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.
U Talkin’ U2 To Me? - The Joshua Tree Anniversary Tour
Kathryn: After a brief 2-year hiatus, the Scotts are back! What’s U2 been up to? Same old same old: Turtle is still wooing Ronda Rousey and Oprah farts 12 times per day. This sounds like gibberish to a U2 fan but music to the ears of a UTU2TM fan. It’s the “Oops! All Berries” of podcasts – all bits, no pretense. This time around, the goofy animosity that used to color Adam Scott and Scott Aukerman’s friend dynamic surfaces as straight-up antagonism, even as the Scotts seem to have become better friends in real life (speculation on my part, obviously). They saw the Joshua Tree Anniversary Tour together with their wives and a huge scary bug at the Rose Bowl, so they’re close enough to double date and agree they make a “good foursome” (but not to make any jokes about it). It would be impossible to recount all the bits, but the return of UTU2TM brings with it the return of some other classic podcasts, including “What’s Up Paisan,” “NT Shabs,” and the potentially offensive “Delayed Mon.” It’s a nostalgia trip, and if you want more like this, check out Adam on Colin Jost’s new show “J’hosted,” or go back and listen to “Staind Glass,” the most evergreen UTU2TM of all time. This is good internet, uh… comedy. [Apple Podcasts]
WTF with Marc Maron - Senator Al Franken
Marc: “Every day there’s a new affront.” So says Senator Al Franken in reference to the current presidential administration during the closing minutes of his recent appearance on Marc Maron’s WTF. As Maron points out, his guest is the first US Senator to appear on the show. And as most people know, Franken has a long history as a comedian that predates his life as a politician. In addition to their shared comedy background, both men also worked on the short-lived, leftwing-leaning Air America talk radio station. This helps to give their WTF conversation a depth that comes with the comfort of their history. Franken goes deep into his family upbringing and comedy start in Minnesota, including how he first got together with the late Tom Davis to start doing comedy together. That was in a boarding school where they did PA announcements together. Franken recounts how they eventually found their way to Los Angeles and then, eventually, to New York to become part of the writers and performers on Saturday Night Live. The chat takes us through his transition into politics and straight through until today, when he is just as anxiously awaiting the outcome of former FBI Director James Comey as the rest of America. Through it all it’s clear that the gentleman from Minnesota still has some terrific comedy chops. [Apple Podcasts]
You Made It Weird - JJ Redick
Mark: Who would have thought Pete Holmes and JJ Redick would have such great chemistry? Much like the Clippers offense, the conversation between the two unlikely new pals runs smoothly, with plenty of alley oops. Much to Pete’s delight, Redick organically brings up religion. The way Pete applauds Redick’s skills based off a few YouTube highlight reels, a non-basketball fan would think he was the second coming of Larry Bird. Redick was once treated that way, while at Duke, when opposing fans would chant “Fuck you, JJ” at every opportunity. Redick offers sage advice for anyone in a profession where you have to be able to turn it “on,” whether you’re a comedian or investment banker (and if you are, put the BlackBerry down and go sign up for an open mic). It’s grounding to hear such relatable and deep anxieties come out of the mouth of a multimillionaire pseudo-celebrity. Chalk this one up as a must-listen for any NBA fan out there. [Apple Podcasts]
Beautiful/Anonymous - Mother Moon (Live in Portland, Oregon)
Noah: Live in Portland, Oregon, Chris Gethard fights from underneath to keep himself out of the dullest call in Beautiful/Anonymous’s history. A trio of siblings – hereafter 24, 18, and Brother – fit right into the classic Gethard Show model of the Hero’s Journey when the cripplingly nervous 24 starts the show by “dropping the ball” for twenty minutes, giving the Portland audience one-word answers despite Gethard’s most rapid-fire questions to date, all the while admitting that she loves the show for “how open people get.” Gethard, world-weary by his days in public access, then pounces on the chance to speak to this middle child’s younger sister, 18, who injects a liveliness into the proceedings that’s so seriously, desperately needed. The call takes a detour into the high-sock mealtime of Brother, but the relationship between the admittedly closed-off 24 and her woke 18-year-old sister drives Beautiful/Anonymous into a purely Gethardian space. Toying all at once with the inherent discomfort of a live performance, the specific awkwardness of youthful family, and an unusually rowdy crowd, this controversial installment of Beautiful/Anonymous brings intrigue befitting the most casual podcast fans to the most diehard of Geth Heads. [Apple Podcasts]
