Finding a favorite new podcast to follow is process of trial and error. In some ways, it can feel a bit like internet dating. There’s that initial sense of excitement and possibility you get when you scroll through a site like Audible and spot a clever title, cover art or description that strikes your fancy. So you decide to give it a shot and sample a few episodes in the hopes of finding a show that speaks to you on a personal level. On rare occasions, the connection is an instantaneous case of “love at first listen.” But more often than not, the relationship proves to be a relatively short-lived encounter that leaves you wanting just a little bit more.
The good news is that with countless podcasts currently available, and an untold number of new ones being released daily, there are a ton of amazing shows out there just waiting for you to find them. Whether you’re interested in current events, true crime, film history, celebrity interviews or just a fun distraction to help make your day a little more enjoyable, there’s plenty of fish in the proverbial podcast sea. To help you make a podcast love connection, here are 20 can’t-miss shows that deserve a download right now.
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Launched in 2018, this engaging pop culture podcast is hosted by journalists Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall, who take a second look at well-known news stories and explain why they’re largely misunderstood by the general public. Popular episodes include a reexamination of the Satanic panic hysteria of the 1980s, a fresh take on the infamous Amy Fisher tabloid story, a riveting multi-part look at the tragic D.C. sniper attacks of 2002 and a topical show about the current “cancel culture” debate.
This weekly current events podcast is hosted by T.V. writer Ira Madison III, actress and writer Aida Osman, and Jimmy Kimmel writer and unforgettable “Jeopardy” contestant Louis Virtel, and features a revolving cast of brilliant guest stars like Wanda Sykes and Jennifer Coolidge who discuss the ways that entertainment intersects with politics and culture. Listening to “Keep It!” feels like eavesdropping on the funniest restaurant conversation you’ve ever heard. Even when the hosts go way off-topic and start cracking each other up about the latest memes and Twitter wars, you’ll find yourself hooked. If you’re looking to sample an episode, try the 2020 show where Jane Fonda drops by to talk about filmmaking and activism.
Whether you’re a professional writer, an amateur scribe or fall somewhere in-between, this helpful podcast is the perfect place to turn when you find yourself in need of a little extra inspiration. In each episode, co-hosts Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink (creators of the spooky “Welcome to Night Vale” podcast) offer remarkably useful tips that will energize your creativity in innumerable ways. Topics include how to avoid burnout, the benefits of collaborative writing and combating imposter syndrome. Every episode also includes a simple writing assignment designed to get your creative juices flowing.
A spinoff from the acclaimed HowStuffWorks website, this general knowledge podcast is one of the most popular shows of its kind in the world, and for very good reason. Peppy co-hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant release up to three exhaustively researched episodes per week, and each one offers a fresh take on an unexpected subject. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe the range of topics you’ll encounter here. Notable episodes include a deep dive into the chilling Tylenol murders of the 1980s, a reexamination of the D.B. Copper mid-air hijacking case of 1971, a surprisingly compelling history of the ballpoint pen and an illuminating look at bioluminescent insects. And for listeners who don’t have a full hour to spare, the show also features mini episodes that cover an unusual topic in only 15 minutes.
Whether you’re tucking your children into bed, driving them to school, or just hanging out with them on a weekend afternoon, “Stories Podcast” will help enrich the experience. Offering a colorful new story each week, this G-rated series is appropriate for even the youngest kids. Each bite-size episode lasts about 20 minutes or less, making them perfect for quick trips to soccer practice or the supermarket. Many of the stories are clever retellings of beloved folk tales and myths, while others are original works of fiction written by Daniel Hinds and the podcast’s writing team. Sprightly host Amanda Weldin ably performs the stories using some wonderfully funny voices that will give young listeners a case of the giggles.
Listening to this Portland-based podcast is like joining the world’s coolest book club twice a month. The show is hosted by writer and radio personality David Naimon, and in each episode he sits down for an in-depth conversation with a contemporary author to discuss their work. Covering everything from literary and popular fiction to poetry and non-fiction, what makes “Between the Covers” so special is Naimon’s uncanny ability to suss out intriguing revelations from his guests. After sampling his interviews with graphic novelist Joe Sacco, Pulitzer Prize-winner Viet Thanh Nguyen, visionary sci-fi author Neal Stephenson, and literary giant Ursula K. Le Guin, don’t be surprised when you become a devoted listener.
