Studio: Stephen J. Dubner & WNYC Studios
Category: Society & Culture
What It Is
The authors of Freakonomics take a look at “the hidden side of everything.”
A new episode comes out every week. Sometimes they’re around an hour, other times they’re as short as twenty minutes. The iTunes page has 250 episodes, which is almost the entire archive; for the episodes they don’t have, check out the website.
What About It
Steph(v)ens Dubner & Levitt use this show in the same way they used their first hit book, Freakonomics. They take a look at things from an economist’s point of view with an eye toward puncturing conventional wisdom and making you think about things in a new way. They’ll tackle a variety of issues, of any size or type. You never know what you’ll get. Maybe they’ll talk about backmasking or the Japanese construction industry or maybe something really big like marriage. They’ll find a way to get very specific on something that you know nothing about and make it really interesting and fun and then they’ll turn around and draw some larger conclusions about human behavior that make you think about why you do the things you do. It’s a fun show; Levitt & Dubner have good chemistry and all the guest journalists are up to the task of being entertaining while also informative. It’s a really great show, always has a few laughs and makes you step outside your thought habits for a few minutes.
The more Steph(v)ens the better.
Avoid Like the Plague If
You’d rather not think about interesting things.
Best Entry Point
Well, any discussion of Freakonomics Radio has to mention their most famous episode, which they’ve rebroadcast a couple of times. It’s called The Upside of Quitting and it really went pretty viral when it first came out a few years ago. It examines the idea of quitting as a type of failure and how quitting can actually be the best thing you can do, if you can only figure out when to do it. Here are a couple of my other favorites. I like Why Marry?: Part 1 & Part 2. It explores myths surrounding marriage, both currently and through the ages. And then there’s The Three Hardest Words in the English Language, which addresses a real pet peeve of mine. The words aren’t “I love you,” but rather “I don’t know.” Why do we humans, as a race, find it so damned hard to just admit it when we don’t know something? These are good episodes and will give you a good idea of the show’s flavor.