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COVID-19 Podcasts

ISH Podcast Recommendations

The ISH Podcast, a series of podcasts exploring the different challenges of living in a big city like London as a foreign student, how that shapes one’s identity and the implications of having all these different cultural backgrounds mixed together working for a similar goal. 
I Tell My Husband the News, A news-reporter reads current headlines to her husband, who is a comedian. Not exactly cutting edge satire, but they are super cute and funny.
You Must Remember This, True stories from old Hollywood narrated over lush, old-fashioned movie music. The stories are great and give you a window into the crazy world of movies in the black and white era.
8-Bit Book Club, Three funny nerds read through old novelisations of video games. The books are ridiculous and the hosts make fun of them mercilessly. Great host chemistry. Tons of fun.
Lore, Solo podcast exploring the stories and legends all around us. A tightly written and moodily produced show focused on the tall tales woven into our history.
Longform, Long conversations with writers of non-fiction. Good host and really interesting conversations. A bit slow compared to most of my other podcasts, but satisfying.
Superego, Very strange, slightly off-putting, free-association improv comedy. When it’s bad it’s just weird, when it’s good it’s magical.
Our Fake History, Single host show exploring misconceptions and pseudo-history. Like a Hardcore History for things that didn’t actually happen. The host is great and topics are usually very interesting.
I Was There Too, Interviews with non-famous people who in some way worked on iconic scenes in famous movies. Fascinating if, like me, you have a love for pop-culture arcana.
Shut Up and Sit Down, Four British comedians talk about and occasionally play board games. A lot of fun, and a lot of goofballery. I don’t play a lot of board games, but I’ve bought several because these guys made them sound fun.
I Saw That Years Ago, Two witty blokes talk about movies they don’t quite remember. The concept doesn’t actually do much, this show is all about the chemistry between the hosts which is fantastic.
Duncan Trussel Family Hour, Comedian Duncan Trussel invites guests on for long rambling conversations. Stands out for Duncan’s odd choice of guests and the unique, weird nature of the conversations he engages them in.
The Adventure Zone, Goofy brothers play Dungeons & Dragons. Took me several tries to get into this show (beginning’s a little rough and I don’t play D&D.) But I kept giving it chances because of some strong recommendations, and it does blossom into some really unique storytelling.
Planet Money, Very NPR show about money and our world and the interplay between economics and our daily life. Fun and listenable in spite of the dreary subject matter. Has some really great education about dollars and cents that we really should all be listening to.
Giant Bombcast, The crew of a gaming magazine get together and chat about games, life and everything in a long and rambling discussion.
Burnt Toast, Conversations and researched features on food, food culture, and it’s relationship to daily life. Lovingly produced and charmingly performed. An absolute delight.
Fireside Mystery Theatre, Storytelling and variety show done in front of a live audience. The stories are usually a lot of fun, and the theatre atmosphere adds a fun unique quality to it.
Opening Arguments, A lawyer and a comedian chat about the law. Sort of like Star Talk, but for legal questions. The hosts perfectly hit the balance of informative and engaging. Law affects all our daily lives and it’s something that most people know bupkis about, and I love that this show does a great job of making it accessible.
Comedy Bang! Bang!, One of the old staples of podcasting. Loose format comedy show usually involving interviews followed by some light improv.
The Black Tapes, Ghost stories, but in the form of a “non-fiction” journalistic podcast. Really well-told with a dark and brooding tone. A weaker second season has dropped it in my esteem but still great.
Never Not Funny, Comedian plus celebrity guest ramble on about nothing in particular. Very rarely not funny.
Leicester Square Theatre Podcast, Comedian Richard Herring does one-on-one interviews with comedians in which he asks them stupid and ridiculous questions. Throws out the formal interview format and just has fun. Having a big live audience elevates it.
Rocket, A few tech journalists run a show about general geek topics, with an emphasis on tech. A perfect balance of smart informational chat and good host chemistry.
We’re Alive, Audiodrama about a Zombie infestation. Very good writing and acting and probably the best-produced serial scripted story podcast. Great use of tension throughout. **possible trigger warning***
Greg Proops Film Club, Wacky smart comedy about a film
Harmontown, Comedy writer Dan Harmon plus friends talk nonsense and generally have fun. Mostly funny with occasional seriousness. Harmon is a great lovable chap and the podcast format is perfect for him. Does fun and interesting things with the basic talk-show format.
