Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend
In my spare time I coproduce a weekly science-heavy podcast. So when it comes to my personal-podcast time, I prefer light-hearted content that makes me smile all the way through my commute. That’s why I love Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend. If you are familiar with his late-night TV show, this podcast isn’t far from his celebrity-interview format. However, without the commercial interruptions, Conan is able to carry on and on until you are wiping tears away from laughing so hard. For a sample, I highly recommend episode 45, featuring Paul Rudd. —Monica Kenney, Social-Media Editor
Stuff Mom Never Told You
Stuff Mom Never Told You is the comprehensive class I wish I could have had in high school. With topics ranging from the female orgasm to the rise of anorexia among men, this podcast covers so much that I wish anyone had told me. Hot tip: Dial back to the earlier episodes. Original hosts Cristen and Caroline handle charged subjects with charm as well as tact, and their episodes are worth the extra scrolling. —Molly Tynjala, Assistant Editor
Awesome with Alison
I discovered Alison through Instagram first, as she had gone viral as the pregnant woman dancing to boost her mood, inspiring other mamas to do the same. She continues her feel-good mission by showing others how they too can boost their mood so that they can “feel more awesome.” And her fun-loving podcast does just that. It covers a range of topics, all with the goal to empower others and provide tools to help people feel happier. Best of all, she ends every episode with her token tagline: “Only you can be you, and you’re already as awesome as you need to be.” —Monica Kenney, Social-Media Editor
What’s Good, Man?
This podcast is new to me, but I enjoyed the first two episodes so much that it’s quickly become a new fav. Hosts Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre and Tony “the Scribe” Williams (both writers, rappers, and activists in Minneapolis) spend each episode in honest, critical conversation about what manhood is, and what expectations of masculinity they feel called to resist, lean into, or redefine entirely. They talk about the problems and effects of toxic masculinity — “an ingredient in the recipe” of most major social issues we face as a society, Tran Myhre says in the first episode — in order to seek out a healthier, more self-actualized definition of what manhood can be. Tune in, for real. —Kaelyn Riley, Senior Editor
Cocaine & Rhinestones
For no good reason that I can think of, I really only listen to one podcast and that’s Tyler Mahan Coe’s history of country music. Coe is the son of country-music outlaw David Allan Coe and played guitar in his father’s band. He grew up surrounded by stories, tall tales, and legends, and his podcast gives them flesh and blood. Forget Ken Burns and his sanitized mainstream documentary history; as this podcast’s title suggests, this is the good, bad, and ugly. Plus, it’s down-and-dirty geeky. Coe goes deep into subjects — down rabbit holes that lead to other rabbit holes. My fave is episode 14 on pedal-steel maestro Ralph Mooney, which discusses easy-to-miss musical innovations that Moon brought to the “Bakersfield Sound” that have since become ingrained in the music. Too esoteric? Then check out episode 4 on Bobbie Gentry and her stunning “Ode to Billie Joe” and forgotten masterpiece album Delta Sweete. Season 2 is (hopefully) on the way soon. —Michael Dregni, Deputy Editor
Here To Make Friends
I may not seem like the sort of person who would find herself addicted to ABC’s The Bachelor franchise, but lo, dear reader, that’s exactly the sort of person I am. I started watching back in 2009, at the behest of some grad school friends who’ve since extricated themselves from the show, but I can’t quite seem to tear myself away. The appeal is inexplicable. The conversations are often frustratingly shallow. The contestants are frequently, as the saying goes, “there for the wrong reasons.” The conditions are so fantastical that any relationship formed on the show seems, at best, completely untethered from reality. “Who wouldn’t fall in love on an all-expense-paid date in a tropical location completely planned and executed by network television?” I often muse to myself, mid-watch, with a glass of wine on a Monday night.
Thankfully, I have Here To Make Friends to give me a dose of reality come Tuesday morning. Hosts Emma Gray and Claire Fallon (both journalists at HuffPost) spend each episode “lovingly snarking” on that week’s Bachelor-related content, while also digging into what the reality show demonstrates about dating and the politics surrounding the popular franchise. I love it, or I love to hate it — I’m not sure which. —Kaelyn Riley, Senior Editor
Presidential and Constitutional
I should admit, before we begin here, that I am not an avid podcast listener. It is a medium that has not quite resonated for me, yet, and it is only the rare podcast that grabs my attention and interest long enough to finish an entire episode, let alone an entire series. Presidential and Constitutional are precisely the listens that fall into the “I’m-gonna-run-an-extra-mile-to-finish-this-episode” category.
In 2016, the Washington Post launched Presidential, a 44-episode examination of the first 44 U.S. presidents leading up to that year’s election. The Post followed up with Constitutional in 2017, which explored the founding of the Constitution, our democracy’s great experiment, and its storied past. Both were reported and produced by Lillian Cunningham, one of the Post’s most brilliant talents (and, I should note, a former colleague and friend).
If you think podcasts about presidents, the Constitution, or politics in general are boring or too potentially rife with rage-inducing moments, I hear you — and I adamantly implore you to give these a shot. Lily is whip-smart, astute, and endlessly kind. The stories she unearths in her interviews bring the past into the present, grounding her subjects in relatability and humanity.
For example, in Presidential she begins each episode by asking her experts what a date with each president would have been like before diving into their stories. (Note to self: Steer clear of Jefferson.) In Constitutional, she brings the ever-changing document that guides American democracy to life through the people — revolutionaries, abolitionists, suffragists, protesters, justices, presidents, and others — who “framed and reframed it” over the past 233 years.
While neither Presidential nor Constitutional is new, they are both timeless and timely for the times in which we live. We are heading into yet another heated presidential election; not a day passes when the Constitution is not invoked in a debate, press conference, or tweet.
I suggest that you make time for one or both of these podcasts this year, but not to convince you of any political rhetoric or to change your mind, values, or ideals on any issue. Rather, these podcasts provide history and context, which I believe is always needed and never hurts. Context brings a fuller awareness to our own decision-making. Context breeds empathy. Context is knowing where we come from to better understand where we are today, and where we might go tomorrow. — Maggie Fazeli Fard, Senior Fitness Editor
You’re Wrong About . . .
As journalists, hosts Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall know that if you tell a story incorrectly one time, it’s hard to control where it goes from there. In each episode of their podcast, they take a look back at some of America’s most publicized crimes and greatest tragedies, including the Jonestown massacre, the 2008 financial crisis, and the Challenger explosion. But rather than indulging in the often-horrifying details of these events, they approach their work as journalists, examining the media coverage at the time and how that coverage shaped the public experience and historical interpretation. What’s been sad and satisfying in equal measure for me is how much this podcast serves as a kind of corrective for infamous women mired by scandal and either distorted or misconstrued altogether in the media and in the public imagination: Nicole Brown Simpson, Monica Lewinsky, Tonya Harding, Anna Nicole Smith, Lorena Bobbitt. Really worth a listen, if you like that sort of thing. —Kaelyn Riley, Senior Editor
Dolly Parton’s America
Looking for a way to visit the beautiful mountainscapes and culture of Tennessee’s Appalachia or for a way to unite folks across the political divide? Then I recommend tuning into Dolly Parton’s America. Join host Jad Abumrad — who created another of my favorite podcasts, Radiolab — as he heads into the Dollyverse and explores topics like what makes a great sad song and why we love them, Dolly’s metamorphosis into an icon for diverse groups, feminism and the #MeToo movement, “Dolly-tics,” what it means to be a legend at the crossroads of America’s culture wars, and why Dolly’s songs provide the soundtrack to so many people’s lives. —Heidi Wachter, Senior Editor