The 24 best podcasts to listen to right now

Penny Burfitt
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
Navigating the world of podcasts can be hard. Photo: Getty Images

Coronavirus is not dominating discussion so much as completely taking over every part of our day, be it conversations with workmates, what’s in the news, or what your grandma wants to talk about when she gets on the blower.

If you’re like me, you need to take a second out to breathe, close your eyes, and just unwind with something other than coronavirus updates.

Relationship expert Renee Brown says podcasts are a great way to invest in some downtime, particularly if you are stuck at home self-isolating with another person.

“There’s nothing better than chilling out on your own and listening to something you’re highly absorbing,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

With tens of thousands of podcasts available at your fingertips, it can be hard to figure out where to start when looking for something good to plug into.

Luckily, I am an avid (chronic) podcast listener, and constantly coming across new, exciting and different listens.

So if you need to turn away from the global pandemic for a moment, and concentrate on something else, here is your guide to the 24 best podcasts to get you through isolation.

True crime and investigation podcasts

Unravel True Crime: Snowball and Serial. Photo: Apple Podcasts
  • Serial: Back in 2014 Serial season one investigated the 1999 trial and conviction of then-high school student Adnan Syed over the murder of his girlfriend Hae Min Lee, and essentially put true crime podcasts on the map. The world record-holder for most-downloaded podcast series, if you’ve never found the time to plug into original podcast sensation, now is your chance. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.

  • Unravel True Crime: Snowball: An Aussie true-crime drama, Snowball was 2019’s edition of ABC’s Unravel True Crime series. The series follows Kiwi-born Triple J journalist Olly Wards who spent 12-months investigating and tracking down his brother’s mysterious ex-wife, Lezlie, a woman who disappeared into thin air, and who he believes may be an international con artist. You may or may not develop an audio crush on Olly Wards and his delightful family if you come along for this ride. Listen on iPhones here and Android here. 

  • My Favourite Murder: A consistent chart-topper in the world of podcasts, the unusual mix of comedy and true crime hosted by Karen Killgariff and Georgia Hardstark manages to walk the line between side-splitting humour and respectful victim-orientated crime storytelling. Satisfying for both the morbid and the comedy-hungry, you can listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

  • Caliphate: A gripping listen from New York Times middle-eastern correspondent Rukmini Callimachi, this podcast delves into the Islamic State and the fall of Mosul from a deeply personal lense. My top podcast of 2018, the series won a Peabody award and will have you enthralled from the moment you hit play. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

Comedy podcasts

My Dad Wrote a Porno on tour. Photo: Instagram/mydadwrotea
  • My Dad Wrote a Porno: The world has almost never needed a good laugh as much as now, and My Dad Wrote a Porno should be your first stop for unbridled silliness and razor-sharp wit. Host Jamie Morton reads his father’s erotic novel – a pots and pans based adventure called Belinda Blinked – aloud for co-hosts James Cooper, and Alice Levine and much hilarity ensues. Not suitable for public transport due to the amount of laugh out loud moments, it’s the perfect pick-me-up for the self-isolation blues. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

  • The Dollop: One-part history lesson, two-parts hilarious historical recreation, The Dollop delves into all the weird and wacky corners of history you may never have heard about, or may never have heard enough about. US comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds will keep you informed and in fits of laughter every week. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.   

  • How did this get made? A dive into the most outlandish and terrible films ever made, hosts Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas spend each episode picking apart the worst Hollywood has to offer. The ONLY way to enjoy these films, listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

Love and sex podcasts

Dying for Sex by Wondery and Love Stories with Dolly Alderton. Photo: Apple Podcasts
  • Love stories with Dolly Alderton: A dose of vitamins for the soul, Love Stories with Dolly Alderton is my go-to pick-me-up when the world feels a little too dark. Hosted by the titular British journalist, guests are invited to share the defining love stories of their lives, a format that bleeds wisdom, humour and all the warm and fuzzies. Stanley Tucci’s touching trip down memory lane is the perfect episode to kick you off, then settle in for some good, old-fashioned comfort listening across both seasons. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

  • Dying for Sex: Both a heart-wrencher and a laugh factory, Dying for Sex follows host Nikki Boyer and her best friend Molly through Molly’s cancer journey. After she is diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer Molly leaves her unhappy marriage and embarks on a journey of sexual self-discovery with many, and varied twists and turns. You’ll need tissues for both happy and sad tears. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

  • Love Etc.: A mini-series from the ladies behind Shameless, Love Etc. is a weekly listen in partnership with Bumble that delves into love, dating, sex and being a woman in the 21st century. With episodes on sugar babies, cheating, red flags and losing a loved one, there is something for almost everyone here. It’s peppered with personal stories and expert testimony, and it’s a fun and often touching listen. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

Episodic and interview-based podcasts

Desert Island Discs and This American Life. Photo: Apple Podcasts
  • Desert Island Discs: What can only be described as an absolute banger, Desert Island Discs is a weekly BBC radio hour that was first broadcast in 1942, and is still going today. Guests are invited to pick eight songs they would take with them to a desert island, and are interviewed around their choices and often fascinating lives. In its 80-odd years, the program has featured almost every significant figure of the times you can think of. Guests have included Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Margaret Thatcher, Tom Hanks, Lily Allen and too many more to name. Through their music choices, listeners get a rare insight into the psyches of the world’s movers and shakers, (and it’s a huge win for your Spotify playlist). Listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

