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.
ZOE: First off, Marc Maron recorded his intro naked this week, so if you’re into naked podcast hosts, this is for you. Clothing aside, this week’s WTF was a really enjoyable, honest look into Andy Samberg’s career, from getting Lonely Island off the ground to starring in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Samberg’s perspective is refreshing for the same reason he was a welcomed break at the James Franco roast; he’s made comedy on his own terms, tactfully avoiding competition and bravado, all while being incredibly diplomatic and gracious. He and Bill Hader have discussed feeling like they’re part of a well-adjusted generation of comedians, a characteristic that really comes through in his insightful answers, which and Maron does a great job of supporting. There’s no troubled past to work through, nor is there anything to prove; instead, we get a really candid, funny conversation with a super endearing individual. For anyone pursuing a career in comedy, Samberg’s story is encouraging and helpful, as he’s close enough to the struggle of trying to make it, but (obviously) successful enough to show his approach has paid off. This episode was a super engaging talk with a guy in comedy who just gets it.
Nerdist – Dance of the Jedi
SCOTT: The second episode of the week is a rare and wonderful “hostful” episode — no guests, just the hosts. Between the show itself, and the brief flare-up of emotions surrounding the timing of the Jim Norton episode, we got an inside look at how the podcast is scheduled and why hostfuls are so rare. We get it, fellas, your show is popular. Hostful episodes really bring out everyone’s personalities, and we get to be flies on the wall listening to Chris Hardwick, Matt Mira and Jonah Ray be friends and have fun. How else would we hear that Hardwick’s girlfriend is into strip clubs? The guys make the obligatory statements about how strip clubs gross them out, then cancel those statements several times over when displaying their vast knowledge of the names of current and former porn stars. And of course, the hosts of the Nerdist podcast got a ton of mileage out of the fact that Hardwick got a private dance from a stripper named Jedi. Best joke: scruffy nerfherder. Worst joke: Sarlacc pit. Jonah Ray can’t stop clobbering the microphone as Matt Mira takes us on a tour of a Hollywood party, where “celebrities” make easy money signing autographs. If it weren’t for the stripper story, this episode might have been called “Saddest Name-Drops” after he tells us who he saw there (Ed Asner topped the list, guys), and which of the Power Rangers had nothing but tumbleweeds at their table. If your resolutions included “learn how long it takes Chris Hardwick to go pee,” this episode will help you cross it off the list.
Comedy Bang Bang – Ben Schwartz, Horatio Sanz
JOSH: Few Comedy Bang Bang guests can match the level of frenetic, A-to-Z enthusiasm that Ben Schwartz routinely exerts during his many podcast appearances. This week’s introduction rapidly transitions from bit to bit as Schwartz and host Scott Aukerman revisit a few of their favorite comedic chestnuts (House of Pies, Schwartz’s romantic life, breaking out into song), while also creating a few future reccurring routines like their theoretically innovative yet comedically contrary “Straight Man/Straight Man” routine and their rousing performance of Edward Scissorhands 2: The Basketball Diaries. Horotio Sanz eventually joins the fray as Groucho Marx’s grandson Coco Marx. After a brief callback to last year’s New Year’s episode where Sanz’s character gave overly specific California vehicular routes, the trio discuss Marx’s former career of transferring audio recording of celebrity sex tapes to vinyl and even somehow organically worked in Sanz’s always welcomed Aaron Neville impression. This musical installment of Comedy Bang Bang comes to an end with an unexpectedly sincere Ben Schwartz discussing his earnest affection for longform improv and imploring listeners to watch his House of Lies Live improv special. Fans of improv, laughing and/or spontaneous sing-a-longs of the classic tune “Under the Boardwalk” will not be disappointed with this week’s episode of Comedy Bang Bang.
Doug Loves Movies – Harland Williams, Samm Levine, Graham Elwood
ROB: A lot of people listen to Doug Loves Movies for the Leonard Maltin game, but I think I probably represent a good portion of the audience that’s more interested just in Doug Benson clowning around with other comedians in front of a live audience. This episode, with perennial guests and rivals Samm Levine and Graham Elwood, along with Harland Williams making his second ever appearance, is for the second type of listener. The Leonard Maltin Game is one of the shortest I’ve heard, but with an unexpected, amusing outcome. Most of the rest of this long-ish episode consists of tangents, bits, and spontaneous antics from Benson and company, even after Benson announces, “That’s the end of half an hour of fuckaround,” and officially starts the games. The rivalry between Levine and Graham provides great fodder for comedy, and it helps that the show was recorded at the Orlando Improv. That appreciative audience feeds a lot of energy (and cookies) to the stage.
PABLO: Baby New Year 2014 still isn’t potty-trained yet but we already have a candidate for the funniest new podcast of the year. Desus, the John Starks of Black Twitter, and The Kid Mero, a school aide/blogger who you may recall from episode one of Call Chelsea Peretti, are two of the most consistently funny people on Twitter. And now thanks to the good people at Complex Magazine, the duo have been given a podcast that lets them aim their #KNOWLEDGEDARTS at whatever topic comes up. On the latest episode, Desus and Mero wax poetic about Instagram DM (“It’s like the fall of the Berlin Wall for dick pics”), Beyoncé’s latest album (“She went from making songs for lonely girls to singing about getting nutted on”), and the abundance of porn websites (“Porn is so racist they still call black porn Ebony Porn. Sounds like MLK in the back riding Rosa Parks doggy-style”). If you don’t live on the East Coast, Desus vs. Mero is as close as you’ll get to hearing two dudes talking shit outside of a Bronx bodega.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.
Scott Reynolds is a comedian and writer in Brooklyn, NY.
Rob Schoon lives in Brooklyn and writes about tech, media, comedy and culture.
Zoe Schwab is a writer/fraud living in NYC who is somehow up-to-date with ABC Family’s Melissa & Joey.
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.