Review: Vox's The Weeds and companion news podcasts will make you smarter

by Colin Lalley
Review: Vox's The Weeds and companion news podcasts will make you smarter

Podcasts are everywhere. Political podcasts are the newest way to consume your news. They’re replacing websites the way websites replaced newspapers.

Or are they?

Vox came onto the political news scene in 2014 and has seen great success ever since. But they’re also not resisting the podcast revolution. The Weeds podcast launched on the Panoply network in 2015, but the company is so dedicated to the audio format that they’ve since left Panoply to start their own network.

The Vox podcast network has expanded beyond The Weeds to include sister podcast The Ezra Klein Show and I Think You’re Interesting, with more sure to come. If you’re a fan of Vox’s take on politics, policy, and pop culture, the Vox podcasts are the perfect way to get even more of your fix.

The Weeds podcast

The Weeds

There’s a lot going on in the news these days, and sometimes it’s hard to remember that this is just a snapshot in time. We’re so focused on what’s happening now – the outcome of a healthcare vote, for instance – that we don’t look at the larger picture. There’s history leading up to that healthcare vote, and it will have a future that affects not only insurance coverage but the economy and society as a whole. That’s why The Weeds, hosted by Vox’s Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias, and Sarah Kliff, is one of the best political podcasts out there. As the name implies, they dig into the weeds of situations so listeners have a more holistic understanding of issues. What other podcast would have a "white paper of the week"? The Weeds has also started running special "Weeds in the Wild" episodes, where they talk to real people affected by things like a universal basic income or contraceptive availability. If you’re looking for a way to understand what’s happening behind the things you see in the news, The Weeds is the perfect place to start.

The Ezra Klein Show podcast

The Ezra Klein Show

The Ezra Klein Show has a host in common with The Weeds, but it’s more of a complementary podcast than just another political podcast. There are certainly politics discussed, but it’s much more than that. Have you ever wondered what Ms. Marvel comic book writer G. Willow Wilson thinks about representation in media, and the cyclical nature of comic books? What about what Momofuku’s David Chang has to say about restaurant wages? Or how J.D. Vance is handling Hillbilly Elegy in the era of Trump? Or Ta-Nehisi Coates’ thoughts on race. Want to hear Yuval Noah Harari discuss AI? Ezra Klein talks to people about their areas of expertise, but in a way that connects to the broader world. It’s full of insightful conversations from people you’re familiar with and others you’ve never heard of expounding on an idea. And if you’re looking for more, Klein asks his guests to recommend three books for listeners at the end of every episode. The learning never stops.

I Think You're Interesting podcast

I Think You’re Interesting

Not everything is as dire as politics makes it seem. There’s still room for some downtime in our lives, and Vox has a surprisingly big pop culture vertical. That spills over into the Vox podcast network, in the form of Todd VanDerWerff’s I Think You’re interesting. Here, VanDerWerff talks to some of your favorites from the world of entertainment. I Think You’re Interesting kicked off with American Horror Story’s Ryan Murphy and hasn’t slowed down since, talking to voice acting legend Phil LaMarr and comedian Chris Parnell. It’s a funny show, and lets you peek behind the curtain into a world you normally only see on television screens. Of course, since this is Vox, you still have the option to get your political fix; VanDerWerff’s conversation with Ezra Klein (that guy is everywhere) ranges from running a media website to Klein’s favorite superhero comic books, and the cast of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee talks about being the new standard bearer for late night political comedy. But don’t worry: if you just want to relax and hear Parnell talk about the differences between Archer Cyril and Rick & Morty’s Jerry, you can do that, too.