Whiteness is a seduction. Whiteness is also an illusion. These are the twin motifs on which Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid props up The Last White Man, his new novel about race metamorphosis and human morality. Anchored in the bare and elegiac prose Hamid has made his trademark style, the book springboards from a single unexplained incident. Anders, a white man, awakens one morning to a new reality: his skin has “turned a deep and undeniable brown.”
The transformation, of which Anders’ is the first—but not the only, and certainly not the last—elicits worthy exploration. What if whiteness were suddenly gone? Would the social order of life come undone? Would anything change? Where Hamid lands doesn’t exactly persuade.
The sequence of events that follows plays into an ancient fear, that of The Other. (One’s need to estrange, Toni Morrison has said, is “a desperate attempt to confirm one’s own self as normal.”) For Anders, confusion bubbles. Panic swells. Initially, he flirts with thoughts of violence after realizing the transformation is irreversible. “He wanted to kill the colored man who confronted him here in his home,” Hamid writes, “to extinguish the life animating this other’s body, to leave nothing standing but himself, as he was before.”
It’s understandable why those who benefit from a particular standing would do anything to preserve it. The conscious seduction of power, of understanding the privileges from which one benefits and the life it affords, is, in part, about the necessity of control. I’d probably be upset and a little sad if I lost all of that, too.
But there isn’t a before Anders can return to. More and more, residents transform from white to varying shades of brown, at first causing uproar, until only one person—from which the novel draws its seemingly doom-laden title—is the remaining reservoir of whiteness.
At this point, the novel’s questions begin to stack. What is left to hold on to after such a life-altering occurrence? What remains paramount? Hamid answers: Love.
The great staging of Hamid’s work is intimacy; the grooves of human attachment his sole preoccupation. He is among the foremost diviners of partnership: of friendships, lifetime loves, and shattered marriages. Of how love is crystalized, of everything love can hold, what it can and will withstand across time. He understands—and in return makes us understand—our cavernous need for another, that somewhere bone-deep we cannot make it alone.
Hamid cycles into and out of the rotating threads—joy, loss, grief, anger, pleasure, birth, and rebirth—that animate the fabric of his storytelling, using Anders and his girlfriend Oona to stitch everything together. Having made peace with the tide of change, and all that it has upended, the pair venture back into the world. “No one there at the bar looked entirely comfortable, not the bartender, and not the men huddled in the only occupied booth … not any of these dark people bathed in the bar-colored light, trying to find their footing in a situation so familiar and yet so strange,” Oona observes. Or “maybe everyone looked the same as they always did,” she thought. It is only after “the whiskey settles into her belly” that she realizes that “the difference was gone.”
Podcasts are to radio as streaming services are to television, and we are lucky enough to be living through the golden age of both. You can find a podcast about almost anything these days, but with great choice comes great mediocrity—you might need a helping hand to find the podcasts worthy of your ear. Our expertly curated list will entertain and educate you, whether you’re doing the dishes, working out, commuting, or lazing in the bath.
For more advice, check out our guides on how to listen to more podcasts and the best podcasts for kids. If you’re feeling entrepreneurial, read our recommendations on the gear you need to start a podcast.
Updated July 2022: We added several podcasts, including Darknet Diaries, Wild Things: Siegfried and Roy, and The Superhero Complex, plus new business and TV sections.
Table of Contents
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Best Tech Podcasts
Sneak a peek behind the curtain, as this podcast follows the trials and tribulations of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, the tech startup that promised to disrupt blood testing but disintegrated in the face of whistleblowers, inaccurate results, and fraudulent claims. John Carreyrou’s reporting broke the scandal, and his book Bad Blood also spawned another interesting podcast. But The Dropout is a refreshingly clear recounting of the sordid tale, with season two tackling the trial.
Anyone with an interest in hacking and cybercrime will appreciate this investigative podcast from Jack Rhysider. Densely packed and tightly edited, the show covers topics like Xbox hacking, a Greek wiretapping Vodafone scandal, and the impact of the NotPetya malware. Rhysider skillfully weaves informative narratives to unravel some complex issues and keeps things mostly accessible, though it may occasionally get a little too technical for some folks.
