Ten Essential Denver Podcasts in 2016

Podcasts are among the most direct and engaging mediums to emerge from the digital audio revolution. Liberated from the demands of commerce (though sponsorship and advertising space are necessary evils for those who wish to monetize), podcasters forge meaningful relationships with their listeners, fostering a uniquely intimate bond in the theater of the mind. Because of their DIY spirit, podcasts can flourish in abundance outside of media hubs like Los Angeles and New York, and Denver is no exception, with many here started by local comics. Enterprising comedians often start podcasts to boost their web presence and network with peers, and yet somehow — as they delve into the minutiae of pop culture, their own personal histories and even the medium of podcasting itself — the best among them manage to draw rare, unguarded moments from their guests, offering fascinating insights into the warped psyches pursuing the lonely, ignoble life of a standup comic. 

Denver's podcast marketplace is so vast and multifaceted (not that anyone's making much money here) that drafting a comprehensive inventory of its best examples is a fool's errand — but I have no qualms recommending the following podcasts, listed in no particular order. (In the interest of full disclosure and wanton self-promotion, I have appeared as a guest on several of them.) If you find yourself with an hour to spare, throw on some headphones, and download any of the shows below: ten essential podcasts for 2016.

10. Changing Denver
Denver's cultural and architectural identity is in a state of constant flux these days. As our beloved metropolis approaches a future many fear will render our city unrecognizable, Changing Denver has stepped in to chronicle our city's unexplored history before it's developed into boxy, overpriced oblivion. Guests have ranged from spooky historian Phil Goodstein to local hip-hop icon Felix Fast4ward, all getting wonky about Denver's changing spaces in fascinating discussions guided by the steady hand and soothing, NPR-worthy voice of Paul Karolyi. Though the monthly podcast is only three episodes into its run, it's off to a promising start, and currently at the ideal stage for new listeners to catch up and keep abreast of new releases. 

9. Words with Wayman
Denver sketch supergroup The Agency is a wily bunch of over-committed hustlers, running weekly and monthly standup and live sketch showcases, an open mic, an independent zine and a proliferation of video sketches — but Matt Wayman is perhaps the most industrious agent of all. His podcast, Words with Waymanis essentially a solo venture wherein Wayman conducts in-depth interviews with standups, entrepreneurs and other creatives from Denver and beyond. The discussions are freewheeling, yet maintain a thematic through-line across the two-part episodes. Topics vary from guest to guest, but everyone attempts to tackle the age-old question (a perennial favorite among most artists' parents) of just how to go about making a living doing the work that makes you feel alive. 

8. The Idiot Podcast
Since it's produced and hosted by "Denver-based comedian and moron" Matt Monroe, no one should be surprised that the Idiot Podcast isn't an in-depth analysis of the Fyodor Dostoevsky novel. Rather, Monroe asks his guests to reveal whatever quirks, experiences and mistakes from their past continue to make them feel like the titular idiot. It's a simple premise that can spin off into dozens of stories, from tales of youthful religiosity to grand-theft auto. Monroe's extensive travels and networking acumen grant him access to a variety of guests who lie outside the purview of most local podcasters, which often seem to all be cycling through the same roster of guests. Even the familiar voices of local podcast regulars will have something different to offer here than on any other show, as their stories prove week after week that everyone feels like an idiot sometimes. 

7. Dude Sweet Podcast
Denver's comedy and wrestling scenes have formed an odd bond over the past few years. The overlap has resulted in professional wrestlers, who make for theatrically beefy crowd members, populating local joke shows, as well as comedians adopting wacky personas as their hiss-worthy heel managers on Lucha Libre & Laughs.  Dude Sweet Podcast celebrates this bond, forging it in brawny camaraderie as co-hosts Ian Douglas Terry and Brian Keith Nelson (aka Xander Creed) invite guests to revel in their never-ending celebration of all things sweet. Wrestlers and standups dominate the lineup of the bimonthly podcast; fortunately, their surprisingly simpatico ethos and lifestyles make for tirelessly compelling listening. 

6. Ice Cream Social 
Ice Cream Social is a comedy chat show that airs live on Radio 1190 every Wednesday from 7 to 8 p.m. and is released the following day as a podcast. Initially conceived by Denver/ Boulder comics Cody Spyker and Jacob Rupp as a way to gain a foothold in the scene, it quickly evolved into required listening for local fans and comics alike due to Spyker and Rupp's engaging banter, recurring segments and delightful promotional photos featuring comedians' faces photoshopped onto Ben & Jerry's pints. Since its debut last July, Ice Cream Social has welcomed a host of Denver's funniest comedians into the subterranean studio beneath the University Memorial Center in Boulder, securing an interview with Amy Schumer during the biggest year of her career. But recently the hosts have really begun to hit their stride, both as interviewers and comedians in their own right.

Keep reading for five more essential podcasts.

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Byron Graham is a writer, comedian and gentleman thief from Denver. Co-host of Designated Drunkard: A Comedy Drinking Game, the deathless Lion's Lair open mic and the Mutiny Book Club podcast, Byron also writes about comedy for Westword. He cannot abide cowardice, and he's never been defeated in an open duel.
Contact: Byron Graham