at 8:12 AM on July 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think The Sauce sounds like exactly what you want. It's two smart, funny women talking about pop culture and politics. The topics are sometimes heavy but the treatments are not.

-- Mob Boss Trump: "A two-part episode where we attempt to understand Trump's success by breaking down mafia narratives, including figures of the mob boss and the "fixer"."

-- Incels and Male Supremacy: "we dive into online male supremacy and find the roots of the "incel" phenomenon."

-- All-American Fascism: "How trolling the libs fits into the larger picture of conservative grievance culture."

My personal favourite is probably the episode that explains why it's okay to hate Adam Driver.
posted by Susan PG at 4:53 PM on July 3, 2020

Whoops that last link is broken & should be this
posted by Susan PG at 5:05 PM on July 3, 2020

« Older Is it true that many Thais practice nasal...   |   Why Apple? Why???!!! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.