Ask LH: What Podcasts Should I Be Listening To?

Ask LH: What Podcasts Should I Be Listening To?

Dear Lifehacker, Could you recommend some podcasts to me? I’ve been listening to This American Life, TED and Radiolab and want to broaden my horizons with some fresh content. I’m most interested in podcasts in mp3 format as I like to download them to my phone for later listening (no internet connection required). Easy Listener

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Dear EL,

Podcasts have been declared a dying breed in certain circles due to the increased accessibility of online video. But this is plainly hogwash. As the murder-investigation series Serial amply proved, podcasts remain hugely popular and provide benefits that visual entertainment lack; particularly for motorists and people who like to multitask.

Unfortunately, finding new, worthwhile podcasts is surprisingly tricky. You can’t just channel surf like on TV and the lack of visual cues makes it difficult to determine a show’s quality within a few minutes. Plus, there’s no easy way to share podcasts on social networks like Facebook, which makes discovery of new content even harder.

I asked my Allure Media colleagues to share some of their personal favourites. While not all of these podcasts are still running, they remain archived for all future listeners.

Here are their recommendations (click on the headlines to start downloading):

WTF with Marc Maron: A twice-weekly podcast hosted by standup comedian Marc Maron. It mainly consists of interviews with comedians, comedy writers and other entertainers. Recently, US President Barack Obama also appeared on the podcast which should give you an ideal of the show’s clout and quality.

How Did This Get Made: A podcast that gives you a bad movie to watch and then comes back to savagely rip it to pieces.

The Bugle: A satirical comedy podcast from the UK starring John Oliver. The series has an estimated potential global audience of 7 billion people.

Call Your Girlfriend: The girls at CYG talk politics, women’s issues and feminism every fortnight. The show is heavily geared towards XX chromosomes (a recurring topic is “menstruation news”) but it’s definitely worth a listen regardless of your gender.

Smodcast: Do you like comic books, pop culture and Kevin Smith? If so, this podcast is for you.

Movie Fights: A bunch of cinemaphiles debate a particular movie topic from different angles. Often the arguments get passionate, which is when the show is at it’s funniest.

Serial: The aforementioned Serial caused Game Of Thrones-levels of engagement on social media last year. Each season explores a real-life murder over multiple episodes.

Criminal: If you’ve already up to date with Serial, this is another great true crime podcast that will keep you enthralled for hours.

Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4: A satirical take on the week’s news with the cream of UK comedy talent, hosted by Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis. If you’re a fan of stand-up and sketches this is well worth a listen.

The Ricky Gervais Show: A comedy panel show starring Ricky Gervais, his writing partner Stephen Merchant and their exceptionally odd acquaintance Karl Pilkington. This show formed the basis for the animated HBO series of the same name.

Meanwhile In The Future: What will the future look like when the internet doesn’t exist? What about if the world stopped spinning? Gizmodo’s Rose Evelyth pontificates on the future in bite-sized episodes every week.

The Inquiry: A BBC World Service podcast gives you the best in audio explainer journalism.

Download This Show: A fantastic dissection of the week in tech from the host of The Feed on SBS and Triple J’s Movie Guy; Marc Fennell. (Shameless plug: Keep an ear out for regular guest appearances from Gizmodo, Kotaku and Lifehacker staff.)

Five Great True-Crime Podcasts For Armchair Detectives

Everybody loves a good whodunnit. It’s why true-crime documentaries like Making a Murderer, The Keepers and now The Staircase have all been big Netflix hits. Yet away from television screens, true crime has found another very happy home – podcasting.

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Okay, that should be plenty to get you started. For more suggestions, check out The Audio Signal, a weekly newsletter of new podcast series and episodes that are worth lending your ear to. Oh yeah, and have a listen to our own podcast, Static!

If any readers have additional suggestions, let EL know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

This story has been updated since its last publicaton.


  • My most listened to podcasts

    – StarTalk Radio with Neil Degrasse Tyson
    – ABC Star Stuff
    – The Infinite Monkey Cage with Prof. Brian Cox
    – Techstuff

    – ABC Law Report
    – ABC Big Ideas

    – Shut up a Second
    – Plumbing the Death Star
    – The Nerdist Podcast

    • Infinite Monkey Cage and Plumbing the Death Star…Absolutely.
      The Nerdist Podcast…hell no! It has all the hallmarks of something that should be great, but Chris Hardwick is a talent-less narcissist that makes every interview about himself.

