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22nd Dec 2018

JOE 50: The Best Podcasts We Listened to in 2018


Good aural.

Great podcasts are like gold dust. You have to shuffle through a lot of shite, but when you find the odd shimmering nugget, you absolutely cherish it. Much like radio, podcasts are both incredibly intimate and conducive to building a loyal community of listeners. If someone you meet loves your favourite show, the likelihood is you’ll get along just fine.

As we come to the arse-end of 2018, we thought we’d share our very favourite listens with you. ‘We’ mean Nooruddean Choudry, Si Clancy and Matt Sayward – because shared responsibility means shared blame. If your favourites don’t make our list, remember it’s all about opinions and we’d love to hear your personal recommendations. These are ours.

(P.S. Click on the titles for a link to each show!)

This American Life

A weekly radio show on NPR and a hugely popular podcast, it’s like little movies for radio. You can constantly dip in and dip out of their incredible content: from 24 hours in an all-night restaurant, to the band they put together from musicians’ classified ads, to a 5-month journey inside one of the toughest high schools in America. This is grown-up and essential listening. SC

West Cork

There’s a macabre fascination with unsolved murders that we should perhaps not be entirely comfortable with, but Audible’s West Cork series is an absolute… corker. It’s part investigative journalism – attempting to piece to together an incomplete jigsaw – and part wormhole dive into the quirks and peculiarities of small town life. NC

Quotas Full

The next time you see an all-white line up for a comedy night and wonder where all the talented comedians of colour are hiding, consider the fact that Quotas Full is packed full of some of most engaging and vital comedic voices of their generation – all colours, all backgrounds, all brilliant. NC

Everything is Alive

An absolutely delightful show that proves just how many ideas are left in podcasting, Everything is Alive is an interview series with inanimate objects. The inner ruminations of a can of cola put me in an existential crisis, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. If you can’t find joy in this, I can’t help you. MS

The Daily

In which Michael Barbaro and the audio production team at the New York Times manage to produce a compelling audio documentary every single weekday – no mean feat. The voices are charming, the stories are phenomenal, and the consistency of the craft is alarming. Probably the NYT’s best current editorial output. MS

Ear Hustle

A beautiful and brutal listen, Ear Hustle is the story of life inside San Quentin State Prison seen through the eyes of two long-time inmates. How do you survive? How do you deal with family, love, gangs, depression, and find meaning in life? It’s all here. SC

All Killa No Filla

Rachel Fairburn and Kiri Pritchard-McLean examine some of the most evil men and women in the (dry) annals of history with wit, wisdom, and a pleasing propensity to go off topic. The pair never mock the victims, nor trivialise their tragedy, but instead aim their lethal quips at the perpetrators, and each other. NC

Today in Focus

The UK’s first proper entry into the daily news podcast market. Anushka Asthana excels as a host, bringing great insight from guests with blockbuster access, while maintaining a healthy emphasis of policy and consequence over politics and power plays. MS


The re-telling of the story of ISIS by the New York Times correspondent Rukmini Callimachi would be fascinating enough with its horror, its pacing and its suspense. But the added intrigue surrounding the role of Abu Huzaifa elevates this even further. SC

Films To Be Buried With

Comedian/writer/actor/handsome man Brett Goldstein adds yet another string to his bow with a podcast that positively revels in the magic of cinema. Acknowledging the fact that the films we love act as signposts to our lives, Goldstein kills off each guest and invites them to discuss their favourite movies in memoriam. NC


If you haven’t heard Season 3 of Serial yet, then forget your preconceptions. This isn’t just one case – it’s a sprawling epic that covers the American judicial system from top-to-bottom. Set in Cleveland – and the product of over a year’s worth of recording – Sarah Koenig and the team shine a light on the law that reveals itself to be at turns dehumanising, bleak and surreal, often all three at once. MS

Fortunately… with Fi and Jane

The winner of the Radio Academy Gold award for best comedy, this is a middle class delight with good guests, great music and better presenters. Glover and Garvey are laugh out funny but there’s an honesty – and a sense of naughtiness – which sets this apart from the rest. SC


I truly believe that everyone has a story. A point proven when an antiquarian horologist contacted the team behind the Serial podcast about a tale of murder in a small town in rural Alabama. An incredibly fragmented and complex look at life beyond the margins. SC

The Blindboy Podcast

Blindboy is one half of Irish rap duo the Rubberbandits. He is also a remarkable fella who could well be the saviour of his generation. A razor sharp mind allied with a thirst for knowledge and a fiery determination to seek justice is a beautiful and dangerous thing. Blindboy’s podcast will open your mind and spit in it. NC


Jonathan Goldstein wants to find the moment it all went wrong for you. And if he can’t fix it, he might just be able to help you come to terms with it. Sometimes he’ll be fixing relationships between brothers who haven’t spoken in 40 years, and other times he’ll be recovering world music CDs from a guy* who took them, sampled them, and made millions from them. MS

*It’s Moby.

