The Best Podcasts to Listen to in 2018
What is the best way to pass the time on the way into work? Your favourite album? A decent book? The latest edition of Football Manager? Think again. Nowadays, it’s all about the podcast. So turn off Childish Gambino, put your Champions League aspirations aside and let GQ introduce you to the best podcasts available for your listening pleasure.
The Bad Day
Written in the psychedelic tradition of the great 20th-century British fantasticalists, The Bad Day enters the quixotic mind of Matt T Haydock. Here, Haydock, the comedian behind the popular Gus The Fox Twitter character, recounts the aftermath of a mysterious event, the eponymous day, from the kaleidoscopic perspective of a host of troubled souls, each at variously reliable connections with reality. Each episode wipes a smeary streak across the fogged-up window of the whole, all the time underlaid with an original score of mood-enhancing music. Where this series ends up is anyone’s guess – including, possibly, the writer...
A podcast that looks beyond the latest hotness for PlayStation 4, Splitscreen does a good job at delving into the culture behind video games and the people who make them. Be it talking through Donald Trump’s recent meeting on violence in gaming or interviewing The Last Of Us’ director about storytelling done right, there’s a clear-headed and charming nature to Splitscreen – especially since hosts Kirk Hamilton and Jason Schreier have the contacts to cut through the news cycle with an authority you’ll struggle to find elsewhere. So long as you can stand an occasional spot of JRPG-related indulgence.
Beyond a man leaping off a 20ft steel cage, pretty much anything can happen in the world of professional wrestling. In Cheap Heat, Peter Rosenberg of ESPN and Complex chats through the sport’s most sublime and ridiculous moments with his co-host "Stat Guy" Greg. Whether interviewing WWE talent on the spur of the moment or instigating feuds with their own listenership, this weekly podcast is an irreverent delight for fans of all things involving the squared circle.
In the eleven years since the New York Times introduced its "Modern Love" column, almost 600 essays about relationships have been published under its auspicious banner. With the introduction of the excellent podcast companion, the column’s greatest hits have been brought brilliantly to life, with a little help from the familiar voices of Judd Apatow, Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander and perennial GQ favourite January Jones. Short, sweet and sometimes a little sad, too.
Serial is the gateway of all podcasts. Season one's multi-episode exploration into the 1999 murder case of student Hae Min Lee and her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed's subsequent life imprisonment has now been downloaded more than 80 million times since its 2014 release. Created as a spin-off to This American Life by longtime producer Sarah Koenig, it’s like a radio version of Spotlight crossed with Making A Murderer, as casually told to you by your nasal-voiced older sister. It will leave you fired up, ready to retrain as a lawyer and bring down the whole US judicial system. It also demonstrated the huge thirst there is for old-fashioned thorough investigative journalism amid today’s click-baiting, gif-riffing, tail-chasing times. A third season is due out later this year.
This American Life
If you’re the kind of person who has a mountain of New Yorkers on their nightstand, you’ll love This American Life. Each episode takes an off-centre theme – recent ones include “It’ll make sense when you’re older” and “Same bed, different dreams” – around which Ira Glass presents a set of illuminating non-fiction stories all told through serious reporting and a novelistic sense of drama. Download a stash to your phone, and when you’re next on a long-haul flight Future You will be delighted.
Stuff You Should Know
Did you know Ian Fleming served in the Second World War and masterminded a plan that went down in history? Neither did we. Plug in and listen to Josh and Chuck as they explore the stuff you really should know, from how ocean currents work to who killed JFK to is there a secret formula to funny? Whether you’re exercising, cooking or commuting to work, Stuff You Should Know delivers a perfect blend of sophistication and humour in this highly entertaining and stimulating podcast.
The Big Interview With Graham Hunter
Graham Hunter is a football journalist, a Barcelona (and Aberdeen) obsessive, looks uncannily like his fellow Scottish countryman (and Creation Records founder) Alan McGee and has a passion for the beautiful game so infectious that The Big Interview podcast has had more than two million downloads. It is so good, in fact, that his listeners actually fund the show through Kickstarter donations. And his subjects? A selection of ex-pros, managers and pundits of a certain vintage who love talking football, sharing their experiences and recalling some hilarious anecdotes from the good old bad old days. This is solid gold for any football fan curious about Terry Butcher going on tour with Iron Maiden, Harry Redknapp’s memories of Bobby Moore and the story of Gary McAllister’s giant dildo. Get involved.
Four men sitting around a table talking about the beautiful game is not for everyone, but if you know your Pellè from your Pelé, then this is for you.
Neil Ashton, chief football writer for the Sun newspaper, is joined by the country’s leading sportswriters to discuss the pivotal points of the week's action. What follows are 60 minutes of fighting, bickering and arguing to make the local playground proud. It's fantastic. A hugely entertaining listen and a great reminder that football is, after all, a game of opinions.
Death and destruction: an average week in Eastenders, yes, yet not what you'd expect from BBC Radio 4's pastoral soap The Archers. Don't be fooled by the jaunty theme music and gentle backdrop of birdsong and cows, The Archers is not afraid to tackle the big issues. It's not all doom and gloom, though, the 65-year-old drama about everyday country folk can actually be funny (the village's Christmas production of Calendar Girls had all expected wardrobe and prop malfunctions) and, perhaps importantly for city dwellers, it's informative too, including topics from the harsh realities of being a modern dairy farmer.
In Our Time
"The Sikh Empire", "Agrippina The Younger", "Aurora Leigh", "Bedlam" and "The Maya Civilisation" – all recent episodes of In Our Time, a podcast that could never be accused of lacking breadth. But BBC Radio 4’s “history of ideas” show is far from a high-brow waffle fest; it is, rather, the best 45-minute seminar you never had at college. Hosted by veteran broadcaster and renaissance man Melvyn Bragg, the format is simple: invite the country’s leading academics in to discuss the topic of the day – from historical figures to great works of fiction to philosophical concepts – and leave you brim-full of stuff you never knew before. Engaging, informative and really, well, cosy, on its own In Our Time more than justifies the BBC licence fee.