Kellie Riordan is the Director of Deadset Studios, a premium podcast production house. She was the managing editor of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s podcast team, responsible for many of Australia’s biggest hits including Ladies, We Need To Talk, true crime strand Unravel, the Third Coast-winning memoir series No Feeling Is Final, Webby award-winning kids show Short & Curly, comedy series such as the scripted parody CrossBread, as well as Australia’s most downloaded show Conversations. She’s the host of Curveball, where people share stories of dealing with those things they couldn’t see coming and how to thrive in challenging times. Deadset Studios also produces the series Journo, about the way news is made and disseminated in the new millennium.
This is a mix of my fave go-to podcasts, with some bingeable series thrown in for good measure, and a bent towards top quality story-telling.
This is the best podcast of 2021 (if you can get past Seth’s ridiculous laugh.) Storytime takes the hallmarks of so many great narrative-driven shows like Heavyweight and This Is Love, and adds a music soundscape that sounds like the Polyphonic Spree mixed with Bertolt Brecht. In other words, it’s a must-listen. The first episode starts with a chance encounter in a movie cinema involving actor Paul Rudd and the Tarantino flick Inglorious Basterds. The episode that re-creates the joys of Disneyland but with a sinister twist features killer sound design from Richard Parks III (composer Van Dyke’s son) and a can’t-make-this-up plot.
If you took Heavyweight and paired it up with This American Life, the bastard child would be Days Like These! This was the last show I created when heading up the podcast divisions at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It’s a window into the most delightful worlds. Quirky stories that you just can’t make up. Happily, the show’s co-executive producer, the uber-talented Rachel Fountain, is now working at Deadset Studios too!
I’d listen to anything pod-king Dan Taberski does, from his great work on 9/12 about what happened after September 11 to his quest to find exercise king Richard Simmons. The Line is about Eddie Gallagher, an unforgiving US Navy Seal. But after his platoon is responsible for killing a 17-year-old ISIS fighter and Gallagher poses for photos with the corpse, he’s accused of war crimes. This is so much more than a court procedural. Taberski’s sharp scripting is sublime: When an interviewee talks about a scale of 1 to 80, where zero is a sociopath – “Frankly, I think he’s a sociopath for creating a scale from one to 80. What happened to a hundred?”
North Korea. A boat carrying heroin. And a tiny larrikin town as the landing point. What more could you want from a podcast series?
Long-time tech reporter Kara Swisher is a total ball-breaker. Her take-no-prisoners interviewing style means no Zuckerberg bollocks will go unchallenged. But she’s also surprisingly witty with lighter interviews like this one with actor-turned-aspiring-politician Matthew McConaughey.
Take a trip inside the mind of Honor Eastly. A young woman who’s having a mental health crisis, but with her black sense of humour intact. This Third-Coast-winning memoir has all the feels.
In early 2017, Ben Rhodes is with the Obamas on their final flight on Airforce One. As the outgoing administration’s deputy national security advisor, he’s in despair to be “suspended in time between two presidencies”. As the plane touches down, Rhodes wonders: With nationalism rising and disinformation rife, is America abdicating its role as the leader of the free and democratic world? Missing America is a nine-part series from Ben Rhodes, who’s also the co-host of Crooked Media’s foreign policy podcast Pod Save the World. In the midst of Brexit, the rise of nationalism, the Black Lives Matter protests, and of course the coronavirus, Rhodes sets out to explain what’s really happening on the geopolitical stage.
Want to understand this rising superpower? And why the Chinese President won’t take calls from the Aussie Prime Minister? After explaining Putin’s Russia, this series now focuses on China’s increasing presence.
This great music documentary takes you inside the remarkable signing of a band that didn’t fit the mould. The band – who are much more in the vein of Sam Cook soul and 60s blues than they are 21st century rock – toiled about in small pubs until 2017. But then they were signed by Aussie record label Mushroom Records before cracking the big time. This podcast benefits from music release clearances thanks to producer Courtney Carthy’s clever idea to make podcasts part of the Mushroom Group’s offer.
Want some inspiration on thriving in challenging times? Top-of-their-game leaders take you inside those moments you couldn’t see coming on Curveball. There’s the wine buff who went bankrupt not once but twice before scaling his online wine retail business. The national sporting coach who had to deal with a cheating scandal. The film enthusiast who scaled her movie streaming platform from Australia to the US and sold for a nine-figure sum. And the comedy titan who kept shows running amid the pandemic. I love hosting this show because I get to eavesdrop on the vulnerable moments even the most successful people have to contend with.
Have You Heard George’s Podcast? comes from Ugandan-born and British raised spoken-word poet George Mpanga. His intoxicating blend of theatre, poetry, character, sound art, and spoken word makes his commentary on social prejudice all the more powerful. You can’t help but be drawn into these stories of generational wealth, inequality, and social unrest.
Still one of the best narrative explainers of societal issues and moments in time we’ve forgotten. Author Malcolm Gladwell re-examines them with fresh eyes and uncovers some of the most bonkers accepted wisdoms going, like what cafeteria food tells us about college funding. My all-time fave is this episode on iterative genius. Because I’m definitely a work in progress!
Sharp cultural criticism from Pulitzer-prize-winning writer Wesley Morris and essayist and journalist Jenna Wortham, who once penned an essay about Lemonade which prompted a thank you note from Queen Bey herself. They cover arts and culture through the lens of race, gender, and politics.
The Bible might be the greatest story ever told. But this could easily be the second or third best! A laugh-out-loud parody about twins Josh and Joan Burns who formed the hugely successful Christian Rap duo CrossBread. The band briefly lit up GodTube with their smash hit Christmas single “Merry Crossmass”. With original music by songstress Megan Washington and musical singer Chris Ryan, and a script from comedian Declan Fay, this 6-part series will have you cry-snorting with joy on the subway/tube ride.