I’m a podcast fanatic. And if you are also addicted to podcasts—and I’m telling you that if you’re not hooked on podcasts, someone amongst your friends and family is—you know that podcast fiends talk about their favorite ‘casts with the same kind of fervor that Trekkies talk about Star Trek or Star Wars fans talk about the latest film in the franchise. Moreover, I’ve heard friends defend their favorite podcasts with the kind of passion that is usually reserved for religion, politics, or the Saints offense.
Podcasts, a lot of the time, seem to be a process of discovery.
The podcast multiverse serves up all kinds of subjects, focuses, and critical angles. Some hosts and guests ramble for hours, stories unspooling into an endless digital archive of sound; other hosts and guests subscribe to a thesis-driven meeting of minds; some attempt to solve mysteries; other podcasts tell us about something we should know but don’t yet grasp. Podcasts, a lot of the time, seem to be a process of discovery.
Of course, not all podcasts are good (I’ve tried out many that aren’t very compelling at all), but the best podcasts pull us in. We hear and warm to the host’s voice; we are exposed to their interior lives on some sort of regular basis, which creates a sense of familiarity even if it is just imagined; we incorporate them into our routine: driving to work, working out, cleaning the house. For some of us, podcasts are the soundtracks to parts of our lives, and they’re a major source of information about the contemporary world around us. That’s why we have thought about the intersection of New Orleans and podcasts.
Whether you live in New Orleans or you’re coming here to visit, podcasts are a wonderful way to learn more about the city; also, podcasts are a great form to stay connected to the city all year long.
Here’s a list of locally produced podcasts as well as some specific podcast episodes about New Orleans.
Local New Orleans Podcasts
Produced by the beloved WWOZ, New Orleans Calling tells the stories of New Orleanians and the music of this city with the help of seasoned host George Ingmire. And while it’s technically not a podcast in the traditional sense, it’s available for streaming at any time on their website. Recent episodes include a two-part series on local boogie-woogie piano player, Champion Jack Dupree, an episode on the great drummer, Johnny Vidacovich, and a profile of the Grammy-nominated Hot 8 Brass Band.
WWNO’s All Things New Orleans is a weekly, 30-minute podcast that shifts from the quirky cultural corners of this city to the news and politics of New Orleans and Southern Louisiana. This one shouldn’t be missed if you’re keen on gleaning a greater understanding of the city.
This is a network of podcasts that covers a range of subjects, from death to Vietnamese food to the city’s sports teams, both professional and amateur. A few favorites include Out to Lunch, a weekly podcast that is recorded at Commander’s Palace and is hosted by economist and Tulane finance professor Peter Ricchiuti. (The guests are members of New Orleans’ “business renaissance.”)
In a similar vein of combing fine food and drink with interesting guests, Happy Hour, hosted by New Zealand ex-pat Grant Morris, takes place at Wayfare on Freret Street and consists of “folks who have nothing in common” apart from being “New Orleanians in a bar.”
Milo’s Music Parlor consists of an ogling conversation between host Kim Vu (“President and Janitor” of Milo Records) and musicians—both young and old, famous and lesser-known—who are part of the New Orleans soundscape.
Local psychiatrist Dr. Nick Pejic hosts MINDSET, a show whose latest guest was local marijuana activist John Sinclair, a man who was given a ten-year sentence for providing free recreational drugs to others (John Lennon eventually helped get Sinclair out of jail). Dr. Pejic uses his professional training to open up thoughtful and free-flowing conversation. Also, there are a number of other options from It’s New Orleans that you can check out here.
This monthly podcast that pulls from the RadioNOLA show of the same name, engaging with cultural happenings for both a Francophone and non-French speaking audience. (And if you’re an intermediate French speaker, this is a great way to challenge yourself.)
The THNOC podcast gives an insight into the museum and research center that is charged with preserving the cultural artifacts of this city. Each podcast features curators talking about the collections exhibits and programs.
Released in weekly segments leading up to the city’s tricentennial in 2018, this podcast from WWNO focuses on New Orleans’ history, honing in on a micro event or subject in each episode. In particular, the series leans toward what it calls “lost and neglected stories” (like kidnappings from 146 years ago or a profile on Eliza Jane Nicholson, the first female publisher of a major metropolitan newspaper).
We’re kind of into our food around here, and it’s a topic host Poppy Tooker explores with gusto in the weekly series Louisiana Eats! Though Creole and Cajun elements abound, Tooker doesn’t limit herself to those hallmark Louisiana flavors. For instance, learn about the importance of Juneteenth (first celebrated on June 19, 1865) during a tour at the Whitney Slavery Museum, or explore Nordic culinary traditions with a cameo from famed chef Magnus Nilsson.
Podcasts With Episodes about New Orleans
Produced at the WNYC Studios and hosted by talented Anna Sale, Death, Sex & Money has become one of the podcast world’s most beloved stars. Less than a year ago Death, Sex & Money produced a run of five episodes that focused on five dynamic New Orleanians ten years after Hurricane Katrina changed their lives: Terri Coleman talks about her life and the city in the months after the storm and reflects on her own personal growth and career today teaching at Dillard University; businesswoman Simone Bruni talks about the transition from working in hospitality to running her own demolition company; local legend Big Freedia opens up about her place in the city and its unique Bounce music; Dr. Kiersta Kurtz-Burke reflects on her time at Charity Hospital and her love for her adopted home; and Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse details the demands of his job and how he went from a life in academia to being elected into one of the city’s most important jobs.
Start with the episode on Terri Coleman and proceed from there.
I don’t like to end on a creepier note, but the following podcasts are a couple of classics that give us insight into a particular moment in New Orleans history: the great Stuff You Missed In History Class podcast team dedicated a two-part series to the “Axman of New Orleans.” In the early 20th century there was a set of murders in the city that terrified the populous and caught the imagination of the contemporary media. The “Stuff” team does an excellent job of presenting what might have led to those gruesome crimes and the paranoia that followed. This, in particular, is an exceptional example of what podcasts can do: give a listener a sliver of another life, take us to another space, and make us puzzle the ways and beings of humankind.
Bonus: They also have an episode on Storyville, the city’s red light district made famous through the lens of photographer E.J. Bellocq.