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. We hope to have your ears permanently plugged with the best in aural comedy.
Employee of the Month – Paula Pell
ZOE: There are plenty of podcasts out there that focus on “making it,” but what’s so great about Employee of the Month is host Catie Lazarus’ absence of agenda; she’s a natural interviewer that lets guests talk about their careers however they’d like, allowing the time to relate a funny story or anecdote. This makes for more of a storytelling vibe, kinda like The Moth meets Making it. From Jill Abramson to Janeane Garofalo, she’s spoken to quite an impressive mix and, lucky for us, she doesn’t skimp on comedians. This week, Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock writer Paula Pell swings by to talk about pig whispering, her 13-year-old diary, and her recently greenlit feature The Nest with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Pell walks us through her early jobs in lottery commercials, Disneyland’s Pleasure Island, and then Universal Studios’ Murder, She Wrote, where Lorne Michaels first noticed her. Of Lorne Michaels’ jarring interview style she says, “It’s like you’ve met him, gone to the bathroom, and then come back. You think you blacked out in the first session because he’ll be like, ‘The thing is, the phoenix will rise again from the ashes,’” which makes sense of the seemingly opposite and polarizing portraits of Michaels that have been relayed over the years. Employee of the Month is an extremely listenable podcast, and Pell is an extremely listenable person, which leaves you with an extremely listenable episode.
Todd Barry Podcast – Jason Nash
LEIGH: Jason Nash is the guest on The Todd Barry Podcast this week because, well, quite simply, he asked to be. But with good reason, of course - to promote his new movie Jason Nash is Marriedstarring Nash and pretty much every comedian you love. The roster of comics in the movie plus Todd Barry’s recent work on Louie (particularly one perfect scene in which he explains what he does all day) sparks an ongoing discussion about using comics as actors in movies and TV shows. Throughout the interview (if you can even call it that because it’s just so laid back) Barry and Nash reminisce a lot, covering Nash’s job as the doorman at the SNL after party, performing at David Wain, Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter’s show Stella and a bunch of other things you’ll wish you could have been at. Overall, it’s a great conversation. Nash even points out that of all the podcasts he’s been on lately, Barry is the only one who doesn’t only talk about himself. And Barry is quick to respond, perfectly “But I was good on Louie, right?”
Analyze Phish – Hollywood Bowl
PABLO: Oh, Analyze Phish, it’s been a while. In fact, IT’S BEEN an agonizing ten months since our bean-dropping hosts Scott Aukerman and Harris Wittels watched Phish close out their 2013 summer tour at the Hollywood Bowl. So why the long delay in releasing this episode? As it turns out, Harris’s love of the very thing integral to enjoying a four-hour-long jam band concert landed him in rehab for a short spell. And while I’m glad he kicked his addiction to opiates, it’s somberly ironic to hear the writer discuss how the podcast’s live episodes made him realize his behavior was ruining relationships and getting him into trouble at Parks & Recreation. But on the irony flip-side we have the former straight-arrow Scott who not only admits that he enjoyed the concert while high on LSD, but that he would like to attend another Phish show in the future! Since that’s about as close as we’ll get to hearing the U2 superfan begrudgingly give props to Phish, this episode is a fitting end to the podcast if it’s the series finale. Even more so given the episode’s many special guests which includes Kulap Vilaysack, Paul F. Tompkins, Shelby Fero, Mike Mitchell, Adam Scott, Harris’s friend Tall, and Phish bassist Mike Gordon. But the finale talk at the end of the episode may be premature as Harris recently tweeted that a new episode is in the works focusing on Phish’s latest release, Fuego. Analyze Phish is good. It’s also funky. But it is by no means over.
It’s That Episode with Craig Rowin – Mike Sacks
MARC: It’s been awhile since It’s That Episode with Craig Rowin moved from the now-defunct Splitsider Podcast Network to the Nerdist Network. So high time to check in on Rowin’s premise – let’s watch episodes of peoples’ favorite TV shows to then describe, discuss, and deconstruct them for the listener. His guest this week is author, humor writer, and magazine editor Mike Sacks, who brings us the gift of Chris Elliott in the form of Zoo Animals On Wheels, an episode of Elliott’s short-lived sitcom Get A Life. Sacks is a very particular student of comedy, having authored two books (And Here’s The Kicker and the just-released Poking A Dead Frog) devoted to interviewing comedians and comedy writers. As he and Rowin pick their way through the episode – which we don’t get to hear, unfortunately – their discussion covers Elliott’s contributions to Late Night with David Letterman, his Adult Swim TV series Eagleheart and everything in between. (Including the often-maligned film Cabin Boy. Spoiler Alert: Sacks loves it.) Sacks has a knack for getting in the minutia of why Elliott’s humor works…and even why it only seems to work on a select group of hardcore comedy fans. Hint: To get the most from this episode, try watching Zoo Animals On Wheels first. It’s available on YouTube. Worked for me!
How Was Your Week – Max Silvestri
LEIGH: If you don’t already love Max Silvestri, the good news is you’ve got a bunch of new ways to jump on board. He’s got a new album, King Piglet, and an upcoming TV show, The Feed, both of which he talks about on week’s episode of How Was Your Week. Once it comes up that Gail Simmons is also on The Feed, host Julie Klausner asks what anyone who’s ever watched Top Chef is also thinking. Is Gail Simmons perfect? (You can relax. He confirms that she is). Silvestri makes jokes at about 100 miles a minute, so make sure you keep up when a conversation about the new Godzilla movie so quickly turns into a hilarious conversation about single-use, dissolve-able clothes from Old Navy and H&M. Also, Klausner’s got a message for all the people who buy tabloids to see pictures of celebrity babies, the same people who click links to see babies from old movies all grown up, that bears repeating - knock it off.
Leigh Cesiro is a writer living in Brooklyn who only needs 10 minutes to solve any Law & Order: SVU episode.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.
Zoe Schwab is a writer/fraud living in NYC who is somehow up-to-date with ABC Family’s Melissa & Joey.