I Am Subscribed To 100 Podcasts.
A Podcast Primer
It’s not infrequent that I get into conversations about the relative merits of different art forms. I’m a college student, and unnecessary philosophical arguments are our conversational bread and butter. The question of “TV versus movies?”, “Pop music versus Jazz?”, and “Are video games art?” gets bandied about, and I tend to lean towards the more populist answers (“TV”, “pop”, and “duh” respectively.)
But this is the year that I realized that one art form stands above all others. Because as much as I love TV, theater, music, movies, books, video games, articles, paintings, sculptures, and interpretive dance, the simple fact of the matter is that I spend more time listening to podcasts than I do almost anything else.
That’s not an exaggeration.
I am currently subscribed to 100 podcasts. Most of these release between 1 and 3 episodes a week. Most of these episodes are between 20 minutes and 3 hours, averaging around an hour an a half per episode. If I were to listen to every new episode of every podcast at normal speed, it would take me 300 hours per week (averaging 2 hour and a half episodes per week.)
For what it’s worth, each week only has 168 hours.
So of course there are tricks to managing this. I don’t listen to every episode, for example. (There are only ~20–30 shows that I follow religiously.) I listen to almost every show on either 1.25x, 1.5x, or 2x speed. I have a playlist of about 2–3 episodes every night that play as a fall asleep. This is partially to cancel out my insomnia, since silence and sleep don’t play well with each in my head. But I usually fall asleep at some point in the first episode, so it conveniently knocks out a few. And I usually have a big backlog of old episodes to catch up on.
But still, the vast majority of my waking hours that could handle a podcast being played, do. I listen when walking, when doing chores, when eating, when working (depending on the work), any moment that would otherwise be silent.
A Bit Of History
I was first introduced to podcasts in around 2007 by the simultaneously confluence of three things.
- I discovered that I could listen to NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” whenever I wanted if I just downloaded the episodes, rather than having to attempt to time my parent’s errands around 3pm on Saturday.
- I found that I could hear full recorded concerts of my favorite bands via the NPR’s “Live In Concert” podcast.
- My love of Homestar Runner led me to this video which led me to They Might Be Giants’ podcast feed.
The first wave of podcasts for me was from around 2007–2010. I listened to “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” “Live In Concert,” KEXP’s “Live Performance Podcast,” “The Adam Carolla Show,” and the now-defunct “The Interface” from Spinner and “CD Baby Music Discovery Podcast.” They were all fun. I enjoyed them
Around 2010–2011 was when the major change happened. I had been waning in my podcast consumption, and shows were falling by the wayside. But two things happened in fairly quick succession: Chris Hardwick was a guest on the Adam Carolla Show, and I saw “Doug Loves Movies” at the local Seattle music and arts festival Bumbershoot.
Chris’ episode got me to check out his podcast, “The Nerdist,” and sitting and watching the taping of “Doug Loves Movies” got me to subscribe at the end of the weekend.
I was hooked on both shows. And slowly, through the guests booked on each show, I started to extend my network to other comedians. I gave up on Adam Carolla, but moved to Alison Rosen. I got back into some NPR shows. I went to more podcast tapings, even for shows I’d never heard of. And all of a sudden here we are, in the year of our lord 2015, with 100 subscriptions. Interestingly enough, I only actually listen to one of those original shows., and I only re-subscribed to get up to 100. Weird, huh?
Tips ‘n Tricks
Now again, I listen to 100 podcasts with some sort of regularity. Therefore, I am at least a little bit of an expert on the particular podcasting subculture that I follow. Therefore I think I’m a good resource when it comes to new shows to check out.
So here’s my four pieces of advice for getting into podcasts:
- DON’T LISTEN TO 100 PODCASTS. I REPEAT, DO NOT LISTEN TO 100 PODCASTS. If you want to lead a normal life, pick 3–4, maybe up to 10, and maybe up to 20, but start small, and let the insular world of podcasting ever so slowly drag you to more shows. You’ll hear someone as a guest, think they’re cool, check our their show, and eventually you’ll be addicted like me. But start small.