Twenty Thousand Hertz
Painstakingly researched, this podcast dives deep into the world of sound to explain everything from those sounds you always hear in movie trailers to car engines, choral music, the Netflix intro, and way beyond. Learn how iconic sounds were created, why certain sounds make us feel the way they do, and how sound enriches our lives in myriad ways.
Other Great Tech Podcasts:
WIRED’sGadget Lab: Want to catch up on the week’s top tech news? Listen to our very own podcast hosted by senior writer Lauren Goode and senior editor Michael Calore.
The Lazarus Heist: This captivating investigation starts with the Sony hacks, digs into the involvement of North Korean hackers, and moves on to a billion-dollar cyber theft.
Rabbit Hole: What is the internet doing to us? New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose investigates things like the impact of algorithms on radicalization with a dreamy soundscape backdrop.
Reply All: The beautifully paced, always convivial, and sorely missed Reply All dragged us down internet rabbit holes to investigate long-forgotten songs, phone scammers, hacked Snapchat accounts, and Team Fortress 2 bots.
Best Society Podcasts
The Last Days of August
Jon Ronson brings an inquisitive, empathetic, and slightly neurotic intelligence to bear on fascinating and often surprising tales. Following The Butterfly Effect (only on Audible), which delves into the collision of tech with the pornography industry, The Last Days of August investigates the untimely death of porn performer August Ames. All of Ronson’s other podcasts are equally excellent (we recommend Things Fell Apart and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed), but this is a great place to start.
Wild Things: Siegfried and Roy
Famous German duo Siegfried and Roy were a mainstay on the Las Vegas show scene and performed about 30,000 times over five decades with an act that included white lions and tigers. When Roy was attacked live on stage, it made headlines everywhere. This podcast unravels their rise to stardom, touches on their controversial handling of wild animals, and digs into what really happened that fateful night.
In this eclectic mix of quirky stories, Malcolm Gladwell tackles misunderstood events and rarely discussed ideas, veering from subjects like Toyota’s car recall to underhand-throwing basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, and even the firebombing of Tokyo at the end of World War II. Gladwell freely mixes research and opinion and enjoys challenging conventional views, but every episode serves up facts and stories you have likely never heard before.
Other Great Society Podcasts:
Run Bambi Run: The riveting story of ex-Milwaukee police officer and Playboy Club bunny Laurie Bembenek, who was convicted of murdering her husband’s ex, despite conflicting evidence, and subsequently escaped prison and fought to have her conviction overturned.
Missing Richard Simmons: Ebullient fitness guru Richard Simmons used to be everywhere, and this podcast charts an investigative reporter’s attempts to find out why he disappeared.
The Moth: This podcast offers random folks the chance to tell deeply personal stories to a crowd of strangers and reinforces just how weird and wonderful humans are.
The Trojan Horse Affair: This tale unpacks the British scandal over an alleged attempt by Islamist extremists to take over a Birmingham school and radicalize its students.
Day X: A sobering look at the neo-Nazi specter in modern-day Germany, its possible infiltration of police and government, and a plan involving a military officer and a faked refugee identity.
Project Unabom: Delving into the life of Ted Kaczynski, this podcast interviews his brother and recounts the FBI investigation to try to make sense of Kaczynski’s terrifying bombing spree.
Best Culture Podcasts
The Superhero Complex
Part of the way into this investigation of the Rain City Superhero Movement, a real-life group of self-proclaimed superheroes active in Seattle a few years ago, I had to stop listening and check that this wasn’t fiction. The podcast focuses on the arrogant Phoenix Jones, an ex-MMA fighter turned violent vigilante, and his fall from grace. But there is also a fascinating glimpse into the friendlier side of the movement, with some heroes handing out water to homeless folks and helping people in distress.
Brutally honest comedians with chemistry, Kid Fury and Crissle West recap and review the latest pop culture news and offer their opinions on everything. Insightful, funny, challenging, and refreshingly different from the podcast pack, these sprawling conversations run for a couple of hours, covering recent events and frequently touching on social justice, mental health, race, and sexual identity.
