Podcasts I Listen To (Fourth Edition)

I’ve been sharing infrequently updated lists of the podcasts I enjoy for a few years. Let’s again peek at my Castro inbox to see what’s changed since my last list.

The global political landscape and my life are both vastly different, it feels worth mentioning. In the world, Trump is now our president. In my personal life, I’m now a mom and my “free time” has shrunk so much it can now fit on a pinhead. For both of those reasons, I’ve been thinking about how I spend my time differently and I consider the culture I consume more carefully. Parenting is exhausting. On some days, the news is even more exhausting. Often I just want relief. While before I might have felt that podcasts were helping me on some sort of quest for knowledge, now it’s more like a quest for a chance to breathe. If I’m pausing my life to take a break, I’d like it to be a break for real.

I took a tally and it turns out I’m subscribed to 45 podcasts! I don’t listen to all of those with any regularity, though. I really only get excited about hearing about a third of those when they’re released. Here’s what August 2019 Heather tends to devote her listening time to:

  • The Best Show: Tom Scharpling’s three-hour extravaganza. His bits with Jon Wurster are usually the highlight, but there’s so many other charms to this show, from guests to listener call-ins. I’ve been a listener for a long time and it saddens me that I can’t really make it through a full ep anymore, but it’s still on the list because I do tune in here and there.

  • Bullseye: I’ve been listening to Jesse Thorn’s interview show off and on since way back when it was called The Sound of Young America. Jesse has great guests and is often able to bring out their best.

  • Comedy Bang Bang: Scott Aukerman’s long-running improv and interview show, with hilarious recurring characters from top comedians.

  • The Daily: The New York Times’ daily podcast. Each episode covers a relevant topic in the week’s news. Easy to digest, insightful, and timely.

  • Desert Island Discs: BBC interview show. Each guest shares which songs they’d want with them on a deserted island. I love the wide variety of guests (scientists, writers, musicians, and more) and the sometimes surprising picks.

  • Dr. Gameshow: Comedian Jo Firestone is a delight and the chaotic good of this family-friendly show is, inexplicably, sometimes exactly what I need.

  • Every Little Thing: Light-hearted, pun-filled show that’s exactly what it sounds like. Listeners get to request topics and then dive in deep with host Flora Lichtman, covering everything from pants to pirates. If you are an unendingly curious person like myself you’ll enjoy ELT.

  • Fresh Air: Terry Gross is a master interviewer. Need I say more?

  • Good One: Vulture Senior Editor Jesse David Fox interviews comedians as they dissect one specific joke from their career. What’s great about this show is that Jesse truly does his homework for each guest and it shows.

  • Hollywood Handbook: Almost impossible to describe. If I could tell you what Hollywood Handbook is about, I would. I can tell you that it’s not about Hollywood. I guess it’s essentially Sean Clements and Hayes Davenport impersonating what other podcasts that cover celebrities might sound like. Kind of. Listen and see if you learn to love “the boys.”

  • Judge John Hodgman: I’ve been listening to JJHO for many years. It’s funny, it’s heartwarming, it’s wholesome. Sometimes I think about the fact that John Hodgman can’t possibly do this show forever and it bums me out.

  • Las Culturistas: Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang have a finish-each-others’-sentences friendship that’s hard not to envy. Come for every episode’s "I Don’t Think So Honey” segment and stay for the spark between them. By the way, this is probably the most explicit thing I listen to, too? Worth knowing, perhaps.

  • The Need to Fail: Comedian Dan Fanetti interviews comedians, actors, and artists about their past failures and how they’ve handled them. One of the newer shows that I’ve started listening to.

  • Song Exploder: Some of the world’s best musicians take apart their songs, sharing the story of their songwriting process along the way. I’m not a musician, but still I find it’s hard not to walk away inspired.

  • Threedom: On this premium podcast, Paul F. Tompkins, Lauren Lapkus, and Scott Aukerman are basically just hanging out being their hilarious and adorable selves. Getting to be a fly on the wall with these three is usually lots of fun. Most of it is behind a paywall, but a few are free.