If I have one addiction it’s podcasts. I confess to using them in an effort to self-medicate my way through the daily commute to and from central London. Where others find happy oblivion in narcotics or, like the man who sat next to me on the train at 8am last Wednesday, cans of cheap but strong lager, my drug of choice comes via the pusher that is I-Tunes, where all of the following are available (the first one’s free, but then so are all the others):
The gold standard in skeptical podcasting. Neurologist and uber-skep Dr Steve Novella and crew dissect the week’s scientific and psuedo-scientific news with humour and clarity. Quack medics, psychics and creationists beware, this really isn’t for you, unless you’re willing to be deprogrammed (and you’re just not, are you?).
Standout episodes – any of the James Randi interviews are well worth your time.
Mike Duncan’s oral chronicle of the Roman Empire from start to finish stands as a monumental achievement in podcast history, sadly to be concluded in a few short months. Presented in modern parlance free of academic burble, this is accessible to anyone with ears capable of understanding English and utterly addictive for Romanophiliacs and neophytes alike.
Standout episodes – nos. 47-53 relating the rise of Augustus following the assassination of Julius Caeser are a real eye-opener for anyone who thought they got the whole story from HBO’s Rome.
Sci-fi/fantasy Author Mur Lafferty presents a bi-weekly guide to writing genre fiction with considerable insight and humour. If you’re a beginning writer this is full of tips, interviews with established authors and, most importantly, encouragement. Listen to just one episode and I guarantee you’ll write something before the day is out.
Standout episodes – any of the Scott Sigler interviews.
Humorist, Anglophile and world’s greatest conversationalist Ken Plume chats to names big and small in the world of entertainment and beyond. Frequently hilarious and occasionally insightful, this is a must-listen for comedy fans.
Standout episodes – too many to mention, though recent episodes should be of interest to Community devotees.
Actor and stand-up comedian Jay Mohr talks to fellow comics, and anyone else he can persuade into his garage, about comedy, religion, addiction and the meaning of life. Acerbic wit, spot-on Joe Pesci impressions and a generally positive view of humanity in a highly entertaining mix.
Standout episodes – the guy from Hoarders and the making of forgotten 1990s romcom Picture Perfect: “Jennifer Aniston was a total bitch, and she made me cry.”
Brit-wits Olly Mann and Helen Zaltzman (plus Martin the Soundman) front this consistently funny attempt to answer questions of scant significance posed by their audience, who frequently leave Skype messages whilst drunk. Many pretenders to the throne of top UK comedy podcast have come and gone, but Answer Me This still reign supreme.
Standout episodes – a recent guest appearance by Jackie Mason.
Brian Dunning takes a critical look at many aspects of popular belief and finds them wanting, or at least lacking in credible evidence. Everything from the supposed benefits of wheat grass to the Loch Ness monster gets a look in, often providing an insight into how belief in something totally absurd can become generally accepted.
Standout episode – the truth about Crystal Skulls (like you needed any convincing the last Indiana Jones movie was a pile of crap).
More Skeptical gubbins, this time on the unkillable subject of crypto-zoology. Oh Bigfoot, when will you die? Experienced investigators, Blake Smith, Dr Karen Stollznow and Ben Radford interview a variety of experts in an attempt to divine the truth behind monsters of myth and legend.
Standout episodes – The Columbus Poltergeist and Unmasking the Ninja.
The only corporate podcast on the list. Economist Tim Harford fronts BBC Radio 4’s fascinating look at the statistics that assault us on a daily basis, often finding that the ‘facts’ presented by politicians, pundits and corporations are at best exaggerations and at worst, total lies.
Standout episode – What the Dickens? a Christmas Carol-esque satire on the causes of the credit crunch (spoiler alert: it turns out lending money to people who haven’t a prayer of paying it back is a really bad idea. Who knew?)
My favourite comedian Richard Herring reads his daily blog posts. Funny, clever and self-deprecating to the point of suspected mental illness. A welcome diversion for those of us who mourn the late Collings and Herrin podcast where Richard was joined for a weekly romp through the headlines with writer and critic Andrew Collins – probably the funniest thing on I-tunes until they fell out and stopped speaking to each other.
Standout episodes: the whole thing really.