Best Podcasts of 2019

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I continued my regimen of podcast listening as usual in 2019, so here’s a quick rundown of the audio shows that were tickling my ears and my brain the best the past year.

1. Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend
2. Black Check with Griffin and David
3. How Did This Get Made?
4. Harmontown
5. Judge John Hodgman
6. The Ron Burgundy Podcast
7. Pop Mom
8. Pop Culture Happy Hour
9. Unspooled
10. Good One: A Podcast About Jokes

Honorable Mentions
R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: ME (Always a transcendent pleasure, but only released four new episodes in 2019.)
Comedy Bang! Bang! (Released plenty of episodes, but I only listened to a few of them.)

Best Podcasts of 2018

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This post was originally published on News Cult in December 2018.

Any Best Podcast list curated by one person must include the caveat that only a portion of all the podcasts out there have been listened to by the listmaker. My podcast diet mainly consists of comedy and pop culture, so consider this a list of the best comedy and pop culture podcasts of 2018. (Also, as it turns out, you can [mostly] consider this a list of the best of one particular podcast network.) My choices are not in any particular order, except for my overall #1 selection.

Overall Best: R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: ME? – Four years after comprehensively covering the lovable lads from Liverpool, Adam Scott Aukerman were back to talk about R.E.M. and nothing else in 2018. It truly was The Year of R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: Me?, and we were all just living in it.

Best Episode: “Staind Glass 2” – Todd Glass, the man who has very strong opinions on music but the most chaotic knowledge about the subject, returned for Scott and Scott to see if he knows anything about R.E.M. He also regaled the boys with a story about a wedding he surreptitiously, hilariously attended, and thus a proud podcasting tradition continued.

Blank Check with Griffin & David – Griffin Newman and David Sims’ competitive advantage of being the only two friends to host a podcast together continued delightfully along in 2018, as they examined on the films of even more directors who have been given “blank checks” to pursue their passion projects. In 2018, the lineup consisted of Paul Verhoeven, James L. Brooks, Brad Bird, Ang Lee, Nancy Meyers, and Tim Burton.

Best Episode: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – This episode is perhaps best remembered by Blankies for the envelope gag, but the entire episode is a winner. Frequent guest JD Amato is the perfect addition to examine this confoundingly ambitious entry in Ang Lee’s filmography, as he makes the case that even if this is not a great movie, everyone who considers themselves a film buff should watch it to see what it is all about.

Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend – Conan O’Brien takes his deconstructionist approach to the podcast medium, as he wonders if the friendships that have eluded him when interviewing people on his talk show can be forged when they occur on this more longform setup.

Best Episode: Bill Burr – Burr gets personal enough to help Conan along on this journey, but the real reason this episode taking the top spot is the part at the end when Conan lists a bunch of fake (unfortunately so) Pokémon.

How Did This Get Made? – This podcast stalwart had no shortage of awful and bizarre so-called movies to add to its crosshairs in 2018, and I came to appreciate it even more for how it’s just some friends hanging out and having the  best time ever.

Best Episode: 200th Mini Retrospective Clip Show Spectacular – The meat of this episode was clips of previous episodes, which doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider that some of the best moments of HDTGM? are people just riotously cracking up, you realize the value of just looking back and taking in the memories.

UnspooledHDTGM?‘s Paul Scheer actually got around to watching and discussing some good movies as he teamed up with critic Amy Nicholson to dive deep into the American Film Institute’s ranking of the 100 greatest American films of all time. Two film nerds digging into movie history and showing off their enthusiasm for canonization (or questioning canonization) is always a good formula.

Best Episode: Duck Soup – Paul and Amy are joined by Marx Brothers super-fan Conan O’Brien, who has some legit comedy nerd theories regarding what Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo are all about.