Podcasts are great tools for pacifying a laundry list of ails these days. You can listen for the feeling of company when there is none, for background noise to cheer up mundane household tasks, or just to break up the day and have a laugh. They’re also a great way to be entertained and informed without having to be glued to a screen. The internet is full of podcasts for virtually every niche interest, but here are some good shows for when you just want to self-soothe while also being intellectually stimulated.
You’re Wrong About
Journalists Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall host a show about every pop culture moment that most of us have probably remembered incorrectly, from Disco Demolition Night (disco was a lot more than just dance music and Saturday Night Fever) to Anna Nicole Smith (her story is a lot more tragedy than a comedy). They also do multi-part series on high profile murders like the O.J. trial and the D.C. sniper attacks. Though the info they dish is research-heavy and well-considered, they bring heart and humor to each topic, making the listener genuinely invested in each myth they debunk.
Anything Goes with Emma Chamberlain
The nineteen-year-old YouTube star tells stories about everything from growing up, the trails of becoming internet famous, being a cheerleader in high school, to dealing with burnout. She records it alone in her room, an ultimate practice in intimacy, talking to herself while fielding questions from fans on Twitter. Her casual approach to content works seamlessly with the podcast format, bringing the listener with her on meandering journeys through memories and doling out off-the-cuff advice. Even listeners beyond their adolescent years will relate to Emma’s funny and honest approach to life.
Articles of Interest
In a miniseries within the design podcast “99 Percent Invisible,” Avery Trufelman explores the complex histories behind the wearable items that make us human. From pockets to punk, she interrogates why we wear what we wear, and what it can tell us about who we are as people. The episodes are stunningly produced, artfully weaving in and out of interviews with experts, Trufelman’s dazzlingly-written reflections, and original music. The effect is far beyond clothes, as they become a surprising microcosm for American culture.
In the world of podcasting, “Reply All” is a hall of fame worthy show. Hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, the show explores “how people shape the internet, and how the internet shapes people.” Their format changes almost every week, as they traverse strange online depths and one-off stories. One of their best episodes, ‘The Case of the Missing Hit,” solved the mystery of a song from the 90s that only one man happened to remember. Their recurring segment “Yes, Yes, No” unpacks Tweets with often undecodable layers of pop culture context. These dudes understand internet culture, and can help you make sense of it.
From Vulture, “Good One” is a podcast about jokes. Each episode, host Jesse David Fox interviews a comedian about a specific joke they’ve told, and asks them in-depth questions about what lead them to that joke, how they honed it for performance, and how it reflects on their art as a whole. Fox is a relentless interviewer, often surprising his guests about how deeply their jokes run. The effect is not only a look into how famous comedians get their jobs done, but what drives them to make comedy in the first place.
Dolly Parton’s America
Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad hosts a nine-part series about one of America’s most beloved artists. He traces her origin as a groundbreaking writer of “Sad Ass Songs” to her almost saintly status as one of the only celebrities that most Americans can agree upon. With extensive interviews with Dolly herself, trips to her famed Tennessee Mountain Home, and truly fascinating conversations with fans, experts, and Abumrad’s father, who happens to be Parton’s doctor, “Dolly Parton’s America” goes far beyond her cult of personality, exploring contemporary politics, gender, the development of country music, and American culture at large.
Hosted by comedians Esther Povitsky and Caroline Goldfarb, “Glowing Up” is a comedic podcast about beauty and wellness. With a raunchy and relatable tone, they dive into makeup crazes, food trends, and whatever happens to be going on in their lives. Though they sometimes have guest interviews with beauty experts or fellow comedians, the show shines the most through Esther and Caroline’s banter, as they riff on contemporary culture and womanhood. At its best, listening to “Glowing Up” feels like overhearing two close friends gush at a sleepover.