Like eavesdropping on conversations between relatable besties, Forever35 started as a physical self-care podcast but expanded to discuss mental health, relationships, and any other topic that appeals to LA-based writers Doree Shafrir and Kate Spencer. They go from chatting about serums and creams to seasonal affective disorder and how to deal with a new stepmother as an adult—but always in a fun, inclusive, and down-to-earth way.
Other Great Culture Podcasts:
Sounds Like a Cult: Fanatical fringe groups have never been so prevalent, and there’s something more than a little cultish about celebrity stans, multilevel marketing, and marathon runners—just three of the subjects this lighthearted podcast unpacks.
Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard: Now a Spotify exclusive, this often funny and always insightful podcast seeks out human truths and sometimes finds them.
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy: Ably hosted by author David Barr Kirtley, this sci-fi fantasy extravaganza digs into fascinating topics with the help of accomplished guests like Neil Gaiman, Brent Spiner, and Steven Pinker.
The Allusionist: If you are interested in words, this witty but accessible show will delight you as it charts the evolution of slang, explains euphemisms, and generally celebrates language.
Best True Crime Podcasts
Soothing host Phoebe Judge unravels captivating tales with reverence in this polished production about the spectrum of crime. Criminals, victims, lawyers, police, historians, and others whose lives have been altered by crime voice their stories as Judge carefully avoids the sensational and exploitative by respectfully teasing out the heart of each subject.
Give this compelling mystery five minutes and you’ll be hooked. The talented host, Brian Reed, investigates a small town in Alabama at the behest of eccentric horologist John B. McLemore, who claims the son of a wealthy family has gotten away with murder. The script, pacing, editing, music—basically everything about this production—are perfect.
Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen
Murder may dominate this genre, but there are other fascinating stories worth telling in the world of crime, like this one, which is about a scammer posing as a Hollywood mogul. This weird, compelling, investigative podcast unwinds a satisfyingly twisty tale that’s mercifully free of blood and violence. The second season, Wild Boys, tells a completely new story.
Other Great True Crime Podcasts:
The Clearing: The families of serial killers often seek obscurity (understandably), but that means we never hear their stories. That’s something this podcast about April Balascio, daughter of American serial killer Edward Wayne Edwards, rectifies.
The Trials of Frank Carson: Police and prosecutors go after the defense attorney who has been beating them in court for years, sparking accusations of conspiracy and one of the longest trials in US history.
Sweet Bobby: This British catfishing tale charts successful radio presenter Kirat’s relationship with handsome cardiologist Bobby, and things get impossibly weird.
Dr. Death: A gripping podcast that focuses on incompetent or psychopathic (maybe both) ex-surgeon Christopher Duntsch and exposes terrifying institutional failures.
Crimetown: Taking a forensic approach to organized crime in American cities, this slick podcast comes from the supremely talented makers of The Jinx.
Hunting Warhead: A journalist, a hacker, and some detectives go after a chilling child abuse ring led by a criminal known as Warhead in this tactfully told and thorough podcast.
Best Science Podcasts
The worlds of wellness and weight loss are awash with questionable products and advice, so a podcast to debunk fads and junk science with reasoned argument and research is welcome. It’s more fun than it sounds, thanks to the entertaining hosts, and there’s even a fascinating episode on “snake oil” that recounts the history of health scams.
An absorbing deep dive into human behavior with the help of psychologists, sociologists, and other experts, Hidden Brain is densely packed with informative nuggets. The host, NPR’s accomplished science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, renders complex ideas accessible and offers insight into the inner workings of our minds.
The Infinite Monkey Cage
This whimsical show, hosted by physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince, poses questions like “Does time exist?”—which are then debated by a diverse panel of three guests, usually a mix of experts and entertainers. Definitive answers are in short supply, but it’s always articulate, enthusiastic, and thought-provoking.
Other Great Science Podcasts:
Science Rules!: Bill Nye, the science guy, teams up with science writer Corey Powell to grill experts on all sorts of interesting science-related topics.
Stuff You Should Know: Prizing knowledge for its own sake and provoking healthy curiosity, this podcast is comical, charming, and full of interesting conversational nuggets.
Best Economics Podcasts
This Planet Money spin-off delivers digestible, fast-paced, well-told stories about business and the economy, tackling topics that range from TikTok marketing to opioid nasal sprays and ticket scalpers. Each enlightening episode comes in under 10 minutes and serves as a quick primer that will leave you feeling well informed.
