I am mad on podcasts. My coolest friend introduced me to them a couple of years ago and I am totally obsessed with them. She is obvs much cooler than me now as a journalist living in Dublin; she goes to gigs on school nights and jets round the world at weekends, whilst I’m in my jimjams by 8pm most days and know more than anyone should about local soft play facilities, but truthfully, even when we met at 20, it was thus.
Honestly, listening to podcasts I have been so entertained and inspired and informed whilst cleaning and driving and cooking and walking and bathing and honing my physique at the gym. I always like a lazy option, and this way I don’t even need to open my eyes.
I don’t know many others who share my auditory enthusiasms, so I am positively evangelical about them. Listening to podcasts daily has the downside that I am woefully ill-informed about current affairs, but my big girl has The Week Junior delivered every Friday so she keeps me up to date with what she thinks I need to know (baby Polar bears etc.)
I listen to podcasts at pretty much every point in the day that I can get away without talking to anyone – my husband said I was unsociable for wanting to put my headphones on for a 5 hour car journey – and there’s something for just about every whim and mood. I particularly enjoy an investigative podcast – but then I do love a good crime novel – and some of these have kept me absolutely gripped on my journey to work. I recommended some for bedtime in a previous post which can help you unwind and nod off, but others will make you laugh like a drain or make you even cleverer than you undoubtedly already are.
In case you have not yet discovered the world of the podcast, here are some of my faves to try, but one of the great joys is discovering your own, so, as the zealot I am, I hope you will go on to become as crazed as I am and attempt some conversions of your own. You can listen online or through the Stitcher/Apple Podcasts app.
- This American Life is wonderful. It is a weekly, hour-long show about…well, pretty much anything and everything. Each week a different theme is explored, usually in 4 different segments giving 4 different viewpoints. Recent episodes have been “Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time’ and ‘In Dog We Trust’, but the Valentine’s Day ‘Rom Com’ may be my favourite of all time. Even when the theme sounds unpromising it’s always interesting and clever, and often funny and moving, I can’t recommend it highly enough. (Loads of episodes, each 1 hour long)
- One of the most downloaded of all time is ‘Serial’ – something bonkers like 200 million people have listened to Series 1, which is an investigation into the conviction of an American teenager, Adnan Syed, for the murder of Hae Min Lee, his former girlfriend in 1999. It is presented by Sarah Koenig, who is a total legend, and is completely fascinating. (12 episodes, each between 30-60 mins)
- S-Town, by the same people who made Serial, is also excellent. This is the story of John B. McLemore, who despises his home town in Alabama and contacts the show’s producer to investigate what he believes is an injustice. Brian Reed obliges and the story develops in ways unimaginable at the start. This one took me an episode or two to really get into, but when it had finished I thought about it for weeks. (7 episodes, each approx 1 hour)
- My Dad Wrote A Porno – the first podcast I ever listened to, madly popular and the one I have laughed the most at. It is not one to listen to in the car on the way to swimming, and if you’re sensitive to sweary language and lewd content this isn’t going to be for you, but I have had to stop the treadmill for a guffaw because of it many times. It is presented by Jamie Morton – whose dad, in his retirement, wrote the abysmal ‘erotic’ novel, ‘Belinda Blinked’. Essentially, the podcast is Jamie reading it to two of his friends as they mock it mercilessly. It’s ace. You should listen. TOP TIP – make sure if, say, you’re on a busy train listening to this, that your headphones are actually pushed into your phone and you’re not simply transmitting it loudly to the whole carriage, as some people have done. More than once. (3 seasons so far – dozens of episodes to keep you going. Each episode approx 40 mins).
- Do you remember Adam Buxton of Adam and Joe comedy duo fame? You could give The Adam Buxton Podcast a try even if you don’t. It’s more interview than comedy, and he talks to all sorts of guests, some you’ll have heard of (Kathy Burke, Louis Theroux) some you probably won’t, but he’s a good questioner and a good listener so it’s always interesting to listen to, and he is very funny. (approx 1 hour)
- Stuff You Should Know is a good listen as well. There’s a different topic each time – recently ‘Is Vaping Really Bad For You?’ and ‘How Guide Dogs Work’ as well as myriad others – and the two hosts, Josh and Chuck share everything they’ve managed to research. It may sound a drag, the audio equivalent of ‘Watch’ on the big TV on wheels when you were in the infants (although that was quite the highlight at my school) – I’m not doing it justice, but they are so engaging and likeable and funny, that any topic is enjoyable to listen to. (approx 50 mins)
- I am currently listening to Finding Cleo which is an investigation into the disappearance of a young girl in the 1970s. It’s about the forced adoption of indigenous Canadian children in the 60s and 70s. so it’s not exactly a barrel of laughs, but it’s fascinating and the sort of dreadful happening you feel you ought to know about. (10 episodes, each approx 50 mins). Someone Knows Something, by the same production company comes in the same ‘harrowing but compelling’ category
- Love + Radio is less harrowing, though it can be a tearjerker. Each episode is an interview, always about some aspect of love, but a different approach each time. My friend, when recommending this said I absolutely needed to start with The Living Room. I defy you to listen and not sob. (approx 30 mins)
- Radio Podcasts – if you have a radio prog you like to listen to, but don’t get chance, there’s probably a podcast of the edited highlights. I have loved Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie since I sat listening to Radio 1 in my teenage bedroom every night; in my Manic Street Preachers t-shirt and my Adidas Gazelles revising for GCSE Biology. They still make me laugh out loud and the RadMac podcast is great. Some other DJs with podcasts are Chris Moyles, Simon Mayo and Scott Mills.
- You Must Remember This is about the early days of Hollywood and focuses on forgotten stars and secret histories. The story of Frances Farmer is a good one. (approx 50 mins)
Some others deserving of a mention:
And for the kiddiwinks:
The Past and the Curious – History
Let me know any goodies you come across!