In December, the A.V. Club rounded up fifteen of their writers and collected ballots to determine the top ten podcasts of the year. They came up with a really great list—six of their picks either help me stay awake on my commute to work or motivate me to stay on the exercise bike a little longer. But as a few commenters noted, there was a shortage of women, both on the jury (with the exception of Genevieve Koski) and in the final list (with the exception of Pop Culture Happy Hour’s Linda Holmes.)
I listen to a lot of podcasts. I became interested in them in college when I needed something to entertain me during cross-country holiday flights. They kept me going for the four-hundred hours I needed to complete a huge cross-stitch last year, and through an epic road trip through seventeen states this summer. I’ve donated money to keep them going. I’ve attended live shows. I’ve even called Dan Savage for sex advice. But I’ve never been able to get enough other women interested in them, for reasons that are entirely mysterious to me.
So with all these things in mind, here are my ten favorite podcasts that are hosted (or co-hosted) by women, for your 2014 listening pleasure.
10. Sex Nerd Sandra
This sex-positive podcast comes out on Wednesdays—get it?!—and covers a pretty broad range of topics from the instructional to the philosophical, including kissing, fetishes, healing after abuse, and, in the most recent episode, the intersection of sexuality and the Bible. Since a kind of uncomfortable on-air breakup with her co-host in March, Sandra Daugherty has been keeping the podcast going with really great guests and co-hosts. She has the perfect sense of humor coupled with a genuine curiosity for sex and relationships and I always learn something new when I listen.
9. Ronna & Beverly
Ronna and Beverly are the two vaguely disapproving Jewish mothers you’ve always wanted but never had. The characters, played by Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo, have an elaborate forty-year backstory, including ex-husbands, children, and a book they coauthored, You’ll Do A Little Better Next Time: A Guide to Marriage and Re-marriage for Jewish Singles. Together, they grill a celebrity guest, which always feels like eavesdropping on someone trapped in a conversation at a family wedding. The characters are a bit much, so you’ll either love it or hate it. Personally speaking though, Ronna and Beverly will always be on my fantasy dinner party guest list.
8. Girl on Guy
The format of comic-interviews-a-creative (comic, musician, actor, what have you) is out there in the podcast universe many times over. Marc Maron is famous for it, Pete Holmes has a long-form version, and Scott Aukerman parodies it frequently on Comedy Bang Bang. Aisha Tyler, the titular girl—who you may recognize as the voice of Lana from Archer—has her own spin on it, where she interviews a guy (sometimes a girl) who is successful in a creative field. It’s more of a conversation than an interview, really, and it’s amazing how tweaking a formula just a bit can yield such different results. Her podcast is always a good listen, especially the Self-Inflicted Wounds segment near the end, where she invites her guests to tell a story of a time they humiliated themselves.
7. Slumber Party with Alie & Georgia
Alie and Georgia first showed up on the Internet’s radar in 2009 when they crafted the McNuggetini out of a chocolate milkshake, vanilla vodka, a barbecue-sauce-rimmed martini glass, and a chicken nugget garnish.
Now they have their own show on the Cooking Channel as well as their own podcast, which what it sounds like, pajamas, pillow forts, ghost stories, snacks and all. They almost always have a guest—although a few solo episodes have been recorded—and they have fun regular questions, including, “What did you learn this week?” and, “Who is your Internet crush?” Their most recent two-part episode dealing with Matt Mira and his breakup is equal parts funny, touching, and disturbing. Put on your jammies and listen already.
6. Go Bayside!
When I first heard there was a podcast dedicated to discussing Saved By the Bell, I thought it was a ridiculous idea. But then Paul F. Tompkins was a guest, and I thought I’d listen to just one episode. Of course I got sucked right in. It turns out that there is, in fact, some shit about that show that needs to be addressed—how do I not remember that Zack Morris can freeze time?!—and April Richardson, who grew up watching reruns on TBS, is happy to address it, one episode at a time, on her couch with a weekly guest.
5. Thrilling Adventure Hour
The Thrilling Adventure Hour, performed and recorded live, is a throwback to the Golden Age of Radio. There are several recurring segments, but two of the most frequent are Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars, and Beyond Belief. In the first, Busy Philipps, of Dawson’s Creek and Cougartown fame, plays the Red Plains Rider, a human raised by Martians who executes vigilante justice in Mars. In the second, Paget Brewster, plays the perpetually drunk Sadie Doyle, who is as devoted to her husband as she is to not leaving their New York apartment. Oh, and she sees ghosts. There’s also a great rotating cast of guest stars, and since it’s recorded in LA, you never know who might show up.
4. Who Charted?
Kulap Vilaysack—once you learn how to say it, you’ll want to do it all the time—acts as a guide (and occasional translator) for the glorious anarchy of her co-host Howard Kramer. Together, they count down three top-five charts, one related to music, one to movies, and one grab bag, all with a weekly guest. Their related podcast, Two Charted, comes through the same feed, and features a personal top-five list of the week from each of them. The two of them have amazing chemistry, and Kulap’s giggle is crazy contagious.
3. Throwing Shade
In Throwing Shade, Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi, self-described “femme-nasty” and “homo-sensual,” locked in a love/hate friendship, talk about current events related to feminist and LGBT issues. Every week, they each bring an issue to the table, and if that sounds boring, you should know that the two met performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in LA and are contributors to Funny or Die. Since it’s a topical show, you should probably just jump in, but I recommend you do it fast so you can listen to episode 111 while it’s still relevant. It’s a perfect example of a great episode, and their opening discussion of gym floor pills just about killed me.
2. How Did This Get Made?
To be fair, while HDTGM didn’t make the AV Club’s final list, it was on one of the writer’s ballots. It’s a podcast dedicated to breaking down bad movies. Paul Sheer hosts, with Jason Mantzoukas and his wife June Diane Raphael making up the rest of the regular panel. The three of them seem like they’re friends in real life, because they’ve played off each other perfectly from the first episode, when they dissected Burlesque. June is far and away the most earnest reviewer on the show. She puts a lot of faith in the creative teams behind the movies, for better or worse, and will often argue on behalf of them, like the time that she insisted Pamela Anderson’s eponymous Barb Wire is a feminist role model.
1. I Seem Fun: The Diary of Jen Kirkman
Technically this podcast only existed for half the year, since it launched in May, but I’m picking it anyway. You may know Jen Kirkman from Drunk HIstory or Chelsea Lately, but when you listen to her extemporaneous podcast, recorded from her bed, it kind of feels like you’re on the phone with one of your best friends at the end of a long day. Since it’s only her talking, with no recurring segments from week to week, it feels more intimate than any of the podcasts I listen to. Also, listening to her talk about her career and the amount of work she does usually shames me into writing more, which is always a plus.