If you look outside you’ll notice that the world is rapidly spiraling out of control — but that doesn’t mean you have to. Anxiety is an inherent side effect of being alive and I’m just here to offer you a healthy coping mechanism. These podcasts are a nice little dose of escapism to remind yourself that you’re just a person, you deserve compassion, and sometimes that means just putting the world on mute.
The internet is crazy. Most of the time going on Twitter feels like staring directly at the sun for no reason other than just wanting to make yourself cry. But sometimes it’s crazy in a fun, nihilistic way. Come to Brazil is about that version of the internet. It’s a podcast about the frivolous nature of celebrity and internet fan culture. Hosted by comedians Nicole Boyce and Alex Hahn, it’s a culmination of all the weirdest, most niche inside jokes between celebrities and their close, personal millions of fans. The show has no definitive structure; it’s essentially a coordinated but ultimately inconsequential 40-minute discussion inundated with weird bits and an excessive amount of sound effects. It’s perfect. It’s like the reality TV of podcasts in that you know it’s void of any deep meaning and you seek it out exclusively because of that.
Most scripted podcasts are dramas or murder mysteries. Creator Allison Raskin completely flipped the script with this soap opera about three women who meet every week to gossip about the people in their town. The three drastically different women aren’t concerned about whether the rumors are true, they’re only interested in being excessively nosy and judgmental in a somewhat harmless and arbitrary way. This premise, backed by Raskin’s dry wit, makes the podcast a well-written, smart, and funny take on traditional soaps. Each week’s episode also features an unscripted conversation with other comedians about the strange rumors that they remember hearing growing up, which reveals a lot about our seemingly intrinsic obsession with talking about each other.
Being gay in the world is a full-time, unpaid job and it’s exhausting. It’s also a unique experience that we wouldn’t trade for anything. That being said, complaining about the hetero-patriarchy in mainstream culture feels good. That’s why Inside the Closet is so refreshing. Hosts Mateo Lane and Emma Willmann are both gay comedians whose careers and everyday lives are affected by their queerness, and this podcast explores that in a fun, light-hearted, and ultimately optimistic way. In the era of Trump, doomsday pessimism seems to be the default in every medium of entertainment — and this podcast offers an antithesis to that while still remaining honest.
Anyone who enjoys dating is insane. I’m sorry, I don’t make the rules. Dating, specifically in 2018, is difficult, tiresome, and incessantly complicated. Why Won’t You Date Me? is a support group for anyone who is still monumentally confused about the state of their dating life. There’s nothing wrong with you! There are a lot of us out there, struggling to find the one or the one for the night. Hosted by comedian Nicole Byer, the show is a conversation between comics about insecurities, love, loneliness, and where the hell to go from wherever you feel stuck. Although the show’s premise is about the difficulties of dating as a comedian, the themes are pretty universal, chiefly because we’re all trying our best.
Identity is extremely complicated and as it evolves, so must language. That can sometimes be difficult, especially because there are no one-size-fits-all labels, because certain words feel comfortable to some and not at all to others. We’re especially seeing this in the queer community, which is why comic Cameron Esposito created Queery, an hour-long conversation between two queer people about what identity means to them. It’s funny, heartfelt, and it feels like a safe place. In mainstream media, we don’t usually get to talk among ourselves, as queer people, about life beyond coming out. The people that are part of our conversation, usually well-meaning straight people, always shape the conversation in way that’s never really about us but about how people and the world react to our queerness. This podcast gets rid of that heteronormative, voyeuristic paradigm and creates an environment of wholesome vulnerability. I’m gonna be real, I’ve cried at a few episodes. But it’s the kind of cry that makes you feel so good about being a part of this community.
Ira Madison III’s iconic catchphrase is now a podcast! I started following Madison on Twitter years ago and have always loved both his sense of humor and his view of the world, so when this podcast started, I was ecstatic. Hosted by Madison, comedian Louis Virtel, and writer Kara Brown, the show is a beautiful and hilarious dissection of pop culture and politics. The dynamic between the three hosts is refreshing and none of the conversations feel forced or preachy. From Madison and Virtel’s excessive pop culture knowledge and obscure references to Brown’s insightful and intelligent cultural criticism, the show feels like what hanging out with your friends feels like. Although they discuss all the things that the world is doing wrong, it’s never stressful. It’s the soothing voice of reason you need when your Twitter feed looks like chaos.
Ana Marie Cox is a political columnist and cultural critic trying to redefine the way we talk to each other about our experiences in the world. With Friends Like These has one goal: to make people listen to each other. This isn’t one of those “everyone deserves a voice” things that the New York Times is trying to do by profiling Nazis who love Seinfeld. This podcast makes absolutely no room for hate. Cox instead has discussions with liberals, conservatives, pastors, writers, activists, and a multitude of other kinds of people to reach a base level of human understanding. Although these are tough conversations to have, they are important. As a host, Cox does well at making listeners disarm, and the show is relaxing because it leaves you feeling deeply human.
If you love music, this podcast is going to change your life. Comedian Eliza Skinner hosts Cool Playlist, a show where she and a special guest create a playlist for a specific life event, moment, or occasion. The scenarios can be anything from gay prom to hanging out at the mall in 1992. The music includes everything from Kehlani to AC/DC. It’s a treat both for music lovers and people who want to know more about music but don’t really know where to start. The playlists are also available after every show goes up on Skinner’s Spotify.
With the volume of content out there, the very thought of trying to figure out what podcasts to listen to in order to feel less anxious made me anxious. This list is still barely even scratching the surface, but it’s a good start. So close your Twitter, grab some wine or some ginger tea, and take a break. I guarantee that one, if not all, of these podcasts will make you feel okay about the world. Even if it’s just for an hour.