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.
WTF with Marc Maron - Norman Lear
Marc: As we round on the end of another year, it’s worth noting that podcasts are drawing guests of increasingly notable status. (True, a number of them think they’re doing a radio interview but, that aside, the pool is getting deeper and more interesting.) Marc Maron ventured forth from his garage this week to sit with television and film comedy legend Norman Lear. The creator of such historic and hysterical fare as All In The Family, Maude, and Good Times, at the age of 92, has a lot to relate and Maron guides him thorough telling us some great highlights. As his guide, the host of WTF is using Lear’s recently published memoir, Even This I Get To Experience, and it’s great to hear some of the behind the scene stories brought to life. Like when, as a comedy writer, he received a gift from his then-boss Jerry Lewis back in the comedian’s heyday, only to be abruptly dismissed the next day. Or how executives from NBC had to sneak into CBS Studios in Los Angeles to watch a presentation of Sanford & Son because Lear’s home network passed on the project. Then there were the first two pilots he shot of All In The Family WITHOUT Rob Reiner in the role of Mike “Meathead” Stivic… Great stories within a great conversation. And one of the best things about Norman Lear being on a podcast? More legends will likely want to start doing them, too.
Superego - James Bladon
Rob: If you haven’t checked out Superego – which relaunched in recent months after naming the consistently awesome comedian and improviser Paul F. Tompkins as its newest official cast member – you should. Based mostly on improvising, editing, and a smattering of post-production effects, Superego is pretty hard to describe, other than to call it a hyperactively idiosyncratic mix of short scenarios and character studies that’s almost always wildly funny. With Tompkins as a regular part of the show now, the new Superego seems to be solidifying its character and sketch-based aspects. And while Superego would never find itself bogged down by elaborate setups or earnest attempts at satire, some segments – like this week’s opening H.R. Giger sketch or its closing take on those “television stations” increasingly blaring at gas station pumps across the country – are dropping a bit of the “rapid and random” quality in favor of something almost resembling a connecting theme. Don’t worry, longtime fans: that’s not to say Superego is growing up, slowing down, or becoming any less head-spinningly absurd.
Happy Sad Confused - Michael Cera
Kaitlynn: With the Wolfpop network up and running, the interview podcast Happy Sad Confused delivers an honest-to-goodness look into the mind of Michael Cera. Am I biased because we both share Canadian blood? Perhaps. Can I relate to his stereotypical Canadian “kindness?” I try. Cera is starring in the Broadway production of This is Our Youth alongside Kieran Culkin and Tavi Gevinson and speaks in depth about understanding the text and specifics of character development. It is a lot to take in if you aren’t a theatre nerd, or if the last time you saw Cera was as the exaggerated and sexualized version of himself in This Is The End. Host Josh Horowitz finds the motives in the evolving character of his guest through a career that is expanding from a recent (and unexpected) album and the web-based comedy network JASH. It is an unexpected delight to hear him fondly remember his first acting job (the children’s show I Was a 6th Grade Alien) and how he copes with time off. It isn’t all intense intellectual fodder – Horowitz and Cera still find moments to discuss taco recipes and inspiring presence of Harold Ramis. and even the invented game his Broadway castmates play.
My Sexy Podcast - Jacqueline Novak and Liza Treyger- Too Many Cooks, Too Much Honesty
Leigh: “Everybody knows so much different stuff, which is why My Sexy Podcast is the meeting hub for so many creative minds.” While I wish I had come up with that description myself, that’s how host Sabrina Jalees, very accurately, describes her own podcast on this episode of My Sexy Podcast. The everybody knowing stuff in the hub this week are Jacqueline Novak and Liza Treyger. Both have been on the podcast before individually, making for some of my favorite episodes. So in the spirit of the show, cue the sound effects of maybe a horse or some bubbles and clips of Drake songs for both of them in one episode! They bring up tons of good points in only a short amount of time. Like, why can’t you say your favorite part of your body is your face? And why do people use Diva Cups? Top to bottom, this episode is great. So come for the serious discussion of of body image, but stay to learn about throat chakras.
With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus - The Betsy Podcast
Elizabeth: In her new podcast, permanent guest Lauren Lapkus invites her comedian friends to take over as host and interview her original characters. For episode two, the delightful Betsy Sodaro steps in for a conversation with Italian student Amanda Calzone. They discuss the intricate differences between where you’re from, where you’re from from, and your native city. Amanda describes the cultural awakening she experienced on her study abroad trip to Italy, when she realized she was actually a native Italian, despite spending 20 years living in Peoria, Illinois. She introduces Betsy to Italian Christmas traditions, tells her about the Italian drug marijuano, and performs a special Italian prayer. Other topics include what they look for in men, which for Amanda is a guy who wears Big Dog to Life is Good t-shirts excessively. Later Traci Reardon stops by to solve listener problems for the recurring segment “Help Me Rhonda.” Betsy, Traci, and Amanda help with crises such as what to eat for dinner, when to do laundry, and whether to stay mad at your mom even after your stepdad hits her with the car. I’ll be disappointed if the show’s amazing fake commercials are ever replaced by real ones, but for now I’m just disappointed that the tiny puppy that helps you talk to boys and the face wash that takes you into a dark void aren’t real products.
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
The Kundalini Files Redux - Davian Dent
Taco Tuesday - Lost Boys of Killeen
Nerdist Podcast - Alex Borstein
You Made it Weird - Patton Oswalt
Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin - Ira Glass
Hollywood Handbook - Pauly Shore
Affirmation Nation - The San Diego Mindset (w/ Nick Kroll, Jason Mantzoukas)
Elizabeth Stamp is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York.
Leigh Cesiro is a writer living in Brooklyn who only needs 10 minutes to solve any Law & Order: SVU episode.
Rob Schoon lives in Brooklyn and writes about tech, media, comedy and culture.