October 22, 2021

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Plug in: 34 top podcasts to listen to right now

If you are new to the world of podcasts, or an old hat, welcome to your ultimate guide of the best and the brightest.

Just like a curated radio show, podcasts bring stories, investigations, conversations and interesting information right to you, in an intimate, immediate way. Whether you want to listen to shows about celebrities, sport, the news, history, crime (oh, there’s a lot of crime) or cooking, there is something for everyone in this audible world. Some episodes are as long as a film, and stand on their own, while others are part of a series, or just 15 minutes long.

So, if you feel like you’ve clocked Netflix, Neon, Disney+ and all the other streaming services, here are some gems for your ears, rather than your eyes.

Jeremy Corbett is a fan of science podcasts.

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Jeremy Corbett is a fan of science podcasts.

5 Live Science

I walk to work, it’s about 20 minutes each way. At the moment I choose to walk sans earpods and just enjoy the noises of the city, but when I do listen, nerd alert, I normally go to 5 Live Science from BBC Radio. Great weekly catch up on, you guessed it, science. I enjoyed 13 Minutes to the Moon which is about the Apollo 11 mission and the second, dare I say better, series is about Apollo 13, the incredible story of trying to save a severely damaged spacecraft and get it safely home. Spoiler alert: they make it! After listening to that I had to re-watch the 1995 movie. – Jeremy Corbett, 7 Days, The Project

My Favorite Murder

An oldie but a goodie. Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark have been sharing their favourite murders with us since 2016. Each episode Kilgariff and Hardstark each present a murder and the details and mystery surrounding it – there’s plenty of well-known ones such as the Cecil Hotel (which recently had a Netflix documentary released about it) and the Black Dahlia murder – but there are also plenty of unknown hometown murders, sometimes with a personal aspect thrown in there. Minisodes are additional to the podcast and dive into fan submitted hometown murders. If you’ve got a penchant(?) for the macabre this is definitely for you! – Katie Shepherd, Your Weekend print producer

READ MORE:
* Script Apart: A podcast that lifts the lid on Hollywood’s screenwriting process
* Growing Old Disgracefully: Miriam Margolyes proves to be the perfect podcast host
* Michael Caine’s Heist podcast will blow your bloody socks off
* Crime Junkie, Obsessed with Disappeared: No mystery why these podcasts are a hit
* Book yourself some time in with these literary podcasts

I’m Not A Monster

This terrifically produced podcast centres around an American mother who finds herself living in the centre of Isis’s former self-declared Caliphate, Raqqa in Syria. It’s messy, complicated and tense, but I found it captivating. – Nyree McFarlane, Your Weekend editor

When he’s not competing on Celebrity Treasure Island, Art Green is learning about health and wellness.

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When he’s not competing on Celebrity Treasure Island, Art Green is learning about health and wellness.

The Doctor’s Farmacy

My favourite podcast is The Doctor’s Farmacy with Mark Hyman M.D. This podcast has hundreds of fascinating chats about a wide variety of holistic health, nutrition, exercise and wellness topics. It’s intelligent scientific information in an easy-to-understand format. – Art Green, Celebrity Treasure Island contestant

Fresh Air

If you like clever conversations with interesting people, then brace yourself. Daily magazine-style radio show-come-podcast Fresh Air has been running since 1975 (yes, really), and much of it is archived for us to listen to. Host Terry Gross has been at the helm since pretty much day one, and it’s not hard to see why she is considered one of the best in the biz. With a warm, but oh-so-smart interview style, and never being afraid to ask the tough – or most basic – questions, Gross gets the very best out of her guests, who range from popstars and A-list actors, to politicians, academics and athletes. – Bridget Jones, Your Weekend assistant editor

Radio and TV host Carly Flynn is new to podcast – but has found her favourites.

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Radio and TV host Carly Flynn is new to podcast – but has found her favourites.