Countless podcasts skewer bad movies, but none of them comes close to matching the humor and charm of this brilliant long-running series. Hosted by comedic actors Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas – and featuring an assortment of hilarious special guests – “How Did This Get Made” launched in 2010 with a show lampooning the abysmal Christina Aguilera musical “Burlesque.” While most episodes are recorded in a studio, some take place in front of a live comedy club audience. Standout episodes include a look at the bizarre children’s film “Gooby,” an examination of the Jean-Claude Van Damme classic “Bloodsport” and an outrageous episode focused on the 1986 masterpiece “Howard the Duck.”
Award-winning author and activist Glennon Doyle is best known for penning the bestselling memoir “Untamed,” but podcast listeners now recognize her as the creator of the inspiring show “We Can Do Hard Things.” Launched in April of 2021, the podcast features Doyle and her sister Amanda discussing an important range of difficult issues, like marriage and divorce, making and ending friendships, struggling with loneliness and depression and workplace trauma. Tackling each of these topics with grace and candor, and never afraid to confront hard truths, the Doyle sisters bare their innermost thoughts and feelings, and in doing so, they forge a powerful bond with their dedicated listeners.
In a relatively short amount of time, the “SmartLess” podcast has attracted the most impressive roster of celebrity guests you could possibly imagine. Where else can you find superstars like Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Downey Jr., and Kamala Harris dropping by for a casual chat? The reason for that is quite simple: the show is hosted by none other than Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett. Adding to the fun is the fact that each celebrity guest is a total surprise to two of the show’s hosts. It’s a delightful gimmick that pays off brilliantly each and every time.
Whether you’re a die-hard trivia geek or just curious about the occasional odd fact, you’ll find plenty to love about this pub-style trivia podcast. Hilariously hosted by Annie and David Flora, the show features top notch questions on virtually every subject under the sun. For example, what is Austin Powers’ middle name? What does the acronym “HTML” mean? In what Italian city did the Renaissance begin? And what is an adult male duck called? You’ll find the answers when you tune in each week. The jazzy audio production also helps add to the fun, with the atmospheric music making it sound like you’re in cozy pub enjoying your favorite cocktail.
For well over a decade, this highly entertaining and informative podcast has taught listeners the ins and outs of making and saving money, while simultaneously explaining how the world’s economy truly functions. A spinoff from an episode of “The American Life,” the show was launched in 2008 with the intention of covering the then-current financial crisis and the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But as more and more listeners tuned in, the topics began to expand. What makes it one of the most downloaded podcasts in the world is the approachable way the hosts address each issue they cover. Rather than a dry, business-like program, “Planet Money” uses classic storytelling techniques to pull you in.
On the wonderfully witty “Off Menu” podcast, British comedians Ed Gamble and James Acaster invite a special guest on the show to describe their dream meal in mouthwatering detail. After picking a favorite appetizer, guests then select a main course, a side dish or two, and finish up with their preferred dessert and an after-dinner cocktail. If that premise sounds a little strange, don’t worry. Just give the show and chance and you’ll be instantly hooked. The secret to this unique podcast is the way it effortlessly blends humor and food to create an entirely new genre. A recent episode featuring Dan Aykroyd as a guest is particularly funny, with the legendary “Ghostbusters” star offering an astonishingly elaborate menu off the top of his head.
The granddaddy of hour-long audio storytelling, “This American Life” continues to dazzle faithful listeners while attracting new fans each week. Broadcast on more than 500 radio stations around the world, the award-winning show was made available as a free weekly podcast in October of 2006, and today it’s credited as a pioneer in the podcast medium.
Hosted by iconic radio personality Ira Glass, each episode is centered around a particular theme and is divided into several acts, with topics ranging from personal essays and memoirs to hard-hitting news stories to short fiction and comedy. Perhaps the most incredible thing about the program is how it’s managed to remain relevant for more than 25 years. That’s a testament to how beautifully written and produced it is.
