​10 podcasts to listen to if you’re suffering from serial withdrawal

Now that This American Life’s addictive sensation Serial is over, here are 10 other compelling podcasts to keep your commute entertaining.

by Courtney Iseman and Adam Fletcher
27 January 2015, 9:43am

Serial was so good that it's created a problem. It's left us in the lurch. Even those of us who once thought podcasts were best left for types like Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein's NPR lovers on Portlandia have become addicted to the easily digestible doses of spoken word. But our timing is perfect. Podcasts have really hit their stride, with a range of programming in interviews, sketches, stories and journalistic reports, covering everything from comedy to philosophy. So, until Serial returns, take the time to discover your next favourite podcasts.

The Moth
Established in 1997, The Moth has become a cult phenomenon. Live storytelling sessions draw curious crowds ready for intimate glimpses into the performers' lives. The podcast captures that intimacy as The Moth Radio Hour, compilations of three or four stories. The storytellers represent every walk of life: every career, culture, socio-economic background, age group. You might relate to stories of break-ups, loss, first love and job success, or you might learn something totally new in stories from World War II fighter pilots or Simon Doonan recanting his experience decorating the White House for Christmas. themoth.org

Comedy Bang! Bang!
For this hybrid interview-comedy podcast, comedian Scott Aukerman is joined by guests like Zach Galifianakis, Seth Rogen, Michael Cera, Nick Kroll, Bob Odenkirk, Amy Poehler and Sarah Silverman. Their Q&As are interrupted by addictively quirky sketch segments and parodies, like games of "would you rather?" and freestyle rap battles. The back-and-forth nature of the show can get a little manic, but in a fun, high-energy way, as if you were hanging out with a group of your friends a couple of drinks in - if your friends were all talented, brutally funny comedians. earwolf.com

Studio 360
Say you want to get caught up on everything going on in the world of pop culture, and you only have an hour to do it. And because you're really demanding, you'd also like to be thoroughly entertained in the process. Meet Studio 360. Each episode delves into issues that capture what's going on at that time, yet represent timeless themes in film, literature, music and art. Influencers talk about their own work or comment on other pieces and their effects on them. There have been thoughtful, unconventional interviews with the likes of Sean Lennon, Dolly Parton, Frank Gehry and Dave Eggers. studio360.org

Radiolab is formatted like a documentary, and through some genius work with interviews, narration, music and sound effects, you feel like you're watching it unfold. Each episode is like an expertly planned collage of sound bites that weaves together to create a fascinating story. The WNYC show covers experiences in science and philosophy with a behind-the-scenes take on interviews. Recent episodes have plunged into how words translate, the paranormal investigation of a man's house and the effect the findings had on that man, and a look at the "patient zero" figures and beginnings of typhoid, AIDS and Ebola. radiolab.org

BBC 4's Soul Music
Soul Music looks at how all music affects our souls. Even the most minor details of songs will become intriguing bits of story when you realise how much they affect us. The episodes are built from personal stories, whether one established figure in music reflects on a certain piece or several "normal people" share the connections they feel to a song. Marianne Faithfull recently talked about the song that inspired "Can't Help Falling in Love with You," and a few different people weighed in on why The Smith's "There is a Light That Never Goes Out" matters to them. bbc.co.uk/soulmusic

The Dinner Party Download
The Dinner Party Download makes you feel, quite literally, like you have been invited to a dinner party. DPD catches you up in the worlds of music, food, mixology, film, literature, art, history, travel and science. The show starts with small talk, or a lesser covered news bit from the week. That's followed by a cocktail recipe over a "this week in history" story, a playlist from someone like Conor Oberst, food talk from an expert, good conversation with various icons (think Betty Halbreich, Angelica Huston, Kevin Spacey, Jenny Slate), and listeners' etiquette questions answered - by the likes of Tenacious D or John Waters. dinnerpartydownload.org

Dear Sugar
If the film adaptation of Wild may got you nostalgic for Cheryl Strayed and her Dear Sugar column, you're in luck. She and the creator of the "Sugar" pseudonym, her predecessor, Steve Almond, are back with a podcast. Strayed and Almond are the family members everyone wishes they had for guidance: kind, understanding and never judgmental, but brutally honest and there with a dose of tough love. Dear Sugar is only two episodes in, but has already touched on dealing with your parent's infidelity, whether you can settle for an S.O. who's not as smart as you, and painkiller addiction. wbur.org

Modern Art Notes
Modern Art Notes, or MAN, is an extension of Tyler Green's acclaimed art blog by the same name. Green has all the pedigree you'd want from your art expert, especially if you've only got about an hour a week to catch up on the intricate world of art. His podcast is engaging and accessible - this is the friend you're missing who's clued in on all of the Next Big Thing artists, art history, conservation, and beyond. Recent interviews have included artists Kianja Strobert and Dario Robleto and curators Jenny Watts and Rebecca Morse. manpodcast.com

Planet Money
We all want to understand what's going on in the world of money - it is money, after all. But for some reason, every radio program or article on finance seems to get textbook-dry fast. In comes Planet Money with relatable, engaging doses of finance and economics that will have you effortlessly understanding even more complex topics, to the point of even being intrigued by them - topics like the gold standard and inflation. The show tackles issues that tie together the financial crisis, economic history, and how it all affects us on an everyday basis. npr.org

Love and Radio
Love and Radio is compared to classic This American Life, but, as the podcast's own creators point out, it's one of the few heavy hitters with an explicit warning. Love and Radio takes deeper looks at what's going on in our society and world, but through more human lenses that highlight how certain events affect us. Comprised of strung-together stories and interviews, it's not afraid to take on grittier topics or take more irreverent stands on certain issues. You'll hear about the struggle in Ukraine from unexpected perspectives just as you'll hear more humorous takes on topics like online dating. loveandradio.org


Text Courtney Iseman
Photography Will Folsom

Comedy Bang Bang
dear sugar
bbc 4’s soul music
best podcasts
love and radio
modern art notes
planet money
studio 360
the dinner party download
the moth