Promising to delve into the “hidden side of everything,” this long-running, data-driven show is hosted by Stephen J. Dubner, coauthor of the Freakonomics books, and it regularly features economist Steven Levitt. It’s a clever mix of economics and pop culture that flows easily and balances entertainment with education, presenting both sides of debates while consulting relevant guests.
If you long to understand the economy better, this topical show, hosted by David Beckworth of the Mercatus Center, interrogates a diverse line-up of economists, professionals, and academics to bring you invaluable insights. It takes a serious look at macroeconomics and monetary policy, but the guests do a solid job of unpacking complex topics.
Other Great Economics Podcasts:
Planet Money: This top-notch podcast has entertaining, digestible, and relatable stories about the economy, unraveling everything from health care to income taxes.
EconTalk: This no-frills show sees economist Russ Roberts engage in sprawling conversations with writers and academics on a range of economics topics.
Best Business Podcasts
How I Built This
This NPR podcast hosted by Guy Raz explores the stories behind some of the biggest companies in the world from the perspective of the innovators and entrepreneurs who built them. Expect cautionary tales, nuggets of wisdom, and business lessons galore in probing and insightful interviews that reveal a lot about their subjects and what drove them.
The Diary Of A CEO with Steven Bartlett
Serial entrepreneur Steven Bartlett built a successful business from nothing and is now an investor on Dragons Den (the UK’s Shark Tank). He talks frankly about his own experiences and interviews various CEOs to find out why they started their businesses and how they guided them to success. Sprawling discussions range from personal life challenges and mental health to business strategies and advice.
WorkLife with Adam Grant
Expertly hosted by organizational psychologist Adam Grant, this podcast offers practical advice on tackling various issues you are sure to encounter in the average job. The show features interesting psychological perspectives on everything, from how to rethink a poor decision to crafting a great pitch to dealing with burnout. The podcast also boasts insightful interviews with business leaders.
Other Great Business Podcasts:
Ask Martin Lewis: Personal finance guru Martin Lewis has been helping folks in the UK save money for years and provides straightforward financial advice here.
BizChix: If you’re craving a female perspective, this podcast from business coach Natalie Eckdahl is aimed squarely at female entrepreneurs and packed with no-nonsense expert advice.
Best Celebrity Interview Podcasts
The Adam Buxton Podcast
Consummate conversationalist Adam Buxton is always witty and well prepared, and he has interviewed many interesting people over the course of his long-running show, from Charlie Brooker to Jeff Goldblum. Ostensibly rambling, Buxton skillfully pulls fascinating insights from his interview subjects, bouncing between their personal lives, work, and popular culture with seeming ease.
Life Is Short With Justin Long
Likable actor Justin Long and his brother Christian host this enthusiastic and sprawling interview show, where they chat with guests like Zack Snyder, Kristen Bell, and Billy Crudup. The siblings get sidetracked by nostalgic reminiscences and occasional bickering, which sort of makes the show, but they are always generous and kind to their guests.
Charming and goofy, this conversational podcast stars Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes, and they always have a surprise celebrity guest, like Ryan Reynolds or Reese Witherspoon. It is warm, gentle, and often laugh-out-loud funny, but don’t expect challenging questions or bared souls.
Other Great Celebrity Interview Podcasts:
WTF With Marc Maron: Self-deprecating, sardonic, supremely skilled interviewer Marc Maron interviews some of the world’s most famous people, from Barack Obama to Paul McCartney.
Grounded With Louis Theroux: A soothingly gentle facade belies Louis Theroux’s ability to draw fascinating insights from his subjects with tact and humor.
Best Sports Podcasts
Epic rivalries and long-anticipated showdowns are a massive part of the enduring appeal of sports, and this slick production homes in on them. Rivalries like Federer vs. Nadal in tennis and Tyson vs. Holyfield in boxing are unpacked over a few episodes apiece by host Dan Rubenstein, who digs into their backgrounds to understand why some face-offs get so highly charged.
