I love No Such Thing As a Fish, a weekly podcast by the QI Elves, the researchers behind the BBC comedy quiz show QI. In the podcast, the elves present their favorite and interesting facts they’ve come across that week. As a trivia and general knowledge geek, I can’t get enough of these facts.
Another favorite is The Bugle, which is a weekly satire show about the most, and least, important news stories. I love it for just pure bullshit and bollocks tangentially related to what is happening in the world. My favorite episodes are those that include a pun run by Andy Zaltzman that references cricket.
The Skeptics Guide to the Universe is a science and critical thinking podcast that brings me back to reality. Hosted by the Novella brothers and their friends, this weekly show discusses some of the latest science news as well as regular segments like ‘Who’s that Noisy’ where listeners try to guess what is creating a particular sound.
My all-time favorite is Ear Hustle, a podcast that covers the realities of daily life in San Quentin prison, with stories from inmates who are living it, as well as stories from those who are trying to rebuild their lives post-incarceration. I love it because it’s really gripping and well put together, taking on some heavy topics, but, always with great care and more than a touch of humor.
I also recommend The RFK Tapes, an audio documentary series that takes a new look at the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and the conspiracy theories around it. Conspiracy theories aside, I learned a lot about US politics at the time – not something I had ever thought about growing up in the antipodes in the 90s!
Another fave of mine is the first series of Crimetown, which opens a window on crime and corruption linked to the mob in Providence, Rhode Island, during the 1970s and 80s. Hollywood could not have scripted some of the stuff that went down!
I love The Happiness Lab. It explores the latest scientific research on happiness in an engaging and fun way. Prompted by relatable everyday stories, each episode helps me to tread my own path to happiness and – possibly more importantly – understand why the things we often think make us happy, in actual fact, don’t. Fascinating stuff, I’ve learned so much.
One of the funniest things I’ve ever listened to is My Dad Wrote a Porno. Hosted by friends Jamie, Alice and James, each episode consists of a dramatic reading and accompanying scathing commentary of the self-published “erotica” written by Jamie’s dad. I once made the mistake of listening to this in a very quiet office, where I had to explain that my outburst of laughter was caused by the description of likening a woman’s chest to ripe avocados. Not for those with weak constitutions or intact morals!
I listen to quite a lot of the podcasts on the Maximum Fun network. FANTI and Minority Korner are fascinating, showing me new perspectives and also helping me feel seen. One Bad Mother helps me feel better about feeling overwhelmed or not getting stuff done. Judge John Hodgman is just fun!
My favorite podcast of all time is Mystery Show! It’s a delightful experience that takes the listener on a journey as the host, Starlee Kine, devotes each episode to solving mysteries that cannot be otherwise solved using the internet. Work your way up to Case #3, “Belt Buckle”. I promise you will not be disappointed (until you learn that there are only ever 6 episodes in this series).
Criminal is a podcast about crime, featuring stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle. Guided by the dulcet tones of host Phoebe Judge, it’s a welcome relief from some of the more brutal true crime podcasts. One of my favorite episodes is Brownie Lady, the story of San Francisco’s most successful baker of pot brownies.
Planet Money should be a staple for anyone wanting to learn more about how the financial world impacts our daily lives. Its sister podcast The Indicator offers bite-sized insights into the economy. Check out The $69 Million JPEG, an episode in March about non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and why they could represent the future of art collecting in the digital world.
Helen and Olly of Answer Me This! have been around almost as long as podcasting itself, but they are still going strong as some of the funniest and most educational podcasters around. 14 years on and I still tune in for every episode as they answer audience questions.
To help unwind, I highly recommend checking out The Empty Bowl – a meditative podcast… about cereal. I kid you not. These hosts make the sugariest of snacks feel like a vacation.
Heavyweight is my favorite podcast and does wonders for my overall happiness levels! Humorist and interlocutor Jonathan Goldstein helps people go back to a single moment in their lives that they wish they could change. Ensuing conversations are surprising, funny and often deeply profound.
And for guaranteed laughs, it’s Home Cooking with American chef Samin Nosrat (of Salt Fat Acid Heat fame) and Song Exploder’s Hrishikesh Hirway. Listening to Samin and Hrishi’s banter helped me through the pandemic anxieties of 2020. Warning: listen in public at your own peril. I once had to stop walking in the park when a terrible pun they made had me in involuntary convulsions.
One of my favorite things to do is deconstruct songs and figure out what the moving parts are. Strong Songs does this with a real I’m The Fun High School Music Teacher energy. Song Exploder has the actual musicians and songwriters dissect their own songs.
U Talkin’ Talking Heads 2 My Talking Head (formerly known as R U Talkin’ R.E.M Re: Me formerly known as U Talkin’ U2 To Me?) might be my favorite. Hosts Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) and Scott Aukerman (Comedy Bang Bang) are both hilarious and earnest fans of the bands they talk about. I still don’t like U2, but I loved to hear these guys talk about them.
And finally, the longest-running podcast I’ve loyally listened to is The Worst Idea Of All Time. Two New Zealand comedians Tim Batt and Guy Montgomery watch the same movie every week for a year and review it every single time. They watched Grown Ups 2 for a year. It’s hard to imagine. I’m worried about them.