Celebrate 2018 with Radiotopia’s Best

Listen to our hosts’ favorite episodes

Maggie Taylor
Dec 27, 2018 · 8 min read
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We can’t believe 2018 is almost over! What a year: we performed a sold-out live tour, escaped to Radiotopia with you this summer, launched new series and shows like “The Off Season” from The Truth, 99% Invisible’s Articles of Interest and Everything is Alive, and to cap it off, Ear Hustle co-host Earlonne Woods recently had his prison sentence commuted. To celebrate, here are our favorite episodes from 2018, picked by the show hosts themselves.

Radio Diaries

Last Witness: Surviving the Tulsa Race Riot

This is the episode that launched Radio Diaries’ Last Witness series, profiling the last surviving witnesses to major historical events. This episode tells the story of Olivia J. Hooker, who was six years old when white mobs attacked the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in a devastating massacre that came to be known as the Tulsa Race Riot.

Prisoners of War

During the Vietnam War, there was a notorious American prison on the outskirts of Saigon…a prison for American soldiers. In a mirror of the U.S. prison system, the majority of the inmates were black. And in 1968, the situation erupted into a riot. Hear a forgotten story of the Vietnam war and the civil rights era that deeply resonates today.


Chapter 4: Hedging Your Bets

On this episode, Hosts Manoush and Jen went to San Francisco, “pitched” a VC and talked to Roman Mars.

“We heard from so many people that it really resonated with them: the fear, the good advice, the uncertainty. Plus, we had great audio…and ROMAN MARS!” — Manoush and Jen

The Allusionist

Survival Part 1: Second Home

Welsh is a language pretty much only spoken in the small British nation of Wales… so it was an absolute trip for Helen to find herself in a church hall in a tiny village in rural Argentina, many thousands of miles from Wales, hearing the locals sing in Welsh.

Behind it is a story of repression, migration, desperate survival, and the struggle to preserve language and culture.

Name Changers

Why did you change your name? And why did you choose the name you chose? Listeners answer these two questions. Hear their stories of gender identity, family fallouts, marriages, divorces, doxxing, cults, and… just not liking your given name very much.

The Kitchen Sisters Present

The Keepers: Archiving the Underground— The Hiphop Archive at Harvard

“Every art form has their standards they’ve placed in the canon — mathematics, science. Everybody has their greats and somebody placed them there. People in the visual world say, ‘This is what’s going in The Louvre. This is it.’ I think hip hop needs the same thing. This is The Archive.” — From The Kitchen Sisters’ favorite podcast episode of the year, “Archiving the Underground: The Hiphop Archive at Harvard,” part of The Keepers series.

The Keepers: The Pack Horse Librarians of Eastern Kentucky

During the Depression, those horrible years after 1929, the Appalachians were hit hard. Coal mines were being shut down. Many people were living in dire poverty with no hope. In 1936, as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Kentucky WPA began to hire pack horse librarians, mostly women, to carry books to isolated cabins, rural school houses and homebound coalminers.

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Pack Horse Librarians, courtesy of The Kitchen Sisters

The Truth

The Off Season Part 1: “Banished to the Hamptons”

After being accused of sexual harassment live on air, television host Bruce Alvarez retreats to the Hamptons until the whole thing can blow over… if it ever will.

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From left to right: Erica Hernandez and Peter Grosz, lead actors in the series, recording in studio.

The Off Season Part 2: “Breaking In”

Meet Erica. She’s an aspiring journalist who enjoys squatting in vacant Montauk homes during the off season. And on the second floor of one house she finds… a locked door. What could be in there?

Ear Hustle

The Big No No

When you’re incarcerated, falling in love with prison staff or volunteers is prohibited. But… it happens. And it happened to Erin and Lisa, who then had to negotiate the joys and pitfalls of romance inside San Quentin.

Illustration by Antwan Williams

This Place

On this episode of Ear Hustle the team tries something different: this episode dives into San Quentin’s 166-year history. Normally, the guys inside tell stories. But this place itself does speak, and it’s not always through words.


My Dad Also Wrote A Porno

What’s the very worst way to learn about the birds and the bees from your parents? A hilarious and moving performance from Sara Faith Alterman, who discovers that her father has a past that involves writing dirty joke books.

A Montana Love Triangle

The story of a small town girl who found herself in the center of a cinematic love triangle. Hear the diary of a teenager, Susan, who attempts to choose between a nice guy and a troublemaker. Whoever she chooses could change the direction of her entire life.


