Comedy podcasts, you guys! They’re funny, they’re free; distract you from existential angst, give you something to talk about when you inevitably run out of things to say. But which comedy podcasts will you listen to this week? All of them? No way, friend—this is not Kindergarten and you don’t have to invite every single kid in class to your birthday party. Thankfully we’ve done the work and scoured most of the crop for you, selecting only the juiciest offerings. These are the best comedy podcasts of the week:
Top 5 Comedy Podcasts This Week (In alphabetical order)
How Was Your Week #20 – Maria Bamford
It is a tribute to Julie Klausner’s wit and charm that the wandering first 15 minutes of this week’s podcast are pretty much just as funny as the subsequent interview with Maria Bamford (who is The Queen.) Whether chiding her cat-wife for playing the ukelele, describing a terrible dress that Emma Stone wore, or revealing her Redhead Hall of Fame, Klausner brings her A-game this week. Then comes the interview. Maria Bamford on stage is a lot different from Maria Bamford in interview form. They will both make you laugh, for sure, but Maria the interview subject will mostly just make you want to hug her. She comes off wise, practical, weathered but not jaded, and hopeful. Hearing her in a relaxed conversation with Julie, making each other laugh, is a delight. Eventually Julie brings out the questions that James Lipton uses on Inside the Actor’s Studio, which leads to Maria’s perfect answer to the question of what she’d like to hear God say when she arrives at the pearly gates: “So, what are ya working on?”
Judge John Hodgman #32 – The Cow Beef
All the cases tried by Judge John Hodgman come from listener submissions. With this being the case sometimes they have super weird ones. This week’s was one of the strangest. Ted is Paul’s son. Paul says the word cow constantly, apropos of noting. He says it as an exclamation and as a mantra and as a way of saying, “hey, look, there’s a cow over there.” Making it even better is that instead of chastising Paul for being a loon, he takes his side (except when he suspects him of buzz marketing for Chick-fil-a). Judge John is a father, and anything a father can do to annoy his adult child is wonderful in his book. The episode is really absurd and really funny, and depending on your relationship with your father, really touching.
The Ronna & Beverly Podcast #5 – Nick Kroll
The Ronna & Beverly Podcast might seem like it at first glance but it is not just another interview podcasts. Sure there are guests and questions but it’s all just a setting for Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo to explore these terrifically mad characters. There is nothing like it currently on the medium. Chaffin and Denbo have been performing as Ronna and Beverly for years and it is obvious in how lived in they feel. The middle aged, Boston Jewish yenta is an under impersonated demographic and theirs are pitch perfect (Full Disclosure: Half of my family are Massachusetts Jews, so I can vouch for the characters’ eerie accuracy). The nice Jewish man, Nick Kroll, is a perfect guest for their blend of interrogation and kibitzing. They ask him about acting in Jewish day school plays and try to set him up with Beverly’s daughters. Yes, there is a lot (delightful) Jewyness but at the end of the day Ronna and Beverly are really a new incarnation of the classic straight man-funny man archetype, and a welcome addition to the podcast universe.
This American Wife #34 – Paul F. Tompkins, Paget Brewster, Craig Cackowski, Hal Lublin Marc Evan Jackson, Mark Gagliardi, Ben Acker, Ben Blacker
Even with how many great podcasts there are to sample (and there are bucket tons), many people still start out with This American Life. As a result, it’s the perfect target for the first true parody podcast. They do a great job of staying in line tonally with TAL by playing it as straight as possible and allowing the guests to do their funny thing. As a result, the show is at its best when it interviews people in character. This week’s exploration into the live show/podcast the Thrilling Adventure Hour might have been the best example of this yet. The highlight is the interview with Paul F. Tompkins (of course) and Paget Brewster as Frank and Sadie Doyle, the high society types/paranormal mystery solvers they’ve been playing for over six years. That time has made the chemistry between the two spot on, like any great television married couple. Afterward, host Eric Martin interviews Paul and Paget as themselves about playing Frank and Sadie. Throughout the episode they alternate between interviewing the characters and their actors to a very rewarding end.
WTF #195 – Demetri Martin
“You starred in the Ang Lee movie, Taking Woodstock, which was… awful.” A lot of interviewers are said to pull no punches, but Marc Maron is the only interviewer I’ve ever heard who seems truly to not give a fuuuuuuuck. When he has contempt for a person he’s interviewing, it will show, especially if it’s contempt commingled with begrudging respect, which seems to be the case with this episode’s guest, Demetri Martin. Over the course of an hour, the two hash out their scant history together (which strongly resembles what was detailed in the terrific Nick Thune episode from a few weeks ago.) They also find some common ground – mostly having to do with knowledge of Greek diners. Demetri Martin is congenial as ever for the most part, but there are also new sides to the comic on display here. Maron asks probing questions about charges of being self-centered and difficult to work with, and Martin doesn’t really deny them. He also sounds bitter in talking about the never-fading comparisons to Mitch Hedberg and Steven Wright and about his dealings with executives over his show. On a lot of shows you can picture the interviewer having a beer with his or her subject later, but on WTF, that is often not the case. Which is kind of great.
The Indoor Kids – #3 Pete Holmes and Emily V. Gordon
Kumail Nanjiani makes a lot of videogame jokes in his standup, so it makes perfect sense that he would be hosting a podcast about videogames (with Ali Bakes.) This week the very new show welcomes newly minted Variety comic-to-watch-out-for Pete Holmes and Emily V. Gordon (you may know her from Twitter as The Gynomite) as guests. Since Emily happens to be Kumail’s wife, the very fitting subject of this week’s episode is how couples game together, which proves to be fertile ground for some funniness.
Sklarbrothers Country – #52 Myq Kaplan
The great thing about The Sklar Brothers’ podcast, as Patton Oswalt pointed out once, is that some things happen in the outer boroughs of the sports world that are so insane they demand to be covered by comedians the way that they cover most other forms of news. The Sklars are the only ones who reliably go there. This week’s case in point is the story of a man who was shamed by Facebook friends into getting a tattoo of Dirk Nowitzki on his ass. It’s an obscure story, but The Sklars hit it hard for a five minute bit they probably made up that day, but already sounds club-tested. Bravo.
WTF with Marc Maron #194 – Rob Riggle
Rob Riggle was one of the UCB Theatre’s first breakout students yet his path to comedy stardom is truly unlike anything Marc had ever heard. Rob was a Marine, serving in Liberia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, but always wanted to be a comedian. His journey in and out and back into the armed forces is remarkable and to Marc’s credit he really stays out of the way to let him tell it.