In the beginning there was radio, and everyone tuned in collectively. Satellite radio changed the equation slightly as listeners moved to create their own sound experiences, free of commercials and all those unwanted stations. Then, along came podcasts, and it seems there’s one for every listener these days. Now you can personalize your own aural space as never before, and there are so many podcasts to choose from.
Here’s a list of some of our favorite New York podcasts for your listening pleasure. The topics of these shows range from cabaret to poetry to fairy tales to comic books, not to mention the celebrity personality-driven shows. We think you’ll see what we mean when we say there is truly a podcast for everyone.
HERE’S THE THING
Alec Baldwin has a loose tongue—just think of all the Twitter wars he’s gotten himself into—so you might not think he’d be fit to host a talk show. But the former star of 30 Rock’s acerbic wit and dry, hilarious asides are exactly what make his WNYC podcast, Here’s the Thing, such a delight. The show, it seems, is as much about Mr. Baldwin as it is the people he talks to—from Girls star Lena Dunham to New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson—but with a host so entertaining, and with such a calming voice, that’s hardly a problem.
RISK! is a weekly podcast presented by Maximum Fun, the radio show organization, and associated with the live feature of the same name in which people get up before an audience and tell a story that they would not normally want to reveal. The podcast is hosted by Kevin Allison, formerly of the ’90s-era MTV sketch comedy show The State, and the show’s description might remind you of The Moth, the nonprofit storytelling organization that puts out its own podcast. But RISK! is raunchier and more laugh-out-loud funny; the idea is, you’re taking a risk by telling your story.
DRUNK COMIC BOOK CHAT
“We’re talking about comic books and we’re also drunk,” reads the show’s spare description, which pretty much says it all. Drunk Comic Book Chat often feels like Drunk History, the popular web series recently picked up by Comedy Central: The hosts sometimes get their facts wrong—on purpose, it seems; they meander; they’re frivolous. And even if comic book arcana is not your thing, Drunk Comic Book Chat is oddball enough that you just might enjoy it, even while you’re furrowing your brow.
54 Below, billed as Broadway’s nightclub, opened last year as the Oak Room was closing, and it’s a bastion of cabaret performance in a city where that music can sometimes feel like an embattled art form. As it happens, the club also puts out a weekly podcast featuring interviews with, and clips of live performances by, some of cabaret’s most exalted figures, including Ben Vereen, Barbara Carroll and Patti LuPone.
HOW WAS YOUR WEEK?
Julie Klausner likes to complain. And if you didn’t know that already, you certainly will after you listen to the author and comedian’s weekly, hour-long feature, How Was Your Week?, which New York Times comedy critic Jason Zinoman has called “one of the few essential podcasts.” Ms. Klausner delivers monologues, interviews and cultural critiques in an off-the-cuff manner that can sometimes feel kvetchy but is most often hilarious and just right.
Ask Roulette is hosted by Jody Avirgan, a producer for WNYC Radio, and the series first appeared on the Brian Lehrer Show. The premise of the podcast is simple: Strangers ask other strangers random questions before a live audience. There’s no way to know what question you’ll be asked or even the type of question that will be lobbed at you—hence the “Roulette” in the show’s title. Questions range from heavy (like “Is it immoral to have sex with your sibling, even if it’s mutual?”) to frivolous (for instance, “Have you ever licked an armpit?”).
THE BOWERY BOYS
Gregory Young and Thomas Meyers, hosts of The Bowery Boys, are not native New Yorkers, but they know more about the intricacies of the Big Apple than most would dream of. The subjects of recent episodes on this travel and history podcast include a look at the Great Blizzard of 1888 and an examination of the secret history of Herald Square. The Bowery Boys is delightfully old-fashioned without feeling recondite, like an episode of Car Talk without the car talk.
POETRY OFF THE SHELF
Curtis Fox, who has produced podcasts for The New Yorker and Parents magazine, hosts this weekly installment in association with The Poetry Foundation. Poetry Off the Shelf features interviews with authors, professors and, of course, poets. If you’re intimidated by poetry, this podcast might be for you: it’s short, easy to absorb and without a trace of highbrow didacticism. “Nothing is off limits,” reads the podcasts’s description, “and nobody is taken too seriously.”
ASK ME ANOTHER
This weekly, hour-long podcast is hosted by the writer and comedian Ophira Eisenberg—who tours regularly with The Moth—and it’s recorded live at the Bell House in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn with a rotating cast of guests. A whimsical game show, serious and playful, full of amusing trivia and word games and puzzles and homages to popular shows like Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, the show feels like Peter Sagal’s Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! recast for a younger audience. Ask Me Another refers to its question makers as “puzzle gurus,” some of whom have written for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The stakes, of course, are not as high on Ask Me Another, which is what makes the show so charming.
Have you ever thought that maybe Jack shouldn’t have sold the family cow for those magic beans? And when you think of Beauty and the Beast, do you imagine more than just the Disney movie? Also, how did Cinderella’s slipper fall off if it fit so well in the end? New York City producers Sophie Bushwick and Amy Kraft spend a lot of their time thinking about this stuff and discuss it on their monthly podcast, Tabled Fables, in which they investigate the history behind, the evolution of and the meaning to be found in fairy tales.
THE WORLD IN TIME
The legendary Lewis Lapham–former longtime editor of Harper’s and founder of Lapham’s Quarterly–hosts this podcast of social criticism and historical inquiry for Bloomberg News. Mr. Lapham has a deep voice, with a cadence not unlike Edward R. Murrow’s. This lends an appropriate air of seriousness to The World in Time, which takes on serious subjects–in a recent episode, Mr. Lapham discusses the philosophical significance of islands with author J. Edward Chamberlin. But don’t be intimidated: Mr. Lapham’s weekly, 20-minute podcast is both easily digestible and mentally nutritious.