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

July 16, 2024 51 mins

What makes a flavor "artificial," exactly? Why doesn't banana candy taste like bananas in the grocery store? What on Earth is the flavor behind "Juicy Fruit" -- spoiler, the answer will surprise you. In the second part of this week's special two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Max explore the delightful origin of modern synthetic flavor science. 

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Hi Ridiculous History Fans! Take a listen to the trailer of season two of SNAFU: MEDBURG with Ed Helms. 

About the show: Hosted by Ed Helms, SNAFU is a podcast about history’s greatest screw-ups. In Season 1, Ed digs into a story he can't stop thinking about: Able Archer 83, a 1983 NATO military exercise meant to prepare us for nuclear war that almost mistakenly started one. This story has a colorful cast of characters: from Ronald...

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Nowadays U.S. grocery shoppers can be reasonably certain that the foods they purchase are safe (if not healthy). Yet this wasn't always the case. In today's episode, we explore the story of one extremely driven, imperfect man, on a mission to clean up America's food industry. Harvey Wiley didn't think it was enough to conduct conventional safety studies, either -- he jumped straight to human experimentation. Join the guys as they d...

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For most of human history, people were locked in a continual struggle to find food and avoid starvation. Eating for pleasure wasn't really a thing the common person could do. However, as time went on and technology improved, eating became as much a recreation as a hobby -- and this led civilization to the fascinating, ridiculous world of artificial flavors. In the first part of this week's special two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Ma...

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At first glance, the Vatican's security service makes no sense. The Swiss Guard is an elite force from, well, Switzerland. So what the heck are these guys from a notoriously neutral nation doing so far down south? In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max explore the origin and evolution of the world-famous Swiss Guard.

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It's no secret that espionage and spycraft are common tools in the murky realm of geopolitics -- but not every spy is some sort of James Bond type character in a bespoke suit with a penchant for martinis. In fact, some spies aren't even human. Join Ben and Noel as they dive -- and fly -- into the strange stories of animal spies and nonhuman government operatives, from crows to dolphins, sea lions, cats and more.

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Behind the heavily-guarded walls of the palace, the Ottoman Empire's harem was a world all its own. In the second part of this special two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Max delve into the dangerous world of deceit, espionage and intrigue that defined the lives of people from across the empire, often taken by force from their homes to serve the Sultan.

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For centuries, westerners devoured lurid, embellished stories about the mysteries of Near Eastern culture -- and, chief amid their fascinations, the idea of the Sultan's harem. But what exactly was this thing, and how did it actually work? In the first part of this two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Max bust some myths about the harem system that continue, weirdly enough, in the modern day.

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Star Trek is one of the world's most well-known sci-fi franchises, spanning decades in film, TV, books, games and more. While it's had its fair share of lighthearted moments (hello, Tribbles!), its vision of a more equal, peaceful human civilization has made a profound impact on real-world politics and race relations. Join the guys as they explore how a single conversation with a surprising Star Trek fan shaped the course of the sh...

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As Popeye's popularity continued to skyrocket through the Great Depression and the second World War, his pantheon of related characters only grew. And, spoiler: not all of the characters aged well. In the second part of this special two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Max explore how Popeye created a surprising amount of American slang, became a propaganda tool for the allies, and finally answer the question: Does Popeyes Louisiana Kit...

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Nowadays Popeye the Sailor Man is a world-famous icon, represented in almost any form of media you can imagine. Yet this wasn't always the case. In part one of this special two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Max delve into the story of how Popeye started. Tune in to learn a ridiculous, one-off joke character in a comic strip called Thimble Theatre quickly became the most popular draw of the series, launching a media empire that outliv...

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Every city has its drawbacks -- parking, for example, or crime, or the price of a decent pizza slice -- but in the 1800s London faced a particularly unusual and disgusting problem: the city literally stank. And this wasn't an occasional whiff of urine or hot garbage from an alleyway, oh no. Instead, a pervasive stench permeated the area, an odor so strong that it disrupted Parliament, forcing the government to take action (and even...

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The founders of the United States knew the Constitution wasn't perfect, and so they baked in a process for revising their original document. Today, the first few amendments are collectively known as the Bill of Rights -- but, as returning guest AJ Jacobs, author of "The Year of Living Constitutionally" reveals, there have been tons of other proposed amendments that didn't make the cut. Tune in to learn more in the second part of th...

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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...

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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...

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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. 

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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 tragi...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Ben Bowlin

Ben Bowlin

Noel Brown

Noel Brown

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