The 50 Best Podcasts of 2016, courtesy of The Atlantic!
Maybe you’ve laid awake imagining how it could have been, how it might yet be, but the moment to act was never right. Well, the moment is here and the podcast making it happen is Heavyweight.
Gateway Episode: “Gregor”
The United States of Anxiety brings you the voices of people trying to hold on to their piece of the American Dream and others who are looking to build one.
Gateway Episode: “How Did We Get Here and Where Are We Going?”
Banner Episode: “White Like Me”
How does an elite group of nine people shape everything from marriage and money, to safety and sex for an entire nation? Radiolab‘s first ever spin-off series, More Perfect, dives into the rarefied world of the Supreme Court to explain how cases deliberated inside hallowed halls affect lives far away from the bench.
4. Reply All
Reply All is a show about the internet and trained rats, time travel, celebrity dogs, lovelorn phone scammers, angry flower children, workplace iguanas, and more. It’s hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, who launched the show in 2014.
Gateway Episode: “The Grand Tapestry of Pepe”
Criminal is a podcast about crime. Stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.
The mission of The Center for Investigative Reporting is to engage and empower the public through investigative journalism and groundbreaking storytelling in order to spark action, improve lives and protect our democracy.
CIR is among the most innovative, credible and relevant media organizations in the country. Reveal – our website, public radio program, podcast and social media platform – is where we publish our multiplatform work.
Our award-winning journalists hold the powerful accountable and reveal government fraud and waste of taxpayer funds, human rights violations, environmental degradation and threats to public safety. We consistently shine a bright light on injustice and protect the most vulnerable in our society.
Gateway Episode: “The Man Inside: Four Months as a Prison Guard”
Banner Episode: “Glare of the Spotlight”
From June, 1962 through January, 1964, women in the city of Boston lived in fear of the infamous Strangler. Over those 19 months, he committed 13 known murders-crimes that included vicious sexual assaults and bizarre stagings of the victims’ bodies. After the largest police investigation in Massachusetts history, handyman Albert DeSalvo confessed and went to prison. Despite DeSalvo’s full confession and imprisonment, authorities would never put him on trial for the actual murders. And more than 50 years later, significant doubts continue to surround the case. Was DeSalvo really the killer? Was there more than one Strangler? And did the Boston PD and the FBI do everything necessary to find and stop the murderer?
Stranglers, an original 12-part weekly documentary podcast from Earwolf and Northern Light Productions, is a fascinating, contemporary audio investigation of the Boston Strangler story. Using never-before-heard voices, interviews with actual suspects, extensive original research and new conversations with the victims’ family members, host Portland Helmich will introduce you to every facet of the case, from the reporters who originally covered it to the police who worked furiously to solve it, as well as terrified witnesses who claim to have met the Strangler himself.
Invisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Co-hosted by Lulu Miller, Hanna Rosin and Alix Spiegel, Invisibilia interweaves narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently. Season 2 of Invisibilia will premiere on June 17, 2016 and feature 7 one-hour episodes to be released on Fridays.
Gateway Episode: “The Personality Myth”
Banner Episode: “The Problem With the Solution”
Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial tells one story—a true story—over the course of a season. Each season, we follow a plot and characters wherever they take us. We won’t know what happens at the end until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we bring you the next chapter in the story, so it’s important to listen to the episodes in order. For more information on how to listen, click here.
Serial has won several awards, including the Peabody, Edward R. Murrow, duPont-Columbia, Scripps Howard, and Silver Gavel Award for Media and the Arts. Serial, like This American Life, is produced in collaboration with WBEZ Chicago.
10. How to Be a Girl
How to Be a Girl is an audio podcast I produce about life with my transgender daughter. It stars the two of us — a single mom and an eight-year-old “girl with a penis” — as we attempt together to sort out just what it means to be a girl. (If you want to get a little background on our story, you can watch this cartoon I made about how it all began.)
Gateway Episode: Start here.
Banner Episode: “Just Maybe”
This American Life is a weekly public radio show broadcast on more than 500 stations to about 2.2 million listeners. It is produced in collaboration with Chicago Public Media, delivered to stations by PRX The Public Radio Exchange, and has won all of the major broadcasting awards. It is also often the most popular podcast in the country, with another 2.4 million people downloading each episode.
