2017’s 14 Best Podcasts for Escaping the News and Politics

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I turn to podcasts for a lot of my news and political discussions, but sometimes I just want to pop in my ear buds and escape from all that for a bit. These are some of the best podcasts I listened to this year that provided that escape, covering a wide range of topics and interests. Hopefully you’ll find something that’ll help you tune out the darkness, too!


14. HOMOGROUND

An LGBTQ music podcast, HOMOGROUND is a great place to go if you need more music recs or like to hear queer artists talk about their work and process.

13. Wrote Podcast

This is a literary podcast all about LGBTQ storytelling in all genres and mediums. I definitely recommend it for writers!

12. The Imposter

While it focuses on Canadian pop culture, you don’t have to be from Canada to appreciate the cultural deep-dive of The Imposter. Host Aliya Pabani specifically focuses on art, music, film, literature, etc. created by indigenous people and other marginalized groups.

11. Rookie

If you read Rookie, you really should be listening to the brand new podcast, too! Guests have included Roxane Gay, Janet Mock, St. Vincent, and Alia Shawkat. Tavi Gevinson hosts, and it’s as warm and welcoming as the site.

10. Radio Menea

A podcast all about queer feminist analysis of Latinx music? Yes, please! I started listening to this podcast after Yvonne recommended it in this excellent list, and it’s super fun! Queer co-hosts Miriam Zoila Pérez and Verónica Bayett recently put out their Best Of 2017 episode, and it’s fantastic.

9. Buffering The Vampire Slayer

Duh!

8. Bitch Sesh: A Real Housewives Breakdown

The only thing better than the most recent season of Real Housewives Of New York was the most recent season of Bitch Sesh from comedians Danielle Schneider and Casey Wilson. It is my number one goal in life to guest on this show so I can talk about all the sapphic subtext of the Real Housewives shows, so yes I do technically have an ulterior motive for including it on this list! But if you’re a Bravo head like me, it really is a must-listen.

7. My Favorite Murder

A podcast in which two people merely shoot the shit about actual murders should not work so dang well, AND YET. Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, whose friendship is predicated on their shared fascination with the macabre, are funny but smart and probing in their recounting and discussion of various murders from history and hometown murders sent in by listeners. While not explicitly a political podcast, they do of course touch on some deeper issues regarding true crime, mental health, and the legal system.

6. Leave A Message After The Tone

LAMAT technically only released two episodes in 2017, and it’s a short-form show, so those episodes are bite-sized. But the laid-back call-in style of the show and excellent editing makes it a calming and immersive experience. One ruminates on stories about family (which, fair warning, includes a tiny bit of politics but only on the personal relationship level), and the most recent jumps headfirst into a very important topic: SAUCES.

5. Dial M For Maple

Attention all Riverdale fans: Are you listening to Dial M For Maple? Well, you should be! It’s the greatest Riverdale breakdown podcast around, and it’s hosted by Cameron Scheetz and Marah Eakin from The A.V. Club, who are devout fans of the show and also are fully obsessed with the cast and their off-screen antics. Satiate your Riverdale thirst during the show’s current winter hiatus by catching up and follow them on Twitter if you want to chat ongoing conspiracy theories!

4. Sleepover

Sook-Yin Lee consistently delivers some of the best narrative storytelling in the podcast world, and in Sleepover she joined three complete strangers in a hotel room overnight, and together they try to solve personal problems, friendships forming in real-time. It’s as weird and delightful as it sounds. This season’s Vancouver series (each sleepover results in three episodes that each focus on a different guest in the trio of strangers) features trans tween Tru Wilson.

3. The Read

The Read is one of the best pop culture podcasts around, precisely because it’s about so much more than pop culture. Queer co-hosts Crissle and Kid Fury are relentlessly hilarious and sharp, their commentary entertaining and thought-provoking.

2. #SafeWordSociety

Co-hosts Kristen McCallum and Lamika Young have cultivated a safe and radical space with #SafeWordSociety, a podcast for and by QTPOC that centers our experiences and provides a (brief) escape from the bullshit of the world. It’s all about living and surviving as a QTPOC in NYC, and it prioritizes lifting listeners up instead of just adding to our anxieties and fears.

