Clockwise from right : Another Round by Jon Premosch / BuzzFeed, Code Switch by hugo rojo / npr, and 2 Dope Queens by minDy tucker

When the world’s on fire, it can be difficult to remember we’re living in a golden age of podcasting. And if you don’t know where to start, the magical world of making imaginary friends through your earbuds can look overwhelmingly white and disproportionately male. We have the solution—or, in this case, 11. Recording in Portland and beyond, here are the necessary voices and smart people helping us to make sense of the world right now, discussing everything from the latest Beyhive news to the freshest bullshit from the Trump administration. Power up your iTunes, SoundCloud, Spotify, or Stitcher app, tune in, subscribe, and feel better.

2 Dope Queens

(WNYC, updates weekly,
Co-hosts Jessica Williams (former Daily Show senior correspondent) and You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain author Phoebe Robinson are 2 Dope Queens. And while the topics on their fun-loving show are constantly changing—they range from sex stories, feminism, hair journeys, romance, and NYC living to Williams’ Harry Potter obsession—it consistently showcases their favorite comedians. After an introductory segment featuring casual conversation, Williams and Robinson play recordings of live stand-up from their favorite rising comedians, and appearances from established figures like Jen Kirkman, Danielle Brooks, and Jon Stewart. As funny and silly as the two are, the show revolves around discussions of current events and their informed reactions. It’s a great place to discover a diverse array of up-and-coming comedians. JENNI MOORE

Another Round

(Buzzfeed, updates weekly,
Every week, I tune into Another Round, hosted by Buzzfeed’s Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu, and it’s the aural equivalent of putting on a Lisa Frank snuggie and drinking a fancy cocktail, all while being entertained and challenged. I learn a lot from listening to Another Round, which deconstructs politics and pop culture through a critical lens that centers the experiences of people of color. I’m not the target audience for the show, and that’s why I listen to it—because I always come away from it exposed to perspectives and ideas I haven’t thought of, and having a better understanding of intersectional feminism. Nigatu and Clayton also happen to be excellent interviewers, pulling memorable stories from their guests—like Padma Lakshmi’s almost poetic discussion of endometriosis or Janet Mock’s frank, compassionate chat on documenting the experiences of transgender people—while making it look easy and fun the entire time. Nigatu and Clayton also speak openly about issues like mental health. Every week, I look forward to the show’s kind parting reminder, which sounds like Audre Lorde for a modern audience: “Drink some water, take your meds, call your person.” MEGAN BURBANK

Call Your Girlfriend

(Acast, updates weekly,
I don’t know Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow IRL, but having listened to their podcast since its inception, I feel like I do. And okay, half-disclosure, 100 percent brag: Ann once got drinks with the staff of the Mercury and we will never forget it. Friedman, a freelance writer/all-around bosslady, and Sow, who left Silicon Valley to write for Racked, bill Call Your Girlfriend (CYG) as “a podcast for long-distance besties everywhere,” and if you know a woman in her early thirties who talks a lot about “shine theory” and wore a pantsuit on Election Day, chances are good she’s a loyal listener. “Shine theory,” BTW, is a term Sow and Friedman use to describe their shared value of supporting other women professionally within a paradigm of abundance rather than competition: I don’t shine if you don’t shine. It is the closest thing I have to a personal ethos. Friedman and Sow are equally at home talking politics (“Cheeto Watch”), Beyoncé’s pregnancy portraiture, periods (CYG’s newsletter is called The Bleed), and custom-made suits. And they’ve even used CYG as a platform to raise funds and awareness for organizations like Kenya-based ZanaAfrica, which provides access to health education and menstrual pads so that girls’ educations aren’t disrupted by their periods. People say listening to podcasts is like hanging out with your friends, but Call Your Girlfriend actually sounds like the conversations I have with my closest lady pals, including my own long-distance bestie, who lives in southern Oregon. We have matching “Shine Theory” pins, for friendship. The CYG sisterhood runs deep. MB

Code Switch

(NPR, updates weekly,
Every week that I listen to NPR’s Code Switch is a week I feel a little less ignorant. The podcast, staffed exclusively by journalists of color, digs into intersections between race, culture, and ethnicity, and takes its name from the linguistic term for switching between different languages and speech patterns. “We’re looking at code-switching a little more broadly,” writes Code Switch staffer (and no. 1 Megan Burbank voice crush) Gene Demby on the podcast’s website. “Many of us subtly, reflexively change the way we express ourselves all the time. We’re hop-scotching between different cultural and linguistic spaces and different parts of our own identities—sometimes within a single interaction.”

