My pick of the podcasts that have meant the most to me in 2019, featuring: Scott Adams; Naval Ravikant; Richard Herring; Samira Ahmed; Brian Koppelman; Joe Rogan; Michael Rapaport; Rich Roll; Jocko Willink; Kate Carrau; and Adam Buxton.
Podcasting keeps going from strength to strength. Voices of wit and wisdom, voices I love. Podcasts have gifted me an embarrassment of riches in 2019. I can’t wait to hear what comes next. But right now it’s time for a quick look back to spotlight and celebrate my favourite podcasts of 2019. It almost feels impossible and/or unfair to pick favourites. But I have forced myself to choose. This post celebrates the very best of the best from the world of podcasting in 2019.
The world of podcasting is so immense and diverse that I know there is so much more great material out there. Please tweet me or post a comment below to let me know your own favourite podcast episodes of 2019!
My favourite podcasts from October to December 2019
First, here’s my final quarterly selection of choice 2019 podcast recommendations, covering the three months from October to December 2019.
5: ADAM BUXTON/JEFF GOLDBLUM
What was this year’s greatest single moment in podcasting? I nominate Jeff Goldblum almost flirtatiously whispering to Mr Buxton at the start of this episode: “You’re Adam Buxton? Look at you.” Goldblum is the most bizarrely charming and eloquent of podcast guests. In all honesty, he can pretty much just interview himself. But Buxton does a superb job of keeping the conversation on track and making sure that Mr Goldblum focuses in particular on one of his very best films – the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
4: KATE CARRAU/BRIX SMITH START
Kate Carrau’s Shewolf podcast was only launched in 2019. She is off to a flying start with this excellent and wide-ranging interview with Brix Smith Start. This podcast is so rich with the wisdom and insight Brix has attained over the course of her life. It takes in – amongst so much else – The Fall, Brix and the Extricated, and her excellent autobiography The Rise, The Fall and The Rise (which I blogged about in All we really have is now). All the best to both Kate and Brix for all that 2020 will bring your respective ways!
3: JOCKO WILLINK/KIRSTIE ENNIS
These mountains humble you and they help you learn. This is a stunningly powerful and inspiring podcast. Military veteran and adaptive athlete Kirstie Ennis talks Jocko Willink through her extraordinary life. Ennis has conquered so many mountains, metaphorical and real. Nothing will stop her. She details her military career, her loss of a leg as the result of a helicopter crash while in service, her subsequent recovery and her reinvention of herself as athlete, mountaineer and entrepreneur. Her spirit shines through so strongly. There is nothing this life can throw at you that cannot be overcome. There is no excuse for self pity. Purest inspiration.
2: RICH ROLL/RODRIGO Y GABRIELA
Compassion is not just going inward. You have to bring it into the world. Rodrigo y Gabriela’s music is unique, wonderful and transcendent. What they bring into the world is extraordinary. Speedy, intricate and virtuosic spanish guitar instrumentals with a strong thrash metal influence just beneath the surface. So uplifting, so fresh and so positive. Both catchy and uplifting in the extreme. Rodrigo y Gabriela’s outlook on this world is just as fresh. I love how their music is integrated into and enriches this episode. Gabriela emerges as just the sweetest and funniest of people. You will be beaming with joy throughout this lovely podcast. Also strongly recommended: Rodrigo y Gabriela’s latest album Mettavolution.
1: MICHAEL RAPAPORT/DJ PREMIER
“I was having goosebumps. I’m in ooh-wee mode.” The first part of Michael Rapaport’s “audio documentary” with DJ Premier was one of my favourite podcasts of 2018. We had to wait more than a year for part two, but it is even better. Premier speaks beautifully about family and loyalty, and the “hip hop miracle” that is the new Gang Starr album One of the Best Yet (recorded using previously unreleased vocals from his deceased and sadly missed bandmate Guru). There is also a wealth of fantastic talk about Premier’s work as a “beat tailor” for Jay-Z, Nas, Biggie Smalls and so many others. “Today we embark on the journey”, says Premier. I am delighted that this podcast ends with the promise of a part 3: “Next time we’re driving.” A hip hop miracle of a podcast.
