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.
How Was Your Week – Mitch Hurwitz
ZOE: This week, Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz stops by to chat with host Julie Klausner about writing for Golden Girls as a 23-year-old, why you should always support the showrunner, and the evolution of the beloved Bluth family. Hurwitz is so humble and delightful; his visit feels like a cosmic counteraction to the upfronts, which Klausner relays in painful detail during her monologue. The interview is full of juicy Golden Girls and Arrested Development lore, but equally entertaining is the mutual adoration she and Hurwitz have for each other. Whenever she raves about his work, he one-ups her with a heartfelt compliment about hers, and vice versa. If this sounds too nice for you, never fear: Klausner delivers her signature scathing, all-too-true commentary in her monologue, not the least being a ridiculously on-point argument against Jessica Seinfeld’s existence. So whether you’re looking for sun or shade, Klausner’s got the goods.
WTF with Marc Maron – RuPaul Charles
ROB: RuPaul Charles — better known as just “RuPaul,” perhaps the most famous drag queen in the world — has a lot in common with WTF host Marc Maron. Both children of the 60s coming of age in the 70s, the two start off talking about past insobriety with drugs and alcohol, and from that familiar ground, they take off down a fascinating road discussing RuPaul’s widely varied influences, his spiritual outlook, and his journey into drag. And along the way, you get a real sense of the similarities between drag performance and comedy. They only briefly touch on direct parallels — like how doing drag requires a similar “don’t take yourself too seriously” disposition — but the whole conversation is framed around what RuPaul calls “the Matrix.” He (frequently) refers to “the Matrix” as the social constructs, predispositions, and ignorance that he’s been fighting all his life, which is of course the same thing that comedy, at its best, lays waste to as well. When RuPaul talks about his influences, he mentions some that might not surprise you: Cher, David Bowie, GenderFuck, punk music, etc. But his first big influence — the “aha!” moment when RuPaul first realized what “the Matrix” was — was none other than Monty Python. “Oh my God, these are my people!,” RuPaul described his reaction as a teen. It’s safe to say at first blush, RuPaul is one of the more unusual guests WTF has had on. But through the episode, the common ground between him and Maron, and more importantly, the surprising philosophical kinship between comedy and drag manifests itself. And listen to the end, where RuPaul talks about the word “tranny” and political correctness in the LGBT community: he sounds like Carlin in the ‘90s.
How Did This Get Made? – Lesley Arfin
JOSH: This week our intrepid critics of mediocre film set their sights on the cinematic gem known as Ernest Goes to Jail. Joined by writer Lesley Arfin (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Girls), the How Did This Get Made? crew delved into the insanity that is the character of Ernest. While the inquiries regarding Ernest’s childhood and mental stability are pretty standard after viewing an Ernest movie, I was shocked to discover the apparent eroticism possessed by the late Jim Varney when he portrayed the character of “Evil Ernest” in Ernest Goes to Jail. June Diane Raphael’s bold proclamation that Evil Ernest was “oozing sexuality” even elicited a “wowzer” from Jason Mantzoukas. The line of the episode, however, went to the delightful, and hopefully more frequent Earwolf podcast guest, Lesley Arfin when she revealed her belief that “Evil Ernest was as hot as fuck.” This episode also contains a plethora of one of my personal favorite How Did This Get Made? staples: a bewildered Jason Mantzoukas incredulously asking “What is happening?” If you’re a fan of Ernest films, perplexing eroticism, or Rube Goldberg devices, I highly recommend this week’s episode of How Did This Get Made?.
What’s Up Fool? – Gil Carillo
PABLO: When you think of a laugh-filled profession, law enforcement is one of the last that comes to mind. And while Los Angeles police only emphasize that dour perception, retired LA County Sheriff Gil Carrillo has managed to keep his sense of humor intact over four decades of service in the Southland. A big part of his decidedly un-jaded demeanor is due to his career-defining role in bringing 1980s serial killer Richard “The Night Stalker” Ramirez to justice while working in the department’s homicide division. That claim to fame is the main reason Felipe Esparza, an East L.A. native, invited the retired Lieutenant onto his podcast as his first non-comedian guest, but he wouldn’t have made a great visitor if he lacked self-effacing humor or the ability to tell amazing stories, like the one about the time he made a cholo cry while dressed like Santa Claus. Carrillo also reveals that James Franco recently purchased the story’s rights in order to direct and star (as Ramirez) in his own interpretation of the two-year ordeal that had Angelinos locking their windows in fear. But years before being portrayed in made-for-TV movies and potential Franco projects, Carrillo spent his rookie year in the LA County Jail system shepherding inmates between cells and court rooms, an anecdote that reminds Esparza of his past life as a convict. A word of advice from the former winner of Last Comic Standing: If you’re in a holding cell with a guy wearing a red wristband, don’t tell him to shut up. He’s wearing that wristband for a reason.
The Adventures of Grett Binchleaf – Episode 05 (Chapter 6)
MARC: Rufus and Howard, hosts of England’s hilariously odd ManBuyCow podcast, are on hiatus, are busily working up the next season of their main show. In the meantime, they’ve shaved off a feature from the show, “The Adventures of Grett Binchleaf” and are releasing it in weekly installments. It’s a continuing story which the co-hosts alternate writing the chapters. The title character is described as “the soft-boiled private detective with a crippling fear of pies.” And, in case you don’t think these adventures are going to be absurd enough by that, this series is entitled, “The Adventure of the People Turning Into Books.” The flavor of the show is a blend of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Sherlock Holmes, save for the fact Binchley couldn’t detect his way out of a wet paper sack with a pair of sharp scissors. This week is the fourth episode, in which Binchleaf is finally beginning to realize the people around him are systematically being turned into leather-bound tomes. The mystery, still yet to be solved, is why? And what fiendish scoundrel is responsible?
Nerdist – Wendi McLendon-Covey
LEIGH: We’re lucky enough to live in a world where Wendi’s Cat Farm Podcast, starring Felicia the Cat and Captain Leotard, isn’t a thing - as good as that may sound. Because if we did, it’d mean that the hilarious Wendi McLendon-Covey (Bridesmaids, The Goldbergs) has fallen out of love with performing and has moved forward with her fallback plan, Wendi’s Cat Farm Podcast. Self-proclaimed “weird spice in the rack” (specifically, white pepper) Wendi McLendon-Covey stops by Nerdist this week to chat with Chris Hardwick and the two cover her upcoming movie Blended, how her parents had hoped she’d become a stewardess, her improv roots and her confidence as a performer now. In fact, throughout the episode, McLendon-Covey and Hardwick both offer up a lot of advice to young performers, especially when it comes to auditions. McLendon-Covey even hints at just what awful commercial it was that made her give up commercial auditions altogether. You should listen to hear what it was, but without giving too much away I’ll tell you it was for a certain gel-based shoe insole brand that loves rhyming.
Leigh Cesiro is a writer living in Brooklyn who only needs 10 minutes to solve any Law & Order: SVU episode.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.
Rob Schoon lives in Brooklyn and writes about tech, media, comedy and culture.
Zoe Schwab is a writer/fraud living in NYC who is somehow up-to-date with ABC Family’s Melissa & Joey.
Josh Sorokach is a comedy writer living in NYC who was once referred to as a “Poor Man’s Joshua Jackson” while on a date.