Whether they’re interviewing Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, discussing Tupac’s legacy, or dissecting and questioning verbal signage like the “explanatory comma,” the Code Switch team is smart and rigorous and focuses on the experiences of people of color without wasting time worrying about making white people feel comfortable—on a network like NPR, that’s a big deal. Listening to Code Switch as a white lady CAN be uncomfortable—there’s a lot I don’t know—but that’s exactly how I know it’s something I should be paying attention to. In the short time I’ve subscribed, it’s become nothing short of essential. MB

Guys We Fucked

(Sorry About Last Night Comedy, updates weekly,
Sorry About Last Night comedy duo Krystyna Hutchinson and Corinne Fisher have performed together since 2011, and they’ve really created something with Guys We Fucked: The Anti Slut-Shaming Podcast. (It has now topped Jen Kirkman’s I Seem Fun in the running for my favorite podcast by woke white women.) When the show first began, Hutchinson and Fisher regularly interviewed the gentlemen they’d slept with, but as you can imagine, they eventually ran out of subjects. Nowadays they continue to talk about their raunchy relationship sexcapades, and host an array of titans within the comedy and sex industries. The reason I love this show so damn much is because the hosts aren’t afraid to talk about taboo sex acts like pegging in candid detail, nor do they shy away from delving into tough topics like rape, abuse, the prison-industrial complex, and racism. They’ve hosted the Mercury’s own Dan Savage in the past, but more recently had a constructive conversation about feminism with Charlamagne Tha God, and aired an episode with guest Crissle West asking “What can white women be doing better?” These ladies ask great questions and are actively trying to find the right answers. Listen up! JM

The Friend Zone

(Loud Speakers Network, updates weekly,
Dustin, Assanté, and Francheska (AKA Hey Fran Hey) are the music-oriented, wellness-focused hosts of The Friend Zone, which features discussions about the intersection of pop culture and zen living. The show’s focus is on “mental hygiene, because who in the hell wants a musty brain?” Dustin and Assanté begin each show with a freestyle rap/beatboxing intro with timely lyrics relating to the week’s happenings; they shout out their favorite comments from SoundCloud, what’s going on in the “Twitter streets,” their favorite TV shows, and new music findings. You can tell they’re all friends IRL by the frequency of their tangents and time spent laughing. The guys provide the show’s most potent comedic relief, while DIY wellness and natural beauty guru Fran lovingly keeps the group on task, asks tough introspective questions, and makes recommendations for her favorite health products, services, and DIY solutions (like which blender to use when making your own body and hair butter, for instance). Oh, and every now and then they’ll do crossover shows and live appearances with The Read. (Also check out Crissle West and Fran’s Insecuritea podcast, the official geek-out audio show for HBO’s Insecure.) Listen to this one for a good laugh, a dose of emotional intelligence, and some deep self-reflection. JM

On the Media

(WNYC, updates weekly,
Ever since Emperor Palpatine threw his unattractive red hat into the horrible Republican ring, I’ve been deeply disappointed with National Public Radio’s mild-mannered handling of the unabashed falsehoods that spew from his teeny-tiny mouth like so much unchecked spittle. Get pushy, Robert Siegel! Be mean, Lakshmi Singh! Ofeibea Quist-Arcton can’t do all the tough reporting for you! ALAS! Even now that you-know-who is “president,” my childhood heroes are disappointingly timid. But since November, On the Media has been the surprising, pleasantly wonky exception to NPR’s entirely too business-as-usual approach to Sauron. If you’d told me six months ago Brooke Gladstone was about to become my hero, I would have laughed in your face. Joke’s on me, though! Because each week, the staff of On the Media are cheeky and tough as they delve intrepidly into the “president’s” spin cycle and stand strong for facts. They’re even funny. Plus, Gladstone’s even, vaguely Pennsylvanian voice reminds me of my aunt who is a librarian and voted for Hillary in a red state. It’s familiar and warm, which makes it easier to deal with the harsh realities she and her guests are relaying. Honestly, can On the Media just be the new NPR? Please and thank you. MB

