Hi, my name is Cath and I am a podcast addict. It’s been 30 minutes since my last download. I’ve already written at length about my love of the spoken word and podcasts help sustain me between Audible credits. My tastes are diverse but I love listening to writers, hearing about films, beauty, music and am fascinated to know what makes humans tick. I spend a lot of time by myself but am never truly alone with hundreds of downloads to keep me company on long walks and tiresome commutes.
Having given up booze and men in 2017, I need some stimulation in my life so here are my absolute essential podcasts of the 50(ish) I currently have on rotation. I am almost as promiscuous with my listening preferences as I am with men…
In a Nutshell: Two middle aged men bicker, occasionally discuss films.
Why I love it: I am a huge film fan and when I bought an iPod Classic in 2005 this was my first download. The show has seen me through a divorce, the loss of a parent, multiple health crises and is my longest commitment to date. Simon Mayo hosts and acts as the voice of reason when Mark Kermode goes off on one of his infamous rants about everything from the loss of human projectionists in multiplexes to the rampant stupidity of Michael Bay films. The duo have nurtured a worldwide community with their own code of conduct, acronyms and in-jokes. I don’t get a chance to listen live but if you can, try to catch the studio webcam feed, it’s always nice to see Kermode’s flappy hands in full flow.
In a Nutshell: A guest is invited to choose eight discs, a book and a luxury to take with them as they’re cast away on a fictional desert island.
Why I love it: Desert Island Discs is valium in audible form. The show has the ability to calm my foulest mood and the theme tune alone can instantly lower my heart rate. The concept is so simple and the joy comes during the interview, when the host delves into the Castaway’s life and reasons behind their music choices. The online back catalogue boasts over 2000 episodes and includes royalty, prime ministers, movie icons and musical legends but I delight in discovering humans who are extraordinary but not famous and often find myself moved to tears.
In a Nutshell: Two British comedians discuss serial killers. Funnier than it sounds.
Why I love it: I have a morbid fascination with murderers, perhaps because I have met more than one in the flesh (a story for another day). I could blame coming of age in the 1990’s when Fred and Rose West, Aileen Wuornos and Dr Harold Shipman crimes were tabloid press fodder. The podcast is hosted by comedians Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard-McLean and each episode is devoted to a different killer with their crimes described in a style that is often hilarious, but never at the expense of the victims. Not one for the fainthearted but after nine years working in a hospital I am not squeamish and my dark sense of humour ensures very little offends me. I’ve heard each episode at least twice and can often be found cry laughing while listening on public transport.
In a Nutshell: A podcast for beauty addicts, by beauty addicts.
Why I love it: Despite my low maintenance appearance I love beauty. I can spend hours on blogs and forums researching products and rarely impulse buy cosmetics after some previous costly mistakes. The show, hosted by professional makeup artist Harriet Hadfield and author (and beauty junkie) Lindsey Kelk, gives no-bullshit reviews of new beauty releases, Holy Grail products and interviews with beauty insiders. The pair are brutally honest and hilarious; this isn’t the regurgitated PR fluff you may be used to from some Vloggers. You may not believe a show about beauty would translate to audio but the descriptions are so vivid it’s like you are in the room as they test out products. And if you follow either presenter on Instagram you will often get a sneak peek at some of the goodies they’re trying out.
In a Nutshell: Writer Emma Gunavardhana’s show features interviews with celebrities, brand creators, editors and authors on a wide selection of topics.
Why I love it: Spending time with Emma and her guests is like hanging out with old friends. The range of interviewees is huge, from well-known faces to knowledgeable health and beauty professionals. Emma tackles tricky subjects with ease – anxiety, ageing, hormones, diet, motherhood, work ethic and entrepreneurship – no topic is off limits. In a world of facetuning and filters there’s a joy in the way Emma engages with her listeners on social media on bad days as well as good. Every episode leaves me a little bit inspired and with another girl crush to add to my ever increasing list.
In a Nutshell: Interviews with celebrities and cultural figures followed by advice calls with listeners.
Why I love it: On paper the show shouldn’t work – a famous actress interviews celebrities and gives (unqualified) advice to members of the public. I’ve watched enough shitty chat shows with “personalities” to know that fame doesn’t always equal talent. Unqualified plays to Faris’ strengths – she has personality, humour, intelligence and empathy in buckets. The show is unfiltered, foul mouthed and candid with no subject too delicate for Faris, her producer/co-host Sim Sarna and their guests to discuss. The shows are often chaotic and hysterical, even when tackling difficult topics.
In a Nutshell: Sofie Hagen chats to a guest about life and how to cope with being an adult.
Why I love it: The world has gone a bit batshit crazy recently. My faith in humanity is at an all-time low but when I need to top up my belief in Good People I listen to the Made of Human podcast (or MohPod). Danish comedian Sofie Hagen talks to fellow comics, activists, academics and celebrities to get to the heart of what makes us all human. Spoiler alert – nobody knows what the heck they are doing, but that’s ok. Thought provoking, often funny, sometimes heartbreaking and always emotive. Just like real life.
Why I love it: This fast paced, quick-witted take on the week’s events could feature anything from period poverty to Taylor Swift and the hosts cover all cultural bases from highbrow to lowbrow. The duo are prolific readers, host regular author specials and I have yet to disagree with a book recommendation from either presenter. In a world where podcasts can ramble on for 90 minutes or more it’s always nice to download an hour long show that takes me from home to office and leaves me educated and entertained instead of bored.
In a Nutshell: Edith Bowman sits down with film directors, actors, producers and composers to talk about the music that shaped their work.
Why I love it: I adore this show because Bowman is clearly a huge film and music fan and her enthusiasm comes across in every episode. Her relaxed interview style puts guests at ease and if she’s ever been starstruck it never shows. I have learned more about the music of the movies than I ever did through years of listening to director commentary on DVDs. The range of guests – from composers to directors and producers helps us understand how a soundtrack is constructed, how it weaves through and shapes the narrative and you’ll find yourself picking up more musical cues when you’re at the movies than you ever did before.
If I had to pick my own Desert Island downloads I’d be happy with any of these. What’s your “must listen” podcast? I’m always on the lookout for my next great listen so feel free to drop me a comment below!