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.
Who Charted? - Steve Agee and Brett Morris
Kathryn: Every 100 episodes, Steve Agee drops by Who Charted to mark the occasion, and this week his visit signals two milestones which seemed to arrive too soon: the 300th episode of the podcast and the winding down of Summah 2016. Seasonal MC Howard Kramer wastes no time delivering a harsh reality check. If you haven’t gone swimming, if you haven’t cooked something outdoors, if you haven’t choked out a hobo with your beach towel, if you haven’t chucked your baby into an ape enclosure, if you haven’t had unprotected sex with a mosquito from South America: you blew it. The Summah Scolding might be a downer if it weren’t delivered with Agee’s supple baritone. Otherwise, Kulap helps Howard narrow down the Song of the Summah (no spoilers but one of the finalists is sung by Broccoli featuring Lil’ Yachty, that’s a real thing). Another old friend, Hermes the Chart Goose, returns after a long sabbatical. And even though it was not part of this episode, since this is the season of beginnings and endings, I’d be remiss not to honor a hero we lost this week, Rocky Aukerman: first dog of podcasting now and forever. [iTunes]
Fresh Air - Pamela Adlon
Mark: I’ll never forget the moment when I finally learned what FX’s Better Things was about. The mysterious billboards posted around New York City of a face-down, pants-less (with boots on?) woman planted between her bed the wall have been confusing street artists (it’s hard to draw a Hitler mustache on a butt) for the last several weeks. Thankfully, Pam Adlon joined Fresh Air this week to finally grace us with more info about her new show we were so excited about just a few months ago. While a comedy about a single mom in the city sounds like well-worn territory, Adlon reveals she and executive producer Louis C.K. worked closely to make sure the show was from the perspective of her three daughters. If the two daughters from Louie are any indication, Better Things is going to be a delight. She also goes into detail about her long career mostly spent voicing animated little boys and testing the cutthroat waters of commercial casting. It’s great to hear this underappreciated performer finally get honored by the First Lady of Public Radio, Terry Gross. [iTunes]
Welcome to Night Vale – Big Sister
Marc: The latest season of podcasting’s consistently oddest entry, Welcome to Night Vale, is off and running. Our host Cecil is in fine voice: “Find it in your heart…even if you need to break past the ribs and then scoop it out. But it’s in there. And you need to find it…quickly.” From there he goes on to unspool- the news of the strange community of Night Vale, with news and commentary about just a few of the region’s denizens such as the Glow Cloud that is the School Board President. Cecil seems particularly fixated on the radio station’s young (and inexperienced) intern Kareem this episode, but it could be because he puts himself in harm’s way when several five-headed dragons fly into town. The leader turns out to be the older sister of Hiram, a local five-headed dragon who is in prison awaiting execution because four of his five heads conspired to…oh, jeez – just listen for yourself! Otherwise this whole review will be nothing but spoiler alerts. Suffice it to say that that Night Vale’s mayor comports herself well in the face of the dragons’ invasion, and Kareem is on the mend. [iTunes]
Hollywood Handbook - Brett Marcus, Our Friend From Germany
Noah: Hollywood Handbook has carved an incredible niche in comedy podcasts, but nothing has been more of a thrillride than the way that Hayes Davenport and Sean Clements have managed to incorporate the otherwise faceless engineers of Earwolf into their show’s universe. Engineer Brett is the guest of honor this week, in studio with Clements while Davenport calls in from his car a mere ten minutes from the studio, though by now it’s taken him “four or five hours” to get there. The hosts are at their best teasing Brett about his German origins and whether or not he’s related to Seth Morris, while Brett holds his own against the banter as he calls back to previous editions of the show, including one that canonically took place at his home. It’s an unassuming episode that takes all of the variables of a disaster – one host calling in on the phone, a celebrity no-show, and good old fashioned workplace bullying – to form a Handbook classic. The only way it could have made it better would have been the boys eating Milanos with Alyssa Milano, or at least Milana Vayntrub. [iTunes]
This Week Had Me Like - A Spectacular Honor with Gabe Liedman and Armen Weitzman
