You’re Wrong About is a podcast that offers funny, revelatory explorations of history you thought you knew. First launched in 2018 by co-hosts Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes, it has grown wildly in popularity. So wildly, in fact, that when making podcast recommendations, I often assume most people already listen to it.
If it didn’t innovate it, exactly, You’re Wrong About perfected a format — chatty, knowledgable hosts explore a familiar topic from a creative angle — effectively enough that it inspired countless other podcasts that have taken its general themes and ideas and run with them in their own interesting directions. If you’re already a fan of the mothership and are searching for something to tide you over between episodes, try one of these other shows that take a critical look at the history we’ve been told is fact.
When Michael Hobbes left You’re Wrong About, he put his energy into Maintenance Phase, the show he co-hosts with Aubrey Gordon that explores and critiques popular health and wellness trends and products. With tons of notes and a lot of rage-laughter, Michael and Aubrey run through the the worst diets, exercise trends, supplements and beauty products, and “nutrition” books, and evaluate whether they are actually effective or if they are based on misleading or harmful information. (It’s almost always the later.) If you hate the BMI, were led astray by the food pyramid in the ‘90s, or roll your eyes every time your friend goes on and on about their latest cleanse, you’ll appreciate their myth busting efforts.
Slate’s Decoder Ring explores the cultural history and significance of quirky objects, concepts, and phenomena — everything from the smiley face, to the suburban mall, to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series. Host Willa Paskin delves into the origins and evolution of each topic, always revealing unexpected connections and surprising stories along the way as she chats with experts, historians, and cultural commentators, lending us a deeper understanding of the world around us and the invisible ways culture shapes our lives.
On The Alarmist, Rebecca Delgado Smith and a panel of guests discuss pivotal historical events and determine who or what should be blamed for their eventual outcome. (I laugh every time I hear Rebecca’s intro: “They say history repeats itself. Not on my watch.”) Each episode explores a different disaster, ranging from natural tragedies like hurricanes and earthquakes to man-made ones, from the Challenger explosion and the Flint water crisis to those with much lower stakes, like Ross and Rachel’s breakup on Friends. Panelists discuss the events leading up to the disaster, the actions and decisions made by individuals or organisations involved, and their aftermath. In the end, they collectively place blame on the person, group, or idea they deem ultimately responsible for the disaster.
If Books Could Kill
Along with Maintenance Phase, Michael Hobbes is the co-host of If Books Could Kill. In each episode, he and Peter Routhier cast a critical eye on the airport non-fiction books that at one time captured the attention of the country, selling millions of copies, manipulating the minds of everyone who read them, and shaping society for years to come — whether their philosophies were valid or not. Think titles like Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, Freakonomics, and Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Michael and Peter gently roast this one-time titans of the New York Times’ bestseller lists, analysing their most misconstrued or outright fraudulent claims and fact-checking the things that American readers have been quoting for decades. It’s cathartic to hear two smart snark artists unmask the authors who have made millions off of of lofty, questionable claims, from bizarre psychology, to sexist philosophies, to unsound health advice.
Behind the Bastards
On Behind the Bastards, journalist Robert Evans unmasks the most notorious villains and despots history can serve up. Each episode focuses on someone who has caused harm, destruction, or suffering in the world, delving into their life story to try to figure out how it happened, and gauging the negative impact they had on the world. Episodes have spotlighted Joseph Stalin, Osama bin Laden, Henry Kissinger, Jeffrey Epstein, and other human beings the world would’ve been better off without. It’s a mixture of historical research, humour, and storytelling that gives you a compelling and often shocking look at some of the darkest moments in human history.
American Hysteria explores the history and cultural significance of various moral panics, conspiracy theories, and urban legends that have shaped U.S. culture. Host Chelsey Weber-Smith is a queer, nonbinary poet-turned-podcaster working to understand America at large as well as the greater mysteries of humanity. Things get dark over here — poisoned Halloween candy! The gay agenda! The Satanic Panic!–but Chelsey keeps it light and thought-provoking, with a casual tone and sense of humour that illustrates the ridiculousness of groupthink and mass hysteria.
