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Nerdette

Nerdette is a weekly interview show that helps you unwind with fun conversations, inspiring ideas, and delightful recommendations. And join us every month for the Nerdette Book Club!

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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The best episodes ranked using user listens.

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Tom Hanks And Typewriters: A Love Story

Tom Hanks is a little obsessed with typewriters. So when we put the Academy Award-winning actor in front of a pre-WWII Underwood Champion, he gave Nerdette hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen an impromptu master class on the machines he calls “self-contained printing presses with which you can change the world.”Want to support this show and get a sweet Nerdette mug and/or notebook as a thank you gift? Go to https://wbez.org/nerdalert

25mins

27 Jan 2017

Rank #1

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Power Up: Amy Schumer And Aidy Bryant

Let’s be real: life can be hectic sometimes. You don’t need to tell that to Amy Schumer and Aidy Bryant, two of the nation’s top female comedians. Who better to kick off our new project, Power Up? For the next few months, we're asking fascinating people how they set themselves up for success in an exhausting world. Knitting? Bowling? Researching the presence of alternate dimensions? “I literally will say to myself out loud in the mirror, like, ‘You got this, bitch,’” Schumer tells Nerdette host Greta Johnsen. Schumer and Bryant also talk about what drew them to their new film, I Feel Pretty, which is now in theaters.  We also want to know how YOU power up. Record yourself on your phone and email the audio file to nerdettepodcast@gmail.com.

18mins

27 Apr 2018

Rank #2

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Ask a Mortician's Caitlin Doughty nerds out about death

Caitlin Doughty is host of the popular YouTube series Ask a Mortician and author of the new memoir Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons From the Crematory. We talk about the history and present of how cultures handle death. Plus a nerd confession that includes a Gollum impression.

11 Nov 2014

Rank #3

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Roxane Gay on being a 'Bad Feminist'

Roxane Gay is the author of the fantastic book of essays 'Bad Feminist' and many of our favorite tweets. We discuss what it takes to keep fighting the good fight on social media when there is so much turmoil 24/7.

10 Dec 2014

Rank #4

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George R.R. Martin Still Hangs Out In Westeros

Good gravy! It's George R.R. Martin! If you're unfamiliar, he's the author of that little book series that became one of the most popular TV shows of all time, Game of Thrones. These days, he’s in the midst of writing the final two novels in that series. Before he sat down with Greta, his team told us that he couldn’t answer the question on everyone’s mind ("So, like, when’s the next book coming out?"). So we didn’t ask that one, but Martin did tell us plenty about how writing is going, how he’s managing fan expectations and what he expects for the future of fantasy TV. Plus! We have a super-special announcement at the end of the interview!

21mins

1 Nov 2019

Rank #5

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson! Andy Weir! Space, pop culture and physics!

Neil DeGrasse Tyson explains how pop culture fits into his plan to inundate us with a love of science. Andy Weir, author of The Martian, talks about his nerdy origin and what makes good sci fi believable. We remember the first professional female astronomer Maria Mitchell, and there's a nerd confession from BJ Leiderman.

29 May 2015

Rank #6

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Sarah Vowell on Hamilton, grumpy cartographers and America's favorite Frenchman

Author Sarah Vowell explains why we're all swooning over a musical about a treasury secretary, how she finds the most interesting people in the footnotes of history, and recounts the most American 90 seconds of her life.We also discuss her latest book: Lafayette in the Somewhat United States.Plus: Yes, Nerdette has been on hiatus for a suspiciously long time. So we turned to podcast hosts and super sleuths Mike Pesca, Lulu Miller and Peter Sagal for their conspiracy theories to explain why Tricia and Greta disappeared.We're so glad to be back, nerds! We missed you.

28 Jan 2016

Rank #7

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Best Books Of The Year!

Books! Books! Books! Greta read 72 books this year, and today she sits down and ranks her 10 favorites. (Plus, she speaks with the author of her favorite book of 2019, ‘Such A Fun Age’ by Kiley Reid.)Here's her full list, and you can get more details on each title at this link: 10. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes9. The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman8. The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo7. Miracle Creek by Angie Kim6. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson5. Wolfpack by Abby Wambach4. Little Weirds by Jenny Slate3. She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey2. Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson1. Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

19mins

27 Dec 2019

Rank #8

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Lindy West And Andi Zeisler On Fierce Feminism

Lindy West on fat-shaming, fighting trolls and finding your voice. Her incisive, hilarious new book is Shrill. Then, Bitch Media Group co-founder Andi Zeisler looks at one of our favorite TV shows through a feminist lens.

34mins

23 Jun 2016

Rank #9

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Miranda July on writing books, living clumsily, and meditation

Miranda July talks about her new book, what it was like to make the Somebody App, and the overarching theme of her work: coming together clumsily. Plus, remembering Great Lady Nerd of History Bessie Coleman and a Shakespearean nerd confession.