Smartless

I’m relatively new to podcasting, but now that I’ve started I can’t stop! I tend to go more towards the lighter ones as my day to day is consumed with hard news, so it’s a bit of a balance to that. Smartless is an absolute ripper. It’s hosted by three famous mates; Jason Bateman (among other things.. Ozark), Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) & Will Arnett (Arrested Development) have a long term friendship having worked and laughed together for years. Each week one of them surprises the other two with somebody (usually) super famous and typically, as the name suggests, “smarter” than the hosts. It sparks the most hilarious unprompted banter, and genuine authentic conversation. Think George Clooney, Sean Penn, Le Bron James, Tina Fey, Louis Theroux. No episode is a dud and has me grinning from ear to ear as I pound around the neighbourhood. – Carly Flynn, host of Weekend Life on Magic Talk, and Newshub Late on Three

Watch What Crappens

OK, I’m outing myself as very basic here, but a fact’s a fact. This podcast is basically two lovely, hilarious men reenacting scene-by-scene every episode from the Real Housewives franchise. I love them, they’re like my friends, they make me laugh. It’s a nice recommendation, but if you like Housewives, you’ll love it. – NM

Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard

Another widely-known, but goodie to add to your listening list. Actors Dax Shepard and Monica Padman interview anyone and everyone from Jane Goodall to Michael Pollan and even Shepard’s wife Kristen Bell makes an appearance or two. Shepard asks really great questions to get thought-provoking informative answers from his guests, and Padman always “fact checks” him. New Zealand’s own David Farrier even appears in the Armchaired & Dangerous series of the podcast, where Farrier shares a new conspiracy theory with Padman and Shepard each month. His recent QAnon episode is a great listen about a conspiracy group that is frighteningly gaining a lot more traction lately. New episodes weekly, only on Spotify.KS

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What’s Wrong With You? is a Stuff podcast about disability and navigating a world that’s not designed for you, hosted by Olivia Shivas and Rebecca Dubber.

What’s Wrong With You?

Smidge of bias here, but I’m confident that the best new podcast to come out of Aotearoa recently is this one: What’s Wrong with You. It was made for, ahem, Stuff, by a team led by digital producer Olivia Shivas, and it’s a moving, surprising, informative, shocking – and frequently laugh-out-loud funny – show about disability. It’s already winning fans amongst people with disabilities, not least because just about everyone involved in making it are themselves disabled. But non-disabled people have also found it a really powerful and engaging listen, and an insight into a world they couldn’t have imagined. We’re halfway through the weekly rollout of a seven-episode season, so I suggest you start with a multi-ep binge to catch up, then go subscribe to get the latest episodes as they land. – Adam Dudding, Stuff’s podcast director

Freakonomics

Billed as telling you all the things you always thought you knew (but didn’t) and things you never thought you wanted to know (but do) – this podcast truly delivers. Host and co-author of the book of the same name, Stephen J Dubner, dives into anything and everything with various guests. I frequently get sent episode recommendations with an “I am shook” message accompanying them from my sister, and honestly, she’s right. Anything from the intriguing How Much Does Your Name Matter to How to Change Your Mind. This podcast explores the hidden side of everyday and not so everyday things. There’s even the odd one that seems rather covid appropriate – Reason to Be Cheerful has recently been rebroadcast – and I’m sure we could all use the odd bit of cheer in our lives presently. – KS

Off Menu with Ed Gamble and James Acaster

Two British comedians, one guest, and a day of eating whatever the hell you want. Gamble and Acaster (familiar faces to anyone who watches a bit of UK comedy panel show telly) are good mates, even if the banter doesn’t suggest that sometimes. In this series of funny conversations, they welcome friends into their magic restaurant, for a day of dream eating. Be warned: listening to the likes of Martin Freeman, Sue Perkins, and Rose McGowan talk food can make for hungry listening. – BJ

Matty McLean’s podcast pick sounds dirty – but it’s also hilarious.

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Matty McLean’s podcast pick sounds dirty – but it’s also hilarious.

