15-Best-Podcast-Episodes

Did you know that every day one of your family members starts their own podcast? Yeah, it’s a lot. There are enough podcasts to make the first-time listener feel fairly overwhelmed about dipping their toes into the podcast pool. Where do you start? Which shows are worth your time? How do you find the best episodes? We’re here to assist. As pretty big podcasting fans, we’ve come up with a list of some of our all-time favorite episodes. This way you can dip in and out of different shows, sampling only the finest of goods. Here are the best podcast episodes of all time.

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This American Life – “Cars”

For over 20 years, Ira Glass and co. have created some of the most engaging narrative radio journalism you’ll find on the airwaves. That’s a slightly boring way of saying they produce great stories. Those stories are also packaged up and offered as podcasts, and you have hundreds of episodes to choose from should you wish to give This American Lifea whirl. We suggest you do. Our pick of the litter is “Cars,” an episode that first aired in 2013. “Cars” takes you inside a Long Island car dealership at the end of October 2013, when a seemingly insurmountable quota needs to be met by month’s end. What we love about the episode—and this is something you find in a lot of This American Lifeproductions—are the characters. You meet a hot-shot salesman who closes every deal he touches. You meet the ultra-stressed dealer who’s constantly sweating bullets. You meet a lot of guys who sound like they live in Long Island. They all come together for a story with the same suspense as a summer blockbuster, only it all happens at Town and Country Jeep Chrysler Dodge Ram in Levittown, New York. Listen


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WTF – “President Barack Obama”

This one was a tough call and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the other episode we were considering. So before we dig into the Obama episode of WTF With Marc Maron, we want to quickly say you should also listen to the Louis C.K. episode, which plays out like a therapy session between two former friends, who decide to hash out their differences. It’s incredibly honest and will catch you off guard. While that episode is fantastic, the episode where Maron sits down with then-sitting president Barack Obama marked a milestone in the podcast world. Here was the president devoting time to a medium many didn’t view as all that relevant. While it was huge for WTF (the episode was downloaded 735,063 times in 24 hours), it was enormous for podcasting in general. Is it the best episode of WTF? Probably not. But it is the most important. Listen


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Radiolab – “Space”

With help from Neil deGrasse Tyson and Ann Druyan, the Radiolab team tackled the topic of space back in Season 2. But to describe “Space” as simply about space is doing this episode a disservice. What’s so beautiful is the way the episodequestions our importance in something so vast, starting with a love story between Druyan and Carl Sagan and zooming out with Neil deGrasse Tyson to take in all that’s out there. Is there talk of aliens? Yes. Is there talk of black matter? Yes. Is there a ton of great music and sound effects? It is a Radiolab episode. You’ll be left astonished, in awe, and feeling very, very small—and maybe that’s kinda wonderful. Listen


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Getting Doug with High – “Jack Black”

Doug Benson is a notorious pothead. For evidence, simply give any one of his podcasts a listen. Never is that fact more blatantly obvious than on Getting Doug with High, a podcast where he invites celebs to smoke with him. Normally this produces a lot of giggles, some obscure thoughts, and generally a good time. That was not the case when Jack Black visited. The actor doesn’t enjoy a good high, leading to a good dose of paranoia and Black hiding behind his rolling chair. It’s cringeworthy, uncomfortable, and damn hard to turn off. Watch


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The Moth – “The Moth Presents Anthony Griffith: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times”

The Moth is a show we’ve talked about before. The idea is simple: a person gets a mic and tells a story. When it’s at its best, it moves you emotionally, it changes you and sticks with you. No Moth story has done that more than the one Anthony Griffith told back in 2003. Griffith was a comic at the height of his career, getting ready to perform on The Tonight Show when a doctor called to tell him his two-year-old daughter’s cancer returned. What was supposed to be the best of times, became the worst of times, as Griffith struggled with the fact that no one wants to see the clown cry. Just make sure the tissues are close by. Listen


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Reply All- “The Takeover”

Reply All, a podcast from Gimlet, is about technology and the way it integrates into our lives. Since it launched in 2014, it’s been a constant on our must-listen list. While most shows are exceptional, our favorite comes from June 25, 2015, when Reply All released “The Takeover.” Thomas Oscar is a 17-year-old who creates one of the most bizarre Facebook groups you’ll ever hear of, one about a fake company that “shifts units.” Quickly, people starting applying for fake jobs at this fake company, and Oscar started hiring these people. After a few days, there were employ handbooks, rules, and everything else there would be in an office—only no office. Think Office Space pumped into your ears. Listen


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S-Town – “Chapter II”

Before we tell you about this episode, we must warn you that we’re trying our best to avoid a pretty huge spoiler. Still, it’s incredibly hard not to give some of it away without talking about the finest episode of S-Town, a podcast that has been downloaded more than 40 million times. Okay, consider yourself warned. “Chapter II” stands out because of how it ends, because up until that point you thought you had an idea of where the show was going. What was once a whodunit murder mystery morphs into something else entirely. The build up to the final few minutes is really a 40-minute profile on John B. McLemore, the principal character of the show and an all-around unique individual. McLemore is a sort of recluse in a small Alabama town. He’s brilliant but resigned to a life caring for dogs, clocks, and the maze he built in his yard. All we’ll say is, there’s a reason the show has been downloaded so many times. Listen


