Comedy Above The Pub
1The lowdown: Veteran comedian Todd Van Allen interviews comics, musicians, TV stars and politicians with a pint in hand above the Comedy Bar. The conversation is improvisational, uncensored and meandering, but Van Allen’s wit keeps things engrossing even during the wildest tangents. His teasing spares no one—including the show itself, which he often describes as “cat pee.”
For fans of: The spontaneity of WTF with Marc Maron or the irreverence of Not Too Deep with Grace Helbig.
Listen to this: Last year’s Christmas Eve episode, in which CBC comic Ivan Decker wonders whether Queen Elizabeth is a reptile and discusses the inevitable rise of “lizard people”; in another episode, Marcel St. Pierre teaches listeners how to #QuebecifyABand—that is, just add a bunch of Anglo-Franco portmanteaus.
Songs in Seven
2The lowdown: One-man-band Matt Burt is inexhaustibly inspired: each week, he writes, arranges and records a new song and, on Sunday, he presents it to the world in a podcast. The tunes have an indie vibe that can evoke ’90s rock or contemporary country, and they’re accompanied by a self-explanatory mini-segment called “Unpack the Track,” as well as witty digressions about Burt’s previous job tending the gardens at a cemetery. The bad news: Burt wrapped up the project a couple of weeks ago. The good news: you can binge on all 28 episodes right now.
For fans of: The exploratory nature of NPR’s All Songs Considered or Sound Opinions, the world’s most enduring rock ‘n’ roll podcast.
3The lowdown: You’ve probably heard downtown foodies raving about Grand Electric’s tacos (or complaining about the lines). It turns out the owners, Colin Tooke and Ian McGrenaghan, also have killer taste in music. Their podcast is light on words and tight on grooves: a different local chef or restaurateur assumes guest DJ duties every episode, keeping the playlists fresh and diverse.
For fans of: The staggering range of Desert Island Discs or Rolling Stone Music Now.
The Crimson Wave
4The lowdown: The brainchild of besties Jess Beaulieu and Natalie Norman is the go-to podcast about that time of the month—and certainly the only pick here that tracks hashtags about periods and pubes. The show is devoted in equal parts to BFF banter, intimate real-talk and guest interviews.
For fans of: Bitch Media’s tongue-in-cheek Popaganda or Susan Orlean’s confessional Crybabies.
Listen to this: Episode 94, with comic Clare Belford, in which both hosts gleefully admit that they’re blackout drunk; and episode 84, when comedian Matt O’Brien hilariously recalls a thwarted threesome from his college years.
5The lowdown: Unless you’re a journalist, you probably know Canadaland as that podcast that broke the Ghomeshi scandal. The show bills itself as a non-sensationalist watchdog and a flag bearer for responsible reporting (but we bet the staff get giddy every time a media figure so much as thinks about misbehaving). The fun is in listening to the dogged host, Jesse Brown, routinely challenge and condemn the big names in Canadian news.
For fans of: The earnest whistle-blowing of TVO’s The Agenda With Steve Paikin or Real Time with Bill Maher.
Utopia To Me?
6The lowdown: Comedian Chris Locke asks other funny folk to imagine a perfect world. “The sky’s the limit,” he says. “There doesn’t even have to be a sky.” The answers are predictably entertaining, as is the inside look into the world of Canadian stand-up. Expect insult comedy, lots of self-deprecation and the occasional Nazi joke.
For fans of: Earwolf’s side-splitting How Did This Get Made? or the off-the-cuff charm of You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes
Steve Dangle Podcast
7The lowdown: Steve “Dangle” Glynn has been making a name for himself on YouTube with unwavering Leafs loyalty since 2007. He’s unabashedy geeky about the game and its players, and his eponymous podcast, co-hosted by Adam Wylde of Kiss 92.5, is unfettered puck talk—no fantasy-league filler or who’s-dating-who speculations here. When the shop talk does occasionally get sidelined, it’s for a hilarious shouting match or non sequitor about whether ketchup is actually a jam.
For fans of: Slate’s hyper-analytical Hang Up and Listen or the beers-and-buds styling of The Football Ramble.
Listen to this: The 2015 finale, “No It Doesn’t,” which features a colourful argument about the relevance of Star Wars and whether it really is “the Philadelphia Flyers of movie franchises”; and January’s “Guilt Trip,” in which Dangle dissects the roots of the John Scott saga (“Who?” says every non-hockey fan).
Our Fake History
8The lowdown: What actually happened meets what might have happened under the tutelage of host and historian Sebastian Major. The show unpacks urban legends—who was the real Braveheart? Was the Trojan war even a real thing?—and Major always concludes the show with a verdict on the likeliest version of the truth.
For fans of: The expansive reach of The Born Yesterday Podcast or the committed her-story of The History Chicks.
Listen to this: The premiere, in which Major laughs off the theory that the strong-jawed Queen Elizabeth I was just a bloke in drag; and episode 11, which concludes that the Lance of Longinus, the supposedly supernatural spear that pierced Jesus’ side, probably didn’t exist.
9The lowdown: It’s only about a month old, but chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat’s podcast is already poised to be an authoritative voice on urban development. The lush, ambient score and Keesmaat’s gleeful idealism keeps each episode engaging (most of all for unabashed urbanites). It’s the perfect cheat sheet for every Toronto dinner party.
For fans of: The nostalgia of The Memory Palace, or the encyclopedic draw of Stuff You Should Know.
Taggart and Torrens
10The lowdown: In this ode to Canadian culture, former Our Lady Peace drummer Jeremy Taggart and Trailer Park Boys’ Jonathan Torrens discuss Sobey’s experiences, reminisce about ’80s video games and crack jokes en francais. The best segments are the show’s litmus tests of Canadianness, like “Canadian or Ca-Not-ian” and “Family or FamiLIE.”
For fans of: The anthropological nature of This American Life or the chummy banter of Geeks and Beats.
Listen to this: An exploration of “Canadianity” in episode one, which implies that shopping rage, bland MuchMusic VJs and Canadian Tire are all deeply ingrained in the Canuck psyche; and episode 47, which introduces the impeccably named “Birthd’Eh!,” a game where you match Canadian actors with their birth dates and realize how little you know about either.
11The lowdown: Film buffs Kiva Reardon and Fariha Róisín host TIFF’s brand-new biweekly podcast, a showing of keen cultural commentary that explores how movies influence our world. Loud, unapologetic and rooted in pop culture, it borrows its format from boxing: round one flits through movie news and round two—ding ding!—dissects aspects of the film industry.
For fans of: The comfortable ribbing of What She’s Having, which is sadly on hiatus, or the informed sarcasm of Film Junk.
Listen to this: The first—and, so far, only—episode, which features, in round one, the hosts’ favourite Irish movies (accent attempts and Christian Bale impressions included) and, in round two, a cold, hard look at the 2016 Oscars.