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6 Podcasts to Get Hooked on This Winter

melissa mccarthy bridesmaids

What are you listening to these days? I’m a longtime podcast fiend, but I still get overwhelmed by how many shows (how many really, really good shows!) are out there. As we head into a new year and the chilly months ahead, I thought I’d share some of my old and new favorites to cozy up with (and please tell me yours)…

IF YOU Love old movies — and scandals
LISTEN TO You Must Remember This
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT This is one of those shows where I am actually jealous of the people who haven’t discovered it yet. If you’re a sucker for celeb scandals and juicy biopics, or staying up ’til 3am reading Mommie Dearest (hi!), this one’s for you. Karina Longworth researches and reports (in crazy detail) the mysteries, legends and icons of old Hollywood. We’re talking everything from Judy Garland’s tumultuous celebrity childhood to Marilyn Monroe’s mysterious last days to Charles Manson’s infiltration of the Hollywood elite. Some of the most fascinating episodes are on little-known stories (this one on actress Frances Farmer sent me down the Wikipedia rabbit hole). It is. So good.
TRY THIS EPISODE Marlon Brando

IF YOU Just need a little break real quick
LISTEN TO Pop Culture Happy Hour
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT Listening to this show reminds me of dinner conversations you have with friends after going to the movies: Everyone has an opinion and everyone is in a good mood. This roundtable, led by host Linda Holmes and a rotating cast of podcast and radio personalities, is full of witty folks who are just as capable of waxing poetic about Jeopardy as they are debating the merit of melodrama in A Star Is Born. The biweekly episodes are short (about 20 minutes) but satisfying — a good giggle at the start and end of my week. Every Friday installment ends with a segment called, simply, “What’s Making Us Happy,” and honestly, who couldn’t use more of that?
TRY THIS EPISODE I say start with the most recent (but the episode on Mamma Mia 2 is also really fun — and I didn’t even see Mamma Mia 2)

IF YOU’RE In the mood for something spooky
LISTEN TO Lore
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT This is my go-to podcast for a chilly night when I’m cooking dinner alone in my kitchen. It’s eerie, but not horror-movie scary. Each episode tells the true story behind a legend: the Mothman, changelings, the New England vampire panic. The stories underscore the ways that human nature is intertwined with myth, and how our darker instincts often create the very monsters we fear. It’s hard to oversell this extremely popular show (FYI, it’s already been adapted into an Amazon TV series), but if you haven’t tried it yet, this is the time of year to give it a whirl. The days are short, the skies are dark, so grab a blanket and dig in.
TRY THIS EPISODE The Castle

IF YOU’RE A fan of This American Life (and who isn’t?)
LISTEN TO The Nod
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT The Nod isn’t derivative of This American Life (and typically has a much funnier, more high-energy feel), but it does explore fascinating stories and important moments in black culture — the Memphis 13, grape drink, an oral history of Knuck If You Buck — with the same thoughtful storytelling that TAL fans know and love. This show approaches black culture in a way that most media doesn’t, and it’s great to hear stories about black life from black hosts. Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings have a crackling rapport and a friendly rivalry, and I often find myself laughing along as if I’m in the room with them (when I’m actually alone on the subway).
TRY THIS EPISODE It’s hard to pick a favorite episode (I’ve listened to this one about a Beyoncé conspiracy theory three times because it still makes me laugh out loud), but this one, about Afrocentric pre-schools is a great place to start: A is for Afrocentric

IF YOU Listened to all of Dirty John in one day
LISTEN TO The Teacher’s Pet
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT This Australian investigatory podcast examines one of the country’s most infamous cold cases: the disappearance and “probable murder” of Lyn Dawson. It’s a tangled, fascinating story that grows even more compelling as the podcast continues — but what I love about this show is the humanity with which host Hedley Thomas approaches the subject. Listening to true crime sometimes leaves me with an icky sense of complicity in consuming these stories as entertainment. This one is careful not to treat its subjects like characters, but as real, complex people, each of whom has their own experience of the events.
TRY THIS EPISODE Start from the beginning (and no peeking ahead!)

IF YOU Feel extremely unglamorous after scrolling through Instagram
LISTEN TO Death, Sex & Money
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT If you’re not already a fan of this contemporary classic, Death, Sex & Money is just what it sounds like. It’s a show about things in our lives that are, as the creator Anna Sale puts it, “often left out of polite conversation.” Anna interviews (in her incredibly soothing voice) people from all walks of life — including the occasional celebrity — about deeply personal topics: a shoplifter on why she steals; a paralyzed newlywed on having a sex life; a Bitcoin mogul who went broke; a Texas town recovering from a series of local suicides; Alia Shawkat on navigating her twenties as a former child actress. This show gets real, no doubt, but it’s also a comforting reminder that there are universal experiences and things we all struggle with — and no one’s life is what it looks like on the outside.
TRY THIS EPISODE Ellen Burstyn’s Lessons on Survival

What’s in your ears these days?

