The best podcasts you (maybe) haven’t heard yet
A recent Knight report defined “super listeners” as averaging around 13 episodes per week. So I decided to count how many podcasts I listened to over a given seven-day period (22–28 January 2018). The number was 21.
So I want to share with you some of my current favourites. I’m highlighting some worthy, if somewhat less-buzzy, listens. I’ve grouped them into a few (helpful!) categories:
History pods to help you make sense of the now
Times are tough. These listens help me cope, digest, gain perspective.
Today, it often feels like the march of progress is stalled or slipping backwards. This podcast is an impressive collection of archived interviews conducted by host Eric Marcus for his book of the same name. It highlights truly incredible people (many of whom have since passed away) telling their own LGBTQ experiences, long before their identities were visible, tolerated, or celebrated. It’s a reminder of how far we have come in a relatively short period. Plus, I’m a sucker for a killer archival project — it’s high-quality and cost-efficient of produce! Recommended episode: Perry Watkins.
A history podcast about the Civil War, but not like you heard in high school. The extent and scale of Confederate mythology is not something this New Englander had properly considered until now. It’s been heavily cross-promoted across Gimlet properties, but if you haven’t tried yet, this one is really worth a listen. Recommended episode: The Spin.
This is a deep dive into the Watergate scandal. It’s cathartic to remind ourselves that 2017 isn’t the first time things got very ugly at 1600. It makes this moment seem (somewhat) less apocalyptic. Nick Quah had a great writeup for Vulture. Recommended episode: Martha.
Identities and intersections
Check your privilege, but in a fun way.
These are live variety shows that feature stand-up, interviews and storytelling with British Australian comedian Deborah Frances-White and guests. Smart, poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny. Their tagline sums it up well: “We discuss our noble goals as 21st century feminists and the hypocrisies and insecurities that undermine them.” Recommended episode: Strength and Weakness with Sindhu Vee.
I’d been eagerly awaiting Britney Luse’s next project since Sampler ended and I’m not disappointed. These are “the stories of Black life that don’t get told anywhere else.” She and co-host (and real life BFF) Eric Eddings have a fun infectious dynamic. They take on lighter and heavier subject matter equally enjoyably. Recommended episodes: Playing the Race Cards, The Cowboy Of The West Village, A Diva Without Finesse. (I couldn’t pick one because they’re all really good and varied.)
This is a roundtable with four queer writers/creatives on “sex, relationships, race, identity, what we like to read, & who we like to read.” It can be raunchy and sweet in equal measure and — like with The Nod — the hosts genuinely like each other, which can’t be faked. Recommended episode: Not *That* Kind of Gay.
This one’s in French. It’s a really smart intersectional take on pop culture. And convincing: I find myself downloading, watching, or reading many of the hosts’ picks. Recommended episode: 2017 : Féminisme, mot de l’année ?
You need broccoli and cake in any media diet. I’d like to think that most podcasts I listen to are broccoli — important, enriching, informative content that is making me a more well-rounded person. These are cake — delicious, joyful, silly. A more well-known example of podcast “cake” would be My Dad Wrote a Porno. Here are my picks. Proceed with caution: may cause giggle fits in public places.
This is one of those exhaustive deconstruction podcasts. Two co-hosts and one guest turn 23 minutes of 90s television into shows that can often go over an hour. I couldn’t understand why I kept listening to this at first, but there are really some moments in the day where this is exactly what your brain needs. The co-hosts (who have improv background) give the Full House characters wild inner thoughts and tangents, juxtaposing the episodes’ squeaky cleanness. It’s pure silliness. Recommended episode: They’re all delightfully consistently ridiculous, but go for Little Shop of Sweaters.
A book club only featuring young adult pulp fiction. This is a genre I devoured in my middle school days. Revisiting Lois Duncan, Caroline B. Cooney or V.C. Andrews as an adult is highly entertaining, but no need to have read the book to enjoy the episode. The show can be very funny, but also the over-the-top scenarios tend to open up really frank dialogues between the women about their own lives, traumas, and triumphs. Recommended episode: My Sweet Audrina. The hosts dive into this doozy by V.C. Andrews which sets the insane plot bar really high for future reads.
For Trivia Nerds
In addition to being a shameless podcast nut, I’m a shameless trivia geek. I host two pub quizzes in Paris and write a weekly(ish) trivia newsletter. Subscribe here! (I’m also a shameless self-promoter.)
What if a pub quiz team started a podcast? Well they did. They try to stump each other with quizzes, plus share secret histories and oddities. Their enthusiasm and curiosity is infectious. They’ve sadly been on hiatus for a few months but with archives dating back to 2012, there’s more than enough evergreen nerdery to begin. Recommended episode: Every fifth episode they do an “ALL QUIZ BONANZA!” but all episodes are fun.
It’s like a wikihole for your ears. While the premise is a bit hokey (an audio time capsule that preserves human minutiae for future races), Omnibus hits a sweet spot for trivia geeks. And Ken Jennings is just so likable. Big fan (since 2004). Recommended episode: Gadsby. (You know, that novel written without the letter “e”. What the heck was that about?)
Best of the Rest
This is podcasting with a mission. It’s a serialised deep investigation on euthanasia laws in Australia and around the world. It can be quite heavy so maybe not one to binge but the work feels important. I feel like everyone has been affected by “bad death” in some way and other options aren’t discussed often enough. Recommended episode: You need to listen to these in order, so start with the first one, “The invasion of death”.
If you fancy, I wrote this piece about newsrooms embracing the “pivot to audio”:
This post was inspired by a piece by Mattia Peretti, where he explores 2017 as the year he officially became a pod nut. Read it:
It’s mid-December and the internet is all a big collection of lists and rankings: “10 things I learned about ___ in…medium.com
For the curious, the podcasts I listened to were: Startup (2 episodes), Quoi de meuf (2 episodes), Teen Creeps, The Spark (2 episodes), Food for Thot, Omnibus (5 episodes, it was a bit of a revelation this week. Ken Jennings is my spirit animal), How Rude, Better Off Dead, Le rendez-vous Tech, Where Should We Begin, It’s Been a Minute, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (such a great weekend ritual), Something True, Still Processing.