The world of podcasting has taken off in the last few years. According to Podcast Insights, there were 850,000 active podcasts in 2020 – a number which will have undoubtedly grown this year. With so many out there, it can be overwhelming to know what to listen to – or if you even want to listen at all. The great thing about the sheer variety of podcasts available to stream is that there is something out there for everyone. Feeling lonely? There’s a podcast for that. Want to educate yourself on a topic? There’s a podcast for that. Want to listen to interviews with your favourite celebrities? There’s a podcast for that. Want to laugh so hard that your belly hurts? There’s a podcast for that. Here’s a list of podcasts that I’ve enjoyed – particularly over the past year when feeling ‘down’ was pretty much the constant through all the uncertainty.
1. Fake Doctors Real Friends: the Scrubs re-watch podcast, by Donald Faison and Zach Braff.
Listen when lonely
This one is a little niche. You’ll probably get the most out of it if you’ve watched Scrubs – the hit American medical comedy-drama of the 2000s, starring both Donald Faison and Zach Braff who, despite being fake doctors onset, are (you guessed it) real friends off-camera. The pair are a great comedy duo and their friendship is palpable through the airwaves. The rewatch podcast follows the show Scrubs, episode by episode, as the hosts share behind-the-scenes stories, reminiscing on some of their favourite memories from filming. Though the main focus is on the TV show they were a part of for a decade, Braff and Faison often wander joyously through their back catalogue of Hollywood stories, funny anecdotes and current affairs. It features guest stars too, ranging from their co-stars, directors, writers and even ‘the real JD’ – real-life doctor and best friend of Bill Lawrence (the main writer of the show) – who was the inspiration for the comedy’s main character, ‘JD’. If you’re feeling lonely, this podcast is the perfect antidote; it feels like you are catching up with old friends. Listening to these two best mates shooting the breeze and laughing heartily together is like a tonic for the soul and I would highly recommend it.
2. My Dad Wrote a Porno, hosted by Jamie Morton, James Cooper and Alice Levine.
Listen when you want to laugh
Over the summer I took on a cleaning job which allowed me to listen to music whilst I was working. I listened pretty much exclusively to My Dad Wrote a Porno during this time, brightening what was otherwise a pretty exhausting job. My manager at the time remarked that she frequently saw me laughing out loud whilst working – already an embarrassing event made only worse by explaining the source of the laughter, and the words ‘porno’ leaving your mouth. Each episode features Jamie reading the erotic fiction his dad had written, ‘Belinda Blinked’, aloud to his old uni mates, James and Alice. The ‘porno’ content (if you can call it that) is dire. Badly written. The podcast content, however, is not, and the poor word choice, imagery, and grammar of Rocky Flinstone (the pen name James’s dad has chosen) only adds to the hilarity. The trio’s dynamic is incredible. They have the rapport only a close-knit group of friends can have and their spontaneous off-the-cuff commentary is hilarious. The podcast has been a huge hit since its conception in 2015. It has toured the world and even hosts ‘footnote’ episodes which each boast a celebrity guest to discuss the raucous show. They’ve been on a hiatus as they were supposed to be touring last year, and despite two Christmas specials, they didn’t release new content in 2020. But they’re set to return later this year with a new series which gives you plenty of time to binge the first five if you haven’t already. This will have you laughing out loud. In public. Hysterically. Listen with caution!
3. The Guilty Feminist, hosted by Deborah Frances-White
Listen when you want to be inspired
The Guilty Feminist was the first podcast I ever listened to which was recommended by a friend. I haven’t looked back since – nearly two years later. It’s hosted by the comedian, feminist and activist Deborah Frances-White, and boasts a whole range of special guests as they ‘discuss topics “all 21st-century feminists agree on” while confessing their insecurities, hypocrisies and fears that underlie their lofty principles’. They’re normally recorded in front of a live audience which makes you feel like you are attending a live comedy gig, without the price! However, since Covid hit and live events were cancelled, the podcast has – like many other things – moved to Zoom. Whilst it takes away the live laughter of a live audience, the podcast does not suffer for this, and the episodes are still entertaining, poignant and uplifting. My favourite episode at the minute is the recent ‘It’s a Sin’ episode, which guested the real-life Jill and the actress who played her in the hit Channel 4 series, Lydia West. The podcast strikes the perfect balance between stand-up comedy, inspiring guests, informative content and steps we can take to be better feminists with live music at the end. It is and will continue to be, a long-standing favourite podcast of mine.
4. I Weigh, founded by Jameela Jamil
Listen when you want to be empowered
Two years ago, actress, presenter and activist Jameela Jamil started the Instagram account ‘I Weigh’ in response to the diet culture which consumes our society. To help bring about positive change, Jameela tried to shift the narrative of what we weigh from centring numbers on a scale to the sum of our achievements and who we are as people. Out of this, a movement was born, and later, a podcast. The I Weigh Community is designed to introduce you to new voices, artists and movements to learn and grow. Although, it’s not all about body image. Since it’s conception, I Weigh has hosted a whole range of celebrities and activists who have each brought their unique perspectives, stories, ideas and concerns. The uniting factor is that each guest ends by ‘stating their weight’ – figuratively of course. It’s a truly empowering podcast and Jameela makes an excellent host and interviewer. Her guests’ candour and humour when discussing issues close to their heart do them credit. It’s a truly beautiful podcast.
5. All in the Mind, a BBC Radio 4 podcast with Claudia Hammond
Listen when you want to learn
All in the Mind is a BBC Radio 4 podcast in partnership with the Open University, hosted by Claudia Hammond. The episodes claim to explore ‘the limits and potential of the human mind’, and range from looking at mental health, exploring the psychology behind procrastination, understanding memory and much more. They break down complicated research and findings into digestible and entertaining information. I started listening to this podcast in my last year at university when I inexplicably became fascinated with the human brain but did not fancy paying for a further degree in psychology to learn about. Not only is it a tool for understanding, but it can also offer advice and practical steps to battle the issues the episodes talk about e.g. ways to fight procrastination/feel less lonely/sleep better/improve memory/seek help for mental health issues. This is the podcast for the curious and those looking to understand their primary home: the mind.
Whether you follow my suggestions with these podcasts or make your way through the many that are out there, I hope you find one that resonates with you. Happy listening!