Because you commute on the daily, because road trip season is in full swing, and because you can’t always listen to Chance the Rapper, we bring you:
The 15 best Chicago-made podcasts for your inquisitive listening pleasure.
Between a fully improvised comedy podcast from a strange and distant otherworld, to the very best question-and-answer show about Chicago you’ll ever hear, these are the audibles to turn on when you’ve got time to kill.
Our roundup includes podcasts and radio shows that are strictly Chicago-based. An important distinction. Hence, you won’t find programs like This American Life or Serial, which may be produced by WBEZ Chicago, but do not tape here.
As for the shows below: some you’ll know. Some you won’t. All of them you’ll enjoy.
A Lot You Got to Holler
We live in one of the country’s great architectural cities, and Newcity Design Editor Ben Schulman and co-host and architecture journalist Zach Mortice provide a survey of urbanism and design only few rival. Past episodes include the two trading wherewithal on everything from Chicago’s cinematic history to the plight of the Cabrini-Green housing projects.
Rather than searching for the latest and greatest, The Distance is the self-described guide to the “longevity in business,” covering companies that have been in business for at least 25 years. On a bi-weekly basis, you’ll get the stories behind the quirkiest, longest-standing businesses in Chicago and beyond.
Bad At Sports
A fixture in the city’s arts world, Bad At Sports is a weekly podcast dedicated to making sense of the contemporary art world through conversations with established and lesser-known artists, writers, curators and thinkers. It’s thought-provoking, diverse and the best way to keep tabs on the art industry.
Recommended Listening: Episode 61: Kerry James Marshall
A hilarious and delightful podcast on friendship from Cards of Humanity's Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano. You provide ears, and every week they provide tips on theme, from rebuilding relationships with an ex, to can men and women really be friends in 2016?
Recommened Listening: Friendship With Exes
Hello From the Magic Tavern
A fully improvised comedy podcast from three longtime players in Chicago’s improv scene, Hello ... follows the misadventures of a guy who fell through a dimensional portal behind a Burger King to find himself in the fantastical world known as Foon. It’s the outball breakout show of 2015 and and co-signed by Cards Against Humanity co-creator Max Temkin. Start from the beginning and just go with it.
When WBEZ cancelled Chewing the Fat, the airwaves lost a fantastic podcast on food and health from Chicago Tribune dining reporter Louisa Chu and WBEZ food writer Monica Eng. But now, having dropped “the fat,” the city’s most amiable, unpretentious food nerds are back and persist as a must-listen for anyone hungry for discussions on deliciousness.
The Axe Files
Who better to unpack the absolutely bonkers world of politics than David Axelrod? Through interviews with political leadership, the former senior advisor to President Obama and founder and director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago provides whip-smart analysis on the state of our union. Thoughtful. Insightful. Nonpartisan. A voice you’ll want as the election draws nigh.
Good Beer Hunting
The craft beer world is all of a sudden a big one. And we’ll argue that there is no better authority on its inner workings than Michael Kiser and his merry band of drinkers at Good Beer Hunting. Kiser’s knowledgeable. A devoted insider. And his GBH podcast provides the stories behind the industry’s most respected brewers and labels through informative interviews and frank discussions on where beer has been, and where it’s going.
Recommended Listening: EP-045: Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head
The Barber Shop Show
Recorded live from Carter’s Barbershop in North Lawndale, the Barber Shop Show invites local thinkers and community organizers to discuss the week that was. It’s relaxed and lively, not unlike what you’d expect from a South Side barber shop roundtable. Host Richard Steele also happens to have the voice of a demigod. Also of note: it’s produced by Ayana Contreras, who hosts another of our favorite shows: Reclaimed Soul.
How To Do Everything
From the producers of Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!, a podcast that’ll help you do, well … everything. The world is filled with questions — many of which you’ve probably never considered — and Ian Chilliag and Mike Danforth have made it their jobs to answer all of ‘em, no matter how large, or small they may be.
Recommended Listening: Episode 239: The Interminator
Each week music critics Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis walk you through the best in new music with reviews, interviews and in-studio performances. It’s no secret that the secret to Sound Opinions is Kot and DeRogatis’ musical knowledge base, which runs deeper than the bass on a Frankie Knuckles track.
Recommended Listening: Show 556: Moby & Opinions on The Julie Ruin
Food Journalist Steve “the Hungry Hound” Dolinsky and hometown toque Rick Bayless have each won a James Beard award. They also nabbed one together when their food-obsessed podcast The Feed brought home the award for Best Food Podcast at this year’s awards. Basically, you’re tuning in to two industry vets covering food scenes in Chicago and elsewhere, with notes on recipes, travel and more.
Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me!
This long-running news quiz show is the stuff of legend. Whoever thinks that keeping up with current events is a mercilessly dry endeavor would do well in adding Wait Wait to their weekly routine.
Recommended Listening: The latest
Geekdom can sure be cool, especially when you’re listening to Tricia Bodega and Greta Johnson, the duo behind the popular podcast that celebrates all forms of nerdery — which means everything from television, movie, books or whatever their guests are into that week.
You send your question about Chicago to Curious City, and they will answer it. It’s easily one of the best resources around, tackling all the questions you may have every asked yourself about our fair city, from the mundane to the downright strange. A civic gem of a podcast.
For more locally based podcasts, we suggest you check out the Chicago Podcast Cooperative.