Podcasts were a ~thing~ when Serial dropped a few years ago. I was one of those people who binged it (please hold for all my feelings) and then never opened up that silly Podcast app on my phone again.
Not until my mom forcibly signed me up for a 10K and I needed something to distract me from how much running hurt (at least at the beginning). I’ll try and keep most of my true-crime recommendations for another day and give you a nice array of things to choose from. I am always looking for new suggestions so drop them in the comments section!
Ranked in no particular order, here we go!
My Favorite Murder
It is incredibly important that you know that this is a comedy podcast. Hosts Georgia and Karen spend 90 minutes or so telling each other about a murder they read about (mostly researched on Wikipedia). They talk about not getting killed (aka “fuck politeness”) and offer frank discussions about their experiences with therapy all while bringing a light and fun air to a pretty dark topic. They post two episodes a week, one of which is a minisode (~30 min) where they share listener emails with hometown murders.
If you consider yourself a murderino (basically a true crime fan), this is a must listen. It is hands down my favorite podcast and waiting for new episodes is one of the most painful things I do each week. The most recent episode helped me get through my first 10 mile run and I was laughing out loud…while running…this is an amazing pod.
This podcast walks you through some incredibly interesting Supreme Court cases like Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl and a man named Edward Blum, who has had six cases heard in front of the Supreme Court and represented Abigail Fisher (anyone remember her story about how she sued University of Texas and claimed they didn’t let her in because of her race?). It is produced by Radio Lab and one of the hosts from the that podcast also hosts this one. The only downside to this one? Only six episodes. The last one premiered Summer ’16 and they’ve been radio silent about when/if it’s coming back. Don’t get too attached.
Pod Save America
I will apologize in advance because I am going to talk about three of the four podcasts that are produced by Crooked Media in this post. This podcast is produced and hosted by the guys behind Keepin’ it 1600, former Obama staffers Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Jon Lovett, and Dan Pfeiffer. They were speechwriters, communications folks and NSC spokesmen during the Obama administration and they are hilarious. It’s essentially a breakdown of the news twice a week (Monday and Thursday). They bring on mostly liberal leaning guests (including: Ben Rhodes, Cecile Richards, David Axelrod, Yohannes Abraham, etc…) and talk about what’s happening with this new administration.
It’s not the podcast for you if you’re not pretty liberal, but if you are (or are looking to hear from the other side) definitely check these guys out. It is a bit out of date, but please go listen to the interview they did with Obama shortly before the inauguration. It is a-m-a-z-i-n-g.
Another true crime podcast but very different than My Favorite Murder. These episodes are about 15-30 minutes long and beautifully produced. The episode topics really range and aren’t sequential at all so you can skip around or only listen to the topics that sound interesting to you. Start with Episode 51: Money Tree- it’s an identity theft story with an amazing twist. After listening I told everyone I could about it. Episode 53: Melinda and Judy & Episode 54: Melinda & Clarence is also amazing. This podcast focuses more generally on crime and actually very rarely ever talks about murder. So if you think you might be into true crime but aren’t sure… start here. This is like slowly wading into the shallow end.
Anna Faris is Unqualified
I will be the first to admit I did not think I was going to like this podcast. I told my fiancé several times I wasn’t going to listen to it and definitely wouldn’t be subscribing…my my how quickly that changed. The whole show is basically Anna Faris interviewing famous people and then everyday folks call/email them asking for relationship advice. I started with the episodes where she interviewed people I liked- which was Episode 5 with Aubrey Plaza because I am a huge Parks & Rec fan. Chris Pratt (who Faris is married to ICYMI) occasionally pops in and gives his advice too. The interviews are fun and often include cold reads of skits Anna came up with or relationship deal breakers. Laugh out loud funny.
Pod Save the World
Appearance #2 by my friends over at Crooked Media. This podcast is hosted by Tommy Vietor, who was a spokesperson for the National Security Council during parts of the Obama administration and looks at all things foreign policy. I’m an international relations nerd at heart (that’s what my bachelors is in!) so I live for this podcast. A few weeks ago he interviewed Gayle Smith, former USAID Administrator about what is happening in South Sudan. It is accessible enough for folks who have no foreign policy background but still interesting enough for people who have more of a base to build off of.