From 2006-2008, we produced a television version of This American Life on the Showtime network, which won three Emmys. We also co-created, with NPR News, the economics podcast and blog Planet Money. A half dozen stories from the radio show are being developed into films. In 2014, we launched our first spinoff show, Serial, a podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig.
There’s a theme to each episode of This American Life, and a variety of stories on that theme. Most of the stories are journalism, with an occasional comedy routine or essay. There’s lots more to the show, but it’s sort of hard to describe. Probably the best way to understand the show is to start at our favorites page, though we do have longer guides to our radio show and our TV show. If you want to dive into the hundreds of episodes we’ve done over the years, there’s an archive of all our old radio shows and listings for all our TV episodes, too.
12. Savage Lovecast
Dan Savage is an author, a sex-advice columnist, a podcaster, a pundit, and a public speaker.
“Savage Love,” Dan’s sex-advice column, first appeared in the The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative weekly, in 1991. The column is now syndicated to more than 50 papers across the United States and Canada.
Gateway Episode: Start with the newest.
Banner Episode: “519”
13. Snap Judgment
Glance at the logo of Snap Judgment in your podcatcher, and you’ll get a great idea of how the host Glynn Washington envisions his role. He’s part storyteller, part MC, part DJ, part host. He doesn’t shy away from the way in which Ira Glass has influenced him either, co-opting This American Life’s multiple-act structure for Snap. In one segment, you’ll hear from a man who masters the art of speaking in tongues; in another, you’ll find out what it’s like to be captured in Iraq while on a humanitarian mission. Based out of Oakland, California, Snap Judgment lends a crucial voice to the podcast scene and makes space for many points of view. With so many stories vying for airtime, Snap is a show that competes, year in and year out, pound for pound, with the best narrative podcasts.
14. The Heart
Gateway Episode: “Mariya Extended Cut”
Banner Episode: “Silent Evidence (Four Parts)”
A podcast about Brooklyn and the waves of money rolling into the real estate market. Developers from all over the globe are hunting NYC looking for deals that will allow them to “revitalize” neighborhoods, and make a few bucks in the process. But to many tenants and homeowners, it feels like a violent shove out of the way, especially for black and brown Brooklynites who have lived here for generations. Add to the drama the fact that the nation’s most progressive mayor has a plan to slow down gentrification and encourage developers to create more affordable housing rather than luxury condos. Only, people are marching in the street stop it.
16. Hidden Brain
Shankar Vedantam speaks internationally on how the “hidden brain” shapes our world. Recent talks include:
How unconscious bias shapes behavior. Highly interactive multimedia presentation that has been acclaimed in business, medical and legal settings.
The role of unconscious factors in innovation and creativity: How the hidden brain keeps us from seeing what’s important as we make crucial decisions. The science of building a “learning organization.”
The role of gender and racial biases in professional settings. Options: Interactive Multimedia/Lecture/Workshop
How the hidden brain shapes audience engagement, and the factors that shape effective communication
The science of excellence: Understanding elite performance in business, academic settings and sports
Gateway Episode: “Our Politics, Our Parenting”
Banner Episode: “Filthy Rich”
You know how every day someone asks “how are you?” And even if you’re totally dying inside, you just say “fine,” so everyone can go about their day? This show is the opposite of that. Hosted by author (It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too)) and notable widow (her words) Nora McInerny, this is a funny/sad/uncomfortable podcast about talking honestly about our pain, our awkwardness, and our humanness, which is not an actual word.
Basements, dim back rooms, the dive-iest of dive bars, at 9:00 PM on a weeknight: this is where comedy is born. Not at The Apollo or on HBO, but at open mic nights. This is where all great comics get their start and where the shitty ones toil and sweat in the hopes of maybe, one day, becoming less shitty.
Peter Bresnan happens to be the latter type, and TELL ME I’M FUNNY is a podcast miniseries that follows his attempts, over the course of a single year, to succeed as a stand-up comedian, presented as candidly as possible, good jokes and bad ones. Follow him in his sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes bizarre journey through the lower circles of comedy.
