Strangers is another show with a very present host. In this case, “present” means that in the early episodes host Lea Thau is often recording in her bedroom closet in the middle of the night. I tend to prefer shows with co-hosts, as it gives me the experience of being a fly on the wall of a natural conversation. Lone speakers often sound like that they are reading off a script or affecting a performative voice, but Thau manages to eschew both issues. Though she does give the impression of speaking to an absent audience—a state in which it is nearly impossible to sound natural—her voice is that of a friend sharing an intimate tale rather than a narrator holding the plot together or a raconteur performing the past. This makes sense, as Strangers is all about intimacy. The show alternates between interview and storytelling formats, with strangers telling personal narratives of everything from the day their baby arrived to caring for a suddenly disabled spouse. The style is a mix of storytelling and interview, with some strangers monologuing into a mic and some dialoguing with Thau, whose own life is not free from examination. She has a four-episode series called “Love Hurts” in which she interviews past flames and investigates her relationship with relationships. This kind of tell-all self-reporting can feel mundane, but Thau’s approach walks the line between analyzed and off-the-cuff, presenting a narrative that feels two parts accurate, one part unsure, and entirely honest.
Style: Narrative, Interview
Station: KCRW/Radiotopia/Story Central
If You Like: Invisibilia, The Moth, Snap Judgment, The Heart, Love + Radio
Favorite Episode: “Two Men and a Baby”