Guys, podcasts are the new blogs. The only reason I’m not starting a podcast is because I hate the sound of my voice and I’m too lazy. There you go, two reasons! Plus, in fairness, I already did (help) make a podcast at my old job. It’s called Friends Who Talk About Money and it’s quite good. Episode 12 is a doozy, but I recommend Episode 6 because I learned the most from that one. (TL;DL – talk to your parents about their finances.) The good news is you don’t have to make a podcast to enjoy listening to them. I love podcasts because you can listen to them while you do other stuff – walking the dogs, doing the dishes, going on a run, Cinco Face Time Party Snoozer-ing your son’s Minecraft talk (“Then you’re in The Nether…” “Sure, why not” “…and then the Creepers come after you” “I understand”), you name it.
Matty and I were going to have our kids record a podcast; we had a name and everything: the Potty Cast (we would record it in the bathroom), but turns out my kids are also too lazy (tough genes), so it’ll be a while before the Potty Cast is on air. In the meantime, here are a bunch of awesome podcasts plus a starter episode for you for each.
- Armchair Expert with Dax Shepherd
Starter episode: John Gottman
Armchair Expert is definitely an acquired taste because Dax Shepherd is an acquired taste, but personally, I really like Dax. He can definitely talk about himself too much, but I think it does have the effect of getting the guests to open up more. I like how he’s super into being 100% honest, even when it’s embarrassing, like when he talked about breaking his penis. I got hooked after listening to the very first episode where he and his wife, Kristen Bell, get in a real-life, snide-comments-and-all marital spat and he didn’t edit it out. While most episodes have celebrity guests, the John Gottman episode is one of their “experts on Expert” episodes, where the guest is an expert in some field, in this case, relationships. Dr. Gottman can predict with over 93% accuracy if a couple will split up within like 10 minutes of talking to them. The number one cause of divorce, according to Dr. Gottman, is contempt. Acting like, “I’m better than you” towards your partner. It’s a fine line between acting contemptuously towards your partner and subtly trying to teach him that you’re better than him at relationships based on your listening of this episode, but I walk it well. Right, Matty? Right?
The celebrity episodes are a lot of fun, especially when they are real-life friends of Dax so they’re a little more open. I really loved Rob McElhenney talking about the season of It’s Always Funny where Mac gets fat and how he committed to the role so much.
2. Terrible, Thanks for Asking
TTFA (as we fans call it) is a podcast unlike any other one I listen to. Mostly I listen to ones that teach me something You’re Wrong About), expose me to another world (Ear Hustle), or most often, make me laugh (Smartless). But TTFA regularly makes me cry, which is definitely awkward while running.
Speaking of contempt, this episode begins with this woman whose marriage blows up while she’s racing to pick up her toddler from daycare, a pen between her legs to mark up a contract at red lights, and wearing a breast pump and a diaper bag for her newborn baby when she gets this text from her husband, “I’m surprised you didn’t get blueberries.” He’s basically passive-aggressively complaining that she didn’t buy blueberries when she went grocery shopping, one of the bajillion things she does for their family. Needless to say, if Matty ever did this, he’d get a pint of blueberries shoved up his business. Anyway, the woman ends up making a mega-Excel spreadsheet about the invisible work women do, getting input from all her friends and their friends. The Excel eventually ends up with 98 tabs, over 2000 items of invisible work that women do (everything ranging from taking kids to the dentist to managing the Elf on the Shelf).
This actually isn’t a typical TTFA episode, because mainly they’re about horribly sad tragedies, which sounds awful, and it *is* really sad, but also very moving and heartwarming. I love the host, Nora, because she’s experienced tragedy herself (she lost her husband to brain cancer) and she handles people’s grief with such humor, honesty and grace. The title of the podcast itself is based on all the well-meaning people who would go, “But really, how are you?” after her husband died, and her response, “terrible, thanks for asking.” I recommend starting at the very beginning, Season 1, Episode 0 if you want to experience some good, cathartic sobs. I advise against listening to this one while running though, because running and sobbing is a bad look.
3. Couples Therapy
“Couples Therapy” is hosted by real life couple and comedy duo, Naomi Ekperigin and Andy Beckerman, who are charming and hilarious. They interview other famous couples. This podcast is relatively new to me but I have two favorites so far. “Don’t Ask Tig” is one of my favorite podcasts (more on that later) and I’m rapidly becoming a Tig superfan. Her recent turn in Army of the Dead definitely helped.
She is clearly enamored with and so proud of her wife, Stephanie, who identified as straight before she met Tig (obviously also on the above spectrum). They have a really fun relationship and they’re super cute together. And I really loved this quote from Tig in this episode, “All I want for my kids is for people to think they’re interesting to talk to.” 100% agree.
They do interview hetero couples on Couples Therapy, but my other favorite happens to be another lesbian couple, mommy blogger Glennon Doyle and soccer star Abby Wambach. I love their relationship and how it was basically love at first sight (read about it in Untamed), but I particularly liked this episode because I got this piece of advice: “Shrink the space between the knowing and the doing.” The example they gave is when you have to do something you don’t want to do, like going on a run, don’t plan to do it at dusk, then all day you’re thinking about how you’re going to have to go on that run.
4. Don’t Ask Tig
Starter episode: Sarah Paulson
Okay, back to Tig. If you’ve heard Tig Notaro’s stand up, you know she’s incredibly funny. On her podcast, she answers questions from listeners with the help of a celebrity guest. The advice is usually pretty heartfelt and genuine, but also funny. Tig doesn’t treat her guests with the kind of faux reverence a lot of these celebrity interview shows do and I find it very refreshing. In the Sarah Paulson episode, for example, she sets Sarah up to be shamed for lying.