My Dad Wrote A Porno

I remember being on the London Underground a few years back and this woman sitting next to me was crying with laughter. She must’ve sensed my nosy curiosity, because she took her headphones out and said “I’m sorry – it’s just this podcast! It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever listened to”. That podcast was My Dad Wrote A Porno. It’s an apt title – Jamie Morton literally discovered his retired Dad had started writing erotic fiction as a hobby. He and his two best friends – James and Alice – read it together, thought it was the most ridiculous thing they’d ever laid eyes on, and decided to turn that idea into a podcast. Each episode of the podcast is the three friends sitting round a table while Jamie reads the book aloud. James and Alice, both incredibly witty, provide the hilarious commentary. There’s now six books detailing the sordid life of pots and pans saleswoman (yes, you read that right) Belinda Blumenthal. Listening to this podcast is pure joyful escapism. I introduced it to my partner Ryan recently, who took to listening to it in bed while I was going to sleep ahead of my early morning Breakfast shift, but it became too distracting because the bed kept shaking from him hysterically laughing so much. – Matty McLean, Breakfast weather presenter

No Such Thing As A Fish

From the researchers behind BBC’s QI, this weekly podcast offers fun facts the hosts have discovered over the last week. The episodes dive straight into the facts and the other hosts will add in information surrounding the fact that they know as well. It’s a great, easy listen to learn some very strange, yet interesting snippets of information. For example, I never thought I’d be interested in learning about competitive ploughing, but now I know that champion ploughers in the 19th Century were traded the way Champion League footballers are traded today. This is a great light-hearted listen that will teach you while you’re chuckling, and who knows, maybe one of these facts will come in handy at the next pub quiz. – KS

Wellness expert Rachel Grunwell learns something every epsiode of The School of Greatness.

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Wellness expert Rachel Grunwell learns something every epsiode of The School of Greatness.

The School of Greatness

Each week, Lewis Howes, a former pro-athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur, interviews an inspiring person to help listeners “unlock their inner greatness”. I dig the range of experts on this podcast including behavioural scientists, neurologists, authors and coaches who steer elite athletes etc. Some interviewees are famous, but many are inspirational who are brilliant in their field and have incredible knowledge or message to share. I work in the wellness field and interview global experts myself, but I always learn something new every episode – like that I never sleep well the first night in a hotel because we are in that flight-or-fight mode in new surroundings. – Rachel Grunwell, wellness expert and author

Let’s Talk About Sects

If you’re like me and have a fascination with religion and cults then this is the podcast for you. Host Sarah Steel takes a deep dive into a different cult each episode – she details the history of the leader, the recruitment process and experiences of members and more. This is a very well researched podcast, and if you want a link to home, earlier this year released two episodes on the Exclusive Brethren in Auckland. Steel also recently released not one, but two episodes on Gloriavale. I’m yet to listen to these, but I’m very intrigued to learn more about the infamous West Coast Christian community. – KS

Sculptor James Wright has a top pick for creatives.

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Sculptor James Wright has a top pick for creatives.

Curiously Creative

Episodes that stand out to me include one where New Zealand pharmaceutical scientist, inventor, and social entrepreneur Sir Ray Avery highlights doing what you love, loving what you do, having dreams and being fearless. Amongst many things, he discusses his own journey, the power of knowledge, the freedom of planning, how genius is in everyone and how dreams create magic. And multi-disciplined street artist and entrepreneur Flox, aka Hayley King, talks about the importance of balance, that it’s ok to not be a perfectionist, and to embrace your own style. She is so real and inspiring. – James Wright, New Zealand Aotearoa sculptor

Better with Dr Stephanie

Dr Stephanie Estima interviews a range of experts about women’s health, from menopause to fascia and cortisol to fasting. Not every episode is for me, but the ones that are, and that I really listen to, feel empowering. – NM

UnF… Your Brain

Labelled as a “podcast for high-achieving feminist women who struggle with anxiety, self-doubt, and imposter syndrome”, it’s not for everyone, but will appeal to most millennials. Host, and master certified confidence coach, Kara Loewentheil explores nagging concepts and triggers and how to overcome them and, to add a level of cheese, be your best self. Loewentheil really is here to help with episodes covering anything from shattering glass ceilings to simply just saying no. There’s plenty of topics to choose from so even if you just find one thing bothering you and give that episode a listen I’m sure you’ll come away with some valuable tips to help you in life. – KS

Scrubs fans will enjoy Jason Tiako’s favourite podcast.

