• Justus Hayes

You Won't Believe the Audacity of these Podcasts. The Top 10 of 2020!



We will see how long this prurient use of click bait titles continues. I predict, "Not long."


So, 2021, a date that somehow feels the most science-fictiony yet. A year that seems like a very plausible choice for one's 1982 sci-fi thriller. And speaking of science fiction - podcasts.


I have been listening to podcasts daily for about a decade. Before podcasts were a thing, it was talking books, but the death of carefree torrenting pretty much put an end to that. A gap was created, one which was efficiently filled by podcasts. Here are some particularly good ones that deserve a listen to. I have intentionally left out the WTFs and the Radiolabs because they will always turn up in any search of top podcasts. These guys don't rank as highly but still deliver the goods.




The Daily Zeitgeist


My daily go-to for news, politics and culture with strong comedic and progressive overtones. Hosted by Jack O'Brien and Miles Gray, and co-hosted by a rotating assortment of comedians, but most likely Jamie Loftus or Laci Mosley. These guys are most to blame for what my son thinks is an unhealthy obsession with American politics.








The Omnibus


More interesting, informative, and engaging than any podcast should be. Ken Jennings (that Jeopardy champion guy) and John Roderick (erstwhile indie rocker) provide "encyclopedic reference work of strange-but-true stories that they are compiling as a time capsule for future generations." This is about as evergreen as it gets. Also esoteric, irreverent, wide-ranging, and funny.



Knowledge Fight


It's hard to be pithy when talking about this impressive and important endeavour. I will use the description provided by the hosts, Dan and Jordan: "We primarily talk a bunch about how Alex Jones is an idiot and intentionally misleads his listeners for fun and profit, but that's not the whole story. We also branch off into the nature of conservative propaganda and the art of the con, breaking down scam artists from the worlds of politics, religion, and of course, outer space. It sounds more complicated than it is; really it's just a show about one friend researching things and telling another friend about the depressing and hilarious things he learned." Image credit: Jack K.



Beef and Dairy Network Podcast


This is the definition of deadpan absurdism, and possibly the funniest thing I have heard in a very long time. An immersive world, constructed and delivered with great sincerity, in which beef reigns supreme and lamb is the ultimate enemy. Created and hosted by Benjamin Partridge. Smash that subscribe button now!








Mission to Zyxx


There are, perhaps surprisingly, a number of improvised comedy science fiction podcasts out there. Or at least there have been, as many of them have disappeared. This one is still going strong after four seasons, and with good reason. Excellent improv and writing skills, high production values. Very solid, very funny.






Darknet Diaries


This very well-produced podcast is worth a listen if only to prepare you for some of they types of scams and hacks out there that could impact you directly. Hosted by Jack Rhysider, Darknet Diaries explores the seamy underbelly of the internet. As he notes, "This is a podcast about hackers, breaches, shadow government activity, hacktivism, cybercrime, and all the things that dwell on the hidden parts of the network." Change your passwords!




The QAnon Anonymous Podcast


The QAnon movement is, hands down, one of the scariest things looming in our society. Everything you need to know about it is served up here with humour and creativity. "The QAnon Anonymous Podcast chops & screws the best conspiracy theories of the post-truth era. Your hosts Jake, Julian, and Travis dredge up wild beliefs from online fever swamps, engage QAnon followers in irregular warfare, and trip over deranged historical facts that make conspiracy theories sound sane." With strong Gonzo vibes.



Friendly Fire


"A history podcast with a twist: Friendly Fire uses war movies as a point of entry on not only the history of war, but the history of how societies think about war. John Roderick, Adam Pranica and Benjamin Ahr Harrison dissect movies from throughout the history of cinema, talk about film production, pedantic quibbles with costumes and airplanes, and keep you laughing the entire time." And look at that, another Roderick joint. That guy gets around.



Reply All


I'm guessing that Reply All is the most popular/best known of the podcasts on this list. Says the Guardian, “‘A podcast about the internet’ that is actually an unfailingly original exploration of modern life and how to survive it.” Hosted by PJ Vogt, Alex Goldman and Emmanuel Dzotsi, the show ranges across a variety of topics and styles. Smart, insightful, amusing. My personal favourite episodes - Alex travels to India to meet a scam call centre worker.



With Gourley and Rust


Co-host Matt Gourley is one of my favourite improvisors, and Paul Rust is no slouch himself. Together, they provide amiable, "easy listenin" reviews of different horror franchises. Episodes regularly run longer than the movie under review. I can't think of anything more podcast-y than this wonderful show. Two white guys in the comedy industry gently rambling about niche entertainment. Nailed it!




Header photo by Stas Knop

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