The Bill Simmons Podcast
This hugely popular sports podcast features fast-paced roundtable conversations with athletes and celebrities that usually focus on the NFL or NBA. Unfiltered opinions, witty remarks, and encyclopedic sports knowledge collide, but this is enthusiastic and accessible enough for casual sports fans to enjoy.
Primarily focused on baseball, this long-running podcast sometimes covers other sports and often meanders into comical conversations. Guests offer amusing anecdotes, but the chemistry between hosts Joe Posnanski and Michael Schur, who can debate endlessly about any old nonsense, is what makes this show so special.
Other Great Sports Podcasts:
Undr the Cosh: Open and honest banter from ex-professional soccer (football) players, as they talk to current pros and recount hilarious on- and off-pitch anecdotes.
Around the NFL: This funny, fast-paced look at the National Football League runs through all the latest football news, blending anecdotes and analysis.
32 Thoughts: A slickly produced, insightful dive into all the latest hockey news and controversy from knowledgable hosts who bounce off each other.
Best Movie Podcasts
How Did This Get Made?
We have all asked this question of a movie at some point, but hosts Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas invite guest creatives to engage in heated and hilarious chats about some of the worst films ever. Movies that are so bad they are entertaining, from Face/Off to Junior to The Room, are dissected and thoroughly ridiculed.
Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review
Respected film critic Mark Kermode has an infectious love of movies and an incredible depth of knowledge about the world of film, and Simon Mayo is a veteran radio presenter. Together they discuss the latest movies, interview top-tier directors and actors, and invite views from their listeners. While the podcast ended earlier this year, the duo have a new show called Kermode & Mayo’s Take.
You Must Remember This
Diving into Hollywood myths to investigate and uncover the truth about infamous secrets, scandals, and legends from Tinseltown is a compelling premise, and talented creator and host Karina Longworth makes the most of it. Among the best shows are the “Dead Blondes” series, which includes Marilyn Monroe; the run on Manson; and the “Frances Farmer” episode.
Other Great Movie Podcasts:
The Rewatchables: Bill Simmons and a rotating cast of cohosts discuss and analyze beloved movies and dig up interesting nuggets of trivia.
Lights Camera Barstool: Reviews, interviews, rankings, and accessible chats about the movies with pop culture debates thrown in.
Black Men Can’t Jump [in Hollywood]: This comedic movie review podcast highlights films featuring actors of color and analyzes the movies in depth, with an eye on race and diversity.
Best TV Podcasts
HBO’s Succession Podcast
Whether you’re new to this captivating show or a long-time fan, the official podcast affords you a peek behind the curtain as it dissects episodes and explores character motivations. Roger Bennett interviews the main players from the show and then Kara Swisher steps in for the third season to interview the makers and various guests, from Mark Cuban to Anthony Scaramucci, to examine its impact and where it mirrors world events.
Harsh Reality: The Story of Miriam Rivera
Recounting the tragic tale of the exploitative 2004 reality TV show There’s Something About Miriam, this podcast reveals just how cruel reality TV can get. Six young men set up house in an Ibizan villa to compete for the affections of Miriam and a £10,000 ($12,100) cash prize, but the show producers failed to tell them Miriam was trans. It’s a story that ended badly for everyone.
Hosted by actors from the show, Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti) and Steve Schirripa (Bobby Baccalieri), this podcast is essential listening for fans. It runs through every episode with big-name guests, most of whom worked on or appeared on the show. It’s candid about the entertainment industry and absolutely packed to the brim with behind-the-scenes anecdotes and insider revelations.
Other Great TV Podcasts:
Obsessed With…: This BBC podcast is hosted by celebrity superfans of various TV shows, including Killing Eve, Peaky Blinders, and Line of Duty.
Fake Doctors, Real Friends: Rewatching Scrubs with Zach Braff and Donald Faison is a joyous experience that’s every bit as entertaining, poignant, and silly as the TV show.
Welcome to Our Show: A warming dose of nostalgia and comfort for New Girl fans as Zooey Deschanel, Hannah Simone, and Lamorne Morris rewatch the show together.
Best Fiction Podcasts
Horror fans will enjoy reliving the last gruesome moments of various corpses that have landed at the mysterious Roth-Lobdow Institute in this deliciously creepy and occasionally gross chiller. Wonderful narration from Lee Pace; acting from the likes of Denis O’Hare, Missi Pyle, and RuPaul; and clever sound design make for a memorably thrilling ride that you just know is going to end badly.
