You’re Missing Out on the Best Kind of Podcast
Everyone should listen to an audio drama podcast – a podcast that is played out like in a theater, in a movie or on television. Listen to podcasts without any audio dramas, like watching TV without even trying Game of Thrones, Arrested Development, or Orange Is the New Black . And while this medium is about to explode from the side effects of existing franchises , there are already dozens of great original shows to try. Here are some of the best.
Let’s start with the funniest ones.
Victoriocity : Steampunk Adventure Comedy
A detective and a journalist run through fantastic Victorian London, solving the murder of an inventor. If you’ve ever read The Hitchhiker ‘s Guide to the Galaxy or Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, you’ll love this show. This is good for anyone who loves genre fiction and poignant British anecdotes. Unlike The Hitchhiker , the plot is surprisingly meticulous.
Mission to Zyxx : AnImpromptu Space Parody
The diplomatic space team is defeated mission by mission. I hesitate to call Zyxx a parody of Star Wars and Star Trek because it itself is so much better than the parody implies. This show has a Bojack Horse vibe where the whole world follows crazy logic. While the show is being built in place, it is then carefully edited and cinematic sound is created. We interviewed the creators about their process last year.
Offensive : sitcom in the workplace
This is Vice President, but for the management team of an English football club. It is mainly a show about people very cleverly insulting each other. While many of the references are based on little knowledge of football or British culture, I still love it, even as an American sports phobia.
Gay Future : Wacky Dystopia
“It’s 2062 and everyone is gay.” This show is crazy. Slightly framed as the failed heist of Mike Pence’s ” Divergent” , ” Gay Future” follows “direct resistance” to President Clay Aiken. The soundtrack and soundtrack are a real treat, and the plot and play are like in an adult cartoon.
Project Amelia : Brief Interviews with Disgusting People
Project Amelia helps people to stage their own death. In each episode, different clients explain their situation and plan their demise and escape. It’s a short, light-hearted show that gets more challenging in the second season.
Traffic Therapy : Simple Sketch Comedy
Sketch shows are inherently random, but hits on this one will make you wish they each had their own streak. My favorite sketch from the pilot is of James Bond obsessed with cleaning hotel toiletries.
Greetings from the Magic Tavern : Dumb Chat Show in a Fantasy World
It’s like Comedy Bang! Clap! the action takes place in Middle-earth. Earth man Arnie Nickamp is one of the hosts with a werewolf badger and a wizard, and guests play for all the creatures you have ever met in a fantastic story: elves, skeletons, cultists, talking birds, trolls, Conan the Barbarian. In most episodes, the characters just shoot shit. But in its third season, the series follows more of a plot. There is also story B about an interdimensional space bunker.
Podcasting is perfect for musical theater.
Off Book: Impromptu Musical : A Parody of a Broadway Musical
Musical improvisation is very difficult and half of the jokes in this show are funnier because they never work in the script. But the other half is funnier because it’s crazy that someone came up with them on the fly. Best episodes include the pilot Shrugging Fate with Paul F. Tompkins, the stellar episode of Cats 2, and (currently on the Earwolf Network’s paywall) Always Sad, Always Happy with Will Hines.
36 questions : a serious musical romance
Hadestown ‘s three one-act music stars Jessie Shelton and Spring Awakening’s Groff as a couple in crisis after one of them is caught lying about their past. They use the famous “36 Questions to Fall in Love” to get to know each other again. It looks like the fancier, wide-eyed of the past five years .
Twilight World of Flawless Fluency: Nightly Radio Parody
This six-part series is presented in real time as a sexy late-night radio show with an unattractive host. Between the parts of the story, there is a real classic for the bedroom with these words: “Can you look inside me, will you come inside me? Do you wanna ride my love? “Meanwhile, the presenter is trying to make an appointment with his listeners and get rid of the branded terry dressing gowns.
While some of these shows are fun, human drama is more important than laughter.
Earth Break : personal post-apocalyptic drama
Jenny Slate plays one of the best roles in audio drama, one of the best in anything, playing a woman stranded after an alien invasion. There are tons of post-apocalyptic audio dramas out there, but none of them is that emotional. This show can scare you and make you cry.
