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.
Sooo Many White Guys - Phoebe and Lizzo Get Lit
Elizabeth: This week the hilarious Phoebe Robinson of 2 Dope Queens debuts her new solo project, Sooo Many White Guys, which showcases talented people in pop culture who aren’t straight white men. To kick things off Phoebe talks to Lizzo, a Minneapolis-based hip hop artist who has toured with Chvrches, My Morning Jacket, and Sleater-Kinney. Before launching into the interview, which was recorded several weeks ago, Phoebe and Lizzo check-in by phone after the tragic events of the past two weeks and discuss dealing with people who say “Don’t make this about race” and their self-care strategies. In the interview, they talk about hairstyles (and people touching their hair), the daily microaggressions they deal with as black women, and give a shoutout to all the WWFs (Woke White Friends). Lizzo also shares some of her music, including “Good As Hell,” which I can’t stop listening to, and tells Phoebe how she ended up in Minneapolis and how religion influences her music. The podcast’s executive produce Ilana Glazer makes an appearance at the end with some helpful vocal tips for Phoebe. [iTunes]
Fresh Air - Jessi Klein
Leigh: If you’re not already reading Jessi Klein’s new book You’ll Grow Out Of It, I hope it’s only because you’ve just been planning on starting after you listen to her on Fresh Air. Host Terry Gross continues her perfect record of interviewing comedians (don’t believe me? Go back and listen to the Jerrod Carmichael and Michael Che/Colin Jost episodes from earlier this year) this week with Jessi Klein, who is the head writer of Inside Amy Schumer. Klein’s brutal honesty, both in the book and on the podcast, has a comforting way of making you feel like you’ll be okay. She and Gross cover a lot of topics written about in the book like pumping breast milk at the Emmys, growing up as a tomboy, competition between pregnant women, a herpes scare, and aging. Plus, how a bunch of those things have made their way onto Inside Amy Schumer in very memorable ways. Also, listening to Terry Gross navigate her way through a conversation about Schumer’s “Last Fuckable Day” sketch after acknowledging she can’t say the word “fuckable” on the air is nothing short of delightful. [iTunes]
Fake the Nation - Beyoncé for Vice President
Marc: A tempestuous election year seems like perfect timing to launch a new political panel podcast with a comedic slant. And so it is the Fake the Nation, hosted by Negin Farsad, hits the podwaves. Moderated with a sharp wit and sparkling energy by Farsad (comedian, actor, director, and author of How to Make White People Laugh), her first two guests are Lizz Winstead (co-creator of The Daily Show) and Josh Zepps (We the People Live). Not unlike the show that this show title sends up, the episode is broken down by topic following an introduction of the guests. It’s all topical, including Donald Trump and Brexit, speculations and wishlists for Hillary’s running mate, as well a sober look at the recent shootings of black men by police. Both guests know their stuff, as does the host, and they also playfully take turns going at one another for their views, their level of knowledge, and lack of pants. Podcasting has more and more female voices leaping into the medium and Farsad is a welcome part of that growing number. And in a world that seems to becoming determined to give us grim and violent news on an almost daily basis, taking it with a grain of salt and lighter tone makes Fake the Nation an entertaining prescription. [iTunes]
Chapo Trap House - The Trap is a MESS ft. Vic Berger
Pablo: The 2016 election has been absurd and vulgar and occasionally frightening, much like a misbegotten mushroom trip on a overcast day. And while Stephen Colbert is doing phenomenal election coverage on network late night, no comedian has latched onto the mood of this election better than video editor Vic Berger. You’ve probably seen his Vines and YouTube videos by now, but as Chapo Trap House’s hosts describe it if you haven’t, he tweaks political footage by just 10% to give it the nightmarish quality of work reminiscent of Tim & Eric, themselves early champions of Berger. In his segment, Berger gives an even more in-depth look at his process than the New Yorker interview he gave back in April. Here he not only talks about how he finds his disturbing, awkward footage, but also how he latches onto politicians’ idiosyncrasies to create mythologies for 2016’s minor candidates, like King of