15 podcasts to enlighten your quarantine – MSU Denver RED


Like the phrase “hunker down,” podcasts are undoubtedly having a moment these days.

It’s not just because people are hunkered down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, either. According to data from Edison Research, podcast popularity has surged of late, with the majority of Americans now saying they have listened to one and 22% reporting regular weekly podcast consumption.

“We’re really seeing the significance of podcasts’ social and financial import,” said Sam Jay, associate professor of communication studies at Metropolitan State University of Denver and host of the craft-beer podcast “Unfiltered.”

This explosion in popularity is due in part to the movement away from more traditional mass-market advertising and a migration to more data-driven niche strategies.

“Podcasts are perfect for that,” Jay said. “Instead of a scattershot approach, you can identify specific demographics – say, 25- to 35-year-olds who live in the city – and create content that’s going to appeal to them.

“Bottom line, though: There’s a lot of talented people out there doing fun stuff to listen to.”

So with that (and the coronavirus lockdown) in mind, RED connected with Jay for his top picks to keep your ears filled while you social-distance the day away.


“How Did This Get Made?

Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas explore how things such as your favorite terrible movie were greenlit and funded. “It’s from this insider’s perspective, so it’s both funny and insightful,” Jay said. “My favorite episode is the one where they talk about ‘Staying Alive,’ the sequel to ‘Saturday Night Fever’ that Sylvester Stallone funded, directed and got his brother Frank a bit part in.”


Every week, comedians Mike Mitchell and Nick Wiger review a different chain restaurant – think witty Yelp-inspired banter about Burger King. “It’s pretty ridiculous – and pretty awesome,” Jay said. The hosts are currently working their way through “Munch Madness,” an unhealthy but entertaining substitute for basketball that examines 64 menu items from McDonald’s.

Pop culture

“Reality Life With Kate Casey

Though he isn’t a big pop-culture connoisseur, Jay likes the lighthearted nature of Kate Casey’s celeb-gossip show. “She kind of goes after famous culture,” he said. “It’s worth a listen for a chuckle.”

NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour

Jay picked this option from masters of radio monologue largely due to packing a lot into a little. “It’s two well-produced episodes each week that keep you up to date with the latest in movies, music and such,” he said.

“Broken Record

Legendary producer Rick Rubin, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell and former New York Times editor Bruce Headlam interview some of the biggest names in music, old and new. Recent guests include Bob Weir (of the Grateful Dead), hip-hop artist Run the Jewels and Denver’s own Nathaniel Rateliff.


“The Daily

“This is my go-to for bite-size news to keep plugged in,” Jay said. “It’s a good morning podcast you can listen to in 30 minutes on your long walk – while social distancing, of course.”

In addition to pint glasses, spirits are also up as Communication Studies Professor Sam Jay (right) talks tipples with Jay Johnson (left) and MSU Denver alum Jay Schrader during a recording of his craft-beer podcast “Unfiltered.” Photo courtesy Bear Creek Distillery.

True crime

In addition to the wildly popular true-crime podcast progenitor “Serial,” Jay’s other picks include the aptly named “Morbid,” “Crime Junkie” and “Casefile.” Just make sure you lock the doors first.

Sports and movies

“The Bill Simmons Podcast

”This isn’t your typical ESPN recap – Bill Simmons injects levity into the competition and reminds listeners why sports are a form of entertainment, said Jay.

He also recommended other podcasts from the Ringer production house, including the movie podcast “The Rewatchables,” looking at the films we continue to enjoy over and over.


Jay also recommended “Beyond the Bastards” (a part-comedy/part-history look at a wide range of despots and dastardly figures), the “intellectually challenging” “Making Sense Podcast With Sam Harris” – and of course his own creation, “Unfiltered.”

Sponsored by the Tivoli Brewing Co., the show goes behind the scenes with some of the standouts of Denver’s booming beer world – though with the advent of COVID-19, Jay has shifted the thrust of the conversation a bit to help support his small-business-owner guests.

“We’re trying really hard to reach out to folks on to promote their products and give insight to other beermakers and beer lovers about what’s going on right now,” he said. “That involves being as emotionally present and vulnerable as possible. It’s scary right now for restaurants, owners, brewers, music venues and bars – so we want to give people a place to talk about it.”

Jay and the Unfiltered podcast are hosting their first (and hopefully last) Shelter-in-Place Beer Festival on April 11; funds raised will support brewing industry employees. More information at the festival website.


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