Slow Burn

Leon Neyfakh’s incredible narrative history of Watergate in series one and the Clinton Impeachment in series 2 excavated the strange subplots and forgotten characters of Presidential downfall, using archive and long forgotten interviews to find surprising parallels to the present day. SC

The Two Shot Podcast

Actor Craig Parkinson may be more familiar to millions as DI ‘Dot’ Cottan in Line of Duty, but he also happens to be one of the most skilled and natural interviewers around. As the host of TSP, he helps to turn the highs and lows of his guest’s acting careers into universal tales of hope, despair, persistence and vindication. NC

Revisionist History

Malcolm Gladwell tunnels into the human condition. A proven literary storyteller translates to a compelling narrator. MS

WTF with Marc Maron

Recorded in his garage, Maron, a stand-up comedian and actor by trade has turned this 60 minute celebrity interview series into a masterpiece. Guests have included Robin Williams, Ben Stiller, Jennifer Lawrence, Jon Hamm and President Obama. SC

The CalcioLand Podcast

Host David Amoyal and co-host/producer Alex Goldberg have quickly built up a loyal and engaged community of calcio mad listeners with their comprehensive coverage of Serie A football. The conversational tone is unpinned with a deep knowledge and infectious enthusiasm that makes it a great listen even if you’ve only a passing interest in the Italian game. NC

Roderick on the Line

John Roderick’s frank and candid weekly conversation with Merlin Mann is probably the best ‘two dudes talking’ podcast around. Hilarious, vulnerable, and affecting. If you want to know if this is for you, jump into episode 300 (The Airplane Doesn’t Care) from August and listen to the touching conversation about the young lad in Seattle who stole and crashed a passenger aircraft. MS

Atlanta Monster

Between 1979 and 1981, 25 children were murdered by serial killer Wayne Williams. This is the narrative story of those two years and the investigation, as well as an analysis of the underlying racial tensions in the city that arose during that period. SC


Arsecast is the aural arm of Arseblog – the most sensible, rational, incisive and informative voice of Arsenal Football Club fandom… which is a bit like praising Chris Smalling for being Manchester United’s best defender. Nevertheless, Arsecast is consistently excellent and host/founder Andrew Mangan has a dreamy voice. NC

Do By Friday

A weekly challenge podcast with Merlin Mann and Cards Against Humanity’s Max Temkin and Alex Cox. The challenges can be as intense as getting a haircut, inventing a signature sandwich or learning a magic trick, but really, the challenges are just an excuse which facilitates a dependably silly and irreverent conversation. MS

In the Dark

When is a crime story not a crime story? When it’s given the In the Dark treatment. Both series focus on a murder case, but on justice rather than the physical act itself and in doing so, expose the decisions made around human suffering. SC

Wooden Overcoats

This is a sitcom about rival funeral homes on the channel island of Piffling. It’s funny, nuanced and beautifully observed. There’s something old fashioned, even vintage about it. It’s different and daring and lovely. SC

The Anfield Wrap

Don’t listen to this. It’s about Liverpool Football Club and therefore bad. Andy Heaton is probably the best of the bunch, but also bad. NC

Reply All

Gimlet Media call this a show about the internet. Really, it’s a show about humanity that just happens to use technology as the way in. PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman have a charming repartee, and the stories they unearth contain the full spectrum of emotion. A joy to listen to. MS

The Adam Buxton Podcast

The main reason to listen to Adam Buxton’s podcast is Adam Buxton. The calibre of guest is remarkable, with the likes of Simon Pegg, Louis Theroux, Greta Gerwig, Johnny Marr and Marc Maron partaking in the Bowie obsessive’s ramble chats. But Buxton makes it with his warm, surreal and hilarious brand of inventive nonsense. NC

30 For 30

The podcast version of ESPN’s hugely successful sports TV documentary series of the same name, the pods have run across four series with more planned. From a history of the Madden computer game to producer Julia Henderson’s remarkable look at the dark history of Bikram yoga, it’s podcasting for grown-ups. SC

The Teacher’s Pet

A star rugby league player, his wife and the nanny who moves in to the family home a day after the wife goes missing. This fascinating cold-case-true-story-with-a-twist from The Australian newspaper is being turned into a television drama. SC

Switched On Pop

What makes a number one song? Songwriter Charlie Harding and musicology professor Nate Sloan have the answers, breaking tunes down to their bare bones, revealing the etymology of the sound, unearthing surprising connections, and showing just what makes a hit record a hit record. MS

About 30 Minutes No More Than 45

Justin Moorhouse’s podcast isn’t always the most pristine listen – much of it is recorded on location – and the format is loose to say the least, but that’s part of its charm. The natural and heartfelt tone makes it seem like you’re catching up with an old pal, whilst cameos from ‘Little Miss Moorhouse’ allow for a very funny and sweet father-daughter dynamic. NC

