Can a podcast jump the shark? To de-Internet that question and temper it a bit: Will some podcasts start losing their luster? Many of the very early casts have episode counts nearing 500. Many of the big second wave shows (The Nerdist, WTF) are approaching 300. Friends had 235 episodes total, The Nerdist just hit 235 episodes this past week. It’s generally agreed upon that television shows eventually wear out their welcome, if anything because of a lack of tricks up sleeves. So, though many of the bigger shows haven’t been around for 10 years, like Friends, the average fan still is becoming awfully familiar with ebbs and flows of a program. The shock of a WTF emotional breakthrough is less shocking when the audience, guest, and host are all waiting for it. I’ll admit I don’t look forward to many of my previously favorite shows because I’ve grown too use to them. There are still gems in the older shows and I still listen to them regularly, but I believe many fans would admit some fatigue. Or not. Maybe podcasts are ultimately closer to The Daily Show, a show that’s a strong as ever, which has amassed thousands of episodes and doesn’t necessarily get judged on any given one. There’s obviously no answer here but there is a value in looking at the potential longevity of a podcast. There is an answer, however, for what are some great podcasts from the past week:
BRADFORD: WTF with Marc Maron #299 – Retta, Brett Weinbach, Ron Funches, Rory Scovel, Jim Earl, Eddie Pepitone
Live episodes of WTF tend to not be as popular as the in-studio ones, but the goal of these shows is to entertain the audience rather than to have a deep probing interview. Marc Maron has an excellent lineup this time around, being joined by Retta (who plays Donna on Parks and Recreation), stand-ups Rory Scovel, Ron Funches, and Brett Weinbach, and closing out with the usual one-two punch of Jim Earl and Eddie Pepitone. As with usual live WTFs, the episode opens with Marc Maron reading letters from his fans who continue to find new depths to how weird they can get. Highlights include a story from Retta about Nick Offerman referring to her bathing suit area during an improvised Parks and Rec scene, Brett Weinbach’s love for Kenny G’s underground phase before he sold out, a mushroom trip tale from Rory Scovel and Ron Funches, and Maron and Scovel riffing on hill people and conspiracy theorists. All of Maron’s guests hit their marks this week, covering a lot of ground and scoring plenty of laughs.
JAY: You Made It Weird #68: Kulap Vilaysack
This week on You Made It Weird, Pete Holmes talks to host of Who Charted? (and wife of Comedy Bang! Bang! host, Scott Aukerman) Kulap Vilaysack. Things get weird right out of the gate, with hot menstruation talk. Then Kulap discusses which “flavor” Asian she is (Laotian,) but Pete misses his chance to do a Hank Hill impression. Next, the duo discusses astral projection and their experiences with lucid dreaming. Naturally, things progress to Ayahuasca (we’re into deep hallucinogen territory here, folks), Kulap’s Shaman, and ancient aliens. After a quick jaunt through the subjects of British Knights, Robin Williams, and TLC’s “Waterfalls,” Kulap reveals that her “seeking” is due to her traumatic childhood, in which she had an antagonistic/abusive relationship with her immigrant parents. Then she reveals more family dynamics that contributed to her psychology. She talks about not wanting to repeat the relationship mistakes of her parents, actions she’s taken to prevent those mistakes, and how important good parenting is. Kulap reveals her spirit animal, her crazy family, and why she can’t cry. The pair then discusses resentment in relationships and learning to let go. Pete Holmes is one of the best interviewers in podcasting and Kulap Vilaysack is a fascinating guest. Do yourself a favor and check out this episode of You Made It Weird. Your Shaman would want you to.
JESSE: The Dead Authors Podcast Chapter 9: Jorge Luis Borges – Nick Kroll
The best running bit of The Dead Authors Podcast is H.G. Wells’s hatred of Jules Verne. That’s why it was so great when very early on Jorge Luis Borges, in a very similar Wellsian tone, proclaimed to hate Gabriel García Márquez and his take on magical realism. It’s a simple joke but it’s still fun to hear these literary titans act like catty teenagers. It speaks to a sensibility that Kroll and Tompkins share: the enjoyment of being a bit out of the character at all times. They like to joke around with each other, call out slight missteps. It’s why I was so excited for this episode when PFT first tweeted about; however, that was back in December because Dead Author’s tends to have a particularly long lag time. Kroll doesn’t disappoint. He plays Borges as a pompous weirdo who wavers between speaking in surrealist couplets and praising Tom Cruise. He’s much better than that punk Gabriel García Márquez would’ve been. A Márquez episode would truly feel like 100 Years of Boritude.
