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.
Raised by TV - Sitcom Sidekicks
Elizabeth: This week on Raised by TV, Jon Gabrus and Lauren Lapkus look at the characters we loved to hate: the annoying sidekick, the weird neighbor, and the parentless friend who was always there. From Kimmy Gibbler on Full House to Boner on Growing Pains to Vinnie on Doogie Howser, M.D., there’s something special about the relationships between these characters and their cooler counterparts. In fact, it’s so special that there are YouTube tribute videos celebrating the most tender moments, including an emotional montage of Boner joining the army. Their look into sidekicks reveals that some aspects of these shows definitely do not hold up, such as a Kimmy Gibbler jab that basically involves Stephanie calling her a whore (How rude, indeed), Vinny’s homophobia, and – though off topic – the Crying Game-esque ending of Ace Ventura. And speaking of things that don’t hold up, the hosts sample the classic snack combo of Totino’s pizza rolls and Orange Crush. But are you really eating a Totino’s pizza roll if you don’t burn the shit out of the roof of your mouth with the molten cheese and sauce? The episode wraps up as Scott Aukerman joins for a reading of an emotional scene from Boy Meets World, featuring TV’s hottest sidekick, Shawn Hunter. [Apple Podcasts]
Jon and Sam’s Alex Inc Inc - Episode 3
Kathryn: Stay with me here, this is going to get confusing. On the new podcast Alex Inc Inc, Jon Millstein and Sam Fishell use the ABC show Alex Inc. (which USA Today calls “a nightmare”) as a primer for how to make a podcast. That’s right: It’s a podcast based on a sitcom based on a podcast that is about the studio making that podcast. It’s a crazy experiment, and Jon and Sam learn plenty of podcasting lessons and life lessons along the way. They learn about the magic of editing, using music cues, and mastering that low scratchy NPR voice. They drop in real clips of Zach Braff’s disillusioned radio host/dad in what they call “inkdrops.” They record an ad on spec for the alarm app on the iPhone. They learn about the importance of having a son. By episode 3, the impossible task of creating this podcast is starting to take a toll on Jon and Sam’s personal lives, but as always, they’re an open book (or should I say audiobook) for their listeners, aka “inkblots.” It’s a scrappy little upstart, but I have a feeling these guys just might make it. [Apple Podcasts]
Hello from the Magic Tavern - Jamillious Returns
Marc: It’s been a few years since Arnie Neikamp dropped through a dimensional rift behind the drive-through of a Chicago Burger King and found himself in the land of Foon. But the weak wifi signal from the burger franchise continues to leak through the rift in space/time so Arnie keeps on pushing out his podcast, Hello from the Magic Tavern. Taking up table space in The Vermilion Minotaur, a tavern in the town of Hogsface, Arnie is joined by Chunt, a talking shapeshifter who is usually in the form of a badger, and Usidor, a wizard with way too many extra names and titles than space permits here to reveal. Arnie eagerly awaits news of his Foon citizenship application (the written portion) but also is in search of a wizard to sponsor the rest of his application. Back for a return visit is the soulful Jamillious the Mauve Wizard with news from the south. And the crew reassures everyone that they are fully intending to take out the Dark Lord…once he helps them out with an ongoing nagging problem in town. This show is entertaining even if you’d never heard an episode before (and an extensive wiki on their website can tell you anything you feel you just have to know.) [Apple Podcasts]
Doughboys - The Dopeboys 4/20 Smokestackular
Mark: Anyone who has read the Nick Wiger instruction manual knows that one of his major malfunctions is the ability to properly inhale marijuana smoke. Number-one tech boi Jon Gabrus stops by this week to finally upgrade Wiger-bot’s software to Nick High-ger for the first (and hopefully not the last) Dopeboys 4/20 Smokestackular. Last November, when Gabrus joined Mitch and Wiger for a wildly entertaining three-city Texas tour, he put on a show for the live audiences. Each episode focused on a local Texan chain, but they may as well have reviewed Boston Market, because the Doughboys got roasted. In front of a slightly smaller live audience, comprised of Mitch’s two cats, the trio’s charming hostility is no different. Swapping nerd insults and fat insults and fat nerd insults is practically flirting in Gabrus’ native language, Long Islandese. Like clockwork, Gabrus gets problematic at the 6-minute mark – a slow burn for him. The conversation is all over the place even before the vape pens make an appearance. Munchies even hit sober Mitch as they struggle to keep a semblance of the show format by ranking every Girl Scout cookie. Between the busted balls and busted guts, the Dopeboys 4/20 Smokestackular proves why fans love the Doughboys’ good vibes, buuuuudy. [Apple Podcasts]
