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 – Seth Rogen
LEIGH: Even if you don’t follow Julie Klausner’s instructions (given through a series of secret blinks) to take peyote before listening to this week’s How Was Your Week?, it’s hard not to love everything about it. And that’s because Klausner calls bullshit on so many things we’ve all thought about but have probably never said out loud. Starting with Carvel’s free cone day. Throw in thoughts on why Almost Famous is not a good movie, how “daddy issues” are not a thing, some deconstructing of the Fresh Prince’s dumb raps, and calling Donald Duck out for his bad attitude and you might say that’s enough for a pretty solid, fulfilling episode. But that’s only half of it. We’ve still got a whole interview with Seth Rogen to boot. Rogen shares his experiences meeting and working with the late Harold Ramis, what it was like writing for Da Ali G Show, and how it feels to rewatch your favorite childhood movies years later only to realize they’re not really that good. But you know what will probably still hold up years from now? This episode.
Comedy Bang! Bang! – A Thrilling CBB Adventure Hour
ROB: This week’s Comedy Bang! Bang! has The Thrilling Adventure Hour as the guest. If you haven’t heard of the Thrilling Adventure Hour, a scripted stage production in the style of old-time radio, you should listen to it: It’s one of the most consistently hilarious podcasts and one that I’ve recommended on several previous occasions. Having TAH as a “guest” on CBB, in reality, means that cast member Marc Evan Jackson (who plays the titular character in TAH’s “Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars” segments) sits down with host Scott Aukerman to discuss TAH and some details of his life. Surprisingly for CBB, the interview segment actually yields a lot of information about Jackson and the show, despite Aukerman’s practiced interview method of asking lots of ridiculous questions and making as many tangential references as possible. In the second half of the show, as is custom, a crazy character appears to derail the interview, but this time it’s Nevada’s Martian sidekick, Croach the Tracker (Mark Gagliardi in his impressive first CBB appearance): Meaning this week is a (non-canonical) crossover show! Croach mistakes Jackson, the actor, for the character he plays, and it becomes clear that some kind of interdimensional trickery is afoot. Enter Paul F. Tompkins (also a TAH regular) as his Nevada character “K of the Cosmos.” “K” is a perfect Tompkins character for CBB: He’s an omnipotent, reality-bending, whimsical being in the style of Myxlplyx who can create rules for everyone’s improv reality and then reverse them whenever he wants. If it weren’t already a TAH character, I’d want Tompkins to play “K” in half the CBB episodes he appears in from now on – it’s just that full of possibilities. That probably won’t ever happen, but instead check this episode out because Thrilling Adventure Hour and Comedy Bang! Bang! make a great mix.
You Made it Weird – Brian Greene
SCOTT: It feels like the previous 205 episodes of You Made it Weird have been multiverses that converge when theoretical physicist and author Brian Greene (The Elegant Universe, Fabric of the Cosmos) joins Pete Holmes and essentially has the last word on every science and supernatural conversation that has taken place in the past. Greene lays out answers about the mysteries of the universe while delicately and deftly taking Holmes’s layperson analogies on and turning them into SCIENCE. Holmes is delighted even as Greene takes some of his favorite topics, such as ghosts or astral projection, and authoritatively dismisses them as bunk. But even with all the hard-line science talk that doesn’t leave any room for typical You Made it Weird hippy gray areas, it seems like Greene is the culmination of everything Holmes has been looking for in a guest. He has answers. He is engaging. He seeks truth. He’s a vegan. He talks about the emotional response he had to finally understanding General Relativity and you’d swear he was an artist, not a scientist. He wrangles more spiritual thoughts about the universe and consciousness into physics and somehow comes out the other end making all of life seem even more magical, and by the end, as they breeze through the “god” topic, exploring whether free will exists or is just a veneer on top of the laws of physics, you’ll be hard pressed to not see something divine in the sheer magnitude of the idea that we live at a time when it’s possible to observe and measure our own universe.
Sklarbro Country – Phil Hendrie
PABLO: While Comedy Bang! Bang! has perfected the format of a straight man host trying to deal with an asylum/studio full of crazy guests, it was certainly not the first to try it. Nearly two decades before CBB’s first episode, Phil Hendrie was doing a similar improvised show but with a slight twist: Every character was played by the radio host. The Phil Hendrie Show was a nightly madhouse; the average show would usually climax with Hendrie trying to lighten the mood after his controversial “guests” would inevitably get into furious arguments with oblivious callers. With that history of hijinks in mind and Sklarbro Country’s own repertory of characters, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Sklars are huge fans of Hendrie’s satirical work. Over the course of the episode, we learn how Hendrie created his most famous bits and how he’s adjusted to the podcast boom, while also getting several drop-ins from his most famous creations. And in case you thought sports would be ignored in an episode like this, Hendrie also speaks on seeing the legendary Sandy Koufax in his prime while growing up in 1960s Los Angeles.
Nerdist – John Favreau
MARC: What a delightful (Chris Hardwick’s favorite word) guest Jon Favreau turns out to be in this episode of the podcast he was born to be on. People first likely know him as the writer/star of Swingers and Made, not to mention helming the first two installments of the Iron Man franchise, but it’s his nerdy roots in things like Dungeons & Dragons and improvisational comedy (steeped in Chicago, where the primordial ooze of improv lies) that makes him the perfect match for the fanboyism of hosts Hardwick and Jonah Ray. It’s a great meaty conversation that ranges from the essence of comedy to cracking the hard shell of Harrison Ford, whom Favreau directed in Cowboys & Aliens. Favreau’s own inner fanboy can’t help humblebragging how he actually got Ford to tell some awesome Star Wars and Indiana Jones stories, plus “I got to ride in the helicopter!” which was piloted to and from the Cowboys set by Ford himself.
Lady to Lady – Lisa Curry and Zach Ames
ZOE: Lady to Lady describes itself as “Like The View, if The View were really, really funny.” So if you’ve ever shaken your fist at Barbara Walters for ignoring the topics of unsolicited dick pics, George Foreman Grills, and ren faires, your prayers have been answered. Listening to the hosts — Brandie Posey, Tess Barker, and Barbara Gray — feels like sitting next to a very funny group of people at a bar, who you’re secretly more entertained by than the friend you’re with (no offense to your friend). In the dude-dominated podcast world, an all-female show is unfortunately rare, but like Inside Amy Schumer, Lady to Lady approaches the female experience with equal parts glee and cynicism, appealing to any gender without being particularly worried about it. This week’s guest, Lisa Curry, seamlessly fits in with the group and coincidentally mentions getting mistaken as Schumer. This evolves into a larger discussion about why forcing someone to meet their supposed doppelgänger is usually very awkward, especially if the doppelgänger is a middle schooler. To end the episode, Zach Ames shows up as a medium that channels the ghosts of Patrick Swayze and Brittany Murphy (and, no, Brittany is not a fan of the Mila-Ashton relationship). If her Clueless character were writing this review, she’d say you should totally listen to this episode, even if you’re a virgin and can’t drive.
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.
Scott Reynolds is a comedian and writer in Brooklyn, NY.
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.