Show cover of Ridiculous History

Ridiculous History

History is beautiful, brutal and, often, ridiculous. Join Ben Bowlin and Noel Brown as they dive into some of the weirdest stories from across the span of human civilization in Ridiculous History, a podcast by iHeartRadio.

Tracks

The Constitution is Amazing (and Ridiculous), Part One: A Troubled, Ambitious Origin Story
Something like 60% of Americans have never fully read the US Constitution. How did such a short document become one of the most important pieces of writing in human history -- and why are some parts of it arguably ridiculous? Ben, Noel and Max welcome returning guest AJ Jacobs, author of "The Year of Living Constitutionally," to learn more about this world-changing work... and how later leaders butted heads fighting over amendments.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
33:54 6/18/24
CLASSIC: How Farmers Built A Barbed Wire Phone Network
Nowadays smartphones are an ubiquitous part of many civilizations, but not so long ago telephones of any sort were a rare commodity -- and the infrastructure was enormously expensive. When telephones hit the mass market, companies focused on densely-populated urban areas, leaving rural communities with no hope of getting a phone line. Until, that is, a group of MacGyver-esque farmers figured out an ingenious way to connect not just themselves, but everyone in their town.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
32:49 6/15/24
Ridiculous Video Game Tie-ins, Part Two: The Olympics and the Great Game of Chex Quest
Imagine grabbing a box of (at best) mid cereal, only to discover the greatest game, free withing the box. Imagine making an entire game based on an oft-maligned Olympic mascot! In the second episode of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore the ridiculous past, present and future of video game tie-ins. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
47:36 6/13/24
Ridiculous Video Game Tie-ins, Part One: The Rise of Cool Spot -- and Fall of the Noid
Cast your memories back to the strange days of the 1980s and 1990s -- boy howdy, things were weird. At some point, marketing executives the world round realized that video games could be a new, powerful field of advertising. In the first part of this special two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the ridiculous evolution of video game tie-ins, from soda pop mascots to the notorious Noid of Domino's pizza (along with the tragic story behind the fall of the Noid).See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
38:18 6/11/24
CLASSIC: The Strange Story of Canadian Margarine Bootleggers
True story: once upon a time, both Canada and the United States once had bizarre laws banning the production or importation of margarine -- and prohibition naturally led to crime. Today's classic episode asks: What launched the margarine bootlegging industry? Join the guys as they explore the startling, strange story of the Big Butter versus margarine.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
41:02 6/8/24
Malta: Tiny and Amazing, Just Like The Dog
How did this tiny, strategically crucial archipelago change the course of World War II? Join Ben, Noel and Max as they explore the deep -- at times, ridiculous -- history of Malta in the guys' continuing exploration of microstates.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
39:10 6/6/24
The Ridiculous History of Credit Cards
When you think about it, credit cards are a pretty fascinating idea -- they're convenient, ubiquitous and, often, predatory. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max explore the strange origin story of the credit card.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
57:27 6/4/24
CLASSIC: San Francisco's Egg War
How much would you pay for an egg? Would you kill for one? In today's classic episode, join the guys as they explore the strange story of the Gold Rush, the Common Murre and Farallon Island -- the site of California's Egg WarSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
40:12 6/1/24
Introducing: Sixteenth Minute (of Fame)
Hi Ridiculous History Fans! Take a listen to the trailer of our newest show Sixteenth Minute (of Fame) About the show: Sixteenth Minute (of Fame) is a weekly show from Jamie Loftus that takes a closer look at the internet’s main characters – one part reported, one part interviews, and one part Jamie collapsing her permanently internet-damaged brain. Whether it’s an enduring meme or a dreaded Character of the Day distinction, it’s the kind of notoriety that often results in little money, unwarranted attention, and a confusing blurred line of consent. What do you do when you get more attention and judgement than any one person is built to handle? The Sixteenth Minute of Fame is the place where we figure that out, putting people in the context of the moment they've been frozen inside of. Listen here and subscribe to Sixteenth Minute (of Fame) on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts!See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
03:55 6/1/24
Skyscrapers, Part Two: An Arms Race to the Sky
Once society became convinced that you could build skyscrapers without them immediately collapsing, cities across the United States -- and, soon the world -- scrambled to build their own structures. In part two of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore the continuing race to build the tallest, the strongest, and the most iconic skyscrapers.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
