Team Ear Hustle (L to R): Sam Robinson, Antwan Williams, Earlonne Woods and Nigel Poor
Team Ear Hustle (L to R): Sam Robinson, Antwan Williams, Earlonne Woods and Nigel Poor

If you haven’t already flung yourself into the podcast vortex, the national lockdown and having a whole lot of time on your hands may change that.

And just in case you have been living under a rock, a podcast is a recording of an audio discussion that can be downloaded or streamed via apps like Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

You may find podcasts to be the perfect distraction if you should start to feel a little stir-crazy after being stuck indoors. Here are some of our favourites:

Famous and opinionated

It’s not just us ordinary mortals who’ve jumped on the podcast train — celebrities have also. And the benefit of being a star, other than having money and fame, is that you know a lot of other celebs you can interview.

Bunny Ears is the creation of former child star Macaulay Culkin (yes, he of the Home Alone movies). And Mac, as he calls himself, is a lot more normal and interesting than you would think. He talks pop culture and chats to famous friends like singer Lizzo and skateboarding icon Tony Hawk.

Feisty comedian and host of Netflix hit Nailed It! Nicole Byer presents Why Won’t You Date Me?. The podcast is a comedic exploration of the reasons no-one will date her and looks at dating in the modern world. From creating the perfect Tinder profile to moving on from a nasty relationship, Byer and her guests handle them.

Jad Abumrad, creator and host of Dolly Parton’s America, says that in today’s divided America the one thing people can agree on, whether they are Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, is that Parton is awesome.

This nine-part series delves into the "Dollyverse". Parton herself, academics and fans talk about topics like feminism, politics (they call it "dollitics") and, most important, the meaning behind Parton’s song Jolene.

Music to your ears

If you are a music fan and looking to begin your podcast journey, a good starting point is the BBC radio classic Desert Island Discs. It was first broadcast in 1942, and each episode (there are over 3,000 to work through) features a guest, or "castaway", who has to name eight songs, a book and a luxury item they would take with them to a desert island. The long list of guests has included actors, pop stars, sports personalities, cartoonists and scientists. And their tune choices are even more varied, ranging from opera to heavy metal and everything in between.

Pop culture and music magazine Rolling Stone has branched out to the podcasting world with Rolling Stone Music Now. Weekly episodes feature writers and editors chatting about the biggest stories in the music world, who is at the top of the charts and who you should be listening to in the mainstream and indie music world.

Just like the rest of us, the music business is feeling the impact of Covid-19. An episode titled "Cancellations, Chaos" delves deep into the way the pandemic has halted the music and concert industry. If that sounds a little depressing, rather focus on something like "The Magic of BTS — and the History of Boy Bands", which puts the spotlight on BTS, a seven-member South Korean boy band who have taken the world by storm. Just ask your kids; these guys are HUGE.

Feminist 101

Stuff Mom Never Told You discusses issues around feminism and womanhood, and challenges perspectives on gender, race and class. This podcast has been in production for over a decade, so there is a great back catalogue to keep you busy. It examines important subjects like gender-neutral, nonbinary pronouns, female firsts and historical figures. For more light-hearted subjects during these dark times, take a listen to the episodes on women in puppetry or the feminist book and movie club.

Something different

If you are wanting to get out of your bubble of isolation and understand what a lockdown really is, listen to Ear Hustle. This remarkable podcast is created, produced and presented by prisoners at the notorious San Quentin State Prison just north of San Francisco. For some of us who have never experienced life inside, prison holds a dark fascination — just think of the popularity of television programmes such as Orange is the New Black or Prison Break. But this podcast shares with us what prison is like as inmates tackle subjects like pets, fashion and starting a family.

More recent episodes mirror the concerns that those of us on the outside have regarding Covid-19. But these prisoners’ fears are multiplied by the prospect of going into a 60-day lockdown because of the virus, which would mean no visits or communication with the outside world. They worry for the lives of older inmates, or for their families on the outside with whom they will have no contact. It’s a must-listen.

A podcast centred on the idea of interviewing an inanimate object sounds like a dreadful topic for a school essay — but Everything Is Alive is brilliant.

In each episode host Ian Chillag interviews a new "object", played by an actor or actress, so you could be getting to know "Shannon, Bath Towel" or "Louis, Can of Cola". In the case of an emotional "Emmy, Pregnancy Test", the lifespan of a pregnancy test is discussed (it’s three minutes, by the way). Then Emmy dies, and her pain while recounting her story is obvious. It’s melancholy yet fun, and definitely worth listening to.