10-List: My Favorite Podcasts in 2020

It has occurred to me that I have a subheading marked “podcasts” that has very few posts in it.

A few years ago, I worked a lot of evening dispatch shifts at the post office, which meant—in my particular office—that I worked alone much of the time, preparing the outgoing mail for shipment to Little Rock and sorting packages for the next day’s delivery. A lot of the time, I was in the building until 10 PM, alone after the last truck of the day was gone around 6 PM.

It was during this lonely, lonely time that I discovered podcasts. I’ve written before about discovering the Storywonk podcasts, before the husband-and-wife team behind them broke up. I also listened to a lot of Star Wars Minute, and the various Afterbuzz podcasts, and several podcasts that Kevin Smith was a part of, such as Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs and Fatman on Batman. There were others I’ve forgotten by this point.

Putting in my ear buds and listening to a podcast helped the time go by while I worked alone. It was actually comforting.

Then I put in a job bid for a window clerk position and got it. I couldn’t wear my ear buds any longer, and I was no longer working alone. Since my commute to work is all of fifteen-twenty minutes, I no longer listened to podcasts the way I used to. Even during my lunch hour, I usually just watch a television series on Netflix.

But I discovered that I liked listening to podcasts as I went to sleep. I have a podcast app on my Kindle Fire. When I’m about to seriously try to get to sleep, I usually put on a podcast and put my ear bud in.

There are podcasts out there, such as Sleep With Me, designed specifically to put you to sleep—and they work—but I’ve discovered that almost any podcast will accomplish the same trick for me.

Since what usually happens is that one podcast episode after another will play all night long, or until my battery runs low, I stay away from the scary or murder-y podcasts. Towards the end of my sleep cycle, when I’m beginning the slow reemergence from unconsciousness, whatever’s playing in my ear tends to become entwined with my dreams. This is pleasant when the podcast is focusing on humor. Not so pleasant when I’m listening to the serial-killer-obsessed Last Podcast on the Left. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great podcast, but not something you want invading your dreams.

To answer the unasked question: No, having a podcast playing in my ear (I put only one bud in, usually the right/pillow-side ear, so I can listen for tornado sirens as well) doesn’t disturb my sleep. Just the opposite. It’s like white noise to me. I’ve slept listening to music or nature sounds as well, but the sound of people in conversation seems to be the best option for me. It’s soothing.

My only complaint, and it’s not a serious one, is that I rarely listen to an entire podcast before drifting off to sleep. This means I’ve listened to some episodes more than once, starting them at different parts of the recording.

This post is dedicated to the Top-10 podcasts—in no particular order—that I listen to while going to sleep in the year 2020.

Armchair Expert

Armchair Expert is hosted by actor Dax Shepard (that’s Kristen Bell’s husband, you know) and Emmy-nominated Monica Padman. Since 2018, there have been over 200 episodes. Shepard and Padman seem to have little trouble attracting A-list guests to their show, but they interview a lot of people I’ve never heard of, too. Recent episodes featured Melissa McCarthy, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, and Sheryl Crow. Shepard is always funny, and Padman is a great cohost. After the miniscule sound bytes we get from normal television talk shows, this long-form interview format is refreshing.

Doug Loves Movies

Comedian Doug Benson also has a podcast named Getting Doug with High that looks fun. I may listen to it at some point. Benson, who will be 58 years old in about a month, is a marijuana rights advocate and frequent user who still manages to seem productive, focused and smart. And he still looks younger than me. I’ve seen Benson in a lot of things, such as Best Week Ever and the very interesting 2007 documentary Super High Me, which was like Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, only with weed instead of fast food. In this podcast, Benson is the master of ceremonies over games about movies, with celebrity guests. You can usually count on Benson being baked during the game, and sometimes his guests are as well. No judgment here. You only have to listen to a couple of episodes to realize that Doug really, really loves movies.

Fake Doctors, Real Friends

I loved the television series Scrubs. It didn’t seem like my sort of thing, but I loved it anyway. Zach Braff and Donald Faison played doctors who were best friends on the series, and, as it turns out, they are also best friends in real life. Who knew? This Scrubs rewatch podcast was launched back in March, so it’s relatively new and fresh. And, did I say funny? I should have. I just listened to both actors waxing positively rhapsodic over The Color Purple, reciting entire passages of dialogue. Just talking about the series would have been enough for me, but this? This is comedy gold.

How Did This Get Made?

If Doug Benson doesn’t give you your movie fix, this podcast should do the trick. This podcast has legs. It’s been around on the Earwolf network since 2010. Comedic actors Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas talk about, deconstruct, and mock bad or outrageous films. Every episode is probably longer than the movies themselves. Think of it as Mystery Science Theater 3000 without the robot silhouettes or actually having to watch the movie.

Inside of You

This podcast has been around since 2018, but I discovered it only recently when Arrow star Stephen Amell had a panic attack while on the podcast and it made national news. The podcast is hosted by Michael Rosenbaum, who was Lex Luthor on the series Smallville (my favorite Luthor portrayal to date). Rosenbaum is an empathetic interviewer who has a knack for getting his guests to open up. Amell’s okay, by the way, and even came back on the podcast to talk about the incident.

The Darkest Timeline

Sounds serious. It’s not. Another relatively new podcast featuring Joel McHale and Ken Jeong from the series Community. I recently began watching the series, which led to podcast. The show’s title is apparently a reference I don’t get yet since I just finished watching Season 1 with my wife.

Office Ladies

In what’s beginning to sound like a theme here, another new podcast, although they already have 29 episodes in the can. This is a rewatch of the US version of The Office, co-hosted by two actresses from the series, Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, who are best friends in real life. This is the type of rewatch podcast only true insiders could have done.

Star Trek: The Next Conversation

Not a new podcast this time. In fact, I’ve written about this one before and I’m still a fan. This rewatch podcast is near the end of Season 5 of Star Trek: The Next Generation and is still co-hosted by Trek expert Matt Mira and self-professed TNG neophyte Andrew Secunda, both of whom are writers on the television series The Goldbergs. While I am a Trekkie, I like listening to these two banter even when the episode they’re discussing is less-than-stellar. My one gripe is that Matt & Andy now keep a lot of additional material behind a Patreon paywall. I’m all paid out at this point. Maybe one day the sponsors will flock to them.

Tell ‘Em, Steve-Dave

I’ve already mentioned that Kevin Smith was my gateway drug into the world of podcasts. I don’t often listen to Smith these days, but I still like this podcast created by several of his friends. This one has been around since 2010 and is co-hosted by Walt Flanagan, Bryan Johnson, and Brian Quinn. You might recognize Flanagan and Johnson from the cancelled AMC series Comic Book Men. Walt, who is also a comic book artist, is the manager of Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, the comic book store owned by Kevin Smith in Redbank, NJ. Brian Quinn, whose nickname is “Q,” is one of those guys on Impractical Jokers. These guys talk about everything and are naturally funny.

Your Mom’s House

Speaking of funny. This podcast is hosted by married comedians Tom Segura and Christina Pazsitzky. I’ve been familiar with Segura’s standup work for a few years (he’s in heavy rotation in the Raw Comedy category on Pandora Radio). Both are funny and I enjoy their rapport.

* * *

I know my motto here is “Read, Play, Watch,” and I don’t intend to change it. But, listening has always been one of my entertainment options as well. Music, the occasional audiobook, and podcasts. My stance is that listening is like reading or watching, only with your ears, and I’m sticking to it.

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