11 Minnesota podcasts that are worth your time

“Podcasts? I guess I’m just not the kind of person who would listen to that. Who listens to those?”

That was the reaction one old-school media member made to me last year when I mentioned I was a fan of the fast-growing storytelling trend. Well, 39 million people listen to podcasts at last count, and for good reason: For the makers, there are no corporate media rules or pressure to please anyone but the maker and his/her vision; for listeners, it’s an exceptionally intimate experience, like getting a juicy letter from a curious friend that you can open and read at your convenience.

With the rise of such first-rate podcasts as “Serial,” “Best Show,” and “WTF With Mark Maron,” it’s time to shine a light on the Minnesota-made versions of these mostly DIY shows. Here’s 11 homegrown podcasts worth dialing up:

Joan Vorderbruggen, “Joan of Art.”

Indefatigable artist and organizer Vorderbruggen is the woman behind the public art mission Made Here and the Bob Dylan mural in downtown Minneapolis, but that’s old news. Her 12-episode-old “Joan of Art” finds Vorderbruggen using her skills as an interviewer and thinker to get at the heart of what makes artists tick, including her most recent chat with the Guerrilla Girls, which screams for a wider audience.  

Jason Fladagar, “The Fladcast.”

Eighty-two episodes in, this live-streaming gem (Fridays, 8 p.m.) faithfully documents that most underground of the underground music scenes – heavy jazz, funk, folk, jam bands and hippie-rock. Fladagar is co-founder of local jam-band institutions The Big Wu and God Johnson, and true to those roots, “The Fladcast” is a trippy treat, not to mention a good brew for homebodies who love bar bands but hate bars. 

Susan Berkson, “Fresh & Local Podcast”

Straight outta the Minneapolis Farmers Market, the warm, witty and seriously food-passionate Berkson riffs with guests on the fertile homegrown farm and foodie scene, to delicious results. And while “Fresh & Local” is a great example of the power of the podcast (“perfect for moms, food bloggers, foodies, gardeners, or aspiring chefs”), it wouldn’t sound out of place on the Good Neighbor

Levi Weinhagen, “Pratfalls of Parenting”

One hundred and forty-four episodes in, the affable Weinhagen uses his chops as a comedian, arts journalist and dad to make this Tuesday staple a freewheeling riff on local arts and kid-rearing that feels like a good hang with a buddy at the park as the kids romp. Listen in as Weinhagen pumps up the various local arts scenes, and compares parenting notes with writers, comics, playwrights, actors, musicians, and himself.    

Photo by Nate Ryan
Andrea Swensson
Andrea Swensson, “The O.K. Show”

If the first three episodes are any indication, this show is way more than OK, and we’re all the better for it. Swensson has made a name for herself at the Current as a great listener, tastemaker, reporter and local arts and music champion. This format allows her to dig much deeper. Her shows on suicide, cancer and mental health are investigative heart-and-soul journalism at its finest, and the show’s archives already provide a boatload of empathetic life and health information. A must-listen.

Krista Tippett, “On Being with Krista Tippett”

I’ve gushed about Tippett’s regularly revelatory work before, but it’s reached a much wider audience in podcast form, culminating in a 2013 National Humanities Medal “for thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence.” Upon bestowing the award, President Barack Obama noted, “On the air and in print, Ms. Tippett avoids easy answers, embracing complexity and inviting people of all faiths, no faith, and every background to join the conversation.”

Thanks, Obama: Tippett is a skilled listener and supremely curious commentator, and her daily dose of wisdom is highly recommended to seekers, spiritualists and survivors of all stripes.

Tommy Mischke, “The Mischke Road Show”

Hard to believe that maverick Mischke’s traveling circus is but a year-and-a-half old; his music- and sound-affects-flecked treks in and around St. Paul and Minneapolis and on to Kansas and Nashville have borne terrific yarns and newsworthy notes, and his recent greatest-hits package from his freewheeling nights at KSTP remind the faithful of his rare spoken-word talents and provide a promise of much more to come. Dude’s a poet, rocker, and writer of the first order, and we’re lucky to have him – now just a click away any time of the day or night.

