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We can’t emphasise how much we love podcasts. Friendly chinwags, laugh-out-loud bites, and touching human interest stories have accompanied us on many a long commute. We also find it comforting to have a bit of chatter on in the background, whether working in the office or at home.
Podcasts are also free to explore any area of interest at length, spawning lots of obscure content that would never make it onto commercial airwaves. Radio is increasingly controlled by large media companies, and will probably one day be killed by podcast streaming, so here’s a list of our favourite podcasts. Make sure your earbuds are fitting comfortably and listen away!
Of course we’d start off this list with This American Life. Ira Glass delves into first-person stories and short fiction pieces from all over. Its superb arrangement and production make listeners connect instantly with the personal stories. Glass has also done a six-parter on the Hong Kong protests, which is well worth listening to.
This bi-monthly podcast is proof that life can be just as scary as fiction. Gather ‘round an audio campfire with Aaron Mahnke as he takes listeners through historical events that display the dark side of human nature. As the name suggests, it also delves into the origins of common folklore. This is pretty much an audio cabinet of curiosities filled with creatures, people, and places of our wildest nightmares. Try not to freak yourself out too much on your dark and lonely commute home at night...
The Takeaway offers an alternative supplement to the daily news. Headlines and news snippets are fleshed out with listener call-ins and live reports on-site, making for a diverse analysis. The breadth and depth of topics featured are unprecedented in news coverage; this podcast is a great way to kickstart deeper pantry conversations on what’s going on.
Comedian Andy Zaltzman breaks down global news with a satirical slant, featuring a slew of other comedians. Self-proclaimed “satire and bullshit,” The Bugle was actually kicked out of their former nest at the Times for repeatedly and brutally mocking Rupert Murdoch, who owned the paper itself, so you know these guys don’t hold back on controversial opinions. Think The Onion, but audio and snappier.
Slate was one of the pioneers of the pop culture roundtable format, and still does a stellar job of it with their Culture Gabfest. Each week, the hosts pick three cultural topics and proceed to debate about them. It’s like one of those conversations you overhear sometimes in coffee shops that really make you perk up and strain to listen in on, albeit very well-spoken.
Anyone who’s read a Dan Brown novel or seen the National Treasure films will already have heard that the Mona Lisa currently on display might be a fake, but did you also know that an avant-garde artist might have been Jack the Ripper, or that Van Gogh was possibly murdered? ArtCurious is perfect for those out there who reckon art is boring; Jennifer Dasal will prove you wrong.
If you’re a regular at pub quizzes, you should supplement your knowledge with Stuff You Should Know. Brought to us by the folks at HowStuffWorks.com, each episode tackles a single topic such as tsunamis, bitcoin, or understanding North Korea. The curated topics are always entertaining and presented in an easily digestible format so you’re not left sleepily scratching your head on your morning commute.
You’re Dead To Me has been described by the creators as “the history podcast for people who don’t like history.” Greg Jenner teams up with some big names in comedy and they basically get together to laugh about stuff that has happened in the past. We’ve surprisingly absorbed a lot about Lord Byron, Aztec human sacrifice, and the richest man to ever live.
The writers and researchers of the fantastic BBC panel talk show QI—also affectionately referred to by former host Stephen Fry as the QI elves—discuss the best things they’ve discovered each week on No Such Thing as a Fish. The four hosts have a great dynamic and have put together an informative, hysterically funny, and wildly entertaining podcast to give your week a boost as needed. “How the hell do you know that?” will be something that you’ll hear a lot of when you start regurgitating the facts you pick up from NSTAAF.
Three comedians gather to watch and comment on some of the worst movies ever, inevitably asking the eponymous question How Did This Get Made? The common thread throughout these choices is that they were earnest attempts to become blockbusters but ended up messy flops instead—sad, yes, but that makes them all the more funny. The hosts sometimes even delve into the trippy world of Amazon reviews to supplement their own remarks, and regularly have us snorting into our crash-o’clock flat white.
The weekly Last Podcast on the Left is presented by three longtime friends exploring the world’s horrors, both imagined and real. They’ve covered a wide range of topics including serial killers, alien-human hybrids, unexplained mysteries, creepypastas, and the dark world of internet fetish sites. Episodes have run since 2011, so if you appreciate the macabre and dark humour like us, there’ll be loads of content to keep you thoroughly entertained.
This podcast disguises itself as the local community news programme of the desert town of Night Vale. Listeners quickly realise something’s very weird about this little town, though its inhabitants just get on with it as normal. It has an odd, Twin Peaks-esque vibe, complete with monstrous mayors, clouds glowing menacingly, and hooded figures bumming around the town square, winning over legions of fans. Our favourite recurring character is Khoshekh, the floating male cat that has given birth to kittens with poisonous ridges along their backs.