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Podhero Picks: The 2021 Team Faves Edition

Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

Here we are again, being asked to listen, laugh, love under these conditions. But as we prepare for a new year and whatever 2022 has to throw at us, we’re looking back at the podcasts that entertained us, educated us, and generally gave us moments of joy in the moments when we needed them most. Read on for our team’s favorites from 2021 — and stick with us for some new exciting stuff in the new year!

Darknet Diaries
The Pizza Problem(from Chris)
Jack dives into the lengths people will go to wrest social media usernames away from people and it is wild. It’s almost a curse to have a short / easily memorable username these days and the solution is unclear from the PoV of the companies.
Another related episode that aired more recently: Tennessee

Decoder with Nilay Patel
The quirks and features of YouTube car reviews with Doug DeMuro (from Pete)
One of my favorite YouTubers gives a very candid interview of what his life is like as a creator. I learned a lot.

Depresh Mode
Joel Kim Booster is in a Pit (from Amma)
I’m a longtime listener of John Moe and his conversations with funny people about depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. A fair critique of his interviews? He often talks to people whose concerns are well-managed or otherwise invisible to the listener. This interview with Joel Kim Booster, conducted while the ordinarily prolific and brilliant comic is in a dark place, is arresting to listen to…but also so important. Having been where Booster’s been, where Moe is now, and (thanks to two years indoors) now feels somewhere between the two, this was revealing to listen to.

For Colored Nerds
And We Back (from Amma)
This two minute announcement means so much more than its runtime. After seven years away from the project that launched them, time that included a successful run and contentious end from a Gimlet project and shining a light on practices at the company that rippled through Reply All and its “Test Kitchen” coverage…Eric and Brittany are back doing what they do best: dissecting Black culture for an audience that appreciates them. This time, the ownership of both their skills and their show shine through. Welcome back, team. I missed ya.

Freakonomics Radio
Why Is U.S. Media So Negative? (from Chris)
I’m a long time fan of the way Stephen Dubner approaches topics and the recent set of episodes Freakonomics did on how the U.S. is different (and in some ways similar) to other countries was super interesting. This is one of a set that aired in the Aug-Oct timeframe

Good One: A Podcast About Jokes
Detroiters’ Sam the Man with Sam Richardson (from Amma)
No deep rationale here. I am a vocal, vocal fan of Richardson’s dearly departed show Detroiters, so hearing one of my favorite comedians chat with one of my favorite podcasters about something the three of us love (or, as I put it in my Podhero rec, “Crossover crush content for the ages *heart eyes emoji*)? Nothing better.

Life Kit from NPR
How to Give Good Feedback (from Pete)
We know that giving quality feedback is important, but rarely does anyone provide an actual script to follow. This episode does a pretty good job at it.

My Momma Told Me
A Barrel of Laughs, A Scattering of Slaves (from Amma)
Both host Langston Kerman (Insecure, The Boys) and guest Michelle Buteau (most of Netflix, if you’re paying attention) are a delight to chat with individually — and I have! Together, they’re likely to be a delight no matter the topic. But this particular topic? All the better. Buteau brings an urban legend to the show (why Black people scatter after laughing) that sparks a real conversation about the role of laughter in the Black community. I loved listening to this for so many reasons, but maybe the biggest? Laughter is necessary for survival…and I don’t know about you, but I needed to hear that this year.

One Year: 1977
Anita Bryant’s War on Gay Rights (from Chris)
I really like the idea of taking a specific year and performing a retrospective on how that year changed history. Feels very in line with Slate’s style of podcasting. The 1977 series of episodes was especially interesting as someone on the upper end of being a “millennial” since the 70’s are a time period I’m close to but super unfamiliar with.

The Sporkful
Mission ImPASTAble Series (from Amma)
The most riveting adventure on pasta I’ve ever heard. I expected Dan Pashman’s journey to invent a new pasta shape to be interesting, but I didn’t expect to extend my evening walks to hear what happened next because I wouldn’t be able to contain myself listening and sitting still. And this is for someone who hasn’t had regular pasta in over a decade (#glutenproblems).

Switched on Pop
Baz Luhrmann’s “Sunscreen Song”, The 90s’ Most Unlikely Hit w/ Avery Trufelman (from Chris)
The Sunscreen Song has long held a special place for me — it has an odd “je ne sais quoi” quality that’s hard to express. I still listen to it decades later and the nostalgia is palpable. Super interesting to learn how it came to be and how it evolved.

Village Global’s Venture Stories
Justin Kan on Happiness, Hiring, and Time Management (from Pete)
Twitch Founder Justin Kan gives some of the most candid interviews I’ve heard from a founder. He’s someone I would have wanted to listen to when I was starting on my own founder journey. (On a personal note, Justin was founder of the online calendar Kiko, which was a friendly competitor to our online calendar HipCal back in 2006).

The Weeds
Think Like a Scout (from Pete)
Julia Galef theorizes that people generally fall into two mindsets: solider and scout. People using the soldier mindset tend to see what confirms their existing beliefs. People using the scout mindset try to observe what’s objectively happening, regardless of personal beliefs. Before I heard Julia, I was aware of the time I spend in both mindsets, but I value Julia’s work putting a name to the practice.



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Amma Marfo

Amma Marfo


Writer. Speaker/consultant. Creative. Powered by curiosity, conversation, comedy, & (sometimes) candy.