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. Also, we’ll keep you posted on the offerings from our very own podcast network. We hope to have your ears permanently plugged with the best in aural comedy.
Road Stories - Chris Hardwick and Howard Kremer
ROGER: Roadstories exists for us as a reminder that busy, successful comedians usually earned it. After a five week hiatus, Murray Valeriano’s podcast returned with an episode that dived into Chris Hardwick’s Hard ‘n Phirm days. Hardwick, as you are probably aware, is now all over the place, lately known for being the guy who’s always hired to host wrap-up shows on TV for preexisting TV shows, so it was different to hear about his pre-running a podcast network empire days, getting booed for playing bluegrass Radiohead covers with Mike Phirman, and the eureka moment when he found his fanbase. In another lifetime, Hard ‘n Phirm toured with Who Charted? co-host Howard Kremer and his Dragon Boy Suede rap persona, and Kremer was a guest that sat back and provided his own entertaining tales of the past. The boy of Summah (he explained that the end of Labor Day weekend is the”Still Summah” part of the year) touches upon the always funny in retrospect stories about getting into an argument with an old agent on a long drive home and working with dubious and rigid last second edits on his Comedy Central half hour.
JOSH: Comedian Kumail Nanjiani drops by Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show this week to discuss video games, Pakistan’s fondness for the early ‘90s TV show Picket Fences, and how eye contact can help to alleviate the preadolescent guilt of enjoying pornography. But their 90-minute conversation isn’t all Picket Fences and porn, Nanjiani also hilariously details his dad’s reaction to his Comedy Central special — a text that simply stated “Saw your program” — and his experience working on SNL and the underappreciated comedic gem known as Michael & Michael Have Issues. Pollak and Nanjiani share an engaging rapport that fluctuates between informative, like how Nanjiani “hoodwinked” his way into a recurring role on Franklin & Bash, and hysterical, like a game of “Who Tweeted” featuring the Twitter musings of Tyra Banks, Paris Hilton and Justin Bieber. Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show: come for the witty banter, stay for the House of Wax reference.
Writers’ Bloc #23 – Tom Ruprecht
PABLO: The path to a writer’s room is different for almost every person. Whether they come from the world of standup, improv, plays, or ice road truckin’, no writer’s story is the same. In each episode of Writers’ Bloc, longtime Daily Show scribe J.R. Havlan invites a guest over to explore how they got started in television, their creative process, and how their individual shows run. On this week’s episode, Havlan’s guest is Tom Ruprecht, who spent 12 years at Late Night with David Letterman as a writer. But it’s the 5 years he spent at Late Night, starting as an intern, as a non-writing member of the staff that provides the meat of the episode. It should come as no surprise to aspiring writers that Ruprecht impressed his future colleagues by writing non-stop on his own time. In Ruprecht’s case, it was getting published in GQ and The New York Times that forced people to take notice. Havlan and Ruprecht also discuss the challenge of writing topical daily humor in the Twitter era and the omniscient but rarely seen presence of David Letterman. Writers’ Bloc is a must-listen for anyone whose dream is to spend 12 hours a day in a room taking notes and writing jokes.
MARC: Brian Regan is one of the more elusive mainstream comedians around today. Doesn’t do a lot of television (not counting his two dozen Late Night with David Letterman appearances). No movies to his credit. He rarely even sets foot in comedy clubs these days, as he has little problem selling out theater venues. So it’s a treat to catch him this week on The Paul Mecurio Show. Mecurio has opened for Regan on the road - a handy way to get access - and is able to use some mutually shared road stories to jumpstart their conversation. There are some fun facts to learn (Regan loves hot, black coffee, even when golfing in 114° heat at his home in Las Vegas), ancient history (Regan hit the stages of Florida comedy clubs armed with a bag of props when he was first starting out), and secrets to standup (“Always have twice as much material than the slot you’re filling requires, in case you have to switch things up,” suggests Regan). Bonus: The famously squeaky clean comic even drops a few f-bombs along the way. Mecurio delivers an entertaining visit with a funny guy who finally lets all of us see a little more of the man behind the comedian.
ROB: Marc Maron’s podcast has a reputation for getting to the deep, dark places behind his guest’s comedic impulses. But sometimes, like in the case of this episode with Catherine O’Hara, much of the conversation ends up revolving around “What was it like?” O’Hara, who came up in the ‘70s with a clique of Canadian Second City players, talks about how she was inspired to do comedy right after high school by Gilda Radner, who her brother happened to be dating at the time. O’Hara’s early days contain so many “before they were ___” stories, like Eugene Levy, Martin Short, and Gilda Radner all being part of a cast of a Toronto production of Godspell (with Paul Shaffer as the musical director). Or when those same people, along with Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, and O’Hara, as part of Second City Toronto, took a trip to visit their Chicago counterparts, John Belushi and Bill Murray, to all do improv on stage together. Maron spends a lot of his time just reacting to these stories with “Wow. Really?” “That is nuts!” “What was that like? How does that happen!?” – and O’Hara gladly supplies. It’s not all name-dropping though, and if you’ve ever wanted to know the process behind the improv of Second City or Christopher Guest movies, O’Hara is a great source to hear it from. And at the end, when she talks about her nerve-wracking appearance on stage at the Oscars – and how she managed to calm her anxiety – you’ll understand how much, and why, she melds into her indelible, hilarious characters.
This Week on the Splitsider Podcast Network
If you like public access television, you will love Freddy Coscia. Freddy is the drummer/co-host for The Staten Island Comedy Show. Freddy discusses everything from making community television to his experiences on tour with Tiny Tim.
It’s hot in the Complete Guide studio this week, causing all sorts of mayhem. Tom’s selfish use of a portable fan causes a rift in a friendship, while the heat causes something to come loose in Tim’s brain, resulting in a movie pitch about Michael Jackson’s faked death that is somehow tied to some Mrs. Doubtfire-esque shenanigans in the White House. Also, Tim delves into his new life as a man who comments on articles on the internet.
On this episode: Olmec from Legends of the Hidden Temple shills for life insurance, Mitch has a points system for Facebook, Crazy Eddie does whatever his cousin tells him, Malvo wanted to grow up and be a deer, adults try to play Star Wars, DadzBop, the mysterious three-day hangover, and Springtide Cryonics Institute promises you’ll stay Forever 29. Plus, voicemail RSVPs for our 30th birthday.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA
Arielle Gordon is everybody’s intern.
Robert Schoon lives in the heartland and pays less rent. He also writes about technology and media.
Josh Sorokach is a comedy writer living in NYC who was once referred to as a “Poor Man’s Joshua Jackson” while on a date.