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Scrubs fans will enjoy Jason Tiako’s favourite podcast.

Fake Doctors, Real Friends with Zach and Donald

My favourite podcast is Fake Doctors Real Friends with Zach Braff and Donald Faison. They were the lead actors on Scrubs which ran from 2001 to 2010, and are best friends in real life. I loved this very silly show, and on the podcast, they relive the show, one episode at a time. They will often have another actor from the show on too, but it’s their banter and the tangents they go on that make it so great. If you were a fan of that show, you’ll love this. Then you’ll want to re-watch the episode! – Jason Tikao, Coast radio host

This Podcast Will Kill You

As graduate students studying disease ecology, Erin Welsh and Erin Allmann Updyke decided to share their love and knowledge of epidemics and weird medical mysteries with anyone who wanted to listen. Each episode covers basic definitions, biology of the pathogen, some history and the current status of a disease all while they drink “quarantinis” – I don’t think they could ever grasp how well that would age for those of us just starting to listen now when they started in 2017. Notably, the first episode covers “America’s greatest pandemic”: influenza. The two Erin’s cover pretty much every disease, virus and gross thing you can think of from lactose intolerance to toxoplasmosis and there’s definitely plenty of episodes on Covid-19 thrown in for good measure.They even provide all their sources on their website for those who want to find out more. – KS

The Dropout

Now a couple of years old, this investigation into Elizabeth Holmes and her medical tech start up, Theranos, is still a fascinating listen, especially as the story is heading to the courts as we speak. She was a teen tech superstar, spouting claims she was revolutionising the medical industry, and winning fans and supporters from the biggest, most wealthy corners of the world. Instead, this multi-year investigation shows it was a bogus story of ego and ambition and things going very, very wrong for the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. – BJ

Radio host Graeme Hill suggests avoiding the Monday Morning Podcast if you are sensitive to bad language.

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Radio host Graeme Hill suggests avoiding the Monday Morning Podcast if you are sensitive to bad language.

Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast

Almost always, this is just Bill ranting, unscripted, about life. His trick of conjuring vivid images to illustrate points is unparalleled. Don’t listen if you’re sensitive to bad language, but you’d be missing out on some sublime observations on the tensions between the sexes and everyday annoyances elegantly described. Recently I had a dentist appointment, and he asked me if there was anything I’d like to listen to during procedures. I said, “Yeah, Bill Burr’s latest podcast. I haven’t heard it yet” and added that it was likely to be very free with its language. OK? Sure!.. he assured me. Ohmigawd. It was the debut of Bill Burr’s “Apple Store Rant” which is now infamous. The dental assistant was wincing, but the dentist was in fits and instantly subscribed. – Graeme Hill, host of the night show on Magic Talk

She’s On The Money

Money is a hugely important part of our life, yet financial literacy is low in New Zealand. Host Victoria Devine is an award-winning financial adviser, when you visit her website you are greeted with: “The one stop destination for millennials who want financial freedom (without skimping on brunch)”. Devine aims to present finance in a fun, easy to understand and relatable way, this podcast is also about taking the fear out of finance. Plenty of advice is offered from Instagram paying the bills and tax to why investing is no longer a man’s game. As someone who has worked on a financial magazine and has a passion for getting people interested in and educated about finances, and as a recent first-time investor, I found the two Rookie’s Guide to Investing episodes very enjoyable and helpful. The information is broken down into very easy to understand, almost FAQ-style tidbits. – KS

Invisibilia

Storytelling and science intertwine in this one: go back six years for season one, episode 3 for one of my favourite podcast episodes of all time: ‘How to Become Batman’, which explores the effect the expectations of others can have on us. – NM

Once a Panther

Another one from the team here at Stuff is this series about a home-grown activist movement that helped give rise to a revolution. Once a Panther talks to a host of key players involved in the Polynesian Panthers, and digs deep into what happened in the 70s that led to the Dawn Raids, Bastion Point and race relations today. It’s sometimes confronting, but always insightful. – BJ