- Don’t use the “Podcasts” app. I use Downcast. It’s like $1.99, maybe $2.99? I don’t know. I bought it 2 years ago. It’s far from perfect: the terminology is wacky, the playlists system is ridiculous, it crashes way more than it should. But it’s better than Apple’s app. I’ve heard apps like Pocket Casts, Instacast, and Overcast are all better, so check those out. But put the tiny amount of money down and buy a real app.
- Try a bunch of different styles of show, but know what styles you like. I am a huge fan of casual, informal, 1–2 long conversations with funny people. Other people love tightly produced, well-edited, 10-minute long radio stories. Try them both out, and every other style in-between, but don’t be afraid to eventually figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Because there are so many podcasts, so having something to limit yourself is handy (see point 1.) In the same vein, don’t be ashamed if you don’t like shows that everyone says are “THE BEST.” I only listen to This American Life and Radiolab every once in a while. WTF and Comedy Bang Bang aren’t my favorites. Serial is great, but kinda overrated in my opinion. Pick the shows you like, and don’t bother with the ones you don’t.
Now, with all that out of the way, here’s a list of all the podcasts I currently listen to….
Like I said above, I tend to prefer podcasts that follow this formula: a comedian host (or group of hosts) sitting down and talking to people for an unedited, long-form interview. These usually are at minimum an hour, at maximum around 3 hours, and release between 1–3 times a week. Since these are very low-concept shows, the main differences will be in the hosts and their styles, as well as their selection of guests. Sometimes shows will have little segments or gimmicks that will set them apart as well, but in general, you’re just hearing interesting people talk for an hour.
- The Nerdist (hosted by Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Mira)
- You Made It Weird (hosted by Pete Holmes, gets REAL DEEP and talks a lot about weird stuff like spirituality, relationships, philosophy, etc)
- Never Not Funny (hosted by Jimmy Pardo)
- Jordan, Jesse, Go! (hosted by Jordan Morris & Jesse Thorn)
- Pointless (hosted by Kevin Pereira)
- Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend (hosted by Alison Rosen)
- WTF (hosted by Marc Maron, and kinda the show that started one of the earlier podcasting booms in like 2010–2011)
- The Big Pull Podcast (hosted by Kurt Matila, Giancarlo Volpe, and Angela-Marie Volpe, and mostly talking about comics and comic culture.)
- How Was Your Week (hosted by Julie Klausner)
- Kinda Neat (hosted by Intuition, mostly talking to musicians, particularly indie hip-hop musicians)
- The Todd Glass Show (hosted by Todd Glass)
- Comedy Bang Bang (hosted by Scott Aukerman, and featuring a lot of improv and fictional characters intermingling with the guests and normal interviews)
- Feliz Navipod (hosted by Tony Thaxton of Motion City Soundtrack, and ostensibly about Christmas)
- The Duncan Trussel Family Hour (hosted by Duncan Trussel, gets REAL WEIRD like even weirder than You Made It Weird sometimes.)
- Slumber Party (hosted by Ali Ward and Georgia Hardstark)
- Secret Skin (hosted by Open Mike Eagle)
- A Tiny Sense Of Accomplishment (hosted by Sherman Alexie and Jess Walter, also featuring some readings of short fiction.)
- Not Too Deep (hosted by Grace Helbig, interviews primarily with Youtubers.)
- Stop Podcasting Yourself (hosted by Graham Clark and Dave Shumka)
There are also shows that keep the long-form interview format, but talk exclusively about specific things.
- The Mental Illness Happy Hour (hosted by Paul Gilmartin, and all about having guests get super deep and talk about their struggles and history with mental illness)
- The Indoor Kids (hosted by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V Gordon, all about video games)
- How Did This Get Made (hosted by Paul Scheer, June Diane Rapheal, and Jason Mantzoukas, where they talk to their guest and break down one horrendously terrible movie.)
