Podcasts. Possibly the greatest storytelling device of all time? I think it ranks up there. It’s one of my favorite mediums. And I think the world is warming up to it too. Podcast conventions and festivals are popping up all over the place. In Philadelphia alone, we had 4th Annual Philadelphia Podcast Festival over 30 shows at the in 2016. We’re expected to have over 40 this year. Podcasts are popping up in movies (i.e. Tusk), TV shows (i.e. Scream), are being ADAPTED for TV, and becoming accepted as legitimate entertainment all around. I’ve been in the podcasting industry for nearly ten years now, but first and foremost, I’m a fan. This list reflects my current listening pool and I’m sure could be different this time next year, but for now, here are my top ten favorite podcasts.
10. A Quest for Magic and Steele by The Steele Empire
A theme you will see in this is list is that some of them (30%) are from the Philadelphia area. Another 30% stem from me listening to a Phildelphia podcast. Something I discovered doing the first year of Everything is Awesome was the podcasting community. It blew me away! I think after having been in the industry for about nine years at that point (and not finding a community anywhere besides Reddit—which is not friendly) I was just in so much shock. There were no real radio (or pod) wars. A Quest for Magic and Steele was the 3rd ‘Actual play RPG’ podcast I started listening to (with a Harmontown segment being my first real exposure to it on a podcast) and their hook fascinates me is that, for the most part, it’s a family getting together each week to play. They also keep the episodes precise—rarely (if ever) more than an hour with an average of about thirty minutes or so per episode. It’s the perfect format for the story they are telling.
9. 25 O’Clock by Dan Drago
For those that know me, this may be a strange podcast to see make it in my top ten. Another Philly guy, Dan hosts 25 O’Clock; a show primarily about music with long-form interviews and conversations. That’s the hook! I’m fascinated about learning new things and about new people. Listening to Dan’s show is a lot like listening to my own podcast, except way better produced AND hosted. And, deep down, I’m still very much about local indie art. We used to showcase plenty of Philly acts on The Stabcast and I get to hear (mostly) local indie music on a regular basis again. What I love about 25 O’Clock is that it doesn’t trap itself into just talking with musicians. Plenty of other artists have found their way onto the show, including some guy who calls himself the less famous Kevin Smith.
8. Too Cool For Tabletop by Jason Ashley
Jason’s podcast was the second tabletop RPG podcast I started listening to. I first heard of Jason and Too Cool For Tabletop when he was a guest on Jeff Stormer’s show, Party of One Podcast. What started out as a series of one shot podcasts evolved into a campaign. I appreciate both formats, but must say I think Jason excels at telling a campaign story vs. one shot stories. Perhaps it’s because he and his cast created characters I grew to really care for, but I love hearing Simon, Antigone, and Dovroth roam the world and battle them baddies! I must say, from what I hear Jason has stored for Season 3, I’m very excited. That’s something that I think Jason is a genius for; constantly evolving his show.
7. Part of One by Jeff Stormer
The last Philly podcast on my list is also the first one (and first tabletop) I started listening to. I forget exactly how I discovered the show… maybe he posted in The Philadelphia Podcast Society page about booking guests and I decided to listen (from episode 1 forward, because I’m a completist). It happened to have Noah Houlihan as the guest—whom I had recently seen at a Star Wars themed Movie Movie Live—and be about wrestling. From that moment forward, I was hooked. Jeff, like Jason, is an excellent storyteller. He’s crafted so many awesome stories and (with the one exception) has done it with one other player. A thing I really enjoy about Party of One is that Jeff clearly takes the time to curate games meant for two players as often as he hacks games meant for groups and gets them to work for two.
6. SModcast by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier
My first. I live and breath Kevin Smith. This was my first podcast. I still listen, ten years later, to it. And it’s number six on my list. That goes to show you how much good content is out there and has been created in the last decade. The Evening with series is what helped grow my love of Smith as an entertainer and storyteller. SModcast was a kind of extension of those gigs, but even more so it was a place where I’ve grown to come to know him in some weird way. He’s inspired me most of my adult life and has brought me to tears—both from laughter and emotions. Aside from Kevin himself, I’d argue I’m one of the biggest Kevin Smith fans out there. I like Yoga Hosers. SModcast, no matter who sits with Kevin, was one of a handful of shows that helped me smile, when I had a hard time finding reasons to smile, in 2016.
