This Week in Comedy Podcasts: Amy Poehler’s ‘Improv4Humans’ Debut and Sam Simon on ‘WTF’

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The comedy podcast universe is ever expanding, not unlike the universe universe. We’re here to make it a bit smaller, a bit more manageable. There are a lot of great shows and each has a lot of great episodes, so we want to highlight the exceptional, the noteworthy. Each week our crack team of podcast enthusiasts and specialists and especially enthusiastic people will pick their favorites. Also, we’ll keep you posted on the offerings from our very own podcast network. We hope to have your ears permanently plugged with the best in aural comedy. 

Improv4Humans #84 - Amy Poehler, Seth Morris, Joe Hartzler

JENNY: Amy Poehler and Matt Besser go way back, having founded the UCB Theatre together in the mid-’90s, but this is Poehler’s first time ever on improv4humans, Besser’s improv-centric show that takes the kind of thing that goes down onstage at UCB and puts it in podcast form. Needless to say, Poehler fits in very well performing alongside Besser and seasoned humans4improv Seth Morris (Funny Or Die, Max’s weird friend Scotty on Happy Endings) and Joe Hartzler (UCB LA improviser). The group takes on the darkest of Twitter suggestions, trying out material on grotesque physical injury and what to do in case of the apocalypse but brings it all back to relationships in a number of the scenes as well as at the end as Amy tries to get Joe to share his feelings about a mysterious special someone. The episode moves along at a very steady pace, and it’s a pleasure to hear a group of talented improvisers, especially ones so highly respected, churn out some good, funny stuff.

WTF with Marc Maron #389 - Sam Simon

ROGER: 94 minutes just isn’t enough time to talk to Sam Simon. He was a showrunner on Taxi, a writer and producer on Cheers, and arguably the man most responsible for the sensibility of The Simpsons. After officially retiring at the age of 35, he became a boxing manager, a professional poker player, and massive philanthropist, most notably to combat animal cruelty. Two months ago, he announced that he has terminal cancer. Despite a damn awkward segue from discussing death to an ad for Adam & Eve in the intro, Marc Maron managed to find a suitable balance between discussing Simon’s prognosis and the highlights of his writing career with his guest. Maron admitted to thinking about all of The Simpsons fanatics listening and spent more time than anything else television-related on that show’s beginnings, which was of course great. Simon was open to talk about his current condition, admitting that it was on his mind “every three minutes,” but he was far away from feeling sorry for himself. It’s too bad that Simon said he isn’t interested in sitting down for an interview with the Archive of American Television on account of how boring and tedious they are, because there is a lot more to touch upon. But if the worst case scenario comes to pass, this Maron/Simon discussion will more than suffice for educating new comedy fans on the renaissance man.

Before You Were Funny #19 - Erin McGathy, Tim Simons, Joe Wengert

SAM: This latest installment of Before You Were Funny – the show that celebrates comics’ earliest, most dubious work – sincerely delivers on the adolescent awkwardness. Hosts Justin Michael and Jacob Reed present “Kitten Penis,” a title-says-everything scene that was almost their sketch team’s namesake (we’re glad they went with Tremendosaur instead); Veep’s Tim Simons brings a bunch of sincere poetry complete with his teacher’s confused annotations; Joe Wengert, an improviser and actor who can currently be seen on ABC’s How To Live With Your Parents, presents some sketches from college that illustrate his early trouble with stage directions; and Erin McGathy, host of relationship-centric podcast This Feels Terrible, submits several scenes she wrote while her 15-year-old self was enduring both her mother’s terminal illness, and an intense crush on her cool-dude English teacher. McGathy’s thinly-veiled attempts at seducing her supportive mentor are, in retrospect, pretty heartbreaking, but that’s kind of the point of Before You Were Funny – exploring the things that motivated writers to start working, and looking back on them candidly, with the ability to poke fun at even the most heavy-handed of attempts.

Mohr Stories #160 - Will Sasso