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Welcome to Night Vale – “Pilot”

Few podcasts have garnered the rabid following that Welcome to Night Vale has. Created in 2012 by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the podcast tells the tale of a fictional town, Night Vale, where everything feels very Stephen King-y. Presented as a radio report that details the news of the town, the vibe of Welcome to Night Vale is decidedly creepy and surreal. You’re going to want to listen to all 100+ episodes, but we highly recommend you start with the pilot, as it sets the stage for everything that unfolds. Within seconds of hearing the host talk of the new dog park full of hooded figures that you shouldn’t approach, you’ll feel you’ve slipped into some sort of surrealist ghost story—and you’ll love every second of it. Listen


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99% Invisible – “Milk Carton Kids”

99% Invisible, which is hosted by the soothing, slightly robotic sounds of Roman Mars, is about all the work that went into things we never think about. How did the fortune cookie come about? Why did inflatable men become a staple at used car lots? There are a lot of fantastic episodes, but we’d recommend starting with “Milk Carton Kids,” a deep dive into the creation and distribution of milk cartons with missing children’s profiles on them. Did you know that 5 billion milk cartons were printed with these images? Surely it must have been helpful, right? Listen and find out. Listen


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Hardcore History – “Prophets of Doom”

You want an incredible history lesson? Well, you’re not going to get it in a 20-minute podcast designed for your morning train ride. Hardcore History episodes are long, with some topping the 10-hour mark. Luckily, the finest in our opinion is a paltry 4 hours, so it’s basically nothing. “Prophets of Doom” takes listeners back to the time shortly after Martin Luther lead the charge of the Protestant Reformation, as new group of prophets descended on the German town of Munster. It’s a story well-known in Germany, but one rarely heard stateside. Munster was a town ready to explode at the time—and that’s exactly what it did. Listen


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CANADALAND – “VICE: An Oral History”

We have to admit, CANADALAND is not one of our regular podcasts. That’s not a knock on the show, we just never thought to turn to a podcast about Canadian issues and topics. That said, when a friend tipped us off to this episode, we tuned in immediately. As the name suggests, “VICE: An Oral History” is about the humble beginnings of VICE. Few know or remember that what is now a mega media company with its own TV network was once a humble magazine in Montreal. This episode brings together people who were there when VICE was The Voice of Montreal, a community newspaper in the ’90s. Listen


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You Must Remember This – “Charles Manson’s Hollywood”

You Must Remember This is a podcast by Karina Longworth that brings to life the forgotten stories from early Hollywood. Of all the work Longworth has done, her magnum opus is the season on Charles Manson. (Yes, this is a whole season, not just one “episode,” because you can’t break this up.) The episodes in the season deal with life in the late ’60s and early ’70s and this man from outside Hollywood who sought stardom. When that stardom wasn’t given to him he revolted against those in charge. Charles Manson’s story is one that intersects with the Hollywood elite numerous times, clearly in devastating ways. It’s also the story of lost hope and the promises of Hollywood in that era. It’s very worth your time. Listen


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Serial – “The Alibi”

Serial was, perhaps, the first smash hit podcast. It did not slowly grow an audience; it popped up and within a day everyone was talking about it. As with others on this list, it’s hard to pick an episode in the middle because you really need to get in on the ground floor. You want episode one, “The Alibi.” You’ll meet Adnan Syed, a young man in jail for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. But something seems wrong. Things don’t add up. Syed says he’s innocent. There are reasons you might believe him. And so begins one of the most captivating true crime podcasts ever created. Listen


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Love + Radio – “The Living Room”

Love + Radio, or L+R, is a show from PRX (Public Radio Exchange) that simply deals with real people. But whereas other shows about real people always want to teach you something, L+R simply wants to tell you a story. The finest of those stories can be found in the episode titled “The Living Room,” in which a woman starts noticing her new neighbors. To be fair, it would be hard to miss them—they were always naked. This voyeuristic endeavor became the start of a one-sided relationship. Diane starts comparing her life to the life of the new couple across the way. It’s kinda sweet, kinda uncomfortable, and completely impossible to turn off. Listen


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Mike and Tom Eat Snacks – “Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream”

Mike and Tom Eat Snacks, or MATES, never received the audience it deserved. Hosted by Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh, the show revolves around the comedic duo picking a snack, eating a snack, and rating a snack every episode. Of course, the show constantly goes off on hilarious tangents, so the snacks are only a small part of why you should revisit this now defunct podcast. We love almost every episode. Since we have to pick, however, we’ll give a slight edge to the “Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream” episode for the ridiculous comparison of the Haagen-Dazs factory vs. the Ben & Jerry’s factory. As with anything comedic, trying to explain why it’s funny rarely works, so just go listen. Listen

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