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.
Judge John Hodgman - Woodsy Bob Newhart
Kathryn: JJHo and Jesse Thorn welcome the rare guest into chambers to help clear the docket: one sawdust covered Nick Offerman. Could this signal a new age of celebrity Deputy Judge appearances? Offerman’s silky baritone, whether describing the woodworking involved in making 16 ukuleles or scoffing (Nick Scofferman?) at simpering ninnies, pairs perfectly with Hodgman’s studied bon mots. You can fairly smell the leatherbound books in their shared mahogany curio cabinet. Offerman offers men advice on cocktail straws and cooking for their wives with a sense of playfulness and real reverence for a podcast he seems to listen to regularly. Savor Offerman’s delightful giggle like a well-aged scotch; who knows when such a perfect guest will return to the JJHo chambers. [iTunes]
The Jonah Keri Podcast - Mike Schur
Mark: Leave it to two of America’s foremost sports nerds, Jonah Keri and Mike Schur, to make a podcast about baseball relevant in January. After a few Red Sox stories that explain why Dustin Pedroia will never make it into The Good Place, Schur dives headfirst into his showrunning experience. It’s an essential listen if you want to one day pitch a show to a network, even if you don’t understand the spot-on Joe Lo Truglio-Tom Brady analogy. There’s a brief cryptic detour when Keri reveals his experience at a secret Harvard Lampoon-Grantland dinner party, which featured [redacted], [redacted], and scarves. Schur then continues to recall the casting process for Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Good Place, noting how the final cast stacks up against his original character descriptions. It’s reassuring to hear firsthand from someone with real power in Hollywood stress the importance of diverse representation. The onus is also on writers to enrich their work with characters from underrepresented backgrounds, like The Good Place’s Tahani (played by Jameela Jamil) and Chidi (William Jackson Harper). Assuming we don’t later find out that he bet on his shows, Mike Schur is a surefire bet for the TV Hall of Fame. [iTunes]
Baby Geniuses - Aparna Nancherla and Alana Johnston
Elizabeth: On the latest episode of Baby Geniuses, hosts Emily Heller and Lisa Hanawalt wrap up the holiday season with guests Aparna Nancherla and Alana Johnston. But first they talk about the most important part of Christmas: TV movies. They find inspiration for one of their own after Emily describes setting up a Christmas surprise for her boyfriend. So stay tuned for Cucked by Santa. They’re joined by Aparna for the Wiki of the Week, which looks at the story of Gef, a talking mongoose that inhabited a family’s home on the Isle of Man. They review the shockingly thorough scientific investigation into Gef and I can’t help but imagine what the world would be like if 1930s scientists put as much energy into finding cures for disease as they did figuring out whether a talking mongoose was real. Oh well. They also chat about surviving parties, including the best way to enter and leave, as well as the worst party of them all: New Year’s Eve. After Aparna shares her experience as a Cutco knife salesperson, they are joined by parenting expert Chandelyne Jean (Alana Johnston), a single mom with no kids. [iTunes]
Views from the Vista - Fences
Pablo: On this week’s Views from the Vista, hosts Steve Hernandez, Honor Nezzo, and Zed Cutsinger invite guest Will Weldon to ostensibly review Denzel’s latest, Fences. But since they spend 1/3rd of the episode arguing over La La Land and since I just saw it at a surprisingly sold-out Monday showing at The Vista, I’ll focus on the film I hope wins Best Picture. Unlike the hosts who unanimously praised it on a previous episode, Weldon is no fan of this movie, having walked out halfway through his screening due to hating the two lead characters. I admit, I held some of his cynicism before watching it due to being a La La Land (also known as Tinseltown or Hollywood, Baby!) native and a holding a strong dislike whenever outsiders write love letters to LA. But like the hosts, it won me over with its gorgeous basin-agnostic cinematography and surprisingly self-aware leads: a smug jazz snob whose refusal to compromise artistically snuffs out his dreams and an anxious, self-doubting actress/barista who hasn’t figured out that waiting to be discovered is a poor career move. Even the songs were cynical underneath their Golden Age Hollywood Musical sheen; my favorite song “Someone in the Crowd,” an uptempo tune about actresses going to Hollywood parties to sleep their way to the top, ends with dozens of Hollywood glass-house-party stereotypes doing a celebratory dance number to networking. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s characters may be pompous, self-centered LA douchebags, but douchebags have dreams and feelings too. [iTunes]
My Brother, My Brother and Me - Twenty-Something-Teen