I’m not totally sure what genre this would fall into because the topics really range. According to their official description it is a show about curiosity. Some of my favorite episodes (granted I haven’t listened to all of them) include Alpha Gal (about being allergic to red meat), Seneca, Nebraska (about a town that decided to essentially self-destruct), The Girl Who Doesn’t Exist (about a woman who cannot prove she exists) and Playing God (about medical triage). All of them are so different but they introduce you to some new ideas that likely haven’t crossed your mind before. Also the episodes really range in time from about 20-60 minutes so there is something for every bit of free time you have.
Lovett or Leave it
Third & final recommendation from Crooked Media and yes…another political podcast. Clearly I have a type (types: true crime & liberal politics is a weird mix). This pod is hosted by Jon Lovett (of Pod Save America) and is set in front of a live studio audience. It comes out every Saturday morning, which is really great because a lot of podcasts premiere during the week. There are only four episodes (as I write this I am listening to episode three) and they are still working out the kinks but so far it’s going really well. I’ve definitely laughed out loud more several occasions. More than the other two podcasts I’ve mentioned, this one makes you feel like you’re sitting in a room with your pals laughing about politics.
There is a panel of people with all different backgrounds and they go through a handful of different segments. Examples of my favorite segments include ‘Okay, Stop’ where they play a news clip and stop it every few seconds to rant about something that was said in the clip, the Rant Wheel, in which they continue to rant but the topics range and are placed on a wheel that is spun (topics in the past have included Russia, S Town, various politicians) and Too Stupid to be True, which is pretty self explanatory, but is similar to how you would play two truths and a lie.
I think it is an unwritten rule that whenever you have a top podcast list you have to write about this podcast. But as many have before me and as many will after me, I must clarify that I am only vouching for season 1. Season 2 is crap. If you’ve lived on this planet for a few years, you likely know what it’s about. If not, here’s a quick rundown. Host Sarah Koenig takes listeners through the true story, episode by episode, of HS senior Han Min Lee who was murdered in 1999 and her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who was convicted of that same crime. He has been in prison this whole time and has maintained his innocence throughout.
The case was largely based on one person’s story and some other circumstantial evidence. It’s basically like Sarah takes you through her investigation of the crime and lets you decide what you think the truth is. There are a ton of follow on podcasts to this (like the Serial Serial and Undisclosed) which dive deeper into the details and are a great place to go once you’ve finished the season and are looking for more answers.
You Must Remember This
I will preface this and say that the only episodes I have a listened to in this have been part of the “Dead Blondes in Hollywood” segment but I have a friend who will happily vouch for the rest of the show. The host’s voice is so soothing and she is great at weaving a tale. It’s about the secret or forgotten parts of Hollywood history. There are some true crime episodes, but topics can really vary and other examples include a whole series on The Blacklist, an MGM Series, and Hollywood Stars during WWII. I listen while I run and I get so into the stories that I easily blow through episodes. Even though I’m not a Hollywood buff at all, I love the idea of these stories being told in black and white and have a great time imagining what life was like in the 1900s.
I will admit I started listening to this only because I loved how Serial was produced and this was done by the same group. It tells the story of a man who lives in the Southern US and claims that a murder was being covered up. However, upon further investigation, it doesn’t look like anything came of that claim. Instead a new story line is woven right in front of your eyes and you get to follow the host through and interesting and sometimes pretty sad story about life and death. Is that too serious? I dunno. It was enjoyable but I don’t know that I am happy it was only 8 episodes.
I hope you find this list somewhat inspirational if nothing else! Sometimes I bike/walk to work so it’s been great to explore new podcasts and share them with people. My only piece of advice (especially if you’re new to the podcasting world) is to download one or two episodes, usually the first ones if the podcast is chronological and give it a try before subscribing or downloading more. They take up a fair bit of space on your phone once you start listening to a lot so definitely make sure the “delete after playing” setting is on!