Podcasts have been the breakout star of the pandemic, with many turning to their favourite comedians, celebrities and journalists to provide a bit of entertainment during their lockdown walks, working-from-home office hours and drives to-and-from testing sites.
From a bit of light relief and political analysis, to true-crime investigations and fascinating interviews, there’s a podcast for everybody to lose themselves within – and with brand new shows constantly emerging from lockdown, there’s so many to choose from.
Not to fear – we’ve narrowed down some of the best podcasts for 2021 so that you can just stick your earphones in and start listening.
Whether it’s Rosie and Chris Ramsey’s hilarious Sh**ged Married Annoyed, or RadioTimes.com‘s very-own Doctor Who podcast, we’ve organised the top pods into various genres so you can quickly find what you’re looking for.
So without further ado, here’s our shortlist of the best podcasts for 2021.
Best Comedy Podcasts
My Dad Wrote a Porno
If you’re in the mood for a good old belly laugh, then My Dad Wrote a Porno is the podcast to get into this year. Hosted by James Morton, James Cooper and former BBC Radio 1 DJ Alice Levine, each episode sees the trio read a new chapter of Belinda Blinked – erotic fiction written and self-published by Morton’s father. That says it all really.
Listen to My Dad Wrote a Porno on Acast, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
Sh**ged Married Annoyed
Hosted by comedian Chris Ramsey and his wife, presenter and author Rosie Ramsey, Sh**ged Married Annoyed is a hilarious look into their married life, with the chart-topping podcast discussing life, relationships, annoyances, parenting and everything in between. With the duo answering questions from the public and a secret celebrity each week, Sh**ged Married Annoyed makes for excellent light-hearted listening.
The Receipts Podcast
Relationships, situationships and general life drama are just a few topics covered in The Receipt Podcast – a fun and honest show fronted by Audrey ‘Ghana’s Finest’ Indome, Tolani ‘Tolly T’ Shoneye and Milena Sanchez. The podcast, which makes a brief cameo in BBC drama I May Destroy You, sees the presenting trio discuss the public’s problems with no filter as they touch on everything from race and religion, to everyday life.
Who knew singer Jessie Ware and her chef mum Lennie would make such excellent podcast hosts? On their weekly show Table Manners, the mother-daughter duo host a variety of stars – from WandaVision’s Elizabeth Olsen to music legend Dolly Parton – at Jessie’s kitchen table as they have a bit of a chat and chow down on some home-cooked food.
Hosted by Saturday Night Live’s Bowen Yang and comedian Matt Rogers, Las Culturistas is a hilarious examination of the day’s biggest pop culture moments, with the pair guiding listeners on an unforgettable journey through the formative cultural experiences that turned them into self-professed culture consultants. With stars such as Drag Race’s Peppermint, actor Will Ferrell and The Politician’s Ben Platt stopping by, each episode of Las Culturalistas is 90 minutes of pure, unadulterated fun.
Ever wondered what certain celebrities’ dream dishes would be? Off Menu with comedians Ed Gamble and James Acaster answers that question. With the duo inviting on a different star from the entertainment world onto the podcast each week, Off Menu reveals which starters, mains and desserts the likes of Russell Howard, Claudia Winkleman, Louis Theroux and Katherine Ryan would pick.
Best Arts and Culture podcasts
The RadioTimes.com Doctor Who podcast
We couldn’t compile a list of 2021’s best podcasts without including RadioTimes.com’s Doctor Who podcast of course! Hosted by RadioTimes.com‘s Sci-Fi and Fantasy Editor Huw Fullerton, the show dives into the deepest corners of the Whoniverse to deliver first-look reviews, the latest announcements and the weirdest theories about the show’s future.
Hosted by Vice UK’s executive editor Zing Tsjeng, this BBC Sounds podcast follows Tsjeng, who is originally from Singapore, as she explores what it means to be British while debating whether to become a UK citizen. Featuring fascinating guests and tackling thought-provoking topics, United Zingdom is excellent food for thought in these Brexit-focussed times.
Louis Theroux: Grounded
Documentarian-extraordinaire Louis Theroux is back with his own lockdown podcast Grounded – in which he interviews stars from across the globe, from Sia and Rylan Clark-Neal, to Ruby Wax and Michaela Coel. With Theroux touching on topics both light-hearted and intimate, the celebrities’ revealing responses will leave you wanting more.
The New York Times’ Popcast
Hosted by The New York Times pop music critic Jon Caramanica, Popcast covers the latest in pop music criticism, trends and news. Charting the rising stars of the time, to looking back on major pop music moments, this podcast is perfect for music lovers.
Dolly Parton’s America
This NPR podcast explores America’s universal adoration of Dolly Parton – “one of the few things everyone still seems to agree on” in this intensely divided moment. Hosted by Jad Abumrad, Dolly Parton’s America looks at why the country music icon is so beloved in nine episodes.
Best news/politics podcasts
If you’re wanting to be across current affairs in the UK, from coronavirus to Brexit, the BBC’s Newscast is an excellent 30-minute round-up of the hottest political and cultural stories of the day. Featuring in-depth interviews and key political analysis, Newscast sees BBC News chief political correspondent Adam Fleming, political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Europe editor Katya Adler and political correspondent Chris Mason tackle the topics of the moment.
