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HomeSunset Host Co‘Changed podcast culture forever’: the greatest shows you’ve ever listened to | Podcasts

‘Changed podcast culture forever’: the greatest shows you’ve ever listened to | Podcasts


Sometimes, an idea for a podcast sounds like it definitely shouldn’t work – but then does. With bells on. TWIOAT (as we hardcore stans call it) sees NZ comedians Tim Batt and Guy Montgomery watch the same film every week, for a year. This format quickly descends into delirium, in-jokes, self-introspection and a healthy dose of self-loathing. They’ve covered Grown Ups 2, Sex and the City 1 and 2, We Are Your Friends as well as triumphal miniseries on Cats, Dr Dolittle and even a foray into TV with And Just Like That. They are beloved around the world with a particularly big following in the US – no mean feat in this day and age. A weekly pop culture-fuelled existential crisis for all. Lizzy Pollott, 40, London

This wide-ranging series often encompasses folklore, psychology, food, and art history, with each episode being a masterly narrative. It is frequently absurd, yet each episode is deeply grounded by research. Recently, Blindboy has blossomed into a champion of mental health and autistic experiences, often deeply exploring what his autism diagnosis means and how it shapes his work into a truly unique and profound experience. Fin, 23, Bristol

I really like Marc Maron’s conversational style. Maron’s WTF interview with Paul Thomas Anderson is quite a few years old now, but I’ve listened to this one so many times – it’s endlessly fascinating. PTA comes without ego and talks at length about his movies, swinging from heartbreak to hilarity. It’s nerdy and philosophical, and Maron gets about as much out of him as he can for you, without actually going on a bender with the amazing film-maker yourself. Matthew Grundy, 51, Salford

‘A stunning podcast’ … author Melissa Harrison, host of The Stubborn Light of Things.
‘A stunning podcast’ … author Melissa Harrison, host of The Stubborn Light of Things. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer

Melissa Harrison is a novelist and nature writer who produced a stunning podcast during lockdown, which tracks the changes in the natural world close to her home in rural Suffolk as it moves from spring through summer into autumn. In each episode Melissa takes the listener into her local countryside to seek out wildlife, and features a guest nature writer who reads a piece of their work. Her producer reads the diary entries of the 18th-century naturalist Gilbert White for the day of broadcast, while Melissa reads one of her Times nature notebook articles, and another guest reads a nature poem. The music is all original and fabulous and I loved it when it was first broadcast in 2020. I have been back to listen to it many times. Barbara, Suffolk

It has to be Chatabix. It’s the only pod I’m a Patreon of. For a couple of years, it’s offered an almost daily insight into the world and minds of David Earl and Joe Wilkinson. It’s sometimes spectacularly and endearingly shambolic, it’s occasionally crap (their words) but is also regularly laugh-out-loud funny. Features come and go, including improvised soap operas, like Canal Thursdays, and there are really good interviews with people from all walks of life. Joe and David even set each other up with mystery guests – which are worth listening to for the pre-interview anguish alone. I was by chance there from day one and I would really miss it if it ever ended. Roger Morford, Bristol

‘The best’ … Athletico Mince hosts Bob Mortimer and Andy Dawson.
‘The best’ … Athletico Mince hosts Bob Mortimer and Andy Dawson. Photograph: PR HANDOUT

This is the best comic content available on podcast, radio and TV. If you had asked me my favourite podcast a few years back, The Bugle and The Football Ramble would have been in the running – but podcasts are a bit like relationships in that feelings can change over time. Chris, 52, Glasgow

My favourite podcast of all time is not a niche one – it is The Rest is History, hosted by Dominic Sandbrook and Tom Holland, the popular historian of Rubicon and Dominion fame. Most episodes feature only Sandbrook and Holland, but they have guests on as well. Sandbrook and Holland banter about history, shamelessly (but not undeservedly) plug theirs and their guests’ books. Listening to this podcast feels like sitting in a pub with friends. Claudia Fischer, 41, Steinhagen, Germany

For me, no podcast will ever beat No Such Thing as a Fish, hosted by Dan Schreiber, James Harkin, Andrew Hunter Murray and Anna Ptaszynski. This weekly podcast about interesting facts from the makers of QI has been going since 2014 (meaning they have a great back catalogue of episodes) and the hosts are endlessly charming, funny and infectiously passionate. It has the perfect balance of facts and humour. It’s never dry but I always come away feeling as if I’ve learned something new, and I’m fairly sure everyone around me gets sick of the facts I bring up thanks to them. They also hold a special place in my heart; I struggled a lot with self confidence and friendship when I was attending secondary school but this podcast never failed to make me laugh. They’re a go-to as an easy comfort or if I just feel like learning about something random. Juno, 18, Bristol