The Carson Podcast - Tom Brokaw
Marc: One of the great things about The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson is that it was on the air for so long that Mark Malkoff, host of The Carson Podcast, has an amazing array of folks that were associated with it to chat with on his show. Still, with the show having gone off the air 25 years ago, in 1992, the number of those people dwindles every year. In the latest installment, he and we are fortunate that Malkoff got to sit down with famed NBC newsman Tom Brokaw, who not only remembers when Carson took over the show in 1962, but made the first of dozens of appearances shortly thereafter. He points out that they both had a shared background of having grown up in the Midwest and Brokaw feels that created a sort of bond between them. Malkoff’s conversation steers the veteran newsman through the beginnings of his own career and then, in his usual meticulous manner, brings up the dates of specific appearances that Brokaw made with Carson on the show. At one point Brokaw points out that The Tonight Show was so much of the American fabric of society that there were some incidents that occurred on the air, such as the often-replayed (and hilarious) bit of Ed Ames teaching Carson how to throw a tomahawk, that Brokaw couldn’t recall if he was in the studio or watching the show from home. Malkoff also spends plenty of time talking about Brokaw’s own impressive broadcast history, including having his guest recount being in Germany, and capturing the historic moment the Berlin Wall came down. [Apple Podcasts]
With Friends Like These - Proud Pigheadedness
Elizabeth: On With Friends Like These, journalist Anna Marie Cox deals with uncomfortable conversations in Trump’s America speaking with everyone from pastors to journalists to disability rights activists. This week she’s joined by comedian W. Kamau Bell of CNN’s United Shades of America. They start by counseling a white listener whose parents have mistreated her West African husband in the past and are still unwilling to give up deep seated prejudices. Does she cut them off from her kids or does she continue to push them to become better people? In the second part of the episode, they talk about the current social climate, from how Trump winning impacted Bell’s show to the increase in conspiracy theories and hate speech to their plans if Hillary had won. They wrap up with Bell explaining his theory that good white people have a responsibility to police other white people and call them out for embarrassing their race. Just maybe no marches. [Apple Podcasts]
We Got This - Mac vs PC with Christopher Moore
Marc: The most recent installment of We Got This has hosts Mark Gagliardi and Hal Lublin exploring the three-decades-old computer feud of the Mac versus the PC. They’re joined by author Christopher Moore for this landmark decision-making show (or shows, really – the trio discloses that the first version of the show vanished into the guts of a cranky PC and they had to redo the whole thing). Spoiler alert: Even that personal experience can’t save the poor Mac from being crushed mostly under the weight of the PC’s overwhelming usage around the world. Or one model being literally crushed under the wheels of Gagliardi’s old Isuzu Trooper. The trio comes up with a pretty fair set of criteria against which to judge the two types of computer, and they sing a lot of the Mac’s praises — styling, almost non-existent viruses, ease of use (“This is the computer you can get for your grandma and she can use it out of the box,” says Gagliardi). But it gets dinged on price, closed architecture which reduces the ability to customize it, and a fairly limited selection of games compared to its cheaper, more egalitarian cousin. Whether you’re a MacHead or a PC fan, you’ll likely enjoy the lively push and pull the guys go through to reach their conclusion. [Apple Podcasts]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
Got a podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elizabeth Stamp is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York.
Kathryn Doyle is a science writer from New York.
Mark Kramer is a writer, comedian & human boy from Staten Island, New York, but please don’t hold that against him.