Start with an original idea and a tolerable voice. Add consistently riveting content and a pinch of humor, wit, and everything nice(ish), and a successful podcast just might be born.
It isn’t easy to combine these elements to create something simultaneously unique and compelling, but it happens more often than you think. Here are five podcasts that probably aren’t on your radar but should be:
Stand-up: Put Your Hands Together with Cameron Esposito
And while you’re at it, put your hands together for Cameron Esposito. Each episode begins with a set from Esposito, who, in her intro, seamlessly melds her roles as both comedienne and host. She continues with similarly excellent sets from guests like Erin Foley, Sasheer Zamata, and Bob Odenkirk. PYHT is recorded against the din of a live audience, which gives listeners the vicarious thrill of attending a live show. This weekly podcast can be found here.
Sex Talk: Sex Nerd Sandra
Sex Nerd Sandra is Sandra Daugherty, an exuberantly sex-positive sex expert (is there any other kind?) whose podcast features all those awkward sex topics you don’t often explore with friends and family. From hook-up culture to married sex, rope bondage to clown sex, Sandra covers it all without shame or reservation. She enlightens as much as she entertains. Daugherty’s podcast can be found here.
Make/Work: A Rumpus Podcast
Hosted by Scott Pinkmountain, Make/Work features interviews with creative artists from various media. Discussion topics range from the creative process to an artist’s lifestyle. The auditory equivalent of a conversation between friends, Make/Work is an easy listen with a unique take on subjects like “negotiating the relationship between creative work and a paycheck.” Previous guests include writer Maggie Nelson and The Decemberists’ bass player Nate Query. Launched by the website The Rumpus in December 2013, it’s a relative newcomer that can be found here.
Fear: Terrified with Dave Ross
Terrified was first described to me as a fruitful exercise in self-deprecation. I wondered how self-deprecation could be fruitful until I dove in myself. Dave Ross plays hosts to a variety of guests—musicians, comedians—to talk about their work, personal lives, and emotions. Ross rejects the popular notion that men shouldn’t get touchy-feely and unashamedly broaches topics most men are keen to avoid: anxiety, regret, dying alone—you know, all the stuff that keeps you awake at 3 a.m. Featured on Nerdist.com, Terrified can be found here.
Delightful Lovecraftian Nightmares: Welcome to Night Vale
Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor, Welcome to Night Vale is a fictional radio show broadcast from the likewise fictional town of Night Vale. Our primary narrator and protagonist is Cecil Palmer, the radio host who tells us about the town’s dog park (in which dogs are not allowed), the beautiful lights above Arby’s that only Night Vale’s population can comprehend, and how absolutely perfect Carlos the Scientist and Carlos the Scientist’s hair are. With fifty episodes and counting, Welcome to Night Vale creates a beautifully unsettling world that listeners can enter here.