So, you’ve baked the perfect banana bread, binged Tiger King, considered giving yourself a fringe à la Normal People’s Marianne, or buying a chain like Normal People’s Connell – then talked yourself out of both – what next? Whether you’re getting your work done (despite nothing having changed in your environment, I promise term has started) and need something to listen to or you need another excuse to procrastinate, there’ll be a podcast for you.
If lockdown has ruined your plans, How to Fail with Elizabeth Day is the one for you. Elizabeth Day interviews celebrities about three failures of their choice. From Love Island stars to Phoebe Waller-Bridge to James O’Brien to Gina Miller to Jamie Laing, Day’s sensitivity as an interviewer encourages us to eventually reconsider our definitions of failure. Dylan Marron’s Conversations with People Who Hate Me, Grounded with Louis Theroux and David Tennant Does a Podcast With… all have similar discussion-based formats with nuance and wit. It’s like going for coffee with a very eclectic group of interesting people.
If you prefer the investigative leaning of Serial or Bear Brook, but with a bit less murder, then try The Dream. The first season explores the world of MLMs (#girlbosses, overpriced leggings, and dodgy diet drinks) while the second looks at the risks of aspirational wellness through the lens of capitalist commodification. It’s artfully produced – full of suspense and utterly bingeable, but with a quality of research that will make you want to return. Gangster Capitalism is currently looking at the NRA’s internal conflict. Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know also has an impressive range of subject areas – covering UFO sightings, mysterious unsolved cases (including, yes, a few murders), and 2016’s clown panic.
Do you fancy sounding incredibly well-informed about current events? Today in Focus, hosted by Anushka Asthana, combines a narrative of the news with insightful analysis. Released every weekday, it’s a quick listen with a great outcome: you get educated fast. The Economist has a whole host of podcasts that delve into the big questions of each day. BBC Radio 4’s Today in Parliament has a similar focus with a more overtly political flair. If you prefer interviews, then The Political Party, hosted by Matt Forde, is a look at politicians as you’ve never seen them before. With more expert input, The President’s Inbox is a dream for anyone interested in foreign relations and economics.
For pure enjoyment, Welcome to Night Vale is a cult classic. The premise is simple – it’s the radio station of a small desert town. The twist? This town is its own Lovecraftian, bizarre world with glow clouds raining meat, a multi-dimensional dog park, and invisible pie. Come for the mysterious hooded figures and Secret Police already listening at your window, stay for a faceless old woman (who secretly lives in your home), and Carlos the Scientist’s perfect hair. Welcome to Night Vale has become hugely popular, with sold-out world tours and best-selling books. If you’re already a fan, Kakos Industries has just as much weirdness with a whole lot more evil. While the podcasting stereotype of white men with glasses and plaid shirts can seem discouraging, Edison Research found that, out of all mediums, podcasts were, in fact, the most diverse and the one “that best represents the ethnic and gender make-up” of America due to its low set-up costs. And if you can’t find a podcast you like, then why not set up your own? – like Oxford’s own Maybe You Like It Podcast, where guests discuss staging unlikely media like Hot Fuzz, 50 First Dates, or Ex Machina. In a time with limited socialisation, new voices are always welcome, whether you’re listening or speaking up.