What podcasts, radio shows, or TV shows feature an outstanding debater?
February 9, 2007 11:42 PM   Subscribe

What podcasts, radio shows, or TV shows feature an outstanding debater?

As a variation on a previous question of mine, I'm looking for podcasts, radio shows, or TV shows that feature someone who is nearly unbeatable in an argument, debate, or any other war of words.

I'm not necessarily looking to learn the factual pros and cons of different issues that people debate; rather, I'm looking to hear how a good debater uses rhetoric, constructs arguments, and deflects attacks for maximal impact. The more contention, and the more informal the exchange (i.e. close to the tone of regular conversation), the better. Even hearing the dynamics of people insulting each other is of interest to me. Jon Stewart's infamous appearance on Crossfire is a perfect example.

I realize that most shows that feature debate will be political talk shows, and am interested to hear which ones are the best examples. But, since I'm not that much into politics, I'm also interested in other kinds of shows. There are excellent bits of debate sprinkled throughout various talk radio shows, but I'd love to find one where debate and contention are a central component.
posted by lunchbox to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
HARDtalk on the BBC was like this with Tim Sebastian, but I'm not sure how good the new guy is
posted by scodger at 12:06 AM on February 10, 2007

Prime Minister's Questions from BBC, which airs on some public TV stations in the US, is -- or used to be -- an inspiring display of rhetorical back and forth between articulate people rather than the lowest-brow stuff you get from radio call in shows.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:13 AM on February 10, 2007

this may be less formal than you're after, and fictional, but a number of West Wing episodes come to mind-- where Toby argues for free trade, for example.
posted by jouster at 12:26 AM on February 10, 2007

There's some good debates on various topics at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute website.
posted by keith0718 at 1:44 AM on February 10, 2007

Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington used to be the head of the Cambridge Union Society - you can hear her debate with conservatives on "Left, Right, and Center". She's good, but I'm finding I'm enjoying the U.S. version of Intelligence Squared (the UK debating society) a bit more (not that I have anything against the UK original - they just don't seem to have podcasts.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:11 AM on February 10, 2007

Seconding "Prime Minister's Questions" from BBC.
posted by tkolar at 8:28 AM on February 10, 2007

How about good old Bill O'Reilly? The few times that I've seen him interview someone with whom he disagrees, he's been an excellent colloquial debater. I know popular perception is that he just kind of yells over his guests, but when I've watched the show I thought it was quite clever how he pins his guest to taking a certain position, and then uses an extreme example to show how ridiculous this position is. He has a much different style than some of the other popular blowhards, and I think this accounts for a lot of his success.
posted by btkuhn at 1:28 PM on February 10, 2007

I've found Tavis Smiley to be an extraordinary rhetorician. See if your local PBS radio station carries his show.
posted by oats at 3:16 PM on February 10, 2007

He died recently, but talk radio legend Bob Lassiter is fantastic in this regard. I posted about him (with links to some notable mp3 airchecks) on the blue a few months back.
posted by melorama at 12:31 AM on February 11, 2007

Great replies, guys.

melorama: what a find! Lassiter's airchecks website is exactly the type of thing I'm talking about.
posted by lunchbox at 2:33 PM on February 11, 2007


If you have the Lassiter bug, you should definitely listen to the 2 part "documentary" of Lassiter's career from WFMU's "Aircheck" program archives (it's the July 17 & 23, 2003 shows). It's a fantastic overview of Lassiter's best moments.

There's also a fantastic post about him over on the FMU blog.
posted by melorama at 5:50 PM on February 11, 2007

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