Good news: April showers bring May podcasts. Or something about podcasts going in your ears like lambs, because they are soft and nice, and out of your ears like lions, because if you stop listening to podcasts, your dad will be killed by stampeding wildebeasts. Well, now I’m sad remembering that scene – thanks, previous sentence. You know what makes me happy, though? Podcasts! Here are our picks for this week’s best:
BRADFORD: Improv Obsession Podcast #15 – Matt Besser
Improv Obsession, a fairly new podcast hosted by novice Los Angeles improviser Stephen Perlstein, has quickly become one of the best places in Podcastland to hear West Coast improvisers talk shop. Perlstein has been drawing in titans of the UCB LA improv scene for one-on-ones for months now, but this week, he’s outdone himself by booking one of the pioneers of the medium, UCB co-founder Matt Besser. The chat with Besser wisely strays away from UCB history – which is well documented elsewhere – and instead focuses on Besser’s thoughts on organic improv vs. premise-based improv, his comedy pet peeves, and his definitions for some common terms in the improv world. Host Stephen Perlstein is still new to interviewing and podcasting, but what he lacks in polish, he makes up for with a winning enthusiasm for all things improv, and this episode is both a great introduction to the show and a rare opportunity to hear a living improv legend talk nuts and bolts.
JAY: WTF #274 - Bob Zmuda
WTF with Marc Maron allows us to get a glimpse inside the minds of comedians. To have an opportunity to listen to Bob Zmuda, the comedy partner of Andy Kaufman and man behind Comic Relief, is a privilege. This episode of WTF is not only a view inside the brain of a genius, but also a rare peek behind the curtain. Zmuda begins with the story of meeting his original comedy partner, Chris Albrecht, who went on to head up HBO and Starz. Zmuda then details his initial impression of Andy Kaufman. Even he was duped the first time. The podcast shifts to a history of Kaufman’s comedy career. Highlights include: Andy’s ambush of Elvis, early days at The Improv, and Bud Friedman’s father/son relationship with the comic. Zmuda then recalls his position as an assistant to writer Norman Wexler. If you think Andy was crazy, just listen to the Wexler stories. The discussion then turns back to Kaufman. Dick Ebersol brought him into Saturday Night Live. From there, he went to Taxi and then Andy’s pinnacle of show business: the legendary Carnegie Hall performance. Once Andy conquered television, he moved on to wrestling women and the infamous Letterman Late Night slap. Comedy could now happen anywhere, even if Andy was the only one in on the joke. That sounds like and insane statement, but Maron sums it up by explaining that Lenny Bruce gave comedians the freedom to say anything and Kaufman gave them the freedom to do anything. The podcast concludes with stories about Tony Clifton and Andy’s death. Perhaps Kaufman’s greatest legacy is in Zmuda’s refusal to divulge the real identity of Clifton and if he believes that Andy is actually dead, because anything is possible in Kaufman’s world. If you believe, Tony Clifton will be performing a limited run of shows at The Comedy Store in LA, beginning May 31st. The show will include a live band, dancers, and a hooker raffle. Wherever Andy Kaufman is, he must be smiling.
JESSE: Comedy Bang! Bang! #156 – St. Vincent, Zach Galifianakis, Paul F. Tompkins, Harris Wittels, Nick Kroll, Brett Gelman, Jessica St. Clair
This week’s Comedy Bang! Bang! was the third anniversary and it was appropriately celebratory. For their anniversary episodes, Host Scott Aukerman tends to bring as many of the fan favorites in as possible. Was it the funniest episode ever, no, but it definitely one of the most fun, which is, for lack of a better word, nice. Scott started Comedy Bang! Bang! primarily to have fun, and despite the seriousness of It leading to his soon to debut TV show, it’s nice to remember it’s still just a show where funny people have fun. Whether it was Zach Galifianakis ringing a bell after every joke of his he liked or Nick Kroll seamlessly playing three characters simultaneously or Jessica St. Clair performing as the too loud for earbuds Marisa Wompler or Harris Wittels dropping Foam Corner foam so foamy that musical guest St. “Street” Vincent audible groaned, fun was had by all. Here’s to three more years.
JOEL: Guys With Feelings #105 – Mary Lynn Rajskub, Alec Sulkin
Recently, Jason Nash and Jeff Bumgarner upgraded the digital offerings for their long-running Guys With Feelings. Now with a video segment, the interview show adds even more of a casual and behind-the-scenes intimacy to their low key interviews. Nash and Bumgarner always keep things funny and honest (code for slight awkwardness), no matter the subject matter. Mary Lynn Rajskub guests is a great guest, both honest and playfully difficult when the conversation goes wayward. Not sure there’s a show that seamless slides back and forth between daily life talk and Hollywood behind-the-scene revelations. Nash’s comedy is at its best when he throws out crazy theories to see what sticks or just plain confuses. There’s also some special bonus clips of Rajskub on Nash’s killer online series, Jason Nash Is Married. Plus, there’s some talk about Rajskub in a hot dog costume. The always clever and fun comedy writer, Alec Sulkin, stops by later in the show. Sulkin adds to the weird/casual mix of Guys With Feelings. It’s great to see Nash and Bumgarner continue to push their show format into new territories while keeping the overly honest and playful approach.
