Podcasts to make you laugh, make you smarter, and make your day.

Last spring, I started a love/hate relationship with a local radio station. I really love the music selection it plays, and I really…dislike…the DJ who plays it. Though this seems like a trivial matter, it’s actually quite personal. Last spring my high school theater program was awarded a national grant to use for production expenses. It was a big deal, and we got a lot of local press coverage as we were one of 50 schools selected from over 1000 applicants, and the only Minnesota school selected. Unfortunately, mixed in with that coverage was this particular local radio station that decided to turn the award into the butt of a joke on their morning show. As part of their “schtick,” they suggested that I was spending the money, in part, to advocate for the arts by sending around a performer to speak on the air. And then said “performer” (in reality the DJ with a horrendous British accent) came on air to perform “Shakespeare” (in reality a dramatic reading of the back of a Clorox wipes container).

I consider myself someone who can take a joke, and maybe it just caught me in a bad mood on a bad day, but it felt a bit underhanded. I mean, it wasn’t a particularly funny or clever bit as it was, but to attach my school’s name to it, especially at a moment where we were celebrating a big win for our fine arts program, just seemed asinine. So I emailed the radio station.

There were people who told me afterwards that I was throwing gas on the fire, but I stand by my decision. There are absolutely things worth fighting for! And for as incredulous as I was about the fact they had run the bit, I think my response was very measured and professional. I introduced myself and explained that I had heard the piece that morning. I suggested that it was too bad they felt the need to joke about arts advocacy when I would have been more than happy to have a real conversation about arts advocacy with them. I offered to answer any questions they had about what we really planned to do with the grant money.

I did not get a response.

The very next day, however, a friend snapchatted me on her commute with the radio on in the background as the DJ played a “follow-up interview” with the “arts advocate,” and he read the back of some other banal household product.

So, I guess I did get a response. A big F YOU!

I had people tell me that I should organize a group to go picket outside the station. I had people offer to send follow-up letters to the DJ and station manager. I had people counseling me to keep my mouth shut as I obviously was just provoking them further. I’m 100% positive that the radio station does not care that it lost me as a listener that day, but that was how I did, in fact, respond. Boycott. And two months ago when I learned that the DJ had switched over to another station, I started boycotting it too. It’s probably stupid as I cut out two great music options for my morning commute, but it’s the principle of the thing!

To avoid the radio altogether during my morning drive, I started listening to podcasts. I’ve been an on again off again podcast listener since college, often getting sucked into a podcast trend, only to eventually return to music and audiobooks to fill my drive time. The circumstances of my radio boycott led me back to my oft neglected podcast app to look for new morning drive material, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the extent and availability of offerings, even on the free Apple podcast app, had grown exponentially since my dabbling college days. Almost everything I picked from their recommended listens list was good, and some of them were down right awesome. It made my radio boycott downright easy!

If you’ve been a podcast listener for a while, you might be thinking: “That’s right! It’s about time you came around.” If you’re not a podcast listener, you might be thinking: “I don’t know. I’ve never been a fan.” Either way, I encourage you to check out the following podcasts. I’ve sorted them out by reasons you might like reading ink., but feel free to hop through the list to see what might fit for you. And if you have a recommendation for a new one for me to try, drop it in the comments!

ink. (1)

If you’re here for the random Bachelor/Bachelorette commentary: 

Off the Vine with Kaitlyn Bristowe – You don’t have to admit it to me or anybody else, but I know I’m not the only one who considers The Bachelor or The Bachelorette my guilty pleasure. If that’s you, there’s a podcast to tide you over during this downtime before Colton’s season starts this winter. If you’re not excited for Colton to be the Bachelor, this podcast is for you as well. Former bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe narrates two weekly conversations during which she, “answers your questions, drinks to your confessions, and dishes on all things Bachelor.” She generally has a co-host, either a friend of hers, celebrity, or expert in a field that adds to a colorful commentary on a weekly topic. They…are…hilarious! I Routinely laugh out loud driving to work to this podcast. The episode with Arielle Vandenberg is particularly laugh worthy if you’re looking for a place to start!

