5 Podcasts That Were Killing It Before Serial

We all know that Serial came along and changed the podcasting game forever. Believe me, no one is a bigger fan of Serial than me, and I don’t begrudge it any of its success. I live and die by those now bi-weekly updates to my podcast feed. However, what a lot of people don’t seem to know is that Serial was not the first podcast to ever exist.

Shocking, right?

The truth is that before Serial burned up the iTunes chart, there were hundreds of podcasts that had been around for years, killing it every week with brilliant hosts and amazing guests. If your podcasting knowledge begins and ends with Sarah Koenig, these are some shows you need to check out as soon as possible.

Like, when you’re done reading this, start listening to these shows.

For real.

1 – The Flop House

Ostensibly a “bad movie podcast”, where the hosts watch a bad movie every other week and then talk about it, The Flop House transcends all labels and confounds all attempts to explain it.

Daily Show writer Dan McCoy and his two co-hosts, former Daily Show head writer Elliott Kalan and ultimate too-cool-to-define-party-dude Stuart Wellington, try to work their way through the inane and often incomprehensible plot of a bad movie and poke fun at it, but they rarely get more than a sentence or two in before being derailed by insane tangents, goofy songs, words that sound like other words, and, of course, correcting the way Dan pronounces just about everything that comes out of his mouth.

Every episode is a roller coaster ride of laughs where the movie being discussed is the least important part of the show.

It’s difficult to point to what makes this format work, because it’s a combination of everything. It’s a perfect storm of personalities, wit, self-deprecation, stupidity, brilliance, and an incredibly deep and encyclopedic knowledge of film history.

In short, it’s amazing.

2 – My Brother, My Brother And Me

Okay, full disclosure: I am a loyal Maximumfun.org donor (the podcasting empire started by NPR’s Bullseye host, Jesse Thorn), so if it seems like this list skews heavily towards MaxFun shows, it probably does.

My Brother, My Brother and Me is among the best this network has to offer. Started by real-life brothers Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy, who are now podcast magnates in their own right, this show is pure comedy under the guise of offering advice, a la Dear Abby.

If Dear Abby was on crack, and also a great comedian.

The Brothers pull from listener’s questions and Yahoo Answers and then riff on them, creating unforgettable bits in the process, and even spawning their own holiday. With three very different points of view, but a common desire to be decent human beings, you never know where an episode is going to take you. It’s a journey through madness, and as listeners we are merely along for the ride.

The Brothers also use their considerable influence to encourage their fans to give to worthy charities, and their fans respond in a big way. It’s heartening and inspiring to see so much good being done in the world by something that on its face seems so goofy.

3 – Answer Me This!

Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann, along with Martin the Sound Man, host this British podcast that goes beyond simply giving advice. Listeners use e-mail or Skype to submit questions on any topic, from word or phrase origins, to historical origins of traditions that make no sense, as well as advice about sex, and everything in between. Helen and Olly are then duty-bound to provide well-researched and hilarious answers to these queries.

Which, of course, they do. Time after time. It’s amazing how consistently witty and bright these hosts are, even after years of doing the show. It feels just as fresh as ever.

The show hums along at a brisk pace, without lingering too long on one question or bit. There is also a lot of original interstitial music that adds to the comedy, as well as gives the entire show a unique, jaunty feel.

Overall, it’s just a very professional sounding, well-produced, and funny podcast with extremely likable and charming hosts. They just began a three month hiatus, so now is a perfect time to get caught up!

4 – Black on Black Cinema

As a white girl originally from one of the whitest states in the Union, Vermont, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to admit I listen to this show. I know I’m not the intended demographic, but I love it. Unlike bad movie podcasts, which limit themselves to painful movies, Black on Black Cinema explores the good, the bad, and the ugly of Black films. They also dive into issues of Civil Rights, current events and politics, American history, and film history. My personal favorite episodes are the Tyler Perry movie episodes, which leave the hosts so befuddled and angry they can barely form coherent sentences.

I love hearing a point of view I’m not used to hearing in popular culture. I love hearing smart, articulate, passionate people debate the merits of a film they either loved or hated. And I love hosts that constantly insult and needle each other like best friends. It’s entertaining, enlightening, and just a lot of fun. Jay, Rob, Micah, and Ter-Bear (hopefully he doesn’t violently murder me for calling him that) mix serious social commentary and humor perfectly.

Full episodes come out every other week, but this is one show where the “mini” episodes are worth taking a look at, too. The shorter episodes feature debates and conversations about a specific issue.

5 – We Hate Movies

We Hate Movies takes bad movies personally. They seem to see each horrible frame as a personal assault on their souls, and that’s what makes this podcast work. Their righteous indignation at being subjected to crap, as well their joy and exuberance at finding hidden treasure amidst the dung heap, is infectious. They are definitely the angriest of the bad movie podcasts, but in a totally funny way.

Of all the bad movie podcasts I listen to, this one has the most deep cuts into obscure horror and titles I’ve simply never even heard of. Their depth of knowledge belies their ironic title. They don’t just not hate movies, they love them more than is perhaps, strictly speaking, healthy.

This love makes them extremely accessible, to the point you will even grow to love their bad celebrity impressions.

I could go on and on with this list. So many podcasts out there are absolutely amazing, and have been for years. I have been an avid podcast consumer for over five years now, and I’m no where near done yet. If you’re just starting your podcast journey, welcome to the madness. We’ve been waiting for you.

  • Sarah
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