The best three podcasts you’ll ever hear

It’s a bit like a story tape – lulling, engaging – but you can listen on your phone, making podcasts the ideal early morning companion. Robert Knight talks us through his top three…

(This was originally published in January 2016) 

The baby is grouchy – probably colic they say – but even Google can’t give me a definitive answer as to what that is or how to treat it. He won’t sleep through the night or nap by himself during the day but he will sleep on me. I can’t watch telly or read comfortably; all I have is my phone to keep me company. Thankfully there are endless hours of podcasts available to keep me entertained.

Podcasts saved me as a fledgling father, a comforting conversation at 5am when I couldn’t get back to sleep after the first feed of the morning. With a zombie-like walk I’d push the baby to sleep in the buggy – relishing the comedy pick-me-up playing through my headphones, when all my other senses were numbed. It’s like another human being is present; you’re a non-participating member of a conversation. It kept me sane.

Here are my top three podcasts.

The granddaddy of the podcast world and the first podcast to hit 1 million downloads. Now into its second series, Serial takes a story and researches it week by week, reporting all the details in real time. In season 1, host Sarah Koenig and her team uncover the story of Adnan Syed who has been in prison for the murder of his ex-girlfriend since 2000, when the pair were seniors together at Woodlawn high school, Baltimore.

A twisted tale of teenage love, adolescent drug-taking and lost memories; Serial plays out like a narrative drama constantly challenging the listener’s perception of the facts. From Muslim profiling to false confessions, the Serial investigators offer up opposing scenarios and theories in this whodunit. Each week the case moves forward – new leads are found and old witnesses come forward – and binge-listening is unavoidable.

If, like many, you’re found wanting more following the end of the series, fear not, reporting of the case was continued by the Undisclosed Podcast who push forward into the deep legal issues and uncover potential police misconduct.

Listen to Serial

Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (RHLSTP)
This is a long running interview-based podcast recorded in front of a live audience. From unknown acts to the A-listers, during these long form chats Herring’s puerile questioning and charming humour often gets guests to open up more than they would like.

Witty and unashamedly offensive, Herring regularly plays the villain as he jokingly insults his guests in front of an audience who may not be familiar with the host’s usual approach. Although, questioning Louis Theroux about his time spent with Jimmy Saville, prodding Stephen Merchant about his part in the Barclay’s advert and calling out Steve Coogan on his theft of the Alan Partridge character certainly get them back onside and make for a hilarious, if not slightly awkward, interviewing technique.

Unlike the plethora of other interview podcasts it doesn’t matter if you’re not a fan of the guest or have never heard of them, this is Herring’s show where call backs and in-jokes run throughout all the episodes.

Basically, do you want to know if Stephen Fry has tried to suck his own penis? You’ll find out here.

Listen to RHLSTP

Mysterious Universe
And now for something a bit different…

Mysterious Universe was a fledgling podcast in the infancy of the medium. Hosted by two Australians, Ben and Aaron, they take a whimsical, sceptical and often scornful look into the world of weird news stories and paranormal experiences.

With expert guests and interviews the podcast moves through many eclectic topics; UFOs, consciousness, ghosts and psychic government spy units are just a few recurring topics that are delightful to get lost in. The hosts are able to analytically discuss each topic and are always open and willing to accept most things without dismissing them as hokum, but there are laughs a plenty as they tear shreds into the worst contrived stories and money-making schemes.

Putting out a regular free show on Fridays, they also have a subscription service where members get an extra extension on Fridays and a whole new show every Wednesday. Plus extensions, as they are called, usually get the more risqué material and beautifully spoken stories. In all, these guys put out about 3-4 hours of podcasts a week, perfect for new parents who want to take a step into the unknown.

Listen to Mysterious Universe

Do you listen to podcasts? What are your top three?