In recent years I have gradually become what I can only describe as Podcast mad. Perfect for listening to on walks to lectures, whilst I’m cooking, or just in the evening to wind down, they have been a way to distract myself, learn, and relax. Having slowly sold my soul to the Podcast app, I’ve listened to the good, the bad, and the plain boring and these are my personal highlights.
Podcasts to make you laugh:
Let’s face it, the news can be really depressing. If you don’t follow the news too closely each week, like me, The News Quiz is the perfect way to learn what’s happened in the world whilst also having a good laugh. Making the news funny can be difficult, but these comedians tackle that challenge and, more often than not, succeed. 30 minutes long, this bite-sized recap is a wonderful way to unwind.
Running for over 50 years, Just a Minute is a quiz show where panellists try to talk about a random subject for a minute without hesitation, repetition, or deviation. Thanks to weekly regular Paul Merton, the programme often descends into organised chaos with panellists weighing up whether it’s better to focus on getting points and winning the show or to play it for laughs.
Equally playful and informative, No Such Thing as a Fish is a podcast created by the QI researchers (or elves). Weekly regulars Andy, Anna, Dan, and James are often joined by guests like Sara Pascoe or other QI elves. The four have wonderful banter and after one episode you’re left craving more. The programme is structured around each elf bringing in their favourite fact from the last week. Personal favourites include:
J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis both once went to a party dressed as polar bears. It was not a fancy dress party.
The single biggest expense for the computer game Lego Universe was to hire human moderators to make sure people were not making Lego penises.
Podcasts to make you think:
Let’s talk about death. We’ve all experienced or will experience loss at some point in our lives and yet bereavement is rarely talked about. Cariad Lloyd hosts this podcast where other comedians explaining their experiences of grief. Breaking the stigma one hour at a time, the podcast makes talking about death normal, reassuring listeners that they aren’t alone in the way they feel, and educating those who haven’t experienced grief on ways they can support those who have.
Upon the recommendation of a good friend, I started listening to this relatively new podcast and have been excitedly awaiting each new episode since then. Nick Clegg talks to public figures from both political and cultural spheres to ask why our world is so angry. Starting with the king of rage Nigel Farage, Clegg has also interviewed George Osborne and Gary Lineker talking about both their personal and public lives.
I love a good TED talk, and the TED radio hour brings together the best bits of the best talks, further interviews with talk givers, all linked by a common theme. Exploring the ideas and discoveries that make us human, the TED radio hour is a space to think and to think about thinking.
The Infinite Monkey Cage satisfies that part of me that always wanted to become a scientist while remaining accessible enough that the part of me that was never good enough at chemistry to become a scientist can understand what’s being discussed. Episodes range from looking at whether insects will inherit the world to whether we are living in a simulation (enter existential crisis stage left). With over 100 episodes available, why not dive into a new area of science led by Brian Cox and Robin Ince, and emerge a little more knowledgeable than you were before.