- Who Charted (hosted by Kulap Vilaysack & Howard Kremer, and they interview guests but also count down the weekly charts in music & movies)
- Pop My Culture (hosted by Cole Stratton & Vanessa Ragland, interview a guest but also talk about the weeks happenings in pop culture.)
- James Bonding (hosted by Matt Mira and Matt Gourley, where they talk to a guest and break down a particular James Bond movie.)
- Nerdist Writers Panel (hosted by Ben Blacker, interviews with all kinds of writers, but particularly tv and film writers.)
- The Dead Authors Podcast (hosted by Paul F. Tompkins as H.G. Wells, an improvisor comes on and acts as a dead author and gets interviewed.)
- With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus (hosted by a variety of guest hosts every week, but each episode has Lauren Lapkus as a special guest.)
- Sklarbro Country (hosted by The Sklar Brothers, and they talk primarily to comedians about sports and the week’s sports news)
- Comedy Film Nerds (hosted by Graham Elwood and Chris Mancini, interviewing guests and talking about the movies released during the week)
- Ear Biscuits (hosted by Rhett & Link, mostly talking about Youtube and to Youtubers)
- Bizarre States (hosted by Jessica Chobot and Andrew Bowser. Focuses specifically on horror and the supernatural.)
- The Champs (hosted by Neal Brennen and Moshe Kasher, where they specifically interview African Americans and talk about their life experiences.)
- Don’t Get Me Started (hosted by Will Hines and Anthony King, they talk to a comedian about the thing they’re really into and obsessed with that has nothing to do with their career.)
- The Daily Show Podcast Without Jon Stewart (hosted by a rotating crew of Daily Show Staffers, all about the ins and outs of working at the Daily Show)
- Song Exploder (hosted by Hrishikesh Hirway, where he talks to musicians and breaks down layer by layer and sound by sound a song of theirs.)
- Batman: The Animated Podcast (hosted by Justin Micheal, each episode focuses on one episode of Batman: The Animated Series.)
- Wham Bam Pow (hosted by Cameron Esposito, all about action and sci-fi movies.)
- Gilmore Guys (hosted by Kevin Porter and Demi Adejuyigbe, each episode focuses on an episode of Gilmore Girls)
- I Brew My Own Coffee Podcast (hosted by Alex Carpenter (not the musician, a different guy) where him and a guest discuss coffee, coffee brewing, and coffee culture.)
- Tales From The Jungle Crews (hosted by Skipper Kyle, interviews with people that have worked on the Disney Jungle Cruise ride.)
- ShopTalk (hosted by Dave Rupert and Chris Coyler, talking about web development.)
- Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots (hosted by Ben Orenstein, discussing development and design.)
- Narwhals (hosted by Drew Wilson and Keiran Flanigan about design and development)
- Product Hunt (hosted by Ryan Hoover, all about the world of startups.)
- This Feels Terrible (hosted by Erin McGathy, all about relationships.)
There are shows with no guests! Or, at least, usually no guests! Sometimes they invite someone on. Lines get blurry.
- We Have Concerns (hosted by Anthony Carboni and Jeff Cannata, they discuss a particular news story in science or technology and argue about the ins, outs, and repercussions of it but in a very funny way with a fair bit of improv.)
- Scriptnotes (hosted by John August and Craig Mazin, a pair of screenwriters, about everything you’d ever want to know about film screenwriting.)
- My Brother, My Brother, And Me (hosted by Justin, Griffin, and Travis McElroy, they give funny and goofy “advice” to questions and yahoo answers sent in.)
- U Talkin’ U2 2 Me? (hosted by Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott, where they talk about U2 and get real tangential and real dumb, but in the absolute best way possible)
- Superego (hosted by Matt Gourley, Paul F. Tompkins, Jeremy Carter, and Mark McConville, it’s an improv/sketch show that’s NEXT-LEVEL FUNNY (and often has other guests))
- FEaB (hosted by Matt Mira and Scott Mosier, and its just them chatting for like an hour. Real chill. Real fun.)
