Listen Up: The 24 Best Podcast Episodes Ever

It can be overwhelming trying to navigate the vast podcast landscape. What was once a niche corner of the Internet has emerged as a full-blown phenomenon. Thanks to their low production cost and quick-turnaround format, basically all you need is a mic and an idea. And, as a result, some of the most unique cultural voices out there have adopted the medium with a genuine experimental spirit.
Whether you're into revealing celebrity interviews, avant-garde fetishes, or the storied roots of Creole cooking, it doesn't matter. There's something for everyone. If you've yet to discover the magic of podcasts, consider this piece an entry point. We've sifted through the back catalogs of some of the most popular titles ever and compiled a list of their signature episodes. So go ahead — press play. Just know this: doing the dishes will never be the same again.
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Image via Comedy Bang! Bang!
Comedy Bang Bang: "Farts and Procreation"
Aired August 29, 2011
The godfather of all comedy podcasts dedicated an entire episode to all things Pawnee. Many of host Scott Aukerman’s frequent guests and collaborators have at one point starred, written for, or cameoed on Parks and Recreation. Two of those distinguished guests — Adam Scott and Chelsea Peretti — make appearances in what might be the pod’s most meta episode ever. For a show like Comedy Bang Bang, that’s really saying something.

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Photo: BEImages/Matt Baron.
The B.S. Report with Bill Simmons: "Lena Dunham Interview"
Aired February 20, 2014
Here’s a list of the topics that were discussed when pop-culture junkies Lena Dunham and Grantland’s Bill Simmons sat down in a room together in February: Fiona Apple and Paul Thomas Anderson’s infamous relationship; if John Belushi were still alive; did Leonardo DiCaprio steal Brad Renfro’s career; Lilith Fair, and pretentious European versions of American movie posters. Oh, and it also marked the first time Dunham addressed the controversy around Jezebel offering $10,000 for her unretouched Vogue photos.

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Image via This American Life.
This American Life: "Switched at Birth"
Aired July 25, 2008
This perfect example of TAL's unique brand of journalism comes courtesy of reporter Jake Halpern, who uncovers a story ripped straight from the movies. It’s a perfect example of the show’s ability to turn its lens inward to tell a personal story about two girls who were switched at birth. It’s a moving, note-perfect hour of radio, and the stunning conclusion will stay with you for months, days, years.

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Photo: REX USA/Erik Pendzich.
Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin: "Lorne Michaels Interview"
Aired January 30, 2012
Lorne Michaels is notoriously reluctant to sit down for interviews, but when his close friend and professional Saturday Night Live host Alec Baldwin did the interviewing, the comedy czar was totally game. Among the topics Michaels opened up about: his early days in radio, his notorious perfectionism, and being fired from SNL. If you’ve never been to The Friars Club, this is the next best thing.

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Image via Radiolab.
Radiolab: "Patient Zero"
Aired November 14, 2011
Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich’s science class for cool kids tackles complex subjects in innovative ways. Their unique methodology is on full display here, where they investigate the concept of Patient Zero by way of the oft-debated origin of AIDS to the mythical invention of the high five. It’s odd, mysterious, thorough, and thoughtful. In other words: it’s Radiolab.

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Photo: REX USA/Ray Tang/Rex.
The Nerdist: "Tom Hanks Interview"
Aired October 8, 2012
Have you ever seen Tom Hanks do the whole “impossibly charming movie star with a ton of amazing stories” thing on a talk show and wished it could last for more than just 15 minutes? Well, how does 90 minutes sound? Host Chris Hardwick’s 2013 interview with the movie star is an hour and a half of Hanks doing what he does best: being Tom Hanks.

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Image via WTF With Marc Maron.
WTF with Marc Maron: "Todd Glass Interview"
Aired January 16, 2012
Marc Maron has never shied away from exploring weightier fare, as he did when comedian Todd Glass (Last Comic Standing) visited his show for a second time. The stand-up comedian was well into middle age when he decided to come out on Maron’s show, citing a deep-seated guilt over the recent rash of teen suicides in the LGBT community. It was an honest, moving discussion, and felt like a real milestone for the medium.

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Photo: REX USA.
Bret Easton Ellis Podcast: "Kanye West Interview Part 1 & 2"
Aired November 18 and 25, 2013
One thing Bret Easton Ellis didn’t need to worry about during his podcast’s inaugural episode was dead air. The American Psycho scribe welcomed his frequent collaborator and noted motormouth Kanye West to discuss movies, life with Kim (they watch Breaking Bad to feel normal), and of course, creativity. It was also on this episode that Kanye accused mega shoe retailer Zappos of selling “shit product,” which gave birth to one of the more amusing feuds of the rapper’s career.

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Image via Welcome To Night Vale!.
Welcome to Night Vale: "Pilot"
Aired June 15, 2012
One of the most popular podcasts in the world is also one of the strangest. This is Night Vale, a sleepy desert town where hooded figures lurk in the shadows, and every conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard just might be true. Told in the form of a newscast, Welcome To Night Vale has grown from a cult outlier to a bona-fide phenomenon. And, because it’s impossible to choose just one of the 50-plus episodes, we recommend you start where it all began. And, remember: If you see something, say nothing.

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Photo: BEImages/Gregory Pace.
Happy Sad Confused with Josh Horowitz: "Woody Allen Interview"
Aired July 20, 2014
MTV’s bespectacled news correspondent Josh Horowitz gets himself a podcast. MTV’s bespectacled news correspondent Josh Horowitz somehow convinces Woody Allen to sit down with on said podcast, for a revealing discussion about religion, his childhood, and his career. MTV’s bespectacled news correspondent Josh Horowitz becomes a legend. The end.