Tom Barnard, “The Tom Barnard Show”

Kudos to the KQRS King for leading the podcast charge and setting up The Tom Barnard Network. This podcast is the kinder, more conversational version of Barnard, though one wishes it would more often stretch beyond the same drive-time snoozathon that is The KQ Morning Show. 

Stephanie Curtis and Euan Kerr, “Cube Critics”

Two of MPR’s surviving arts reporters share their passion for films and movie culture and help the rest of us navigate the weekly tsunami of titles. Highly listenable, entertaining and really smart. Get some. 

Sharon Stitler, “Birdchick”

The wonders of bird watching and travel, in one neat and nutty podcast. Stitler is funny and fanatical about all things birds, and her co-host, Non-Birding Bill, expands the show into snarky pop-culture commentary and helps achieve the show’s m.o.: “It’s unscripted, barely edited and quite often we are having a drink during the podcast. We aren’t trying to solve the world and we will flip flop on issues.”

Gene Oberpriller, Amber Dallman, and Patrick Stephenson, “Pedal Hub”

“Pedal Hub” has been on hiatus since the summer, when super producer, arts reporter and podcast champion Chris Roberts was laid off from MPR, but the archives are well worth a spin. This go-to listen for the fanatical Minnesota bicycling scene is co-hosted by “30 Days Of Biking“ founder Stephenson, and he and his crew’s passion for all things biking positively pops from the speakers. 

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Cynthia Bemis Abrams on 10/19/2015 - 12:47 pm.

    Storytelling

    I began producing a podcast in June about women in TV called Advanced TV Herstory. It’s available on iTunes. Over the past few years, I had found that in my leadership consulting and teaching, there are really good examples in TV. It’s a way for people to more rapidly connect to a lesson. And many of the challenges for people behind the camera are good stories of diligence, luck or guts. It’s even more so for TV series about women, like the challenges of getting the 80s hit “Cagney and Lacey” from concept to pilot. The show changed TV and the workplace for women, but it almost never saw the light of day. That’s a story worth telling. Thirteen installments of Advanced TV Herstory have been posted. My listener numbers are growing in such a way that I know it’s catching fire.

  2. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 10/19/2015 - 02:26 pm.

    Wrong About Everything Podcast – A fun, irreverent and bipartisan look at Minnesota politics. Most easily accessed through Facebook. Lots of inside jokes in this weekly podcast so you need to listen a few times to feel part of the flow. After that you will find it funny and informative.

  3. Submitted by Kevin Powers on 10/19/2015 - 04:30 pm.

    Mat Talk On Line

    Podcasts are also a great way to get in-depth information on subjects that don’t get much media coverage. Or for folks who can never have enough media coverage of their favorite passion. Twin Cities local Jason Bryant has tapped into this with his Mat Talk On Line podcast which covers the world of amateur wrestling. The primary focus is on college wrestling, but he also has wonderful interviews with folks who have wrestling connections, such as Minneapolis wrestling coach and artist Joe Burns (http://www.mattalkonline.com/podcast/short-time/st171-minneapolis-wrestling-coach-and-artist-joe-burns-is-canvassing-the-bakken-oil-fields/)

  4. Submitted by Ed Kohler on 10/19/2015 - 04:53 pm.

    Here are two more

    Theater of Public Policy: http://t2p2.net/podcasts/
    Streets.mn: http://streets.mn/category/podcast/

    Both should be findable by searching within your favorite podcast player.

  5. Submitted by Fred Turk on 10/20/2015 - 09:50 pm.

    One More for the List

    MPR Polycast is good.
    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/radio/podcasts/policast/

  6. Submitted by Ray Johnson on 07/20/2018 - 08:02 am.

    Time for an update!

    Deep North podcast- on dispelling myths of Minnesota nice for the urbane side of the cities http://deepnorthpodcast.com/

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