1. Life & Culture

5 pop culture podcasts to listen to right now

Need a break from the coronavirus updates? Tune into these shows.
Comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon have started a new podcast. This is a screenshot of their Instagram post about it.
Comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon have started a new podcast. This is a screenshot of their Instagram post about it. [ Instagram ]
Published Mar. 24, 2020

Whether you’re taking a scenic drive or holed up in your house, podcasts are a great way to feel a little bit less alone.

Staying In With Kumail and Emily

Kumail Nanjiani, he of the recently rippling abs and delightful comedic persona, and his wife Emily V. Gordon, who co-wrote their movie The Big Sick, have debuted a new podcast relevant to these confusing times. Staying In With Emily and Kumail aims to entertain us while we’re all, well, staying in. They say all proceeds from the podcast will donated to charities helping people during the coronavirus crisis, including the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Feeding America and the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation. They’re leaning away from coronavirus talk and into pop culture chatter, which is exactly what we want from a podcast from celebs right now. “Do not expect to hear updates on the virus — there are actual journalists for that,” their statement says. (Hey, thanks for the shoutout!) New episodes are released every Thursday.

The Rewatchables

I’d heartily recommend 90 percent of the podcasts from the Ringer, Bill Simmons’ sports and pop culture website. The company was an early embracer of the medium, and now it’s a podcast machine, churning out dozens weekly. The Ringer was recently acquired by Spotify, which is where one of their best podcasts currently lives: the Hottest Take, short 'casts in which Ringer staff lay out their wildest opinions, from whether you should wear jeans at home to why toilet paper is ridiculous.

The Rewatchables is a perfect distillation of their lineup, simultaneously a fun hang and chock-full of information (and internet rumors) about a wide range of movies. The premise: A roundtable of Ringer staff discuss movies “they can’t seem to stop watching.” Categories like Most Rewatchable Scene and Best Line make for a fun way to break down movies. And if you’ve got a lot of time on your hands at home right now, watch the movie and then listen to its respective episode.

Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend

Certain weeks, nothing in any medium makes me laugh harder than this podcast led by talk show host Conan O’Brien and his team. It’s essentially just an interview show between O’Brien and his famous friends, but the Harvard-educated comedian is both more deep and more goofy than you may expect. Just like on his long-running talk show, except instead of staged five-minute segments, you get 40 minutes of it.

Armchair Expert

Dax Shepard is an actor probably best known for Parenthood, that movie Without a Paddle and being married to Kristen Bell. He’s also a recovering addict, an empathetic listener and an insightful conversationalist. He uses all that on this podcast, which debuted in 2018 and is nearing 200 episodes of interviews with celebrities and experts in various fields. Recent guests have ranged from the CEO of Instagram Adam Mosseri to actor Ashton Kutcher to journalist Ronan Farrow. Shepard is refreshingly forthcoming about his life, and especially his addiction, and it makes his guests open up, too, leading to conversations that don’t feel promotional or rote. It’s also hilarious and silly and super sweet, especially the dynamic between Shepard and his co-host Monica Padman.

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Still Processing

New episodes of this New York Times podcast are back March 26, but there’s a significant backlog to work your way through if you’re new to the show. Culture writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris offer takes on TV, movies, art, music and more, but that description doesn’t do justice to the level of depth found here. It feels like listening to your most passionate, thoughtful friends have a conversation, one that doesn’t strive for tidy, predictable conclusions. I can’t wait to see how they help all of us process these confusing times.