A Must-Hear Radiolab and 7 More Standout Podcast Episodes

rebecca o'connell
rebecca o'connell / rebecca o'connell

If you only listen to one podcast this month—if you only listen to one podcast this year—I’d recommend Radiolab’s September 7 episode, “The Rhino Hunter.” On it, producer Simon Adler interviews Corey Knowlton, a professional hunter who paid $350,000 to kill an endangered species in Namibia. 

That description alone might spark a strong reaction, which is one reason I suggest it so strongly. The 50-minute episode, which took about two years to produce, exemplifies the power of the medium to dig below the surface of an issue and potentially change listeners’ minds.

Below are a few more podcasts that caught my attention this week. None are quite as gripping as “The Rhino Hunter,” but as someone who has heard thousands of hours of these things, I know such eps aren’t easy to come by. For more recs, visit the archive

Here’s the Thing // September 15 Episode

In Alec Baldwin’s fascinating interview with Andy Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner, we learn about Warhol’s daily habits, prolific film career, and personal life, which included a small circle of trusted friends and relatives. Among his confidantes was his mother, Julia Warhola, an artist who drew cats, angels, and—what do you know?—Campbell’s soup cans. (Several of her drawings are on display at the museum.) 

Fantasy Focus Football // September 15 episode

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On ESPN’s popular podcast, the Big Bang Theory star shares a very un-Sheldon like fact about himself: He loves fantasy football. Parsons talks to hosts Matthew Berry, Field Yates, and Stephania Bell about his league (which includes Big Bang co-star Kunal Nayyar) and how he listens to their show on his way to work. 

You Made It Weird // Episode 280

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In this interview, host Pete Holmes and 21-year-old comedian Pete Davidson (Saturday Night Live) spend a lot of time trading R-rated jokes, but they also talk about Davidson’s father, a firefighter who was killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Davidson says losing his dad made him understand mortality at a young age and the importance of doing what you love.

Death, Sex & Money // September 9 episode

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Maybe it’s because I spent so many hours watching Sonia Manzano on Sesame Street as a child, but I was particularly moved by this interview, in which she talks about growing up with an abusive alcoholic father and how her personal life mirrored Maria’s life on the show. 

New Yorker Out Loud // September 14 episode

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Didion fans will want to hear this ep, which uses Tracy Daugherty’s recent biography, The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion, as a jumping-off point to discuss Didion’s importance. Along with hosts Amelia Lester and David Haglund, guests Thessaly La Force and Louis Menand discuss how Didion chooses her author photos as carefully as she chooses her words. (They also prompted me to Google this gallery of Didion’s hair clips.)

Slate’s Amicus with Dahlia Lithwick // Episode 25

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Even if you aren’t obsessed with the Supreme Court, it’s hard not to like Amicus, which sheds light on important cases and the justices themselves. This week author Linda Hirshman (Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World) shares little-known facts about O’Connor and Ginsberg and explains how their presence impacted the Court’s decisions. 

The Andy Greenwald Podcast // September 3 episode

After I saw the season finale of USA’s nail-biting hacker drama, Mr. Robot, I searched for a podcast that could help me make sense of it all. Greenwald’s lengthy interview with series creator Sam Esmail illuminates several plot points and teases what may come next.