Podcasts are our favourite way to use our ears here at Lifehacker. We’ve shared our favourite shows with you in the past, but sometimes certain episodes really stand out in our minds. These powerful podcast episodes made us think, laugh, cry, reflect, and even shudder in 2017.
Personal Finance Writer Alicia Adamczyk’s Picks
“We Debate NPR’s Greatest Albums by Women,” Still Processing: Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris’s take on NPR’s list was heartfelt while still interrogating why such a list was necessary at all.
“Maggie Haberman,” Longform: This was a fascinating look into how the political reporter Trump just can’t quit gets inside his head and breaks news (literally, she breaks news while being interviewed for this episode).
My Favourite Murder became my go-to podcast when I had some down time and wanted a deep dive on a serial killer or two (and who doesn’t want that). I’m so glad to be part of the Murderino community.
Parenting Editor Michelle Woo’s Pick
“Where’s Richard?” Missing Richard Simmons: Yes, the whole project ended up feeling very morally questionable, but damn, that first episode was a delight. Filmmaker Dan Taberski set out on a journey to find a friend that nobody had heard from in a while: fitness icon Richard Simmons. The interviews, the storytelling, the fact that Simmons was a larger-than-life figure we felt like we had grown up with — it was completely riveting.
Editor-in-Chief Melissa Kirsch’s Pick
“Speak to Me in French,” Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel: I was sceptical about Where Should We Begin? — wasn’t it going to be boring, or if not boring then too intimate, to listen in on couples therapy sessions? I’m so glad someone I met at a party insisted I try it out — Esther Perel is a genius, a generous empath whose theories on relationships are fresh and affecting. In this episode, a young evangelical couple is not having sex, and Esther guides them through a role-playing exercise that is so beautiful I cried. If I described it in detail, it would sound totally cheesy. Just listen to it and be changed.
Deputy Editor Alice Bradley’s Pick
“Gary Gulman Is a Brilliant Comedian and an Ineffective Offensive Lineman,” The Hilarious World of Depression: This is one of my favourite podcasts, and Gary Gulman is one of my favourite comedians (If you haven’t seen his Conan O’Brien routine on postal abbreviations, you need to get right on that). So naturally I was excited to hear this episode, where host John Moe interviews Gary. While I didn’t know that Gary was a fellow traveller in the land of depression, I can’t say I was surprised. But I was surprised to learn, as the show progressed, that Gary was in the midst of a pretty severe depressive episode at the time of this recording. This interview is at turns gripping, hilarious, frustrating, and heartbreaking. I highly recommend it.
Staff Writer Nick Douglas’s Picks
“Episode 3 – dc Talk (with Gabe Gundacker),” Good Christian Fun: This podcast is crucial for anyone who grew up immersed in Christian culture like the VeggieTales and the Left Behind books. Because hosts Kevin T. Porter (of the Gilmore Guys podcast) and Caroline Ely are both Christians, they don’t get overly nasty, but they’re still sharp and hilarious and adorable. In this early episode the hosts listen to Christian rap group dc Talk with a charming guest, comedian Gabe Gundacker. They have a great outlook on what works and doesn’t work about the attitude of 90s/00s Christian music.
“Moshe Kasher’s Personal Hell (It’s Heaven),” Good One: This is one of the few comedy podcasts that gets into the nitty-gritty how-to of the comedic process. And the nittiest of the grittiest is “Moshe Kasher’s Personal Hell (It’s Heaven),” which explains how a particular stand-up routine about religion (sorry) evolved over years of delivery. Those links go to thorough write-ups of the episodes, by the way, so you can read before you listen.
“Breaked by Avery Edison,” The Guilty Feminist presents Loud Voices: The scripted audio sitcom, forerunner of the TV sitcom, is starting to come back. Comedian Avery Edison wrote a delightful audio pilot that I really hope she continues as a series. It’s about a young woman with a habit of burning her life down around her, and it’s as warm and sophisticated as all the TV shows with the same premise.
Managing Editor Virginia K. Smith’s Picks
“Who’s There: Melora Hardin & Trisha Paytas?” Who? Weekly: This is one of the few podcasts I’ll listen to immediately when a new episode hits. In other words I love pretty much every episode, but their June episode covering Melora Hardin is a particular standout. Did you know that the actress who played Jan on The Office (and more recently Jaqueline on The Bold Type) also has an entire, self-funded side career as a jazz singer, with a YouTube archive that includes songs with highly sexual double entendres about cats? I certainly didn’t, but we’re all richer for having this information.
Health and Fitness Editor Beth Skwarecki’s Picks
“Episode 3: Colour in Your Cheeks,” I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats: This podcast is amazing if you love the band The Mountain Goats, which I do. Each episode in the first season is dedicated to one song off the 2001 album All Hail West Texas, so arguably you should start with episode 1, “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton.” That would be an excellent choice. But I especially loved the episode about “Colour in Your Cheeks,” a song about the ideas of travel and immigration and welcoming and sanctuary. It wasn’t written with a particular political crisis in mind, but it feels especially relevant to 2017. Each episode ends with a cover of the song by a different artist, and this one by afro-punk band Ibibio Sound Machine is beautiful and amazing.
Staff Writer Patrick Allan’s Picks
“A Friend in the Forest,” Spooked: Shane Dunphy, a social worker in Ireland, tells the story of a young boy named Gregory who makes friends with another boy nobody has seen in years. In fact, they still can’t see him. Gregory tells Shane that the boy lives in the nearby forest and claims to spend time with him every night… This is an excellent firsthand account ghost story filled with mystery and lots of creepy moments. There’s even a book about the whole ordeal.
“The Real Thing,” Dirty John: This investigative podcast from the Los Angeles Times takes a deep dive into the world of a sociopath con-man who quickly wins the heart of a wealthy woman in Southern California. The first episode really hooks you in the same way the first season of Serial did, and the story only gets weirder and weirder.
“Colours,” Radiolab: This episode of Radiolab’s 10th season literally changed how I see the world. You learn about the time Sir Isaac Newton stabbed his own eye to figure out how we see colour (is it a physical thing, or just in our minds?), you learn about how other animals can see way more colours than we do, you hear from a woman who can see thousands of more colours than the average human can, and you learn the fascinating history (or lack thereof) of the question “why is the sky blue?” It’s not what you expect.
Those are our favourites, but we want to know your picks too! Share your favourite podcast episodes of 2017 in the comments below!