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.
The Nerdist - Dana Carvey
Marc: It seems like Dana Carvey is back. (Did he ever leave?) He’s recently been spotted at the LA Improv recording episodes of a planned podcast with his two sons, popping up on Conan, his First Impressions unscripted show on USA, and this week he makes his debut on The Nerdist to plug his appearance (or his voice’s appearance, rather) in The Secret Life of Pets animated movie that opens this week. Host Chris Hardwick and sidehost Matt Mira seem delighted to have the former SNLer in studio but keep most of their comedy fanboy at a steady but manageable level. The chat starts out from a tangent about possible shared ancestral genetics (Irish/Scottish/Scandinavian) and proceeds to carom wildly through the next hour-plus. They touch on Carvey’s retinue of well-known characters like Garth (from Wayne’s World), the Church Lady, George Bush, Sr., etc.; and what he does to keep things fresh with 40 years of standup under his belt. One of the things is mentoring his aforementioned sons, Dex and Tom, who are both now pursuing the standup comedy life. The other thing he’s engaged in is watching today’s popular comedians and the audiences to try to get a bead on what qualifies as “funny” today. As far as why he’s been popping up so much, he describes it as his “victory lap” as he sees his career settling into a comfortable, calling-his-shots kind of place. During the show, Carvey often turns the tables and asks host Hardwick questions about his own comedic process. It all makes for a good conversation and has all the earmarks of Carvey getting in shape to host his own podcast soon. [iTunes]
Black Men Can’t Jump in Hollywood - Attack The Block
Kathryn: On Black Men Can’t Jump, Jonathan Braylock, Jerah Milligan, and James III talk about movies starring leading black actors in the context of race, and it’s always solid – there’s no shortage of material to discuss when it comes to casting people of color in movies and TV. Two recent eps stand out, one on xXx and Vin Diesel’s ambiguous ethnic background and another on The Jungle Book, as young standout Neel Sethi delivered a billion-dollar performance but still doesn’t have another film in production, while Jacob Tremblay has been booked every which way but loose post-Room. This week’s ep on Attack The Block dissects the particular politics of race (and gender) in horror movies and makes a strong case for what made this 2011 John Boyega vehicle so great. Horror movies are inherently political. Tropes, like ‘who dies first,’ aren’t just lazy screenwriting, they’re a well-worn template. Deviating from the template means something – in Attack The Block, a movie full of brown people, a white cop dies first. Children tend to be safe in horror movies. Here, the children are black, and they are not safe. Jonathan, Jerah, and James take these issues apart and discuss their own relationship with the police. Can you ever go to a cop for help? Even if the alternative is being torn apart by an alien? It’s a painfully relevant conversation that dropped four days before Alton Sterling was shot and killed. Even if you haven’t re-watched the movie, the podcast is worth a re-listen. [iTunes]
High and Mighty - Italian Moms with Vinny Guadagnino
Pablo: Everybody who watched Jersey Shore (and if you didn’t watch Jersey Shore, you’re a goddamn liar) always felt like something was off with Vinny. He was just so… normal. No tan, no crazy hair, no lingering date rape convictions to be unearthed by The Smoking Gun. He was just a good kid from Staten Island, or as he puts it himself on the latest episode of High and Mighty, “If you banged Vinny on camera, you still had your dignity.” Since his reality heyday, Vinny has been keeping busy by getting into acting and comedy, which is where he met host Jon Gabrus. In fact, Vinny might be one of the only people to be an ASSSSCAT monologist before finishing improv 401. While this episode is centered around growing up in an Italian family, that topic has been covered in pretty much every episode of High and Mighty. So this particular recommendation is for any die-hard Shore fans who are interested in hearing Vinny’s behind the scenes stories about one of this decade’s biggest pop culture phenomena. It’s not often you audition for a one-off special thinking it’ll help you get girls, only to unwittingly become one of the most famous people in America. It’s even rarer to be someone like Vinny who didn’t let it go to his head. [iTunes]
WTF with Marc Maron - Jeff Goldblum
Marc: I don’t know that I’ve caught Jeff Goldblum, guest on this week’s Monday drop of WTF with Marc Maron, on a podcast before, but after hearing him cut loose here I’d enjoy hearing him anytime. As Maron points out early on, he is Jeff Goldblum — complete with all the delightful verbal affectations that we’re familiar with from his screen performances. In the garage, he reveals himself to be a raconteur, a first-rate storyteller, with an ambling rhythm that hops from tale to tale. And Maron’s own conversational beat runs a fascinating counterpoint to his guest. Both being musically adept — Goldblum on piano, Maron on guitar — one can really feel it when they start riffing at full speed. Although he’s dropped in to push Independence Day: Resurgence, that pluggery is slight at best. Instead, Goldblum regales us with stories of his first stage appearances, his first film jobs and his first child (a son, Brucie, who just turned one on the 4th of July). There’s insight into his acting method, his world view, his politics, and more. I really enjoyed the listen. [iTunes]
The Mortified Podcast - Cold War Kids
Mark: On this week’s The Mortified Podcast, we hear the still-too-relevant stories of two immigrants struggling to fit in in the US during a time of international conflict. First we have Alex, who struggled to fit in after moving from Russia and found solace in early ‘90s hip-hop. Alex reads excerpts from his fifth grade report on hip-hop, a three-page assignment that he graciously extended to a robust twenty-two(!) pages. He covers any and all potential topics, from “Who Killed Tupac?” to “Is Rap Too Fancy?”, with surprisingly supportive commentary from his teacher Ms. Lane. Alex is followed by Masha, who reads her diary entries from a family vacation to Europe at age 15. Adolescent Masha is your typical teenager on vacation with her parents – she’s profoundly sad and shows a complete disdain for her entire family and surroundings. Both of these brave storytellers show us how rough it can be to love something like American culture so much yet still face rejection by it due to your physical appearance or background. These stories could not be more meaningful today, and I’m sure we all have an uncle who, in between firing off chain emails about Obama, would benefit from listening to this particular episode. [iTunes]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
The Comedians of Wrestling - Jacquis Neal
Story Worthy - Best Of Episode w/Ed Crasnick & Yakov Smirnoff
Doug Loves Movies - Danny Trejo, Josh Wolf, and Josh Mazzello
Doughboys - Islands with Nick Mundy
Got a podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.
Mark Kramer is a writer, comedian & human boy from Staten Island, New York, but please don’t hold that against him.
Kathryn Doyle is a science writer from New York.