I’m the podcast person in the group… any group. (Is it possible to be podcast-ish, like a person is bookish?) Whatever the equivalent, I am that. Podcasts are an essential part of my day — I listen on commutes, I listen at a restaurant waiting for a date to arrive, I listen in line at Trader Joe’s. Here are my five favorites, plus a recommendation I took from the Cup of Jo reader comments…
IF YOU WANT to make friends as an adult
LISTEN TO Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT I’ve loved Conan O’Brien since high school, so when I heard he had a podcast I was all in. I expected to laugh a lot (and I did!) but I didn’t expect to be so charmed by Conan’s sincere side. The premise is simple: Conan chats with celebs — some of them close friends, some of them new friends — about everyday things like growing up, having kids, building careers, and existential dread. My favorite part was hearing about his glory days as a writer for The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live, and his current love for true crime. (Conan is a total Muderino!) Even the intro song will win you over. Ahoy-hoy!
TRY THESE EPISODES Bill Hader and Hannah Gadsby
IF YOU want to learn all the things
LISTEN TO Still Processing
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT The title alone will soothe any over-analyzing soul (me!), because some things take longer than others to digest. Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris are two Black, Queer writers for the New York Times, and feel like my uber-educated-in-all-things-African-American-culture-and-so-much-more older cousins. Listening to how their perspectives converge and differ is the most interesting part. I love Jenna’s woo-woo rituals and Wesley’s type-A personality, and how well they blend together. I learn a minimum of 10 new things every time I listen, and you might wanna buckle up, because they go deep. Some faves are the Lemonade/4:44 parallel and when they spoke to director Barry Jenkins days after Moonlight’s infamous Oscar win. Running into J&W in a Brooklyn juice shop is on my list of goals, tbh.
TRY THESE EPISODES Whoopi and We Relive the Oscars With Barry Jenkins
IF YOU want to add a little lust to your list
LISTEN TO Thirst Aid Kit
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT The dynamic hosts — playwright and producer Bim Adewunmi and poet Nichole Perkins — examine who and what they find absolutely irresistible, like when they describe the curl of Dev Patel’s hair, or whether or not someone is “ambibeardstrous” (has the ability to look hot with or without facial hair). Nichole and Bim are those friends who convince you take that extra shot on a night out — they bring out your spicier side. The best part is the fan fiction, where Bim and Nichole both write a short piece about the week’s “thirst object” and have Twitter followers vote on their favorite one. I love that Nichole’s pieces are racier, and Bim’s have more of a traipsing-around-the-house-on-a-lazy-Sunday vibe. More than anything it’s a joyful celebration of the glorious and complex female gaze. The show just returned after a long hiatus, last week and is available on SLATE!
TRY THESE EPISODES Ruffle My Feathers, Mark Ruffalo (so much thirst for Mark Ruffalo. This episode made me very happy!) and We Learned to Spell Jake Gyllenhaal
IF YOU need a boost after no one liked your idea at work
LISTEN TO How Did This Get Made?
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT Have you ever watched a movie (say, a beloved one from childhood) and asked yourself, “Who ok’d this terrible thing every step of the way??” Hosts Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, Jason Mantzoukas and weekly guests examine movie inaccuracies (like the height of bears in The Country Bears — “How tall is the tallest bear? Eight feet? These bears are at least 15 feet tall!!”) to questioning whether Meghan Markle left the palace to come back and play herself in the Lifetime movie about the Royal Wedding. This one had me shamelessly laughing in line at the deli.
TRY THESE EPISODES Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance and Jingle All The Way
IF YOU PREFER your news and pop culture together on one plate
LISTEN TO Keep It!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT This podcast has made me realize how tightly politics and pop culture are intertwined. Creator and co-host Ira Madison III says it best: “Popular culture has always informed how we act in culture at large, going back centuries. It’s something that’s just always been a push and pull, because our politics are the laws that we create to govern ourselves, and our pop culture is how we express how we feel about our everyday lives.” Each episode opens with Ira, Louis Virtel, and a weekly guest earnestly talking about everything from the latest celebrity Twitter feuds to the latest news headlines. They also share their personal political and/or pop culture grievances, ranging from outrage over a civil rights issue to the utter dislike of Lime scooters in the streets of L.A. No subject is safe.
TRY THESE EPISODES Pod Save Sports and LouisCKeep It
And now, the WILDCARD! I loved discovering this podcast from the Cup of Jo reader comments:
IF YOU’RE too embarrassed to bring up a burning question
LISTEN TO Ladies, We Need to Talk
WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT This is like kicking back with a La Croix with your deeply knowledgable best friend. The topics lure you in and surprise you, like the one I started with — Being Single and Owning It. This wasn’t the cringe-y pep talk I’d come to know and loathe. Instead, it held beautiful stories of women who’d found absolute joy living on their own, at various stages of life. Most episodes are based around women’s mental and physical health, cultural taboos and subjects you may think you know everything about — but you might not! The Secret Life of Hormones was SO eye-opening.
TRY THESE EPISODES The Pelvic Flaw In All of Us and Footloose and Childfree.
What have you listened to lately? Do you ever switch up your podcast routine?
(Illustration by Elizabeth Graeber for Cup of Jo.)