The Best Podcasts of 2020

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Podcasts seem to be slowly but surely taking over the world. Everyone from Bachelor Nation and beyond has one. That random guy you follow on Instagram but don’t really know? Even he has one. Topics span just about every genre, diving into every mystery, debate, or random topic you can think of. Feel like listening to someone whisper-read Sherlock Holmes? There’s a podcast for that. Can’t afford couples therapy, but could really use some marriage advice? You guessed it, there is also a podcast for that. Love to hate-watch bad movies? There’s a podcast for that one, of course.

With the vast and varied pool of options out there, it can be overwhelming to pick which one to play while you’re cooking dinner, or cleaning your apartment. You want one that you can really get into, because long car rides and laundry days can really fly by with the help of an interesting podcast. But that means it has to be one that’s right for you. Luckily, the ever-increasing plethora of podcasts means that there’s something out there for everyone, from scientific investigations and true crime stories, to improvised comedy and celebrity interviews. Whether you’re looking to catch up on politics, laugh, fall asleep, cry, learn something new or be truly terrified, there is likely a great podcast that will do the trick. These are the 10 best podcasts of the year so far.

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Armchair Expert

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Celebrities interviewing other celebrities may be the most overdone podcast format, but Armchair Expert stands out thanks to its honest and authentic approach. It was launched in 2018 by Dax Shepard, best known these days for being married to America’s sweetheart Kristen Bell, and his friend/nanny/colleague Monica Padman. They sit in his attic and talk to all of your favorite celebs about their hopes, dreams, and struggles. Not to mention, how they made it in the crazy world that is Hollywood, interspersed with some touching and relatable stories from their own lives. They also release “Experts on Experts” episodes in which they interview a specialist in one of the many topics they dive into regularly, such as masculinity, substance abuse, and more.

Decoder Ring

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If you’re an overly curious person who loves the idea of listening to someone answer all of the random questions you find yourself pondering in the shower, this is the podcast for you. In each episode of Decoder Ring, Slate’s TV critic Willa Paskin examines the history of a different cultural conundrum, habit, or object—ranging from the plastic testicles people hang from their bumpers, to why gay people love Judy Garland so much. It’s a genuinely fun, and often interesting way to pass the time.

How Did This Get Made?

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Comic actors Paul Sheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Manzoukas host this hilarious podcast about movies that are so bad they’re somehow good. Most episodes feature a special celebrity guest, who they force to watch some iconic bad movie (think: Underworld, Space Jam, Little Italy) before coming on. Then, they all discuss the wonderful ridiculousness of said movie and try to figure out how it possibly got made.

How I Built This

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NPR has built an arsenal of entertaining podcasts that helped reach a new generation of sophisticated millennials. How I Built This is one of NPR’s many podcasts with a cult following, particularly with the business-minded, future-startup-founder crowd. Guy Raz invites a variety of innovators and entrepreneurs to tell their stories of finding success in ventures like Dell Computers, Dippin’ Dots, Spanx, and Spindrift.

Keep It

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From the network that brings you Pod Save America, this similarly smart and witty podcast explains how the latest in pop culture and entertainment intersects with politics and society. Hosts Ira Madison III, Louis Virtel, and Aida Osman discuss the current celeb scandals, memes, TV and tech news that may be affecting the world in ways we didn’t realize. It’s informative, digestible and a ton of fun.

My Favorite Murder

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True crime is another genre that has seen a ton of play in recent years. Suddenly, everyone wanted to talk about murder and serial killers, but Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark did it first. And they continue to do it best. My Favorite Murder is branded as a true crime comedy podcast, and yes, they often address how those two ideas may not sound like they should go together. But they somehow make it work with hilarious weekly episodes in which each host tells a true crime story in great detail. Be prepared to cringe and cackle all at once.

The 27 Club

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This brand-new iHeartRadio podcast was created by Jake Brennan to dig into the lives of the musicians who have joined the infamous 27 Club—the startling amount of artists who passed away at 27 years old—and what led them to their unfortunate fates. The first season focuses on the fascinating and dramatic life of Jimi Hendrix and the mysterious events surrounding his untimely death. Subsequent seasons will explore the other legendary artists who died at 27, including Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse.

The Daily

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What would a list of best podcasts be without The Daily? This New York Times podcast is a reliable, quick, and easy way to consume the important news of the day. In each episode, host Michael Barbaro interviews Times reporters to discuss their recent stories and help us understand why they matter. It’s a must-listen if you like to stay informed on what’s going on in the world.

The Murder Squad

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Yes, another true crime podcast. But this one is particularly interesting because it’s co-hosted by Paul Holes, a retired cold case investigator, and investigative journalist Billy Jensen. Holes offers a unique perspective that the public rarely gets, since it was actually his job to investigate these kinds of cases. The first episode of 2020 documented the first cold case murder arrest that actually occurred as a result of the podcast. Seriously, it’s exciting stuff.

Truth and Lies: Jeffrey Epstein

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When huge things are happening in the news, it can be hard to keep up, or even know what’s worth reading. That’s why an in-depth podcast from a trusted source can be clutch. This eight-part ABC News podcast documents the entire Jeffrey Epstein story, from his rise to power, to the failure of the first Florida investigation over a decade ago, ending with his sudden arrest and shocking demise. It also shares the first-hand stories of the women who fought to have their voices heard, and the lawyers and investigators who worked to bring him to justice.

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