27 Jan 2015

Rank #10

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Forget Cats: Jenny Slate Is A Plant Lady

Actress and comedian Jenny Slate has played many memorable characters on shows like Parks and Recreation, Kroll Show, Girls, and Brooklyn 99. She also wrote and voiced her web series Marcel The Shell. Her most recent role is alongside Edie Falco and John Turturro in the film Landline. But from all of her work on TV and film, few people know about Slate’s one true love: houseplants. Nerdette’s Greta Johnsen talked with Slate about why she loves houseplants, what she names them and how they play into her future goals. Then, a plant expert answers all of Slate’s most pressing questions.

33mins

28 Jul 2017

Rank #11

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Dan Savage On Nerdy Kink, Musical Theater, and Cultural Catholicism

Dan Savage is a relationship advice columnist, the creator of the “It Gets Better” project, and the host of the Savage Lovecast. We talk to Dan about the intersection between nerdiness and kink, the beauty of musical theater, and what it means to be “culturally Catholic.” Plus, a nerd confession from a merman.

35mins

13 May 2016

Rank #12

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Caitlin Moran on strident feminism, giddy optimism, and riotous laughter

This brilliant British columnist is incisive, tenacious, inspiring, and hilariously fun. Caitlin Moran talks with us about her definition of feminism, why cynicism is the worst, and how the most effective tool against patriarchal nonsense is subversive laughter. Because everyone--even Britain's filthiest feminist--is a little nerdy about something.

23 Jul 2015

Rank #13

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Nerdy summer camp stories and a Game of Thrones list

Autopsies! Mormons! Time Travel! We asked for your nerdy summer camp stories and you didn't disappoint. Hear three camp stories about what it's like to grow up, go back in time and get your hands dirty. Plus an angst-laden list of how Game of Thrones is giving our intern Claire an anxiety disorder [spoiler alert].

7 Jun 2013

Rank #14

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Happiness 101

... Well, technically it's Pysc 157. This week Nerdette host Greta Johnsen speaks with the professor responsible for the most popular class in Yale University's 316-year history. Laurie Santos created a course called "Psychology and the Good Life” and about 1,200 students quickly enrolled in it. Put simply, the course teaches students how they can be happier.“The good news is that we can do it,” Santos tells Greta. “The bad news is that like all good things in life, it takes a lot of work.”First, listen in as Santos gives us three main recommendations (1. Socialize; 2. Prioritize time over money; and 3. Remember you're too blessed to be stressed). Then, take the course yourself! It's free online via Coursera. 

18mins

24 Aug 2018

Rank #15

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Summer Reads!

Hey! Nerdette is about to go on a little summer break, but before we do we wanted to share this lovely conversation Greta had with WBEZ’s Jenn White and the owner of Volumes Bookscafe in Chicago, Rebecca George. They talk about what makes a good summer read before offering an INUNDATING LIST of killer summer books. You can check out the full list of those recommendations at this link. Enjoy! Have a KAS and see you in a few weeks!

17mins

29 Jun 2018

Rank #16

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Judy Blume And Kwame Alexander On The Books That Shape Childhood

Judy Blume's iconic books have defined the childhoods of multiple generations. And Newberry Award-winning writer Kwame Alexander crafts books for reluctant young readers. Both tell us why they write books for their inner tween.

37mins

9 Jun 2016

Rank #17

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Sex from Scratch, the history of birth control, and homework from Dan Savage

Sarah Mirk couldn't find a helpful relationship how-to, so she wrote her own. We highlight two women who helped make oral birth control a reality, and there's homework from Dan Savage.

18 Jun 2015

Rank #18

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Author Margaret Atwood Says ‘The Harvey Weinstein Moment’ Will Last

“I think it’s going to last more than a moment,” said the celebrated author on this week’s Nerdette. “But how much more than a moment, it remains to be seen." Nerdette co-host Greta Johnsen talks with author Margaret Atwood about the recent TV adaptations of her novels Alias Grace and The Handmaid's Tale, how her take on feminism has changed in recent years, and what needs to happen to make sure the “Harvey Weinstein moment” isn’t just a moment. Plus, we explore one of Atwood's nerd obsessions: The 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner.

26mins

22 Nov 2017

Rank #19

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Gillian Anderson, Shakespeare with lightsabers and mad kitchen science

Gillian Anderson, aka Agent Scully of X-Files, nerds out about the ocean's health and talks about playing smart characters. Plus a behind-the-scenes look at a Shakespeare/Star Wars mashup play and we finally crack open the homemade Nerdette soda with Meghan Murphy-Gill.

11 Dec 2013

Rank #20