The Guilty Feminist

A definite lockdown listen – this comedy podcast will inject some humour into the seemingly endless days. Host, comedian, author and screenwriter Deborah Frances-White presents feminist topics whilst also having confessions of “buts” to go with the discussion. There are confessions such as: “I’m a feminist, but I’m wildly inconsistent about my age.” or “I’m a feminist, but I recently realised that my own dreams have the same men to women ratio as most British panel shows.” The confessions are great laughs and make you think, yes, perhaps I feel that way too sometimes. But there are also great discussions about issues women face in society. – KS

Even The Rich

Two American journalists basically dissect the lives of dynasty families and famous celebrities, season by season, in this fun listen. I normally end a season glad that I’m not terribly famous or wealthy and just wishing some good hugs and unconditional love on these billionaires (a dose of perspective). The Murdochs season (season 2) and the Getty deep dive (season 4) are probably my favourites. – NM

WTF with Marc Maron

Another interview-styled podcast, but this one’s a bit different. Hosted by comedian Maron, the episodes run long (up to two hours, sometimes) and are a near-unedited account of his conversations with friends, fellow stars, presidents (he interviewed Obama) and everyone in between. Maron is a self-proclaimed grumpy old man, and his style is raw, no BS, no apologies, no wasting time with small talk. The results range from the utterly bizarre, to incredibly emotional. It’s not out of line to say this podcast changed the way people think about interviewing. – BJ

Revisionist History

Malcolm Gladwell unpicks our presumptions in this podcast, which is now in its sixth season. From underhanded free throws in basketball to the actual future of the automobile, I always finish these with my mind a little expanded, my opinions shifted, and I like that. – NM

Newshub’s Ingrid Hipkiss (pictured with Michael Morrah) has more than 400 podcasts she still needs to listen to.

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Newshub’s Ingrid Hipkiss (pictured with Michael Morrah) has more than 400 podcasts she still needs to listen to.

The Long Read

The best of Stuff’s longform writing in audio form, week-in, week-out? Subscribing to this gem is a great way to consume wonderful journalism from Aotearoa while doing your vacuuming – win, win. – NM

Song Exploder

Music lovers and music nerds alike will find something in this podcast which, yes, turned into a Netflix spin-off series. Host Hrishikesh Hirway cleverly dissects pop songs, with the help of the artists who made them. Each episode, he removes himself from the conversation, leaving fans with an intimate moment with the musicians themselves, as they explain the story of how their songs were made. Episodes range from Deftones to Billie Eilish, through to Common and Fleetwood Mac. Our own Lorde, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Kimbra have also featured. – BJ

The Apology Line

Lockdown is all about Zoom and texting and, for the elderly and elderly-adjacent, good old-fashioned telephone calls. This brings us, via this very clumsy segue, to The Apology Line. It’s a deeply strange and utterly compelling story about a guy who set up an answerphone in 1980s New York, and invited people to leave messages apologising for things they’d done. It’s narrated by his widow, but I won’t give away anything more than that. – AD

We Can Do Hard Things

I’m a teensy bit evangelical when it comes to podcasts. I subscribe to so many I just checked my phone and there are 428 I need to listen to (pro-tip listen to them at 1 1/2 speed) The latest addition: We Can Do Hard Things by Glennon Doyle. She’s a newcomer to the format, but you or a woman in your life has probably read her latest book Untamed, and the podcast is a natural follow from that, covering lots of “hard things” like parenting, politics, feminism and mental health. – Ingrid Hipkiss, Newshub weather presenter

This American Life

If you ask long-time podcast fans, this is the granddaddy of the format. Hosted by Ira Glass, the long-running weekly radio show is a masterclass in storytelling. Each episode is built around a theme, and delivers surprising, funny, and at times, just plain weird, true stories. There are more than 700 episodes available to listen to, so Glass has kindly pulled together a list of his favourites for newbies over on thisamericanlife.org. – BJ