LINDSEY: Who Charted? #74 - Rob Delaney
I feel like the term “heart clit” is enough to sell you on how great this episode is, but I have to write a whole review because I don’t want Jesse to be mad at me. Seriously, engorging your heart clit is the perfect way to describe a Nicholas Sparks movie, and an even better Rob Delaney phrase, and that is why he is the best. (They even named the episode after this, so you know it’s good.) And listen, I know that Delaney is an important guest (Twitter!) and should be recognized as one, but this episode is most notable for the long list of sexual sign language name suggestions that take up the first few minutes. If you haven’t been following along, Howard invented a move using your hand/thumb to simulate sex (Kremer’s “brother” Lee demonstrates below), and it is quickly spreading across the nation. Or maybe just the podcast nation. Some nation, that is for sure. A name has yet to be picked, so send in your ideas. You probably don’t have a legacy yet. This could be it!
MARC: The Dead Authors Podcast, Appendix B: Friederich Nietzsche and H.P. Lovecraft - James Adomian, Paul Scheer
Tired of comedy podcasts featuring a revolving door of the same comedians making the rounds? The Dead Authors Podcast is a break from that formula. Oh, there are interviews but the characters are historical in nature and…in occasional bursts…hysterical as well. The show is hosted by H.G. Wells, famous author of such works as The Time Machine and The War of The Worlds, and he introduces us to other revered dead writers. In Appendix B, we meet philosopher Friederich Nietzsche and horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Inventive comedian Paul F. Tompkins portrays Wells as an erudite, sarcastic fellow who keeps the conversation going between his guests, with James Adomian playing Nietzsche and Paul Scheer asLovecraft. Both guests start out quoting liberally from what seems a crazy patchwork of authentic passages from their works, then deviate from time to time from their prose while remaining in character. And Wells has his hands full as Lovecraft periodically giggles maniacally and muses about his mad parents, dead of syphillis, while Nietzsche has trouble trying to contain a raging streak of racism, attacking mostly the Jews and the Dutch. Something about the format was tickling my brain and I tracked down a show that I believe Tompkins may have patterned his podcast after. The late innovative host of the first Tonight Show, Steve Allen, later went on to host Meeting of Minds, in which he hosted famous figures from history (Cleopatra, Francis Bacon, Charles Darwin, etc.) in chat show fashion. Allen said back then, “The idea is that every syllable will be part of an actual quotation. The degree of the exact quotation varies from character to character.” That feels a lot like what’s going here. It worked great for Steve Allen. And the gimmick, given a few unique hooks by Tompkins and company, works today perhaps just as effectively. You can easily catch up on the seven or so past episodes, as the Dead Authors Podcast only comes once a month. So download a little culture with your comedy.
ROGER: Totally Laime #117 - Jon Daly
After watching The Life and Death of Peter Sellers on HBO eight years ago I have an unrealistic expectation and hope that every great performer is complex, detached from reality and has no conscious concern to explain his or herself to anyone, letting their grand art explain themselves and the rest of humanity. So I was bound to be disappointed when I listened to comedian and impressionist Jon Daly on Totally Laime act like a normal person and not like someone who would come out of an airplane bathroom dressed as Bill Cosby Bukowski or Sappity Tappity and stay in character for the rest of the flight. After my unwarranted depression died down, I enjoyed the breezy and humorous conversation that took place between Daly, host Elizabeth Laime and Psychic Andy. Interspersed with honest conversation about what medications Daly and Laime have taken, whether podcasts or music is the best treadmill soundtrack and fear of 12-year-olds was a sound clip of Daly’s Cracked Out hip hop persona MC Record Deal saying “Steven Spielbitch,” which was expertly used sporadically and got funnier each time it was played (Laime is a comedy writer and Andy is a music producer; they know rhythm). The clip is from what Laime called a “favorite thing” of her and Andy’s, a funny Cracked Out video called “This is Our City,” featuring Daly and Brett Gelman menacingly shilling Chi-chis, Bubblelicious, Frasier et al.
Mohr Stories #49 - Ralph Garman
The Best Show on WFMU – May 1, 2012
The Long Shot #507: The Ba-Bum Ba-Bum Ba-Bum Ba-Bum Episode - Natasha Leggero
The Todd Glass Show #42 – Brendon Walsh and Daniel Kinno
You Made It Weird #45 - Shelby Fero
Jesse David Fox is a writer, cat person, and Jew (in that order). He lives in Brooklyn. His iPod is broken.
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.
Lindsey Allen lives in Austin, TX. She has perfect teeth and a nice smell. A class act, all the way.
Roger Cormier is a Juno nominee and therefore doesn’t have time for your party.