      • Nerdist is very hit and miss. I’ll only listen to it if there is someone in the podcast I’m really keen on listening to. The Keanu Reeves one wasn’t bad.

      • Nerdist is very hit and miss. I’ll only listen to it if there is someone in the podcast I’m really keen on listening to. The Keanu Reeves one wasn’t bad.

      • The best thing I’d say about Nerdist is that they get great guests. Chris Hardwick is just generically-handsome ‘nerd icon’ but he’s so bland and boring. Since he’s been moderating every SDCC Panel, the quality of discussion has gone down the toilet.

  • Henry & Heidi – It’s Henry Rollins telling incredibly interesting stories about his incredibly interesting life. How did William Shatner become his weird substitute dad? What’s it like being in a band so poor that you’ll eat other people’s discarded Mexican food? Why did his duet with Ru Paul covering Funky Town never get released?
    Seriously, Henry Rollins is a fascinating guy and he has stories about everyone.

  • Definitely second The Infinite Monkey Cage.
    Would also recommend No Such Thin As A Fish, presented by some of the QI “Elves”. Museum of Curiosity is also great if you can track down past podcasts. The BBC4 website has a trove of decent listening material.

  • Joe Rogan Experience. Hands down greatest podcast ever. Like ever.
    Church of what’s happening now.
    The opie radio podcast.
    Star talk radio. I wanna lay in a bed made from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s voice.
    This Week In Tech. (TwiT).

  • I used to be a huge fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio, but it’s gone downhill a bit recently. Earlier episodes (2014 and backwards) are still worth going back to.

    If you like video games the Giant Bombcast is great, and ABC’s Science Show is good too (though some people might find it a bit dry).

  • I don’t have any to rec other than what has been mentioned, but if you like fiction, my two favs at the moment are:

    Thrilling Adventure Hour – An old time radio show with different segments. The two mains ones are Beyond Belief which is about a high society married couple (like nick and nora charles) who are psychic and solve crimes in between drinking martinis, and Sparks Nevada Marshal on Mars which is a space western. They sometimes have minor celebrities do guest roles. (Half the cast of Criminal Minds has participated, Nathan Fillion etc.)

    If you want MP3s the best place is the RSS feed:

    Welcome to Nightvale – Its a radio program set in a fictional town where strange things happen. (For example there are: Secret Police, Angels, The Dog Park (do not go in the dog park), hooded figures, a floating cat and a multi headed Dragon that runs for Mayor.)

    Mp3s here:

  • Film & TV
    A Cast of Kings (Game of Thrones podcast)
    The Tobolowsky Files

    Science Vs (new ABC one. Really well produced)
    Sleek Geeks (Dr Karl and Adam Spencer)
    No Such Thing as a Fish

    Judge John Hodgman

  • Try some Australian comedy podcasts:

    TOFOP / FOFOP with Wil Anderson
    Little Dum Dum Club with just about every Australian comedian
    I Love Green Guide Letters with Steele Saunders

    If you listen to any of those they’ll mention a bunch of others.

    If you’re after something absurd check out The Dollop with Dave Anthony and Gareth “Gary” Reynolds.

  • the one thing is miss after moving from iPhone to android is the podcast library – was so easy to manage through iTunes. Almost considering getting in iPod just for the podcasts. 🙁

  • The Bugle was a bad choice to recommend, I love it dearly but they haven’t put out a new episode in 3 months.

    Crate and Crowbar is fantastic if you want to listen to a group of people sit around drinking and talking about PC gaming.

    • Totally agree, 99% Invisible is one of the best.

      Also a little stunned that nobody has mentioned This American Life, The Moth, Snap Judgement or Startup?

      Without doubt the best new podcast in the post-Serial landscape is Mystery Show. There is absolutely no reason for Mystery Show to be as good as it is, but it is consistently awesome.

      Other decent podcasts not yet mentioned: Planet Money; Love+Radio; Reply All; Why oh Why; Fugitive Waves and Benjamin Walker’s Theory of Everything.

