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It’s a new generation of talk radio with topics varying across cultural mediums. The genre of podcasts have generally been a niche interest since it hit iTunes in 2005, and that year, there were only about 3,000 podcasts up and running. A decade later, that number has mushroomed to more than 285,000. Here, Culture Trip looks at the ten best podcasts based out of New York.
This monthly storytelling podcast attracts about 70,000 subscribers and one million downloads. The stories are all true and are typically recorded at live shows throughout NYC — and now moving to other parts of the country. Notable storytellers have included Ethan Hawke, Malcolm Gladwell, Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels, Moby, and Sam Shepard. Stories are without scripts or notes and venues are standing-room only. The Moth’s stories run the gamut from deeply moving to hilarious, encouraging the comic mindset that makes all of the heartfelt bits serve a greater comedic purpose.
Radiolab is a well-produced podcast that weaves together science and personal narratives into a thematic whole. Host Jad Abumrad’s background in music composition and production adds a lyrical and poetic feeling. Every month, the main show centers on a theme like bliss or color and is composed of several segments with interviews taking place in-studio or live. There are also shorter features about specific stories, like ant invasions or the founder of the Heimlich maneuver.
Freakonomics Radio, the 2005 bestseller by NYC-economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner, has become a brand unto itself, spawning sequels, a film, and this weekly podcast hosted by Dubner where he discusses topics like ‘Soul Possession,’ ‘Lottery Loopholes and Deadly Doctors,’ and ‘How Biased Is Your Media?’ Pop-friendly investigations into ‘the hidden side of everything’ include the implications of an undead economy (vampires buying blood).
Each month, a writer picks a favorite story from the magazine’s archives to read and discuss on The New Yorker Fiction. Readers include Roger Angell, Jonathan Franzen, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Edwidge Danticat, while stories include those by John Updike, Eudora Welty, Vladimir Nabokov, James Thurber, Lorrie Moore, Tobias Wolff, and others. The format sticks to its script of the story reading followed by a conversation with The New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman.
Hosted by Williamsburg Brooklynite Daniel, The Sounds in My Head is a music podcast featuring songs and bands you might have otherwise missed. Without ads, or station breaks, the host focuses on fairly hip music tracks. This is a bit more music centered, rather than commentary-based like All Songs Considered from NPR. SIMH targets music fans, and for a music podcast produced by musicians, check out LA-based Song Exploder, where musicians deconstruct their music and discuss how songs were made.
The NYPL Podcast presents a no-frills, often-dry look at writers, artists, and thinkers for smart talks and provocative conversations. The show itself struggles without a permanent host, but the guests are captivating, ranging from Mary Louise Parker to Jay-Z, all discussing their autobiographies, inspirations and dissecting their New York roots. The NYPL also offers more specific topic podcasts and ancillary audio learning programs for those looking for educational info without opinion or unnecessary entertainment enhancement.
Since 2007, Thomas Meyers and Greg Young, known as The Bowery Boys, have recorded and released over 150 episodes, each one focusing on a particular person, place or event in NYC history. Topics have included the life of Robert Moses, The New York State Pavilion and Studio 54. Some of their most popular podcasts are their Halloween special episodes, where the two, admittedly amateur historians, discuss NYC ghost stories from centuries past. This is the perfect podcast for those who want to learn more about the history of the city and the people who helped shape it into what it is today.
WNYC’s Ask Me Another blends brainteasers and local pub trivia night with comedy and music into a rambunctious hour-long show. Play along as host Ophira Eisenberg invites in-studio guests and listeners alike to stretch their noggins, tickle their funny bones, and enjoy witty banter and guitar riffs from house musician Jonathan Coulton. What you’ll hear resembles the casual intimacy of game night at a friend’s house — one where scores are forgotten in favor of hilarious gaffes. Attend live tapings of the show at the Bell House in Brooklyn.
This is the only comedy podcast dedicated to coverage of true crime in New York City. Host (comedian) Pat Dixon — along with a revolving guest list of NYC-based attorneys, reporters, cops and comedians — provides a decidedly irreverent, dark and unflinching tour of true crime in the city on NYC Crime Report. This weekly podcast — half comedy, half true-crime — is ripped from the blood-splattered headlines of NYC’s tabloid press and broadcasted from New York City.
A kangaroo courtroom by design, the bench of Judge John Hodgman exercises extreme prejudice in trivial domestic disputes even Judge Judy wouldn’t touch. Once the playfully officious Hodgman gets on his high horse — that is immediately — even his mild-mannered bailiff Jesse Thorn can’t keep him in line. And though the conversations with average, aggrieved citizens begin with their complaints, Hodgman uses the details about jaywalking or horn honking as an excuse to crack into the lives of his ‘plaintiffs’ and ‘defendants.’ The more ridiculous the complaint, the more chances the erstwhile personification of PC has to poke fun at their hypocrisies.