There are podcasts that I have loved and will continue to love until the end of time: thoughtful, substantive, relevant and engaging in a way that’s been uniquely powerful for me. They’re mostly pretty heady. Off the top of my head, here are a few.

This American Life, The Daily, Ezra

Harold, This American Life
The President and the Publisher, The Daily
The Ezra Klein Show: select episodes

– An Enlightening, Frustrating Conversation on Liberalism with Adam Gopnik
– Lilliana Mason on the Age of “Mega-Identity” Politics
– This Conversation Will Change How You Understand Misogyny
– Peter Beinart on Anti-Semitism in America

Hello from the Magic Tavern

My one humor podcast of choice is called Hello From the Magic Tavern. It reminds me of Chicago theater in the 90s, like the Annoyance and Club Lower Links. The titular tavern exists in a parallel universe called Foon in which a human named Arnie, a wizard (Usidore — his name is a Whole Thing), and Chunt, a talking badger, improvise observations about this magical land.

Although allergic to improv as a rule, I’ve been captivated by the adventures of these wayward travelers. Mostly I listen to episodes from the initial season. (Accessing early shows can be a hassle due to indifferent website U/X.)

The brief first episode establishes the world and its characters; you have to start there. Swear to God, there’s a line from that first show that I think of a least a few times a week to this day. I’m mad about the fourth episode in which interviewee “Larry Birdman” describes the rules and culture of Foon’s national sport of Mittens. The world contains a main villain, supporting blackguards, attendant minions.

Something about the dynamic between these guys — the quality of their voices and their smart, weird riffs — reminds me of the nerdy, weirdos I crushed on in junior high. The trio project a sweet, knowing naughtiness and commitment to character that immediately hooked me. It’s dungeons, dragons & Dad humor on acid.