1. Thirst Aid Kit

In Buzzfeed’s Thirst Aid Kit podcast, certified thirst scholars Nichole Perkins and Bim Adewunmi present a thorough investigation and analysis of human desire, sexuality, and the many ways to slake your thirst. Funny, candid, and brilliant, Thirst Aid Kit is the best new podcast of the year. In the second episode of their first season, Nichole and Bim are joined by queer guest Krutika Mallikarjuna to discuss the hotties of comic books and superhero film/TV, and they speak with several comic book artists about what goes into drawing sex appeal. Later in the season, Mallory Ortberg joins to discuss literary baes. Every episode ends with Nichole and Bim reading self-insert fic drabbles about whoever the object of thirst is for that week, and they never disappoint. If you read or write fanfiction, form obsessive crushes on celebrities or fictional characters, or just have a deep appreciation for the performance of thirst, this is the podcast for you. Please listen, subscribe, download, etc, because if this podcast doesn’t get a second season I will be very sad!

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a Brooklyn-based writer, television critic, and comedian who spends most of her time over-analyzing queer subtext on television, singing "Take Me Or Leave Me" in public places, and assembling cheese platters. She has a cat named after Piper Halliwell from Charmed, and her go-to karaoke song is "Everywhere" by Michelle Branch. Her writing can also be found at The A.V. Club and The Hollywood Reporter, and she wrote the webseries Sidetrack. You can catch her screaming in all-caps about Kalinda Sharma, Jennifer Lopez, and oysters on Twitter and Instagram.

Kayla has written 136 articles for us.

21 Comments

  1. Cool! I love checking out new podcasts.

    I highly recommend Cameron Esposito’s podcast Queery. It may not fit the criteria of escaping the political or current events but it makes my heart happy to hear such vulnerable, beautiful conversations between lovely queer folk. It actually helped me realize and come out to myself after two decades of subtle clues that I just wasn’t getting. So I just ♥ it and I appreciate so very much what speaking out and visibility can do for people.

  2. I second Queery podcast as it’s great. I’d also suggest Hold on With Eugene Mirmam(some episodes way better than others naturally) as it’s a great and funny podcast. Lastly, Fist You by Archie from autostraddle and Ethel, as it’s just funny, sexy, and informative!

  3. Excited to add some of these to my podcast list! The only one I’ve already listened to is MFM which… like, I get why they’re popular, but I had to unsubscribe a while back. It’s weird because I SHOULD love the show, true crime and funny women are two of my favorite things, but somehow it adds up to less than the sum of its parts. They spend too much time chitchatting about the Facebook group and events and end up talking about the case of the week for less than half the episode. They don’t fact check ahead of time, and while they sometimes include corrections they just stick with the format of skimming the Wikipedia page a day before recording. A lot of people love it for all those same reasons, so this isn’t a criticism so much as a heads up that the show really isn’t for everyone.

    If you want more women-led true crime podcasts, I can’t recommend Court Junkie and Criminal highly enough. Criminal is short episodes with deep archives and covers a huge range of topics: body theft driven by 19th century medical school, forensic accountants who solved a murder in their free time, how 420 became a thing, a cop managing the relationship between his retired canine partner and the young usurper he spends his work days with (that one made me cry a lot). It’s been around for way longer than MFM but it seems wrong to criticize that one without bringing up Criminal as an example of doing it right.

    Court Junkie is extremely well researched. She focuses on a good mix of relatively unknown cases and headlines, she does a great job of including enough detail to make it interesting (like a recent episode where a booger was key evidence) without being gruesome or sensationalizing it.

  4. I’ve seen maybe 2 episodes of Housewives in my life, but I’m obsessed with Bitch Sesh. I quote June Diane Raphael saying “She’s doing HER best” approximately twice a week.

    (Will gladly signal boost your campaign for queer housewife analysis guest spot!)

