This March, a lot of the podcasts I listen to are pushing the “#trypod” movement to share favorite shows with friends who have never listened to one before. I always try to do that, but I decided to organize my favorites into a comprehensive list to direct anyone who will possibly listen to this one place!
I listen to a lot of podcasts. On my commute, at work, doing the dishes, that’s usually what I’m up to. I’ve kissed a lot of podcast-frogs but I found some princes(ses) among them. Here are the shows that I listen to on a regular basis and can wholeheartedly recommend to you, broken down roughly into some semblance of topics! (Buckle up…I wasn’t kidding when I said A. LOT. OF. PODCASTS. And these are just the ones that made the cut!)
Answer Me This: This podcast has been going on for TEN YEARS now as of January 2017, and when I discovered it I binge-listened to about 200 episodes. Helen and Olly (and echoy Martin the Soundman) are ridiculous British hosts and they answer their listeners’ questions, be it word etymology, etiquette, random facts, etc. in their hilariously wrong fashion. With ridiculous musical interludes. They’re seriously delightful, though sometimes their very British references go a bit over my head. (Explicit warning!)
Start here: Really any episode will have some amusing bits, but I always enjoy this one (Episode 327) that includes discussion of Party Poppers and why you shouldn’t aim one squarely at your throat, and the etiquette of Vegan/Vegetarian weddings.
My Brother, My Brother and Me (MBMBAM): I’ll be honest. I tried this a couple of times before I started to like it, but now I’m a rampant, rabid fancritter. This features the three McElroy brothers (one of which is on my favorite podcast Sawbones, which you’ll find listed in the more educational section down below), who talk about whatever they feel like (NSFW for sure!) and answer absurd questions from listeners and Yahoo Answers. It’s similar to Answer Me This in this way, except not really at all. I have mainlined the past 5 years of episodes over the past few months and it has seriously kept me emotionally stable! I love those good, good boys. While they are three straight, cis white dudes originally from West Virginia, they are some of the most genuine fellas I’ve ever “known” and really work hard to be inclusive and aware of marginalized communities. This show really helped me through my divorce, and I’m deep in the cult-like fanbase! They just came out with a TV show on the comedy streaming service Seeso and I was delighted! (You can watch one of the full epsiodes for free on Youtube here!) Also, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the musical Hamilton is a huuuuuuge fanboy, so there’s that. I’d recommend staying away from the “early” episodes until you’re thoroughly enamored with them, as they weren’t quite as “woke” as they are now and have said some things they’re not proud of.
Till Death Do Us Blart: The McElroy Brothers team up with the two New Zealander hosts of the podcast The Worst Idea Of All Time (in which they watch one awful movie, first Grown-Ups 2, and then Sex and the City 2, once a week for a year and then talk about it. I just started listening, and may eventually add it on here) The first episode of “DeathBlart” aired Thanksgiving 2015, and the plan is to do it every American Thanksgiving until the end of time, substituting a new host in when the current ones die. They watch Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 and discuss it, in all its ridiculousness and awfulness, and will eventually develop its own lore as they dissect it year after year. Absurd? Yes. But if you appreciate The McElroy Brothers or bad movies, you’ll like it, even as a once-a-year novelty.
Mouth Time With Reductress: If you enjoy the absurdity of The Onion with a lampooning of womens’ magazines, this podcast is for you. At first, I didn’t realize it was farcical and I was super annoyed, but once I was in on the joke, I thought this podcast was hilarious.
Tomefoolery: Besides having a ridiculously great name, this podcast’s premise is that it gets a comedian and his friends together to discuss a really weird book they all just read. Such titles include “Mole Catching: A Practical Guide,” “Roswell and the Reich” (yup, Nazis and their significance in the Roswell alien mystery) “Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988,” “Make Your Own Sex Toys,” and “Raising Boys Feminists Will Hate.” Yup. That about covers it.
2 Dope Queens: Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams host this hilarious show that features their BFF discussions about sex, race, hair, and Phoebe’s obsession with Bono, and then they have live stand up comedy performances by a great variety of people, focusing a lot on people of color and from the LGBTQ community. It’s delightful.
