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.
The Rosenthal and Jeselnik Vanity Project - Episode 1
Pablo: Good news: Anthony Jeselnik, in my opinion, the best standup comedian alive, has started a football podcast. Bad news: He has partnered with the National Football League to produce it. So why the NFL, a censorship-happy multi-billion dollar light beer peddler that up until this year operated as a 501(c) tax-exempt nonprofit? Because his childhood friend and father to his godchildren, Gregg Rosenthal, is a writer for NFL.com. It’s a contradictory match to say the least. On one side, you have a relentlessly politically incorrect comic whose latest Netflix special has an ending that brilliantly epitomizes why Jeselnik tells dark jokes and why, after Comedy Central made him delete a tweet, he will never again apologize for a joke. On the other, you have a hulking corporation that recently fined a player, Cam Heyward, $11,000 for honoring his dead father’s cancer fight on his eye black, while letting another player, Devon Still, do the same for his daughter Leah because the NFL was notified beforehand and thus given time to commercialize their suffering. So what happens when Jeselnik enters Roger Goodell’s domain? Well, in this premiere episode we have four edits from the NFL due to content. Can you guess what the first edit was for? A joke from Jeselnik about the NFL’s fining of Heyward. So why the hell is someone who abhors bullshit teaming up with the NFL? The back-and-forth between these two old friends and the stories told by Jeselnik, which include Tony Romo stealing his vodka, are fantastic. But by officially partnering up with the organization that stands for bland homogeny, brand loyalty, and a religious devotion to turning a blind eye, I hope Jeselnik’s remarks about this possibly being the only episode of the podcast are true. At least in this current non-independent incarnation.
Respect The Process – Wayne Federman
Marc: Even though Respect The Process is a podcast primarily aimed at the world of making commercials hosted by Jordan Brady, a renowned commercial director, it can’t help but be funny. Brady is a former standup comedian – still practicing, as seen in his 2013 documentary I Am Road Comic – and his recent guest, Wayne Federman, is a national headliner who, not coincidentally, starred in the aforementioned film. (In the early days of their comedy careers, Brady and Federman used to tour together.) Federman is on the show to talk specifically about how to book national commercials, and they talk a bit about the tricks and tips he’s used to land spots such as the TV commercial for Geico Insurance in which he’s playing poker with Kenny Rogers. (Many of Federman’s commercial appearances can be seen on his self-posted five-minute “mega-reel” up on YouTube.) Because of the focus of this podcast, there also tends to be a bit of tech talk. In this particular case, most of it revolves around the various apps that Federman learned to use while producing his recent comedy release, The Chronicles of Federman. Many of the comedy tracks, which span his 30-year career, had to be resuscitated from old VHS tapes and other ancient recording media, so he and Brady spend time on how that was accomplished. But the majority of the show is spent on laughs, with Federman wryly picking apart Brady’s interview style, and both guys pushing each other’s buttons as only two guys that have known each other for a couple and a half decades can do.
Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend - Michael Showalter
Elizabeth: Alison Rosen and Michael Showalter go way back (vaguely). The two catch up on everything that’s happened since their last interview including fatherhood and his newest film Hello, My Name is Doris, starring Sally Field as an accidental fashionista and possible hoarder. Michael talks about the decision to move to LA, which he describes as drinking water from the well (mainstream LA), rather than the creek (alternative Brooklyn), and missing the East Coast culture and seasons, but not the New York hierarchy. He describes quitting smoking through hypnosis, a process which seemed to take 5 minutes but actually took 45, and possibly using it to cure his cell phone addiction. Michael’s upcoming mystery projects include working on new TV show that he co-created and executive produced and directing another movie. While he couldn’t talk about those, he does chat about the creation of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp and how the success of the Netflix series changed the narrative around the entire project, making the original movie feel like a success despite the reception when it was first released. And for Stella fans, he hints that a reunion is possible someday when the time and place is right.
Allegedly - Jerry O’Connell
Marc: How to do the interview format differently – the holy grail of the modern talk show – is tackled uniquely by comedian Theo Von and filmmaker/journalist Matthew Cole Weiss on their Allegedly podcast. It turns the chat show into more of a game show. TV and film star Jerry O’Connell joins this week, where he has to judge which host has the best opening story (Von wins with his tale of finding a stash of porn mags while burying a dead dog as a boy) before sharing his own anecdote about palling around with Stand By Me co-star Keifer Sutherland. The co-hosts then pelt O’Connell with a variety of questions, after which he’s asked to declare whether Von or Weiss asked the best questions. This episode is rife with tangents, as O’Connell led the way in driving the conversation far afield, including the revelation that he and wife Rebecca Romijn run a “passing gas” open household and a more sobering account of growing up with his family in a Chelsea District apartment, where he had to watch many gay neighbors fall victim to the outbreak of AIDS in the early ‘80s. O’Connell also talks frankly about the difficulty of maintaining a Hollywood acting career from one project to the next, while raising a family and coordinating schedules with a spouse who is also in show biz. Insofar as which of the hosts “win” this episode, no spoilers other than to say the victor this time is a first time winner.
Kill Me Now with Judy Gold - Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan
Leigh: This week comedy power couple Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan stop by Kill Me Now, or as host Judy Gold calls them, “the nice Duggars.” After a quick debate over whether they’re more of a Hillary and Bill or a Michelle and Barack, the Gaffigans share the story of how they met, what it’s like working together, working on their new show The Jim Gaffigan Show and what it’s like having their kids be a part of Jim’s act. When talking about the older generations of each of their families, Judy hits the jackpot. Big time. And, for those of us who have never really heard what true delight sounds like, boy are we in for a treat. When Jeannie tells Judy her grandmother was Jewish, the joy and excitement radiating out of Judy will no doubt leak out of your earholes into the rest of your body. There’s also a heated discussion about the amount of homework kids get that the 12 year old versions of all of us will love and appreciate. And! They cover Jim’s recent high profile gig opening for rising comedy star, the Pope.
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
Fresh Air - Sarah Silverman
Ronna and Beverly - Phil Rosenthal
How To Be A Person - Kara Welker - How to Get Noticed in Comedy
Call Chelsea Peretti - A Visit to London
Bodega Boys - Bodega Dick Pills
The Slant - You Can’t Get a Good Cow Down
The Mo Show Podcast - Halloweiner
Pop My Culture - Scott Aukerman
The Mindhouse Podcast - Aparna Nancherla
Got a podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leigh Cesiro is a writer living in Brooklyn who only needs 10 minutes to solve any Law & Order: SVU episode.
Elizabeth Stamp is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.