Avoiding hot-button topics? 8 low-stakes conversation starting podcasts for the holidays

round up December 13, 2022

Trying to avoid potentially explosive conversations during family gatherings or holiday parties this month? Check out these sometimes-completely-random and silly podcasts for some low-stakes conversation starters. On our list, we’ve included podcasts sharing fun facts about well-known sounds such as Netflix’s “ta-dum.”

If you’re chatting with younger family members, “Smash Boom Best” debates random topics safe for all ages like Pikachu vs. Mario and lollipops vs. popcorn. Let “Pop Culture Happy Hour” be your cheat sheet for TV show, film, and book-based chats. There are also podcasts exploring the history of architecture, clothing, normal stuff that “Sounds Like A Cult,” and memorable cultural moments.

Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast art

Twenty Thousand Hertz

Listen to ‘Twenty Thousand Hertz’

From accents to the 8-bit sound of early video games, horror films’ Wilhelm Scream, train announcements, and some of the greatest songs ever written, “Twenty Thousand Hertz” shares the history of interesting sounds. Host Dallas Taylor highlights sound inventions and developments over time in over 150 sonically-rich episodes.

Sounds Like A Cult

Sounds Like A Cult

Listen to ‘Sounds Like A Cult’

“Sounds Like A Cult?” Amanda Montell and Isa Medina think lots of things do, so they’re comedically diving into modern day “cults” we love to follow like celebrity fandom, The Royal Family, SoulCycle, and Starbucks. Check out over 50 episodes to see if your obsession – be it Taylor Swift, kitchen culture, dating apps, or “RuPaul’s Drag Race” – has made the hosts’ list on this series.

Smash Boom Best podcast art

Smash Boom Best

Listen to ‘Smash Boom Best’

Start a fun, family-friendly debate with topics like spaceships vs. submarines, basketball vs. baseball, kangaroos vs. platypuses, or roller skating vs. bowling. American Public Media’s “Smash Boom Best” takes two fun topics, lets debaters argue in favor of their chosen sides, and then listeners decide the winner.

Decoder Ring

Decoder Ring

Listen to ‘Decoder Ring’

In Slate Podcasts’ “Decoder Ring” host Willa Paskin explores cultural queries, habits, or items and unpacks history while determining their significance. This year’s episodes covered method acting, viral images (was #TheDress black and blue or white and gold), McGruff the Crime Dog, and Rod McKuen (“the most famous poet no one remembers”).

Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! podcast art

Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

Listen to ‘Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!’

NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me” is a weekly news quiz show. Test your news knowledge and laugh along with comedians on the podcast as they play games. Recent guests included Maeve Higgins, Dana Carvey, Michael Strahan, and Hasan Minhaj.

Articles of Interest

Articles of Interest

Listen to ‘Articles of Interest’

“Articles of Interest” discusses clothing and style origins across 3 seasons so far. The most recent season, titled “American Ivy,” dove into preppy fashion and traced its history. Past episodes covered plaid, suits, perfume, pockets, knockoffs, and blue jeans. This Radiotopia podcast is hosted and produced by Avery Trufelman.

Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast art

Pop Culture Happy Hour

Listen to ‘Pop Culture Happy Hour’

Let “Pop Culture Happy Hour” be your guide to the latest in films, TV shows, and books. In recent episodes, NPR’s staff shared their favorite books from this year, compiled a 2022 Christmas Movie Guide episode, and tackled recent releases.

99% Invisible image

99% Invisible

Listen to ‘99% Invisible’

Design is all around us, even in places we don’t notice on a regular basis. Producer Roman Mars examines the “power of design and architecture” in “99% Invisible,” a weekly series.

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