Leigh: If you’re like me (read: arrogant) you don’t really care about celebrity news. And you definitely don’t care about Kylie Jenner’s lip kit, or really even know exactly what a lip kit is. But I promise you, listening to This Week Had Me Like would most definitely change all that. In this week’s live episode, host Caroline Goldfarb (@officialseanpenn on Instagram) is joined by Gabe Liedman and Armen Weitzman to navigate the world of celebrity news. Maybe you think a free-throw contest between Stevie Wonder and Anthony Anderson, Barbra Streisand’s new album of duets with actors, Sarah Jessica Parker’s involvement in an allergy themed film festival, and Jennifer Aniston’s battle with chronic dry eye are not newsworthy topics. But just try listening to Goldfarb’s hilarious commentary on all this and more before you make a snap judgement like that. By the way, those are all real things that really happened, and if you need any more proof you can follow along on the @thisweekhadme Instagram while you listen to the podcast. So before you dismiss celebrity news as a genre, know that you risk missing out on knowing about things like Hillary Duff’s celebrity endorsement of Words With Friends or what happened to Sarah Palin when she went rock running, whatever rock running is. [iTunes]
High & Mighty - Newspaper Comics w/ Hayes Davenport
Pablo: Call it podcast serendipity, but hours before this High & Mighty dropped, I was thinking to myself about how obsessed I used to be with newspaper comics. It wasn’t just that I immediately flipped to the funny pages every single morning. My mom probably kept Borders in business a few extra years just by buying me the thick anthologies of Foxtrot, Doonesbury, and The Far Side, which I would read and re-read until they got lost at the bottom of her 2000 Honda Odyssey. So while it was a surprise to see this odd and mostly-forgotten art form as guest Hayes Davenport’s chosen topic, it brought back a flood of nostalgia and warm memories that I shared with Davenport and host Jon Gabrus: The groundbreaking homosexual plot line in For Better or For Worse. The April Fools tradition of cartoonists teaming up in pairs to write the other’s cartoons. The sudden flood of anti-DUI law cartoons after Mallard Fillmore’s Bruce Tinsley got caught drinking and driving twice in under a year. And, I’m sheepish to admit, the very specific way that boobs were drawn in Zits. It’s an episode so good, it’ll make you want to argue in the Dilbert.com comments section. [iTunes]
Happy Sad Confused - Tony Hale
Elizabeth: Tony Hale and Josh Horowitz sit down for a therapy session on this week’s Happy Sad Confused. The actor best known as Buster on Arrested Development and Gary on Veep shares the lessons he’s learned from success, particularly why it’s important to not make things like fan interactions about you for the sake of maintaining your identity. He reveals how his experience on Arrested Development made him learn to be present and how his own wake ups at the time helped his performance as Buster, a perpetual fish out of water. They also discuss the challenges of not thinking about what’s next—something that’s difficult in Hollywood, where you’re on a perpetual job interview. As things wrap up, Tony reveals his theory behind the genius of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and his love of reality television. [iTunes]
Nerdist - Max Brooks
Marc: What are the odds of emerging as the offspring of an old school Hollywood Power Couple in decent shape? It seems they must be pretty high but to listen to Max Brooks on The Nerdist makes one realize it’s not impossible. He points out to host Chris Hardwick and sidehost Jonah Ray that his mom and dad (Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks, respectively) were together for over 30 years until his mother passed away, and he was never stuck or spanked as a kid of even as a (mildly) rebellious teenager. Although perhaps best known for penning World War Z (the novel, not the motion picture, as Brooks is fast to point out), he has also produced an impressive array of graphic novels, articles, and other writings, in addition to speaking to colleges and military think tanks about the future of warfare and other global concerns. And though he’s not a comedian or even a performer (at least, not since high school), Brooks is fast, funny AND smart — a man who’s certainly got his genes in order given his pedigree. He and the Nerdists cover a variety of topics but none so chilling as the predictions he spills out at the end of the show, dealing with things like the nation’s vulnerable food supply and other concerns that we all should have, at the same time realizing most of us can do nothing about them. It would all seem quite dire but, as Hardwick points out when the trio starts riffing about the matters as goofy characters, “The silly voices make everything all right!” [iTunes]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
Tuesdays with Stories - Sodium Cock
Truth and Iliza - Jen Kirkman
Weird Adults with Little Esther - Leslie Grossman
Industry Standard - Scott Aukerman
Comics Reading Comics - XO Manowar #4
improv4humans - Adam Pally, Gil Ozeri, John Gemberling
The Best Show - Sausage Party! I Give Up! I’ll Never Give Up! Mystery Rock Dude!
These Things Matter - Naked & Afraid: Ron Funches
Bullseye - Felicity Huffman & Anthony Michael Hall
Don’t Get Me Started - Lennon Parham, Danielle Schneider, Deb Tarica on the Indigo Girls
Ask Me Another - David Cross
Your Mom’s House - #360
To the Manor Borne by Robots - Eye Candy
Stop Podcasting Yourself - DJ Demers
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.
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.