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Take today to listen to some of our favorite podcast episodes ever

Take today to listen to some of our favorite podcast episodes ever
Photo: Paulo Amorim/NurPhoto via Getty Images
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

This year’s Memorial Day is mainly be marked by what it lacks—but it shouldn’t be devoid of entertainment. A long weekend with nothing interesting to do or any interesting people to see is the perfect time to dig into all the great podcasts you haven’t gotten around to yet. This week on Podmass, we present five of our favorite podcast episodes ever, in the hope that you might discover a new not-new-at-all series to enjoy.

Night Of A Thousand Zoes

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Dreamboy from Night Vale Presents is an erotic, otherworldly exploration of Shaker Heights, Ohio—but not quite Shaker Heights, Ohio. The series finds ways to elevate the mundane, turning a trip to the frozen section of a grocery store into pure magic. “Night Of A Thousand Zoes,” released in 2018, could be named one of the top five podcast episodes of all time just for the dazzling original score alone, but creators Dane Terry and Ellie Heyman have built an audio masterpiece that showcases the best of what a podcast can do. As he winters in Cleveland and works at the zoo, protagonist Dane takes his Insta-famous not-boyfriend from Grindr, Luke, to a drag show benefit for a beloved and potentially murderous zebra, Zoe. As they share a hot hookup in the alley, Dane and Luke are interrupted by creepy not-Girl Scouts and called upon to join a fever dream of a rescue mission deep in the bowels of the zoo. Straddling the line between reality and shared dream space, and scored by glittery instrumentals and burning torch songs, “Night Of A Thousand Zoes” is a queer Midwestern fantasia that’ll warm hearts and cause cheeks to flush. [Morgan McNaught]

Mystery Show
Case #3 Belt Buckle

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Mystery Show is kind of like podcasting’s My So-Called Life: a flash of genius trapped in amber, for better and for ill. Its existence was brief—just six episodes were released in total, all in 2015—but the freshness of its voice garnered a fervent following, one almost instantly beset with the persistent gnawing question of what could have been, were it not for its cancellation. The show serves as a reminder of the boundless promise of podcasting’s second wave, when talents honed in public radio were given broader financial support and freed of the constraints of the broadcast clock. Host and producer Starlee Kine was already a big name in audio circles from her work as a producer with This American Life, but Mystery Show was a vehicle expressly designed to showcase her talents as an intuitive conversationalist and playful storyteller. With “Belt Buckle,” what might seem like a linear investigation (the description for the episode simply reads, “A young boy finds an enchanting object in the street”) instead relishes in all of its detours, underscoring the importance imbued in every object we encounter, every interaction we have. [Ben Cannon]

The Adventure Zone
Ep. 69. Story And Song - Finale, Part Three

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It was all building to this. Nearly three years after Justin, Travis, Griffin (My Brother, My Brother And Me), and their father, Clint McElroy, began a Dungeons And Dragons podcast on a lark, their story of high fantasy, interplanar travel, and unbridled heroism was coming to an end in 2017. Given the sheer number of moving parts, side characters, and emotional arcs left to resolve, the task of creating a satisfying conclusion to what is now known as the “The Balance Arc” seemed an impossible one. And yet, this three-hour final episode has everything. Our heroes, Magnus, Taako, and Merle, face off against the all-consuming entity known as the Hunger in one last no-holds-barred fight; nearly every beloved NPC from over the course of the series makes a perfectly timed cameo; and the epilogue provides such cathartic resolution for the principal characters that the entire McElroy family is brought to tears. Amid all of this, the brothers still somehow find time to engage in the classic goofs and in-character bits that attracted fans to the show in the first place. It was a feat of collaborative storytelling years in the making, and it made for one damn fine episode. [Dan Neilan]

The Big Loop
Goodbye Mr. Adams

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The Big Loop is indisputably one of the best additions to the fiction podcast scene in the 2010s, both for its riveting performances and its immense success at reaching audiences who are brand new to fiction podcasts. In particular, “Goodbye Mr. Adams,” from the series’ first season, is an excellent introductory episode. A gay high school student (played by Briggon Snow of The Bright Sessions) who grew up without his biological father suffers from intense bullying at school and an unhappy home life with his abusive stepfather. A new English teacher at school, however, sees the rage bubbling underneath the surface and starts teaching him how to defend himself physically and how to harness rage into physical prowess. This is a deeply emotional work on toxic masculinity, the lessons we learn from the parental figures in our lives, and the long-lasting effects of abuse. It’s a piece that can, and will, resonate with many people in the coming years, giving them permission to cry and find strength. And this is true for every episode of The Big Loop; the work of Paul Bae, Steve Jin, and all the voice actors all but prove it will survive the test of time. [Elena Fernández Collins]

The Read
Live One Year Anniversary Show

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Crissle West and the aptly named Kid Fury have to be the most wickedly unfiltered hosts in Black podcasting. For seven years and 300-plus episodes, this queer, Black pair have gone off on newsmakers, celebrities, and racist-ass people. (Though they do have a tendency to wag their fingers a bit sanctimoniously at times, not to mention have an unconditional love for both Beyoncé and Blue Ivy Carter that borders on the obsessive.) This is the first-anniversary episode, recorded live on their New York home turf in 2014, and it showed listeners the degree to which, like your cattiest, bitchiest, most shit-talking pals, they gave zero fucks. While Crissle and Kid Fury do shower praise on those who deserve it, the claws can come out in a split second. One minute they’re giving Lupita Nyong’o all the flowers; the next they’re trashing the hell out of “bucket-mouth ass hoe” NeNe Leakes and the cold East Coast weather. (“It’s like Mother Nature just found out she’s a side bitch,” snarls Fury.) This episode is a sharp, spicy Whitman’s sampler of the uncut shade these two dole out on the regular. [Craig D. Lindsey]