Gateway Episode: “Who’s Laughing Now”
Banner Episode: “Trim the Fat”
Hosted by Kelly McEvers, Embedded takes a story from the news and goes deep. What does it feel like for a father in El Salvador to lie to his daughter about the bodies he saw in the street that day? What does it feel like for a nurse from rural Indiana to shoot up a powerful prescription opioid? Embedded (EMBD) takes you to where they’re happening
20. Esquire Classic
Every two weeks, the Esquire Classic Podcast takes a Classic story that has stood the test of time and reveals its cultural impact and resonance, from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Crack-Up,” the celebrated author’s 1936 memoir of breakdown and depression, to Tom Junod’s heartbreaking 9/11 story, “The Falling Man,” to Nora Ephron’s famous 1972 essay, “A Few Words About Breasts.”
Our host is David Brancaccio, whose voice you probably know well from public radio’s Marketplace and PBS’ Now. And our partner is PRX, the home of Radiotopia and a slate of awesome shows such as Snap Judgment, The Moth Radio Hour, and Reveal.
Gateway Episode: “My Father the Bachelor, by Martha Sherrill”
Banner Episode: “What It Takes, by Richard Ben Cramer”
21. Keepin’ It 1600
Four former aides to President Obama — Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor — host a biweekly Ringer podcast to discuss the political world, analyze the Trump presidency, and welcome commentary from journalists and politicians.
First-person stories that explore what happens when everything changes.
Gateway Episode: “What If You Followed a Singular Dream Around the Planet?”
Banner Episode: “What If You Lived Your Life as a Ghost?”
The New Yorker Radio Hour is a weekly program presented by the magazine’s editor, David Remnick, and produced by WNYC Studios and The New Yorker. Each episode features a diverse mix of interviews, profiles, storytelling, and an occasional burst of humor inspired by the magazine, and shaped by its writers, artists, and editors. This isn’t a radio version of a magazine, but something all its own, reflecting the rich possibilities of audio storytelling and conversation.
24. Fresh Air
Fresh Air from WHYY, the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues, is one of public radio’s most popular programs. Hosted by Terry Gross, the show features intimate conversations with today’s biggest luminaries.
Gateway Episode—“Carrie Fisher”
Banner Episode—“Trevor Noah”
A new psychological thriller from Gimlet Media, starring Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, and David Schwimmer.
26. Modern Love
Modern Love: The Podcast features the popular New York Times column, with readings by notable personalities and updates from the essayists themselves. Join host Meghna Chakrabarti (WBUR) and Modern Love editor Daniel Jones (NYT) — and fall in love at first listen.
Gateway Episode: “To Fall in Love, Do This”
Banner Episode: “Marry A Man Who Loves His Mother”
27. Still Processing
A culture conversation with Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham.
A podcast hosted by Anna Sale about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.
Gateway Episode: “Dating Was So Hard, Until It Wasn’t”
Banner Episode: “When I Almost Died”
29. Science Vs
Science Vs takes on fads, trends, and the opinionated mob to find out what’s fact, what’s not, and what’s somewhere in between. This season, we tackle organic food, attachment parenting, gun control, fracking, and more. Hosted by Wendy Zukerman.
Welcome to Revisionist History, a new podcast from Malcolm Gladwell and Panoply Media. Each week for 10 weeks, Revisionist History will go back and reinterpret something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.
Gateway Episode: “Hallelujah”
Banner Episode: “Saigon, 1965”
A podcast on music from the Rolling Stone magazine.
32. On Being
A passionate translator of the beauty and relevance of scientific questions, Margaret Wertheim is also wise about the limits of science to tell the whole story of the human self. Her Institute for Figuring in Los Angeles reveals evocative, visceral connections between high mathematics, crochet and other folk arts, and our love of for the planet.
Gateway Episode: “Rebecca Solnit”
Banner Episode: “Mary Karr”
You Must Remember This is a storytelling podcast about the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. Distributed by Panoply from Slate Magazine, the podcast is the brainchild of Karina Longworth, who writes, narrates, records and edits each episode in her home. Guest stars have included actors Dana Carvey, Adam Goldberg, Steve Zissis, Noah Segan, Wiley Wiggins and Nora Zehetner, journalists Max Linsky, Mark Olsen, Anne Helen Petersen and Farran Nehme Smith, screenwriters Kelly Marcel and Craig Mazin, producer Ram Bergman, the internet’s own Wil Wheaton, and more.