Hello From the Magic Tavern
Thoroughly absurd, this fantasy improv-comedy show is the brainchild of Chicago comedian Arnie Niekamp, who falls through a portal at a Burger King and ends up in the magical world of Foon. The role-playing game and fantasy references come thick and fast, guests play bizarre characters of their own creation, and loyal listeners are rewarded with long-running gags and rich lore.
We Fix Space Junk
Short and sweet episodes of this sci-fi comedy-drama fit neatly into gaps in your day and whisk you away to a nightmare corporate dystopia in a galaxy fraught with evil artificial intelligence and monstrous aliens. Struggling repair technician Kilner gets stuck with a rich murder suspect, Samantha Trapp, after accidentally smuggling her across the galaxy in this polished show with a distinct 1980s feel.
Other Great Fiction Podcasts:
The Bright Sessions: The therapy sessions of mysterious psychologist Dr. Bright, bookended by voice notes, form intriguing short episodes, as all of her patients seem to have special abilities.
Welcome to Night Vale: This pioneering creepy show is presented as a community radio broadcast from a desert town beset by paranormal and supernatural happenings.
Best History Podcasts
Utopian ideals have led to the development of some fascinating communities over the years, and season one of Nice Try! delves into their history, the hope that drove them, and why these communities ultimately failed. Season two moves on to lifestyle technology, from doorbells to vacuums, all designed to help us realize a personal utopia in the ideal home.
The modern world was shaped by some of the ideas that drove revolutions, and this deeply researched series runs through the English Civil War and American, French, Haitian, and Russian revolutions; Simon Bolivar’s liberation of South America; and more. The writing is concise, the narration is engaging, and host Mike Duncan does a fantastic job contextualizing revolutionary events and characters.
The Memory Palace
A dreamy, emotional quality elevates these tales of seemingly random moments from the past, expertly told by the eloquent Nate DiMeo and backed by wonderful sound design. These distilled stories serve as historical snapshots of rarely discussed events, and it’s hard to think of another podcast as artful and poignant as this one.
Other Great History Podcasts:
Something True: Enjoy utterly bizarre true stories, as every episode of this podcast explores a seemingly forgotten historical footnote.
Lore: Spooky and witty, this classic podcast plumbs history to uncover horrifying folklore, mythology, and pseudoscience.
Medieval Death Trip: An enthusiastic and well-researched look at medieval times, this podcast offers a witty analysis of the primary texts left behind.
Hardcore History: Relatable and endlessly fascinating, Dan Carlin brings history to life with his own riveting narratives on notable events and periods, peppered with facts and hypothetical questions.
Best Food Podcasts
A Hotdog Is a Sandwich
Whatever side of the titular, age-old debate you stand on (I’m with the British Sandwich Association), this fast-paced, often funny show will suck you in as it poses tough food-related questions and then debates them. Chefs Josh Scherer and Nicole Enayati decide whether American cheese is really cheese, if Popeye’s and In-N-Out are overrated, and what the best pasta shape is.
If your love of food extends to an interest in the history and science of everything from the humble potato to a soothing cup of tea to ever-polarizing licorice, then this podcast is for you. Knowledgeable cohosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley talk to experts and serve up a feast of delicious bite-size facts that surprise and delight.
The Dave Chang Show
Celebrity chef Dave Chang, whom you may know from his Netflix show, Ugly Delicious, talks mostly about food, guilty pleasures, and the creative process with other chefs and restaurateurs. There is plenty here to satisfy foodies, but some of the funniest moments come when the show covers other random topics, like the perfect email sign-off or wearing shoes indoors.
Other Great Food Podcasts:
Out To Lunch With Jay Rayner: This podcast seats you at a top restaurant to eavesdrop on consummate food critic Jay Rayner with a celebrity guest at the next table.
The Sporkful: You can learn a lot about people and culture through food, and this podcast proves it by serving up delectable bite-size insights.
Best Comedy Podcasts
Wolf and Owl
Comedians and friends Tom Davis (the Wolf) and Romesh Ranganathan (the Owl) chat aimlessly and expertly poke fun at each other for around an hour. It’s often nostalgic, sometimes offers decent advice for listeners, and is always warmhearted and laugh-out-loud funny.
