On the first Tuesday of every month, I’ll share ten of my favorite anything. This month, I’m sharing my ten favorite podcasts!
I listen to podcasts a lot. When I wake up in the morning and I just want to go right back to sleep, I turn on a podcast. I feel like it helps my brain wake up faster than when I listen to music while getting ready. At work, I share an office space with my boss, who loves to listen to some super random funk music, so I like to plug my headphones in and listen to podcasts while I work. Sometimes I even listen to them on the drive home, because I can’t tear myself away from whatever I was listening to at work.
I loved podcasts in 2007-2008, but after a while I stopped keeping up on my favorite shows and eventually I stopped listening to them all together. Like most people that don’t live in caves, my podcast love was reawakened in October 2014 when Serial debuted. The week-by-week investigative storytelling format pulled me in and had me convinced that I, a college student with no criminal justice experience, would be the one to solve the murder of Hae Min Lee.
Alas, I didn’t solve her murder. But Serial reawakened an old love for podcasts, and I was once again hooked. It started with Serial, spread to its parent show and then branched out to another true-crime podcast, and then it was all over. I currently subscribe to 24 podcasts, and I’m always looking for more, so there’s never a shortage of unique audio content in my life.
So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the ten podcasts that I don’t want to live without! (Note: I didn’t include Serial here because it’s such a given and it is on just about every list out there. But if you haven’t checked it out, what are you waiting for?! Start with Season 1, and prepare to get hooked.)
Genre: True crime
Host: Phoebe Judge
Frequency: Bimonthly (usually the 1st and 3rd Friday)
I came across Criminal while doing a frantic google search for something to fill the week between episodes of Serial in Season 1, but now I think Criminal is higher on my list. While Serial covers one case over an entire season, Criminal highlights a different case or crime-related story each episode. The topics are super diverse, too. Recent episode topics include the relationship between police officers and their K-9 partners, stories from a retired courtroom sketch artist, and a photographer who caught an iconic image during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
Start with: Episode 25: The Portrait. This episode is about the unsolved murder of a family of 9 in 1929 and the modern-day search for answers. The ending is equal parts poignant and eerie.
2. Anna Faris is Unqualified
Host: Anna Faris
Frequency: Weekly (Mondays)
I don’t know about you, but I adore Anna Faris. I think she’s cute, hilarious, and I kind of just want to be her best friend. So I was thrilled when I found out she was starting a podcast! The premise is that Anna and a celebrity guest take calls from listeners who need some advice and try to help them out. But my favorite part about this is the random chitchat. It’s recorded around Faris’s dining room table, and it is relatively uncut, which means it feels like you’re just hanging out. You hear moments like Anna having an aside with the off-mic interns or her toddler son running into the room to tell her that he loves her. And she has a great back-and-forth with her guests that has me laughing out loud like a crazy person when I listen at work.
Start with: Episode 23: Jason Manzoukas. Manzoukas’s combination of slightly raunchy humor and actually really solid advice had me cracking up.
3. America’s Test Kitchen
Host: Chris Kimball
Frequency: Weekly (Fridays)
Okay, so my cooking escapades are sometimes successful, sometimes disastrous. But listening to America’s Test Kitchen teaches me things that make me feel like I can actually handle myself in the kitchen. My boyfriend always likes to remind me that cooking is chemistry, and I love that the team behind America’s Test Kitchen does all that science and then simplifies it for me. Because let’s be honest, I just barely scraped by in high school chemistry. The show also covers things like kitchen gadgets, cookbooks, and cooking trends, and there’s a chance for listeners to call in with cooking questions. It’s based on the cooking show of the same name on PBS, which is also definitely worth watching!
Start With: 429: The Essence of Emeril. I loved watching Emeril with my mom in the early 2000’s. In fact, one year my mom cooked a Thanksgiving dinner entirely made up of Emeril’s recipes. This episode, in which he talks about life since his TV show ended, brought me right back to those days. Kick it up a notch!
4. This American life
Genre: Journalistic Storytelling
Host: Ira Glass
Episodes: 576 (according to Wikipedia)
Frequency: Weekly (Sundays)
Where do I even begin with This American Life? It’s one of those podcasts that you want to listen to non-stop. Each episode has a theme (recent ones include middle school, reconsidering past decisions, and police-civilian interaction) and there are usually three “acts” of stories that fit into the theme. Sometime’s it’s funny, sometime’s it’s sad, sometime’s it’s joyful, but it’s always thought-provoking. It’s the parent show of Serial, so if you like the format of that podcast, you’ll love this one.
Start With: Any! With over 575 episodes, and new ones coming out constantly, . Don’t feel overwhelmed, though–just dive in wherever you want and you’ll see why this is such a popular show.
5. Comedy Bang! Bang!
Host: Scott Aukerman
Frequency: Weekly, and often biweekly (Mondays and Thursdays)
If you haven’t heard of Comedy Bang! Bang! you’ve probably been comatose for quite some time. If so, welcome back to life. This podcast is part interview, part improv, and it’s one of those shows that, once you get into it, you just don’t want to stop listening to. Host Scott Aukerman has a few guests, usually comedians, and begins interviewing them. Because of the show’s open door policy, some oddball characters show up partway through the recording and carry the rest of the show. With over 400 episodes (the podcast began in 2009) and 4 seasons of the spinoff TV show on IFC, you’ll basically never run out of funny content.