Richard Feliciano and his Robert Downey Jr. Jr. improv partners-in-crime really bring it on their improv podcast. This week’s shorter bonus episode is a quick listen, a quality way to jump into a new bit of improv. The Robert Downey Jr. Jr. crew is one of the hardest working Los Angeles improv groups and one of its best. Just like their stage shows, this show is top notch on its production value. It’s also a treat to listen to the group embrace the podcast format, often going for scenes that really fly in the audio-only format. There’s a lighthearted chat session to kick off this episode, followed by the guys rolling through a quick series of YouTube inspired scenes. Don’t miss out on clever and chaotic rewind bit. Along with the only slightly offensive YouTube Town Hall Meeting scene, the David Fincher “YT Network” scene goes off the rails quickly. In the best kind of way. The Fincher craziness transitions into another free flowing series of “captain’s log” entries. The three performers admirably mix in a ton of characters and premises throughout. It’s a crazy listening trip but they keep themes in check and bring skilled improv structure so nobody’s wandering aimlessly into the comedy woods.
“The Bugle: Audio Newspaper for a Visual World” intones John Oliver’s mock-serious-but-actual-British voice at the top of every episode. And now the current event-fueled comicommentary show has entered the 200s in terms of episodes. Four years of wry, witty banter served up weekly by Oliver and fellow Englander Andy Zaltzman. Fresh as the week’s headlines, this episode touches on the impending Olympics, the latest in banking scandals, the legitimacy of mermaids, and the impending Olympics some more. The co-hosts do a great job of pulling together the facts of the stories and then delight (and crack each other up) by pissing all over them. A good chunk of the first half of the show is given over to the recent facts that have come to light that Barclays Bank and HSBC have been channeling money for Mexican drug cartels as well as for Iran and other “rogue nations” like Saudi Arabia. Oliver declares that he simply can’t trust the banks any more and wonders to his fellow host: “Is this the end, Andy? Have we at least bottomed out now? Or are we going to find out next week that banks have been kidnapping children and harvesting them for fuel?” As if the banking outrage is not enough, we also learn that the US National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration has officially come out and made a statement that mermaids are NOT real. Not to leave you hanging, but Oliver and Zaltzman bring you the facts behind this startling revelation in this week’s show. The Bugle’s mix of actual information mixed with wry commentary and finished off with a stray bon mot or evilly crafted pun makes for a consistently funny show.
ROGER: Ten Minute Podcast -“Who’s The Kid?”
Ten Minute Podcast is a brisk program that runs two episodes a week and features former MadTV stars Will Sasso and Bryan Callen, along with Whitney male lead Chris D’Elia (you shouldn’t hold that television credit against him). The three men spend most of their valuable time talking about one topic and arguing with one another, which for their sake is hopefully all for show. Ten Minute really shines when one or two things happen: D’Elia for no inexplicable reason goes into full attack mode on an always caught off guard Callen; D’Elia for no inexplicable reason sings. Fortunately both of those things happened in “Who’s The Kid?”, the title of which questions why exactly Callen always refers to himself as “The Kid”, when in fact he is the oldest of the three contentious ones and in the few months of the podcast has displayed no discernible youthful qualities. Callen is a master at playing the hopeless victim, funnily failing to match D’Elia in his off-the-cuff Meatloaf-esque bursts of song describing how he can earn his very recent self-given moniker of “The Super Deluxe Kid”, peppering his retort with “uh”s and repeating a line of verse three times when he couldn’t come up with anything else. He is a funny victim we laugh at who earns no empathy for being bullied, due to consistently walking around with unearned hubris of his own. The episode concludes perfectly - “The Kid” is cut off mid-sentence.
SAMANTHA: Before You Were Funny #2 - Brian Huskey, Kyle Mooney, Johnny Pemberton, Betsy Sodaro
If Before You Were Funny feels like it flows especially smooth for a show with only three episodes, that’s because it’s spent over two years as a live act in Los Angeles, a sort of talk show-slash-table read where comics affably act out their early works. Hosted by Justin Michael and Jacob Reed of Tremendosaur, BYWF celebrates the unintentional hilarity of scenes that don’t quite hit the mark, with guests going through each other’s scripts and (lovingly) poking fun at premises. For example, this hour includes an incredibly blue sketch about thirsty cowboys, Mooney’s over-explanatory Celebrity Double Dare satire, Sodaro’s skewering of Guinness Book of Records standards and a glimpse into one of Pemberton’s early joke notebooks. (For more on the format, check out this 30-minute primer, with guest Paul Rust.) With the success of so many performance-based podcasts, I’ve been crossing my fingers for a fun sketch show, and BYWF definitely delivers.
Ari Shaffir’s Skeptic Tank #69 - Nick Thune
Comedy Bang! Bang! #168 – Bob Odenkirk, Matt Besser
Offstage with Christian Polanco #76 - Bryson Turner (Part One)
Professor Blastoff #62 – Scott Aukerman
The Adam Carolla Show 7/23 - Colin Mochrie, Michelle Branch, & David Wild
The Long Shot #518 “The Gossip & Bob Episode” – Matt Besser
Twisting the Wind with Johnny Pemberton #1 - Danny Holloway & More
Who Charted? #86 - Nick Kroll
Jesse David Fox is a writer, cat person, and Jew (in that order). He lives in Brooklyn. His iPod is broken.
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.
Roger Cormier also uses the word seminal when discussing “Weird Al Yankovic in 3-D”