One Year zooms in on some of culture’s most fascinating events, one year at a time, using powerful narrative techniques to compile stories that flesh out the events of 12 impactful months and shining a light on the individuals who were there. In host Josh Levin’s time machine, you skip from 1977 and the story of a miracle drug made from an apricot pit; to 1995, when a group of American teenagers crossed the Atlantic Ocean to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities; to 1986, when a man with a bomb held an entire elementary school hostage in the tiny town of Cokeville, Wyoming; to the day in 1942 when internment came to Alaska. It’s a creative way to learn about the history that was happening around the biggest news events of a particular time.
On Cancelled, Australian twin sisters Jessie and Clare Stephens take a comedic look at celebrities who have been cancelled, listing their transgressions and ultimately deciding if they’re truly worthy of the fate. If so, they give the guilty party a sentence that’s usually ridiculous but also kind of a good idea. Your favourite/least favourite people — Prince William, Hilaria Baldwin, and Leonardo DiCaprio — have had their day in Jessie and Claire’s firm but fair courtroom, and their targets always deserve the berating they receive.
Comedian and writer Laci Mosley is your Scam Goddess, exploring some of the most outrageous and hilarious scams in history — celebrity scams, Ponzi schemes, smaller-scale cons, and heists. Each episode features Mosley and a guest comedian discussing a different scam, con, or fraud and sharing their own personal stories and insights, as well as the psychology of con artists and the ways in which they are able to deceive and manipulate their victims. Mosley’s comedy drives the conversation, which always accentuates the absurdity and outrageousness of these bizarre, often unbelievable schemes. She often reports on these events with a certain respect for the scammers, and is able to find a bright side to them, or at least some humour. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
The Bechdel Cast
The Bechdel Test is a criteria first developed by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in the ‘80s to assess gender bias in fiction. To pass the test, a work must include a) at least two women who, b) talk to each other, and c) discuss something other than a man. Each week on The Bechdel Cast, comedians Caitlin Durante and Jamie Loftus (My Year in Mensa, Aak Cast, Ghost Church, Lolita Podcast) run popular films through the test with the help of a guest. The conversations explore the ways women are portrayed on film, the impact of gender stereotypes, and how the movie reflects larger social and cultural trends. You can explore this podcast by searching for a movie you love or love to hate-watch (with selections as varied as Mulholland Drive, Teenage Mutant NinjaTurtles: Secret of the Ooze, Don’t Tell Mum The Babysitter’s Dad, Avatar, The Human Centipede, and Titanic), or pick a comedian guest you know you’ll love hearing talk about how, for example, Buddy the Elf is a toxic creep.
Hosted by Peter Routhier (If Books Could Kill), Rhiannon Brown, and Michael F. Vecchione, 5-4 provides a funny, liberal perspective on the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, often illustrating how much SCOTUS totally sucks. Always from a progressive point of view, each episode analyses and discusses a single Supreme Court decision, providing an accessible and engaging way for listeners to learn about the high court’s biases surrounding hot-button issues like affirmative action, gun rights, and campaign finance. It clears the fog from our court system, and clarifies how often the Supreme Court perpetuates unjust outcomes for marginalised groups. Infuriating stuff.
You Are Good
If you’ve binged You’re Wrong About and need more Sarah Marshall in your ears, subscribe to You Are Good, the movie podcast about feelings that she hosts with Alex Steed. Originally called Why Are Dads?, You Are Good encourages nuanced discussions of the movies we’ve seen a thousand times, explored with the help of smart guests who have strong feelings about them. The resulting conversations often feel like therapy sessions centered around the films, which serve as a launching pad into topics like family dysfunction, sexism, emotional stability, and how humans human.
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