In the spirit of NPR’s #trypod social media campaign to combat “podcast unawareness,” Sean Tuohy, Lindsey Wojcik, and I compiled a list of our favorite shows. We’ve met some wonderful podcasters during the last few weeks, proving that the medium is still a vibrant home for both aspiring and established storytellers. Feel free to share your favorite podcasts by tweeting us @WritersBone using the hashtag #trypod.—Daniel Ford
Sean Tuohy: Who knew that the smallest state in the union had some of the biggest criminals? “Crimetown” visits Rhode Island's criminal underworld. The show is filled with crooked mayors, charming crime lords, violent enforcers, and a cast of characters so wild they seem made up.
Sean: This funny and over-the-top show is the perfect podcast for movie buffs. Hosted by Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and the always funny Jason Mantzoukas, “How Did This Get Made?” reviews an awful movie and tries to figure out how ended up on the big screen.
Lindsey Wojcik: “Girls” fans will undoubtedly gravitate to Lena Dunham's “Women of the Hour,” and I admit my “Girls” fandom is what initially intrigued me about Dunham's podcast. While she may not be everyone's cup of tea and has a habit of inserting her foot in her mouth, which usually creates a flurry of controversy, Dunham and the “Women of the Hour” team are skilled at finding women with riveting stories to tell on a variety of topics that are both silly (Season Two's "Cats" episode, for example) and serious (Season Two's episodes "Trauma & Triumph" and "Choice"). “SNL” cast member Aidy Bryant often drops in to play a fictional character that is going through an experience directly related the episode's topic—and I find Bryant is a skilled radio talent that always makes me laugh.
Daniel Ford: I can’t remember why I started religiously listening to a D.C.-based radio show starring a bald, cranky, orange man. All I know is that I wouldn’t have survived grad school or the rat race of New York City without Tony Kornheiser and his funny and insightful supporting cast, which includes Jeanne McManus, Gary Braun, David Aldridge, Torie Clarke, and Leon Harris on a rotating basis.
Kornheiser, who also co-hosts ESPN’s popular sports show, “Pardon the Interruption,” announced last year he was leaving his radio gig so he could start a podcast. Sheer lunacy. Despite taking what I can only assume is a massive pay cut, Kornheiser has essentially duplicated his radio show (with the tragic loss of ESPN Radio’s Kip Sheman), but now has more time to complain about D.C. traffic, bemoan Washington Redskins’ dysfunction, take deep dives into “great” license plate numbers, and yell at Bob Ryan about the true nature of March Madness upsets.
Thanks to Kornheiser’s brand of humor, the show always skews sarcastic light-hearted, but it also tackles weighty issues like the 2016 Presidential Election, local politics, and other concerning national news stories with aplomb. I’ve been a “Loyal Little” for some time now, so I say, “La Cheeserie” to you, and suggest you download this show today!
Daniel: Nicole Blades has become a Writer’s Bone favorite (her book recommendations are divine), so it’s no surprise that we love her newly launched podcast, “Hey Sis!” Blades and her sister Nailah plan to talk about “women finding their focus and place in business, art, culture, and life.” In their second episode, the sisters interview Margaret Jacobsen, “a mom, writer, activist, and social justice warrior based in Portland, Oregon.” More, please!
Lindsey: I would not have found “CHOICE/LESS” without Lena Dunham's “Women of the Hour.” The show was mentioned during the aforementioned "Choice" episode of “Women of the Hour,” and I immediately subscribed to it. The podcast delivers compelling personal stories about reproductive injustice and "the laws, politics and people beyond the headlines." In a time when the future of reproductive rights seems uncertain, “CHOICE/LESS” offers fuel for Americans to keep fighting for justice.
Sean: This unsettling show follows the investigation of the Boston Strangler, starting back in the 1960s. Examining the evidence, speaking to wittiness, and reviewing the case files, the host tries to find out if the right man was captured for the crimes, and, if, who the true killer is. Also, Writer’s Bone guest F. Lee Bailey is featured in “Stranglers!”
Lindsey: From The New York Times (you've heard of it, right?), it's “Modern Love” the podcast. The podcast features the popular New York Times column—reader-submitted essays that explore every facet of love—read by notable personalities and updates from the writers. “Modern Love” editor Daniel Jones also joins each episode to reveal why the essay was selected for the column. I'm a sucker for romance and a realist that understands the tribulations of love, so I often find myself relating to the emotions layered in each essay and learning from obstacles others have had to face in the name of love. Also what writer isn't hoping to find the key to getting an essay published in the New York Times? I'm hoping to find that answer in the podcast.
Daniel: Considering I wrote a post about Leo McGarry being the perfect spokesman for Johnnie Walker Blue early in our run, it should come as no surprise that I love this podcast. My love for “The West Wing” knows no bounds. Hosts Joshua Malina and Hrishikesh Hirway have great chemistry, and I could listen to their nerdy explorations of my favorite television show all day long. They also bring on actors from the show (any episode with Richard Schiff is a must listen) and public policy veterans to explain the some of the real-life implications of the issues featured in “The West Wing.” Considering our current political dumpster fire, this show, and the show it obsesses over, is a breath of fresh air.
Lindsey: After listening to the first season of “Serial,” I wondered what the next compelling podcast dedicated to investigative journalism would be. Enter “In the Dark,” which in its first season explored how law enforcement mishandled a widely reported child abduction case in Minnesota in 1989. In investigating the unsolved abduction of Jacob Wetterling in rural Minnesota, the show’s reporters question law enforcement at every turn while detailing the intricacies of the case. Interviews with Wetterling's parents, key witnesses, lead suspects, and others linked to the case simultaneously provide answers and raise questions about it. While the case was solved during the production of the podcast, it doesn't take away from its intent on "shining in a light in some dark places."
Daniel: Whiskey, entertaining tall tales (which may actually be true), and did I mention whiskey?? What more could you people want?! Host Juliette Miranda has recently interviewed everyone’s favorite Everyman Mike Rowe, as well as comedian Nick Di Paolo. We raise a glass to this podcast and hope for many more lewd stories to come!
Lindsey: While “Serial” and “In the Dark” offer alternative perspectives on crime and how it is investigated by law enforcement, “Detective” goes "behind the yellow tape" to tell the stories of the seasoned investigators that put criminals behind bars. Each season features a different storyteller detailing how they became detectives and what they have learned during their years on the force. Some episodes feature graphic descriptions of dead bodies, but it's worth the perspective to stomach the content.
Lindsey: Calling all history buffs and New York City lovers! “The Bowery Boys,” Greg Young and Tom Meyers, offer fascinating tales of the history behind the city I have called home for the past eight years. Each episode explores an historic facet in New York City, whether it be landmarks, hidden gems, historic events, or pop culture moments that have become synonymous with the city. Listening to the podcast as the W train approaches Queensboro Plaza really makes me think of the city in a different way. There's a lot of history in New York, and both residents and admirers of the city can enjoy uncovering it through “The Bowery Boys.”
Sean: I stumbled onto this charming gem last week and listened to three episodes in one day. The podcast follows one man's journey to find workout guru Richard Simmons, who went into self-exile three years ago. The show sheds new light on Simmons and really makes you respect this goofball who made millions of dollars and helped millions of people.
Update: Stephanie Schaefer may know where Simmons really is...