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. We hope to have your ears permanently plugged with the best in aural comedy.
Doin’ It with Mike Sacks - Episode 1
Elizabeth: Comedy fans are surely familiar with the writings of Mike Sacks, which include the books And Here’s the Kicker and Poking a Dead Frog. Now the Vanity Fair editor is entering the world of podcasts with his new monthly program, Doin’ It with Mike Sacks, which combines interviews with character segments that recall the satire of Bob (RIP) and Ray and other humorists of the golden age of radio. For the debut episode, Sacks speaks with New Yorker editor Emma Allen, who oversees Daily Shouts on newyorker.com, about making it out of the slush pile, breaking into the magazine, and how she seeks out new writers. Allen also breaks down the editing and submission process, talks about her submission pet peeves, and names some overused tropes that writers should avoid. The segment should be required listening for any aspiring humorist (and the advice is well worth the $5 cost of the podcast.) Later, Sacks sits down with David Sedaris for an extensive chat about everything from pitching an idea to Larry Charles for Seinfeld, picking up trash as part of the writing process, and what it must be like to date with a colonoscopy bag. With guests like Bob Odenkirk and graphic novelist Derk Backderf lined up for future episodes, I’m already looking forward to next month.
The New Hollywood - Matt Jones/Lex Burlington
Marc: It’s turned into “a thing.” Brian Flaherty, host of The New Hollywood podcast, has had several guests now who do double duty by creating a second persona that Flaherty interviews and releases as a separate “special” episode. So his guest this week — Matt Jones, best recognized as Badger on Breaking Bad — appeared last week as Lex Burlington, self-proclaimed “Coke Dealer to the Stars” in the ‘70s. Burlington reminisces about providing blow to the stars and directors of some of the biggest movies of the decade, like Taxi Driver. Lo and behold, he’ll still hook you up today if you’re in need. As himself in this week’s installment, Jones relates how he signed with a newbie manager to try to get some TV work — and the first job the manager lined him up with was Breaking Bad. Nowadays, people are seeing him opposite Anna Faris on CBS’ comedy Mom. But, back in the day, you could have seen him around town doing improv with LA Comedy Sports and other groups four or five days a week. He did so much improv that, in spending three years in the Second City overseas revue Boom!, he permanently blew out his voice, whch is why he sports his trademark hoarse tone now. Jones is completely forthcoming in this chat with Flaherty, pushing through the exhaustion of being a new dad, and clearly revels in the experience of being one of those decade-in-the-making overnight successes. So double down with The New Hollywood and enjoy Lex Burlington and Matt Jones back-to-back.
Oh No, Ross and Carrie! - Ross and Carrie Audit Scientology (Part 1)
Pablo: From the bedroom window in my hilly childhood home, I could look out over everything that laid below the Santa Monica Mountains. During the day, the Hollywood Sign dominates the view. But at night, the light-less landmark is overtaken by the gigantic neon SCIENTOLOGY sign above the Church of Scientology’s L.A. headquarters, the notorious big blue building on Sunset Blvd. I used to point at it and tell out-of-town friends that there were slaves and prisoners inside, but they thought I was joking until the release of HBO’s 2015 documentary Going Clear. Their history of literally enslaving people is one of the many reasons I’ve never gone inside to take a free personality test, not even as a joke, but that didn’t stop Carrie Poppy and Ross Blocher of Oh No, Ross and Carrie! to feature the “church” in the latest episode of their skeptics podcast. Taking the plunge and submitting themselves to 2 and a half hours of boring personality tests, the hosts reveal a money-making organization that’s less outwardly evil and more pathetically desperate in a Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross type of way. At least, in this initial phase before they find out how much you’re really worth. From hearing their experience with personality tests and the additional $50 seminar that Ross took after much cajoling, my biggest takeaway was that the robotic church members were the ones most in need of a personality. Unless their manner of speaking is a tribute to the cheesy science fiction-loving aliens from Galaxy Quest. Which would make sense given that Scientology was born from cheesy science fiction.
Shmanners - Table Manners
Marc: At this point, the McElroy brood has kicked off so many podcasts featuring family members that I’m beginning to think that they put the Mc in Maximum Fun, the podcast network into which they’ve swarmed. It all started with My Brother, My Brother and Me and has grown from there. One of the brother, Travis McElroy, has teamed up with his wife Teresa to hit the podwaves with Shmanners, which focuses on all things etiquette. In their second installment (the first episode focused on thank you notes), this branch of the McElroy family explores the arcane history and mystery behind table manners. For the most part, at least in this arena, Travis comes off as a bit of a clueless doofus who used to eat like a starving dog (until he was patiently trained by Teresa), while his better half is steeped in knowledge about seating arrangements, meal courses, and which utensil goes with which dish. Did you know, for instance, that in a gentler age of dining whichever direction the hostess chose to conduct dinnertime conversation directed the rest of the table to follow suit? The McElroys dip into the rich background from which a lot of our modern table rules sprang, and they also do their best to reconcile how modern day diners are supposed to behave. Travis and Teresa have an easy and naturally funny repartee. At the same time, I learned a lot I didn’t know — like how the napkin at a place setting goes to the left rather than under the forks, and how the sharp edge of the knife should face your plate rather than the diner next to you. One thing they didn’t cover was: What’s the deal with texting at the dinner table?
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
improv4humans - John Gemberling, Anthony Atamanuik, Gil Ozeri
The David Steinberg Podcast - Martin Short
Views from the Vista - Dirty Grandpa w/ Tom Sibley
Victrola! Sketch Comedy! - The Rebranding
The Writers Panel - Dawson’s Creek
The JV Club - Janeane Garofalo
Got a podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elizabeth Stamp is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.