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.
Code Switch - Jordan Peele
Kathryn: Let’s assume as a baseline that Get Out is really good. And it is – everyone on Rotten Tomatoes says so and I say so and all of your comedy friends say so. Writer-director Jordan Peele isn’t just one of the best comedians of our time, he’s also one of the best horror auteurs. It’s not that surprising if you think about it: both genres rely on pointing out things we already see and heightening them, either by saying “What’s the deal with this common experience (slap bass riff)?” or by taking an everyday anxiety we’ve been taught to ignore and turning it into a literal monster you can’t escape. Get Out turns the white cultural desire to both control and become black people into a literal physical process, that’s why it works so well. Our racial attitudes are tropes, comedic or dramatic. They’re something we all experience and can agree on, whether or not we would all admit it out loud. Code Switch host Gene Demby and guest host Eric Deggans piece together interviews with Peele, horror movie historian Robin Means Coleman and Walking Dead director Ernest Dickerson to trace America’s racial attitudes decade by decade using horror movies, from the explicit “monster movie” structure of Birth of a Nation to the whitewashed horror of the ‘80s and ‘90s, where people of color were often invisible in the suburban settings but still implicated as an evil force. We learn why Night of the Living Dead might be more powerful social commentary now that it was in 1968, and why historically the black guy always dies first. (Why the virginal girl always makes it to the end would need a whole additional podcast.) [iTunes]
Don’t Get Me Started - Brandon Gardner - Woody Allen
Pablo: Woody Allen… anybody online got a strong opinion of him? The legendary comedian who’s as prolific at filmmaking as he is at fucking his own daughters is this week’s topic on Don’t Get Me Started, a podcast where hosts Anthony King and Will Hines invite comedians to gab about their obsessions. And this week’s obsession of guest Brandon Gardner is Woody Allen, the living embodiment of the question, “Can you separate the art from the artist?” Well, can you? While the trio spend some time up top examining Allen’s work, specifically his lesser-known beginnings as a standup and variety show writer, the conversation inevitably focuses on his controversial personal life and his refusal to talk about it. As the hosts point out, how does one of the smartest and most inward-thinking writers of the 20th century not comment on how his life has influenced his art? Is it because he applies the same coy reticent to discussing his moral failures as he does when interviewers bring up his creative work… or is he trying to avoid the subject altogether? Given his taciturnity for his private life that is the polar opposite of the naked psychological exposure that dominates his films, we’re never going to hear Woody’s thoughts on his biological daughter accusing him of sexual abuse or how his relationship with his (basically) adopted daughter began. But regardless of how you view the Art vs. Artist question, King, Hines, and Gardner bring up a sad point: The absolute best case scenario is that Woody Allen played no role in raising his longtime partner’s daughter before seducing her shortly after her 18th birthday. [iTunes]
Sooo Many White Guys - Nahnatchka Khan
Elizabeth: The latest episode of Sooo Many White Guys kicks off with a look back at Phoebe and producer Joanna’s sexual educations (the movie Love Jones and books by nuns, respectively) and Phoebe and Ilana share the theory that Youtube can bring the country together during these divisive times in “Across the Aisle.” But the main event of the episode is an interview with Fresh Off the Boat showrunner Nahnatchka Khan. Nahnatchka talks about developing the show and creating a diverse writing staff that’s over 50% women, something that’s unheard of in Hollywood. It’s a fascinating look at what needs to happen in order to tell stories that speak to a broader range of people, from building the writers room to casting the show. They also dig into Nahnatchka’s Persian and queer identities and talk about how her experience as the child of immigrants has shaped her voice as a writer, and what it’s like in the age of Trump and the travel ban. [iTunes]
Dumb People Town - Jon Hamm – Bring In The Nerp