My Dad Wrote A Porno: Oh. My. Goodness. This is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s embarrassing how much I laugh maniacally at work with my earbuds in while I’m listening to this show. Host Jamie Morton discovered that his 60-something father had begun writing a series of erotic novels called “Belinda Blinked.” Instead of trying to forget that fact, he embraced it and started reading it aloud to his two friends, as they interject with running commentary. His father, while fully intending to be serious and believing his work is that of a genius, is utterly clueless about what is actually sexy and anything about female anatomy. Yes, the phrase “He grabbed her cervix” is written in earnest. It. Is. So. Damn. Good. Even Elijah Wood is a fan! (They interviewed him on the show about it and he has given his word that he would love to be in a film adaptation if it ever gets made!) Start. From. The. Beginning.
The Moth: This is one of the most popular storytelling podcasts, where people tell true stories without notes.
Snap Judgment: An NPR podcast, it bills itself as “storytelling with a beat”. People tell true stories, generally in studio, sometimes in interview format, all dealing with a theme, scored to hip hop interludes.
Risk: This is the Rated R version of the other storytelling podcasts, featuring “true stories you never thought you’d dare to share”. The host can be a bit obnoxious but there are some really great stories! I can’t recommend this podcast enough, with its honest and raw stories. One of my very favorites! Let this be a trigger warning: They talk about lot of heavy stuff.
Start here: Well, I don’t know if you should start here, but one of the most powerful stories I’ve ever heard was “Transcendent” by Becca at the end of the Live from Philly episode in 2012. She does a longer discussion about her experience in this epsiode. It is ROUGH. Be warned.
StoryCorps: A bite-sized NPR podcast that features two people who know each other interviewing each other about an important event in their life. Even though they’re rarely longer than 5-10 minutes, I’m generally crying by the end.
Serial: This addictive runaway hit that basically launched Podcasts into the spotlight is telling the story of 17 year old Adnan Sayed’s conviction for the murder of his ex girlfriend in 1999, and the podcast creator’s search for the truth behind this suspicious conviction. I just couldn’t get into Season 2, though, which featured the controversy regarding US Army soldier Bowe Bergdahl’s leaving of his post, his capture by the Taliban, and his motives behind his decisions.
Love + Radio: This podcast features unique and intimate interviews with a variety of people, from a strip club owner from Detroit to a “blonde, big-boobed Norwegian illusionist who uses wild animals in her acts“, to a web “humiliatrix” and a young woman’s stint in erotic balloon popping videos. The style of editing may not be for everyone, but they always have fascinating stories.
This Is Actually Happening: Each episode of this podcast features a first-person account of a person’s unique experience, be it surviving a shipwreck, “What If You Were Pronounced Dead at Age 12,” “What if you spent 4 years in solitary confinement.” Often super heart-wrenching but all really fascinating true stories.
RACE, GENDER, FEMINISM, MENTAL HEALTH AND SEXUALITY
(well, under that general umbrella of intersectionality)
The Heart: This podcast is pretty steamy, and generally tells true stories about relationships and sex. It’s very LGBT inclusive.
Stuff Mom Never Told You: Cristen and Caroline cover gender issues, and always strive to be intersectional in their feminism. They give a humorous look into subjects like the stereotype of “Spicy” Latinas, IUDs, the Golden Girls, Black Hair in America, queer fashion as activism, and tons of other topics. They’ve finally called it quits after 800+ episodes at the end of 2016. BUT THEN two new hosts took over and breathed new life into it. They’re covering the same sort of things, but one of the hosts is black and queer. So that’s cool. (How StuffWorks podcast network)
Death, Sex and Money with Anna Sale: This is more of an interview podcast in which Anna Sale talks with people about relationships, starting out with her own. In the debut episode “This Senator Saved My Love Life”, a former senator from Wyoming is enlisted to plea on her ex boyfriend’s behalf to save their relationship.
Another Round: Yes, this is a Buzzfeed podcast, but don’t let it fool you. Hosts Heben and Tracy are brilliant young women who kind launched this podcast into stardom with their interview with Hillary Clinton in fall 2015. (“Madam Secretary, What’s Good?” )They asked her candid questions about her and her husbands’ roles in the mass incarceration of people of color. Tracy straight-up tells her that they “really fucked [things] up for black people” but these women walk an amazing balance between professional journalism and endearing goofiness. They talk about race and gender and politics and pop culture while imbibing in whiskey.