New Player Has Joined - Civilization V + Paul Gilmartin
Pablo: Comic Paul Gilmartin has been hosting The Mental Illness Happy Hour, a podcast about mental health and addiction, for the better part of this decade. So it makes perfect sense that the video game he chose to discuss on New Player Has Joined is Civilization V, a series synonymous with addiction. For those lucky enough to have avoided the call of Civ, players build a real-life empire from the creation of the wheel to the age of space travel. It sounds straightforward, but Civilization packs every aspect of human life – religion, natural resources, blue jeans, diplomacy, nuclear weapons – into its game play, leading to games that can last weeks, months, or even years. Fitting for a game as in-depth as Civilization, Gilmartin goes deep into why he thinks this particular game takes over his life: It offers him literal control of the world. And in a time where many of us feel tetherless to what we thought were unbreakable institutions of American democracy, it feels powerful to (virtually) make the United States focus its resources on building the Great Library of Alexandria instead of banning Muslim children. With Civilization V, Gilmartin likes to create peaceful empires with a focus on enlightenment and science, as it’s possible to win the game by influencing other civilizations with your culture or by being the first to build the space shuttle. But like so many historical leaders, he soon gets bored and realizes that taking the AI’s cities by force is a much more satisfying way to assert his nation’s dominance. It’s just one of many behavioral tics that the developers factored when programming the game, designed to make you ponder the fragility of human society… at least for a few seconds before you click “NEXT TURN.” [Apple Podcasts]
Hollywood Handbook: Pro Version - The Coachella Performance
Noah: Sean and Hayes sold the Pro Version to the masses as a dedicated feed for fan service segments like the Teaser Freezer and the Popcorn Gallery, but their naked contempt has quickly made the Pro Version as essential and lawless as its free flagship. The Coachella Performance is exhibit A. Thanks to a series of sound effects by Engineer Brett – never more than one at a time “for logistical reasons” – Hayes and Sean fly from Earwolf Studios to Indio to perform on the biggest stage in front of the biggest crowd at Coachella. The Boys, Brett, Chef Kevin, and Bosch spend most of their time together backstage writing and eventually performing a parody song despite Brett’s apparent mastery of parody law suggesting that they haven’t done enough commentary about the original and Kevin bleeding from his pointy drumstick wang (to the complete ignoral of everyone else). After we learn in passing that Hayes is canonically a descendent of Sean, the band performs to a silent crowd – again, for logistical reasons – and kills the rest of the time by playing an extended version of the theme song for their new How Long Has It Been? segment, which is an unbelievable achievement in and of itself. [Stitcher]
Here We Are - Dung Beetles + Recycling
Marc: There are science comedians, such as Bill Nye, and then there are comedians who just happen to like science. Shane Mauss is one of the latter and, while he professes not to know much about the sciences, that doesn’t stop him from wanting to learn. His guest on the latest installment of his Here We Are podcast is Rachel Stone, an entomologist from Wichita State University. And her special niche in the world of insects is dung beetles. If you know nothing about the little suckers before this hour of revelations, relax — you will pluck out your ear buds after the show is done with your mind racing with the information Stone lays down. To his credit, host Mauss leaves no cow pie unturned in his probing and briskly entertaining conversation with his guest. You will come to realize that these gentle creatures that roll merrily along on balls of excrement fill a very important place in the world’s ecosystem. [Apple Podcasts]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
Dumb People Town - Sarah Silvermanimprov4humans - 420 Special w/ Jon Gabrus, John Gemberling, Gavin Speiller, Brett MorrisThe Bill Simmons Podcast - NBA CrazinYou Better DON’T - New God, Who Dis?Chapo Trap House - Comey the Clown feat. Katherine KruegerThe Best Show - Marina Franklin! Morty from Lower Newbridge! I Stuck The Landing! More!Yelling About Pate - Flavored Mayo w/Tim Hollingsworth
Got a podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.
Kathryn Doyle is a science writer from New York.
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.