  • The Cracked podcast. Somehow over the last five years or so they’ve matured from dick jokes to some more mature content (but usually still with a side-order of dick jokes). They tend to be pop-culture oriented, but delve into privacy, economics, history…all sorts of things. I just finished listening to the backlog and now I’m at a bit of a loss.

    +1 for The Infinite Monkey Cage and for Serial, it really is *that* good.

  • The Titanium Physicist (Physics)
    The Non-Prophets (Atheist)

    Plus, grab just the audio from anything youtube e.g. Scishow, Stanford Lectures.

  • The Ricky Gervais Show is/was brilliant; but is now only available as a paid collection in audiobook form.
    Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4, post News Quiz (Sandi Toksvig left) is just The Now Show…which is terrible.

    My suggestions:

    Cane and Rinse: If you’re into very long in-depth discussions about a single, relatively old video game…this is for you.
    Here’s the thing: Alex Baldwin talks to semi-famous people.
    No such thing as a fish: The official QI podcast.

    • The Now Show can be very hit and miss. It’s not the same without Marcus Brigstocke’s rants 🙂

      The Friday Night Comedy is Dead Ringers for the next few weeks, that’s a bit hit and miss too. The Radio 4 Comedy of the Week is worth a listen. It gives you the chance to pick what non-podcast programmes to listen to direct from their web site (or download with get_iplayer).

  • Shameless Plug: I’m a co-host of the Ranger Danger Podcast. We watch Power Rangers, episode-by-episode, from the beginning. We’re coming up on our two-year anniversary in October. I’m supposed to say that it’s great because it’s my podcast, but we’ve got good reviews on iTunes so other people seem to like it.

  • Comedy:
    Tell Em Steve Dave
    – What Say You!
    – FEaB

    – James Bonding (With Matt & Matt)
    – Talk Salad & Scrambled Eggs (Frasier Reconsidered with Matt Mira & Kevin Smith)

    The Blacktapes Podcast

  • If your serious about movie podcasts then there is nothing better than the Now Playing podcast.

    Other really great and funny podcasts are:
    The Weekly Planet Podcast (Comic/movie/tv)
    Rage Select (Gaming)
    Double Toasted (Movies)
    Start Here: Web Development (web development – for those learning)

  • Radiolab, This American Life, Good Job Brain!, Wait, wait…Don’t tell me, Mystery Show. These and others already mentioned are my main Podcasts of choice. Hard to see how some people could see podcasts declining, not when the range keeps increasing and for the most part the production levels keep improving.

  • C-Realm – consistently good every week, though the free podcast will move to monthly once KMO hits 500 episodes.

    Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – fascinating, epic, infrequent episodes.

    I also love The Bugle and keep waiting for John Oliver to have some time for another episode. Great back episodes.

  • Hello Internet – CGP Grey and Brady Haran are jsut two really interesting guys talking about things.

    You Are Not So Smart – As the name implies, explains why we do stupid things.

    Hardcore History – Is really long and quite full-on (some might say, hardcore) but really well put together.

    99% Invisible – All the reasons already stated above.

  • If you are a history buff then I highly recommend the ‘The History of Rome’ and ‘Revolutions’ by Mike Duncan. Still waiting for a new season of Serial to start, the first was enthralling.

    If you are looking for a great app to listen to all these great podcasts I can’t go past Pocket Casts – made by Aussies (pretty sure)

  • The Bugle is great. Not that frequent since John Oliver got famous, but the old episodes stand up well. My Brother, My Brother and Me (MBMBAM) is very funny – they answer ridiculous questions from Yahoo Answers. Gets funnier as you get to know the personalities involved, so stick with it. Also, Chat10Looks3 with Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb, and Rum, Rebels and Ratbags by Dom Knight.

  • The podcasts that are filling up my queue are the following:
    – Overthinking It: For smart and funny analysis of popular culture (plus the TFT and Book Club podcasts).
    – The Partially Examined Life, Very Bad Wizards, and Axons & Axioms: For deep dives into philosophy and psychology.
    – Sources & Methods and Longform: For interviews with interesting people and tools for productivity/research.
    – AskHistorians Podcast: A fortnightly history podcast from the flared users of the AskHistorians subreddit. Fortunately avoids the pitfalls of the more amateurish approaches of Dan Carlin and other less rigorous podcasts.

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