The Read: Kid Fury and Crissle are gay and black, and they have a lot to say about pop culture (especially if it’s Beyonce) and race in America. They end each episode with a “read”, in which they air their feelings about things they need to get off their chest. Definitely NSFW but always amusing, even if I don’t know all of the people they’re talking about.
Call Your Girlfriend: Two “long-distance besties” talk about pop culture, intersectional feminism, and often have a “this week in menstruation” news. They’re pretty delightful. They are both super successful and intelligent women who aren’t ashamed to admit they appreciate the Kardashians and geek out about Beyonce.
Still Buffering: This show is so cute. Initially hosted by Sydnee McElroy (co-host of Sawbones, husband to Justin of My Brother My Brother and Me…yeah, I have a McElroy obsession. Deal with it.) and her little sister Rileigh Smirl, middle-sister Teylor Smirl jumps on fairly soon into the podcast. Since Rileigh is 16 and her older sisters are in their 30s, they discuss “teen-ing through the ages.” It’s full of nostalgia talking about growing up in the 90s versus now, demystifies Snapchat and modern communication, and realizes some things haven’t changed much in the past 20 years. Whether it’s fashion, holiday celebrations, driver’s ed, hair removal, body image, or any other things teenage girls have had to face, these sisters discuss these issues with vulnerability and humor. And they’re really inclusive, always trying to acknowledge gender identity and sexuality. It’s so sweet. But the most special thing about this podcast is the online community it’s created in their Facebook group. It’s full of support and positivity and one of the best corners of the internet.
Start here: If you’re a Lin-Manuel Miranda fan, they talk with him in their “How To Theatre” episode about high school theatre experiences! And I really admired the ladies’ candidness and honesty about their struggles with body image.
Interrobang with Travis and Tybee: I love this show. Hosted by Travis McElroy (of My Brother, My Brother and Me) and his friend Tybee Diskin, it started off as basically a show about ranting about whatever they felt like ranting about, but has since grown to a really introspective and thoughtful podcast about a lot of different topics including current events and mental health and gender identity and sexuality, especially with queer woman Tybee discussing her experiences with straight cis-male Travis. They still rant about things, but it’s got so much heart and they have a genuinely beautiful friendship.
Jesse Vs. Cancer: Jesse Case, who was on a season of Last Comic Standing, is a 30 year old comedian who was diagnosed with, as he puts it “Stage 4 Ass Cancer of the Ass” (colon cancer) and decided to start this podcast talking about his experiences with an irreverent, soul-searching, morbid, and often highly immature and sometimes obnoxious monologue each week. But he’s grown on me so much. He takes listener questions and talks about how loved ones should relate to people with cancer, gives general life advice, talks about moving back in with his parents and leaving his old life behind, health insurance struggles, politics, etc. Sure, he’s abrasive at times, but he is giving a completely honest account of his treatments, his thoughts, his physical struggles, his fears and dealing with the very real fact that he may die. I want to keep listening, because I feel like I know him so intimately, and sincerely care about his future. As of January 2017, he has completed his chemo an radiation and two surgeries and seems to be doing well. He’s really brilliant and has been fascinating to listen to through this election season. I’d recommend you start from the beginning to hear the whole process.
DTR: This is a new “branded” podcast from Tinder, but it’s really good, I promise! DTR stands for “define the relationship” and it’s about…relationships and dating in the digital age. There’s an episode about Dick Pics (unsolicited? Just dont!) and dating people significantly more or less attractive than you.
Why Oh Why: This podcast is similar to DTR in that it’s another podcast about dating and romance in the modern age, with a more personal touch. The host Andrea Silenzi is delightfully open and honest. Her “breakout episode” is called “How Will I Know?” In it, she talks about her long-time relationship and recent breakup with her boyfriend and discusses her reasons. Mainly, the issue was a disparity about whether or not they would ever have kids. It’s a beautiful, sensitive portrait of a doomed relationship.