Any two of five former Melody Maker journalists and the host, Al Needham, dissect a random episode of Top of the Pops. It is the friendliest and possibly sweariest podcast out there, but gives a wealth of information and analysis about not only the chosen episode and the acts that appeared, but about the state of world affairs at the time.|It is impossible to really describe this show without massively underselling it. Give it a go, you pop-crazed youngster. Chris Dowding, 44, Congleton, Cheshire

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‘Felt so new and exciting’ … Sarah Koenig, host of Serial.
‘Felt so new and exciting’ … Sarah Koenig, host of Serial. Photograph: Sandy Honig

I’ve never experienced a podcast quite like the first season of this show. True crime podcasts are 10-a-penny nowadays but at the time Serial just felt so new and exciting and it seemed like everyone was listening to it. Brilliantly produced and hosted by Sarah Koenig, this changed podcast culture forever and led to some really great spin-off series like S-Town (the big reveal moment after the first few episodes genuinely left me rooted to the spot in my kitchen) and The Trojan Horse Affair. A proper gamechanger. Richard Hughes, Newcastle-under-Lyme

We Didn’t Start the Fire is modern history told through the lyrics of Billy Joel’s song of the same name. Each episode the hosts bring on an expert guest and it’s so fascinating – I’ve learned so much. Also, it’s so wide ranging – covering so many topics – that it’s perfect for bringing up in almost every conversation. Anonymous, London

My favourite podcast is Running Commentary from comedians Rob Deering and Paul Tonkinson. It’s the two of them running, while talking to each other, often about running – with occasional guests from the running and comedy worlds. It doesn’t sound like much but its regular weekly chats have inspired me and a huge online community to get out and run. “If you run, you’re a runner” is one of its mantras; everyone’s welcome – from the tail walkers at parkrun to elite marathon winners. Through their steady, regular doses of chat, wisdom, humour, insight and camaraderie, I’ve made new friends, travelled all over the UK just to go for a run, and gone from running round the block to recently completing 100km in a weekend. It was great to meet up with likeminded runners at a celebration of their 400th episode last month. It’s a fabulous regular dose of positivity and inspiration. Here’s to the next 400! Helen, 44, doctor, Salisbury

This podcast – which ended in 2021 after 400 episodes – was clever and often jovial. The show developed over the years to be more thoughtful and highlighted the growth the hosts were making in their lives and owning up to past biases. But mainly what made it work was the relationship between the hosts. They obviously had an incredibly close friendship where they could be extremely open about their lives while not always agreeing. They could pull each other up, mock each other, make fun of themselves and offer up some very random knowledge. The jingles were also brilliant. I miss it. Victoria Hughes, 39, Glasgow

‘Brutally honest and often hilarious’ … Victoria & Lucy, the original hosts of Sober Awkward.
‘Brutally honest and often hilarious’ … Victoria & Lucy, the original hosts of Sober Awkward. Photograph: PR

After deciding I wanted to stop drinking alcohol in 2022, I searched out some podcasts. I wasn’t physically addicted, so a lot of the sobriety podcasts didn’t fit. The then-hosts of Sober Awkward, Victoria and Lucy, are two British ex-pats living in Queensland. Their brutally honest and often hilarious chats about going alcohol-free kept me on track in those early months. The podcast is entertaining without being preachy and the hosts do not hold back on their disastrous drinking stories or how life is immeasurably better since they stopped drinking. Vic now hosts the podcast with Hamish, another expat “normal” drinker who has given himself the task of going sober for a year. Vic also runs an online community called Cuppa where the sober curious or newly sober can get support and advice. Claire, Cardiff

The Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins and his collaborator James Deakins interview people from every sector of the film-making community. As with the best series, this has become about something more than that short summary. They ask the interviewee to tell their story from the start, and the tale of that journey can be as fascinating as their tutorials of how they do their job – and all the tips and tricks they can pass on. It doesn’t really matter if you’re into movies or not, because all human life is here, and because Roger is such an awe-inspiring figure in the industry, the honesty and forthrightness of the guests is refreshing and illuminating. Jim, 61, London

With a real breadth of guests, this interview series can be deep and informative, light and amusing, or tea-snortingly hilarious when Adam chats to his old friends Louis Theroux and Joe Cornish. Interspersed with catchy jingles and bookended by waffle usually recorded while walking his dog, Adam’s voice was a real comfort to me in 2020, especially his virtual hugs at the end of each episode with a cry of “I love you. BYYYE.” Amy Ness, 38, Tenbury Wells

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