I listen to too many podcasts. Like an impractical number of podcasts. To the point that I am stressed out by looking at my podcast app because there are too many unlistened and I feel overwhelmed and guilty about that. (Let’s not question what that says about my mind.) So, in no particular order, here are the top ten things I listen to while waiting on cold station platforms when it’s far too early for a reasonable person to be awake. (8am. I mean 8am. Not being a student is hard.)
1. Answer Me This
This was the first podcast I ever listened to. My boyfriend of the time was obsessed with it, so I eventually caved and gave it a listen. That was six years ago, and I still listen to the new episode immediately every time it comes out. Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann are consistently funny, often clever (often not) and they continue to make me laugh out loud in public. (This will become a theme. Someone start an instagram called people laughing at podcasts on buses.)
2. Pop Rocket
This is another that I listen to immediately, and it tends to be over an hour, which I love. It’s a round table pop culture discussion, and it’s basically how I find out if anything is worth watching or not. Thanks to Pop Rocket I’ve watched and listened to so many wonderful things, and I’ve understood things that I’ve already engaged with on a new level. Basically, it’s just four people who are cleverer than me talking about the things I like. And being funny, and passionate, and analytical and critical.
3. Witch, Please
Speaking of people who are cleverer than me talking about the things that I like, here are two women who are way, way cleverer than me talking about the thing in pop culture that I like more than anything else. Including a lot of people who I actually know in real life. I am talking, of course, about Harry Potter. Marcelle and Hannah are academics who essentially critically analyse the Harry Potter books and films. By critically, I mean in the sense of literary criticism. Like to the standard you would do it in a university essay. While being hilarious. I love it so much. I listened to all of it in about three weeks. I suggest you do the same.
4. The Guilty Feminist
Sophie Hagen and Deborah Francis-White are comedians, and the podcast is them talking through their experiences of different things women face, like women’s magazines, body confidence, femininity and so on and so forth. They do challenges each week related to theme, perform brief stand up sets and chat with another funny woman about the theme. Basically it’s just a really relatable chat about feminism, where they talk about their successes as feminists and their not-so-successful moments. I’m literally listening to it as I write this.
5. The Allusionist
Helen Zaltzman makes another appearance on this list with her Radiotopia show. The Allusionist is fifteen minutes of brilliance every two weeks. Helen chooses an aspect of language to focus on, from puns to dictionaries to manners, and is witty and insightful in her discussion of it, talking to experts. I’ve always loved the language questions on Answer Me This, and this is basically entirely devoted to those.
6. The Empire Film Podcast
I got into the Empire Podcast when I was living in Paris and my work hours were very minimal, so I was going to the cinema a lot more often than I would in the UK (it’s totally normal to go to the cinema alone in France, which is great), so I needed the recommendations. The Empire team are funny and silly, but they also talk about films in much the same way that I talk about films with my friends, which helps in knowing which I actually want to see. My boyfriend and I listen to different film review podcasts (he listens to Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo) and it is a genuine source of friction in our relationship when they disagree.
7. Pappy’s Flatshare Slamdown
This show is straight up stupid. It’s a comedy panel show based around the idea that the losers have to do a chore in the flat that the three members of Pappy’s supposedly live in. It is 90% puns and it makes no sense, it’s chaotic and ridiculous and it genuinely makes me cry with laughter.
8. Books on the Nightstand
This is a slightly wasted recommendation because BOTNS is coming to an end in a couple of episodes’ time, but it’s great. Ann and Michael consistently have fantastic recommendations – my TBR is twice as long as it would be without them – and talk insightfully and engagingly about books and the publishing industry. Well worth listening to the back catalogue.
9. Bullseye with Jesse Thorn
Bullseye is an NPR show about pop culture, based around a couple of interviews an episode and a recommendation from Jesse. It’s a pretty simple formula but it works because Jesse is such a wonderful interviewer. I know him better from his comedy podcast, Jordan Jesse Go, which is a rambling, often stupid conversational show, so this is quite the contrast. Every now and then, Jesse asks a question so insightful that the creator he’s interviewing pauses, and you can tell that he’s made them re-examine their own work, which is a pretty incredible thing to do.
10. Oh No Ross and Carrie
Ross and Carrie investigate all the things that you hear and go “that is literally ridiculous how does anyone believe that”, whether it’s fringe science, strange religious groups or the paranormal. They go in with open minds and a sense of humour, and then they just talk about their experiences. They laugh about what’s ridiculous, but they also look for what’s good, and discuss how and if these things might be dangerous in any way. Anyone who’s been down the rabbit hole of reading articles about Scientology should listen to their last few episodes.