Close Encounters from The Guardian: I’ve been a huge fan of British journalist and sex educator Alix Fox ever since I heard her on Olly Mann’s podcast The Modern Mann (see below!) in her regular sex advice segment “The Fox Hole.” So I was delighted to learn that SHE HAS HER OWN SHOW! Now, I only discovered this yesterday, but I’ve listened to a couple episodes and it’s every bit as good as I had hoped. The first episode features a man who became paralyzed from the waist down just before his honeymoon. Alix discusses how he and his wife have been able to maintain their healthy sex life in spite of it all. Other episodes discuss polyamorous relationships, asexuality, a woman with two vaginas and a gay man of Pakistani descent.
THINGS THAT WILL MAKE YOU SMARTER:
Twice Removed: This podcast is so great! Each episode focuses on a person of some sort of mild to moderate fame, (Abbi Jacobsen from Broad City is on one episode) and takes a deep dive into their family history. The host showcases a handful of their most interesting relatives, usually tying them into some sort of theme that is important to the subject. And, at the end, one of their far, far removed relatives is brought into the podcast studio to meet them. It’s always someone they already know and are often quite close to, but they’re like 44 steps away down the family tree.
Start here: The episode featuring Nazanin Rafsanjani, the wife of Gimlet podcast network’s creator Alex Blumberg and formerly from the Rachel Maddow Show was amazing. Nazanin came from Iran with her family as a girl, and she has a fascinating family history. But the unveiling of her Mystery Relative at the end had me in tears! And if you’re a Broad City fan, definitely check out the episode with Abbi!
Twenty Thousand Hertz: Did you know that cars have sound design built into them? Do you know about the creepy history of talking dolls? What about the story behind Siri’s voice? This podcast dissects these topics in 10-20 minute episodes.
No Such Thing As A Fish: This podcast features the writers for the British trivia television show “QI–Quite Interesting.” In it, they share the most interesting thing they have learned that week while researching for their show.
Stuff You Should Know: Hosts Josh and Chuck give listeners a crash course in subjects ranging from collective hysteria to electricity to karate, always interesting no matter what your previous thoughts about the subject may be. From the How Stuff Works network of podcasts affiliated with the website.
Stuff You Missed In History Class: Holly and Tracy cover a wide variety of little-known historical subjects and events. They did a great two part deep dive into the surprisingly long development of Disney’s Haunted Mansion which I especially enjoyed. (Another How Stuff Works podcast) I will warn you that a lot of people find their voices annoying.
Radiolab: A brilliant, informative podcast with heart that features personal stories, generally some sort of science/sociology related. It’s always so gripping, and one of the best, most polished, beautiful podcasts out there! This often leaves me in a blubbering mess.
Start here: I recently played one of my favorite episodes “23 Weeks 6 Days” in the car with my mom over Christmas break and we were a WRECK. And I began listening to the episode called “Playing God” on a road trip and I just had to stop it because my heart couldn’t handle it at the time. But it’s amazing, about a hospital during Hurricane Katrina and the difficult decisions the staff had to make to prioritize their patients as their hospital lost power and began to flood. Ugh. Ugh. So good. But be prepared to be a mess.
99% Invisible: This podcast features subjects about design and architecture in an intriguing and accessible way.
Start here: They’re all so fascinating, but some of my favorite episodes include “McMansion Hell,” a discussion about the architectural monstrosities built to impress, and “Unpleasant Design and Hostile Urban Architecture,” intentionally made to discourage loitering. The episode about the concrete “Bubble Houses” made in the 1940s is also great.
Freakonomics Radio: Economics for dummies on a variety of accessible subjects.
Start here: May I recommend the upsetting but fascinating “The Troubled Creamation of Stevie the Cat”, which investigates the growing business of pet “aftercare”. Though it will make you think twice about shipping off Fluffy after he goes.
Startup: Alex Blumberg, long time producer for This American Life and Planet Money is chronicling the beginnings of his own podcasting company, and everything that entails, from fundraising to naming to choosing a partner. In Season 2, they follow the process of beginning an online dating matchmaking service. I kinda fell off listening to it for a while, but then I got hooked again when they spent a season focused on Dov Charney, the highly problematic creator of American Apparel, and his fall from glory.
Start here: If you want to know what it takes to build a company from the ground up, start at the very beginning. But I’d also recommend just diving in to Season 4, which follows Dov, the skeezy dude who was dethroned from American Apparel, and is trying to build up a new empire. Ugh. He’s so gross.
