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The problem with some of the best podcasts out there is that they have dozens, often hundreds, of episodes. Where do you start? Will the latest episode make any sense if you’ve never listened before? Do you really need to start at the beginning? What are the best episodes?
Where Should I Start? is a new series of articles in which a seasoned listener of a show helps you cut through the dauntingly long list of episodes and get started with a great podcast.
Where Should I Start Stuff You Should Know?
As a jack-of-all trades, master-of-none sort of person, I love learning, but my patience has its limits. I can be utterly absorbed by an introductory course (or an eight-episode Netflix docuseries), but the thought of studying something for as long as it takes to get a Ph.D. makes me want to run screaming into the night. If you can relate, Stuff You Should Know, a long-running hit podcast by Stuff Media, is the ideal gateway podcast for you…especially if you enjoy a healthy dose of silly banter on the side.
Atlanta-based Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant (and their long-suffering producer Jeri Rolland) have hosted this (mostly) family-friendly podcast since 2008. Josh, Chuck and Jeri have developed an enormous fanbase in those 11 years. The hour-long episodes have got secondary school students interested in history, have kept spouses from injuring each other on road trips, and have even helped more than one person facing depression or personal tragedy to come out the other side (the listener mail section at the end of each episode is sometimes quite moving). The tone is conversational and easy to follow, and after a dozen episodes, Chuck and Josh will feel like old friends. Plus, with well over 1,000 episodes, there is literally something for everyone.
With so many topics to choose from, it’s impossible to narrow their catalog down to a top 5 list. However, a quick poll of the ~10,000 member Stuff You Should Know Army Facebook group (did I mention the podcast has a huge following?) revealed a few consistent fan favourites that would also serve as a good starting point for the uninitiated.
Best Episodes & Fan Favourites
- How Meth Works (Ep. 478, Nov 2012): This is my personal favorite episode. It’s an alarming, fascinating and compassionate look at what methamphetamines do to human beings. Recommended especially for those who have loved ones who have struggled with addiction.
- Did a Cow Start the Great Chicago Fire? (Ep. 44, Jul 2012): Perfect for the history buff with a sense of humour!
- How Temper Tantrums Work (Ep. 640, May 2014): For parents and the people who love them, and really anyone who’s ever been in a supermarket at just the wrong moment.
- How Alien Hand Syndrome Works (Ep. 92, Mar 2009): If you like weird medical stuff, start here. There are lots of other great medical ones to choose from as well.
- SYSK Live: The DB Cooper Heist (Ep. 997, Oct 2017): This was hands-down the most-loved episode in my poll. Note that it’s a live episode (Josh and Chuck regularly tour, and even came to Dublin a few years ago for the Dublin Podcast Festival), which means the sound quality is less sharp, and there are a few low-grade swears, in case that is something that concerns you.
If nothing on this list grabs you, search their listener-compiled catalogue for your latest obsession.