Marc: Fully half of the year’s first episode of My Brother, My Brother and Me is devoted to the Brothers McElroy (Justin, Travis, and Griffin) deciding exactly what to proclaim 2017 in terms of a name for the annum to be called. Why is this custom so important? Beats me, but the cacophony of laughter-instilling dialogue around the event makes you glad that you’re living in Twenty Serpentine by the end of it. (Or you can go with Joseph Gordon Leviteen OR Twenty Riventeen if you’d rather – they seem a little waffly on the whole commitment thing…) They then re-commit to “our number one obligation to people”: dispensing advice. They kick things off with their POV on Wendy’s new Sriracha Chicken Sandwich, or rather, the Wendy’s corporate press releases surrounding their featured item. They tear them apart relentlessly before losing themselves in the world of Fushigi balls. (If you have to ask, then you have to listen…) It’s so good to know that Twenty Serpentine is in very good hands. [iTunes]
Wrestling with Depression - Lindsay Lucido
Noah: It can be tough to explain just how resonant Marty DeRosa can be about depression and the nebulous swarm of mental illnesses that buddy up to it, but he lays down a barnburner of an example to kick off 2017. Fellow Chicago comic Lindsay Lucido is one of the most perfect matches Marty has had to his mix of irreverence, candor, and the requisite level of seriousness one should have in these conversations. When they touch on the process of getting Lindsay on the show, she echoes an inside joke among her friends about how they’re “going to name their kids [after her sister] so that they’ll be successful,” and it sounds like her taking complete ownership and control over the inferiority complex that crippled her teenage academics. When Marty administers a few questions from the Depression Test, he asks if she’s lately stopped doing anything that gives her pleasure “besides the bulimia, I guess,” and it acknowledges the tightrope people walk on their way out of the ditch. You can come for the show’s archived interviews with pro wrestling superstars (pre-UFC CM Punk and pre-WWE Kevin Owens, for example), but this one is the cream of the crop – there’s no doubt about it. [iTunes]
The Todd Barry Podcast - Joe Machi
Leigh: In the past few days you’ve probably thought about some of the ways you can improve your life this year. Maybe you made resolutions. Maybe you’ve already broken them. But at least we’re trying, right? But, as we learn in this week’s episode of The Todd Barry Podcast, our efforts are undoubtedly paling in comparison to Joe Machi’s. From taking his notebook out in the beginning of the recording in case he gets any ideas, to his regularly scheduled workouts, to the hours he spends every day writing jokes, Machi could teach us all a thing or two about hard work. As he tells Todd Barry, “the one sure sign of intelligence is long term planning.” How do you feel about your resolutions now? They also discuss Machi’s recent experience touring the world with Louis C.K. which evolves into a discussion about air travel, and if you’re a regular listener you know which direction this conversation would naturally go on The Todd Barry Podcast. What would an episode of The Todd Barry Podcast be without talk of points and airline miles? (Nothing. The answer is nothing). For as disciplined as he is about writing and working out, Machi disappoints in this department. Machi shares that he’s got his own podcast with Sam Morril and Phil Hanley coming out soon. So all of our failed resolutions aside, 2017 is looking up already. [iTunes]
Alex P. Keaton Is My Friend - The Death of A Grocer (With Marc Price!)
Marc: In podcasting’s voracious hunger to gobble up subject matter both popular and obscure, it has at last stumbled upon Family Ties, the popular NBC sitcom of the 1980s that gave the world Michael J. Fox as erstwhile Republican high school son of “hippie” parents. Phil Vecchio, the podcast’s host, is ostensibly making his way through the seven seasons of episodes in order. His “wikipediac” knowledge of the subject is a little light but he makes up with it in his passion for the show (and a lingering crush on star Justine Bateman’s character of Mallory). In this installment, he’s actually joined by Family Ties recurring regular Marc Price (“For the longest time, I thought the term of ‘reoccurring regular’”), who famously embodied nerdy neighbor Skippy Handelman. And who, not unlike Vecchio, professes to have had a not just story-borne but actual crush on Bateman…or at least her character. They never get around to taking about the death of a grocer from Price’s debut episode, but there’s plenty of weird tangents to follow instead. [iTunes]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
Hollywood Handbook - Ben Rodgers, Our Boo 2016 Friend
Ronna & Beverly - D’Arcy Carden
My Favorite Murder - The Great Guy Law-Time New Years Spectacular
Handsome Rambler - Chance The Rapper
The Hilarious World of Depression - Sam Grittner
Casa Mirth - Christmas Special 2016
WTF - Bruce Springsteen
H3 Podcast - Vsauce (Michael Stevens)
Tuesdays with Stories - Master in Anal
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.
Kathryn Doyle is a science writer from New York.