My top 5 podcasts of 2019
Now we move on to my top 5 podcasts of 2019 – the very best of the very best, la crème – if you will – de la crème.
5: Joe Rogan/Kevin Hart
When the final word of the final sentence of the book of your life is written, what will your story be? “My true understanding is, alright, you got one life, the goal for us is to live it to the best of our ability from the beginning to what’s said to be the end.” This is Kevin Hart, from his podcast conversation with Joe Rogan. Throughout this two-hour chat, Hart radiates the most infectious positivity. I defy anyone to listen and not feel excitement and relish at the opportunities the next day might bring their way. Hart says: “It’s the story, man. We’re all writing a book. What’s your book look like? What does your fucking book look like? Your life is a book. A bunch of chapters in your book. But when they close that book, how good was the book? How good was your book? What was the ending to your book? If the ending to my book can be so amazing because of all that was done, all that was accomplished. All the things that can be associated with you and your existence become a part of the chapters in your book. So my drive is about my book.” I blogged more about this wonderful podcast in When I look back upon my life.
4: Brian Koppelman/Geddy Lee
Where does creativity spring from? Brian Koppelman’s fascinating conversation with Geddy Lee of Rush offers some possible answers to this impossible question. Koppelman and Lee hit on what I would term three foundations of creativity. These three foundations of creativity are:
- Failed imitation;
- Self-confidence; and
- Trust in the subconscious.
This is ingenious. This is perfect. Please don’t miss the chance to revel in what Koppelman and Lee have to say. Then go and create something new, add something to this world. Trust your subconscious.
3: Samira Ahmed/Katherine Ryan
“I’m grateful for my biggest mistakes. Every failure has a lesson, and you always come out of suffering better than you went in.” I love these words from Canadian comedian Katherine Ryan, from her appearance on Samira Ahmed’s consistently brilliant How I Found My Voice podcast. Ryan is a fascinating and fiercely individual character. This podcast provides a remarkable account of her life in just 40 minutes. Ryan describes how her life shaped her outlook and her comedy, taking in her schooldays, university, and how she first found her way into comedy via a digression into the matriarchal world of a Canadian branch of (I am sorry to have to type these words, gentle reader) Hooters. There is so much wit, wisdom and inspiration here. I particularly like Ryan’s honesty about the role that chance plays in all our lives: “Everything that’s happened to me has been by accident.”
2: RICHARD HERRING/GRAYSON PERRY
“Humour, dreams and sex – they’re the three things that tell us what we’re really thinking.”Gentle reader, I must confess that I knew very little about Grayson Perry prior to this podcast. But I absolutely love him following his wonderfully warm and hilarious chat with Richard Herring. Perry exudes boundless charm and energy, and depthless good sense expressed with a unique and inarguable logic. His is a zero Fs given attitude. This podcast is almost a manual on how to live a beautiful and righteous life. There are so many nuggets of wisdom and insight here. I cannot recommend this podcast sufficiently highly. Directly after listening, and I procured and read Mr Perry’s phenomenal book The Descent of Man, which offers a deep dive into the theories of masculinity touched on in this podcast. Grayson Perry for PM, please!
1: Scott Adams/Naval Ravikant
“The real universal basic income is cannabis and video games.” This is Naval Ravikant’s knowingly mischievous updating of Juvenal’s prescription of “bread and circuses” to placate and pacify the masses of ancient Rome. Naval speaks these words in his fascinating February 2019 Periscope conversation with Dilbert creator Scott Adams.
These two gents’ minds and intelligence are extraordinary. To listen to them talk for an hour is to bask in a wonderful freeflow of wisdom and insight. I was inspired to write a blog post entitled Everybody here belongs, inspired by Naval’s exploration of the idea that addiction is the most modern of afflictions (“We live in an era of too much abundance. This is the modern struggle,” he argues). I look forward to the next instalments of this ongoing dialogue between Naval and Scott, and raise my cup of coffee in tribute. Simultaneous sip!