Over the past two years, podcasts have become an integral part of my life. I was born at an odd era, where the rapid advance in technology meant that the radio was on a decline and my love of reading books meant that I never really gave audio books a chance. All this means that I never really understood the power of an auditory storytelling medium.
However, in recent years, there’s been a peculiar phenomenon – a sudden surge in podcasts and podcasting. With improvements to smartphones and the internet, new streaming services and apps, podcasts are more accessible than ever, and in a society that’s constantly moving, people always in transit, podcasts are an unintrusive form of information and entertainment that helps those lulls in a day feel less unproductive.
I, for one, listen to podcasts when I cook or clean or walk to my next class on campus. I’m burning through episode after episode. I adore them. Sometimes I start up a game of solitaire on my phone and just let my attention be swept away in a story while my fingers mindlessly tap away. Sometimes it’s not a story, and it’s just a group of people inviting you to join in their fun. Sometimes it’s both at once. Regardless, I love them all and have some recommendations for each:
People Having Fun
My Dad Wrote a Porno (~20 min)
Join Jamie with his friends, James and Alice, as he reads Belinda Blinked, an erotic novel written by his own father. A work of art in its own right, this is a podcast that’s three parts hilarity, two parts confusion, and five parts the kind of aghast that leaves you slamming a table, laughing. Are you an aspiring writer who’s looking for some motivation? Listen to this podcast and share in my delight at the quality of the writing there. Are you bored and need a laugh? Look no further. Hoping to learn a few accents? Well, maybe don’t take notes from Jamie, aha.
Wonderful! (~40-60 min)
Join the Griffin and Rachel McElroy, a loving couple, as they talk about things they enjoy. This podcast was originally known as Rose Buddies, and started out as a show where the two talk about The Bachelor franchise in America, and that was a delight all on its own. However, with recent controversies in the franchise, they didn’t enjoy watching it anymore, and now it’s a wonderful podcast where they talk about wonderful things. Light-hearted, humorous, and full of banter, Wonderful! is a wonderful addition to your day.
My Brother, My Brother, and Me (~60 min)
One of the most famous shows in the McElroy audio empire, join Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy on their advice podcast full of family, goofs, and ‘brilliant’ advice. Purposefully obtuse but endlessly entertaining, and rapidly approaching its 400th episode, this is a podcast that’ll keep you engaged and entertained for a long time to come. This isn’t my favorite podcast, but it always has enough content and humor, so it’s a solid backup for whenever I’ve finished my latest binge. In general, there’s probably something in the McElroy’s lineup that you’ll enjoy.
Myths and Legends (~50 min)
A pretty straightforward title. If you’re interested in the myths and legends of different cultures and time periods, this is the one for you!
Shmanners (~50 min)
Okay, so maybe this isn’t one for everyone, but as someone who loves etiquette, this one tickles my fancy. Join husband-host Travis McElroy and wife-host Teresa McElroy as she takes him on a journey of manners enlightenment. I’ve only recently started this one, and none of the information is particularly new to me, but that’s only because I grew up reading manner books since the age of 7. Learn how to host guests and write thank you notes, and feel hella sophisticated as you do.
Serial (it varies)
If someone ever asks me why podcasts are so ‘in’ lately, this is one of the shows that I credit. Started in 2014, Serial took the internet by storm as a work of investigative journalism as Sarah Koenig embarked on a mission to look into the 1999 murder of Hae-min Lee in Baltimore, Maryland. Incredible, thought provoking, and gripping, this is definitely one to try, at the very least.
By now, you’re probably familiar with my Methods & Mediums approach to storytelling. It is my belief that a good story is one that can best be told by its chosen medium. Now, more than ever, I truly appreciate the advantages of a good podcast.
A podcast is intimate in ways other mediums are not. Movies and TV shows have an artifice to them, a knowledge that there was someone with a camera, filming. Books have the pages, or the words before your eyes. Video games are immersive, but you must purposefully engage with it. You can’t let a video game just run in the background.
With audio, there are options. A podcast can be a radio show, a series of voice messages, a phone call – someone is speaking, on purpose, to be heard. Sometimes it is to the public, and you are part of that wider audience. Sometimes it is directly to you, as if it is a secret only you are privy to.
There are shortcuts you can take with podcasts – people are good at inventing appearances for voices, and audio gives so much freedom to the imagination. Eerie, vaguely inhuman things work incredibly well in podcasts for this reason. Cartoonish humor does as well. It has all the effects of a movie, but the mind renders far better than CGI ever could:
Limetown (~30 min)
An investigative reporter looks into the disappearance of over three hundred people from a small town in Tennessee, releasing interviews and recorded phone calls episode by episode. The mystery, urgency, and looming sense of peril are enthralling. If you need a little chill in your day, I highly recommend it.
The Adventure Zone (~50 min)
I’ve already written a full M&M as to why I adore The Adventure Zone back when I was in the thick of it. Basically, it’s the McElroys again, only this time they’re playing D&D with their dad, and it’s honestly hilarious and what got me into podcasts in the first place. I adore it, and I can’t wait for them to swing o back over with a new season.
Welcome to Night Vale (it varies)
Now, I’m sure you’ve all heard of WtNV by now, but this – like Serial – is probably one of the podcasts that I would credit for the resurgence of the medium in popular culture nowadays. A soothing radio show from an unsettling, vaguely eldritch town, I’ve stopped following it for a while, but whenever I choose to listen to it, it never fails to enthrall with its enchantingly eerie depiction of a bizarre desert town.
Feel free to let me know any podcasts you like or to talk to me about any of the ones I listed above!