The 20 Best Podcasts of 2024 (So Far)

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The 20 Best Podcasts of 2024 (So Far)Sarah Kim
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Thanks to time’s relentless march forward, we’re midway through 2024. So, it feels like as good of a time as ever to check in with ourselves and see how we're doing with our ambitious plans from January. For example: am I still keeping up with that lofty New Year's resolution to become semi-conversational in Spanish by the end of this year? To put it en Español: No.

Maybe it's a better idea to set some reasonable goals. How about taking the time to learn a little something every day, or improve your knowledge about things you're already interested in? That's easy enough, right? Well, thanks to the vast array of podcasts at your fingertips, you can do that while you take the garbage out, or just decompress on a little mental health walk.

Even if you're crushing it at the 2024 halftime, check out the best podcasts of the year (so far) for some easy entertainment while you continue to make the rest of us look bad.

Sixteenth Minute of Fame

Jamie Loftus is the master of taking something ubiquitous—or maybe even overlooked—in culture, and zooming in on it to show what it says about our world. Case in point: her book, Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs, which is about hot dogs, sure, but it's actually about so much more. In Sixteenth Minute of Fame, Loftus looks at some of the Internet's "main characters," diving into how their stories relate to our media habits and cultural shortcomings. Her episode on the "Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife" viral video unpacks the exploitation of minorities for entertainment, as well as the glossing over of sexual assault for the sake of humor. The episode about the Boston cop who eats shit on the metal slide? It's really about police power and its relationship with the public. It would be so easy to just make this a surface-level "Hey, remember this ebaumsworld clip?" podcast, but it's not. It also has a very catchy theme song by Sad13.

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iheartradio

Pretty Sure I Can Fly

As a millennial, my ears are acutely trained to perk up when I hear "Hello, I'm Johnny Knoxville." Now that I'm firmly in my 30s, I can accept that Knoxville isn't jumping off quite as many things as he used to. Instead, he's teamed up with Elna Baker of This American Life for a new podcast venture under the Smartless Media umbrella. The elevator pitch of the show is this: Can you teach bravery? Baker and Knoxville bring in some of the most courageous people they can think of—such as bullriders, BASE jumpers, arctic explorers, Travis Pastrana—to talk about how (and why!) they manage to do what they do. Baker and Knoxville complement each other nicely, trading off interviewing and color commentating duties fluidly. For example, when Knoxville is enamored with a particularly gnarly story, Baker will play the layperson and ask what a phrase means, or explain something to the non-extreme listener. And Knoxville uses his Jackass bona fides to relate to guys climbing onto bulls or flipping motorcycles when Baker might (understandably) be out of her experiential depth.

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Wondery

Varnamtown

In this, the year of Dune: Part Two and Fallout, Kyle MacLachlan is once again on our radar (as he always should be). Rather than getting in front of the camera, though, MacLachlan put together a serial podcast about a tiny (like, really tiny) coastal North Carolina town that once found itself mixed up with Pablo Escobar's drug trade. You'd never know this town existed if you didn't specifically look for it, and that's probably what appealed to arguably the most famous drug kingpin of all time. MacLachlan's voice lends itself nicely to this format, so it's such a joy to listen to him from the ground in North Carolina, talking to the people who remember the town's coke-runner heyday.

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PodcastOne

Minnie Questions with Minnie Driver

Speaking of soothing podcasts helmed by actors: let's talk about Minnie Driver. The basis of her podcast is simple: She asks her guests (which come from the worlds of sports, media, art, and beyond) the same seven questions each time. The conversations yield some beautifully human moments of empathy, growth, humor, sadness, love, and connection. Even when it's over Zoom, Driver's interviews feel like a conversation at a dinner table, or a mood-lit living room at the end of a night when everyone’s loosened up just enough. When there are so many comedians shouting over each other on podcasts for laughs (no shade to those types of shows), Minnie Questions feels like a meditative break. No matter who the guest is, you benefit from listening to a smart and insightful conversation between thoughtful people—and come away with new perspective on something to take for the rest of your life.

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iheartradio

Normal Gossip

Normal Gossip is one of Defector's flagship podcasts. As a deeply loyal Deadspin-turned-Defector reader, I'm happy to listen to and read anything from the team over there. Kelsey McKinney is the friend who asks her audience about the latest gossip in their lives. Then, she and guests listen in to listener-submitted gossip about everything under the sun. There's a lot to be said for cinematic, highly-produced podcasts, but there's also just something to be said for listening to some gossip, right?

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Spotify

Broomgate: A Curling Scandal

Yes, that's right: Curling. I love curling. I know it's such a cliché to watch professional sports and think, I could do that! But I am 100 percent certain that I can be a damn good curler, if not an Olympian. (This is not to downplay the skill of curlers—it's to overhype my own confidence in my aptitude for finesse games.) Americans are used to dramatic retellings of sports scandals, but typically those stories are from the "big" sports here, like baseball, basketball, or football. We don't know much about curling. So, this is the perfect show to learn about the sport and its universe, as well as how one Canadian butterfly flapped its wings and changed the nature of the sport forever—as told by a man in the center of it all, John Cullen.