- The Smartest Man In The World (hosted by Greg Proops, and it’s just a funny, usually live rambly monologue about the world and whatever he notices.)
- I Seem Fun (hosted by Jen Kirkman, it’s another monologue podcast that’s just her talking about whatever she feels like.)
- Jonah Raydio (hosted by Jonah Ray, Cash Hartzell, Neal Mahoney, and others, and actually totally has guests but it’s actually like a super punk rock and DIY drunk normal radio show with lots of dumb jokes and its fucking great.)
- Improv4Humans (hosted by Matt Besser, and with a rotating cast of (usually UCB) improvisors, improv-ing short scenes on podcast!)
- The Canon (hosted by Devin Faraci and Amy Nicholson, where they argue about a particular film and whether it should be included in “the canon” of film)
- A Cast Of Kings (hosted by David Chen and Joanna Robinson, a seasonal podcast that wraps up and discusses each episode of Game Of Thrones as it comes out.)
- U Two Talkin’ U2 2 Me Too? Yes (hosted by Tony Thaxton and Todd Cooper, a podcast ostensibly about the above “U Talkin U2 2 Me?”)
- Cashing In With TJ Miller (hosted by Cash Levy, but every episode he seems to get TJ Miller as his guest? Weird, huh?)
- 12 Hour Day (hosted by JD Amato and Connor Ratliff, these guys turn on a recorder, and record for 12 straight hours, and release 12 hour long episodes (of which there’ve been like 6))
- Nothing But Static (hosted by two british guys (Dan Dooling and Chris Billingham), they talk about TV.)
- Programming Throwdown (hosted by Patrick Wheeler and Jason Gauci, each week they break down and discuss a programming language.)
- Bunker Buddies (hosted by Andie Bolt and Travis McElroy, all about the apocalypse and apocalypse prep!)
- #Millenial (hosted by Andrew, Matt, Laura, Elysa, and Micah, and they talk about news from a Millenial perspective.)
- The Adventure Zone (hosted by Justin, Griffin, Travis, and Clint McElroy, and is a long-term Dungeons & Dragons campaign.)
- Philosophize This! (hosted by Stephen West, each episode teaches a different aspect of philosophy and the history of philosophy.)
- Accidental Tech Podcast (hosted by Marco Arment, Casey Liss, and John Siracusa, about tech and development.)
- Pop Rocket (hosted by Guy Branum, Wynter Mitchell, Oliver Wang, and Margaret Wappler (and occasionally Jesse Thorn) talking about the week in pop culture.)
- Radio Free Burrito (hosted by Wil Wheaton, a storytelling and sort of variety-show type podcast.)
There are also NPR and NPR-style shows.
- This American Life (hosted by Ira Glass, you already know about this show.)
- Radiolab (hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, you also already know about this)
- Serial (hosted by Sarah Koenig, the hot new trend, each season following on true life story in a serial format, this season talking about the 1999 murder of Hae Lee.)
- StartUp (hosted by Alex Blumberg, chronicling his attempt to start up a podcast company.)
- 99% Invisible (hosted by Roman Mars, focusing on design and architecture by examining one thing every week really in-depth)
- Reasonably Sound (hosted by Mike Rugnetta, all about sound!)
- Wits (hosted by Jon Moe, a really fun NPR game/quiz show with music and improv and goodies.)
- Bullseye (hosted by Jesse Thorn, an excellent pop-culture interview and review show.)
- On The Media (hosted by Bob Garfield and Brook Gladstone, all about the media and what happened in the last week)
- Stanford Storytelling Project (a This American Life rip-off, but a good one, and hey gotta rep my school somehow.)
- KCRW’s Left, Right, And Center (A wrap up of the major political stories of the week, but from one person on the left, one on the right, and one in the center.)
