Do you need something to distract your brain during lockdown? Stuff podcast director Adam Dudding has a few suggestions.
One of the underestimated drawbacks of statewide lockdowns is that there is almost no commuting. No commuting means no crawling on congested freeways, and no clogged freeway crawling means a missed opportunity for longer, guilt-free podcast listening stints.
But that’s fine. We still have lockdown walks. Gardening may occur in the breaks between biblical floods. And you can always put on your headphones while you cook another chore, healthy, homemade dinner and let the sound transport you to a place well beyond your bladder boundary.
What I’m saying is that it is always a good time to listen to podcasts, whether it’s a pandemic or not. With that in mind, here’s a list of some of my favorites. Some are brand new. Some are old classics for late beginners who have some catching up to do. All you need is a smartphone and a pair of headphones, so get started.
* The most popular shows for kiwis in lockdown
* David Farrier’s New Life: An audience of 20 million, Hollywood pals, and an obsession with conspiracy maniacs
* Script Apart: A podcast kicking off Hollywood’s scriptwriting process
Fabric for your ears
A bit of a bias here, but I’m confident the best new podcast that has come out of Aotearoa lately is this: 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 often loudly laughing – fun show about disability.
It is already gaining fans among people with disabilities, not least because almost everyone involved is themselves disabled. But also non-disabled people found it a really powerful and captivating hearing and an insight into a world that they could not have imagined.
We’re in the middle of the weekly rollout of a seven-part season so I suggest you start with a multi-EP binge to catch up and then subscribe to Apple, Spotify, or this page to get the latest episodes as soon as they do land .
Stuff actually has quite a few podcasts – they’re all listed at stuff.co.nz/podcasts.
Given that you just opened this link in a new tab, there is little point in listing them all, but I’ll highlight two newcomers: Once a Panther is an extraordinary six-part story of the activism of the Polynesian Panthers of Aotearoa, told in their own words.
And if you prefer your narrative storytelling in single hits, try our ongoing story showcase The Long Read, which showcases the best of Stuff’s feature writing that has been adapted for audio every week.
Current topics: the etymology of “Aotearoa”, a ski ex-Nazi; Zombie rivers and enemy rabbit breeders.
To let go of my stuff chauvinism for a second, I’ll admit that there are a ton of great things going on on the RNZ podcast page as well.
Some personal favorites: Black Sheep is a reliably disturbing dive into Aotearoa NZ’s worst historical figures, the sexumentary series Bang! by producer Melody Thomas is full of (good) surprises, and The Detail breaks the news every day.
Glued to the phone
Lockdown is all about zoom and texting and, for the elderly and the elderly, good old-fashioned phone calls. This brings us over to this very awkward transition to The Apology Line.
It’s a deeply strange and utterly compelling story about a man who set up an answering machine in 1980s New York and invited people to leave messages apologizing for their actions. It is told by his widow, but I will not reveal more.
Sometimes during a pandemic, you just want to hear the latest anti-anxiety / reliever numbers from the 1pm press conference. But sometimes you want to hear that other people are doing badly.
So try Terrible Thanks for asking. It started with its American host, Nora McInerny, speaking about her own terrible personal tragedies, but it has grown into an amazing collection of stories of grief, loss, suffering and pain that are, oddly enough, quite uplifting.
Murder and Chaos
On the same subject, one of the weird things about people is that we find something strangely cheering (pandemic or no pandemic) when we hear stories of people killing each other.
It says little about the mindset of our species, but podcasters have been using it for years, starting in 2014 when Sarah Koenig of Serial invented the trick of stretching a thread of crime over multiple episodes.
These days, podcast services are drowning in crime stories. Lots of sucks, but there are also lots of good ones.
Since we’re stuck in one country, here are some tips from around the world: West Cork, Ireland; S-City (USA); Teacher’s Pet (Australia); Find Chloe (Canada); Death in the Ice Valley.
When it comes to New Zealand, I’m again mostly into stuff shows: Black Hands, Gone Fishing (co-produced with RNZ) and The District.
Depending on the size of your bubble, you could argue that level 3 and 4 locks are like being stuck on a desert island.
So why not try Desert Island Discs, the BBC radio show that became a global podcast hit, is the gold standard for supposedly smooth but surprisingly in-depth one-on-one audio interviews with famous people.
While we do long interviews with famous people, I also have a soft spot for these three shows, all hosted by neurotic middle-aged whites: The Adam Buxton Podcast, WTF with Marc Maron, and Grounded with Louis Theroux.
Miguelangel Miquelena / UNSPLASH
Need some inspiration for Lockdown Podcasts?
Honestly, there are so many other good shows out there that you’ll run out of scrolling space before I run out of titles, so just a few more: If you like tales of scammers, crooks, crooks, and hackers, try The Lazarus Heist, Chameleon Season 1; Dirty John and Unravel: Snowball (the last Australian show with an interesting connection to New Zealand).
If you want more virus information than Ashley Bloomfield and Co. can deliver at 1:00 p.m., there’s a world of bad news for you to catch up on every day in the BBC’s Coronavirus Global Update.
And if you want to listen to the two American radio shows that have grown into the world’s most iconic podcast brands and still haven’t lost their crowns, you have to try Radiolab and This American Life (as well as Radiolab spin-off Dolly Parton’s) America). Your back catalogs go back decades so we certainly won’t have a lock before you run out of stuff to listen.
Have fun while listening!
(Oh, and in case I missed one of your favorites, please mention it in the comments below so podcast crazies, for whom the above recommendations are all old, can check it out instead …)