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CBC

WikiHole with D'Arcy Carden

I use Wikipedia more than any other website and it's not even close. My friends and I used to play a game in high school where we'd pick two unrelated topics—say, sharks and the Vatican 2 movement—and go from point A to point B using only the links in Wikipedia articles. I was so good at it. So, when actor/comedian D'Arcy Carden introduced WikiHole, I knew it was for me. It's essentially a quiz show, featuring great comedians, actors, and musicians (all described as Carden's very best friends), to answer trivia across a slippery slope of topics as they slide deeper into the Wikihole. D'Arcy, I am begging you: please email your best friend Brendan to come on the show.

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Apple Podcasts

Hawk vs. Wolf

There are sports podcasts and there are pop-culture podcasts. Often, these two intersect. But, what Tony Hawk does better than other podcast guests is play the everyman. Meaning: Hawk talks to famous guests across the entire podcast-guest spectrum in ways that we would if we met them at a meet-and-greet. He's often a fan, but never a fanatic. He asks questions that we'd probably ask—which elicits answers that we'd probably want to hear. Yes, Hawke gets pretty inside baseball when he has a skater guest on the podcast, but co-host Jason Ellis helps by knowing very little about a lot of topics, and weighing in like the best kind of sidekick.

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iheartradio

The Three Questions With Andy Richter

Speaking of sidekicks: Andy Richter might just have become one of the best podcasts hosts on the air right now. The Three Questions' loose premise is that Richter asks his guests who they are, where they came from, and what they've learned. Often, they answer the last question before he even gets a chance to ask—just because the conversation is so free-flowing. Richter has spent many years choosing his times to carefully jump in as Conan O'Brien's right-hand man. Now he's the one behind the desk, so to speak, and he can dig into topics that aren't exactly ideal for quick, lighthearted plugs on basic cable. Richter’s podcast isn’t new, but he’s back from a little break, and deserving of a little shoutout while his boss enjoys a new Max show.

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Spotify

Almost Friday

Nowadays, it feels like every comedian must have a podcast by law. Part of that law stipulates that any ambitious young comic looking to break into the establishment must start with podcasts that blend sketches, standup, improv, and advertisement. Many are irritating. But the Almost Friday guys do the best job of it. It's extremely Gen Z, but Will Angus and Liam Cullagh have the dynamic of your two friends who can comedically spar better than anyone—and keep the rest of the party gasping for air between bits. They'll invite guests to ask them about their lives, but also help them out by playing the straight man in a semi-pre-planned skit. It's like a guy going through airport security with a bag full of bombs, severed limbs, and manifestos written in code.

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Spotify

The Recipe

I love cooking at home, but the real pain of looking up a recipe online is that you have to wade through roughly 10,000 words to get to the part where they tell you how many cloves of garlic you need. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt and Deb Perelman’s new podcast not only gets to the heart of how they make their recipes—but the why behind each decision, too. You won't find any fanfare about how a recipe for stovetop mac and cheese reminds them of their grandparents. Instead, they discuss their cheese choices and how they got there. The Recipe is accessible to the common person who doesn’t yet have an extensive (and expensive) collection of knives, but has plenty of them saved in an online shopping cart along with a nice apron or two. The podcast is still in its very early days, too, so now’s the time to jump in and Julie & Julia your way along with them each week.

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Spotify

We’re Here to Help

We’re in a weird era right now where podcasters and guys dressed as lizards serve as therapists. Shows like Stavvy’s World are centered around people calling in and seeking guidance from some unlikely sources—but actually leaving with sound advice. Thankfully, comedians-actors Jake Johnson and Gareth Reynolds bring some levity to the self-help pod in We’re Here to Help. They impart real advice—such as telling someone in no uncertain terms to stop feeding their cat ear wax because it’s weird. The show's live-call format allows for fun back-and-forth, plus some callers get chances to follow up later on, so we can see how the advice played out.

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Spotify

Six Trophies

Like the abundance of comedy podcasts, their sports counterparts have the potential to be incredibly irritating. But, for my money, Shea Serrano and Jason Concepcion's Six Trophies is downright fun. They truly blend sports and pop culture—remember, Serrano has written books about movies, and both were responsible for the celebrated TV show, Primo. It’s far from the self-important, stats-heavy yell-fest of modern sports media. The generations that grew up watching Around the Horn and Pardon The Interruption often think talking about sports needs to be a heated debate. Thankfully, Serrano and Concepcion are happy to discuss which fictional basketball game from movies and TV shows they’d most like to attend. Six Trophies is a show about jocks that isn’t run by jocks. It’s just a game, after all.

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Spotify

Ripple

We all remember the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but how much do we actually know about it? In Ripple, Dan Leone gets on the ground (and in the water) in Louisiana and other states on the Gulf to talk to the people who have been most affected by the spill. He listens to their memories of that day and learns about how the spill's lingering effects: friends and family members lost on the rig, waterways that people depended on dying in front of their eyes. Like any great serial podcast, there are characters and motives. Even more, Leone uncovers evidence from archival interviews, which come from the likes of BP executives, government agencies, and much more.

