Sing with me: “On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a podcast in a pear tree.” Sorry, there just isn’t a serviceable podcast/Christmas pun. That being said, depending on climate, listening to a podcast in a pear tree sounds like a really pleasant afternoon. We five wise men are here to bring the gift of podcast recommendations (just like Jesus got 2011 years ago), pa rum pa pum pum:
BRADFORD: Risk! #308 - The Family
This week’s installment of Kevin Allison’s storytelling podcast Risk! features a topic (“The Family”) that gels perfectly with the kind of honest, heartbreaking, and funny stories that are the show’s specialty. Everyone has unusual stories about their family, but most of them probably don’t reach the heights of the trio of tales told by Risk!’s guests this week: Sara Benincasa, Curtis Gwinn, and Lili Taylor. Sara Benincasa’s story touches on how the Bon Jovi Funeral Home is “a good time” and her unusual bond with her uncle that centers on his experiences working at a diaphragm factory. Curtis Gwinn’s yarn, about he and his brother’s misguided fight with a group of tough teens, is a mix of horrifying, heartwarming, and funny that seems impossible to pull off, but Gwinn does it with a well-told story that left me hanging on his every word, not knowing what would come next. The episode concludes with a story from actress Lili Taylor, dramatic rather than comedic, about her father’s manic depression. Kevin Allison has been sure to keep Risk! from being purely a comedy podcast, assembling a mix of stories for each episode that varies in tone and style, making Risk! one of the few podcasts that can transition back and forth from the humorous to the very serious, oftentimes within the same story. The three tales in “The Family” couldn’t be more different, but they’re all unique, finely crafted, and hang together well thematically in an excellent episode that exemplifies Risk! firing on all cylinders.
ELI: Superego - Episode 3:10
JESSE: Gelmania #2 – Megan Mullally, Adam Scott, Natasha Leggero, Jackie Clarke, Gil Ozeri
The episode starts, innocuously enough, with an audible.com ad. I have to admit there was some concern that sponsorship would cause Brett Gelman to tone down his brand of unbelievable toned up humor. Then the first segment happened. Brett graciously invited comedian, asshole, and all-around comedic asshole Brett Gelman to the studio for an interview. The scene shifts from them bickering to them—hmm—well to put it delicately, fucking. Let me say it was legitimately the most vulgar scene I’ve heard or seen that wasn’t actually pornography—hell it was more extreme than a large amount of porn (and have you seen porn nowadays!). Also, this ten-minute scene was tear-inducing funny. There was also some rapping and a very Brett Gelman play from his live show. Gelmania is not for everyone and it’s not supposed to be. The show is the purest representation of his wildly singular comedic perspective. In a way it is the left shoulder’s devil equivalent to the right shoulder angel’s Pod F. Tompkast.
JOEL: The Nerdist #147 - Jimmy Pardo
When The Nerdist guys gather ‘round for a recorded hang out session, it usually goes in two directions: traditional interview reverence or plain ol’ dicking around. Well, with always funny Jimmy Pardo in for a visit, we get a stellar laugh/learn combo episode. From the start, Pardo has a ton of fun at the expense of both Jonah Ray and Matt Mira. Ray’s skill at finding the moment for an inappropriate/dumb joke is a perfect fit alongside Pardo’s similar brand of silliness. I’m officially advocating for a Ray visit to Never Not Funny. Chris Hardwick keeps the show moving along, even venturing into heartfelt territory where the foursome discusses the link between comedy and tragedy. Full of charm and vigor, Pardo’s honesty about his past, his show and the people in his life are a delight. Hardwick also finds time to fanboy his favorite Pardo moments, including an awkward Pardo/Lisa Loeb memory. Throughout, Pardo offers up plenty of passionate podcast insight. And, then there’s a healthy dose of FLARB. It doesn’t all have to make sense. That’s half the fun.
MARC: Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin #4 - Chris Rock
At twenty-one minutes, this podcast is more of an appetizer than a meal. Alec Baldwin, an engaging raconteur in his own right, clearly has no problem drawing his guests out on any number of topics. (Keeping his seat on a domestic flight is another story.) And these aren’t straight up interviews as Baldwin has a lot of narrative stretches about his subject in between his Q&A. Here Baldwin’s cornered guest Chris Rock in his dressing room of the Broadway theatre where he was starring in The MotherFucker With The Hat last spring. Their chat is not so much revealing as it is entertaining, although for those unfamiliar with Rock’s work ethic, you do get to discover a few of the tricks about how he hones his material. The interesting thing is that both of these performers have the same stalling tactic, at least in this interview: They repeat the last thing the other person said in a thoughtful way as they think of what they are going to say next. So a number of things get said twice through the course of this brief but very interesting encounter
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Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.
Eli Terry writes for the house UCB sketch team Gramps. He is on Twitter with few followers.