- Risk! (hosted by Kevin Allison. Live storytelling like “The Moth” but with all the stories that would SUPER NEVER BE ALLOWED ON NPR THIS IS VERY REAL AND VERY NSFW)
- Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me! (hosted by Peter Segal, a weekly NPR news game show)
- Reply All (hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, all about the internet and internet culture.)
- Criminal (hosted by Pheobe Judge, each week is a deep-dive into true crime story)
There are also some game shows/high-concept shows!
- [Bracket!] (hosted by Cullen Jennings, Greg L. Mercer, John Abbott, and Jesse Knowles, and with a guest they vote down a Sweet-16 style bracket of things, like the “16 best TV Moms” or “16 best Candies” and declare a winner every week.)
- Doug Loves Movies (hosted by Doug Benson, a bunch of comedians get onstage and play various games about movies and movie trivia.)
- Before You Were Funny (hosted by Justin Micheal and Jacob Reed, they invite comedians on to do blind table reads of their old and terrible material.)
- The K Ohle (hosted by Kurt Braunholer, a super-weird multiformat podcast that gets very absurd and wonderful.)
- Cereal (to be honest, I don’t know what this show is about. I just subscribed, so who knows. But its name is a Serial pun, so I guess that’s high-concept.)
There are scripted/narrative shows.
- Welcome To Night Vale (a show about a sleepy desert town where all conspiracy theories are true)
- The Thrilling Adventure Hour (a new-time podcast in the style of old-time radio serials)
And my favorite podcast period, which somewhat defies categorization, other than to say it’s “funny.”
- Harmontown (hosted by Dan Harmon, and usually featuring Jeff Davis, Erin McGathy, Kumail Nanjiani, and Spencer Crittenden. They got on stage and talk and ramble and goof off for like an hour or two, then end it all by playing another segment of an extended D&D campaign. It’s literally the highlight of my week.)
There are also some podcasts that I’m subscribed to that aren’t on this list because they no longer release episodes (either because of a hiatus, or because they’ve ended)
- The Alton Browncast(hosted by Alton Brown, all about food and cooking.)
- Hot & Old (hosted by Cullen Jennings and Greg L. Mercer, they talk about one new movie and one old movie that share a similar link, and decide which is better.)
- Making It (hosted by Riki Lindhome, interviews with creative people about how they “made it” in the business.)
- The Pod F. Tompkast (hosted by Paul F. Tompkins, a very high-production value sketch and improv podcast.)
- RJ & Bley Suck At Girls (hosted by RJ Thienemen and Aaron Bleyart, all about relationships and how they’re terrible with girls. This one actually just ended a few months ago.)
- Talkin’ TCGS (hosted by Griffin Newman and Riley Soloner, all about breaking down the most recent episode of my favorite super-weird late-night show, The Chris Gethard Show.)
- Teenz Talkin’ TCGS (hosted Naomi from New York, Royce from San Francisco, Chris also from San Francisco, Andres from Massachusetts, and Intern Paige, and is a podcast hosted by teenz, also talking about TCGS. Super weird. Get into it.)
That’s a lot of shows, so if you want a smaller list to maybe choose from, here’s my list of my top 25 shows, in no real order.
- You Made It Weird
- Never Not Funny
- Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend
- Jordan, Jesse, Go!
- The Mental Illness Happy Hour
- The Indoor Kids
- How Did This Get Made?
- Who Charted?
- Pop My Culture
- James Bonding
- Song Exploder
- Nerdist Writers Panel
- We Have Concerns
- My Brother, My Brother, And Me
- 99% Invisible
- Doug Loves Movies
- Welcome To Night Vale
- Thrilling Adventure Hour
And here’s the top five:
- You Made It Weird
- The Mental Illness Happy Hour
- Welcome To Night Vale
So that’s it! My podcast story, my suggestions for getting into podcasts, the list of shows I listen to, and my personal favorites! Now go forth and prosper ladies and gentlemen.
And if you’re into podcasts, you should check out the podcast network that I founded and produce for. We have a bunch of shows in a fairly eclectic range of styles, including: