Earphone fodder: 10 of the world's greatest podcasts
While the idea of a podcast is no longer novel, the medium has really established itself as a great resource for human storytelling, comedy, upcoming personalities, niche topic discussion, nerd talk and insightful interviews. Here are 10 of the best. All can be found in the iTunes Podcast section.
This American Life
The gold standard of radio broadcasting has been airing on public radio in the US since 1995. Ira Glass is the host and ruminator who introduces narratives of real-life stories and fiction told by writers, authors and journalists about people, both ordinary and extraordinary which are moving, human and can be humorous too. This American Life is nourishment for adult brains, still yearning to learn more about the world.
Comedy Bang Bang
Scott Aukerman has hosted this podcast since 2009 and the show is now so successful, it has its own TV chat show on IFC in the States. Surreal and offbeat is the name of the game. The format is basically put a bunch of funny people in a room together and let them at it, making for a madcap 90 minutes which has featured impersonations of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Werner Herzog and Ice-T. Recent guests include SNL cast member Taran Killam, the king of offbeat comedy Tim Heidecker, funny actress Amber Tamblyn and Breaking Bad's Saul, real name Bob Odenkirk.
Two recent Irish immigrants to London, broadcaster Dylan Haskins and singer Lisa Hannigan have joined forces on a Dermot Leary produced culture podcast. The pair discuss music, art, film, architecture and literature with a buoyant camaraderie that is infectious and endlessly listenable. Recent guests include the eminent Harry Shearer, but for the most part, the meat of the content is concerned with two friends making sense of arts and culture they recently experienced.
You Made it Weird
Pete Holmes' Nerdist interview podcast is unusual in that the shortest recent episode was just shy of 90 minutes (comedian Kyle Kinane) and the longest was over three and a half hours in duration (comedian David O' Doherty). So while the show may need some editing, the host Holmes (a stand-up comedian himself, surprise surprise) is such an enthusiastic interviewer that such epic running times are forgivable. Guests are usually comedians and actors including Aziz Ansari, Demetri Martin and Jon Hamm but a recent episode with The National singer Matt Berninger really gets beneath the platitudes of a regular interview. It is an exploration of brotherly dynamics, prompted by the film Mistaken For Strangers which is about the band and is directed by Matt's brother Tom.
This weekly comedy podcast is like listening in to a transatlantic conversation between two old friends with strong English accents and a flair for talking funny rubbish about current affairs. Andy Zaltzman is joined across the wires by John Oliver, who recently stepped in to host The Daily Show with Jon Stewart for a few months which has led to him hosting a similar show coming soon on HBO. Between the pair, they "have left no political hot potato unbuttered".
A recent episode delved into the Syria peace process, interviewed a prize-winning horse and recounted the alleged depraved life of Pope John XII, all in good humour and with some real insight.
The Flop House
Elliott Kalan, Dan McCoy, and Stuart Wellington are three buddies who bond over their love of bad movies and share the outcome of watching them on their weekly podcast. Made with the express request that the audience listening is not familiar with the movie in question, the trio use the movie as a jumping-off point for random musings. Recent movies featured include Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and Battleship.
WTF with Marc Maron
Another stand-up comedian who used the cancellation of a radio show to grow a significant podcast audience. You may recognise Maron from various appearances on American TV. The format is a one-on-one interview with a funny person, generally comedy-heavy. Recent guests include Will Ferrell, Edgar Wright, Elijah Wood and Laura Dern. The conversation can diverge from light banter, to Simon Amstell discussing Jewish upbringings and naturally arrive at Andy Samberg talking about how he met his wife the musician Joanna Newsom or Jon Hamm talking about losing his mother to cancer.
A simple premise: true stories told through a microphone in front of a live audience, The Moth has been active since 1998 and is sort of a weekly podcast version of Ted Talks except without the technological flair. The storytellers are just asked to retell their story as best they remember it. Recent tales include a macho New York City cop who gets a small dog, a deep sea fisherman caught in a storm and a mother who monitors her teenager's internet use.
Love + Radio
Perhaps considered a more idiosyncratic version of This American Life, Love + Radio features short real life interviews and stories. The show often starts with a brief secret left by listeners on the show's secret hotline. The mood of the podcast is intimate and sonically different. Recent episodes featured a conversation recorded on a sex hotline, an interview with Throbbing Gristle's Genesis P-Orridge and an artful dramatic conversation with Joanna Newsom about 9/11 and the Tea Party.
An Irishman Abroad with Jarlath Regan
Irish stand-up comedian Jarlath Regan is another person who has left his homeland and that's the crux of much of the conversation with his guests, who are invariably Irish or Ireland-related performers, writers, sport persons or public figures. There are 19 episodes with guests including Ardal O'Hanlon, Dara O'Briain, Tony Cascarino, Chris O'Dowd and Tom Dunne. In a recent episode Tom Vaughan-Lawlor who plays Nidge from Love/Hate, breaks down in tears when talking about leaving his father to move to London.