6 Storytelling Podcasts So Good You’ll Forget About TV
July 8, 2018
Do you like TV? How about pizza, air, and happiness? Oh really – you do? How odd that we are so similar!
Now, do you like TV but would be open to substituting your TV watching habit with storytelling podcasts to free up some time in your day? Working mom with a long commute and minimal time for entertainment? Read on for time saving tips and podcast recommendations!
Cutting the Cord
I absolutely love a great story and through the years have found many “suck you right in” type stories on TV. I love the escapism of a drama, the wit of a comedy, and the educational value of a documentary. But my non animated television watching has declined significantly since donning my mom hat, by necessity and by choice.
With all the great television out there, I know that I could do some more enjoyable channel surfing at night after the kids go to bed. And I’ve certainly done some Netflixing, but often that evening time is when I’m tip tapping away on my laptop weaving together my own story lines. As a result my DVR has been rendered quite useless and my cable bill is an obnoxious reminder once a month that I should really cut that fiber optic umbilical cord.
Owning My Choices
Over the past year I’ve realized that even though I’m a working mom I actually do have time in my day for a passion project like this blog. But just like I tell my kids, I needed to own my choices. If I wanted the time to write, I needed to make the time. I wanted to make the time by eliminating cleaning and laundry, but TV was the more responsible/realistic cut back. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a couple hours an evening.
So I write my own stories now instead of watching them, but I do miss hearing stories that don’t come from my brain or include talking trains or mischievous ducks. To fill the storyhearing gap in my life, I take my stories on the go and turned to podcasts on my commute into work. I try to follow the 20 minutes of quiet rule in the morning, but my brain only contains so many original thoughts and I have a lot of time to fill, I need my stories.
If you’re considering diving into the podcast world to take your stories on the go, or are already totally on board and need some more recommendations, here are six storytelling podcasts that I’m low key obsessed with. There’s a little something for everyone to satisfy that story craving.
6 Can’t Miss Storytelling Podcasts
Modern Love on NPR is a podcast spin off of the Modern Love column in the New York Times. These real life stories center around three key themes – “love, loss, and redemption.” Each episode follows the tale of a love story – unrequited love, family love, not quite love, friendship love, romantic love, and love you so much it hurts love. A Rom Com, with way more nuance.
On the podcast, famous actors read the Modern Love essays and then they close out the show with their thoughts on why it resonated with them. You also get to hear from the writer him or herself, which is probably my favorite part. It’s like closure with a capital C after a real whirlwind of a story.
Some of my favorites include “Boy, What A Fabulous Baker,” “Seeing the World Through My Wife’s Eyes,” and “To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This.”
Time per episode: Under a half hour
The Moth is a fantastic storytelling podcast composed completely of live storytelling sessions on stage. Like a poetry slam, but for 15 minute stories. There is a considerable range of true stories in the episodes, including a moving Blue Man Group performance, neuroscience and sociopaths, and Rachel Dratch’s bad dating experience. In fact, that’s all included in one single episode!
Try this one if you like Ted Talks and stand up comedy.
Time per episode: 1 hour
Have you seen any 30 for 30 ESPN documentaries? They are fascinating. And the 30 for 30 podcast manages to do all of the things the documentaries do but without the visuals. These sports stories are so well done that I honestly don’t miss the TV part at all.
In the first and second seasons each podcast episode was standalone and focused on stories like how the UFC came to be, the fight over hosting night games at Wrigley field, the creation of the Madden video game, and activism in the NBA. Through interviews with players, coaches, fans, and the media, the podcast brings all of these stories to life and takes you behind the scenes of the business of sports.
Season three is a five part series on Bikram Yoga and the man behind the movement. It is full of history, great achievement, and deception. There are parts that are fascinating but also painfully unsettling. There is so much about the man who created Bikram Yoga that I never knew. If you want to dig deep with this podcast, check out season three.
Time per episode: Under 1 hour
Confession: I fell asleep watching Star Wars. I’ve never actually seen the whole thing. And I’m not talking about the whole thing like the series. I mean the first movie, or any of it’s predecessors. I’ve also never read or watched Harry Potter, much to the chagrin of my entire generation.
The truth of the matter is I just don’t love story lines that don’t feel real to me. Futuristic or magical stories don’t jive with my natural gravitation towards “OMG that really happened!”
BUT, and it’s a big but, I love Justin Hasting’s 2 Minute Stories podcast. Most of his 2 minute stories have a futuristic bent towards them as they picture a world in which something drastic has shifted and people are learning to adjust to their new normal. So if you like the futuristic genre, or even if you don’t, I really recommend checking out 2 Minute Stories. And you literally just need 2 minutes. We all have 2 minutes.
Time per episode: Well, that feels insulting.
What I find particularly satisfying about a good television show is establishing a connection with the characters. They become more nuanced with each plot twist, you get to know their imperfections, you welcome that their story doesn’t mechanically arch but instead moves more naturally like life. And that’s what you’ll find in Mnemonic.
Ryan Tressel gives listeners the gift of peering into his past and then snapping back to the present all the while creating the connections that tie together a life. It’s deeply personal and doesn’t hold back the details. I’ve talked about Mnemonic before when it just had one season, and now that it has two seasons under its belt it’s high time to get more fans on the bandwagon. I’ve drawn inspiration from Ryan for my own writing, particularly pulling in memories of childhood and connecting them to lessons I’ve learned as a parent.
If you wish your television had a little more real and a little less “reality” then give Mnemoic a listen.
Time per episode: Under 20 minutes
Excuse me while I nerd out over This American Life.
Another NPR gem, This American Life is exactly what it sounds like – stories of real people living their real American lives. There are stories about love, death, racial injustice, the inner workings of politics, family secrets, sexual harassment, and our education system.
Every episode is focused on a theme and usually includes multiple stories told from personal perspectives. Not every story is wrapped up in a neat bow, because that’s not how life always works. But you do get the opportunity to put yourself in someone else’s shoes for 20 minutes to an hour and try to see how they experience this American life in a way that may vary greatly from your own.
Come for the documentary style storytelling, stay for the emotional roller coaster.
Time per episode: 1 hour
Happy Podcast Listening!
So I know with this list of podcast recommendations it seems like I just filled your queue with more entertainment, which could leave you less time for YOUR passion project.
BUT, think of this like subbing out lettuce for a burger bun. No, that’s ridiculous. Wheat bun for a white bun. You’re satisfying the story craving while also walking/running/driving, and saving some time calories.
So get to podcast listening, and to getting more time back in your day. Whether you’re pursuing a hobby, working on a side hustle, or tackling an exciting work project, we could all use a little more time to do what we love.
With 7 more podcasts that I didn’t even list because this post was getting obnoxiously long,
P.S. Want help figuring out what new project you may want to pursue with your extra time? Check out the 100 Jobs Exercise.
P.P.S. For some great professional development podcasts check out this post.
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