Smash Cut, Storytelling via dialogue collage. A wonderfully unique show that ranges from gripping to tragic to avant-guard. May be too weird for some but hits a sweet spot for me.
Desert Island Discs, Celebrities are interviewed with the same question: If you were stuck on a desert island, what five albums would you want to have with you. Mostly a conversation about music, but it expands into a bigger conversation about the guest’s life and influences.
No Such Thing As a Fish, The writers of a British trivia show go into depth on the obscure knowledge they’ve been researching and ramble on about arcane knowledge. Smart people chatting casually about smart things. Usually very interesting to listen to.
Blank Check, Movie discussion pod that perfectly hits the balance between smart discussion and levity. The premise is talking about director’s who get a license to do whatever they want (the titular blank check), but it’s really a pretty freewheeling conversation. Phenomenal chemistry between the hosts.
The Future of Everything, Wall Street Journal’s interesting impeccably researched radio-style features on technologies and ideas that are pushing our world into an uncertain future.
The Memory Palace, Bite-sized stories from 18th – 20th-century history, told with interest and pathos. Focusing on the human story behind the story of our recent past.
The Orbiting Human Circus of the Air, Silly absurdist storytelling about a radio show that records in the Eiffel Tower. This show is not for everyone, but if it hooks you it is delightful and charming and always a joy to listen to.
Imaginary Worlds, Serious discussions exploring the quirky little details of the worlds of popular fantasy and sci-fi franchises. Done as a host monologue, interspersed with interviews of experts and fans. I love the way he parses out interesting aspects of those worlds and tries to envision how they would really work.
Hello From the Magic Tavern, Improv comedy set in a fantasy world with a diverse cast of funny improvisers playing far-out fantastical characters. Solidly funny and always fun to disappear into their goofy mythical world.
All Killa No Filla Two comedians discussing serial killers (killa). Mostly tangents about hilarious non-serial killers stuff (filla)
In Our Time, Big, heavy intellectual discussions of very serious topics in history, art and culture. This one might be a bit too smart for me, tbh, but I try and when I can hook into a topic it’s immensely satisfying.
Hello Internet, Two internet nerds chat casually about smart and obscure subjects. There’s actually not that much to this show, but the hosts are great and they have a very unique chemistry.
The Infinite Monkey Cage, British-style panel show where a couple of comedians and a couple of scientists get together an tackle a difficult science topic and try to find an answer. Unlike a lot of science shows, they don’t shy away from talking actual science, but the chemistry of the hosts keeps the show always entertaining.
Wolf 359, a Narrative sci-fi podcast. Intriguing space travel story with a quirky sense of humor and good sound design to create a solid sense of atmosphere. Starts simple and blossoms into an awesome story.
The Thrilling Adventure Hour, Comedians do a parody of an old-fashioned radio play in front of a live audience. So much fun. Best moments are when it breaks down. Was dead for a long time but there have been recent occasional releases so I’m considering it alive and putting it on this list.
Doug Loves Movies, Comedian Doug Benson has several celebrity guests on each episode to talk movies and play games. The quintessential podcast for me. Slightly too lose and quirky to ever have worked as a radio show. Usually funny and always fun.
a16z, Science and Tech podcast with interviews of actual scientists doing cutting edge work. Can be a bit dry, but I love how in-depth it is, and that it doesn’t dumb it down to a grade school level like a lot of similar shows.
You’re Dead To Me The history podcast for people who don’t like history… and those who do. Greg Jenner brings together the best names in comedy and history to learn and laugh about the past.
Theory of Everything, Loose think-pieces conversations about life and technology and the connections between things. Really interesting and well-thought-out.
The Truth, Short non-serial audio dramas. Stories range from serious to silly, often strange and off-kilter. Very well produced and performed, but the best part is the writing, which is awesomely creative and interesting.
Reply All, One of many thinkpiece shows on this list. This one sets itself apart by focusing on internet-related stories. There’s a whimsical nature to the hosts which gives the show a unique sort of charm.
Spontaneanation, Paul F Tompkins has an interview with a famous person and then leads a long-form improv scene. Usually very funny simply because Tompkins is so funny.
Candidate Confessionals, Interviews with losing candidates (or people who worked on losing campaigns) done as sort-of autobiographies telling the story of how a campaign fails. Fascinating deconstruction of politics from a new angle. Refreshingly honest at times.