Why Won’t You Date Me? With Nicole Byer
Perennially single stand-up comedian Nicole Byer is every bit as charming and funny here as in Netflix’s Nailed It baking show, but this podcast delves into some adult subjects. Byer is disarmingly open about her insecurities and struggles and seamlessly stirs in vulgar humor. She also hosts hilarious conversations with guest comedians.
Ostensibly a soccer (football) podcast, this surreal show is brought to life by lovable British comedy legend Bob Mortimer, with support from sidekick Andy Dawson. Tall tales about real footballers, complete with strange voices and fictional personalities, are mixed with songs, silly inside jokes, and rambling conversations. You don’t really need to know anything about soccer to enjoy it.
Other Great Comedy Podcasts:
Locked Together: Only on Audible, this show features lockdown chats between comedian pals like Simon Pegg and Nick Frost or Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan.
My Neighbors Are Dead: The wonderful premise of this hit-and-miss improvised show is interviews with lesser-known characters from horror movies, like the caterer from Damien’s party in The Omen and the neighbors from Poltergeist.
As much a part of the event as Hall H panels and comics themselves, getting decked out in elaborate costumes—or looking at people decked out in elaborate costumes—is one of the main reasons people attend. This year, cosplay felt even more crucial. Due to health concerns over the spread of Covid-19, there hasn’t been an in-person Comic-Con for the past two years. Last weekend, when the event once again filled the streets of San Diego, the cosplayers came back too.
But not without some, um, modifications. Just because Comic-Con held an IRL event this year doesn’t mean Covid is over—far from it—so people had to take precautions to stay safe, namely by wearing masks. Now, cosplayers are used to wearing masks, but the kinds required to stop the spread of infectious disease aren’t necessarily the kind that Spider-Man wears. So, as should be expected, fans got creative.
WIRED asked photographer Daniel Gonçalves to attend last week’s convention and look for cosplayers with some of the most creative masks around. He found some great ones—and a few that didn’t have masks at all.
A year ago, when Valve announced the Steam Deck, I was absolutely riveted. I’m not a PC gamer—after eight to 10 hours of work each day, the last thing I want to do is be at a desk—but this new device offered something different: the ability to play PC games on a handheld. Prior to its arrival, anyone who wanted to play such games on-the-go had to hope they were available on Nintendo’s Switch. The Steam Deck offered an appealing alternative, one that lets players port their games from Steam onto a handheld and take them anywhere.
So I ordered one. Or at least, I attempted to. Like so many others, I logged on to Valve’s website when reservations opened in July 2021 and was promptly met by website crashes. Eventually I was able to reserve one, but when I finally got the email inviting me to purchase the device (a year later), I hesitated.
I’d read the reviews. I’d done the research. I knew what the device’s capabilities were and what they weren’t. It’s not just a handheld console—it’s a PC that sometimes requires workarounds and tweaks for things to function properly. It’s also a device without a mouse or keyboard that’s meant to play games that require a mouse and keyboard. It’s got a short battery life. (This last shortcoming was actually a bonus for me. Short battery life can function as a built-in time-limiter.)
Ultimately though, my hesitation wasn’t about the Steam Deck’s functionality. It stemmed from a cost-benefit analysis. There are some people picking up the Deck who have a huge back catalog of Steam games, who will buy this thing and play it all the time. That’s not me. I’m getting less and less video game time as it is, which is why I’m relying increasingly on mobile gaming. Meanwhile, it’s not an inexpensive device. I felt incredibly guilty splurging on something I knew I’d only use occasionally. But then I realized: I don’t have to use something all the time for it to be valuable to me.
Often, the benefit in my cost-benefit analyses is one of time. But that logic doesn’t actually hold up—I bought Horizon Zero Dawn on sale for $15 and I paid full price for Horizon Forbidden West. I love both these games equally. What matters to me is how much enjoyment I get out of something, not necessarily how much it costs—and sometimes you can get as much enjoyment in two hours as you can in 20. Sure, it’s nice to get a good deal, but that’s not what matters in the long run.
