Brooklyn is a cold hell right about now. If you aren’t freezing in your office, freezing on your way to the coffee shop for the fifth time today, or freezing on the train, you’re probably freezing under the covers of your apartment. You would think that being inside would keep you safe from the frigid conditions. But the heat doesn’t work, the hot water isn’t coming on and the super cold air is leaking through your old and useless windows.
Here’s a suggestion: instead of binge watching all of Gilmore Girls for the ninth time, delve into the best podcasts the city have to offer. Sure, you know about Serial and Radiolab already, but we’ve picked the 10 best podcasts that will help you learn about food, crime, tech, bartender pranks and why you should drink a beer in the shower. They’re all free to download, and made right here in Brooklyn and NYC. They’ll help you get through this cold week or make your commute any time a little more entertaining.
NYC-based food historian and early Food Network writer and producer Linda Pelaccio is someone who has learned quite a lot about the history of food. In her podcast, part of the Bushwick-based Heritage Podcast Network, she releases a new episode every week going into a different part of culinary history. Recent episodes have had her talk about the food history of Chicago and the history of Christmas sweets (such as gingerbread houses). A recent episode dedicated to the food of NYC gets into how “New York also has pioneered solutions to complex issues, from launching farmers’ markets and tilling urban gardens.”
Knowing the history of the place you’re living is a good way to distinguish yourself from other recent transplants who just moved here for the abundance of condo housing. So if you, like many other folks who arrive here by the truckload every day, are new to New York City, it’s a good move to learn a little bit about the history of the place you’ve chosen to call home. Look no further than The Bowery Boys, two men who talk, in detail, about the events and people that helped shaped the history of New York City.
The Bowery Boys are the grandpappys of New York City history podcasts, and they are the keeper to many of the city’s fascinating secrets. Listen in to some of their 175 episodes to learn about how Park Slope went from battleground of the Revolutionary War to gentrification central, how BAM was borne out of a Manhattan-Brooklyn rivalry and the pirates that once attacked Rockaway beach.
Long distance relationships can be tough, long distance friendships can be tougher, because the latter consist of people you actually like talking to. What’s great about the conversations between digital strategist Aminatou Sow, formerly a Brooklyn resident now out West, and West Coast-based writer and editor Ann Friedman, who you may know from her brilliant pie charts, is that their conversations are so much like the ones we have with our brunchmates (or the ones we had before they move, at least).
Their conversations switch from the Benghazi hearings to Drake, Taylor Swift to belly button pleasures. Yes, we know you’re intrigued.
Lying there, swallowed up in your comforter, you’re 10-25 freezing cold steps away from either your mailbox or your living room table so you can get your New Yorker (or, if we’re being honest, your friend’s New Yorker once they’re done reading it).
Now, there’s no reason to make that journey: you can listen to the new The New Yorker Radio Hour, hosted by the editor in chief himself David Remnick. It features interviews with people like Serial host Sarah Koenig and Sofia Coppola and has features from your favorite New Yorker writers. They even found a way to put cartoons on the radio.
The podcast formerly known as New Tech City gave itself a makeover at the end of last year. Not too much of a makeover though: it still covers the human side of technology, making it accessible to the average person whose understanding of science begins and ends with Dexter’s Laboratory. The new name Note to Self just fits better with host Manoush Zomorodi’s desire to question everything about the Internet and ourselves. Notable episodes include dissecting the addictive subway game Two Dots and an explanation of why you should actually listen to your voicemail.
There is no crime like New York City crime. For some reason or another, it really seems like crimes that can happen anywhere else are just a little weirder here. This podcast is not for anyone who is easily offended, because Pat Dixon and guests including local comedians and writers make fun of some of the weirdest and most brutal crimes that happen in NYC week to week, ripped straight from the pages of the New York Post. To appeal to the sadist side of yourself, this will keep you laughing so much, you may forget how cold it is.
Brooklyn podcasting company Gimlet Media doesn’t have a bad show in its ever-growing catalogue. Our favorite, however, is Reply All, which has hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman talking about all things the internet. That description makes it sound like a tech show, but we find it to be a very personal show, about interesting people and the lives they find themselves in. It’s more like a tech version of This American Life.
Brooklyn comedian Katharine Heller was a bartender for eight years in NYC, so she has heard her fair amount of stories: Funny ones, messed up ones and ones that are hard to describe. Her time as a bartender that made her fall in love with storytelling. She has 75 episodes of people sharing their best stories about life, love and all the messed up stuff in-between. Check out the episode that talks about the time she pranked Smith Street bar Camp by having 20 adults in full camping gear show up.
Like A Taste of The Past, The Sporkful is about food. But this isn’t really a history of food podcast, and that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. Host Dan Pashman’s episodes can range from telling you how the way you make and eat your favorite foods is wrong, to chats with celebrities and personalities whose love of food makes up a lot of their personalities and careers.
This show balances both the serious and the comedic. Each episode feels fresh and not too formulaic, so you won’t get bored of this while you’re keeping warm or inspired to use the oven for more than heating up your apartment. We particularly appreciate The Sporkful’s advocacy of drinking a beer in the shower.
In one of our favorite moments during Louie season 4, Louis C.K hangs out with a bunch of comedians as Todd Barry goes into a story about a great day in his life. It is both funny and incredibly sad, but it’s also so well told. So it’s obvious that Todd Barry should have his own podcast, so that he can share more of his stories as an NYC comedian and talk to his comedian friends about their lives and careers.
There are so many comedy podcasts (we’re sure you’re subscribed to WTF already), but if you want something new, we can recommend no comedy podcast higher than Barry’s. He talks with local faves like Eugene Mirman and Jen Kirkman plus musicians like Mates of State and Neko Case.
What’s your favorite Brooklyn and NYC-based podcast? Tell us in the comments!
Follow Chris, who chooses a theme every week and brings you different kinds of stories on that theme: @ChrisLInoa.