Mouth Time!, Absurdist show that parodies the vapid beauty mag culture but taken to the extreme. Partway between absurdism, improv comedy, and an actual pop culture podcast.
The Black List Table Read, Audio performances of industry movie scripts that haven’t gotten made. The concept is fabulous and the actors do a great job. Unique storytelling podcast with wonderful production. Some of the scripts are really great. Held back a bit by the fact that movie scripts aren’t always written to be read out loud.
2 Dope Queens, Two sassy women host a comedy podcast with guests that chat with them or do their stand-up acts. Love the energy of the hosts. Generally great when the guests are good.
Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, Two divinity professors use their techniques of scholarly biblical analysis on the Harry Potter books. Silly concept but they take it completely seriously. The result is part deep textual dive into the Potter-verse, and part reflection/conversation on life in general. Wonderfully introspective. Somehow both heavy and light at the same time.
The Adam Buxton Podcast, Comedian interviews celebrities. It’s hard to stand out in this crowded genre, but this show does due to the host’s magnetism and energy, and the quirkiness of the show’s production, with little songs throughout (including the ads), and lots of silly digressions. And at its heart, Adam is an excellent interviewer who gets a lot out of his guest.
Anxious Machine, Introspective think-pieces about the human mind and how it works in human society. Usually done through interview interspersed with host commentary. The stories sit in a sweet spot between the personal and the general in a unique way.
The Flop House, Three guys watch a bad movie and talk about it. The real joy, though, is in the constant flights of fancy when they say something dumb or misspeak that cascade into jokes that they follow to their logical conclusion.
How did this get Made?, Three comedians and a guest review bad films.
This Feels Terrible, Comedienne interviews other comedians about dating and love and relationships. Host has a lovely easy style that is good for getting people talking about really personal stuff. Has great chemistry with most guests.
Beef and Dairy Network Podcast, Comedy podcast pretending (with a completely straight face) to be an actual beef and dairy specialty pod. The result is very high-quality absurdist comedy.
Here’s The Thing, Alec Baldwin interviews celebrities. The tone is very NPR but Baldwin keeps it a bit tighter than your average radio show.
The Bugle, News and Politics satire with an absurdist twist. Three years ago this was a top-5 podcast for me and then they went on a long hiatus and lost John Oliver. Still great and slowly working its way back up the ranks.
Common Sense, Very heady current events discussion from an outside-the-box perspective. The host is a provocateur who tries to challenge your preconceptions about government and society. I don’t always agree but he always opens my eyes at the gaps in my own thinking.
Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell’s odd little examinations of historical events from a new perspective are fantastic. The first season was very well-thought-out, although still finding its voice. I was very glad that it returned in time to have enough episodes to make itself eligible for this list.
Love + Radio, Interesting people tell their stories in extended, tightly edited interviews. The people are usually non-famous people who have done remarkable things in their lives. Good production and good stories.
99% Invisible, Little think pieces about design and its role in our everyday life. Impeccably researched and always interesting, with a wonderfully charming delivery from its host.
The Hilarious World of Depression, Comedian interviews comedians about depression and how it shapes their lives. A genius concept that perfectly hits the sweet spot of using humour to enlighten dark subjects. Fairly new and still finding its feet, but already one of my favourite shows.
Radiolab, Reporters explore fascinating and mysterious stories usually in the realm of science and nature and wind their way to answers in a series of tightly cut together with interviews. Really tightly produced (sometimes too much so) and very well researched, this show is one of the most iconic podcasts in the medium.
Death, Sex & Money, Very personal stories about the big decisions in everyday people’s lives, done in interviews in a journalistic style. Very heavy sometimes, but really great. Really digs into the real stuff in people’s lives.
You Made it Weird, Very long in-depth celebrity interviews with comedian Pete Holmes as host. A mirror-universe version of WTF, with a young-happy host rather than an angry older one.
Reveal, Serious journalism, but with a slightly more of a conversational tone and more production to make it a more entertaining version of a news show. Nevertheless, the subject matter is heavy, and often deadly serious.
Overdue, A couple of funny blokes talk through great classic novels while riffing and making jokes. Spot-on chemistry and a perfect combination of high-brow art and low-brow comedy.
