The great podcast revolution came in late 2014, when the popularity of Sarah Koenig’s Serial exploded across the world. People who had never before had any interest in radio programs suddenly became hooked on the story of the 1999 murder of high school student Hae Min Lee and her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, who’s currently serving life in prison for her death.
Save for Serial, podcasts don’t generally receive the same kind of recognition and mainstream acclaim as television series and documentaries enjoy, despite them often providing just as much entertainment. With that in mind, I’ve put together a short, and by no means definitive list of podcast series for the podcast virgin.
This American Life
This American Life is the show that started me on the road of podcast consumption several years ago. As many fans will already be aware, Serial is actually a spinoff of This American Life, as the aforementioned Sarah Koenig is one of its producers. The hour-long weekly programme is presented by Ira Glass – who’s voice is every bit as radio perfect as his name. Each episode is a work of journalistic non-fiction and based around a theme – made up of a number of acts. You’ll love this podcast because Ira’s voice will lull you into a state of relaxation, and at the end of each hour you’ll feel like you’re the smarter for listening to it.
The Moth is a non-profit group based in New York who focus on the art of storytelling. This podcast is a recording of their storytelling events held across the States and further afield (they even recorded one in Dublin). The stories are often quite simple, and tend to vary in length, but can wrap you up to such an extent that you’ll be caught on the bus either laughing out loud or shedding a tear.
Women of the Hour
If you hate Lena Dunham, and let’s face it, a lot of people – however unfairly – do, then this podcast may not be for you. The Buzzfeed-produced, five-part series is presented by the writer and star of tv sitcom Girls, and focuses on the themes of friendship, love, body image, work and life. I recommend it to any woman in need of some female empowerment, or who just wants to feel more understood.
*As a side note, while this podcast is obviously targeted at women, men could stand to learn a lot by listening to it.
Diary keepers of the world, have you ever as an adult ambled across one of your old teenage diaries and wanted to chew your own arm off with the embarrassment of how stupid you were? Well now imagine reading said diary out to an audience full of people and that’s what Mortified is. The podcast is a recording of the stage show which sees adults read some of the most embarrassing extracts from their teenage diaries, poetry, letters, etc. Expect to cringe and cry laughing all at once.
An Irishman Abroad
An Irishman Abroad is the work of Irish comedian Jarlath Regan who’s based in London. Each week the podcast features an interview with a different Irish singer/actor/person of interest about their life, their work and their experience of living abroad. It’s essential listening for any Irish emigrant, but also for anyone both at home and away who has an interest in the subject of the podcast, because Jarlath is an excellent interviewer and both his interviewing technique and the format seems to put his interviewees at ease, allowing him to get much more from them than often any trained journalist ever could.