Marc: I know Dumb People Town has been getting a lot of ink in the seven weeks since its debut, but the podcast mashup between Sklar Brothers (Jason and Randy) and Daniel Van Kirk has been consistently and seriously funny. And their guests deliver, too, including this week’s addition, Emmy winner actor Jon Hamm. An avowed comedy groupie, Hamm has known the Sklars since they landed in Los Angeles in the mid-90s and has guested on their Sklarbro Country podcast before. As Van Kirk reels off the episode’s three “dumb people” news stories, Hamm wades right into the comic sniping along with the hosts. In order, the stories deal with a guy taking down a rampaging deer in a supermarket with his bare hands, a ritzy wedding that doesn’t even survive the rehearsal dinner, and some Nova Scotia couch surfers making their way through a McDonald’s drive-thru at 3:00 in the morning. During a break between stories, the hosts call on their guest’s savvy as a renowned celebrity to take them through the Best Picture debacle at last week’s Academy Awards. There’s a lot more fun to be had, which all amply fills the more than hour and a half running time. [iTunes]
You Made It Weird - Reza Aslan
Mark: This week on You Made It Weird, budding HBO star Pete Holmes is joined by Reza Aslan. As a religious scholar that’s dabbled in psychedelics and laughs at dick jokes, I’m not sure Aslan isn’t a cybernetic organism designed specifically to guest on YMIW. Plus, he’s no stranger to the comedy podcast universe, having appeared as the expert on one of the very first episodes of Hound Tall with Moshe Kasher. Reza does a great job of enlightening the listeners and Pete about why exactly Muslims are being targeted today, just like the Jews were in the 20th century and Catholics in the 19th century. It’s a useful history lesson, despite Pete’s fixation on the pronunciation of “Iran.” There’s also a fair amount of bashing of Boston, a city that’s been deemed racist so often that POTUS may declare it our nation’s new capital. And since this episode is only 90 minutes, take that extra half-hour allotted weekly to Pete Holmes content to catch up on the latest episode of Crashing. [iTunes]
Retail Nightmares - Brad MacNeil!
Noah: Retail Nightmares co-ghosts Vancouver comedian Alicia Tobin and musician Jessica Delisle are often at their best when their giggly rapport hones in on sexual situations to riff on in the same, w-heavy silly voice. Squarely in their wheelhouse, fellow comedian Brad MacNeil gets at them with some scattered stories from working customer service and support for Livelinks, a somehow still active phone dating service where ladies chat free and boys scam their sisters and neighbors in order to pretend to be ladies. Alongside a tale of waking a tinfoil windowed neighbor after midnight by accidentally playing Delirious over the outdoor loudspeakers Blockbuster used to use for parking lot parties, MacNeil’s experiences are a strange distillation of the ways people kept occupied at the turn of the millennium. Alongside Alicia and Jessica, they’re a prime target for ridicule and honest questions only your boldest pals would dare to ask out loud. [iTunes]
Lizard People - Pet Microchips with Haley Hepworth
Marc: Skeptical of conspiracy theories? So is Katelyn Hempstead, the comedian who hosts Lizard People, a podcast that invites guests in that each harbor a favorite crackpot theory that has more or less credibility depending on A) the theory, and B) the guests’ knowledge. (The title refers to one popular idea that reptilian aliens live amongst us, garbed in human skin suits.) The latest edition welcomes triple hyphenate (actor-writer-comedian) Haley Hepworth into the studio to bat around the subject of pets bearing microchips as a looming specter of governmental surveillance…once they force citizens to be “chipped” as well. Hepworth does an admirable job of starting from the benefits of pet chipping (“They’ll be able to return your lost kitty!”) and moving down the slippery slope of Big Brother worming his way into your subdermal layer to track your movements and buying habits. (Hey wait! Why build a wall between the US and Mexico when we can just chip everyone who belongs in the country?) In the end, discover how convinced Hempstead is that “chipping” is a real threat when she awards it 1 to 10 points on her Believability Scale. [iTunes]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
How Did This Get Made - Origin Stories Bonus: Dan Gordon of Surf Ninjas
Hollywood Handbook - Dan Lippert, Our Oscars Friend
Who Charted? - Seth Morris
You Better DON’T - Mind Hug
Don’t Ever Change - Danny Tamberelli
Cheers, Stomps & Whistles - Joey Bergren
Our Debut Album - “Everybody Whispers”
Got a podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at email@example.com.
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.