Do you often find yourself in a pickle with nothing interesting to say? These three podcasts should give you something to talk about with friends and strangers at the odd gathering. Recommendations by ANDY HUANG.
*Interlude* A Short Note From A Sad Adult
We all love a good story. We love to tell them because they make dinner conversations a little less dull. (This is a lie. It’s because the alternative is silence, which is awkward, and that makes a lot of people uncomfortable). We also love to hear about the insane incredible things people do because we get to experience them vicariously, without all the, y’know, serious consequences and risks. And, if you’d rather avoid all kinds of tedious social interaction, podcasts are a fun way to pass the time.
Love + Radio: Jack and Ellen
Broadcast: February 21, 2013
If podcasts were people, Love + Radio would undoubtedly be that too-cool indie kid with an explicit tag. Created by Nick van der Kolk, the podcast features a curious selection of stories you’re unlikely to hear on mainstream radio. From conversations with balloon porn artists to stay-at-home strip club owners who hold their interviewers at gunpoint, Love + Radio is definitely one that’s NSFW. Not to be listened to with your mum.
[SPOILER ALERT] This episode is about Ellen who pretends to be a fifteen-year-old boy called Jack. You’d think taking life advice from a message board called “Bad Ideas” would be, well, bad, right? Well, not for Ellen. Ellen was working as everybody’s beloved Subway sandwich artist, but she still struggled with money. Enter Google, a bad idea and Jack. What she wound up doing is not only illegal, but also morally and ethically questionable – her story is compelling, and the episode won a Best Documentary: Honourable Mention at Third Coast International Audio Festival 2013 (which is like, the Sundance of radio. Third Coast also has its own excellent podcast).
UnFictional: One Moment Changes Everything
Broadcast: November 23, 2013
UnFictional is a half-hour program that brings you captivating real life stories, covering topics as pedestrian as the nice people who live across the street. You’ll enjoy this podcast if you like This American Life (sorry, but c’mon, the comparison was inevitable), but are short on time (read: have a short attention span).
This episode is all about drastic changes. These days Terry and George stick with fishing, and they have plenty of fishy tales. In ‘One Moment Changes Everything,’ we also hear about One Time who went from an existence running from the cops and climbing rooftops, to being a suburban dad, when he got the shock of a lifetime.
The Truth: Eat Cake
Broadcast: February 14, 2012
If you weren’t aware, The Truth is fictional, unlike UnFictional, which is true. Each episode is a short radio play – running 10-15 minutes – but not like the old timey kind that comes to mind. This is more like Tropfest for your ears, and it’s one of the best audio-dramas out there – named iTunes’ Best New Arts Podcast in 2012.
‘Eat Cake’ is one of my all-time favourite episodes, because there’s nothing cuter than the specific plotline of, “When a stranger calls on Valentine’s day.” Every Valentine’s, Elizabeth bakes a cake. Not just any cake, a coconut cake. The phone rings. It’s Brian. Brian is a man who calls strangers, whose names or numbers he picks out of the phone book. Will he murder her, or not? Why (not)?
 ‘The Couple in 303’ is a great episode that will confirm all those paranoid fears that your neighbours are fugitives/murderers/dangerous people in hiding.