10 top
Podcasts that get it right!!

10. Sodajerker On Songwriting

One thing you learn from podcasts is that, freed from a cramped radio slot and faced with someone who actually knows a bit about their subject, almost everyone has a fascinating story to tell. Scouse songwriting duo Simon Barber and Brian O'Connor set up Sodajerker just as an excuse to talk to their heroes about what it's like to put songs together.

9. Stuff You Should Know

There is, let's face it, a hell of a lot of stuff that we should know about but don't. Who has the time to Google everything? Far better to absorb it while exercising, commuting or cooking the tea from this conversational and highly entertaining podcast by howstuffworks.com.

8. Real Time With Bill Maher

This one, meanwhile, is Have I Got News For You with a metric shitload more swearing plus a little more bite and viciousness than "Gosh, isn't Ed Miliband's voice funny?" It's an audio version of red-meat liberal Bill Maher's HBO show, giving us a top-of-the-line comic – plus guests from politics, stand-up and the media – tearing into the rotten state of American government and its even worse Republican opposition. British TV and radio keep failing to replicate this format chiefly because we have no-one like Maher, the left-wing PJ O'Rourke.

7. Little Atoms

Pamper your brain with books, ideas, the arts, politics and whatever else comes up in an engaging, irreverent and unashamedly intellectual podcast that makes Radio 4's Front Rowsound like the E! Channel. The lo-fi production values – check those creaky armchairs – compound the impression of rubbing leather-padded jacket elbows with a splendidly down-at-heel slice of the intelligentsia.

6. Le Show With Harry Shearer

Some voices were just born for radio. So it is with the bound-leather tones of Harry Shearer,Spinal Tap's Derek Smalls and the voice of The Simpsons' Principal Skinner, who has been presenting this witty mix of liberal political snark, comic observation and weird news from around the world since 1983 – long before the dawn of podcasting.

5. The Bugle With John Oliver And Andy Zaltzman

John Oliver – British comedy's heroic cultural attaché to The Daily Show – and mate Zaltzman deadpan their way through current affairs in this brilliantly rambling "newspaper for the ears". It's two of our lot doing the kind of sharp topical comedy that the Yanks do so well, and if you enjoy Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert then your commute is pretty much sorted here.

4. The Pod Delusion

This cheerfully sceptical "podcast about interesting things" looks at the world from a fiercely rationalist perspective. It’s a partner of the British Humanist Association and the name, of course, is a hat-tip to Richard Dawkins' atheist bible The God Delusion. Each episode takes a leisurely but eye-opening look at issues as varied as the iffy history of Assassin’s Creed, Greece’s Golden Dawn and the non-human civil rights of captive killer whales. It'll give you hope that the world isn't really vanishing down a wormhole of superstition, and make you feel about 50 per cent smarter.


3. The Nerdist

Your average radio interview can end up boringly formulaic, with three predictable questions wrapped up by a plug for the guest's latest "project". Being open-ended, podcasts can ramble on for as long as they like and – horror! – develop into actual conversations. Geeky interlocutor Chris Hardwick takes full advantage of this, coming up with entertaining and properly insightful sit-downs with characters as diverse as Harrison Ford, Vince Breaking Bad Gilligan, Dave Grohl and porn star turned actress Sasha Grey.

2. Pop Culture Happy Hour From NPR

America's state-funded National Public Radio can be a little brown-rice-and-world-music sometimes but they've got a grip on movies, music and the Internet that’s beyond most British broadcasters. In this weekly roundtable its pundits dig into the thinking person's entertainment story of the week, be it Mad Men, Downton Abbey or the shambolic VMAs. In one episode they explained why a key swearword in Firefly translates as "Holy Testicle Tuesday!” in Mandarin.

1. Mark Kermode And Simon Mayo's Film Reviews

Scandalously, Britain's single best source of quality movie commentary goes out on Radio 5Live on Friday afternoons when normal people are hard at work. But! It's a podcast too, so you can sit ringside as bequiffed cineaste Mark "the Good Doctor" Kermode and voice of the common man Simon Mayo pass judgment in the week's releases – and talk to the odd film star too. Bliss it is when Kermode really gets his teeth into a stinker like Keith Lemon: The Film.

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