And this is NUMBER SIX on my list.
5. One Shot Podcast by James D’Amato
I just started listening to One Shot. It had been on my back burner because I was busy catching up on Campaign and I’ve finally found some time to start binge listening to it. And damn it, it’s got so much of the charm of Campaign that I fell in love with it right away. I’ve been binge listening to arcs at a time so that I still have time to listen to current episodes of my other shows in my list. Having recently spoke to James (check out episode 57 of Everything is Awesome on 3/1/2017), it’s amazing to see what One Shot has spawned, from within the it’s own network to the podcasting community in general.
4. This Feels Terrible by Erin McGathy
This Feels Terrible is one of three shows that Everything is Awesome was either inspired by or inspires to be in some fashion. The host, Erin McGathy was also the first person on my ‘get’ list of people I’d like to interview that I was able to get. The show, a relationship podcast, isn’t something that normally would be on my radar—in fact, the first iteration (before Erin’s divorce to her husband) of the show isn’t something I listened to. I tried, as I was a fan of Erin on both Harmontown and Human Conversation, but there was something about it that didn’t click with me. I’m not even sure if this ‘post-divorce’ version of the show is any different, but I enjoy the interviews very much. What I really love about This Feels Terrible is that it plays a lot like my show—long form conversation versus long form interview, while also telling a story of both the guest and the host.
3. Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave by Bryan Johnson, Walt Flanagan, and Brian Quinn
Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave was the second show to join the SModcast Podcast Network and, admittedly, not one I’ve listened to every episode. There was a span where I stopped listening to it—I think because I was so busy creating that my back log seemed overwhelming, so I purged it. I’ve kind of found a balance of listening to new content and being a content generator and Tell ‘Em Steve-Dave has been one of the shows that has me crying from laughing so hard. It’s one of the best, if not best, show on the SModcast Podcast Network and has been since it’s debut. Bryan Johnson, Walt Flanagan, Q, and the rest of TESD Town are always at a 10.
2. If I Were You by Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld
I’ve been a fan of Jake and Amir since their College Humor days. Their web series on CH was, to be blunt, genius. Inspiring to a degree. They continue to inspire with their podcast, If I Were You, while dishing out their own brand of advice. Tongue in cheek for sure, there is some actual wisdom here. I think it depends on the actual question their answering, but I would say more times than not I hear solid advice all while trying to stay on the road from laughing so hard. These guys are very funny. Love seeing them flourish outside of College Humor and them doing their own thing.
1. Campaign Podcast
I’m not sure what I can say about this podcast that I haven’t already. Let’s take my personal attachment away from it. Campaign is a fun Star Wars adventure from the start. Not only is the cast hilarious, but they are true fans of the franchise. They drop so much Star Wars knowledge, it’s incredible. It makes me want to become a better fan. It’s yet another show that has me crying legitimate tears from how funny it is. I’m having a hard time trying to explain this show in any different way then I’ve already presented it, but it is hands down my favorite podcast and it’s going to be hard to knock it out of that one slot. If you do anything today, download the first three episodes of Campaign and give it a listen. You won’t regret it.
Picking a top ten for this was rather difficult. Not just organizing the list above (I changed it around numerous times), but keeping it to ten. There are just so many great podcasts out there that there is no excuse to not try listening to one if you don’t already. I promise, once you find the podcast that you didn’t even know you were looking for, you’ll never turn away from it. This is a community that you should be part of, whether you’re a podcaster or listener, you’re treated right.
It was hard to not include these on my list, so it’s worth mentioning that these are some other really great podcasts worth checking out:
- Human Conversation by Erin McGathy and Wayne Federman
- The Steve Austin Show by Steve Austin
- Talk is Jericho by Chris Jericho
- Any of the shows on SModcast.com
- Doom Thugs by DoomThugs.com
- I Like 2 Movie Movie by Garrett Smith and Dan Scully
And that’s just off the top of my head.