The Best New Podcasts of 2019
Will we ever get sick of podcasts? For more than a decade now, the aural storytelling medium has evolved in ways impossible to foresee, and major platforms like Spotify and Google are putting a ton of money behind the belief that the listening public is hungry for more. The niches are virtually unlimited; no matter your obsession, there’s a podcast for you. Love sports? You’ve got thousands of options. What about something more specific, like Britney Spears? There’s a podcast for that. Cats? Take your pick.
But with all of these options, it feels almost impossible to know where to start. And with new podcasts coming out every week, there’s no way in hell you’ll ever listen to more than a drop in the endless ocean of content. That’s where we step in. Throughout the year, we’re compiling the best new podcasts of 2019. That means any show that began production with new episodes this calendar year. This way, you can catch shows before they become big hits, or discover new gems with us. We’re choosing from a variety of subject matters (the list below is organized by podcast category), so that diehards and novices alike can find something to listen to and talk about. And if there's still nothing that satiates your podcast appetite, be sure to check out Thrillist and iHeart Media's new podcast, Thrillist's Best (and the Rest).
Host: Chelsea Handler
Why it’s great: For more than a decade, Handler has been a voice of hilarity and honesty in the pop culture sphere. From her hit E! talk show Chelsea Lately to her memoirs and beyond, she consistently displays a biting wit that cuts to the heart of even the most controversial issues. Now she’s taking her trademark potty mouth to the podcast world with this limited series, launched in conjunction with her book and comedy tour of the same name. In it, she talks politics, childhood trauma, and personal friendships with guests like Connie Britton and Natasha Lyonne. If you’re a fan of Handler’s brand of comedy, you’ll love this podcast, the perfect showcase for her evolution as a storyteller.
Host: Chris Morgan
Why it's great: If you're looking for a podcast unlike any other, you won't regret subscribing to this fascinating, short-form podcast from British ecologist and conservationist Chris Morgan. In The Wild, Morgan takes listeners on journeys across the world as he recounts stories about encounters with bears, takes nature walks with a "forest therapist," and digs into the psychology of animals. If you love the great outdoors but are trapped in an office, The Wild has a transportive effect, perfect for summer listening.
Host: Eleanor Kagan
Why it's great: When she was 37, Julie Yip-Williams was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. Her prognosis was terminal, but her hope was not lost. Knowing that death was coming for her, and quick, Yip-Williams wrote a memoir, The Unwinding of the Miracle, which explores the emotions that come when you know your time is almost up. In this new podcast from Pineapple Street Media, Yip-Williams' memoir is adapted into a multi-part podcast hosted by Eleanor Kagan, who recounts her stories of marriage, motherhood, immigration, grief, and bodily disfunction. It's a beautiful, albeit sad, story that lets listeners in on the most personal and uncomfortable experience a human could ever go through. It may be a tear-jerker, but it's well worth it for the clarity and hope each episode offers.
Host: Mo Rocca
Why it's great: Comedian Mo Rocca uses a lifelong obsession with obituaries to examine the lives of some of the most fascinating people in history. From Audrey Hepburn to JFK impersonator Vaughn Meader to lesser-known American heroes like Elizabeth Jennings and Moses Fleetwood Walker, the obituaries feature famous Rocca friends and critics who dig into the fascinating life stories of some of the world's most interesting people, going beyond a typical obituary to create a more complete profile on the legacies of these individuals.
Host: Jessica Harper
Why it's great: Actress Jessica Harper was big-name actress in the '70s thanks to the horror hit Suspiria and romances like Stardust Memories and Pennies from Heaven. Like stars whose fame was confined to a single generation, she's ready to tell her story in a memoir; but instead of committing to page, she's documenting her life in podcast form. Winnetka, named after the Chicago suburb where she grew up, tells the story of the Harper family. Their all-American charm masked a darker home life dominated by an abusive father and haunted by a long-held family secret, told against the backdrop of social unrest in Eisenhower's post-WWII America. It's a nontraditional way to learn about a celebrity, and Harper makes great use of the format. She tells her own story, along with her other family members, and even composed the original music. It's a lovely tribute to her life, career, and the people who made her the woman she is today.
