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.
R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: ME? - Chronic Town
Kathryn: Don’t call it a comeback, baby. When Adam Scott and Scott Aukerman collaborated on the gonzo U Talkin’ U2 To Me? they went from bizarro fancast to actually sitting down with U2 themselves in the span of 24 short episodes. But when you’ve thoroughly plumbed the U2 discography and Bonobos isn’t dropping a new album into our laps anytime soon, where do you go next? The answer is R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: ME, a more ambitious podcast about an even more influential band: the Doobie Brothers. Fans of R.E.M. might be extremely confused by the reprise, but fans of Scott and Scott won’t be – they launch into a podcast within a podcast before the 1:00 minute mark. It’s the end of U Talkin’ U2 To Me as we know it, and I feel very good about it, thanks. [Apple Podcasts]
Comedy Bang Bang - Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Will Hines, Paul F. Tompkins, Tawny Newsome
Leigh: This week marks three years since Harris Wittels passed away. Longtime fans, and probably even newer fans, of Comedy Bang Bang know how beloved a fixture Harris was on the show. From Phone Corner to Foam Corner to Farts and Procreation he had tons of amazing and memorable appearances. It is a testament to not just how funny he was, but to how truthful and open he was that so many people felt like they knew him. But, as host Scott Aukerman points out, we don’t know much about what he was like growing up. To let us in on that, Scott is joined by Harris’ sister Stephanie Wittels Wachs. She shares the story of the time they were sent to charm school as kids and one of Harris’ earliest bits; sticking a toothbrush in his butt and drawing a face around it. Following his death, she wrote several articles online about coping with his death. The outpouring of responses from strangers who were either fans of Harris or shared similar experiences with addiction inspired her to turn these stories and experiences into a book. That book, Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss, tracks the time leading up to her brother’s death, the year after it, and stories about his life. The title of the book, taken from one of Harris’ tweets – “Also lets stop finding a new witch of the week and burning them at the stake. We are all horrible and wonderful and figuring it out” – remains relevant and poignant today. Maybe even more so. [Apple Podcasts]
Black on the Air - Tessa Thompson Is What the Future of Sci-Fi Looks Like
Mark: In this double-stuffed episode, Black on the Air-heads are treated to two guests that will be making news for a very long time. First, Twitter ace and super-talented writer Travon Free (Full Frontal with Samantha Bee) drops by for a brisk chat about Shaun White, Black Panther, and the Obamas’ new presidential portraits. Wilmore has always been unafraid to go against the grain and proves it here, as he picks unpopular nits with artist Kehinde Wiley’s portraits in a measured, reasonable way. In a world of volcanic #hottakes, Wilmore is a warm, therapeutic bath. Afterwards, Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok, Creed, Westworld, pretty much everything good coming out) sits down to discuss her Hollywood takeover. Thompson describes how her character from Selma, civil rights activist Diane Nash, inspired her to fight for change today. As genre-bending films like Black Panther and Thompson’s upcoming Annihilation keep making bank, expect pioneering work from these two rising stars. [Apple Podcasts]
The Dollop - Jorgen Jorgenson w/Wil Anderson
Marc: Since this episode was done in front of a live crowd in Brisbane, Australia, hosts Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds invited Down Under comic Wil Anderson along to inspect and dissect the life of historical figure Jorgen Jorgenson. Anthony has delved into a lot of nutballs in history during the run of this show, but Jorgenson has to be one of the nuttiest, and his exploits give plenty of great openings for Reynolds and Anderson to riff on comedically. The guy was once king of Iceland for two months, directly from being first mate on an English ship that was trying to trade illegally with the country. Jorgenson was alternately arrested, imprisoned, and then captaining one ship or another more times than you can count. And he was alternately either a convict or a cop in Australia a lot. Plus he was a notorious gambler and drunk — surprise! Anthony delights in revealing each of Jorgenson’s exploits almost as much as Reynolds can hardly wait to rip into them, while Anderson keeps the toppers coming. This is a delightful hour and a half, good for a couple of commutes or workouts. [Apple Podcasts]
