A podcast about the weird things we Earthlings do and why

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Behind the Scenes, Ep 7: Troian Bellisario—The Portal

A Note from Sasha

Sasha Sagan

From my early childhood, my parents, astronomer Carl Sagan and writer-producer Ann Druyan, instilled in me a cosmic perspective: the Earth is but one little planet in a vast universe. Growing up in our home, the idea of how we would appear to extraterrestrials was fodder for both stimulating discussion and intense laughter. How would we explain ourselves? Not just our serious shortcomings as a species, but our idiosyncrasies, our oddities, our wonderful weirdness. How would you describe an engagement ring to someone who has no context? What about a sweet sixteen? Saying “bless you” after a sneeze, but never after a burp? Or setting off fireworks to celebrate national independence?

Why do we do things the way we do them?

As a new parent, I find that explaining our traditions and rituals to a small child is not so different from explaining them to an imaginary alien. For years I’ve dreamed of creating a podcast that reframes the familiar and explores human quirks. On Strange Customs, I talk to an array of very funny, very smart people—actors, writers, historians, and scholars, who share their fascinating insights on the personal and the planetary. Taking a step back to look at ourselves from afar has made me love our strange species even more.

Join me for all the weirdness and wonder of Strange Customs, from OnlySky Media, wherever you get your podcasts.

Latest Episode

Sasha Sagan talks to astrophysicist SARAFINA EL-BADRY NANCE about the way we bring the world into our awareness and keep it there.

We’ll also hear from USC neuroscience researcher MARY HELEN IMMORDINO-YANG about the unexpected ways we achieve this everyday process.

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About the podcast

Strange Customs is an ongoing conversation with smart, funny, interesting people about the things we do without thinking. Host Sasha Sagan brings an earthquake of perspective, making the strange familiar and the familiar strange.

Strange Customs
host Sasha Sagan

All Episodes

Sarafina El-Badry Nance—The Grasp

Sasha Sagan talks to astrophysicist SARAFINA EL-BADRY NANCE and neuroscientist MARY HELEN IMMORDINO-YANG about the strange process of bringing external reality into our minds.

Troian Bellisario—The Portal

Sasha Sagan talks to actor TROIAN BELLISARIO (Pretty Little Liars, Life on Mars) about a tradition older than our species, and the unusual and slightly terrifying way Troian once experienced it.

We’ll also hear from professor and author RANDI HUTTER EPSTEIN (Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the…

Amanda Montell—The Code

Sasha Sagan talks to author and linguist AMANDA MONTELL about our strange habit of making vibrations emanate from our faces in order to communicate.

Katie Lowes and Adam Shapiro—The Rock

Sasha Sagan sits down with actors KATIE LOWES and ADAM SHAPIRO to explore a common custom that seems rooted in antiquity but is actually younger than Cher.

We’ll also hear from author RACHAEL LENNON about the surprising origins of the custom, and how we might coax it away from its problematic features into the 21st century.

Andrew Seidel—The Lines

Sasha Sagan talks to constitutional attorney ANDREW SEIDEL and professor of criminology DR. MEREDITH ROSSNER about an area of life that we don’t usually think of as being full of ritual. But it’s saturated with it—for better and worse. Episode excerpt Host SASHA SAGAN: The legal system is full of these rituals. There are costumes,…


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