When was the last time you heard a truly revealing interview? One where you actually learned something about the interviewee? If it was recently, the chances are it wasn’t on TV or radio: tight schedules mean journalists, no matter how skilful, can rarely get more than a shallow insight into their subject.
Podcasting changed that, and there’s something magical about a good interview podcast. The more informal atmosphere and relaxed time constraints lead to some truly invaluable advice and insights from the world’s most interesting people.
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Some of those people you’ll have heard of, others you’ll wish you had sooner. Here’s our pick of the best deep-dive interview podcasts out there. Our links are to iTunes, but obviously other podcast platforms are available.
Best interview podcasts 2019
1. The Adam Buxton PodcastiTunes
You may remember Adam Buxton from the Adam & Joe Show, and while the humour is still there, this is a more thoughtful show where Buxton just chats with interesting people in an informal, relaxed way.
You’ll have heard of most the guests, so the best way to enjoy is just to dip into the ones that interest you – but you’ll almost certainly be back for the ones you’ve not heard of once you’re done.
Channel 4 News’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy meets politicians and influential figures to discuss the things that matter to them the most.
From Rose McGowan on the #metoo movement to Michael Heseltine on what should happen with Brexit, the interesting and influential figures are given the space to talk candidly about the issues that they care about, and Guru-Murthy does just enough to challenge and provoke without derailing the flow.
3. The Political Party with Matt FordeiTunes
Comedian Matt Forde chats politics with up and coming Westminster politicians, such as Jess Phillips and James Cleverley, or titans of the recent past such as William Hague, Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair.
Mini episodes featuring journalists, academics and activists punctuate the main event: 90 minute live shows held each month in London with key political figures. Half an hour’s topical comedy gives way to the main interview, and Forde is a brilliant interrogator, being just friendly enough to coax out some surprising admissions and insights. It successfully makes politics funny, which is no mean feat in the current climate.
4. The Griefcast with Cariad LloydiTunes
Grief is a peculiar thing: nobody likes talking about it, but doing so is often hugely therapeutic. In Griefcast, actress and comedian Cariad Lloyd speaks to famous figures about the loss of their loved ones and what they learned about grief along the way.
It doesn’t sound hugely uplifting, and it certainly has a sombre tone, but as Lloyd has a tendency to pick funny guests, there’s more joy than you’d imagine. And if you’re currently suffering yourself, it’s wonderful to know that there are others in the same numb boat.
5. Love + RadioiTunes
Love + Radio isn’t like anything else on this list… or like anything else you’ve listened to, most likely. You won’t have heard of any of the people being interviewed, nor will you hear much from the interviewer, barring occasional interjections.
What you get is people who have lived through extraordinary experiences explaining them through a monologue narrative, and often it won’t become clear why they’ve been picked for some time. Be they a registered sex offender (A Red Dot), an internet scammer (Jack and Ellen) or a black musician intent on befriending Ku Klux Klan members (The Silver Dollar), the monologues are powerful, intimate and absolutely enthralling.
6. Without Fail with Alex BloombergiTunes
Alex Bloomberg is a veteran of This American Life, who left to set up the podcasting company Gimlet Media. In this podcast he meets successful people for a revealing chat that doesn’t gloss over the times thing didn’t work out, and what they learned from the experience.
You likely won’t have heard of everyone interviewed, but all of them have valuable insights on what it means to fail – and what you can learn from it from the co-founder of Netflix to the woman who launched the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise.
7. Walking the Dog with Emily DeaniTunes
Considerably more flippant, but no less enjoyable, than most is Walking the Dog: a podcast where journalist Emily Dean interviews celebrity guests on a brisk walk with their respective canine buddies.
It sounds like a gimmick, but surprisingly it’s not. There’s something about the act of dog walking that leads to a light and informal atmosphere to the interviews that other, more intense podcasts lack. It helps if you like dogs though, because chats frequently break down to discussions about what makes our four-legged friends so damned wonderful.
8. Full Disclosure with James O’BrieniTunes
James O'Brien's lastest podcast is still young. But having listened to all the episodes, we're pretty confident it’s virtually identical to O’Brien’s previous longform interview podcast – Unfiltered – which ran for 49 hour-long episodes beforehand.
And Unfiltered was very, very good. Deep interviews covering interesting figures’ lives, their beliefs and how they came to hold them. Guests include comedians, politicians, athletes and musicians, but the best are often the ones you haven’t heard of. John Amaechi on how he became the first Brit to crack the NBA despite not liking basketball is a particular highlight.
9. The TED Interview with Chris AndersoniTunes
TED Talks are a fantastic way of learning something new or seeing life from a new perspective, but they’re essentially well polished presentations with no external input.
The TED Interview podcast fixes that in the most obvious way: Chris Anderson, the Head of TED – a glorious title in so many ways – interviews the speakers and asks all the questions that the format of TED Talks simply doesn’t allow. As with the regular talks, you’re sure to learn something with each episode.