Pod Save America

(Crooked Media, updates weekly,
Here’s a funny joke: What do you call three men listening to themselves talk for an hour? A podcast! Okay, so that’s not really a joke—it’s an unfortunate truth, and the reason that almost every podcast on this list features women, people of color, or queer folks—because the last thing we need is another podcast hosted by a bunch of hot-take-serving, minimally edited men. I make an exception for Pod Save America, though, because the dudes on it know exactly what they’re talking about: Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer, and Tommy Vietor are all former communications staffers for Barack Obama (as a former Hillary Clinton speechwriter, Lovett is, of course, my favorite). Their “political podcast for people not yet ready to give up or go insane” provides essential analysis of the week’s terrible news, and concrete tips on democracy in action—like how to strong-arm your congressperson into having a town hall meeting with you. Favreau, Lovett, Pfeiffer, and Vietor also have the best guests: They interviewed the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington in their first episode, and the only time I’ve ever heard Katie Couric swear is in her Pod Save America appearance. For a brief window in my mid-twenties, I worked in political communications, and I loved learning about the inner workings of politics just by being in the same room with smart people who were well versed in it. Listening to Favreau, Lovett, and Vietor apply their years of experience to the news is like all the best parts of working in politics, with none of the messaging fatigue. The show also offers a refreshingly clear-eyed take on the current state of things: It’s realistic but not utterly hopeless, which is change I can believe in. MB

The Read

(LoudSpeakers Network, updates weekly,
Hosted by NYC transplants Crissle West (of MTV’s Uncommon Sense) and Kid Fury (of YouTube’s Furious Thoughts), The Read is hands-down my favorite weekly podcast, and that’s probably because I can count on them to thoroughly cover all things Beyoncé, Shondaland, Black film, hip-hop culture, and whatever bullshit Hollywood is up to through their lens as Black members of the LGBT community. The barely edited show, which is usually upwards of 90 minutes, kicks off with avid gamer/superhero nerd Kid Fury quoting a movie character verbatim, and Crissle guessing what classic film it’s from. There’s always a #BlackExcellence appreciation shout-out, and they set aside a chunk of time to throw shade at Real Housewives’ shenanigans, or emphatically drag whichever rapper or NBA star has just claimed they think the earth is flat. But what I live for is when Crissle selects some “listener letters” to answer, the contents of which have ranged from TMI anal sex questions to requests for advice on tough family and friendship dynamics. The Read’s responses are always honest, always unapologetic, and always a combination of insightful and funny. And I cannot stress this enough: If there’s any big Beyoncé or Blue Ivy news, this is THE place to geek out. (Hive members: See their Lemonade and Formation tour reaction episodes. You will not be disappointed.) While the show, which has been going for four years now, is primarily meant to be a funny review of current events and pop culture, every episode ends with an epic “Read” in which both Crissle and Kid Fury take a few minutes to succinctly cuss out somebody in need (last year’s election kept them pretty busy). I always feel refreshed and satisfied after listening to their animated voices effectively gather someone who deserves it. JM

Support The Portland Mercury

Sooo Many White Guys

(WNYC, updates weekly,
Sick and tired of being the token Black girl in a sea of white dudes, author/comedian Phoebe Robinson appropriates the title and intro ditty Sooo Many White Guys, greets her listeners with “hey, boo boos!,” and uses her WNYC show as a platform to interview a variety of creatives who are not cisgender, heterosexual white men. Robinson has only been hosting this podcast since last June, but she’s already killing it just 16 episodes in; she’s had illuminating, funny, and important conversations with the likes of Issa Rae, Lena Dunham, Lizzo, Janet Mock, Margaret Cho, Roxane Gay, Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 (Justin Honard), and token white guy Mike Birbiglia, who was asked to speak on behalf of all white guys everywhere. The episodes are usually about 40 minutes long, punctuated with short phone check-ins with executive producers Ilana Glazer (Broad City) and Joanna Solotaroff, who also produces 2 Dope Queens. Robinson’s laugh is infectious, her interviews slay, and the episodes are short enough to easily complete in one listen. JM

Whiskey Sour Feelings Hour

(updates weekly,
In these tough times, I think it’s safe to say everyone has a lot of feelings, and perhaps... a mild drinking problem? That’s probably why Portland-based activist/writer/photographer Margaret Jacobsen has teamed up with writer and D&D nerd Max Steele for this feelings-centric comedy podcast in which they share drinks and have open conversations about culture and current events. The two don’t always see eye-to-eye in their intersectional discussions about everything under the sun (“Post-Post-Election Feelings,” “Kanye Feelings,” “White Men Feelings,” “Lesbian Space Feelings,” “Community Building Feelings”), but that’s part of what makes Whiskey Sour Feelings Hour so refreshing: They’re not afraid to be wrong. Let this show be a model for all of us as we try to manage important and complex conversations with those who think differently than us, and let it challenge our own convictions as we aim for mutual understanding. JM

SLAY Film Fest
In person at the Clinton St. Theater 10/29 & 10/30