The Choir

As a child, Lawrence Lessig was a gifted singer. His church choir director encouraged him to attend a choir camp at a prestigious boarding school in New Jersey. He was so talented that the school invited him to stay and join their official choir. He sang at Carnegie Hall and toured the world. But it was what happened behind the scenes that would change his life forever.

Lavender Scare

Helen James grew up in a military family — her great great grandfather fought in the Civil War, her father in WWI, and her uncles in WWII. So when she enlisted in 1952, she felt like she belonged. Shortly after, she realized something was wrong.

This is Love

Something Large and Wild

An unconventional love story about a teenager, the Pacific Ocean, and an encounter with something wild.

How to Live Forever

An experiment in living together, forever.

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From “How to Live Forever,” Phoebe speaking to Bina (left) and Bina 2 (right)

Everything is Alive

Maeve, Lamppost

Maeve is a lamppost in Brooklyn. She sees all of us, but does anyone see her?

Chioke, Grain of Sand

Chioke is a grain of sand, and he’s not as small as he looks.

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Chioke, A Grain of Sand. Fan art by Benjamin B. Carow (@smokefreesaladbar on Instagram)

The Memory Palace


Her name was Gloria Lockerman. She stunned the world when she spelled ‘Antidisestablishmentarianism’ on live TV in 1955. This is her story.


In 1953, Springfield, Missouri discovers a new kind of snake to their area, a snake they’ve never seen before. No animals were harmed in the production of this episode.

Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything

This Is Not A Drill (False Alarm! part i)

False Alarm! is a series about the battle between the real and the fake. This episode begins with a text alert sent out to everyone in Hawaii on a balmy Saturday morning. We also hear from the man who has written the text alert that will go out to all New Yorkers in the event of a real emergency. Photographer Stan Douglas shows us how to reconstruct a future that makes sense, and your host turns to fellow podcaster Jody Avirgan for advice on how to own the “real-ish” podcast genre. Plus the little boy who cried wolf meets the Emperor with no clothes!

99% Invisible

Articles of Interest Episode 6: Punk Style

Articles of Interest is a six-part series from 99% Invisible about about what we wear and why. There is this myth that it’s frivolous or unproductive to care about how you look. Clothing and fashion get trivialized a lot. But think about who, culturally, gets associated with clothing and fashion: young people, women, queers, and people of color. Groups of people who historically haven’t had a voice, have expressed themselves on their bodies. Through their style, their hair, their tattoos, their piercings and what they wear. Learn why producer and host Avery Trufelman cited this episode as her favorite in the series.

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Punk styling for Articles of Interest

Song Exploder

Yo-Yo Ma — Prelude, Cello Suite №1 in G Major

Yo-Yo Ma is perhaps the most famous and well-loved cellist in the world. He was born in Paris in 1955; his family moved to the U.S. when he was seven. He played for President Kennedy that year. He played at Carnegie Hall for the first time when he was 16. He’s won 18 Grammys, and he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

For this special episode of Song Exploder, Yo-Yo Ma talks about the Prelude to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suite №1 in G Major. He discusses learning, performing, and recording the piece across 58 years of his life.

The West Wing Weekly

0.07: Parks and Recreation (with Rob Lowe, Adam Scott and Michael Schur)

Hear how The West Wing influenced Parks and Recreation! Hosts Hrishi and Josh speak to the co-creator of the show, Michael Schur, and two of the stars, Rob Lowe and Adam Scott, to learn about the parallels between the Bartlet White House and the Pawnee Parks Department. Stop pooping! Just listen.

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From left to right: Josh Malina, Adam Scott, Hrishi Hirway, Michael Schur)

0.06: Hamilton Special (with Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail)

AARON BURR: How does a podcast, web thing,
Recap and chat on The West Wing,
Dropped on the internet by nostalgic pals
On a fake President — it makes no sense!
How do Josh and Hrish, on balance,
Manage to land two major Broadway talents?
The two gallants, Lin-Manuel and Tommy Kail,
Got a lot farther by working a lot harder
By being a lot smarter, by being self-starters
By watching Bartlet, who’s based a bit on Jimmy Carter
Well, the word got around that they’re like, “Sorkin is insane, man”
So we sent a lot of emails till we got into their brainpan:
“Do a special episode, lend us some acclaim and
Let’s talk about the napkin in the frame.”
Roll the name, son:
West Wing Weekly Hamilton
This thing is West Wing Weekly Hamilton
There’s a million things these guys have won
So just hit play, just hit play…

Listen to all Radiotopia shows at radiotopia.fm and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for show news, behind-the-scenes photos and more.

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