BuzzFeed editors Ryan Broderick and Katie Notopoulos explore the weirdest corners of the internet, so you don’t have to.
Gateway Episode: “Where Do Memes Go to Die?”
Banner Episode: “Politics Is Out-Weirding the Internet”
Benjamen Walker is a independent radio producer and host of the podcast Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything, a founding member of the Radiotopia network. His work has aired on NPR, the BBC, the CBC and the ABC. He also produced Big Ideas, a philosophy podcast for The Guardian. He created his first podcast in 2004 while working at the Berkman center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School. From 2008 to 2010 he was WNYC’s Senior Culture producer and from 2010 to 2013, he produced and hosted Too Much Information for WFMU and curated their Radiovision conference in New York City. He has been a guest speaker and fellow at various festivals and international institutions (Sydney Writers’ Festival, Les subsistances in Lyon, France, Poets House, Tow Center at Columbia University, Oorzaken Festival in Amsterdam). He also teaches in the Journalism and design program at the New School.
Personally connecting the dots. All of them.
For over twenty years, Marc Maron has been writing and performing raw, honest and thought-provoking comedy. In September 2009, Marc changed the podcast landscape when he started WTF with Marc Maron, featuring Marc’s revelatory conversations with iconic personalities such as Conan O’Brien, Terry Gross, Robin Williams, Keith Richards, Ben Stiller, Lorne Michaels and President Barack Obama. It became a worldwide phenomenon, with more than six-million downloads each month and 250 million lifetime downloads within its first 6 years.
Gateway Episode: “Kristen Wiig”
Banner Episode: “Lin-Manuel Miranda”
37. Love Me
Deep down we all just want to be loved, so why is it one of the toughest things to get right? Love Me is a podcast about the messiness of human connection. It’s a son shielding his dad from a painful family secret. A widow confronting her grief by dating her worst match. A pair of robots stumbling through an awkward courtship.
It’s a peek into the relationships of the people around you. Through personal stories and playful fictions, the show celebrates that weird little voice inside each of us that cries out: “love me.”
The Memory Palace is a storytelling podcast and public radio segment about the past. It was named a finalist for a Peabody Award in 2016.
Nate DiMeo created the show.
He is the Artist in Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 2016/2017.
He is the co-author of Pawnee: the Greatest Town in America and was a finalist for the 2012 Thurber Prize for American Humor.
Gateway Episode: “Below, From Above”
Banner Episode: “The Wheel”
39. Love + Radio
From PRX’s Radiotopia, Nick van der Kolk’s Love and Radio features in-depth, otherworldly-produced interviews with an eclectic range of subjects, from the seedy to the sublime. You’ve never heard anything like it before. New installments are added monthly.
A podcast about America and current events within it.
Gateway Episode: “Prisoner of Zion”
Sidedoor is a podcast only the Smithsonian can bring you. It tells stories about science, art, history, humanity and where they unexpectedly overlap. From dinosaurs to dining rooms, this podcast connects big ideas to the people who have them.
Gateway Episode: “Special Delivery”
Banner Episode: “Confronting the Past”
A podcast about what no one really teaches you — how to maneuver your 20s post-graduation. Hosted by Megan Tan.
Gateway Episode: “Double Life”
Banner Episode: “You Can’t Go Home Again”
I was born a freckled child in a land far away during a much simpler time. I did well in school until it counted.
As a freshman in High School I had dreams of going to Notre Dame and becoming a lawyer. By the time I was sophomore I was taking shop class and was considering getting into construction.
I ended up working in warehousing and unloading trucks. Other than stand up, that job was the most fun I ever had.
I am now a stand up comedian. I do a couple hundred shows a year. And I enjoy the travel.
I’ve done four hour-long stand-up specials: “Why Do I Do This”, “Let It Go”, “You People Are All The Same” and “I’m Sorry You Feel That Way.” I am currently on the road “writing” my next hour.