5. You’re Wrong About
Starter episodes: The Princess Diana 5-Part series
You’re Wrong About features Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall debunking pop culture stuff, mostly stuff you know surface info about and then they take you on a deep dive that reveals how much more nuanced the story is. Their research is super in-depth, and they usually take turns being the one acting as presenter/researcher and the one acting like the listener. They somehow manage to exchange witty, funny banter without ever being overly disrespectful to anyone. A great example is their 5-parter on Princess Diana. In it, you learn that Princess Diana wasn’t perfect; she once pushed her stepmother down the stairs in a fit of anger. They also use delightful phrases like, “You don’t want someone making you look like a dickwheel.” and “What if Jesus is just like a Korean skincare routine?”
Starter episode: Maya Rudolph
This is currently my favorite podcast. If you miss stupid office banter with your work friends, you’ll love Smartless. Jason, Will and Sean are clearly real life friends, judging by how relentlessly they rag on each other. One of the hardest I ever laughed at work was when I brought in my extremely unattractive “fat photo” from college and my friend Craig said, “I want to do whatever is the opposite of masturbate to this.” Anyway, it’s that vibe all the time from these three.
I totally imagine what celebrities I’d be friends with and I’d basically choose the Smartless crew (Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, Sean Hayes), the Always Sunny cast, and everyone who starred in Wine Country. Plus Melissa McCarthy. And guess what? Based on the guests I’ve heard on Smartless, I think all these people are basically friends in real life, so I just have to figure out a way to get into their circle. The Maya Rudolph episode is one of the best because she 100% lays to rest any argument that women aren’t funny because she completely runs circles around the very funny hosts.
7. Ear Hustle
Starter episode: Looking Out
If you didn’t previously believe in prison reform, you will after listening to Ear Hustle. Hosts Nigel (“Nige”) Poor, an artist, and Earlonne Woods, a prisoner for much of the series, take you inside San Quentin penitentiary. Each episode introduces you to another prisoner or aspect of prison, like conjugal visits, jobs, or the SHU (which is short for Security Housing Unit or what we might call solitary confinement, and which I was very proud to drop on Matty and have to teach him what it means). After just one or two episodes, you realize how messed up the prison system is and how it’s no way to rehabilitate people. In “Looking Out,” you meet Roach, who loves animals, all animals, and has a number of pets inside prison, including a moth, a frog and a black widow.
8. Grim, Grimmer, Grimmest
Starter episode: The Peasant’s Clever Daughter
Kids’ podcasts don’t have to be lame. I wish I had learned this earlier in my parenting life. This one is awesome. Every episode starts with the same intro, which my kids have memorized: “Hi, my name is Adam Gidwitz. I’m an author. I’m also a storyteller. I like telling all kinds of stories but I especially life telling grim fairytales. You may think you know grim fairytales and you may think that they are sweet and boring but listen, those tales you heard were the cute, happy little kid bedtime versions of the Grimm Tales but the original Grimm fairytales aren’t like that at all. They’re weird and sometimes gross and often, scary. In other words, they’re grim and i’m about to walk into a classroom and tell one of the original grim Grimm tales to a bunch of kids. Do you want to join me? Do you want to hear a grim fairytale?”
Each one is rated grim, grimmer or grimmest and after telling you how grim this particular tale is, Adam gives kids some advice on what to do if it gets too scary. The tales are weird and gross, just like he says, and they are told in the most compelling way imaginable, complete with adorable real kids interrupting with questions and commentary, which sounds treacly and annoying but is actually completely charming because Adam is so talented.
The only slight caveat is that you may have to pay for a subscription to listen to this podcast. It’s through a site called Pinna, but you can get a free trial and try to binge listen before it’s over.
Starter episode: #164 Long Distance: The Real Alex Martin
Reply All is unlike any other podcast and kind of hard to describe. Also, a few months ago, it imploded and they did a complete overhaul after an exposé on Bon Appetit backfired on them and they had to quit after part 2 of what was going to be a 4-part (maybe 3-part?) story. But I’ll focus on the pre-BonApp period because that covers most of the episodes I’ve listened to. During this period, Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt (now-absent post-BA) are two witty, sarcastic nerds who uncover the mysteries of the internet, pop culture and modern life. I’ve learned stuff about Q-Anon, Twitter, robo-calls, race reparations, TikTok, and politics from them. Episode #164 involves Alex meeting a call center scammer who allegedly shares his name and eventually involves Alex traveling to India to meet him. It’s insane.
10. A Slob Comes Clean
Starter episode: The very first one!
When I first started listening to this podcast to get ideas on getting organized, I was like, “This woman and I have nothing in common except that I’m also sort of a slob.” She lives in the midwest suburbs, she’s religious and doesn’t work outside the home. But the more I listen, the more I’m like, “we’re the same person!” (I mean, except for the suburbs/religious/homemaker stuff, obvs.) Basically it goes back to the slob thing, but there’s also just something about her that I really identify with.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this podcast has changed my life. If you’re what the host Dana White calls a “normal person,” this might not be for you, but if you’re a secret (or not-so-secret) slob, there’s so much to learn. The most basic life-changing tip I learned from Dana was running your dishwasher every night without fail. “Normal people” probably already do this, but it was a game changer for me. I recommend starting with the very first episode as each one builds on the previous. You can also pick and choose for specific subjects, like decluttering Christmas decorations or handling a yard sale.
Honorable mentions: Nice White Parents, Pod Save America, Lovett or Leave It, The Michelle Obama Podcast, Dolly Parton’s America, Rabbit Hole, American Rehab, The Moth, This American Life, Love to See It, Welcome to the OC, Bitches.
Please tell me if there are any great podcasts I missed!