If you're not listening to podcasts, why?

by Rachel Mackie

As the world of podcasts expands, some of the best journalism, storytelling and comedy can now be found on that tiny app on your phone, and most of the time, for free. Why miss out on this fountain of entertainment?

Here are a few recommendations from a self-confessed podcast obsessive.

The Hidden Gems

The Adam and Joe Show

First things first - let’s go through a few real hidden gems in the podcast bin, and let’s start with an absolute belter. For those already familiar with BBC Radio 6 Music, forgive me for stating the obvious, but the Adam and Joe Show is pure comedy gold. The chemistry between these to old school chums is unmatched, and I defy anyone to not actually laugh out loud while listening to their nonsense chat. A real pick me up in times of need, these are two friends that you can happily carry around in your pocket.

two men smile and hold funny poses pointing at each other
the promo picture for homecoming, the titles over redacted text

Homecoming

Onto a more serious subject now, with the binge alert on full, we look at Homecoming. This podcast is one of the few that is scripted, fictional and maybe even more spectacularly, contains an all-star cast. With David Schwimmer, Catherine Keener and Star Wars' very own Oscar Isaac playing the leading roles, this is a real gem.

Well crafted, fascinating, morally ambiguous and unutterably addictive, Homecoming is an absolute must - get in before season 2 hits the internet.

Reveal

The last of our hidden gems is a bit more left field, the Reveal podcast. Though not as big nor as popular as its American family (i.e. This American Life and Radiolab) nevertheless, Reveal - the centre for investigative journalism is in-depth, fascinating and remarkably informative. Compulsory listening for all.

the word reveal, in black on white with a messy black frame

The Newbies

Next up, let's take a look at the newbies on the scene. Keeping up with the constant stream of podcasts tumbling onto the scene can be almost impossible, so here are a few shiny ones to get you started on the new wave - though I am counting second seasons of established podcasts as "new" so get off my back.

In the Dark, Season 2

First up - and appropriate to the above disclaimer - is In The Dark Season 2. A true crime marvel, following the chaotic case of Curtis Flowers, a man who has been tried 6 times for the same crime. With impeccable storytelling, strong research and jaw-dropping revelations, this is enough to prove why the crime genre is one of the biggest selling in the medium.

"in the dark" in a yellow open ended box on a picture of a grassy hill
promo poster with title and description "A show about constitutional law with Elizabeth Joh and Roman Mars"

What Trump can Teach us About Con Law

Now, I’ve really tried to avoid Trump at all costs in these selections, but it’s just not possible. He’s everywhere, so let's try and whittle down the ones that are actually worth listening to. The best one to start with is What Trump Can Teach us about Con Law. An interesting take on the presidency. Roman Mars and Professor Elizabeth Joh explore the intricacies of constitutional law, and specifically what Trump can and cannot do, in an engaging and accessible way.

New episodes every time the president does something controversial, meaning new episodes very regularly.

Slow Burn

The next one is not entirely Trump-related, but the link is there. Slow Burn is an in-depth look at Watergate, the biggest scandal in US politics (so far that is). It asks the intriguing question of: "would we know it if we were in the middle of another Watergate?".

Narratively perfect, incredible details and deeply fascinating, this one really is an absolute no-brainer.

Nixon's face with "slow burn" written over it in print type face

The Timeless

Right, finally, lastly and endingly, let's look at the most timeless podcasts you can indulge in, though I would be astonished if you hadn’t checked out at least one of these already. 

Serial

Number one on this list is Serial. Obviously. Season one is particularly sensational, but as it’s still the most downloaded podcast of all time, it's hardly surprising that I’m recommending it. Following the real-life case of Adnan Syed - a man convicted of killing his girlfriend at the age of 17, and who has now spent over half his life in jail - this podcast proves the power of real investigative journalism, as Syed has recently just been granted a retrial.

"serial" in block capitals, in a font that looks like fluorescent lighting
a woman looks worried, a man looks quizical and another man laughs. The three sit at a table with a book.

My Dad Wrote a Porno

Take a deep breath now for the smuttiest entry in this piece. This is not for the faint-hearted. My Dad Wrote a Porno consists of a son reading out the erotic literature written by his father, with his friends gleefully adding their comments.

Hysterically and agonisingly funny, with a strong cult following and season four on the horizon, there’s a lot of Porno to catch up on, though I warn you, I can’t be held responsible for any repercussions of indulging in this choice.

No Such Thing as a Fish

Now, sadly, we have come to the final podcast, No Such Thing as a Fish. One of the originals, and a real staple of the podcast world.

From the QI elves comes a fun trivia show full of bizarre and interesting facts discussed by four funny friends. Genuinely enjoyable and actually informative, this one is a real classic and should not be missed.

Three men and a woman sit round a very busy desk covered in rather random objects

So there we have it, all of these are more than enough to turn even the most disdainful critic into a fan of the podcast, and set you off on a journey to find more.

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