Welcome to Night Vale : Weird Horror Dramedy
Each episode is a public radio broadcast from a creepy desert town inhabited by angels, ghosts, doppelgangers, talking dragons and secret police, narrated by a host who treats it all as ordinary small-town things. Lovecraft based his horror on the idea that anything completely foreign to you is terrible. In this show – one of the oldest and most famous audio dramas – the opposite is true. Last year we interviewed the team about their tour .
Breaked : witty theatrical one-act piece
This standalone half-hour piece is similar to GIRLS or Fleabag, but much more fun. It’s about a young woman trying to figure out which of her actions is the result of her bipolar disorder and which is her own damn mistake.
Forest 404 : Cyberpunk Dystopia
In a bleak urban future, a young archivist hears the sound of a blossoming forest and goes on a mission to find out what the hell she just listened to. Minority Report , Blade Runner and 1984 influenced this BBC sci-fi tragedy. The sounds are carefully thought out, as is the theme song for electronic artist Bonobo.
Inside the Wires : Alternative Historical Drama
Each season of this thoughtful, artful show tells its story in a different format, but it all takes place in the same fictional universe where the nation state no longer exists. In Season 1, you listen to meditation tapes for a reason. Season 2 features audio tours of various art museums and galleries. In Season 3, you receive voice recorder messages from your boss in the New World Order government. And in fan-only season, you hear pilots announcements as you are being smuggled all over the world.
Truth : A artsy, whimsical anthology
Sometimes it turns out to be a comedy, sometimes a drama, sometimes genre fiction. Much of the show is recorded on-site, with a fresh in-room sound design that is in stark contrast to the typical “four people in a podcast studio” setup. The cast includes one-off performers and TV series regulars, and sometimes a single story stretches over multiple episodes.
Shadows : intimate mumblecore romance
This is the most innovative use of the podcast format I’ve ever heard. Caitlin Perst, creator of the documentary podcast Heart , builds a complex love story out of half real, half impromptu conversations. The show is incredibly intimate, sometimes sexy, sometimes distorting. If you like Joe Swanberg, Greta Gerwig, The Eternal Lights and the Modern Love column, this show will delight you.
There are really a lot of views. If all of the above ended, try this:
- Blockbuster : Doku-drama (“biopod”) about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas making a big break.
- The Infinite Now : Time Traveler and Interdimensional Spy Mail
- Two princes : a fairytale adventure and a love story for youth
- Space comedy Wolf 359 : Red Dwarf transforming into action thriller
- Wooden Overcoats : A cozy sitcom about two rival funeral homes in an island town.
- Adventure Zone : The McElroy brothers and their father play D&D, first joking, then taking the story seriously.
- The Message , The Polybius Conspiracy , Limetown , Video Palace : Four podcasts of speculative fiction that transcend the boundaries of narrative documentary, each in their own way.
- Academicasaurus : An indie horror comedy show great for anyone who has served a time in graduate school.
- The Gold Miners : A dramatic thriller that will also help lock up a rich husband.
- Mina’s Story : A short sci-fi drama about a woman who wakes up 200 years in the future.
- Russian for Cats : a small show about an escaped cat with a Russian lesson in each episode.
- Purple Panties : erotic fiction, I really can’t go into details
- Dreamboy : a trippy , erotic mystery that switches between levels of reality.
- Adventures in New America : Do you know Janelle Monet’s multi-album conceptual series Metropolis , especially the radio sideshows for The Electric Lady ? It’s like that plus vampires.
While I’m always right about everything, tastes are subjective, and you’ll find many more recommendations and reviews from audio dramatists here:
- The Radio Drama Revival podcast celebrates audio drama since 2007 with reviews, sample clips, and interviews with creators.
- Will Williams reviews audio dramas and monitors industry news. See, for example, her review of The Two Princes .
- Elena Fernandez Collins also reviews audio drama and writes about genres and storytelling.
- The Bello Collective podcast blog features feature stories from Will, Elena and others.
- While Alex Hensley’s AudioDramaRama hasn’t been updated much lately, this list of the top 50 podcasts of 2018 will serve you for a while.
- Tor Books recently listed eight great queer fiction podcasts .
- The audio drama subreddit is full of suggestions and new contributors are encouraged to ask for more.
- One post on r / audiodrama includes this list of audio drama reviewers who will recommend even more shows for you.
I missed so many concerts. Other enthusiasts can fill in the blanks below.