I always loved radio, all of it: features, talk shows, drama, comedy. I worked as a radio reporter in a local station in my hometown Radom back in 1990s. My specialty were 5-6 minute news features on events in town, such as Peace Corps’ volunteers arriving for their 3-month long Polish development program before they set off to their respective locations.
At that time Polish radio was thriving, especially in longer features format (13-15 minutes). I still remember Janina Jankowska’s “All Poles’ Flood” that covered catastrophic flooding in 1997 and subsequently received international awards. Another one that stayed with me (and received Prix Europa) was Maciej Drygas’ Testament that told the story of Ryszard Siwiec who set himself on fire in 1969 as a protest against the communist government in Poland.
I listened to Polish Radio 3 and the BBC that started streaming in 1990s. That’s when I got into recording British comedy shows such as I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, The Goons, Jeremy Hardy Talks to the Nation and a whole bunch of others. I still have around 150 tapes dating back to 1990s. Some of them in top quality Chrome, you know. Then I moved to recording files and moving them onto a digital player, I was really pleased with my Creative 30GB device that lasted for years. And then the mobile phone happened, new era of podcasts commenced and changed my life entirely. I have become a podcast junkie. I now have over 5200 podcast episodes on my playlist, 182 podcasts and keep on trying new stuff as the medium is evolving. Being a digital hoarder I have downloaded 100s of them on a backup disc just in case the internet disappears…
I jumped the podcast bandwagon very early, in 2008. The 1st podcast that caught my attention was http://feeds.tvo.org/tvobigideas, it’s a series of scientific lectures by top thinkers in their fields: Christopher Hitchens, Marc Abrahams, Oliver Sacks, Noam Chomsky, Steven Pinker. It was all there, free of charge! I could download it and listen WHENEVER and WHEREVER I wanted. There was one in particular that I listened to couple of times: https://podbay.fm/podcast/129166905/e/1201986000, top quality stuff and very funny too, especially if you enjoy swearing. Then in 2009 came the Infinite Monkey Cage, the platinum standard in humor & science category. From the intimate, small, entertaining podcast, Ince & Cox duo joined by a diverse roster of comedians, actors, scientists, have by now taken the show to international audiences, touring the US, Australia, Europe with live audiences to full capacity, having the likes of Helen Sharman and Tim Peake as their guests.
And since everything is now interconnected, Robert Ince is also running his and Josie Long’s Book Shambles https://cosmicshambles.com/bookshambles via Trunkman Productions, very cool podcast on books, as the name suggest and guests among others include Stewart Lee, Reginald D. Hunter, Marcus Chown, Helen Zaltzman, Adam Rutherford (not from these Rutherfords). These are brilliantly meandering conversations where a particular book or an author is only a start for a very broad ramble about pop culture, comedy, science, TV, music. BTW, Helen Zaltzman and Adam Rutherford also have their own shows: The Allusionist and Inside Science, respectively. Zaltzman and her brother Andy have massive respect of the podcasting community, she started back in 2007 with Answer Me This as did Andy with John Oliver in The Bugle until 2016 when Oliver had to resign due to his US TV commitments. Zaltzman continues The Bugle with the top line-up of Alice Fraser, Anuvab Pal, Hari Kondanoblu, Nish Kumar, Nato Green, Alisson Spittle, Tifanny Stevenson, and couple of others (including his sister) who comment & satirize current news in the most entertaining way, doing pun runs & throwing certain newspaper sections in the bin.
Almost every day I ask myself a question: of all my favorites would I take The Bugle as the only podcast to the desert island?
Or would it be Richard Herring’s RHLSTP with classic episodes including thundering Brian Blessed and fragile Stephen Fry who for the first time in public talked there about his recent suicide attempt. Or, for that matter, Adam Buxton’s podcast with the best jingles ever and beautifully rambling conversations with actors, his dog Rosie, musicians, journalists, activists, writers. Not so long ago with brilliant Philip Pullman who’s very topical thanks to terrific TV adaptation of His Dark Materials for the BBC & HBO, highly recommended by the way.
I enjoy the podcasting variety so much!
I have listened to both series of The Serial that elevated podcasts as a medium and My Dad Wrote a Porno that made a journey from what seems like a silly idea to a show on HBO! I listen to Krista Tippet’s intimate conversations on human connections and spirituality in On Being but to balance things out, after finishing an episode I immediately jump to Dear Joan and Jericha with Julia Davis and Vicky Pepperdine who excel in impersonating wonderfully filthy sex life agony aunts.
There’s something for everybody, my playlist though is evolving around science, humor, technology and except for Krista Tippet, Sean Carroll and Anil Dash it is very much dominated by British, Irish and Australian writers, journalists, scientists, comedians.
Even if I wasn’t contractually obliged to say only nice things about the Irish I would still mention couple of Irish-themed podcasts. So if you’re interested in learning more about Ireland and Irish diaspora in particular, have a go at An Irishman Abroad by Jarlath Regan. His former guests, among others, include Daragh O’Briain, Chris O’Dowd, Roisin Conaty so you can expect delightful storytelling, plenty of anecdotes and excellent insights into Irish character, upbringing, culture & family life.