Hosts: Carlo Versano and Jill Wagner
Why it's great: Do you ever feel like there’s so much going on in the world that it’s impossible to keep up? What if there were a podcast that could deliver you the biggest news stories in the world in under 10 minutes? Enter Cheddar’s Need2Know, where every Monday through Friday, two hosts from the streaming news channel deliver a quick run-through of everything you might have missed from the day before. There’s a healthy mix of highlights, from government shutdowns to Californian wildfires to pop culture, to keep you up-to-speed and in-the-know without hogging too much of your time.
Host: Rebecca Jarvis
Why it's great: Elizabeth Holmes had everything. A Stanford student who dropped out at age 19, she was the youngest self-made female billionaire in America, the founder and CEO of the tech company Theranos, which was set to revolutionize the health industry with its single-drop blood tests. The only problem? It was all a lie. In 2018, Holmes was indicted on charges of wire fraud and accused of falsifying the blood test results delivered to consumers. The Dropout, a hit podcast from ABC News and Nightline, chronicles the rise and fall of Holmes, from the creation of Theranos to her destructive relationship with its COO, Ramesh Balwani, to her trial. The intricate detail and production quality make The Dropout an engrossing, irresistible listen about one of the most bizarre and famous stories of the dangers of pursuing wealth and glory.
Hosts: Connor Wright, Christina Friel
Why it's great: Imagine a future where everyone in America is gay. Children go to Gay Academy. Clay Aiken is president. Oh, and all of this is based on a YA novel Mike Pence wrote in 2002. That's the outlandish premise of this fictional pop-art podcast, a satire that imagines the world in the hilariously outlandish and stereotypical way that might sound like a gay-panic horror story to Mike Pence, but to non-bigots is the perfect laugh. Our "hero" is the lone straight boy who sets out to scare the world straight. Gay Future plays with YA tropes, features a hilarious cast, and is one of the few truly unique podcasts out there.
Host: Bill Nye
Why it’s great: Who doesn’t love Bill Nye the Science Guy? A good portion of the contemporary denizens of the internet grew up with Nye's voice in their classrooms or at home after school. Now, you can bottle that voice with this educational podcast, in which Nye answers some of the "curliest questions" about anything in the universe. How do cheeseburgers affect climate change? What’s the best way to wash a pillowcase? Nye provides detailed answers, from the micro to the macro, in these 40-minute weekly installments.
Host: Olivia Wilde
Why it’s great: This Harper's Bazaar podcast gives readers the chance to "overhear intimate, unfiltered conversations between the world’s most influential women," in a way that doesn’t feel treacly or preachily inspirational, but rather real, honest, and informative. Hosted by actress and director Olivia Wilde, Dare I Say brings together industry professionals who shed light on important topics facing women today, from abortion laws to body positivity to racial politics and beyond. It's stark, refreshing, and will gift you with new talking points for your next dinner party. Rarely do women get a space like this to sound off, which makes Dare I Say a powerful addition to the podcast world.
Host: Andrew Jenks
Why it's great: The first season of this new Cadence13 podcast focuses on a story we can't seem to get enough of: the college admissions scandal, made popular by celebrities like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. But there's way more to the story than those two names, and Gangster Capitalism gets into the nitty-gritty aspects of just how far people will go to achieve the American dream. If you're like us and totally obsessed with this news story, you don't want to miss this one.
Host: Matt Frederick
Why it's great: This one is a bit of a cheat, since it's made by the same people who brought us one of last year's best new podcasts -- The Atlanta Monster -- and is skinned as a second season. But we’re counting it anyway, since it feels of its own DNA, and tells a new story by revisiting one of the most notorious serial killers in American history: the Zodiac. You may think you gleaned all you need to know about the Zodiac from David Fincher’s eponymous film or true crime osmosis, but Monster: The Zodiac Killer gets into the nooks and crannies of this bizarre unsolved crime. We all know the basics: the couple attacked on Lover’s Lane, the school bus threat, the letters to the press. But the master storytellers at iHeartRadio and Tenderfoot TV make even one of the most well-known serial killer cases feel like a brand new experience. It’s also a bone-chilling reminder that this grisly crime remains unsolved.
Host: Matthew Shaer
Why it's great: Wondery has created several big-name podcasts, like Dirty John and Dr. Death, so it's no surprise that their latest, Over My Dead Body, has already hit the top of the podcast charts. The first season is another riveting true-crime thriller, telling the story of attorneys Dan and Wendi, whose pairing was high-powered enough to earn their wedding an announcement in The New York Times. But after six years and two kids, things suddenly fell apart, they divorced, and one of them wound up dead a short time later. The case that follows is an elaborate, twisted story involving high-profile lawyers, the Latin Kings, and revenge. It's another slam-dunk for Wondery.