Of course I don’t want to pay a lot of money for something I know I’ll never use. But it also doesn’t have to be “must-have.” It’s all right to splurge on a “would be nice” every once in a while, as long as it’s within what I am fortunate enough to be able to afford.
And you know what? I’ve played the Steam Deck every single day since it arrived. Sometimes it’s only for 15 minutes while I eat lunch, but it’s so great to have that option. I didn’t realize how lovely it would be to have Garrus Vakarian with me wherever I went. (Yes, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition works wonderfully for me on the Deck, and you all know how I feel about replaying that game.)
Will the Steam Deck become my go-to platform? No, that will always be a PlayStation. But it doesn’t need to become my one and only. If you’re on the fence about splurging on a Steam Deck for similar reasons, I’m giving you the permission you don’t want to give yourself. It doesn’t have to be necessary to be worth it.
In June, 8BitDo, known for creating third-party controllers and adapters, announced their latest controller for the Nintendo Switch and Android devices. The Lite SE, created through collaborative efforts with father and son team Andreas and Oskar Karlsson, is designed specifically for physically disabled players with limited strength and mobility. The launch of this controller not only marks the culmination of years of hard work by Andreas to search for an affordable and accessible controller for his son, but it also expands the market of accessible gaming tech.
At a young age Oskar was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type II, a neuromuscular disorder that progressively weakens muscles over time. Despite playing games throughout his life, his father regularly adapted standard controllers to meet his son’s needs. As he grew and his disability progressed, so too did the complexity of adaptive designs.
“The GameCube controller was the first controller we adapted,” Andreas says. “We mounted screws in the joysticks and buttons and added polymorph around the screws. By doing that we could increase the length of the joysticks so it was easier to grip, and the increased length of the joysticks reduced the force required to maneuver it—but at the cost of range of movement. Taller joysticks mean longer movement—but at that point it worked because Mario Kart was kind of easy to control—unlike, let’s say, a fighting game like Street Fighter. The screws and polymorph on the buttons meant increased weight on the buttons, making them easier for him to push down or even hold down.”
As games evolved without proper accessibility features and options, Karlsson struggled to discover tools that would allow his son to properly play. From adapters to eye-tracking devices, each piece of adaptive equipment failed to fully function and cost Karlsson hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Furthermore, the substitutes never matched the designs of standard controllers, amplifying the sense of difference that can accompany gaming as a disabled player, which left a young Oskar not wanting to game at all.
“That was when we geared up a bit and started to modify existing controllers and even built our own,” Karlsson says. “I honestly have no clue how much money I have spent on potential things that could have worked, everything from low-force joysticks meant for power wheelchairs to the Xbox Adaptive Controller. All of them were better than the previous options, so Oskar’s interest in games started to return. Of course the things we modified and built only worked to a certain degree and Oskar still needed help to push certain buttons by his personal assistant. As he grew older we faced a new problem. At a certain time he wanted to use the original controllers despite not being able to use them to their full extent, as well as only being able to play for a very short time because of fatigue. Using a different controller that didn’t look like everyone else’s was a factor we never thought about. But for Oskar it mattered.”
Even the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a device specifically designed for physically disabled players, couldn’t meet Oskar’s needs. As Karlsson notes, the size and spacing of the controller and its varying switches and buttons meant that Oskar needed to exert even more energy to simply move his arms and hands to be able to reach the necessary buttons. But the size wasn’t the only issue. Since adaptive equipment can be a gamble for disabled players, each purchase may result in nothing less than expensive pieces of plastic that cannot assist the needs of the specific individual.
“Like the Xbox Adaptive Controller it’s a wonderful thing, but it has so many flaws,” he says. “First of all, it is very expensive, which is crazy, as many disabled people don’t have that type of income. And it isn’t just the Adaptive Controller: The accessories for it are insanely expensive. As for Oskar, he would need two of the ‘low force joysticks’ from Hori to use it, and they cost over $400 each. So just these three things would cost over $900. And then you need, like, 18 buttons.”
Karlsson could not find meaningful solutions that not only worked for Oskar but also looked like standard gaming controllers. Yet after designing several devices while seeking outside assistance from charities and organizations, Karlsson finally found help through 8BitDo.