  5. I just started listening to My Favorite Murder last week and I’m OBSESSED

    Also have to recommend The L Word Made Me Gay podcast–it’s very similar to MFM, except instead of murder, it’s The L Word. It’s hysterical

  6. Thank you for all these recs! For when I really can’t take any more human nonsense, I like “Off Track,” which is an Australian nature podcast. Some of their episodes are just a dozen recordings of frogs sent in by listeners from all over the world, with occasional soothing Aussie tones telling you that you’re listening to a chorus of pobblebonks. (Yes, that’s a real kind of frog.)

    “Nancy” is also so fab, and usually not too full of current events.

    • OK A COUPLE MORE RECS. (I subscribe to north of 150 podcasts so that isn’t surprising… And thanks to this thread, it grew by a dozen.)

      Making Gay History: Eric Marcus wrote a book by this name; he’s now going back through all his old taped research interviews from the 1980s and 90s with iconic and forgotten LGBT history makers.

      Woodland Secrets: wide ranging interviews with artists of all stripes. A high proportion are queer and trans; the host and producer are both trans women. If you like this, also check out We Want The Airwaves which is interviews with qtpoc artists.

  7. I’ve discovered some absolutely amazing fiction podcasts this year; inclusing the Penumbra, the Bright Sessions, the Adventure Zone, Within the Wires and The Strange Case of Starship Iris, mainly because all of those are pretty gay, in way a that TV etc just isn’t giving me

    • Those are my favorite podcasts too! Especially TAZ and Penumbra, I did not expect either of them to bring the feelings so hard, and now I’m listening to them for, uh, the third time each? This year? Audio fiction is the shit. EOS 10 (queer medical comedy in space) is my other favorite podcast–it’s a couple years old and season 3 was postponed for medical reasons, but it’s in production now.

    • seconding The Adventure Zone and Starship Iris, which I wish would come back from hiatus soon bc I just discovered it and fell head over heels in love!! TAZ’s length is great – the 69 episodes of the Balance season kept my brain from wandering off to stressful things while doing mundane chores for the past few months, and it’s really easy to re-listen to earlier episodes after finishing cuz you just get excited about all the hints that were dropped early in that tied into the finale so wonderfully… Early in it’s a lot of goofs about dildos but by the end I’d cried a bunch of times and it’s really hopeful and uplifting and exciting and you really come to love all the characters. It’s really refreshing to listen to a bunch of cishet white dudes who are actually open to learning and growing from their mistakes, too, and who wanna do right by their fans.

      • Seriously I would NEVER have believed a dnd podcast by four cishet white dudes would be one of my favorite pieces of fiction and most effective brain stuff coping mechanisms. Or how much it’s made me cry!

  8. I’d add to this list “HumaNature” which is about interesting nature-y stuff and about humans interactions with the nature around them. Plus, its made by women in Wyoming!
    Also, She Explores is a show of interviews with women who like to hike, kayak, mountain climb etc and is great. Most of the interviewees are not athletes or travelers as their main gig, they’re just regular people who like being outdoors and pushing their boundaries. Def good for when I want to get away from politics or “can you believe??” type shows.

  9. Maybe I’ll give Thirst Aid Kit another try…I love Bim and Nichole from their appearances on Another Round and I tried listening to a couple episodes and it just didn’t work for me…

    I love The Read forever and always…Crissle’s impassioned defense of trans women after what happened on The Breakfast Club was a highlight of the year for me.

  10. Thank you for all the new things to add to my podcast feed!

    Three of my current favourite podcasts are Gastropod, The Worst Bestsellers and Spirits.

    Gastropod is a food podcast by two female journalists that discusses different foodie topics “through the lense of science and history”, and microbes are mentioned so often that there is apparently a whole drinking game around it.

    The Worst Bestsellers is two woman (one of whom is very gay) plus a guest reading and discussing some of the truely terrible books that make it on to the bestseller lists, so you don’t have to. Their live episode reading of The Notebook is hilarious and a great starting point!

    Spirits is two best friends discussing mythology while drinking. They have fantastic discussions using the myths as a leaping off point, bringing a feminist perspective to all their discussions. One of the creators is bi AF and she brings me a lot of joy.

    All of these podcasts are made by women, some of whom are queer and all of whom are excellent, and are highlights of my week.

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