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Ripple

Hard Feelings

Jennette McCurdy became a powerful voice in the mental health world after the release of her brutal memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died. After showing how gifted she is at talking about heavy topics with humor and humanity, her limited series podcast, Hard Feelings, feels like catching up with a friend. It’s not a companion piece to her book. It’s not a lecture series. Hard Feelings is simply a podcast from someone who has been through certain things talking about things that you might be going through right now. It’s not preachy. It’s not flashy. It often feels like an audio blog post. You can picture McCurdy wandering around her house, mindlessly picking up objects and putting them back down, while telling a story of overcoming eating disorders, or battling with social media. It’s pretty real, which is reassuring. And rather than milk the medium for the sake of sponsorship dollars, she ends each show with a story about self-esteem and confidence.

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Spotify

No Accounting for Taste

In No Accounting for Taste, comedians Shane Torres and Kyle Kinane (along with producer Charlene Conley) discuss different things that are largely derided in the world (Insane Clown Posse, water parks, ranch dressing, astrology, etc.) and try to find a silver lining in each one. Sometimes, it’s easy—neither host needed a ton of convincing that the ICP crowd was a well-meaning group of superfans. Other times, not so much, such as the Greek life episode where Conley went into the racist actions of her southern college’s fraternities. Still, they try to get back on track with each one and find some sort of bright side, even if it takes a call from a listener. Now, we’re not fully back to that '90s vibe of hating everything to seem cool, but as nu metal and center parts return to fashion, it’s important to stave off that toxic retro trait with a little bit of positivity.

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Spotify

Keys to the Kingdom

Even though I've never been to any Disney property, I can relate to the mouse's employees. My first job was wearing costumes of PBS characters when my dad was in charge of events for a PBS affiliate. It's probably why I enjoy listening to Matt Gourley and Amanda Lund—a married couple who not only used to work at Disney resorts in various capacities (RC trash can! Various Princesses!), but also met and fell in love there.

In Keys to the Kingdom, they reveal what Disneyfied life is like behind the curtain. They interview former and current employees to show just how deep the level of commitment is from Disney’s point of view, talk to members of roving Disney "gangs," and introduce people who sneak family members' ashes into the park for one last ride. Just when you think you’re sold on the idea that Disney is a deeply weird place, they swing it back in the other direction and tell stories of the human connections that are made there—often with children. I have to admit that I felt a sense of the magic, even as a Disney-cynical adult.

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Spotify

A Game of No Halves

Honestly, one of the most entertaining sports podcasts right now is one about a soccer team that doesn’t even exist. Well, that’s not entirely true—it just exists in the mind of English broadcasting legend Bob Harris. In A Game of No Halves, Harris and his son, Miles, go deep on "North London FC"—the team Bob created and played out season upon season in his mind. He borrows real-life players from across the globe, plus as his sons and their friends. He "signs" exceptionally tall neighbors to serve as Peter Crouch-esque strikers, as well as stunt performers he’s met in real life.

No, Harris doesn’t always tell these people they’re part of a decades-spanning soccer dynasty. He also goes into his own rules for this bizarre experiment—which he typically plays out in his head as he kicks around a toy soccer ball in the living room after a few glasses of wine and a joint while his kids are asleep. Above all, the podcast is simply a fun listen between father and son, who reminisce over childhood friends and laugh about a dad’s goofy, yet harmless hobby.

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Audible

Tosh Show

In an era where every comedian has a podcast, Daniel Tosh’s makes it clear he has no interest in talking to other comedians about comedy. He doesn’t even want to talk to celebrities. Tosh wants to talk to his wife’s gynecologist, or his womanizing French surfing buddy, or a girl who claims she can communicate with animals after looking at a photo of them. I’ll be honest: I rolled my eyes when I saw yet another comedian with a podcast, but Tosh Show quickly turned into appointment listening for me.

This is the same sarcastic, faux-egotistical Tosh that millennials connected with on the long-running Tosh.0—but in a very bare-bones package. Now, he’s just talking to people and genuinely enjoying himself. In a landscape where podcasters strive to create something that sounds like hilarious people having a relaxed and hilarious conversation, Tosh actually pulls it off off by bringing in people he’s already friends with, or is actually interested in, rather than just inviting people with something to plug.

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Spotify

Flightless Bird

By now, Dax Shepherd’s podcasting empire is one of the format’s great global powers. His “Armchair Umbrella” corporation has spawned a few spinoff podcasts—some including himself, some featuring his Armchair Expert co-host Monica Padman, and one helmed by New Zealand investigative journalist David Farrier. He has a knack for getting himself in uncomfortable positions and reporting on them. Farrier's situation right now? He's a New Zealander stranded in the U.S. as a result of COVID, faced with a new culture to understand. Each week, the host dives into an aspect of American culture that feels especially foreign or fascinating to him. Some are grand in scale, like football and healthcare, and others a bit more granular, like shower curtains and pinball. Each episode goes far beyond his surface-level interest, though, usually unearthing some unknown conspiracy or strange connection to government initiatives. Sometimes, it takes an outsider to teach us about the things we’ve taken for granted.

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Spotify

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