Host: Eli Roth
Why it’s great: Genre fans are already familiar with director Eli Roth, best-known for helming horror hits like Hostel and Cabin Fever. But Roth’s love for the history of cinematic horror runs deeper than his own work, and this podcast -- which serves as an audio companion to the show that aired on AMC in 2018 -- gets into the weeds of the genre with the help of an impressive roster of guest stars, from Stephen King to Diablo Cody to Quentin Tarantino. It’s a perfect deep dive into horror movies and what inspires these stories, and a great listen for anyone with an interest in the macabre.
Host: Josh Dean
Why it's great: What happens when one of the people you love and trust most in this world ends up being a famous serial killer? That's what April Balascio tries to unpack in this Gimlet Media podcast, as she recounts the story of her father -- Edward Wayne Edwards -- and his 2009 arrest. It was Balascio who called the police and had her father arrested, a harrowing yet important choice for public good. She talks to host Josh Dean about her childhood and her emotional journey in this tight, eight-episode series that offers a unique spin on the classic true-crime podcast genre.
Host: Bree Helders
Why it's great: In 2018, Bree Helders lost both of her parents. In an effort to work through her grief, Helders started My Dead Parents, a podcast where she talks about her experience with a guest, someone else with a dead parent. Together, they share their thoughts on the oddities of grief and how it manifests, on hospitals and funerals, and more. (Previous guests have included Steve Agee and Reggie Watts.) If you're looking to laugh through your tears and better understand how unfair life can be, My Dead Parents is a great release.
Host: Rebecca Delgado-Smith
Why it's great: In The Alarmist, host Rebecca Delgado-Smith and a weekly guest investigate some of history's biggest and most ridiculous failures, trying to pinpoint where it all went wrong and how it could have been prevented. They get into everything from the sinking of the Titanic, the Donner party disaster, right down to the infamous McDonald's hot coffee lawsuit, and everything in between. It's hilarious, informative, and addictive.
Host: Amy Nicholson
Why it's great: In discussion with film critic Amy Nicholson, the Quentin Tarantino shares thoughts on his childhood, his movie obsessions, his career, and more in this podcast produced by culture site The Ringer. This miniseries gets into everything from the director's youthful obsession with Point Break to his issues with films like Boogie Nights. You won't want to miss this up-close and personal discussion series with one of the biggest names in Hollywood -- past or present.
Host: Jacob Margolis and Mischa Euceph
Why it's great: You've probably heard of "The Big One," the giant prophesied earthquake that will almost definitely flatten huge amounts of the West Coast, and possibly soon. This podcast, produced by SoCal NPR-affiliate station KPCC, is all about the possibility of that cataclysmic event -- how to understand it, prepare for it, and what it will mean, not only for Californians, but the rest of the world, too. It avoids fear-mongering in favor of useful factuality, shedding light on a disaster that's likely to happen in our lifetimes.
Cast: Cynthia Erivo
Why it's great: Narrated by Tony-winner Cynthia Erivo, this fictional drama series follows a woman as she journeys down a "dark and lonely highway" with a loaded trailer containing something mysterious. The thriller made waves for its immersive audio design that creates a more dimensional experience than you're used to hearing in a podcast. If you're ready to get hypnotically creeped out, download Carrier ASAP.
Host: Kevin Fong
Why it's great: It's been 50 years since man first walked on the moon, and to celebrate, BBC World Service produced 13 Minutes to the Moon, scored by Hans Zimmer. The 12-episode series offers an in-depth look at the moon landing and what it took to make it happen, walking listeners through every step, from the planning stages to the moonwalk itself. This is one of the most fascinating and complete stories of the moon landing you'll hear.
Host: Peter Sagal
Why it's great: Chernobyl, HBO's raw and brutal TV miniseries from earlier this year, retold the story of the nuclear power disaster and the cover-up that followed the meltdown. If you're a fan of the show, then this podcast is an absolute must-listen. Hosted by Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!'s Peter Sagal, The Chernobyl Podcast goes deep on the show with its creator, Craig Mazin, explaining the production, his research into the real-life events, and more. This isn't a standard post-episode TV talk; Mazin is surprisingly open and the conversations between him and Sagal are informative and smartly analytical.