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Column: Eight podcasts that shaped my quarantine era 

Photo provided by Ian Cunningham

When COVID-19 locked the world inside for months on end, naturally, I began looking for ways to distract myself from life’s craziness. After endless hours of staring at a screen and playing the same old video game, I found podcasts to be an entertaining option. Podcasts are an escape from the mind-numbing repetitiveness of social media and TV shows. During the pandemic, they helped me get more done around the house, and today they make long stretches in the car more bearable.

Here are some podcasts that help me break up hour-long TikTok doom scrolls, Netflix binges and YouTube rabbit holes.

“The Bald and the Beautiful with Trixie and Katya”

Drag queens Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova bring their perfect comedic timing and chaotic personalities to “The Bald and The Beautiful” podcast. The duo is known for their appearances on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” but I discovered them through their popular internet show titled “UNHhhh.” Podcast episodes range from 30 minutes to one hour in length and often traverse personal stories from the pair’s world tour, unforgettable anecdotes and Hollywood gossip. As a drag fan and pop culture connoisseur in training, I always have a blast listening or watching along with Trixie and Katya each week.

“Beach Too Sandy, Water Too Wet”

Sibling duo Alex, nicknamed Xandy, and Christine Schiefer co-host this weekly comedy podcast that searches the depths of the internet for the most hilarious reviews of people, places and things. Each episode digs up reviews of a specific topic to bring listeners the best of Yelp and Google reviews. The two’s hilarious renditions of reviews make me feel like I’m laughing with a group of friends. Christine’s chaotic energy and Xandy’s dry humor mesh perfectly to deliver episodes that always make me laugh.

“Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend”

I discovered Conan O’Brien from clips of “Conan,” his TBS talk show up until 2021, on YouTube during the pandemic. Even though I’m not old enough to have watched Conan O’Brien when he began his late night television career as a host of “Late Night” in 1993, I still found enjoyment in his signature balance of juvenile humor and sharp intellect. In nearly 400 episodes, he and co-hosts Matt Gourley and Sona Movsesian rehash segments from his late night career, tell behind-the-scenes stories from his remote segments and interview a range of comedians, actors and old friends. Even after his retirement, I’m happy to hear the laid-back, post-late-night O’Brien on “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.”

“The Daily”

The New York Times’ “The Daily” is a Sunday through Friday news podcast that covers the day’s biggest story in-depth. If you are looking to hold a conversation with a coworker or friend about what’s going on in the world, hosts Michael Barbaro and Sabrina Tavernise will catch you up on the day’s news. Episodes often include interviews with on-the-ground journalists who are actively reporting on the story. In 30 to 40 minutes, I get a good picture of the day’s headlines.

“Every Little Thing”

In the discontinued podcast, “Every Little Thing” host Flora Lichtman fields callers’ questions about phenomenons that give them pause. Questions like Why do reporters on TV talk like that? and How do squirrels remember where they stored their nuts? often have answers, and Lichtman is ready to find them. Each episode, Lichtman returns the listener’s call and answers their question through interviews with experts and cleverly-presented research. Although the series was canceled in October of 2022, my knack for odd factoids still has me combing through the 215 episodes of “Every Little Thing” still on Spotify.


Co-hosts and Slate culture reporters Rachelle Hampton and Candice Lim dive deep into internet culture in their show, “ICYMI,” which stands for “In Case You Missed It.” Hampton and Lim bring listeners interesting interviews with up-and-coming internet celebrities, deep dives into internet trends and entertaining opinions on a range of pop culture topics. When I get bored of the same-old news podcasts, I turn to “ICYMI” to get my bi-weekly dose of pop culture.

“Taste Buds”

Comedians Sal Vulcano, of TruTV’s “Impractical Jokers,” and Joe Derosa are co-hosts in this debate-style comedy podcast. Each week the duo puts two categories face-to-face and debate the merits of the option they think is superior. The question at hand is the subject of hilarious, and sometimes heated, debate. Past debates include Chips Ahoy vs. Oreo, Pancakes vs. Waffles, and Pizza vs. Pasta. In the end, the show’s listeners have the final say; each episode’s winner is decided by a social media poll. As a fan of the Taste Buds, themselves, I love watching them go for each other’s jugular on the issues that really (don’t) matter.

“Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel”

As a psychology nerd, I was immediately hooked when I found psychotherapist Esther Perel’s podcast, “Where Should We Begin?” Each week, Perel invites a romantic couple into her office for a one-time counseling session. Episodes often explore a specific issue or dynamic within the clients’ relationship and pull out relatable lessons for listeners to examine in their own relationships. Perel lends her worldly, culturally adept approach to each couple she works with. Her artful therapy style is beautiful to listen to. As a student of psychology and someone who appreciates the therapeutic process, I have learned so much from Perel’s unique approach to couples therapy.

On my quest for more content to digest, I have learned the importance of diversifying the material that we choose to spend our time engaging with. Each of these podcasts have taught me something, gave me a laugh or gave me something to think about. Finding interesting, engaging material to listen to takes a moment of boredom and transforms it into a learning opportunity.

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