You know what’s better than free things? Nothing. Nothing is better. The good news is this: there are hundreds, nay thousands, of free podcasts waiting for you to listen to them. The only problem is this: podcasting currently has a quality vs. quantity dilemma. There’s a breadth of podcasts you can listen to relating to any and every topic under the sun; unfortunately, not all of them are quality. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not particularly a fan of listening to strangers talk about nothing for an hour if there isn’t a compelling reason.
So we all can agree: podcasting is pretty cool, free content is awesome, but let’s be real, there’s a whole Dante’s Inferno of bad podcasts out there sullying the name of podcasts everywhere. Like most things, the definition of a good podcast to is in the eye of the beholder. Your first step towards finding Podcast kismet is to start by searching whatever topic(s) you are truly interested in. Then, go ahead and let the sampling begin. Give every podcast you’re interested in a good 3-5 minutes to see if it grabs your attention. After that, move on. Rinse and repeat.
Until then, I’ll hook you up with some of my all time faves. So here is my personal, very biased list of podcasts that don’t suck. Please enjoy!
If pop songs are to be believed, you always remember your first love. It is the original. The apex. The purest of the pure. For podcasting, this one is it. My Favorite Murder is a fun, dark, hilarious podcast that deals with, you guessed it, murder (insert spooky ghost noises here). The two hosts are Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff. Both live in LA, share a fantastic sense of humor, and are deeply interested in all things related to serial killers, true crime, and murder.
This podcast does include some coarse language and occasionally graphic descriptions, so it’s not for the faint of heart. But it also contains hilarity, humanity, and some truly empowering messages. Before they dig deep into murder, the ladies discuss their lives, their difficult pasts, and express things that most people shy away from. They talk about anxiety, therapy, their weird obsessions, the unexpectedly wonderful fan reactions and gifts that come their way and beyond.
My Favorite Murder is the creme de la creme of podcasting. It’s hilarious, well-produced, honest, earnest and fearless. These two ladies manage to take a dark subject and turn it into an exploration of their own lives and fears, the world around them, and the insanity that seems to be inherent in the human race for better or for worse. Head on over to Feral Audio and give them a listen. If you love rambling, finding humor in the macabre, and listening to two gals explore their stream of consciousness, this one is for you.
Source: Freakin' Awesome Network
This Feels Terrible is hosted by the entertaining, vulnerable and often painfully honest comedian Erin McGathy. Each episode features an interview with one of her friends, colleagues or even her real life ex-boyfriends, as the pair discuss love, relationships, heartbreak and life. Erin is nothing short of brutally honest, displaying her own thoughts, feelings, deficiencies and relationship woes with humor and grace. She is witty and smart and chooses interesting guests to come on the podcast and share their often rocky experiences in dating.
What is wonderful is that she never shies away from any topic, any moment, or any joke. With a background in improv, she is not only quick on her feet but she is also enmeshed in a community of comedians and performers that date each other, share lives and careers and experiences, and are able to approach and discuss their own heartbreaks with insight, humor and candor.
Each episode is truly an engrossing lesson. You get to hear the deepest secrets of strangers and get a window into their past relationships. If you are nosy like me, this podcast will feed that deepest part of you.
With each ensuing episode, you learn not only about the guest but you grow to learn more about Erin herself. Her life and her past is an open book, so much so that she live streamed her own wedding and then her divorce from Community creator Dan Harmon. She also checks in with not one but two ex-boyfriends, shares her thoughts on Manic Pixie Dreamgirls and reminds us that heartbreak is, more often than not, a part of human condition.
Image Sources: YouTube, KQED
Pop culture happy hour is a podcast from the home of talk radio NPR; the originator of the high quality podcasts we see cropping up these days. I couldn’t make a list of my favorite podcasts out there without name-dropping the king of medium. National Public Radio has been a vital resource for people across the country to learn in-depth information about current affairs, political happenings and world-wide news stories. Their content is curated by intelligent, thoughtful, diverse commentators and hosts who present the news in a way that is balanced, honest and engaging.
Lucky for us, NPR has expanded beyond just radio news and has tried their hand at podcasting. Click through to their “programs” tab and you can find podcasts of every flavor. Search podcasts that have to do with news and conversations, storytelling and humor, music and more. Each podcast is it’s own little world, often with it’s own special subject and point of view. I could rave endlessly about the quality of their podcasts but instead, I’ll share a couple of my favorites with you. Give these ones a whirl: Pop Culture Happy Hour (a dissection of current pop culture including TV, music, movies, award shows and so much more), Hidden Brain (a science-based podcast about the patterns in our lives that we don’t always see or think about) and Code Switch (a thoughtful discussion about race and politics in America today). Those are just to name a few.
Of my favorites, I’m recommending Pop Culture Happy Hour because it is the type of podcast that NPR is known for: well-researched, thoughtful, earnest and thought-provoking. Each week, the hosts take a deeper look at some little piece of pop culture. Then they take turns analyzing this book or show or movie or genre and sharing insightful thoughts, reactions and observations on it. This podcast is refreshing. It makes you look at the media around with you a new set of eyes and glance deeper into the shows and movies your watch. It’s brilliant and fascinating and whole lot of fun.
