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.
Late Night with Seth Meyers Podcast - Julio Torres
Kathryn: Julio Torres has only been a writer on SNL for one season and change (he was a guest writer at the end of season 41) and he’s apparently only had one stage sketch on air. But he’s left a considerable signature on the show in filmed sketches like “Melania Moments” and “Sink” – both of which adopt the perspectives of broken, isolated, fragile women and/or inanimate objects. Julio chats with Seth on the podcast before his set on Late Night, explaining ahead of time how he developed his onstage persona at an open mic at Cha-Cha’s in Little Italy, where he decided to strip all movement and range from his delivery. He has a unique point of view as a sketch writer and also as a person caught up in the machine of big-business comedy; while so many kids who grew up watching and loving SNL would tremble to enter its hallowed halls, Julio walked into 30 Rock apparently without real nerves or a desire to change himself. “I lived my whole life without this job, and could easily keep doing that” if things at SNL didn’t stick, he says. In a creative community where lives seem to be made and unmade in 10-minute showcase sets, that’s a refreshingly healthy attitude. [iTunes]
Call Chelsea Peretti - Rain’s Comin In
Leigh: About a month ago, the UCB theater in LA staged a reading of Chelsea Peretti’s play, the rural family drama Rain’s Comin In. If you’re like me, you saw pictures of it on Instagram and spiraled into some deep, deep sadness and regret over the fact that you couldn’t see the performance. Well, if you’re still anything like me you can spiral back up, because a recording of that reading was posted as an episode of Call Chelsea Peretti. It’s got everything you could ever ask for from a play: jealousy, small town drama, family dynamics, and so so much rain. Right off the bat, you’ll be extremely impressed with how many grants this play received. Helping bring this soon-to-be classic piece of American theater to life are Kate Berlant, John Early, Yassir Lester, Esther Povitsky, Moshe Kasher, Xosha Roquemore, and Emily Spivey. And we’re talking career-defining performances here. It’s followed by an audience Q&A, since the story raises so many interesting issues and thought provoking concepts. I’m used to writing about podcasts, not serious, smart theater, so nothing I could say here would really ever do this play justice. So I’ll just tell you the whole thing is fucking hilarious. That’s a critique Tennessee Williams only could have dreamed of. [iTunes]
WTF - Jeff Ross
Pablo: Before I even found out Don Rickles died, I spent last Thursday morning crying over old Jews. Marc Maron commemorated the 800th episode of his podcast by giving his very first guest Jeff Ross a proper WTF interview, one where The Roastmaster General tells how the venerated ballbreakers of the Friars Club accepted him as one of their own. Ross is now the world’s most famous roaster, but in the early 1990s he was just a struggling standup in the NYC alt scene who occasionally played poker with Friars-associated comics. One was Greg Fitzsimmons, who asked Ross to perform at a memorial in honor of his dad, the NYC radio personality Bob Fitzsimmons. Ross was introduced on stage (AKA verbally shit on) by the legendary Borscht Belt performer Freddie Roman, but Ross gave it back as well as he took it. So a month later he was invited on the dais to roast Steven Seagal, and Ross soon became Judaism’s version of a “made man.” It was during this 1995 roast that he met Milton Berle and Buddy Hackett, the latter of whom he became intensely close with for the remainder of Buddy’s life. Buddy was old enough to be Ross’ father, but he describes their friendship as one between brothers. As the kid who perfected his craft among old Jewish comedy legends, Ross spends much of the episode telling tales about the greats, like Sid Caesar’s kindness and warmth staying intact even when his body and mind began to fail him in his last years. Ross also tells a touching tale about the lengths he took to get Mel Brooks to briefly meet with his elderly uncle in his last year. After I finished this episode, news broke about Rickles’ passing and the only thing I could think about was how he and the rest of the Friars reminded me of the old Jews in my family that have gone to that great Who Knows? in the sky because we don’t believe in the afterlife. Besides South Floridian retirees, the American Jewish diaspora doesn’t stretch that far. We’re pretty much a New York and LA based people; it shows in our similar cadences and politics and neuroses and, of course, our sense of humor. So while I was depressed last Thursday morning, re-listening to Ross and Maron was calming to me. They’re only in their early 50s, so they’re still a couple decades away from attaining this title, but there’s always going to be Old Jews to make us laugh. [iTunes]
Beautiful Stories From Anonymous People - A Midwife Discusses Birth Schmutz
Noah: Comedy doesn’t always have to be the arms race of sarcastic quips podcasts can fall into. Chris Gethard makes a case for that with a pair of supportive phone calls – the latter of which is a strange bit of sponsored content wherein Gethard speaks to an anonymous Subaru fan about her marriage for a few minutes, which lands much more effectively than his first attempt at the concept the week prior. The bulk of the episode sees a cheery and friendly forty-something midwife tell her story and indulge Geth in some “real questions” about her profession, including if she’s ever seen a birthing mother clock someone in the face in a moment of passion during the process. For her part, the caller goes tit for tat with him throughout the conversation, wrapping her stories as they need to be and not even letting Gethard’s reiteration of one of the best bits from his 2014 release My Comedy Album – when the doctor delivering him remarked to his mother Sally that “my God, his head is the size of a bowling ball” and then refused to acknowledge how many stitches she got afterward – stunt the conversation. It’s a welcome perspective from Beautiful/Anonymous and the perfect choice for a bit of lighter listening. [iTunes]
Las Culturistas - Rachel Bloom
Elizabeth: Everything’s coming full circle on this week’s Las Culturistas, as hosts Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang sit down with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s iconic star Rachel Bloom for a walk down memory lane (AKA recounting the fucked-up things that happened to them while doing comedy at NYU). Rachel recalls her love triangle at the age of 19, which lead to her being replaced by two men as the director of NYU’s sketch team. But Bowen and Matt top that fun bit of sexism with the story of their forced Jurassic Park-themed wedding that cost thousands of dollars and ended—like any good wedding—with Matt screaming “We didn’t ask for this!” The hosts imagine what the Golden Globes are like, and Rachel gives them her version of events, which included a trip to a reptile show this year. Finally, they rail against umbrella thieves at SoulCycle, Lake Michigan, and kindergarten, and Matt reveals his upcoming appearance on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? [iTunes]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
I Was There Too - Ahmed Best
2 Dope Queens - Carrie Brownstein’s First Date
Not Too Deep with Grace Helbig - Nikki Glaser
Lovett or Leave It - Masters of War-a-Lago
Stop Podcasting Yourself - Stacey McLaughlin
Off Camera with Sam Jones - Jenny Slate
Chapo Trap House - Gorka II: The Gorkaning ft. Alex Pareene & James Adomian
Got a podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Lloyd Bishop/NBC
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.
Kathryn Doyle is a science writer from New York.