This American Life
No podcast collection would be complete without This American Life. Host Ira Glass delves into first-person stories and short fiction pieces from around the world. It will make you laugh just as often as it will make you cry. TAL holds the torch by which others are judged.
Radiolab from WNYC
Each edition of RadioLab focuses on one particular idea or concept, honing in on the people, sounds, and stories that work to bring the show to life. Hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich tackle scientific and philosophical topics.
A different breed of storytelling than This American Life and Radiolab comes from the Moth organization. Each storyteller stands under a bright spotlight, in a crowded room, sharing their true experiences with a live audience.
Think This American Life is a bit bland? Then take a walk on the wild side with Kevin Allison’s Risk! The weekly show features live writers, performers, and everyday people telling stories they “never thought they’d dare to share.”
The Thrilling Adventure Hour
As a staged ode to the bygone days or radio dramas, TTAH rarely fails to deliver a compelling story. Creators Ben Acker and Ben Blacker’s smart, tongue-in-cheek dramas are vast and varied, with notable guest appearances to match.
Otherppl with Brad Listi
Brad Listi, creator of culture magazine The Nervous Breakdown, is not Oprah. However, his in-depth interviews with acclaimed authors such as Steph Cha and Patrick Hoffman are as revealing as they are enticing to listen to.
The newly-minted Serial unfolds a single, nonfiction story over the course of an entire season. The exhilarating first season, hosted by ace reporter Sarah Koenig, involves the murder of a high schooler named Hae Min Lee.
A Prairie HC
Garrison Keillor’s weekly down-home, signature monologue from A Prairie Home Companion conjures some of the best imagery and storytelling to date. Keillor’s steady voice chugs and billows relentlessly through each podcast.
This podcast is like a cross between This American Life and The Twilight Zone. The (mostly) true stories are alternately spooky, humorous, intense, and fascinating, and the experimental and eerie sound design is spellbindingly fun.
Welcome to Night Vale
This series purports to be the local radio announcements of the titular weird desert town. Welcome to Night Vale is a bit like A Prairie Home Companion, except with menacing glow clouds and monstrous mayors.
This podcast is, as host and producer Glynn Washington puts it, “storytelling with a beat.” Snap Judgement is a profound, engaging, and humorous listen. It puts a new kind of spin on standard storytelling.