Good Job Brain: This podcast features four friends who make up a pub trivia team, and each week they make up puzzles and quizzes for each other. One of my favorite quizzes is “Brad Pitt or Lasers”, in which you must figure out which thing is older. Each podcast has a theme, like fruit or dairy or the 90s, and generally potty humor makes an appearance. It’s genuinely entertaining.
Sawbones: Potentially my favorite podcast, it features wife Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin (definitely not a doctor, one third of the podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me), discussing old-timey medicine in all of its misinformed glory.
Start here: May I recommend their episode on Self Experimentation? Just a warning: It’s pretty gross sometimes, but always hilarious. The Royal Fistula Fad is also one of the most delightfully, disgustingly ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. And, for a holiday special, Sydnee analyzed Santa’s health and lifestyle habits. It was great.
This American Life: Part storytelling, part informational, this is the gold standard for podcasting, featuring interesting stories of varied subjects every week.
TLDR: An internet acronym for “too long; didn’t read,” this podcast was the precursor to Reply All, the first podcast from Gimlet Media (of Startup fame), and it talks about the internet, generally in the form of human interest stories.
Start here: One of my favorites is JebBushForPresident.com, which revolves around a couple of bears (the hairy gay men type) who decided to buy the aforementioned domain as a joke to start a conversation with people about their rights. Another features a touching story about the online “sweepstaking” community and how they supported a member when he realized he couldn’t afford the home he won from HGTV after he got sick. The last episode was in March 2015 and then it turned into Reply All (see below.)
Reply All: The newer iteration of TLDR, which has similar human interest stories based on the internet. The hosts Alex and PJ are so endearing and they dive into really fascinating topics. I seriously adore this podcast.
Start here: Episode #57 discusses the surprisingly complex and sometimes shady world of the online breast milk market. In Episode #77 you find out what happens when the creator of the Pepe the Frog meme learns that his character has become appropriated by the alt-right and Trump campaign. And in Episode #44, host Alex tries the concept of LSD Microdosing. A bit more tertiary to their normal internet chat is a recent social experiment in which they tried to stay talking with strangers on the phone for 48 hours straight in “Hello?” It was really lovely.
The Memory Palace: Generally only 5-10 minutes long, these are sonically beautiful little pieces regarding small historical events.
Start here: The episode that sold me on The Memory Palace was Mary, Mary and Mercy, about the New England Vampire Panic from the 19th century.
Oh No Ross and Carrie: This podcast “not only reports on fringe science, spirituality and claims of the paranormal, but take part ourselves so you don’t have to.” From oil pulling to reflexology to tarot, kabbalah and genotyping, they try things for themselves and report about it. Last year, they did a lengthy series when they got involved in Scientology and reported in detail about their experiences. They have visited cults and got in-depth with the Mormon church. And there’s where I have a bit of issue with this podcast sometimes. They are not always been completely genuine with the believers they meet while going undercover. The most blatant misuse of this was actually getting inducted into the Mormon church just so they could get a deeper look. But this was early on in their reporting, and I think they are trying to be more respectful of these things nowadays. Carrie can be a bit much sometimes, but I do appreciate most of what they do.
Invisibilia: From some of the producers behind Radiolab and This American Life, this podcast discusses fascinating topics regarding science, emotions, and behavior.
Start here: I HIGHLY recommend “The Secret History of Thoughts“. It’s one of the most impacting pieces I’ve EVER heard in my life. One of the stories features a man who was “trapped” inside his body, unable to communicate in any way for over 13 years, and how he managed to deal with it. “How to Become Batman” features a blind man who uses echolocation to do everything from navigate in cities, to riding a bike and hiking along the edge of cliffs.
The Allusionist: Helen Zaltzman (co-host of comedy podcast Answer Me This!–see below) hosts this podcast which dissects words in a very humorous and entertaining way. They’re generally only 15 minutes long.
Start here: If you’re ok with swears, her “Detonating the C-Bomb” podcast discusses the origins of this very polarizing 4-Letter Word! She also did a great series recently about the language of romance novels (part 1 and part 2) and, for something completely different, a history of the term and concept of “Sanctuary.”
