You can probably divide the world into two groups, those who like puns, and everybody else. If you are in the "like puns" group, you should check out the following podcasts. They include word play (puns, double entendres, limericks) or discussion about grammar and word usage.
Judge John Hodgman
In this entertaining podcast, John Hodgman presides over a fake Internet court and hears cases brought by listeners. While not necessarily focusing specifically on language or wordplay, the Judge John Hodgman podcast will appeal to language lovers because Hodgman is erudite and witty. Expect many interesting cultural and language-related references in his banter with the guests and with his bailiff, Jesse Thorn. He also makes it clear that he is a Scrabble fan, which qualifies him as a word lover and a “good guy” in my book. Not only is he funny, but his rulings are thoughtful and insightful. He really does uncover what he calls the "crux” of each case through pointed, but respectful questioning of both the defendant and accuser. The cases involve real disputes that are moderately contentious but always civil. Though the content is family friendly, some episodes are best for adults, but only in the sense that they appeal mostly to adults. However, my 10-year-old has really enjoyed some of the more kid-friendly episodes, which provoked some extended family conversation, not an easy feat with a 10-year old.
Grammar Girl, hosted by Mignon Fogarty, is a podcast devoted specifically to language. Fogarty covers grammar, word usage, and language trends. While a podcasts on grammar does not exactly sound exciting, her enthusiasm is so authentic and her voice so mellifluous, that she could be talking about anything and I would listen. And not only is it enjoyable to listen to, you will learn something new. Each episode is short, usually less than 15 minutes, which is ideal for this genre. She usually covers a grammar tip, and then what she calls a “meaty middle” where she discusses in detail an interesting topic related to word usage or trends in language. These topics are not just arcane or obscure trivia. They usually have relevance to pop culture or current events.
Slate's The Gist with Mike Pesca
I include the Slate's the Gist with Mike Pesca in this list because the host Mike Pesca is obviously a fan of word play. If you appreciate puns, double entendres, and other cleverness, then you will enjoy this podcast. In the episode that introduced me to Mike Pesca, he was ranting about a new topping that a restaurant was touting. According to Mike:
"Did you hear what the dude said? Lobster-topped lobster. Isn't that just a bigger lobster? The one thing you can't top a lobster with is another lobster. You can't top a thing with more of the thing. It's not the top. It's just the thing."
He discusses mostly current events, politics, and popular culture.
Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!
Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! is NPR's weekly hour-long quiz program that is great for language lovers who are fond of limericks, puns, and other witticisms. In the show, celebrity guests and callers test their knowledge of current events. One of the skits involves the hosts making up a few remotely plausible, but goofy news story mixed in with a true (and usually even goofier news story) and then asking the celebrity guest to pick the true story. In another, the callers must complete a news-based limerick. The host (Peter Sagal) and the rotating panelists, who include Roy Bount Jr., Tom Bodett, Paula Poundstone, and Faith Salie, among others, are very funny.
Other Podcasts to Consider
If these podcasts pique your interest, than you might want to also consider the following:
- Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day, by Merriam-Webster. This podcast is exactly what you would expect. Each episode profiles an interesting new word. They explain its meaning, usage, and little-known details about its origin.
- The Pod F. Tompkast. This podcast might appeal to you if you like the Judge John Hodgman podcast. It is more scripted than some of the comedy podcasts discussed here, but the host, comedian Paul F. Tompkins is quite clever and a bit eccentric.