If you’re here for the stories about girlfriends and wine: 

Lady Gang – Hosted by Keltie Knight, Becca Tobin, and Jac Vanek, Lady Gang isn’t exactly a groundbreaking podcast pick. It was podcast of the year in 2016, and spent 78 weeks in the Apple download top 100 list, so if you’re an avid podcast listener and a millennial woman, you’ve likely stumbled on Lady Gang already. If you think you recognize those names but can’t place them, think Entertainment Tonight, Glee, and fashion week. These ladies have sass and a lot of Hollywood insider experience, and their podcast embodies both. Their #asktheladygang segment is a classic, and their stories are surprisingly relatable and endearing for three women who live been in the thick of the LA elite. Lady Gang was recently picked up to be turned into a television series based on the show, so if you’re the kind of person who would read the book before seeing the movie, you might consider listening to the podcast before it hits the small screen!

If you’re here for the recipes:

Gastropod – This podcast was only recently recommended to me, and it’s consumed a lot of my drive time since then. Gastropod is a food based podcast that explores your favorite dishes through the lens of history and science. From the history of Jell-O, to the truth about why saffron is the most expensive spice, to the inside story of the avocado industry, Gastropod holds the magnifying glass to the most beloved tasty treats, revealing the inside scoop on why we eat what we eat how we eat it. Looking for a good place to start? Either try an episode about your favorite food, or I’d recommend the one about how pastas gets their shapes.

If you’re here for the self-love and life commentary:

The London Real – Brian Rose, a mechanical engineer from MIT and a successful investment banker, host the London Real, a weekly talk show in which he interviews the best and brightest minds from around the world. Founded on the principles of honesty, vulnerability, empowerment, and transformation, the London Real strives for conversations about betterment, success, personal growth, and reaching your full potential. The London Real has become so popular, that it’s grown into an international brand with a TV network and a self empowerment academy, and produced three full length documentaries. They’ve also inspired a number of Ted talks.

If you’re here to learn something:

Making Obama and/or Making Oprah – WBEZ Chicago produced two excellent podcasts about two of their hometown superstars, and they are both hyper interesting. This the story behind the story that you may already know. Obama was criticized in his election cycles for being a “community organizer,” but what did that really mean on the south side of Chicago where he was working? Before Oprah had a media megacorp, she struggled just to get ratings and crawl her way out of the heap of daytime trash TV. Packed with interviews from the people who knew them when, the people who know them now, and the subjects themselves, the “Making…” podcasts are fascinating looks at the creation of two of America’s most recognizable, and at times polarizing, personalities.

What other titles should I be checking out? Let me know in the comments.


Published by Kate

A former Wisconsinite, Kate now resides in southeast Minnesota with her husband where she teaches high school English and theater. She recently completed her master's degree in learning design and technology, and continues to study and advocate for arts integration in the classroom. A recipient of the RISE America grant for high school theater, Kate is working to innovate and expand theater opportunities for the students at PIHS. An avid distance runner, concert pianist, and want-to-be wine aficionado, Kate's blog "ink." is a passion project, embodying all the best parts of life: friends, food, wine, thoughtful conversation, style, and sass!

4 thoughts on “Podcasts to make you laugh, make you smarter, and make your day.

  1. KCRW “Left, Right and Center.” A weekly look at current new, issues and politics from differing viewpoints. Good discussions. “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.” A comedic game show of sorts with guest contestants. It lampoons the news of the week and also has call in contestants. Each week they have an eclectic array of guests whom they interview then compete for a listener. Makes me laugh every week.


  2. Love this one! I love Off the Vine, one of my favorites. I’ve started Wine For Normal People recently – it’s making me like wine even more!


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