Hollywood Handbook - Tom Scharpling, Our Third Host
Noah: Until Tom first speaks to him this week, it’s tough to realize just how quickly Kevin Bartelt rose from the creepshotting, MMA-fighting intern to Chef Kevin to a bona fide third host for Sean and Hayes. But the Boys have mined him for two all-time corkers in the past few weeks – a Stitcher-exclusive Pro Version in which they update his online dating profile, and this week, in which they enlist Scharpling to use his Meet My Friends The Friends expertise to help Chef Kevin start his own Office podcast (which is itself a reference to the Tinder makeover). With Tom feeding lines into his ear the entire time, Chef Kevin recaps the classic season 1 episode “The Client,” but only Hayes – who has never seen the show – seems to remember that, “I think, this is the episode with Threat Level Midnight.” The focus instead is on Kevin’s sexual awakening upon seeing Michael and Jan kiss for the first time and vague call-forwards to a supposedly popular segment “Kevin’s Korner” where Kevin from Hollywood Handbook imitates Kevin from The Office for a short while. As Tom and the Boys are quick to remind listeners, their chemistry has always been Year End Award-winning, and the latest chapter in their story continues to reinvent their comedy. [Apple Podcasts]
Headplace - Meditation on Clothing with Brian Faas
Elizabeth: If you’re looking for a little spiritual enlightenment to go with your comedy podcast, then close your eyes and download Headplace, UCB Comedy’s meditation podcast that parodies the soothing voices, calming music, and vague guidance of Headplace and other apps or podcasts. In each episode, your gurus/hosts, Matt Cutler and Eric Gersen, are joined by guest improvisors for a guided meditation exploring everything from art to motherhood. This week Brian Faas – AKA Jenna from UrbanOutfitters.com – steps into the studio with her lavender vape pen for a deeper look at what it means to clothe ourselves, both spiritually or with a unicorn onesie. They journey into the walk-in closets of their minds and build their ideal outfits as they tackle the big universal questions, such as the difference between denim and chambray and should you just not give AF and wear otter slippers outside. Headplace is a quick listen that manages to be calming and funny and is a welcome break in your podcast queue. [Apple Podcasts]
International Waters - Muppet, Please
Marc: This long-running comedy panel quiz show hosted by Dave Holmes keeps it fresh two ways. First, it’s pop culture and current event-based. And second, each episode pits different comedians from the United States and United Kingdom against each other. In this installment, from across the pond, there’s Glenn Moore and Harriet Kemsley, while Kristina Wong and J. Keith van Straaten represent the US of A. Just like any respectable game show, the action is broken down into rounds, and the show kicks off with the guests guessing the outcome of news stories — like what charge was leveled against the woman found riding a horse while drunk through town. Things really heat up when the team from one side of the Atlantic has to pick out the meanings of terms from the other side. The Brits put up a poor showing when it comes from knowing the names of American candy versus Muppets. (“Frackles HAS to be a candy!” insists Moore, to no avail.) Meanwhile, the Yanks do a bit better job picking between British place names and characters from J.R.R. Tolkien. (“Catbrain had better be a place,” says van Straaten. “I want to live there!”) There’s a lot more fun stuff to had in the fast-paced 45 minutes of this episode. [Apple Podcasts]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
Late Night with Seth Meyers Podcast - Josh Gondelman
How Did This Get Made - Rock Star: LIVE! with Jake Weisman
Entry Level - James Adomian
Go Fact Yourself - Lizz Winstead & Alonzo Bodden
The Best Show - Best Show Returns! Andrew Sandoval! More!
Edge of Fame - Weird Al Is a Walking Party
ID10T - Natalie Portman
Local to Nowhere - West Virginia
The Need to Fail Podcast - Zhubin Parang
Got a podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.