P.S. What podcasts taught us about life and 6 more podcasts to check out.

(Photo of Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids.)

  1. Jaimie says...

    The Cold Podcast is an investigation into the disappearance of Susan Powell in 2009. This story is SO TRAGIC. And incredibly heartbreaking as the effects of her disappearance translated to her sons in a horrible way. I dont want to add any spoilers. But it is such a fascinating listen and makes you feel so angry and frustrated for her as it details her marriage and relationship with her creepy husband and father in law. The whole time I was listening I kept wanting to scream “LEAVE HIM!” The behavior of her father in law is especially shocking and disgusting.

    If you want a little backstory before committing to the podcast, just google “Susan Powell”.

  2. Fab stuff. I’m always on the lookout for new podcasts to listen to. A friend recommended Teacher’s Pet and it’s on my ever growing list :-)

    I love listening to All Killa No Filla which is an ace true crime podcast hosted by two very funny comedians. They sadly only upload once a month, but it’s worth the wait!

  3. Jen says...

    Terrible thanks for asking- my favorite! Nora, the host is hilarious and so easy to listen too. She navigates these raw and emotional stories with such a way. I’ve learned so much and see the world a bit differently now.

  4. Kate says...

    Death Sex Money is one of my favorites! I also listen to Reply All (by Gimlet media) and have been enjoying Serial season 3 which is focusing on all aspects of the criminal (in)justice system this time around. (from the creators of This American Life)

  5. Alina says...

    I am a super picky podcast listener but will try the old Hollywood one! My favorites of late are Goop (went through all the archives 😬), the new Conan O’Brien podcast, and Rewatchables from The Ringer. Also Marc Maron always and forever.

  6. Kim says...

    The Slowdown- a daily 5 minute reading and exploration of poetry by Tracy Smith, national poet laureate.

  7. Thirst Aid Kit!! Everyone should listen. The premise is about women lusting out loud – something that isn’t celebrated enough. The show is absolutely hilarious because of the spectacular hosts Bim and Nichole and their ability to vocalize their thirst in such specific and on-point ways. It’s also a critical and nuanced look at why we lust after certain types of people while others are overlooked, but mostly it’s just really fun and a much-needed ray of hilarity and joy!

  8. Stacie says...

    I’m obsessed with Still Processing. It’s smart, funny, and takes on some of the most important issues we’re facing as a nation today with humor and grace without, for one minute, undermining or downplaying the gravity of the issues they tackle.

    And Didn’t I Just Feed You for parents – it’s all about feeding a family, it’s funny and helpful!

  9. CKG says...

    For a fun science-y podcast with a host that feels like your silly work soulmate, I can’t recommend Ologies with Alie Ward enough!! She interviews different “ologists” and asks them all sorts of questions, including listener-submitted ones. From bird and cats and Mars, to trains, snow, postcards, and eating bugs, I never thought I’d NEED TO KNOW all about these things… but now I do, and it’s amazing! :)

  10. Sarah says...

    For the true crime fans: The series “Evil Has A Name”on Audible tells the story of the Golden State Killer. It features Paul Holes and the voices of the female survivors telling their stories are amazing. Completely riveting.

  11. Shira says...

    I’ve been listening to Pod Save the World ever since it started in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling less comforted by it and just more and more frustrated by how long things are taking and just the state of our government. Just last week, I started listening to a new podcast called Kind World. I think it’s been around for awhile, so I’m definitely behind the eight ball on it. But, wow, does it soothe a sad soul. All of the episodes are less than 10 minutes, and it’s just so wonderful to hear about the ways people can just be NICE. It’s definitely a pick-me-up part of the day, and it makes me happy.

  12. L..B. says...

    The Carmen show.

  13. Paula P says...

    I’ve been meaning to listen to this since I heard the 2 hosts as guests on one of my favorite podcasts – Ologies, which I would HIGHLY recommend. The epidemiology episode was a favorite, as was the linguistics episode. The host Ali Ward geeks out in the best way possible and I find her so charming.

  14. Meghan Splawn says...

    Shamelessly, another mom is also a food editor (my day job) and I launched a funny podcast about feeding our families this summer called Didn’t I Just Feed You. We’ve had some really amazing experts and real parents weigh in on everything from school lunch to picky eating and budgets.