36:40 5/30/24
Skyscrapers, Part One: A Guy and a Birdcage
Skyscrapers are beautiful -- and utterly ridiculous. In the first part of this two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Max learn how modern skyscrapers were largely inspired by one guy who, no kidding, saw a heavy book resting on a birdcage and thought "yes, that. But bigger!"See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
36:51 5/28/24
CLASSIC: The Wild West Was Actually Pretty Chill
If you're like most people, the phrase "Wild West" conjures images of brutal gunfights in dusty, tumbleweed-ridden streets, visions of criminals slinking into the shadows of dimly-lit saloons and the vast stretch of lawless, unforgiving frontier. But how much of that image is actually true? Join Ben and Noel as they delve into the myth of the American frontier to discover how wild -- or mild -- it actually was in this week's Classic episode.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
33:39 5/28/24
On Theme, Part Two: The Cyclical Evolution of Music
As Ernest Hogan reaches new heights of success, critics turn against ragtime and "coon songs," prompting a larger conversation about the cyclical nature of music and society. In the second installment of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max join Katie Mitchell and Yves Jeffcoat, the creators of the On Theme podcast, to learn more about the complex relationship of creativity, capitalism, entertainment and race -- all found in the story of one brilliant composer: Ernest Hogan.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
47:59 5/23/24
On Theme, Part One: Ernest Hogan's Success and Regret
Today the world agrees minstrel shows were horrific, weaponized stereotypes meant to dehumanize people. But not too long ago, minstrel shows and the related "coon songs" were some of the most popular music in all of the United States. In part one of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max join Katie Mitchell and Yves Jeffcoat, the creators of the On Theme podcast, to learn more about the complex relationship of creativity, capitalism, entertainment and race -- all found in the story of one brilliant composer: Ernest Hogan.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
37:24 5/21/24
CLASSIC: How A Grudge Match Launched the Ford GT40
Today the Ford GT40 is one of the world's most iconic vehicles -- but this award winning automotive beast is, it turns out, the result of a serious grudge match. Join Ben, Noel and the gang as they delve into the strange, spiteful history of the Ford GT40 in today's Classic episode.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
51:09 5/18/24
The QWERTY Keyboard is Purposely Bad
If you're like most folks in the West, your laptop and phone use something called the QWERTY keyboard, named for the six letters at the upper left of the board. At first glance, this layout makes no sense. It's not in alphabetical order, and most of the typing is done by the left hand. So how did we end up with this thing? Join Ben, Noel and Max as they break down the strange story of the QWERTY keyboard -- and why it remains so commonplace today.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
42:16 5/16/24
Auction Houses: It's Not *All* Money Laundering
We've all heard of auction houses. Nowadays, these are often best-known as specialized institutions catering to international institutions and a small percentage of the obscenely wealthy -- but how did they get started? In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the ridiculous (and at times disturbing) history of auction houses.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
53:00 5/14/24
CLASSIC: "Vitamin Donuts" Were A Real Thing
Donuts: they're sweet, delectable and dangerous. Nowadays they're best known as a sugary snack or a nice accompaniment to a cup of coffee, but this wasn't always the case. In fact, for a few years manufacturers tried to sell them as -- believe it or not -- a health food. Join Ben and Noel as they explore the strange rise and fall of the infamous vitamin donut in this week's Classic episode.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
33:08 5/11/24
Thomas Nast, Part Two: A Cartoonist Conquers Corruption (and Moves to Ecuador)
Rising from humble beginnings, Thomas Nast soon became something very much like the conscience of America. His illustrated takedowns of corruption spoke directly to people who were often illiterate, reaching the common man. While Nast could be undoubtedly difficult to work with, he also had a strong (if imperfect) moral code. In the second part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max dive into Nast's personal quest to oust the corrupt Boss Tweed, as well as the legendary cartoonist's late-life career switch: diplomacy in Ecuador.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
35:38 5/9/24
Thomas Nast, Part One: The Cartoonist Who Shaped America
Tons of people have a soft spot for their favorite cartoon or comic strip -- yet few have attained the social status of the legendary artist Thomas Nast, the caricaturist often referred to as the "Father of the American Cartoon." In the first part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore Nast's early childhood, the beginnings of his career, and the path that led him to become, in a very real way, the conscience of America.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
