When it comes to podcasts, there truly is something for everybody. Whether you’re into breakdowns on pop culture, true crime, audio dramas, news, philosophy, or comedy. There is definitely a show out there for you.
As someone who works in media, I’ve always found podcasts, as a concept to be quite interesting. Particularly if you look at the history of radio dramas dating back over a hundred years ago. Perhaps most famous is H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. Although written in the late 1890s, it was brought to life in 1938 by Orson Welles and broadcast widely as one of the best-known radio dramas.
A fantastic case study on the significance of form and content. The broadcasting of War of the Worlds ended up causing panic amongst listeners, many of whom were not aware that the tale being broadcast was fiction and that the alien invasion being described in the story was not actually taking place. The episode serves as one of the most infamous instances of the power of audio storytelling. A tradition which is kept alive in both analog and digital formats, and despite drastic shifts and technological advancements.
When it comes to podcasts, I can’t say that I have a type. As mentioned, I am partial to radio dramas, but do consider myself a pretty diverse listener in terms of music and content. So, my list of the top 10 podcasts of 2022 is a bit all over the map.
10) Sanctuary World’s Horoscope Today
Although the validity of astrology is contested, I have to admit starting your day off with a brief horoscope read out while you’re getting ready really helps me set an intention for the day. Even if it’s not rooted in anything scientific, there is something about taking a few moments in the morning to consider how your day might unfold and how you would like it to unfold, that makes a difference overall. Episode run time is two to three minutes.
9) Scare you to Sleep hosted by Shelby Scott
I first discovered this podcast as a horror fan several years ago when perusing suggested podcasts for fans of true crime and horror. The podcast includes listener-submitted scary stories of fiction and supposed fact, Internet lore and creepy pastas, and even anonymous freaky stories found on Reddit. Scott has a way of taking the listener through some of the most unnerving stories with ironic ease and calmness and great dramatic timing and a soothing. I grew up listening to late-night AM radio with my dad, including his favourite “Coast to Coast AM” with Art Bell. Bone-chilling stories which were later frequently retold around the campfire. Scare you to Sleep has all the hallmarks of creepy late-night ghost stories. Episode run time 30-60 minutes.
8) Philosophize This! hosted by Stephen West
The nearly 200 episodes spanning from antiquity to contemporary philosophers is a fantastically curated and condensed version of the canon of philosophy. Although theoretically heavy in some spots, this podcast is geared towards people who aren’t necessarily experts on discipline. With the ability to listen to the various trends and movements in chronological order from pre-socratic, to Plato, Aristotle, and Confucianism, West deep dives into ancient and contemporary philosophers’ works and examines ethical questions central to the human condition through the framework of the featured thinker of the episode. Episode run time 20-60 minutes.
7) Two bears, One Cave, Bert Kreischer and Tom Segura
They may not be the most politically correct people all of the time, but when I tell you this podcast makes me scream laugh, I am not joking. I have had to pause on more than one occasion to get my act together. Segura and Kreischer’s chemistry as friends and comics is undeniable. They are whip-smart comedians, so much that even just regular banter often divulges into the most absurd side-splitting tangents. If you’re a fan of Tom Segura’s stand-up comedy, you will certainly like this show. With plenty of interesting topics explored with a slew of special guests, it is unpretentious and comforting. Episode run time 60-90 minutes.
6) My Brother, My Brother and Me (MBMBAM) hosted by three brothers, Travis, Justin, and Griffin McElroy
I was not initially a fan of this podcast on my own. Rather it was my partner, Matt who faithfully listens to the series, which inadvertently made me a fan by way of auditory osmosis. After many years of second-hand listening, I’ve come to respect these creators and their show for codifying some of the most hilarious, original, and witty banter on the Internet. The highlight of the podcast in my opinion is a bit called Yahoo! Answers, which explores some of the most asinine and unironically hilarious questions (and responses) posted to Yahoo! prior to the platform being shut down. With hundreds of episodes to explore, this is a great option for serial podcast listeners. Episode run time 60 minutes.
5) Beyond the Blinds hosted by Kelli Williams and Troy McEady
This podcast gained a lot of traction in 2022 and was one of Spotify’s top shared podcasts of the year. Hosts Troy and Kelly explore blind item gossip published about celebrities and entertainers. Recorded in a way that feels comforting and nostalgic of the magazine era, it is a guilty pleasure podcast akin to having coffee and gossiping with good friends. Although pop culture scandals, mishaps, and gossip are discussed, the duo also explores (allegedly) problematic Hollywood figures and read blind items which have since been uncovered to reveal gossip about the celebrity’s alleged actions. The show is primarily comprised of opinion-based dialogue and very alleged gossip, while others explore allegations against predatory industry leaders and the power and exploitation in the Hollywood machine. To be taken with a grain of salt, the series sheds a light on how even some of the most beloved stars are rotted to the core — allegedly. Episode run time 60-120 minutes.
4) The Journal
For current events and current ideas, “The Journal”, a Wall Street Journal product, reports on some of the world’s biggest stories. As a reporter at a small weekly newspaper, this kind of large-scale journalism is sometimes unfathomable, especially when you consider the amount of resources that go into producing a series like this. Covering a wide range of topics, such as “Is big money souring pickleball?” to posing the question of whether rotisserie chickens are inflation-proof, and high stakes world-news about big business and global politics, The Journals’ podcast feed offers bite-sized 15 to 20-minute episodes which deliver headlines in an audio format. It is a nice option when trying to discern the truth in a super-saturated news media landscape. Episode run time 15-25 minutes.
3) Radio Rental hosted by Rainn Wilson’s character Terry Carnation
Yet another horror podcast inspired by audience submissions. Radio Rental is both kitschy and campy with goosebump-inducing stories read by people who experienced these creepy situations first-hand. Even though Wilson is fully dedicated to his bit as a video rental store owner, the first-person accounts create a sense of proximity, making the stories feel more legitimate. This is just a well-produced, and well-executed series. Episode run time 30-40 minutes.
CBC named this podcast in 2020 as one of the top podcasts of the year. An audio horror story which explores the mystery of disappearing women and girls from a small town in Missouri. With two seasons, this podcast gives more than enough for the audience to ponder. It is well-produced by the production company QCODE media. This is one of my all-time favourite listens. In all fairness, almost everything QCODE has produced has been an exceptional example of creative synergy and innovation. I could go on about the QCODE productions endlessly, but Borrasca is especially noteworthy for being a radically innovative and immersive listening experience with damn good writing. As a film lover, the production, acting, and writing makes the listening experience feel a lot like watching an engrossing movie. Episode run time 45-60 minutes.
1) The Left Right Game
Another QCODE media production, The Left Right Game really changed my perspective of what podcasts could be. The writing itself is astonishing, the immersive audio creates just a feeling of immediacy, which is difficult to press pause on. This is by far my favourite driving podcast and favourite audio drama of all time. I’ve listened through it twice and each time was captivated by a story about leaving the world, as we know it by following a pattern while driving of left and ride hand turns, leaving behind conditions which govern reality, including the laws of physics and ultimately reality itself. This podcast is so well-executed, I almost want to gate-keep it. Conceptually, it is near-perfect and the storytelling renders this fictional, dreamlike, and mindbogglingly imaginative narrative so effortlessly that I wish I could hear it again for the first time. I hope you give it a listen. Episode run time 35-45 minutes.