  15. Nina says...

    I love Who? Weekly – it’s a celebrity gossip podcast, but focused primarily on C- and D-listers (aka the people whose names make you say “who?!”). They do talk about general pop culture news as well. SO funny and super smart.

  16. Meghan says...

    I’d like to add “Armchair Expert” with Dax Shepard (!). Who knew? Dax is hilarious, so intelligent, charming and does a great interview. He interviews various celebrities and the occasional ‘expert’ (psychologists, authors, doctors – experts in their field) on what it means to be human, the struggles we go through and how we learn from them. I particularly love the “expert” episodes, but honestly every one is really great. I love hearing people’s stories. I think the more we share our stories, the more we find common ground with others and the world is just a better place.

  17. Hannah says...

    This Podcast Will Kill You is a fantastic one! It’s hosted by two friends who are epidemiologists. They talk about different infectious diseases throughout history and current day. They even make a “quarantini” with a recipe included to sip on while listening.

    • Paula P says...

      I’ve been meaning to listen to this! I heard the 2 hosts interviewed on one of my favorite podcasts – Ologies, which I would HIGHLY recommend. The epidemiology, linguistics, and anatomy episodes were all favorites, but even the random sounding ones (Crow funerals??) are so interesting. The host is charming and I love listening to her geek out with all the “ologists”

  18. IF YOU Are a millennial or are just fascinated by this strange generation
    LISTEN TO We Barely Know Each Other
    WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT Two Antipodean gals each fortnight take one trend created by the Millennials or one that has been forced upon them. It’s a quick, easy listen that will leave you more than capable of bluffing your way through office cooler topics such as woman who ‘lift’, imposter syndrome, millennial pink, emotional support animals… there is a great back catalogue that will keep you entertained for hours.
    TRY THIS EPISODE Start anywhere in series 1 or 2. For just a taster, the latest two episodes out have been on Lifehacks and Running.

  19. Jana says...

    Forever35!! Cup of Jo is periodically mentioned there, so it feels only fair to mention them here. I love it for the same reason I love Cup of Jo: listening to it feels like having lunch with my best friend.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That’s so nice to hear! I’m going to be on the show soon so I’ll let you know! I’m nervous haha.

    • Meghan says...

      I was just going to suggest the same thing. Forever 35 is just the best. It’s what I listen to on my drive to and from work. I’m constantly giggling and learning new things and it just makes me happy. Just like visits with your best gal friends. And just the feeling I get when reading Cup of Jo! :)

      How exciting that you’ll be on it Joanna!!!! This is like my worlds colliding in the very best way possible. Hooray! I’m eagerly anticipating your episode.

    • Leslie says...

      I was going to recommend the same as well! Excited to hear you’ll be on the show!

  20. Aya Costantino says...

    I LOVED “Ear Hustle” which is a podcast co-hosted and produced by an inmate at San Quentin Prison. The stories range from light (pets, self-care, food) to poignant and sad (immigration, being a parent etc). It has also broken down many of my stereotypes about prison and inmate. I love the chemistry between the two hosts, one who is an artist who volunteers at the prison and an inmate. I can’t wait for season 4.

    • Hannah says...

      I second this! Ear hustle is the best!

    • Amanda says...

      Yes! Eat hustle is one of my faves.

  21. Mary says...

    You Must Remember This IS SO GOOD I LOVE IT SO MUCH. That’s all :)

  22. Aria Cole Asher says...

    The Daily and Today Explained are two succinct, current events based podcasts that I am listening to lately.

  23. Cindy D. says...

    I’m really into Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert. It’s hysterical. He interviews great actors and comedians and he has a way of making it seem very intimate, like they’re old friends talking…which sometimes I think they are. But either way, I’m hooked. Also his assistant and “fact checker”, Monica Padman, is lovely and the perfect accompaniment to Dax’s fun and quirky personality.

    • Kady says...

      Yes! And I’m fairly certain Monica reads this blog! I remember her bringing it up in a past episode, talking about how she read an article that Alex wrote in the NYT!

    • Jenna says...

      Yes! I remember her saying she was a big fan of the blog. She’s adorable and funny. @Jo I’d love to see a Monica beauty uniform or a week of outfits post!

  24. CMS says...

    I normally don’t get into improv comedy podcasts, but Womp It Up by Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham is a highlight of the week for my commutes. It’s absolutely goofy and delightful, and it constantly cracks me up. Plus the write-in advice portion has gotten so real and heartfelt. One of my top faves!

  25. Amy says...

    You gotta check out “What Fresh Hell – Laughing in the face of Motherhood.” They have the best advice and I take a lot of gets tips away from them. They have “oldy-locks alerts” when they reference something for older moms like using VHS tapes or granimal clothes :)