Hosted by Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, BBC North America editor Jon Sopel and chief North America reporter Anthony Zurcher, Americast dives into the dramatic world of US politics. From covering in-detail outgoing president Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings, to analysing president-elect Joe Biden’s plans for the 50 states, this podcast is definitely worth following during America’s presidential transition.
Today in Focus
Produced by The Guardian, Today in Focus explores a particular story of the day to deliver a deeper understanding of the topic. Hosted by The Guardian’s Editor-at-Large Anushka Asthana, this daily podcast combines personal storytelling with insightful analysis over the course of 20-30 minutes.
Stories of our times
Hosted by journalist Manveen Rana and columnist David Aaronovitch, this podcast from The Times tells one remarkable story in depth every day, from examining when we’re all likely to receive the vaccine and analysing the recent US Capitol riot, to discussing concussions in sport and reflecting on the Arab Spring 10 years later.
Lovett or Leave It
If you’re looking for alternative coverage of what’s going on in American politics, Lovett or Leave It is a popular podcast option. Hosted by former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett, this podcast sees a panel of comedians, actors and journalists break down the week’s biggest news, with episodes released every Saturday.
Best true crime podcasts
You’re Wrong About
Hosted by HuffPost reporter Michael Hobbs and journalist Sarah Marshall, this podcast looks back on certain people or events that may have been miscast in the public imagination. You’re Wrong About tackles high-profile historical moments from O.J Simpson’s trial and ice skating Tonya Harding’s prosecution for attacking her rival, to the death of Princess Diana and the Newsboys’ strike of 1899.
My Favorite Murder
This American true-crime podcast follows stand-up comedian Karen Kilgariff and writer Georgia Hardstark as they tell each other their favourite murder stories and broadcast hometown tales sent in by fans.
If you’re a fan of both true crime and the 90’s, Killer Queens is the perfect podcast for you. Hosted by sisters Tori Tobi and Tyrella Slemp, these hour-long episodes recap some of the nation’s favourite cases whilst dropping in various Spice Girls, Clueless and Friends references to fulfil all your light true crime needs.
This American Life
Responsible for iconic podcasts like Serial and S-Town, This American Life is an essential listen for true-crime fans, with its weekly show hosted by radio personality Ira Glass. The hour-long programme explores a variety of stories about current events told through the first-person narrative and with 25 years worth of content to get through, there’s plenty of episodes to get you through 2021.
Best sport podcasts
For all things football, make sure to check out RadioTimes.com‘s Football Times – the weekly podcast that kicks off with snappy previews of upcoming live Premier League games. Hosted by RadioTimes.com‘s Sport Editor Michael Potts, Football Times provides the hottest fantasy football tips, discusses the league’s up-and-coming players and explores predictions for the upcoming season.
That Peter Crouch Podcast
Hosted by footballer Peter Crouch, BBC Sport journalist Tom Fordyce and Radio 1 presenter Chris Stark, this BBC 5 Live podcast explores what it takes to be a professional footballer, with episodes providing insight on transfers, managers, dressing rooms and player confessions. With an impressive roster of guests, from Prince William to Harry Redknapp, That Peter Crouch Podcast is a fun look at the world of football.
The Bradley Wiggins Show
If you’re a cycling fanatic, Eurosport’s The Bradley Wiggins Show is the podcast to plug into, with the Olympic gold-medallist discussing the biggest races of the year alongside journalist Graham Willgoss.
Hosted by Radio 1 DJ Greg James, cricketer James Anderson and The Maccabees’ Felix White, Tailenders takes an alternative look at cricket, with the wicket-mad trio reviewing recent matches, discussing upcoming games and thinking of ways to innovate the game.
Best health and lifestyle podcasts
Getting Personal with Daphne Bugler and Isabella Hobbs
Fronted by journalist Daphne Bugler and educator Isabella Hobbs, Getting Personal is an in-depth look at the highs and lows of life, with various celebrities dropping by to share stories about their mental wellbeing.
With the likes of Strictly’s Amy Dowden, activist Laura Jackson, singer Lennon Stella and presenter Jake Humphrey appearing on the podcast, this relatively new podcast explores these stars’ tales of love, anger, sadness, fear, happiness and everything in between.
Hosted by Fearne Cotton, Happy Place delves into the subject of happiness, with the broadcaster drawing on her own experiences and sharing advice from experts on how to work through feeling blue. With a star-studded line-up of guests, from Robbie Williams and Sam Smith, to Alicia Keys and Daisy May Cooper, Happy Place reflects on how these stars made changes in their own lives on a journey to find inner happiness.
Happy Mum, Happy Baby
In this podcast, I’m A Celebrity winner Giovanna Fletcher tackles the topic of motherhood by chatting to other high-profile mums and dads. Alongside guests such as Samantha Cameron, Joe Wicks, Alesha Dixon and the Duchess of Cambridge, Happy Mum, Happy Baby looks at all aspects of parenthood and encourages those raising children to stop comparing themselves to other parents.