32:03 5/7/24
CLASSIC: The Rotten, Sausagey Secret Origin of Botox
Today botox is one of the world's most well-known wrinkle treatments, as well as a go-to joke in the realm of pop culture. But where did this treatment come from, and what on Earth does it have to do with sausage? Join Ben, Noel and Max as they trace the origins of botox to one man's unending obsession with food safety and rotting pork in this classic episode.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
34:57 5/4/24
Books You Can't Read -- By Design!
Books are amazing. When you think about it, a good book can be a portal to another world. A book can a time machine, and the right story can genuinely change a person's life... so long as you can actually read it. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Matt delve into the strange stories of two books that -- we kid you not -- absolutely no one on Earth can read.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
44:01 5/2/24
La Maupin: The Swordfighting Opera Singer of France
During the era of Louis XIV, Julie D'Aubigny became one of the most popular criminals in all of high society. In today's episode, the guys welcome returning guest Ben Thompson, author and creator of Badass of the Week, to learn more about the swordfighter, opera singer, nun-heister and all-time badass known as La Maupin.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
58:43 4/30/24
CLASSIC: The Weird World of Meat Jell-O (A Gelatin Origin Story)
Today Jell-O and other gelatin foodstuffs are generally relegated to world of desserts, but this wasn't always the case. In fact, gelatin took a long, strange path from ancient history to modern-day grocery shelves -- and got pretty gross along the way. Tune in to learn more about the bizarre world of savory gelatin in this week's classic episode.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
38:28 4/27/24
A History of Roller Coasters, Part Two: Higher, Faster, More Expensive
In the history of roller coasters, one thing became clear: the public wanted extremes -- the fastest, the highest, the most dangerous of rides. In part two of this week's series, the guys explore the rise of the first legitimate roller coaster tycoon, and ask their fellow Ridiculous Historians for help finding the best roller coasters of the modern day.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
48:32 4/25/24
A History of Roller Coasters, Part One: Early Ups and Downs
If you described the concept of a roller coaster to an alien, they'd probably be baffled: Why on Earth are humans purposely recreated the sensation of falling, flying and -- quite possibly -- feeling close to death? In the first part of this special two-part series, the guys explore the origin story of modern roller coasters, from the old days of "Russian Mountains" to an amusement arms race that continues today: the ongoing quest to build the biggest, highest, fastest rides on the planet.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
45:45 4/23/24
CLASSIC: London Made a Train for the Dead
In the mid-19th century, London was literally filling with corpses. When the city was in the grips of a cholera epidemic, the already-overfilled cemetaries couldn't handle the extra bodies. So when there's literally no room in the soil for another dead body, what's a city to do? To the creators of the London Necropolis Railway, the answer was simple -- build a train for the dead. Tune in to learn some grisly, ridiculous history with Ben and Noel.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
32:39 4/20/24
The Page-turning Evolution of the Encyclopædia Britannica
In a burst of meta-humor, the Encyclopædia Britannica defines encyclopædia as "reference work that contains information on all branches of knowledge or that treats a particular branch of knowledge in a comprehensive manner." It's high praise -- but if there's any single book that's earned the right to describe itself this way, it's this one. Tune in as Ben, Noel and Max delve into the history of one of the world's most famous reference works (and check out our earlier episode on the Oxford English Dictionary, as well).See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
47:15 4/18/24
A Ridiculous History of Worcestershire Sauce
It's tangy. It's salty. It's sweet. It's unctuous... but what exactly is Worcestershire sauce? Join Ben, Noel and Max on their continuing condiment journey as they explore the bizarre origin story of one of the world's most famous (and, arguably, strangest) sauces in today's episode.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
42:14 4/16/24
CLASSIC: Roald Dahl: Children's Author and Secret Agent
Today author Roald Dahl is best-known for his prolific writing career -- but, as it turns out, he lived an entirely different life before he ever put pen to paper to create children's stories. Learn more about Roald Dahl's earlier life as a fighter ace, a legendary ladies man, and a World War II-era spy (seriously, like a real-life James Bond!) in this classic episode.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
39:47 4/13/24

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