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For many, wading through the crowded sea of podcasts can be a tiring exercise. Either, you have no idea where to begin because you’ve never listened to one, or you’re a serial listener (that’s a pod pun, FYI) and need those top-notch recommendations from fellow podcast enthusiasts. So much about podcast selection is personal—as you are, after all, choosing to kick back with someone speaking directly into your ears—but it’s always helpful to receive recommendations on where to get started or how to switch things up.
This is why we’ve enlisted the help of our resident pod squad—the three guys behind the Mike On Much podcast—to help highlight the best of the lot, and break down why they rule. Mike Veerman, the host who puts the Mike in Mike on Much, pop culture aficionado Shane Cunningham and producer/Arkells frontman Max Kerman are experts in the field of leisure listening, and have agreed on five 2016 podcast highlights worth checking out.
Podcast Name: Revisionist History
What It’s All About: Writer Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point, Outliers) hosts a 10-episode series where he re-examines past events with his unique blend of fascinating concepts and modern insight.
Favourite Episode: “The Satire Paradox.” It’s a very cool episode where Malcolm explores the idea of how effectively satire really hits its intended target, by re-examining The Colbert Report and Tina Fey as Sarah Palin.
Good For: In general, this podcast is good for: A unique and totally engaging history lesson with an unexplored point of view. This episode in particular is good for: Thinking about how comedy/satire is perceived. The creator’s intentions versus how their work is interpreted. The idea that one group of people can find character traits worthy of mockery and another group would find those same traits worthy of pride—with both groups enjoying the satire equally.
Podcast Name: Song Exploder
What It’s All About: Each episode, an artist breaks down how they wrote one song. Everyone from Carly Rae Jepsen to Rivers Cuomo to Wilco. The artists often reveal their “songwriting secrets” and what inspired very specific moments of their songs.
Favourite Episode: The episode with indie rock band Spoon was amazing. The drummer Jim Eno revealed that, with their song “Inside Out,” they were trying to create a vibe akin to “Still Dre” by Dr. Dre. I will never listen to that song the same way again.
Good For: Getting inspired about creating music and writing lyrics.
Podcast Name: Bret Easton Ellis Podcast
What It’s All About: Bret Easton Ellis is the controversial writer most known for his ultra violent novel, American Psycho. Bret’s film-centric podcast features long-form interviews with an impressive roster of top celebrities (both past and present). But whether you are Molly Ringwald or Kanye, Bret does not tolerate “snowflakes” (a term he uses to describe people who are excessively concerned with political correctness) and he is quick to call out a guest for being guarded with their opinions. Pro-tip: Do not skip Bret’s opening monologue.
Favourite Episode: Originally I was going to say the Mark Duplass episode because it was so darn inspiring, but I’ve changed my answer to the Judd Nelson interview. In an unprecedented move, Bret actually disparages Judd in the opening monologue for his lack of openness—almost as if he is daring listeners NOT to listen to the interview (but of course, it just sucks you in more).
Good For: People who live and breathe film.
Podcast Name: Axe Files with David Axelrod
What It’s All About: David Axelrod is a former advisor to Obama, and has worked in politics for 40 years. On his podcast he does hour long interviews with members of the political community – everyone from Tom Brokaw, to Lin-Manuel Miranda to Karl Rove. Even though he’s a democrat, he often interviews conservatives. The interviews are really thoughtful and and engaging.
Favourite Episode: He recently had CNN pundit Van Jones on the show the day after Trump won the election. In a dark hour, both were able to find light.
Good For: Getting fired up about US politics.