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.
Doug Loves Movies - Paul Scheer, Adam Scott, and Jason Mantzoukas
Kaitlynn: Live from the Nerdmelt showroom, we welcome three podcast regulars and previous guests. The podcast takes an immediate turn into Taylor Swift fandom. Four grown men discuss the LA concert, special guests, meeting Taylor herself and why young people love the television show Friends. Paul’s iTunes store purchases are mostly bundles, making everyone question the merits of bundling products. These three have obviously worked together and conversations flow with the rare instance where each guest speaks the same amount of time. They play a new game called “Doug Loves Musicals” where Doug lists songs from a movie musical and first to guess correctly, wins. I’m not afraid to admit I would have guessed Les Miserables from the first song title. The “Last Man Stanton” game is played with Ben Stiller where Adam takes it home naming three films at once. You would never guess what comes next—a fourth game! The energy of the show is upbeat without added bits which lets the show flow smoothly and getting through four whole games. The quartet is engaging with a quick pace that seems like a few best pals just hanging out (except in an extremely hot room).
Box Angeles - Kumail Nanjiani
Elizabeth: Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani stops by Studio 309 to chat with Mike “Box” Elder about his path to Los Angeles. They start by talking about Kumail’s caffeine-based rituals (coffee for writing and 5-Hour Energy for acting) and then move on to his childhood in Pakistan, giving Kumail the opportunity to teach Mike (and us all) the difference between the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent. He describes his childhood as a shy, studious boy who would study while watching Four Weddings and a Funeral and other romcoms and being aware of the violence and corruption around him. He left the country to go to school at Grinnell College in Iowa (chosen because he didn’t realize that all of America wasn’t the same), where he studied computer science and did his first standup set, which was 25 minutes long. They also go through his years in Chicago, moving to New York, getting a writing job on Michael and Michael Have Issues (and having to audition four times to play himself on that show), and eventually moving to LA. As Kumail speeds though all the opportunities he’s had in his career, from one-man shows to touring with big names, he credits all the people who helped him along the way, proving Mike’s point that one of the best things aspiring entertainers can do is surround themselves with people who are better and learn as much as they can.
Ronna & Beverly - Ellie Kemper
Leigh: It’s hard to decide who’s the most excited here - Ronna and Beverly because their guest this week is Ellie Kemper, Ellie Kemper because she got to be a guest on Ronna & Beverly, or me that this episode of Ronna & Beverly exists. It should come as no surprise that the ladies are huge fans of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (thanks to a recommendation from Ronna’s very artsy son, Jordan). To be fair, they’re not really fans of the show. They’re FANS of the show, so naturally, they’ve got a lot to ask. They even pitch an idea for a Ronna and Beverly cameo in season 2, which I hope becomes a reality. They also try and get to the bottom of what it is that makes Kemper funny, how she met her husband, and warn her not to turn into an asshole with all this success. Though, after the interview they agree that even though Hollywood can taint people, Kemper is “a nice girl that works hard, who’s terrific at what she does,” something that’s made very clear throughout the entire episode. If listening to this doesn’t make you happy, I don’t know what will.
Rude Alchemy – The Plague Clowns
Marc: “Those who dare to make a podcast which subversively reanimates the dead art of radio theater are considered dangerous outcasts…” So flows part of the introduction to every episode of the third season of Rude Alchemy, hinting at what the podcast fan is getting into. Rich production values, a layered storyline (several, actually), and a talented cast make this five-episode season —The Plague Clowns — a listening treat. The main story features a motley collection of traveling entertainers in the 16th century, pairs of whom have split off from their original groups, only to be thrown together in a far-flung town where a Tournament of Revels is taking place with the promise of winning eternal fame and fortune. The secondary tale involves The Narrator of the main story, who is struggling to complete his tale-telling duty, mostly due to the fact he seems to be a patient in a mental asylum. Throughout the plot of The Plague Clowns, the cast manages to skewer about every live performance meme and stereotype there is, from jugglers and jesters to Shakespearean actors and minstrels. There’s even a heckler in the crowd during a performance. Following the 3rd episode there’s a break in the action with an installment entitled “Chatter and Lore: Plague Stories and Gibber-Jabber,” where the actors appear out of character to interview each other and share “making of” stories. (They follow up the season with another out-of-character visit, too.) The writing of the episodes zipline from corny to suspenseful, with plenty of laughs and plot twists, along with outrageous Italian and Romany accents helping to make the short season an enjoyable listen indeed.
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
WTF with Marc Maron - Lake Bell
You Made It Weird - Brett Gelman
Who Charted - Derek Waters
Sklarbro Country - Sklomp it Up! Jessica St. Clair & Lennon Parham
Nerdist Podcast - Elijah Wood
The Movie Preview Review - Ophira Eisenberg
Ear Goggles - Virgin Voyage with Chris Mancini
The Late Show Podcast - Shakin’ My Little Money Maker
Got a podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.