I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts while at my computer (especially while playing WoW) and also on my MP3 player in the car, and when out for a walk, and whenever I have the time. I listen to a LOT of podcasts, and I’m always looking for more. Here are my favorites, and if you know of any others that I’d probably like, please post a link.
What the hell is a podcast?
It’s like radio, but on a computer. Most podcasts are published via an RSS feed that links to the files on the podcaster’s server. You can just download them manually if you want, but there are programs out there that will let you subscribe to the podcast feed and automatically download new episodes when they become available. The program I use is MediaMonkey, which is probably the greatest audio program ever. Other people use iTunes, though I don’t know why. I think WinAmp can handle podcasts too, and I’m sure there are others. Anyway, on with the show.
Who: John C. Snider & David Driscoll
Style: Skepticism, religion, science, interviews
Great interviews and commentary on what’s happening in the world.
Who: Fraser Cain, Dr. Pamela Gay
Style: Educational, space, science
If you’re interested in astronomy, this is the podcast for you. They cover the subject in great detail, from the planets to black holes to pulsars to quantum mechanics. They manage to stay interesting and easy to understand, while at the same time providing tons of info on the topic of the episode.
Who: Minnesota Atheists
Style: Religion (or lack thereof), life in general
The weekly AM radio show of the Minnesota Atheists, in podcast form. They talk about issues of interest to atheists, especially those who are from Minnesota (shocking!) and tend to have some pretty interesting local guests on.
They also have some great lectures videotaped, which can be found here.
Who: Tom & Ray Magliozzi (aka Click & Clack)
Style: Humor, car repair, call-in
This one (like the next couple) is the podcast version of the NPR radio show. It’s a show where people call in to ask the hosts if they can help solve their car problems. I have little interest in cars, but these guys are an absolute riot to listen to. They’re a pair of older Bostonian crazies, and they constantly try to one-up each other on jokes and bad romantic advice.
Who: Wizards of the Coast
Wait, how did this get on here?!? Oh, alright. Yes, I play D&D from time to time. This podcast is done by actual D&D game developers, not just players. They talk about all things D&D, like new game manuals, novels, updates, and more.
Who: Scott Johnson and friends
Style: Good and bad B-movie reviews
Four movie geeks watch cheesy movies from the 80’s, some good and some bad, and make with the funny.
Who: DJ Grothe
Style: Skepticism, religion, science, etc.
When DJ became the president of the JREF, he left his old podcast (Point of Inquiry) and started this one. It’s basically the same podcast with a different name, which is a good thing, because POI and now FGR are the most interesting and thought-provoking podcasts I’ve ever heard, and certainly some of the best media as well. DJ is an amazing interviewer and speaker, and his discussions with his guests are always enthralling. This new show also features a segment at the end of each episode by magician Jamy Ian Swiss, in which he talks about various scams and how they work.
Who: Dan Barker & Annie Laurie Gaylor
Style: Activism, atheism, talk radio
This is the radio show of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They have a lot of interesting interviews, and they often discuss the FFRF’s ongoing activities & lawsuits promoting state/church separation.
Who: Ryan Scott & the gang
Style: Gaming, geek culture, humor
Another GFW/EGM/1up cast-off. Very similar to the original GFW Radio podcast, but with more focus on general geekery, like comics, sci-fi, TV, and so on. And surprisingly, Ryan has a lot more to say than just the one-liners and occasional rants he was known for on GFW Radio.
Who: George Hrab
Style: Skepticism, music, religion, humor
This has nothing to do with geology. Think “Geo-Logic”, where Geo is short for George. And George is a funk musician with a gift for storytelling and doing weird voices. Includes segments like “The Religious Moron of the Week” and “Indestructible Bastards”.
Who: Jacob Fortin, Ryan Harkness
Style: Atheism, religious criticism, humor, vitriol
Some shows treat religion with diligence and diplomacy, but this isn’t one of them. This show is at its best when the hosts are neck-deep in a good, solid, hilarious rant. They’re not afraid of offending anyone, but they don’t unfairly criticize either. They also do a bonus show that you can subscribe to for $20/yr if you want more (which I have).
Who: Scott Johnson & Turpster
Style: Advice, humor
This is an advice show by two people who probably have no business giving advice. Among really bad suggestions and humorous anecdotes, they occasionally stumble upon advice that’s actually not terrible.
Who: Richard Smith and whomever happens to be available that week
Style: Humor, Star Trek, sci-fi
This is a Star Trek podcast by a few surly Brits who simultaneously love Star Trek and are driven mad by its ins and outs. Indeed, some people have gone so far as saying that it’s a Star Trek podcast by people who hate Star Trek, which isn’t true at all, but gets at a certain element of truth.
