Reach out to the arts for the comfort of knowing you are not alone.

Dial In, Sit Back, and Just Listen

Dial In, Sit Back, and Just Listen

Managing Editor

Forget TV, radio could save your sanity.

If you can’t get out of the house, and your help has bailed, but you find yourself with half an hour while your loved one is napping, tune in to these radio shows and sail away.

And the beauty of radio, in this modern age, is that you don’t need to tune in at an appointed hour. With streaming, downloads and podcasts, your favorite show is available at your command.

Garrison Keillor Garrison Keillor

A Prairie Home Companion

This is the godfather of live radio variety shows. Created and hosted by Garrison Keillor, the show runs on Saturdays from 5 to 7 p.m. central time, and usually originates from the Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul, Minn., although it is frequently taken on the road. A Prairie Home Companion is known for its musical guests, especially folk and traditional musicians, tongue-in-cheek radio drama, and Keillor’s storytelling segment, “News from Lake Wobegon.”


The Vinyl Cafe

For more folksy humor, try Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café, originating on Canada’s public radio station CBC Radio. The story-telling comic recites the hapless tales of “Dave and Morley,” alongside essays and music. McLean is known for his distinctive voice and his ability to alter his popular stories to make them fresh on every show. Since 1998,  McLean has taken The Vinyl Cafe on the road to theaters across Canada and the United States. The program is available on selected public radio stations in the U.S,, on Sirius Satellite Radio channel 159, on podcast, and live online.

CBC’s Vinyl Café

The Unbelievable Truth

In the U.K., David Mitchell’s The Unbelievable Truth is a comedy quiz show with a twist. The object of the game is to lie on a subject in an essay, while trying to sneak five truths past the three other panel members. Topics range from Sleep and Beer to Childbirth and Sir Isaac Newton. Winning doesn’t remotely matter (although there is a score at the end). Fiona Sturges wrote in The Independent: “What it has going for it is an intellectual curiosity that this week turned up such invaluable facts as the radioactive properties of Brazil nuts, Florence Nightingale’s love for her pet owl and Indonesia’s 17 million boy scouts.” Produced by BBC Radio4.


This American Life

On a more serious note, although it can be very funny, try This American Life: Your Radio Playhouse, an American weekly hour-long radio program. Hosted by Ira Glass, this is story-telling at its finest. Although it is journalistic non-fiction, it is often told in first-person narrative, the mood ranging from serious to ironic,  thought-provoking to humorous. This American Life runs stories that explore aspects of human nature, and also features essays, memoirs, field recordings, short fiction, and found footage. It is distributed by Public Radio International on PRI affiliate stations and is also available as a free weekly podcast.



More shows to consider (but don’t stop here. Explore!)

The Moth Podcast:

Real people deliver real tales, from the serious to the sublime. Orange is the New Black originated on The Moth.


New Yorker’s Fiction Podcast:

New Yorker posts new short stories from their archives, read by current writers who make their choices based on tales that resonate with them. Readers have included Margaret Atwood, Richard Ford and T.C. Boyle.


DNTO, or Definitely Not the Opera:

Hosted by Sook-Yin Lee, this CBC program consists of short segments loosely woven around a single theme. For instance: When did you realize the power of No? or When were you a small player in a big event?



About the author

Susan Grimbly

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