Start With: 150: Time Bobby (Bobby Moynihan, Paul F. Tompkins). Paul F. Tompkins has appeared on CBB as Andrew Lloyd Weber many times (and he’s always hilarious) but the addition of Bobby Moynihan as Fourvel, a stabby street urchin, had me trying so hard not to laugh out loud while listening at work that I was crying. If you love it as much as I did, check out 215: Time Bobby 2 and 286: Time Bobby 3.
6. The Mortified Podcast
Frequency: Weekly (Sundays)
Once a year or so, I dig my old diaries out from the box under my bed and go through them for a good laugh. I love reading my high school LiveJournal even more, because teenage Kellie was dramatic/ridiculous/hilarious. I think that’s why I love Mortified so much–I connect with the catharsis of rehashing your childhood and teenage years through your own past self’s perspective. Essentially, adults read their diaries in front of a live audience and tell the backstory, then follow up with a “post mortem-fied.” Episodes are, on average, about 20-30 minutes, which means it’s a great quick listen if you don’t have time to listen to an hour-long podcast.
Start With: 54: Don’t F*ck with Emiko. This reading of a formerly angry goth girl’s diary is hilarious, but she’s also genuinely honest about some of her more negative experiences, which made for a really moving post mortem-fied.
Episodes: 6 full-length episodes, plus 5 short “extras”
Frequency: Weekly (Mondays; currently between seasons)
Limetown is a fictional podcast framed like an investigative public radio show about the disappearance of 300 people from a rural town in 2004. I knew I was hooked within the first five minutes of episode 1, and I powered through the whole podcast in a single day. I even had to cut myself off from listening to it at work, because I caught myself staring off into space and doing no work whatsoever because I was so caught up in the story line. I wanted more the moment it ended, and lucky for me, it’s not over. The creators have confirmed that they’re working on season 2 of the podcast, a television pilot, and a prequel novel.
Start With: Episode 1: What We Know. This is meant to be listened to in order–if you skip around, you’ll be totally lost, and you’ll probably accidentally spoil something for yourself.
8. Slumber Party with Alie and Georgia
Hosts: Alie & Georgia
Frequency: Weekly (Thursdays)
I love having sleepovers with my best friend. We watch cheesy rom-coms, bake, snack, drink lots of wine, and stay up late chatting. I think that’s why I love listening to Slumber Party: the conversations between Alie, Georgia, and their weekly guests–like Giada De Laurentiis and Youtube star Grace Helbig. They talk about their week, go over their favorite shows, share embarrassing stories, and–my favorite part–give their “fuck that” list: one thing they love and one thing they hate each week. The description says that it is broadcast from “a real life pillow fort,” and I really hope that’s true. I think my best friend and I are going to need to step up our sleepover game with a pillow fort next time so we can be as cool as Alie and Georgia.
Start With: 19 – Mamrie Hart. I already love Mamrie and her hilarious “You Deserve a Drink” series on Youtube (this may or may not be foreshadowing for a future “Top Ten Tuesday” topic…) and this just made me love her even more.
9. Lexicon Valley
Hosts: Bob Garfield and Mike Vuolo
Frequency: Bimonthly (day of the week varies month to month)
My degree is in linguistics, so you know I had to include a linguistics podcast in the list! To be honest, a lot of the language-related podcasts on the market are kind of boring. But this show is funny, insightful, and a really good listen even if you don’t know the first thing about linguistics (they’ll teach you!) Bob and Mike both have a dry, witty sense of humor that I just love
Start With: Man on the Street. I loved this episode about a lexicographer’s 20-year journey in creating Green’s Dictionary of Slang, a three-volume reference book that covers all aspects of slang with over 10 million words.
10. Welcome to Night Vale
Genre: Science Fiction/Comedy
Frequency: Bimonthly (1st and 15th of each month)
Welcome to Night Vale is another fictional news podcast, but it’s worlds apart from Limetown. Night Vale is a small town in the middle of the desert, where strange things keep happening, like a glowing storm cloud that rains small animal carcasses, mysterious angels, and hooded figures that roam in the dog park at night. According to one of the creators, it’s a town where all conspiracy theories are real. It’s equal parts eerie and funny. Plus, the creators wrote a science fiction book of the same name, following the storylines of two residents of Night Vale.
Start With: 1 – Pilot. Start at the beginning, and give it a couple episodes even if you’re not sure of it right away. Trust me, it gets good.
Wondering where to listen?
I listen to podcasts on my iPhone using the Podcast app, which automatically updates all of the podcasts I subscribe to. The only exception This American Life, which I listen to on the official iPhone app (it’s also available for Android). Since I don’t have an Android phone, I can’t say what the best app is, although Podkicker tops a lot of the lists I looked at (if you have an Android and can suggest another good app, let me know in the comments!) SoundCloud is a good resource if you know the podcast you’re looking for, but doesn’t have a podcast section so you can’t browse podcasts like you can on the apps above. You can also listen to most podcasts on their official website–I’ve linked the pictures of each podcast’s logo to its respective site so you can click on the image and get there quickly.