If I were to choose one episode of a podcast with an Irish person being interviewed that I particularly enjoyed, I’d go for The Rule of Three with Aisling Bea where she talks about Father Ted as her favorite comedy. It’s thoroughly enjoyable, with astute observations especially in the context of social changes and approach to church as an institution that have taken place in Ireland in the last 10 years. If you have any interest in mental health, culture, music, self-care, raw takes on every-day life struggle, have a go at The Blindboy Podcast. Dave Chambers with his melodic Limerick accent is honesty impersonated and has built a cult following and quite rightly so, given his talent and creativity.
Since I am a massive fan of some of these shows and they have become my main sources of information & entertainment, it’s only fair that I support them financially. I use Patreon where I can chip in to support Cosmic Shambles, the Allusionist, Alice Fraser on a monthly basis and have been supporting The Bugle and RHLSTP through their respective payment processing companies for years now. For me it's a monthly pass to an audio bliss. Familiar voices I know and love come up with something new every week or so. There’s another important aspect of that contribution, I feel a part of a wider community of fans who have listened to all episodes and have insight into callbacks and specific references. Plus I particularly enjoyed a lie said about me by Andy Zaltzman, apparently, I enjoy drinking milk and eating fruit and then go jumping on a trampoline to make myself an milkshake...
I hope that if you haven’t tried podcasts yet, you will do so now, the best thing about the medium is that you can find whole podcasts or specific episodes on very niche topics. Even if it’s as niche as Drunk Women Solving Crimes!
On the technical side of things: if you’re using Android phone I highly recommend BeyondPod as the podplayer app. It has a robust set of features for creating & editing playlist, exporting, saving, configuring download and streaming options. On iPhone, there’s a default Apple app but I much prefer Overcast that’s very similar in functionality to Beyondpod.
Here’s a selection of my top picks in no particular order:
The Bugle - https://thebuglepodcast.com/ - satire at its best, 500 of it.
RHLSTP - https://www.rhlstp.co.uk/website.cgi?page=podcasts - Richard Herring's flagship comedy & culture chat.
No Such Thing as a Fish - https://www.nosuchthingasafish.com/- comedy & general knowledge & trivia from the QI team.
Adam Buxton's podcast - https://adam-buxton.co.uk/podcasts - literature, music, comedy & pop culture.
You're Dead to Me - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07mdbhg - led by Greg Jenner, funny, talented and hard-working historian (Horrible Histories are among his many credits) takes on events and individuals from history and analyzes them with an expert and a comedian.
The Skewer - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000czyb Jon Holmes and Jason Hazeley with their fantastic innovative, immersive format spark your ears and what's between in the most entertaining, disturbing or deeply moving way possible.
The The One One Show Show - https://play.acast.com/s/thetheoneshowshow - Jon Holmes again with his wonderfully ruthless/hugely entertaining takes at the One Show.
The Time Capsule - My Time Capsule on acast - Michael Fenton Stevens and his lovely guests keeping their best and some of the worst stuff forever in an ever-expanding time capsule. Cold swimming, parrot as a member of a family, love of Saabs, it's all there!
The Gargle, The Last Post, Tea with Alice - https://play.acast.com/s/the-gargle What a brilliant comedian Alice Fraser is! I absolutely love Alice's warmth, kindness and playfulness with words.
Date Fight - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/date-fight/id1485436340 Nathaniel Tapley and Jake Yapp pick their historical facts of the day fight like there is no tomorrow. And when Lizzie Roper joins them, it just turns into comedy mayhem!
The Verb - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006tnsf/episodes/downloads - literature & language with Ian McMillan & his guests.
Inside Science - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b036f7w2 - weekly science roundup by Adam Rutherford.
On Being - https://onbeing.org/series/podcast/ - life & spirituality with Krista Tippet.
Mindscape - https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/ - science interviews by Sean Carroll.
Function with Anil Dash - https://glitch.com/culture/function/ - human take on tech.
Big Picture Science - https://radio.seti.org/ - science & technology weekly roundup.
The Allusionist - https://www.theallusionist.org/ - adventures in language.
Book Shambles - https://cosmicshambles.com/bookshambles - literature, pop culture, music with Robin Ince and Josie Long.
Futuremakers - https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/series/futuremakers - 2 great series on artificial intelligence and climate change by knowledgeable folks from the University of Oxford.
Blindboy Podcast - https://play.acast.com/s/blindboy - mental health, culture, Ireland by David Chambers.
13 Minutes to the Moon - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w13xttx2/episodes/downloads - award-winning audio storytelling masterpiece on Apollo 11 mission.
Digital Planet - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p002w6r2/episodes/downloads - formerly known as BBC Click, quality tech news roundup.
Digital Human - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01n7094 - in-depth, multi-layered takes on different aspects of technology and its impact on humans.
Rule of Three - https://play.acast.com/s/ruleofthree - comedy authors analyze favorite comedy creations of their guest.
Stalking Time for the Moonboys with David Baddiel and Tim Hincks - https://play.acast.com/s/stalkingtimeforthemoonboys - for all David Bowie fans.
Dear Joan and Jericha - https://play.acast.com/s/dear-joan-and-jericha-julia-davis-and-vicki-pepper - wonderfully filthy sex agony aunts
Plus there are so many that I have on my "to listen" list: Art Music Technology, The Last Archive, The Happiness Lab, Solvable, Warm Regards, How Sound, HEre's Where It Went Wrong, BudPod, Distraction PIeces, Make My Day With Josh GOndelman, Creative Sauce with Andi Osho, Sound Heap, Future Imperfect...