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.

Episodes

May 28, 2024 36 mins

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!"

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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 Classi...

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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...

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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, capitali...

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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.

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May 16, 2024 42 mins

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 co...

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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.

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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.

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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 c...

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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...

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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.

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May 2, 2024 44 mins

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 ...

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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 wit...

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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 refer...

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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.

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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.

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Ben Bowlin

Ben Bowlin

Noel Brown

Noel Brown

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