Although podcasts have been growing in popularity in the last decade or so, they’ve been around since the 1980s, when it was called audioblogging. The concept has come a long way since then. There are countless podcasts, covering countless topics all over the planet. These San Francisco podcasts are the best of the best. If you’re not listening to these 10 SF podcasts, you definitely should be.
The Specialist podcast is something quite unique, by which we mean it discusses all the uncommonly unique job fields and careers in the world. This podcast, brought on by local radio station KALW and hosted by Casey Miner in San Francisco, sheds light on those few and far between jobs and the people who do them. All the Specialist guests do these jobs in the surrounding area. Some of these episodes include more noble yet lesser-known work like a cane trainer, a person who trains blind or low-vision people to walk with a cane and become more independent. Other episodes include people and work that are a little more humorous. There’s the guy whose job it is to know the difference between good and bad ice, or the women who comb through the heads of others to remove lice. No matter what episode you listen to it’s always interesting.
This monthly podcast creates a dialogue for the female Muslim experience and the duality that comes along with it. #GoodMuslimBadMuslim was first created in the Bay Area, but hosts Taz Ahmed and Zahra Noorbakhsh hold live episodes all over the country. One of those shows actually took place in the White House when Barack Obama was still in office. #GoodMuslimBadMuslim articulates what it’s like to be both female and Muslim in today’s culture. What westerners or non-Muslims see as a “good Muslim” is contradictory and shamed in the Muslim religion and lifestyle. This creates a dualism that many Muslims feel hitting the core of their identity. But this isn’t necessarily a political podcast with just straight facts. Taz and Zahra bring comedy and lightheartedness to some of these heavier issues, relaxing the subject to a point of better understanding and great enjoyment for the audience.
For all those history buffs out there, this podcast is what you’ve been waiting for. Richard Miller, a blogger and self-proclaimed amateur historian, created Sparkletack with San Francisco and history lovers in mind. The content of the podcast is credited to the San Francisco Public Library History Center. Miller had been quite the regular at the center. This helped him come up with the idea of a podcast that consisted of episode after episode of historical facts, interests, and oddities throughout San Francisco’s lifetime. Sadly, Miller hung up his podcast microphone and no longer creates episodes. However, his gift to San Francisco lovers and listeners was to leave the entire Sparkletack episode collection up for all viewing access.
Although Mortified didn’t start in San Francisco, the podcast holds live shows in both San Francisco and Oakland every month and they’re amazing, cringeworthy episodes. Mortified is something like famous storytelling platform The Moth, including as it does real entries from people all over sharing raw and true stories from their childhood and adolescence. During the live shows, readers take the stage and share their embarrassing stories with home videos, photos, diary entries, you name it. Podcast listeners get to listen to every grueling, wince-inducing word. Ultimately, what makes the Mortified podcast so great is that it unifies people in the sense that everyone has one or two (or more) embarrassing stories. Why not share them with everyone else and bring laughter and joy?
Ear Hustle is an uncommonly interesting San Francisco podcast because it was created and is hosted and produced by inmates at the infamous San Quentin State Prison just outside the city. The inmates and co-hosts, Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, are also joined by Bay Area artist Nigel Poor. Ear Hustle gives outsiders a look into what it’s like managing aspects of life while behind bars. Woods, Williams, as well as Poor also explore mental illness and the issues surrounding it in today’s society. It’s an incredibly enlightening and humbling array of topics and episodes, loosening the grip of stigmas that follow illness, prison, and life in general. The three co-hosts have absolutely no podcast training whatsoever and yet they also produce the show themselves.
Good Job, Brain!
Trivia meets offbeat news at the Good Job, Brain! podcast. Recorded live in San Francisco, Good Job, Brain! is a quiz show meant to be the “ultimate nutrition for your brain.” Every episode consists of all kinds of fun trivia that’s meant to tease the brain and ultimately have fun. The show is co-hosted by four trivia lovers, all self-proclaimed experts in various fields and topics. It’s currently on a hiatus, but, as stated on the podcast website, Good Job, Brain! isn’t throwing in the towel yet. Past episodes are up and open for listening, challenging your mind, and laughing until your stomach hurts.
The Kitchen Sisters Present… Hidden Kitchens
Sisters and podcast hosts/producers Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva are behind multiple award-winning podcasts based out of San Francisco. One of the more incredibly fascinating and quite niche podcasts is Hidden Kitchens, diving into the unknown world of the kitchens that have helped shape major events and people in the world. One episode includes the famed 19th century poet Emily Dickinson, who was actually an amazingly talented baker. The episode digs into a culinary history of her kitchen and her celebrated baking role surrounding her life work of writing. Other episodes explore more unexpected names, eating traditions around the world, and meals that have become legends in the culinary realm.
The Porchlight podcast is similar to Mortified in the sense that it’s a live recorded storytelling show. The difference with Porchlight, however, is most likely what has made it the city’s longest running storytelling series. For almost 15 years, Porchlight has called on audience members inside San Francisco’s Verdi Club completely at random to share a 10-minute story about everything and anything. There’s no preparation, no notes, no memorization available to participants. It’s a completely organic and raw podcast that dives into the lives of everyday people.
The Finch Files
Longtime reporter and storyteller Peter Finch hosts The Finch Files podcast. This podcast is made in San Francisco, for San Francisco. Episodes are comprised of issues and offbeat news throughout the city. A special guest-heavy podcast, The Finch Files includes stories told by both everyday people as well as special celebrity guests discussing certain topics, like musician Matt Nathanson discussing the time he participated in a vinyl sharing show during a U2 concert when he was a kid. Along with everyday trials and tribulations, Peter Finch brings together San Francisco-specific issues, like the homelessness problem in the city.
Raw Material: A Podcast from SFMOMA
That’s right, the infamous San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) has joined the podcast world. Raw Material is recorded inside the SFMOMA, discussing the modern arts as it pertains to our culture. Each season covers different topics and includes a different “podcaster-in-residence” at the museum. Season one, called Otherworld, was hosted by Ross Simonini and discussed artists that portray the mystical and unknown in their work. Season two, Manifest, was hosted by Geraldine Ah-Sue who explored how various artists translate what they see in the world into their art. Raw Material is on its third season currently. Landfall is hosted by Jessica Placzek and Madeline Gobbo and explores hidden gems of art that can be found in California, art history, and immersive art environments. It’s an informative, entertaining, and skilled podcast that brings listeners into the life of fine art.