I host a podcast each week called The Monday Morning Podcast. I have an upcoming animated series on Netflix called: ‘F’ Is For Family.’ Occasionally I act in movies but only when they let me.
Gateway Episode: Start with the newest.
Banner Episode: “Bill Rambles about Thanksgiving, Football, and Isis”
Tell Me Something I Don’t Know is a new live event and podcast from host Stephen J. Dubner, author of the Freakonomics books and creator of Freakonomics Radio. It debuted in November and immediately went to the top of the iTunes chart.
Audience contestants are invited on stage to tell us something we don’t know. Three celebrity panelists — a mix of leaders in science, politics, sports, and comedy — grill the contestants and by the end we’ve all gotten a bit smarter. Each episode has a new topic, new panelists, and new contestants. There’s also a real-time human fact-checker to filter out the bull. Think of the most crackling dinner-party conversation you’ve ever heard.
Gateway Episode: Pick any episode.
Banner Episode: “Things That Come out of Your Mouth”
Lore is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed podcast about true life scary stories. Our fears have roots. Lore exposes the darker side of history, exploring the creatures, people, and places of our wildest nightmares.
Because sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction.
Each episode examines a new dark tale from history in a style similar to a campfire experience. With over 5,200 5-star reviews on iTunes and 5-million average monthly listens, that’s clearly a good thing.
Banner Episode: “Brought Back”
Everybody has secret weirdness, Pete Holmes gets comedians to share theirs.
Gateway Episode: “Johnny Pemberton Returns”
Banner Episode: “Bo Burnham #3”
Profiles:NYC is a daily series about people in New York City. It combines first-person narrative audio with street photography to create one-minute glimpses into the lives of strangers.
Hopefully this might shift some perspective about the people who surround us every day – people we don’t know, people we tend to brush past. If you’re walking down 8th Ave, or weaving through Union Square, or sitting in Prospect Park, and find yourself thinking, “I wonder who that is?”, maybe this little project can give you the encouragement to just take a deep breath…and ask.
Gateway Episode: “Kate; January 1, 2016”
Banner Episode: “Nick; May 25, 2016”
Hailed a “cultural phenomenon” by Newsweek and celebrated by This American Life, Entertainment Weekly, Time, Wired, The AV Club, The Today Show (twice), and beyond, Mortified celebrates stories revealed through the strange and extraordinary things we created as kids.
Witness adults sharing their most embarrassing childhood artifacts (journals, letters, poems, lyrics, plays, home movies, art) with others, in order to reveal stories about their lives. Hear grown men and women confront their past with tales of their first kiss, first puff, worst prom, fights with mom, life at bible camp, worst hand job, best mall job, and reasons they deserved to marry Jon Bon Jovi.
Gateway Episode: “Totally Juvenile Election Special”
Banner Episode: “Forbidden Love Parts 1–3”
49. Us & Them
The Us & Them podcast will focus on the fault lines that divide Americans. From fights over same-sex marriage or whether humans cause climate change to immigration and whether or not President Obama should identify ISIS militants as Muslim terrorists, we’ll the explore issues, disputes or ideas that divide people into longstanding, entrenched camps. In each episode, we’ll give a good listen to passionate people on either side of the culture war divide – from conservative, God-fearing Christian preachers and creationism advocates to moderate Muslim imams and campy flamboyant drag queens – not to determine who is right or wrong, but rather to access their humanity. Shows may include some expert voices, but in essence an Us and Them program is an intimately told story, focused on real people with deeply held core beliefs. It’ll provide insight as to how and why people come by these strong beliefs.
Gateway Episode: “Femme Voice”
Banner Episode: “Heroin–N’ganga Dimitri”
From GE Podcast Theater and Panoply, the producers of The Message, comes a new thriller, LifeAfter. The 10 episode series follows Ross, a low level employee at the FBI, who spends his days conversing online with his wife Charlie – who died eight months ago. But the technology behind this digital resurrection leads Ross down a dangerous path that threatens his job, his own life, and maybe even the world. New episodes every Sunday.
Gateway Episode: “1”
Banner Episode: “3”