Who: Blake Smith, Ben Radford, & Dr. Karen Stollznow
Style: Cryptozoology, paranormal claims, monsters, Skepticism
Each week, a different mythical animal or monster is discussed, like Bigfoot or ghosts, and the hosts discuss the claims and the evidence amongst themselves or with guests, but from a critical perspective. Most of the stories behind the various monsters are far more interesting than the monsters themselves would be.
Who: Chris Mooney, Karen Stollznow, and Robert Price (rotating)
Style: Skepticism, Religion, Science, etc.
When long-time host DJ Grothe left the show to start For Good Reason (see above) the show changed slightly, to have 3 hosts who alternate each week. It’s still an interview show where they talk to some very interesting people, and the hosts fit the show well. I usually wind up with a new book on my “Things to Read” list by the end of each episode.
I highly recommend going back and listening to all the previous episodes too. There’s some brilliant, life-changing stuff in there.
Who: More former 1up employees
Style: Gaming, humor, feline warfare
Another podcast made up of former 1up employees. They discuss the latest gaming news, talk about what they’re playing, and so on. As an added bonus, their cats seem determined to stop them at all costs. They also do “Game Club” episodes, where they discuss a specific game in great detail.
Who: Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant, Karl Pilkington
By far, this is the funniest podcast series I’ve ever listened to, and is some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever heard, period. The format is basically just Ricky and Steve pumping Karl for his…unique…opinions, and hilarity ensues.
I was all set to put this in the “Defunct” category, but I didn’t realize that they were still making new episodes. Unfortunately, they’re only available through iTunes. The first “season” was free, but I think the second and third seasons cost money. Give the first season a listen, and see if you think it’s worth it. Sorry, you may have to use iTunes to get it, or find some other way.
Who: Ira Flatow
Style: Science, discussion, call-in
Each week Ira talks to several people about various topics relating to science. It’s usually pretty interesting, although sometimes the subject matter can be a bit dry. And I usually would rather listen to the guest talk about what he/she is doing than listen to often-lame questions from callers (who usually don’t take up much time anyway).
Who: Australian Skeptics
Style: Skepticism, interviews, drinking, Oz
A fun podcast with very likable hosts. They talk about current skeptical issues, and end most shows with a drink in a pub.
Who: Derek & Swoopy
Style: Skepticism, science, etc.
Another interesting skeptic podcast. They talk about the latest news, and have a weekly interview.
Who: Bob, Jay, and Dr. Steve Novella, Rebecca Watson, Evan Bernstein
Style: Skepticism in all its forms
This is the podcast that got me into podcasts, and really turned me on to the whole Skepticism movement. They talk about pretty much everything I’m interested in, and at the end of the show Steve tries to fool the others with 3 science-based questions, “two real, and one fictitious”. If I could only listen to one podcast each week, this would be my choice.
Who: See Above
Style: Quickie news item discussion
If, like me, you’re sad that you only get an hour and 15 minutes or so of SGU each week, you’re in luck, because they also do this quickie podcast each week. The name denotes the “5 minutes with 5 skeptics” format (even though it’s usually closer to 10 minutes or more). It’s just more of a good thing.
Who: Brian Dunning
Style: Skeptical, informational, debunking
Dunning does this short podcast each week about one particular item in the world of the paranormal, myths, conspiracies, pseudoscience, and that sort of thing. He thoroughly examines these things with a skeptical eye, and points out a lot of information that many people tend to miss, or ignore. He covers a lot of really interesting stuff, though lately it seems he’s been running out of stuff to talk about. But I could be wrong.
Who: Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier
Style: Humor, conversation, random crudeness
This podcast is done by the director & producer duo behind movies like Clerks, Dogma, and Chasing Amy. Interestingly enough, they almost never talk about movies. They talk about whatever happens to come to mind, and they frequently get into hilarious hypothetical discussions about random situations. Sometimes, Mosier is replaced by some of Smith’s other friends from New Jersey, and they talk about the crazy stuff they used to do after high school. It’s also unbelievably crude sometimes; Smith is always willing to talk about things that others would consider “over the line”.
Who: Bryan Johnson, Walt Flanagan
Style: Humor, smart-asses yelling at each other
I’m actually surprised by how good this podcast is. If you can get past the fact that this is a podcast done by a couple of Kevin Smith’s buddies from New Jersey (not that you should hold any of that against them), you’ll find a show that’s every bit as funny as Smodcast. Bryan and Walt often bicker like an old married couple, and their stories of life in NJ are far more interesting than you’d expect.