Lore: This is a fairly new podcast that is beautifully written, and discusses the creepy history of things, like vampirism, H. H. Holmes’ Murder Castle, etc. It’s around 20 minutes an episode, so it’s thorough but concise.
Last Podcast on the Left: SO VERY NSFW. These guys talk about messed up things, like serial killers and dark internet fetish sites and Nazis, and do so with humor. They can be a little dude-bro-y at times, but they’ve definitely grown on me. Plus: A three part episode on Ed Gein? Yes please. Not for the faint of heart, easily offended, moderately offended, or generally most people. You have been warned.
The Black Tapes Podcast: A fictional audio-drama podcast set up a bit like in the style of Serial, but pretending it’s real-life. It follows the host’s investigations into a skeptical paranormal investigator’s collection of yet-to-be-unproven cases. I ADORED Season 1, though Season 2 really lagged and I’ve kind of lost interest. Start from the beginning.
Limetown: Similar in style to The Black Tapes, it’s another fictional audio-drama with a female investigator host who is looking for answers regarding the mysterious disappearance of a whole community. “Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women and children disappeared from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again.” Creepy, right? Definitely one of those you should start from the beginning.
The Message: Following on the coattails of Limetown And The Black Tapes, this 8 part series that just aired its final episode is also a fictional audio docu-drama in which the female investigator host covers the decoding of a recently-declassified mysterious message that has been around for 70 years, and may be extra-terrestrial in origin. Oh, and whoever listens to the message dies soon thereafter. Once again, start at the beginning!
Welcome to Nightvale: This podcast is super weird and absurd, but it’s amazing. It follows a radio program at a community radio station at a town that is just slightly “off”. It’s supernatural and creepy and absurd and funny, and you should at least give it a couple of episodes. And definitely start from the beginning, because it builds upon itself.
Astonishing Legends: Part historical events, part ghost stories, this podcast is hosted by two informative but entertaining guys who alternate between having their friends come on and talk about creepy things that have happened to them, and deep-dives into weird historical events and subjects and some conspiracy theories.
Start here: My favorite was the 2 part episode on the disappearance of Amelia Earhart (Part 1 and Part 2). They’ve also covered Dyatlov Pass incident which has always fascinated me (Part 1 and Part 2) and a deep-dive 4 part/7+ hour look into the strange history of the Oak Island Money Pit (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.)
Mysterious Universe: Wow, ok. So this show has been going for years and years (since 2006) and it’s hosted by some Australian guys who talk about fringe science, paranormal, aliens, cryptozoology, and other weird stuff. They sometimes interview authors or prominent figures in these fields, and it’s always interesting to see what stuff they actually believe in, and what stuff they write off as being “crazy”. It’s always amusing, but I generally listen to it in small doses.
My Favorite Murder: Two anxiety-filled women talk about famous murder cases, not so much with 100% accuracy all the time, but with a whole lot of humor and charm.
Criminal: A short podcast about interesting crimes, whether they be perpetrated by birds of prey or counterfeiters.
POP CULTURE AND NEWS:
Poptarts: Okay, so there’s only two episodes of this brand-new show so far, but the cover art is ADORABLE, and who can say no to a pop culture show filtered through the feminist lens of Bust? Yes please! I just hope that they keep an intersectional lens and don’t get all White Feministy!
Popstuff: This podcast is now defunct, but features the current hosts of Stuff You Missed In History Class, in which they talk about various pop culture topics, including Bronies, Manic Pixie Dream Girls, Hello Kitty,“trendy” diseases, etc. (How Stuff Works podcast network)
Pop Culture Happy Hour: An NPR podcast featuring a bunch of hilariously smart people talking about TV,movies, music, etc. and diving deeply into current hits.
SRSLY: I discovered this podcast through Call Your Girlfriend. Two British ladies who are Serious Lady Journalists for The New Statesman talk pop culture, from One Direction to films and TV and Rihanna music videos. They do a Harry Potter special in which they discuss if wizards are allowed to vote in muggle elections. They are delightful and bring up a lot of British films and shows and other things I have missed and would like to check out.