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Image via Risk!
Risk!: "Blindsided"
Aired May 18, 2010
The premise here is simple: Guests — some well-known and others less so — tell stories that are usually saved for the darkest corners of a cocktail party. Here, comedians A.D Miles and Keri Heidecker recount times where “they didn’t see it coming.” Neither will you.

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Photo: REX USA/Erik Pendzich.
The Nerdist: "Anna Kendrick Interview"
Aired September 19, 2012
There are few interview subjects in Hollywood as delightful as Anna Kendrick. The actress’ effortless charm is on full display here, as she sits down with host Chris Hardwick to discuss her Portland upbringing and her terrible Oscar experience. Added bonus: F-bombs galore!

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Image via Canadaland.
Canadaland: "VICE - An Oral History"
Aired February 3, 2014
Ever wonder how VICE went from a DIY iconoclast magazine to a billion-dollar global-media empire? Canadian journalist Jesse Brown goes right to the source, interviewing several of the company’s first employees, when it was just a government-subsidized alt-newspaper called Voice of Montreal. This is a story of the birth of a revolution.

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WTF with Marc Maron: "Louis C.K. Interview Part 1 & 2"
Aired October 4 and 7, 2010
What happens when two very close friends have a falling out because one friend becomes resentful of the other’s success? Then, after years of not speaking to one another, the successful friend visits his old friend’s podcast in an attempt to bury the hatchet? Listen to this wonderful installment of Marc Maron’s ultra influential interview series to find out.

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Image via Savage Lovecast.
The Savage Lovecast: "The Pie Fetish Episode"
Aired September 24, 2007
Acclaimed columnist and noted LGBT-rights champion Dan Savage has emerged as the country’s unofficial sex guru, thanks to his spry, enlightened, and informed take on all matters of the bedroom. In this episode, a “cheerful pregnant lady” calls in because she wants to indulge her husband’s pie-in-the-face fetish (it’s exactly what it sounds like). What happens next is exactly why The Savage Lovecast has emerged as one of the most popular pods ever.

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Image via The Moth.
The Moth: "Darryl McDaniels (Run DMC) Interview"
Aired May 7, 2013
To say too much about this jaw-dropping interview with one of Run DMC’s founding members, would be to spoil the fun. Just know this: Darryl McDaniels was on the verge of suicide when he heard Sarah McLachlan’s affecting ballad “Angel” for the first time. What transpires next will leave you breathless.

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Photo courtesy of Fox 2000 Pictures.
This American Life: "Prom"
Aired June 8, 2001
If there’s one thing TAL does better than anyone else, it’s nostalgia. The show’s ability to take listeners back to a specific place and time is on full display here, as it explores that classic American rite of passage from a multitude of angles: host Ira Glass’ illuminating interview with Sweet Valley High author Francine Pascal; first-hand accounts from contemporary teenagers about their prom experiences, and a riveting investigation of a town destroyed by a tornado on prom night. This is the iconic podcast at the height of its powers.

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Image via Harmontown.
Harmontown with Dan Harmon: "Jim Belushi's Basement (with Mitch Hurwitz)"
Aired December 2, 2013
The creator of Community and the creator of Arrested Development talk shop for nearly two hours. 'Nuff said.

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Photo: REX USA/Everett Collection.
WTF with Marc Maron: "Robin Williams Interview"
Aired April 26, 2010
When Robin Williams passed away suddenly, the world was left reeling, not just because such an indelible lifeforce was suddenly gone, but also because of the way in which he went. Not many people knew just how severe Williams’ depression was, which is what makes this candid 2010 interview he did with Maron — in which Williams discusses his personal struggles — all the more poignant.

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Image via By The Way.
By The Way with Jeff Garlin: "Vince Gilligan Interview"
Aired August 8, 2013
Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Jeff Garlin may not be the most deft interviewer on the podcast circuit, but when Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan sat down with the boisterous funnyman, it was like eavesdropping on odd-couple college buddies meeting for the first time in years; Gilligan’s Laurel to Garlin’s Hardy. Though they didn’t delve too deeply into Gilligan’s magnum opus — you know, the one with the meth — Gilligan’s soft-spoken introspection was a perfect counterpoint to Garlin’s heated rambling.

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Image via Doug Loves Movie.
Doug Loves Movies: "Nick Offerman, Jon Hamm, and 'Werner Herzog'"
Aired September 18, 2013
This madcap panel-game-show hybrid — taped weekly before a raucous crowd at L.A.’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre — reached its apex when Nick Offerman and “Werner Herzog” (comedian Paul F. Tompkins doing his famous impression of the German director) joined frequent guest Jon Hamm and host Doug Benson to play movie-trivia games. It’s like going to a party with the coolest film nerds ever.

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Image via Freakonomics.
Freakonomics: "How Much Does The President Matter?"
Aired November 4, 2010
Fans of the eponymous book and documentary have made this pop-culture/economics mash-up one of the most widely listened to pods out there. This revealing look at just how influential the president actually is — it aired as the Obama versus Romney race was just getting underway — is a perfect example of why.

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Photo: BEImages/Carolyn Contino.
This American Life: "Notes From Camp"
Aired August 28, 1998
This seminal episode of TAL originally aired in 1998, and it’s just as affecting now as it was then. The focus here is the great divide between camp people and non-camp people, which is of course, just a microcosm for all of life’s major conflicts, right? So, light a fire, warm some cocoa, roast some marshmallows, and pick a side.

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ILLUSTRATED BY ISABEL RANCIER.
Radiolab: "Words"
Aired September 10, 2010
It’s hard to imagine a podcast without words, let alone a world without words. But, in one of the most enlightening episodes of WNYC’s beloved show, hosts Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad do just that.

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