We are living in the age of the podcast. Old media individuals (including the incomparable Howard Stern) may call them “losers” and scoff at audience size or ad revenue, but podcasts are both the present and the future. One look at the phenomenon of Serial proves that.
I alternate between hip-hop, audiobooks, and podcasts, so I don’t listen to a ton of them, but I do have a standard lineup in my favorites playlist on Stitcher. I went through and found my favorite episodes from this past year. Are there some great podcasts out there that I missed? Undoubtedly. Are there some great podcasts on here that you may have missed? Almost certainly.
Let’s get into it…
10. Fitzdog Radio – “Greg Proops Pays a Visit” (December 2, 2015)
In my opinion, Greg Fitzsimmons is one of the more underrated comedians working today and he’s at his best when speaking with another comic. Greg Proops is best known for his work on Whose Line Is It Anyway? but he’s been doing stand-up for about 30 years and he’s also one of the smartest, most well-read, most erudite people in entertainment. Here, the two old friends geek out over books, history, and, naturally, comedy.
9. The Nerdist – “Bill Gates” (January 22, 2015)
I love The Nerdist, but some guests I just don’t care about (same goes for WTF). However, I was excited to hear Bill Gates, king of the nerds and the world, talk about the early days of computers and video games. It’s also interesting to hear Gates’s people try to keep host Chris Hardwick on message, showing how difficult it can be to conduct an interesting interview.
8. The Tim Ferriss Podcast – “Jamie Foxx on Workout Routines, Success Habits, and Untold Hollywood Stories” (December 6, 2015)
Regardless of how you feel about him, you must admit that Jamie Foxx is a super talent. Classically trained pianist, stand-up comedian, Academy Award-winning actor, pop music hit maker – he can do it all. In this long, rambling conversation, he talks about confronting racism while growing up in Texas, tells stories about other famous people and encounters, does a bunch of impressions, plays the piano, and details his daily habits now in his late 40s. Illuminating conversation.
7. The Moment – “James Altucher” (March 10, 2015)
Brian Koppelman is a screenwriter (Rounders, Ocean 13) and his podcast is so interesting because he doesn’t need to do it and only interviews people with whom he’s interested. It’s called The Moment because the jumping off point of every conversation is the moment in which the guest started on the path that took them through their career. It is unlike virtually any other interview because it’s more about the work and the process than the final product. James Altucher is a fascinating human (I’ve seen him speak live) and here he details his rise, fall, rise again, fall again, and rise once more.
6. The Lowe Post – “Robin Lopez and Adam Pally” (December 3, 2015)
Adam Pally hosted the greatest hour of television I’ve ever seen so hearing him on my favorite NBA podcast with a player from his favorite team is a pleasure. Pally is a massive Knicks fan and it’s funny to hear him rip James Dolan while Lopez remains silent. The subjects are all over the place – the uselessness of mascots, stories about Shaq, the maturity level of Harry Potter fans, and favorite cities on the road. There aren’t many lessons or insights here – it’s just fun.
5. Fatman on Batman – “Batman & Robin” Part One (February 13, 2015) & “Batman & Robin” Part Two (February 25, 2015)
Although he started as a filmmaker, Kevin Smith has built a small podcasting empire and his Fatman on Batman is my favorite podcast. Although it began as one-on-one interview show featuring guests that have worked on Batman in some form (comics, films, the animated series, etc.) a few years ago, this year it transformed when frequent guest Marc Bernardin became the co-host and it morphed from being a show about Batman to being a show about all things geek. I never miss an episode, even if half the time I have no fucking clue what they’re talking about. Their rapport is just that good. For me, the best episodes are the commentary tracks of the films and this year kicked off with a two-parter in which they skewered the awfulness that is Batman & Robin, making jokes and pointing out everything wrong with the film from various standpoints: filmmaking, writing, comics, acting, whatever. Just listen – and do yourself a favor and go back and listen to the commentary tracks of the first three Batman films.
4. Love + Radio – “Thank You Princess” (March 27, 2015)
A woman I work with was obsessed with Serial and when it ended, she needed to find a new podcast. She found Love + Radio, which is nothing like Serial, but is fascinating. This episode was the pinnacle, as Princess Ceara Lynch details how she became a “humiliatrix,” one that gets paid to humiliate men and they get off on it. She belittles them on the phone, sends them dirty panties, even shits in a box and sends it to them. She is so successful that she was able to make it her full-time gig. A true American success story.
3. I Was There Too – “A Few Good Men with Joshua Malina” (May 27, 2015)
I Was There Too could be my favorite concept for a podcast. We’ve all heard the stars and creators talk about great films, but Matt Gourley gets a different perspective by interviewing individuals that played minor roles. Josh Malina is known for his TV work, particularly on Aaron Sorkin’s Sports Night and The West Wing, but he started with a small role in A Few Good Men, a film that Sorkin adapted from his play. Malina tells great stories about Sorkin, Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and many other things.
2. The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast – “Quentin Tarantino” (December 7, 2015)
I’m a huge huge huge Tarantino fan and the man gives great interviews. Here, he and Ellis, who wrote a profile of QT in The New York Times Magazine (the unedited piece is on Ellis’s site) have two-hour conversation about films, filmmakers, critics, and a variety of other things, including his time working at a video store and recommending films to customers. It also includes a searing introductory tirade by Ellis railing against P.C. run amok and the rise of victim culture.
1. WTF – “President Barack Obama” (June 22, 2015)
Any doubt that this is the age of the podcast was removed when the President of the United States visited Marc Maron’s garage studio in California to sit down for a chat. Although there were a few moments when he spoke like a politician, Obama mainly just spoke as himself, touching on a variety of subjects. It’s one of those shows that flies by and you wish it would go on forever.
Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. He has been quoted on Buzzfeed and Deadspin. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.