  • Fresh Air: A daily US radio program, Fresh Air is hosted by interviewer extraordinaire Terry Gross. Featuring a mix of guests discussing everything from US politics, to film and pop culture, the show – as the name would suggest – presents something fresh and new every day, and is a great way to shake up your listening. Notable guests of late have included RuPaul, Octavia Spencer and Julie Andrews, as well as biographers, historians and writers. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

  • This American Life: This American Life is a stalwart of podcasting, and was the program that launched Serial. A weekly radio hour hosted by Ira Glass, the show presents a variety of human-interest stories on a particular topic each week, and has included every tale imaginable, from a refugee’s experience in a camp on the US-Mexican border, to a quirky tale of how a mother mixed up her identical twins at birth and sparked a mid-life identity crisis in each. Uplifting, sweet and often courageous, listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

  • David Tenant does a podcast with… Celebrity interviewing celebrity is old hat these days, but Dr Who star David Tenant may very well have been a talk show host in another life. The actor interviews a variety of his A-list chums including Olivia Coleman, Tina Fey, Ian McKellan and Whoopi Goldberg in the series that popped up in 2019. Any celebrity watcher or film buff will love the chats, which bring you as close to being a fly on the wall in a Hollywood setting as most will ever get.  Listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

  • Conversations: Richard Fidler is a national treasure and I won’t hear otherwise. Conversations is the ABC’s daily interview series in which Richard, and now Sarah Kanowski, host a conversation – not an interview – with some of the world’s most fascinating people. Soothing and upbeat, it never fails to leave a smile on your face, and will leave you just a tad more knowledgable every day. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

Pop culture and current affair podcasts

The High Low, and The Squiz. Photo: Apple Podcasts
  • The Squiz: If the news is too much to cope with right now, The Squiz Today is a great way to get a daily update without wanting to crawl back into bed and hide under the covers. The podcast is published every weekday at 6:00 am and is a ten minute rundown of the daily news with an injection of personality. With an accompanying newsletter and kids version (Squiz Kids) it’s a great way to start the day informed. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

  • The Daily: The New York Times daily briefing, The Daily will keep you updated on all the news breaking States side, and globally. As they put it: ‘Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism’. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

  • Shameless: A pop culture and current affairs podcast hosted by Melbourne journalists Michelle Andrews and Zara McDonald, Shameless is a phenomenon among young Aussie women, and describes itself as the podcast for ‘smart women who love dumb stuff’. A great weekly wrap up, with enough personality to shut down a beauty pageant, it’s a great Aussie number to get in your ears. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.   

  • Bobo and Flex: Another great listen for the pop culture obsessed, Bobo and Flex is one-part Aussie media personality Flex Mami, and one-part US-based Bobo Matjila. A fresh perspective on celebrity, the world, and general culture from two razor-sharp wits, Bobo and Flex is the hilarious weekly companion to the world that might just get you through isolation with your sanity, and sense of humour intact. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.   

  • The High Low: The podcast that will get you onto every other podcast you should be listening to, The High Low is a weekly pop culture number that mixes the high-brow with the decidedly low brow.  Hosted by Love Stories’ Dolly Alderton and British journalist Pandora Sykes, the weekly podcast is packed with intelligence, nuance and the greatest recommendations for books, articles, podcasts and films you could hope for. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.   

  • The Rewatchables: The Rewatchables is another film podcast that will hook you up to the greatest series and films to binge-watch over and over. Host Bill Simmons and a variety of guests discuss the films they can’t seem to stop watching, and it’s perfect for pandemic isolation time. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.  

Deep dive podcasts

Catch and Kill and The Dream. Photo: Apple Podcasts
  • Catch and Kill: Ronan Farrow’s podcast delves into the investigation carried out by himself and fellow journalists on Harvey Weinstein, who was sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault earlier this year following the investigation. A powerful, if sometimes difficult, listen with testimony from victims, the podcast is an all-consuming opportunity to celebrate the power of investigative journalism. Listen on iPhones here and Android here. 

  • The Dream: Hosted by former This American Life reporter Jane Marie, The Dream unpacks and uncovers the world of multi-level marketing in the first season, and the unregulated world of vitamins in it’s second. The series questions (and often unravels) the science behind products that claim to have healing benefits, going undercover into tight-knit circles and unmasking some scary truths. The Dream will pull you in with its unabashed exposure of industries, and keep you there with the wit and personality of its host. Listen on iPhones here and Android here. 

  • Origins with James Andrew Miller: A great one for anyone who finds themself in possession of a huge stretch of time, Origins is a series that dives into a celebrated success of our time in intimate detail every season. Most recommended is the show’s fifth season: a detailed history of Sex and the City that includes exclusive access to (almost) the whole cast, crew and production team. For any SATC fans it’s an almost 6-hour extravaganza that will tide you over if you find yourself locked in quarantine for a week or two. Listen on iPhones here and Android here.

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