Who: Peter Sagal & Carl Kassel
Style: Humor, news, quiz show
This is a sort of humorous news-based quiz show, where call-in contestants are asked questions relating to the week’s news in order to win Carl’s voice on their answering machine. There’s also a rotating (not literally) panel of 3 personalities who compete with each other for bragging rights.
Who: Dave Kellett, Brad Guigar, Scott Kurtz, Kris Straub
Style: Art, small business, humor
4 webcomic artists discuss their art form, and the business side of it. There’s actually a LOT of useful information here regarding running and maintaining a small business, and it’s especially useful if you’re in an artistic line of work. And of course, since it’s hosted by 4 webcomic artists, they spend about half of each episode making each other (and, by extension, the listener) crack up.
It hasn’t had a new episode in a very long time, so I may soon be moving this to the “Ended” category below.
World of Warcraft podcasts
Yea, I’m a WoW geek. I’m just going to keep this section short.
BlizzCast: Blizzard’s own podcast about WoW, Starcraft, and Diablo.
The Instance: A humorous podcast that covers just about everything in WoW.
Podcasts that are no longer running, but are probably still worth checking out anyway.
Who: Robert Ashley
Style: Gaming, geek culture, interviews
One of the former hosts of GFW Radio started this podcast, which is a brilliant examination of different aspects of gaming and geek culture. It’s hard to avoid comparing it to This American Life, since its format is very similar. It’s more of an audio documentary series than a podcast, actually.
There hasn’t been a new episode in a very long time, but it hasn’t officially ended, and the previous episodes are excellent.
Who: Richard Wiseman
Style: Psychology, human behavior
This podcast only ran for 8 episodes, and they’re all very short, but they’re still worth a listen. Wiseman’s guests are varied and interesting, and each ends with him asking how his guests will spend the £10 he gives them to be on the show.
Who: James Randi, Justin Robert Young
Style: Discussion, skepticism, commentary
They stopped doing this one, but started doing “Randi Speaks” videos on YouTube instead, which are also pretty interesting. But I still recommend checking out the existing podcast episodes, because Randi has some fascinating stories from his long life as a professional magician and skeptic.
Who: Robert M. Price
Style: Religion, philosophy, Q&A
Price is a fascinating, insightful, and frequently funny Biblical scholar who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the various major holy books, and mythology at large. He’s clearly done exhaustive research on the subjects he talks about, usually the Bible and other related ancient stories, and conveys his information with respect, intelligence, and just a hint of weirdness (for example, in one episode he compares Peter in the Bible to Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Jimmy Olson from Superman).
This one ended a couple years ago, but Price is now one of the new co-hosts of Point of Inquiry (see above).
Who: Rebecca Watson, other Skepchicks
Style: Skepticism, science, humor
A skeptical show from the Skepchicks. They focus on a single topic in each episode, and examine it thoroughly, with the usual Skepchick smarminess. It hasn’t been officially ended, but there hasn’t been an episode in a very long time.
Who: Ryan Scott, Anthony Gallegos, others
Style: Video games, humor
Yup, another game podcast. This one ran for a very long time (at least in podcast time) but I only started listening when Scott and Gallegos took over, because I’ve enjoyed their previous and current podcasts. This has since ended, but the cast started a new, independent podcast called The Comedy Button (see above).
Who: Hard to say
Style: PC games, humor
Originally, it was made up of members of GFW (Games for Windows) Magazine, but GFW was shut down and merged into 1up.com, and then 1up laid off a very large chunk of their staff to cut costs. The episodes are still very funny and often quite thought-provoking, but it’s not as timely as it once was, for obvious reasons. Some of the people from this show started their own shows – see GeekBox, RebelFM, and A Life Well Wasted above.
Who: Penn Jillette & Michael Goudeau
Style: Talk radio, interviews, opinion, humor
Somebody apparently noticed that Penn was only being loud and opinionated on most forms of media, so he got his own radio show too. It was broadcast from the recording studio in his house, and features lots of interesting and hilarious guests. Unfortunately, it only lasted about a year, but you can find the archived audio files pretty easily. I must admit though, I’m not sure if it’s technically legal to download the show.Tags: astronomy, atheism, D&D, debunking, humanism, humor, links, lists, news, philosophy, podcasts, religion, reviews, sci-fi, science, secularism, skepticism, Star Trek, technology, video games, Warcraft
This post was written by Bevans