Have you ever been to Cracked.com? If not, please go to it right now. Cracked has some of the most hilarious, interesting, thought-provoking articles in the game. Their titles are often clickbait-y in an addictive way, but as soon as you click through you will find legitimate information and research, hilarious writing and pure entertainment. It’s a bit like a classier, more thoroughly researched Buzzfeed. You will love it.
Lucky for us Cracked.com has upped their game from just readable content to now include videos and their very own podcast. Each podcast tackles a new subject that posits interesting takes on mundane things. For example, here are a couple Podcast episodes you can listen to:
Give the Cracked podcast a whirl and you won’t be sorry. Just like clickbait, you know that the writers (or hosts, in this case) are trying to grab your attention. And guess what? It worked. So hop on over to their podcast and get a heaping serving of knowledge, then go over to cracked.com and read an article or twelve.
I am, as my bio states, a New York native. Thay means that I grew up with frigid, soul crushing Winters, excellent pizza and easy access to what some people refer to as the greatest city in the world. Clearly, I disagreed with that last statement since I moved clear across the county, but that is really neither here nor there. New York is a wonderful place because the food is on point, the public transportation is easy as can be, and the people who inhabit the city itself are honest, hilarious and proud to be New Yorkers.
Two such people include the hosts of the podcast Bodega Boys. They don’t go by their given names but rather by their nicknames, Desus Nice and Mero the Kid. Don’t let those names fool you, they are both smart, hilarious, astute dudes who share their full blown, unbridled take on the world around them.
I’ll be honest, I don’t even know if the podcast has a particular focus or subject; it’s just two hilarious dudes, getting together and riffing about life, marriage, kids, and growing up in the Bronx. This is another one of those podcasts that requires a bit of warning. There is coarse language and adult topics. But deep down, this podcast is about calling out the issues in the world around us, being honest about the struggles life brings, and laughing about any and every subject under the sun. Give it a go and you might just become obsessed.
These podcasts are my own personal Top 5 listens. My areas of interest include humor, pop culture, and well done podcasts that capture my attention. I tend towards podcasts that leave me feeling more informed, more connected, or just more entertained. Just to reiterate, every person is different and by that logic, every person like different things. Take a little time to find the Podcast that is right for you. Sometimes you have to kiss a couple frogs before you find your podcast prince charming. I’ll share a couple more honorable mentions of podcasts I like but if you have any podcasts your listen to and love, drop us a line in the comments!
Serial: The podcast that swept across the nation. Season 1 of Serial discusses the mysterious and compelling case of Adnan Syed and the murder of his girlfriend at the time, Hae Min Lee. You’ll go back and forth wondering about Adnan’s innocence, guilt and trying to solve this who-dun-it.
Welcome to Nightvale: This creative podcasts tells the fictional store of a small town in the desert called Night Vale. Strange things start happening and we follow the story as it unfolds via the town’s radio host. Brilliant, engaging and an eerie listen.
My Brother, My Brother and Me: If you have siblings, or have ever wanted siblings, this one is for you. This podcast follows 3 brothers who share advice with listeners who write in, riffing with each other about any and every topic. It’s entertaining, light hearted, and from time to time you can even find some solidly good life advice (to be taken with a grain of salt).
The Read: Like many of the podcasts I’ve mentioned, this one centers around pop culture and follows its two hosts as they discuss Beyonce, life in the South and provide hilarious insights about LGBT life, adulting and so much more.
Chris Gethard’s Beautiful Anonymous: The premise of this podcast is as follows, comedian and host Chris Gethard takes a call from an anonymous stranger. The discussion lasts for one full hour, and no matter what Chris will not hang up. He listens to people talk about their lives, their struggles and sharing a little bit of their humanity with the world. Anonymously, of course.
Embedded: This podcast is a new find for me, but I’m already deeply engrossed. This is another stellar podcast brought to you buy NPR. The host Kelly McEvers takes a lesser known story from the news and gros so much deeper. She interviews the people involved and shares new insights about the story, the players and the world they exist in.
Planet Money: In this podcast you can learn more about all things related to money and the economy; be that the present or the past, the good or the bad. Money and our economy is an ever-present part of our lives but often not something we known all too much about.
The Hilarious World of Depression: As the title probably indicates, this podcast takes on the often unspoken world of clinical depression. By interviewing comedians and other creatives, the host challenges our assumptions of what depression is, how it manifests itself and how to overcome it.
Hidden Brain: This podcast utilizes science to go deeper into the world around us, taking certain subjects we may think we know about and going in-depth to analyze the science and psychology that powers current phenomenons, news stories and historical happenings.
Code Switch: This is a powerful podcast that examines the reality of race in America, the struggles of talking about racial discrimination, and fighting back against the subtle stereotypes and misconceptions that exist in our society.
For today, my masterlist is complete. Click through these podcasts and see if any tickle your fancy. If not, you can start your journey on NPR.org, Podbay.fm, Feral Audio, Earwolf or SoundCloud. The best podcasts around are simply the ones that grab your attention and keep you tuned in.
Podcasting is such a personal art and much like stand up comedy or writing, you feel as if you are getting to know the people involved. It allows you to foster this deep connection with strangers you have never met. Podcasts can be informative, funny, fun, thought-provoking, scary, beautiful and anything else you can imagine. It’s like striking a conversation up with a stranger. So pull up a chair, untangle your headphones and have a listen!