radio lab, the WNYC radio show that became the pop science cornerstone of most podcast directories in the 2010s, announced a major stir among fans through its official newsletter on Thursday. Longtime co-host Robert Krulwich will soon be leaving the show, with his announcement suggesting there are only a few more episodes to go before moving on to other independent projects.
In his not-quite farewell to fans, Krulwich seems to declare that the series’ producers and staff have succeeded in the mission he set out with the series years ago: to create a pipeline (probably one that is self-sustaining) for engaging science-based radio accessible to a new audience. After the show caught on with radio listeners across the country, “the next question we asked ourselves is, what’s up?” radio lab to become, except the two of us delighting each other?” writes Krulwich. “The answer literally came through the door as one wonderfully talented person after another came and joined us until we now have pretty much the strongest bank in the world. industry, a bunch of people who, in their very different ways, have learned to tell stories that appeal to audiences, a bit like we did, but increasingly in their own voices with their own music and their own styles.”
Krulwich then describes a moment from about a year ago when it dawned on him that his time with… radio lab came to an end:
I was in an editorial meeting and it dawned on me (and this was both a good and a bad feeling) that I was no longer crucial to what was going on. The room abounded in back and forth, ideas seeping through, and had I tiptoed out the place would have been as lively as if I had stayed. I’m not too humble here. I was crucial for a long time, but in a healthy system you make way for the new, the fresh, the untested. From the beginning I have been the oldest, 25 years older than Jad who is now almost 20 years older than our youngest reporters. There comes a time – and I think it has come – when you get out of the way and let the future flow in. We have a stream of people who are ready to stand up and come to us, choose us, that we had to teach them what we knew with Jad and Soren and Suzie guiding them – that, I think now, maybe our greatest achievement is – that what we started might endure with different voices, different forms, but true to the idea that complexity can be wonderful.
No end date has been announced, with Krulwich pointing out that one episode will be wrapped up for “next week” and an eventual super-sized episode on “a world population puzzle” as his remaining radio lab tasks. From there, Krulwich says he will be working on “new projects, a documentary, an interactive global warming, and more grandpa duty.” The announcement comes with a separate letter from series creator Jad Abumrad, stating that he is not ready for a complete goodbye:radio lab will never really let Robert go. You’ll still hear him on the show from time to time (that’s how much we love him), and you’ll definitely hear his influence – his unbridled curiosity and wonder – in every radio lab story is yet to come.”
Krulwich has co-hosted the series since 2004, two years after Abumrad created the series as a weekly WNYC series that rounded up reported stories based on particular themes, though not with the scientific slant that the series eventually became known for. Much of that was due to Krulwich’s background as a science reporter, which he had previously explored in the 1999 science-themed miniseries. brave new world— a series that arguably gained more attention because of its house band, nerd pop icons They Might Be Giants.
A chance meeting between the two reporters, separated by 25 years of age, sparked collaborations and radio show experiments, including a historic rehashing about Flag Day submitted to and rejected by Ira Glass’ This American life† “It was a special class” of “terrible,” Glass told the co-hosts years later. Undeterred, the duo continued to work together. Krulwich guest on radio lab first in 2004, and he became the casual co-host in 2004 before joining the team in earnest in 2005.
radio lab has since exploded as a podcast phenomenon with a variety of official series offshoots, including the Supreme Court-focused More Perfect and 2019 is fascinating Dolly Parton’s America† The original series, like many modern podcasts, is also known for recording live events in the United States, sometimes even featuring live bands that guest-star with sonic experimentation.