There’s an argument to be made that podcasts are the best form of media for our times. For the pragmatist in you, they’re convenient. You can listen while doing just about anything and convince yourself that you’re a master of multitasking, filling your mind with culture while folding your laundry.
Podcasts also give you near perfect control over your airwaves. In recent years, the variety in this no-longer-new form of media has exploded; today, from daily news to dishing on pop culture, from true crime to true crime “comedy,” if you’re into it, there’s a podcast out there for you.
It’s also a particularly intimate medium. Hosts arrive in your earbuds every week, talking directly to you. More than movies or television, a relationship with a podcast feels personal. What you choose to listen to on your commute, at the gym, or cleaning your apartment is going to be an expression of you.
If you haven’t sampled the hilarious, smart, culturally disruptive work of Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams over the past three years, a) what have you been doing?, and b) get on that stat. The queens, comedians and actresses outside of the podcast, start each episode with some upfront and aware conversation about our culture and the trials and tribulations of young, aspiring women within it. After that, you’ll get a showcase of some of the best comedy talent working right now. As a bonus, their brand of humor is smart, with a strong focus on women, women of color, and representatives of the LGBTQ community. More than any other podcast on this list, 2 Dope Queens might just change your life in the process of making you laugh inappropriately on your train ride home.
Is music better when you’re high? Of course it is, everything is. But what about sound itself? That may seem like a strange question, but Twenty Thousand Hertz, which bills itself as an investigation of “the stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds” will take you to a deeper sonic landscape. Check out an episode on Hamilton that focuses not on the songs, but on the sounds used to create the atmosphere of the award winning show (as explained by the creators themselves). If you’re curious about the origin of the beeps we interact with everyday – alerts on your computer, tablet and phone – they’ve got you covered. This podcast goes deep, and we love getting lost in the soundscape with it.
You may have noticed, at Say Hi we’re kinda into design. In that sense 99% Invisible might be our favorite on this list. Behind the computers, cups, doors, buildings, and of course the thousands of products we feature on our site, someone had a design intention. The team over at 99% Invisible is all about exploring that intention. You may never have expected to be fascinated by those inflatable men you see dancing in the wind at car dealerships, or have thought about how imperfections in design can lead to unexpectedly brilliant products. The best thing about 99PI: that it inspires you to be curious about just about anything.
Sometimes you’re in the mood for a tv sitcom, and sometimes you’d rather watch a 2.5-hour arthouse movie. Homecoming is the high-budget film of the podcast world, and in fact, actors like Catherine Keener, David Cross, and Amy Sedaris voice the characters in a plot that unfolds over the course of several episodes. The podcast gives you access to the phone calls, therapy sessions, and conversations in a way that feels voyeuristic and intimate. This format of podcast storytelling requires patience, but it pays off by immersing you in the neuroses of its characters and the strangeness of their relationships with each other.
Ever had a friend who just seemed to know a lot of random stuff and explained everyday subjects to you without coming off as a know-it-all? Probably not, but that’s exactly what you get with Josh and Chuck on Stuff You Should Know. Best friends in real life, and entirely lacking pretention, they debate and goof their way through topics that, well, you should know. Check out episodes on Baby Boomers or Vocal Fry to get a feel for it.