The Second Captains Podcast

There are so many football podcasts out there that they can sometimes start to merge into one. Same tone, same format, same topics – sometimes even the same guests. Award-winning Irish podcast SC is different in pretty much every way, from sound, production, content and style. Most of all, they know their shit and that’s always a plus. NC


Sound is beautiful. But what about the sounds you can’t hear? The ones that happen between midnight and 6am? Nocture is essay radio that delves into the pulse of the world after the witching hour. SC

Making Obama

This series from WBEZ in Chicago – home of Serial – reacquaints us with the Barack Obama we knew before he became mythologised – and helps us to see what lessons we can draw from the making of political leaders. SC

Three Track Podcast

Gabriel Ebulue’s Three Track Podcast is a gem of a listen. There’s something beautiful and irresistible about obsessives (of anything) nerding out over their chosen subject. On 3TP, Ebulue invites guests to wax lyrical about the songs and sounds that endure as their absolute favs. Plus there’s always brilliant suggestions in the intros too. NC

Today, Explained

2018 feels like it has been the year of the daily news show. And so here’s the third one on my list. It’s Vox encapsulated in a show: Explaining what you need to know today, in exactly as long as it should take and no more.  MS

Guardian Football Weekly

There has been a mini explosion of new football podcasts in the last 18 months or so, but the Guardian’s Football Weekly continues to be one of the best – mainly due to a healthy dose of irreverence cutting through the football chat. The affectionately caustic chemistry between Max Rushden, Barry Glendenning and co is a weekly treat. NC

The Empire Film Podcast

Whether it’s spoiler specials, long-form interviews, ranking episodes, or devoting FORTY-FIVE MINUTES to dissecting and deciphering every last detail of a TEASER TRAILER, the brilliant witty Chris Hewitt and Helen O’Hara have built a one-stop shop for cinephiles. It’s especially great that they find as much joy in quality blockbusters as more ‘worthy’ fare. NC

Rant Cast

Paul Ansorge and Ed Barker are childhood friends with a shared love for Manchester United. One day, around 15 years ago, they decided to record one of the many exhaustive discussions they’d have about their mutual obsession. Thus was born Rant Cast, a wonderfully pure pod by two pals who love each other enough to disagree a lot. NC

Lovett or Leave It

Former Obama speechwriter and current Pod Save America co-host Jon Lovett’s political gameshow. Lightning-fast and incredibly funny, it’s a lighthearted way to catch up on the American news cycle, while also taking the piss out of its total absurdity. MS

Athletico Mince

It’s Bob Mortimer. No more words are necessary. SC

Radio Atlas

Ever fancied opening a door into another world? Radio Atlas does that for you: a place to hear inventive documentaries, dramas and works of sound art that have been made in languages that you don’t necessarily speak. SC


Business shows aren’t really for me – and most technology shows aren’t, either. But this podcast which sits at the intersection of the two topics is regularly the smartest and most incisive thing I’ll listen to that week. Eye-opening analysis of companies fighting against their own unprecedented scale (Apple), trying to build the future in a time where legislation doesn’t work for them yet (Uber), or simply revealing themselves to be openly and rottenly malignant (Facebook). MS

The Watch

The Ringer’s Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald have long been some of the consistently insightful pop culture writers around, and putting these two funny, smart and insightful friends in one room means that you won’t hear better conversations on the state of television and cinema anywhere else. MS

Rule of Three

For any fan of funny things, Rule of Three is a must. Comedy writers Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris invite some of the most talented and revered comic minds around to talk about a particular act, movie, standup or telly show that entertained and inspired them enough to give it a go themselves. The part-interview, part-eulogy format is perfect. NC

How Did This Get Made?

Films are great. Well, most of them are. The rubbish ones are discussed on this very funny podcast. SC

The Totally Football Show

The ever-affable James Richardson and his wry, knowing well-informed panel continue to provide the best puns and the quickest wit in football conversation. MS

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness

Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness conversational show reveals him to be one of the best interviewers. From ethics, to linguistics, to the opioid crisis, to the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims, there are no questions Jonathan is afraid of. No intellectual gymnastics, just a remarkably generous, fun and disarming man being himself and getting the best from whoever is in the room with him. MS

Want more to listen to? Try one of JOE’s podcasts…


Unforgettable interviews with incredible people. Raw and candid conversations with  Gary Lineker, Eric Cantona, Lily Allen, Russell Brand, Jon Ronson, Caitlin Moran, Mark Hamill, Akala and many more. Listen here ▶︎ 

Boys Don’t Cry 

Russell Kane gets to the heart of the things that men spends their lives not talking about. Listen here ▶︎ 

House of Rugby

James Haskell, Mike Tindall and Alex Payne break down the week in rugby union while sharing unheard stories from behind the scenes in the England camp, at the World Cup and beyond. Listen here ▶︎