Relic Radio, Relic Radio lovingly curates from over 30 years of successful but forgotten shows to present them to a modern audience. The stories, while old-fashioned, are amazing, well-performed and fully produced with original music.
Savage Lovecast, Call-in advice show about love, sex and life. What sets it apart is the kind and charismatic host, who has a gift for cutting to the heart of complex questions.
Crimetown, In-depth audio documentary on organized crime in a big city (season 1 was on Providence.) Really well-told story that feels tight and informative, while staying entertaining, mostly because the stories themselves are so engaging.
Modern Love, Essays and stories about love in the modern world, read by famous actors. The pieces themselves are incredible, both joyful and heart-wrenching.
Wooden Overcoats, Scripted comedic audio drama about competing for funeral homes on a small British island. Very witty. Wonderfully funny and charming. Has probably the best character voice acting in scripted podcasts.
Invisibilia, This podcast describes itself somewhat grandly as exploring the invisible things that shape everyday life. What it is, is a damn good radio-style interview think-piece show, with an emphasis on the patterns of human behaviour.
WTF, An angry old comedian interviews famous people in great depth. Marc Maron’s gift is in getting people speaking from the heart, and in breaching personal subjects that don’t usually get talked about in interviews. WTF is often funny, usually fascinating and occasionally heartbreaking.
Alice Isn’t Dead, Weird, creepy, wonderfully produced and performed a fictional story about a woman on a journey to find someone she lost. Uniquely moody and moving. Poetic to the point that it might be considered self-indulgent, so it might not be for everyone. But if you dive in, it’s an incredible journey.
The Moth, Personal stories told by a wide set of writers in front of a live audience. Usually funny and often touching in a smart-NewYorker-piece sort of way. Curated from a larger set of stories, and it shows: The stories are more consistently good than most of these types of shows.
The Church of What’s Happening Now, Comedian Joey Coco Diaz plus guest (usually comedians) trade life-stories.
Strangers, Tough, beautiful personal stories examined in interviews. It’s like little audio documentaries about everyday people who have been through extraordinary personal turmoil. Beautiful stories, beautifully told.
The Mortified Podcast, Grown-ups read their childhood journals to a live audience along with embarrassing stories and memories about being kids. On one level it’s really funny to hear their skewed childhood perceptions but also there’s something amazingly cathartic about sharing in the embarrassment.
Snap Judgment, Great true-stories told by the people who lived through them.
Here Be Monsters, Wonderful stories about suffering and hate and love and all the crazy things that are going on in the human soul. Told mostly through solo interviews with lightly interspersed music and production. The show is very heavy but very listenable and very real.
The Film Reroll, Rotating crew of actors and comedians pick a famous movie and improvise a new version of it with a license that anything can happen.
This American Life, Pastiche of stories about the American experience, told in a journalistic style through interviews. Sometimes sad, sometimes joyful, always interesting.
Risk!, Similar to the Moth, people come on to tell their personal stories.
My Dad Wrote a Porno, A host and his two friends go chapter-by-chapter through his dad’s erotic novel, constantly dissecting and laughing about the bizarre and terrible writing.
Beautiful/Anonymous, Long phone conversations with anonymous callers who tell personal stories about their lives.
Welcome to Nightvale, Bizarre, absurdist poetry, delivered hypnotically in the form of a local radio bulletin, mixed with wonderful music for ambience and as breaks in the main show. Welcome to Nightvale is honestly pretty hard to describe. It’s funny and dark and compelling and weird all at once. It’s completely unique, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but if it’s for you, it’s can be transformative.
Song Exploder, Musicians break down the making of their songs, pulling out and explaining individual tracks and showing you how the song works piece by piece and ultimately how they work. Lovely and unique podcast for music lovers and noobies alike.
PRI’s the World, You could argue this is the best show in podcasting and it’s basically a news show, but not your typical cable news fare. Reporters go around the globe and go in-depth with local topics and how they affect the world and what they mean to all of us. These are all human stories, with all the pathos and weight of great fiction, but done in an interview with real people. Heavy show but very listenable in spite of the seriousness.
Criminal, Stories at the extremes of the human experience, told through interviews in a semi-journalistic style. The perfect blend of story-telling and introspection.
Hardcore History, Powerful stories from the past, told passionately and intelligently. Dan Carlin has a gift for the dramatic, keeping the narrative human and personal while still showing you the great sweep of history. Warning: very long episodes.

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