Trends Like These: Featuring Travis McElroy, of My Brother, My Brother And Me fame, he and his best friend Brent discuss weekly trending news stories, from cowboy boot sandals to political issues, to sugary cereals and Dad Bods. They’ve gone deeper into politics over the past election season, and it’s a really great way I’ve found to stay up on current events while not getting too utterly depressed by the world. Edit: As of late 2017, they’ve begun to regularly have female guest hosts on the show as well, which I’ve found to be helpful because they are ultimately two straight cisgender white dudes who have a somewhat limited viewpoint.
Mystery Show: I’m not quite sure where this show belongs, category-wise. It’s the newest podcast from Gimlet, of Start-Up fame. It’s hosted by the delightfully charming Starlee Kine, who you’ve probably heard on any number of NPR podcasts. She sets out each episode to solve a mundane yet always fascinating mystery that can’t just be googled. My favorite episode so far is #2: Britney. Starlee’s friend wrote a book that no one read, most booksellers can’t even find in their databases, and yet there was a photo of Britney Spears carrying the book at some point. How did she get it? Who gave it to her? Did she actually read it, and did she like it? Starlee set out to crack the case. Unfortunately, Gimlet discontinued this show for some kind of contentious reasons and Starlee may or may not continue with this show under the same or a different name, but the short first season is brilliant.
Losing the Sheen: ERMAGERD YES. Justin and Sydnee McElroy (Of Sawbones and My Brother, My Brother and Me fame) decided to start this podcast about the TV show Two and A Half Men without ever watching an episode. Until Charlie Sheen was off the show and Ashton Kutcher joined. They give a hilarious play-by-play of 9 episodes, losing more and more hope in humanity and themselves as the show continues. It was a pure delight to discover, and I’m so sad it’s gone now. I will warn you that the hosts have evolved a great deal since they made this show, so they make some jokes that they probably wouldn’t make nowadays. (Same goes for the podcast below, Satellite Dish)
Satellite Dish with Justin and Sydnee: After Justin and Sydnee quit/survived Losing the Sheen, they transitioned to this now-defunct show in which they talked about TV more generally. They. Are. So. Hilarious. And it’s great to hear Sydnee as a regular person, not just a doctor-lady like in Sawbones, sloshed on wine. They made weekly episodes between January 2012-March 2013, so this was their podcast before they began Sawbones. My favorite recurring feature was “Shamerican Idol”, in which they used the People Magazine Special Edition American Idol 10 Year Anniversary Where Are They Now issue to pit contestants against each other to find the saddest turn of events after the contestants were voted off the show. It’s delightful. Just trust me on this.
Always Listening: Podcast Reviews: This show is one that I don’t always listen to, because sometimes I have no interest at all in the subject of the podcast they review, but the guys do a great and detailed job of discussing different podcasts, rating them on audio/production quality, host likability, and their own personal feelings regarding the show at hand. I like hearing what they have to say about shows that I like (or have listened to and don’t like), and have given a couple of shows a try after listening to their episodes about them.
The Modern Mann: Hosted by the delightful Brit, Olly Mann of Answer Me This (see below in “Comedy”,) Olly is setting out to make this brand new podcast a bit of an audio answer to men’s magazines like GQ, etc. He has talked with the author of Thrillist’s Best Burgers in the U.S. list and sampled some of the winners, discussed his impending fatherhood with other dads/dads to be, why you should invest in whisky, and there’s a weekly sex advice segment with a woman named Alix Fox that they have dubbed “The Fox-Hole.” It’s pretty great. And I just love me some Olly Mann.
Missing Richard Simmons: THIS SHOW, PEOPLE. If the most recent episode is to be believed, it’s only going to be a six episode series, but it’s so fascinating! Flamboyant fitness guru Richard Simmons holed himself up in his house two years ago without warning and has only spoken to a few people ever since. One of his friends started this podcast to try to sleuth what has really happened. And I’ve fallen in love with Richard. I really hope he’s okay. He seems like a genuinely wonderful person!
