Whether you’re a podcast addict or someone who’s just getting started, it can be daunting looking at all the choices. As the landscape gets bigger and better, here are a few newer podcasts that should satisfy a variety of tastes—politics, true crime, comedy, social media, presidents with rock stars, interviews and more. 2021 is already shaping up to be an excellent year for podcasts.
1. How It Happened: Trump’s Last StandJonathan Swan from Axios takes us behind the scenes after the 2020 election. From meetings at the White House to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, hear incredible details of what really went on. You’ll learn what they were eating on Air Force One (Lindsay Graham’s special request of strawberries and cream) to what was said during shouting matches in the Oval Office. Most of Swan’s sources won’t be named or go on tape but his deep background in reporting makes him a reliable and entertaining narrator. You’ll be riveted in every episode.
2. Apology LineIn the 1980s, artist Allan Bridge posted flyers around New York City asking people to confess their worst sins on an anonymous phone line. Calls flooded in. People were intrigued and wanted to talk. While some of the messages are playful and funny, others are downright horrific. Bridge’s wife Marissa shares how it consumed their lives for several years and what it did to their relationship. The messages are compelling, and Allan’s obsession with the callers takes the project to a deeply personal level which leads to unexpected twists and turns.
3. SwayKara Swisher is the tech reporter for The New York Times and interviews newsmakers, tech giants, the famous and the infamous. Swisher’s style is in your face but she’s well researched and always prepared. Marc Cuban, Bill Gates, Sasha Baron Cohen and Stacey Abrams have all been recent guests. Some of the most riveting conversations are with the CEO’s of Parler, Dominion Voting, Go Fund Me and Substack. Since tech is her expertise, she’ll push back when they don’t want to answer the tough questions. Sometimes it can get a little uncomfortable, but that’s what makes it great.
4. Hunting Ghislaine/Power The Maxwells/Broken Seeking JusticeAll three podcasts go in depth about the Jeffrey Epstein scandal. Journalist John Sweeney looks to find out who his partner in crime Ghislaine Maxwell really is. She managed to skate by for a year after Epstien was arrested. Sweeney, in a very snarky way, takes you back to her complicated past. She’s the daughter of a media mogul family, and her story feels like the HBO series Succession. It’s a perfect primer for Power: The Maxwells which is all about media mogul, Robert Maxwell. Tara Palmeri paints a vivid and deeply reported review of one of the richest, corrupt families in history. For even more on the Epstein saga, her series Broken: Seeking Justice is also excellent.
5. Under The InfluenceMom influencers on Instagram have become big business, and mom blogging is now a billion-dollar industry. Writer Jo Piazza sets out on a mission to find out who these people are and how we got here. You’ll learn fascinating facts on the history of influencing from fashion magazines to the TV series I Love Lucy. Some of the most fun bits are learning about the moms who look to be perfect—but are far from it. Piazza also sets out to be an influencer herself as part of this series. Hilarious and unexpected results ensue.
6. Tom Brown’s BodyThe small Texas panhandle town of Canadian is rocked by the mysterious disappearance of a high-school student. Tom Brown seemed to have the perfect life and family—popular and well-liked. Host Skip Hollandsworth from Texas Monthly searches for answers by talking to family, private investigators and law enforcement. Crazy things go down, and the murder is still unsolved. It’s clear somebody knows something, but a town divided seems to be keeping a secret. This series is much more than just a crime drama; it’s a snapshot of small-town life.
7. Unraveled: The Long Island Serial KillerThis case has been splashed all over the headlines and featured in various TV shows and podcasts. The Long Island Serial Killer is one of the most fascinating murder mysteries in American history, and Unraveled hosts Alexis Linkletter and Billy Jensen re-investigate the case with insider information from an unlikely source. They dive deep into police corruption and major cover-ups at the highest levels of the Suffolk County Police. Just when you thought you’d heard everything about this case, new details emerge in a compelling seven-part series.
8. Welcome To Your FantasyWhen the Chippendales male exotic dancer review started it was an instant hit. The wild idea to get more business at an L.A. bar in the 1980s became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon. Prepare for bumping, grinding, body oil, backstabbing and murder!? Natalia Petrzela gives you all the behind the scenes dirt. The show takes you back to all their appearances on talk shows, Saturday Night Live parodies and work-out videos. Detailed interviews with the cast and characters are hilarious, informative and a fun throwback to a greasier time.
9. Evil By DesignWhy did it take so long for fashion mogul Peter Nygard to be arrested on charges of racketeering, sex trafficking and related crimes? His wealth, power and intimidation tactics bought silence for more than 40 years, and now the truth is finally coming out. The CBC’s Timothy Sawa’s reporting became so intense, Nygard tried to open a criminal investigation against him. You’ll hear stories of countless women who were sexually assaulted, politicians that were paid off and the news organizations and employees who covered up the horrific crimes.
10. Renegades: Born In The USAThis Spotify series with former President Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen is like being a fly on the wall of a fascinating conversation. It’s a little slow at first, but it’s slickly produced and very entertaining. They open with a discussion about their wives, travel and great wine, which is weirdly normal and refreshingly fun. They chat about everything from music, their backgrounds, how they became friends and what shows they’re binge-watching. They also tackle racism, current events, poverty and politics. The Boss even jams a little from time to time.
11. Sarah Silverman PodcastThere are a ton of comedians doing podcasts, but Sarah’s is like having your best funny friend in your airpods. Besides her hilarious monologues, Silverman takes phone calls and offers insightful advice. She owns up to things she’s done in the past like making roast jokes about Paris HIlton at the 2007 MTV awards. Paris mentioned how she was offended on her podcast “This Is Paris” so Sarah took the time to own up to it and apologize. From smiling at a homeless guy to discussing bodily functions, the takeaway is that we can all be better. Silverman is so delightfully funny and connects with the audience so well. Even her ads are hysterical, especially the one for Hello Tushy. Perfect.
Mara Davis is a media personality based in Atlanta, Ga. In addition to hosting the VoteHer podcast with Senator Jen Jordan, she also is a senior talent booker for various television networks and podcasts.