With his curmudgeonly attitude and fearless sense of humor, stand-up comic Marc Maron was a popular figure in comedy clubs and on talk shows for many years. But he became a household name when he launched his weekly podcast in 2009. Recorded either in his home’s garage or an occasional hotel room, “WTF with Marc Maron” is a lo-fi treasure that turns its do-it-yourself production style into a loveable asset. Never afraid to go places that other interviewers might fear to tread, Maron’s remarkable conversations with guests like Robin Williams, Mandy Moore, President Obama and Hunter Biden ended up making news around the world. His recent episode celebrating the life and legacy of actor Michael K. Williams is especially moving.
The premise of this award-winning British podcast is deceptively simple. On each episode, one of the ingeniously funny co-hosts presents a particularly interesting, though often highly obscure, fact that they stumbled across that very week. The lively discussion that follows is joyfully silly and endlessly entertaining. What makes this trivia-style podcast so addictive is the playful – and at times naughty – banter between the hosts. While other shows might frustrate you when the conversation veers off-topic, on “No Such Thing as a Fish” that’s pretty much the whole point. General knowledge podcasts don’t come more appealing than this one.
If you’re the parent of a teenager and want to appear cool in their eyes, try suggesting they listen to “What’s Good Games” and see what happens. The subject of the podcast is one that your teens are surely well acquainted with: video games. What makes this particular show so unique is that its hosted by a passionate trio of female gamers who discuss the latest gaming news. With more than three decades of experience in the gaming industry, Andrea Rene, Brittney Brombacher and Kristine Steimer know their subject backwards and forwards, and they’re able to talk about it in a way that both experts and newcomers will appreciate.
Unlike most podcasts, “10 Things That Scare Me” doesn’t have a reoccurring host. Instead, each episode is told from a different point of view. Here’s how it works: one person briefly lists ten things that frighten them. These can be anything at all, from the existential terror of climate change to emotional fears about public embarrassment to physical anxiety about bugs or vehicular accidents or something along those lines. A few of the contributors are famous, like Guns N’ Roses musician Duff McKagan and fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, but the majority are everyday people bravely sharing their innermost concerns. Most episodes are less than 10 minutes long, making it easy to binge a half-dozen of them at a time. What you’ll discover when you listen to this one-of-a-kind podcast is just how universal our fears are.
Anonymity allows people to say things publicly that they wouldn’t dare to share if their names were attached. That’s the alluring premise of this podcast from actor and comedian Chris Gethard. Think of it as an audio version of a confessional booth, but with a well curated cast of anonymous participants baring their souls. On each episode, Gethard takes a call from a nameless listener and spends an hour talking to them about whatever is on their mind. You’ll hear people from all walks of life sharing private stories about all sorts of topics. Some are complex, some are simple, some are funny and some are devastatingly powerful. It’s a grab-bag of humanity, and Gethard’s approach to drawing their stories out using soft-spoken kindness and understanding makes listening to each episode a beautiful experience.
The next time you find yourself dining at home by yourself, wishing you had some clever company, download an episode of “Table Manners with Jessie Ware” and treat yourself to a dinner conversation you’ll never forget. The brainchild of British singer-songwriter Jessie Ware, each episode of the show is recorded during an actual meal – often prepared by Ware’s adorable mother Helena – and features a fascinating guest who chats with the host and her mom about everything from family and careers to politics and entertainment. Guests include charmers like “Game of Thrones” star Maisie Williams and “Schitt’s Creek” creator Dan Levy, along with bona fide legends like Sir Paul McCartney and Dolly Parton.
Hosted by renowned therapists Lori Gottlieb and Guy Winch, this weekly podcast features real therapy sessions with actual patients, providing a you-are-there sense of intimacy that few other shows can match. Tune in and you’ll hear Gottlieb and Winch offer profound insights and practical advice to a wide variety of people dealing with a host of different issues. Topics cover everything from parent-child conflicts and marital infidelity to dealing with chronic illness to workplace stress and holiday dread. It’s the perfect podcast for fans of HBO’s “In Treatment,” or anyone who wants to better understand themselves and others.
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