Cool Games Inc: I don’t know much about video games at all, but I love anything a McElroy brother touches, and this podcast is no different. Griffin McElroy is a video game journalist and he and his coworker Nick Robinson from Polygon host this ridiculous show in which they take listener suggestions and develop hypothetical video games about them. ****EDIT: Since I posted this, Nick Robinson has turned out to be a creepy garbage human who I feel really weird about recommending in regards to this list but I’ll leave it in.*****
Start here: Oh, they’re all so funny but some of my favorites include: “Spooky Sunday: An Ageplay Experience“, “Love On The Rocks“, or their breakout hit “Grandma Wants It Al Dente; Grandma NEEDS it Al Dente.” And then there’s the recent “Yelp!” in which the boys create a first-person horror game based on 1-star Yelp reviews. And then “The Lodge“, which is a game that I would play if it was real. It’s a MMO in which you would have to either find or be a cryptozoological creature in an expansive range of locations an terrains and capture blurry photos as proof that you spotted them! It’s utterly absurd and I love it.
Gilmore Guys: Two endearing 20 something dudes talk in-depth about the TV show The Gilmore Girls, episode by episode. Kevin is a long-time fan, and Demi had never watched the show before. They dissect it in amusing and NSFW detail, and bring on their friends to discuss it as well. And as they gained in popularity, they were able to get actors and the production team from Gilmore Girls in for interviews. If you’re a fan of the TV show, I highly recommend it. Also: 4+ hour analyses of each of the new Netflix episodes have just been released. Whew.
Decoding Westworld: If you’re anything like me, you recently became obsessed with the HBO show Westworld. This show with hosts David Chen and Joanna Robinson dissects/recaps it episode by episode as it came out. It gets super into fan theories and they make some pretty accurate predictions, so I’m glad I waited until after I had finished the first season to listen to it.
Rose Buddies: I don’t watch The Bachelor or Bachelorette. (Well, I didn’t until this last season because I just had to get the whole perspective after listening to this show for a year…) But that doesn’t matter, because this dating show podcast is so great, a large portion of listeners don’t either. Hosted by Griffin McElroy (of My Brother My Brother And Me) and his wife Rachel, they recap each episode of the series, be it The Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, Bachelorette Canada, or whatever old dating-type show they can dig up, be it “Please Marry My Boy” or “Are You The One” or tertiarily related Japanese “Big Brother” type show “Terrace House.” Griffin’s descriptions about how awkward situations in the shows “make his skeleton leave his body” are a delight, and they outline the rules for a fantasy-sports-league type gamifying of the show. It’s good. I promise. ****EDIT: After the really gross handling of the season featuring Bachelorette Rachel, their first black Bachelorette, Griffin and Rachel have shifted their podcast to a new one called “Wonderful!” in which they discuss the things in life that make them happy. It is delightful and adorable.****
Twilight Histories: Call this historical fiction, this podcast is a lush radio drama that plants you, the listener, into a historical event. ****EDIT: I stopped having interest in this podcast after the host https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fpermalink.php%3Fstory_fbid%3D1499903960041220%26id%3D265573796807582&width=500“>made some comments on his Facebook page on May 15, 2017:
“I am disheartened by the increasing pressure authors feel to avoid cultural appropriation. Many authors are censoring themselves and not writing from the perspective of different cultures out of fear of a backlash. This fear will limit the variety of worlds you get to experience. Fiction will become increasingly vanilla as authors suffocate themselves with PC nooses.
Well, I’m drawing a line in the sand. We are a free speech show. We will not limit the Twilight Histories to a narrow box of PC compliance. The Twilight Histories is not a safe space. Instead, we will extend our imaginations to the entire human experience wherever that may lead us. We will risk offending people. And the result of this risk is that you will get to experience exotic worlds without restraint.
I feel this is the right decision. Are you with me?”
You can make of that what you will, but, in my experience, shaming “political correctness” which, in my mind, is code for wanting excuses on how he doesn’t need to be a decent human being who cares about others. Basically, that’s some alt-right adjacent talk that I’d rather steer clear of.
Start here: My favorite is an episode in which you become the assistant to a plague doctor during the Black Death.
The Truth: When I first discovered this, I binge-listened to all of its episodes in about three workdays. Each episode is a self-contained radio drama story, completely different from the next and often really poignant
Start here: The chilling episode “Don’t Touch A Thing” has really stuck with me!
Wooden Overcoats: It’s a British “podcast sitcom” that focuses on competing funeral homes in a small town. And it’s quirky and hilarious and wonderful and suuuuuper absurd. Just my thing.
Any recommendations for me?