the Hobos Martin O’Malley or Ben Carson, protagonist of a Dan Brown novel that exists only in his mind. A great comparison of Berger’s video art is made in this episode to Ralph Steadman’s drawings in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72, although the 2016 election makes 1972 seem like a trivial contest forgotten to everybody but history majors, like Clinton vs Dole. It’s not all Donald Trump bullying Jeb Bush though. Berger also speaks on his non-political videos including my personal favorite, his Jim Bakker apocalypse series where the disgraced televangelist sells buckets of powdered mush food, buckets of bibles, and even the buckets itself as post-Rapture furniture. [iTunes]
improv4humans - Marilyn Monroebot (Paul Rust, Nicole Parker & Jon Gabrus)
Mark: If an extraterrestrial leaving Earth needed a single comedy podcast for the ride home, this segment-stuffed episode of improv4humans would be at the top of the list. It has everything a human podcast episode should have - goofy improv, belittlement of interns, and awkward family interactions. Improv scene summaries can be one of the worst conversation topics to get sucked into, along with politics and last night’s dream. Bear with me though. This episode has one of the most enjoyable scenes on i4h in awhile, featuring Parker (who played Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway) as a demonic Mary Poppins that Rust pushes in the silliest of directions. After poor new interns Dalton & Alan are hazed in classic i4h fashion, Matt Besser’s third cousin hops on the phone. The two have never met before, but Besser calls with the intention of getting more info about his grandfather’s cousin, Joe Besser, a former member of the Three Stooges. The ensuing exchange is reminiscent of most Tinder conversations - lots of miscommunication and name-listing in hopes of creating an artificial connection. Load up your time capsule NASA, there is nothing more human than this episode of improv4humans. [iTunes]
Within the Wires - Relaxation Cassette #2
Marc: The creators of Welcome to Night Vale care about their listeners so much that, when that show is on hiatus (as new episodes are being written for the upcoming season), they offer new and interesting flavors of weirdness. Within the Wires is the latest case in point. Written by WTNV and Alice Isn’t Dead braincases Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson, backed by creepily scented music by Mary Epworth, this 10-episode series is presented as a set of 10 “Relaxation Cassettes” designed to help the listener relax and learn how to better understand their bodies and minds. Matthewson is the voiceover narrator, guiding the listener through the several exercises on both “sides” of the cassette. (The show takes pains to let you know Side A has ended — just in time for a commercial break — and that Side B is beginning.) The audio even does some weird things at times in terms of the quality of specific sections. Peeking around the edges of the relaxation techniques are hints that you, as a listener, are perhaps an inmate at some sort of grim psychological institution. What’s more, as Matthewson dives into the last technique on this “tape”, a visualization exercise, it seems she’s trying to get you to remember the layout of the various surveillance cameras that lie between your cell and the exit. Or is she? Every bit as warped as the show it’s temporarily replacing until August — find it on its own feed starting this week — Within the Wires is has a distinctive flavor all its own. [iTunes]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
Mouth Time with Reductress - We’re Trapped in LA! (with Kay Cannon)
FOUND Podcast - Asian Oprah: The Grand Dream
Hound Tall with Moshe Kasher - Drought
Hello from the Magic Tavern - Goblin Queen
My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark - And Twenty Justice Four All
This Feels Terrible - 2016 Tour w/ Mike Mitchell, Erin Whitehead, and Wayne Federman
The Poundcast - “Make Comedy Great Again” w/ Johnny Pemberton and Brent Weinbach
Doughboys - Bubba Gump Shrimp Co with Paul Scheer
This Week Had Me Like - Carpe Diem (with Arielle Kebbel and Max SIlvestri)
Got a podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.
Elizabeth Stamp is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York.
Leigh Cesiro is a writer living in Brooklyn who only needs 10 minutes to solve any Law & Order: SVU episode.
Mark Kramer is a writer, comedian & human boy from Staten Island, New York, but please don’t hold that against him.