14 Podcasts That Have Given Me Joy — Part 1

I listened to my first podcast (Freakonomics Radio) about three years ago, when I was home, partly out of curiosity and partly out of boredom. It soon became a habit and has got to the point where it has evolved into a routine. I do not leave the house, take a shower or cook without a podcast playing in the background. I’ve discovered dozens of podcasts over these three years, while I’ve stopped listening to dozens more. This is part 1 of a list of the 14 podcasts which have given me the most joy. Some of them have helped me through some dark times. Some of them are ones I turn by default when I need to be distracted. If you’re trying to get into the habit of listening to podcasts or are a seasoned listener and want some recommendations, I’ve got you covered. This, however, is by not a definitive list of the best podcasts out there and is purely based out of my interests. Also, if you’ve got some recommendations for me, leave them in the comments. So in no particular order, here it goes. (Click on the titles of the podcasts to check them out)

The QI Elves

Did you know that a type of beetle called the Tiger Beetle can run so fast that it can go blind? Or that the White House’s Oval Office is a giant weighing scale? Or that Enrique Iglesias’s heart is located on his right chest? The researchers who work on QI (Quite Interesting), a BBC comedy quiz, or as they refer to themselves, the QI Elves, come together every week to discuss interesting trivia covering all sorts of subjects with classic British wit. This podcast was so popular, the Elves got their own TV show called No Such Thing As The News, which runs on the same format, but discusses current news. I have been a quiz geek for all my life and this is the sort of thing I binge on. Highly topical, verily funny, muchly recommended.

RISK! was started by Kevin Allison, a former member of The State, a 90s sketch comedy group with famous alumni like Michael Ian Black, Thomas Lennon, and Joe Lo Truglio. It is a true story-telling podcast featuring both live recordings and studio recorded stories told by people from all walks of life, including celebrities like Louis CK. RISK! stands up to its claim that it will give a platform to stories which are deemed too risque for radio. The stories range from side-achingly hilarious to gut-wrenchingly tragic. Fair warning, many stories contain a lot of sexual content, so you’d better wear your earphones. Out of all the podcasts on this list, this one occupies a special place in my heart because of the emotional roller-coaster rides it has taken me on.

Reply All, simply put, is a podcast about the internet and all that it comes with. Hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, whose laughs are infectious, Reply All covers topics as varied as Zardulu, the mysterious woman who claims to have staged Pizza Rat and various other viral phenomena, to an ALS patient currently living as a functional cyborg. One of my favorite segment in all of podcasting, is Yes Yes No, where their boss Alex Bloomberg comes to them with a meme or tweet he doesn’t understand and they try and explain it to him; if they can. A definite ‘must-listen’.

The Bugle is the love child of cricket’s favorite comedian Andy Zaltzman and the one and only, John Oliver. The Bugle is inarguably one of the funniest podcasts around. From across the pond, the two Brits recapped news and ensured you fell off your chair laughing while they did so. The fuck-youlogy they gave to Margaret Thatcher remains some of the best recorded minutes on audio in human history. John Oliver, however, had to leave the show because he couldn’t devote enough time to The Bugle, what with you know, saving the world with his brilliant Last Week Tonight. It’s still hosted by Andy, but now features guest co-hosts such as Anuvab Pal, Wyatt Cenac, Nish Kumar and Hari Kondabolu, and is still a bag of laughs.

Everyone has that one place where they go to get trusted movie/TV show reviews. For me, it is FITWR. Which is not that simple, because the hosts on this podcast usually have very differing opinions on everything. But I take their general consensus into account before I spend my money and time on any movie or TV show. Their Quarter Quell and Top 10 lists are especially useful. This is the place to go to if you’re in need of some current pop culture news and want to hear fairly heated debate about whether La La Land is really all that good.

My gateway to GoT podcasts was A Cast of Kings, a spoiler-free podcast which discussed the TV series, co-hosted by David Chen and Joanna Robinson. But between Season 4 and 5, I finished all the books and my need to feel like a smug book reader forced to me to search for more GoT podcasts. That’s how I discovered Storm of Spoilers, again co-hosted, by the fabulous Joanna Robinson (best voice in podcasting, by far), Neil Miller (second best voice) and Dave Gonzales from FITWR. Storm of Spoilers went into the books and predicted what would happen in subsequent episodes of the TV series, addressed ASOIAF fan theories and in the off-season, talk about casting news and news from the sets of GoT. It’s addictive if you’re obsessed about GoT and want to act like a know it all when Jon and Daenerys get it on next season (you knew that was coming though). This year, they also went into other pop culture fandoms during the off season, like the Laika movies, Stranger Things, Marvel and DC Universes etc.

Now, this is a very niche recommendation. I’ve personally followed the esports scene since my first year of college and when I really got into CounterStrike. One of the journalists whose work I voraciously consumed was Duncan ‘Thorin’ Shields. Reflections is an interview series with current and former professional players from CS:GO, CS 1.6, DotA, League of Legends, Starcraft and Quake, which drilled deep into analyzing their careers and specific moments within them. I enjoyed listening to old school CS pros like elemeNt, shaGuar, Potti, fRoD etc re-live their storied careers. Thorin has several video podcasts, including the excellent Counter-Points series, all of which I highly recommend. But Reflections is nostalgia …it’s romance …it’s special.

Thorin and shaGuar

I’ll try and publish part 2 next week, but in the mean time, let me know what you think! Cheers and happy listening!

J.