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.
Fresh Air - Larry Willmore
Leigh: The White House Correspondents’ Dinner was this past weekend and everyone has tons of opinions about how Larry Wilmore did as host. But what about Larry Wilmore’s opinions on how he did as host? Terry Gross gets us all those opinions on this week’s Fresh Air. The event is essentially a roast, which, as a comic, Wilmore is no stranger to. But what’s the difference between roasting other comics who can take it, versus roasting, say Wolf Blitzer? Or, I don’t know, the President? Or what’s it’s like having to follow the President, an undoubtedly tough act to follow? Wilmore shares what it was like preparing for such an event. Like where he held back, where he felt it was important to not hold back, how to be fair and make fun of everyone equally, making small talk with the First Lady and his reaction to everyone’s reactions afterwards. Also, it goes without saying that Terry Gross is a great interviewer, but I have grown to especially love her interviews with comedians. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t also point you in the direction of her interview with Jerrod Carmichael from last week. [iTunes]
Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People - Running Down A Stapler
Marc: You may know the host of Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, comedian Chris Gethard, from his standup, his appearances on This American Life, Broad City, or his Fusion series The Chris Gethard Show. But in this incarnation of the affable host, he takes a backseat to whomever wanders via the phone. He never knows who it may be and neither do we. The caller remains anonymous and is never allowed to reveal their identity (although in the case of this latest episode, the guest has plenty of breadcrumbs scattered across the web which easily lead to his identity). Each mystery guest has one hour — to the second — in which to engage with Gethard, and this week’s guest, the Writer of 18,000 Songs, takes full advantage of his time on Beautiful Stories. Gethard is fascinated with the man’s undertaking, the sheer ability to write 18,000 songs, as well as his moxie. The guest takes singer Tom Petty to task for being a sell-out and a bit of a layabout — after all, he’s only recorded and released a few dozen songs in his day. The conversation gets into whether the image of the tortured artist is more myth and show biz illusion than reality (the guest claims to be happy, well-adjusted and sane). And there’s a partial rundown of some of the subjects that the Writer of 18,000 songs sings about: Office supplies (including a stapler), household cleaning products, and poop. Copious amounts of music around the topic of poop. Gethard seems bemused by the mystery artist’s relentless bravado throughout the hourlong conversation, using the last few moments to dare the guest to improvise a song about being on the show. Beauty in this case may be in the ear of the beholder, but I don’t think song #18,001 is going to be a chart-topper. [iTunes]
Do You Need a Ride? - Fred Armisen
Elizabeth: Fred Armisen hops into the car on this week’s Do You Need a Ride?, where he reconnects with his old (but not dear) friend Karen and fellow Bumbershoot performer Chris. As they take a casual drive, Fred talks about his recent trip to South America to film a Chef’s Table/Jiro Dreams of Sushi-style episode of Documentary Now! and tells them about his own favorite podcast The Trap Set with Joe Wong, which features interviews with drummers. They all share their favorite things about Portland—fleeces, clogs, and a feeling of safety—and talk about crimes they’ve committed in their former homes once they no longer lived in them. Fred also advocates for podcasts, college educations, and being mysterious and turns the tables on his interviewers with some probing questions about their lives and pets. [iTunes]
Fitzdog Radio - Tom Dreesen
Pablo: After a half century of performing comedy, Tom Dreesen definitely knows how to tell a story. But if you’re unfamiliar with the standup, you’d be wondering how a 25 year old has tales about opening for Frank Sinatra and the rest of the Rat Pack.That’s how energetic and lively Dreesen is at 76. Dreesen began his career in the late ‘60s by working with Tim Reid, now best known as the dad from Sister Sister, as comedy’s first biracial duo. But after that groundbreaking team split, he moved to LA, a huge risk considering he had a wife and three kids to support back in Illinois. But it took Dreesen no time to hit it big during the late ‘70s comedy boom where he made his name at The Comedy Store. As he tells Greg Fitzsimmons, Dreesen was so respected by his colleagues that he became their de facto leader during the famous 1979 strike. And his memory is so sharp that he’s currently working as a consultant on Showtime’s upcoming I’m Dying Up Here that dramatizes that era of Los Angeles comedy. A paragraph blurb can’t do Dreesen’s stories justice, so take a listen to hear the origins of the five week strike, how Steve Lubetkin’s suicide impacted his performing, and his thoughts on the motivations of the comics, including Garry Shandling, who crossed the picket line. [iTunes]
Motherhood In Hollywood - Rachna Fruchbom
Marc: Hopefully that whole “women aren’t funny” thing is a dead issue by now but, have you any doubt, cue into Motherhood in Hollywood. Hosted by actress, Emmy-winning writer, and mom Heather Brooker, this latest installment welcomes another woman-on-the-workfront, Rachna Fruchbom, who went from stay-at-home-mom (or SAHM) to writing on Parks and Rec and now is a staff writer on ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat. Already the mother of one, Fruchbom is super-pregnant when this show was recorded, which lends itself to all kinds of reminiscing for both host and guest, mostly about how damned uncomfortable it gets when you’re just about to have the baby. Interestingly, the guest was a script reader at Smoke House Pictures, George Clooney’s production company, and didn’t turn to writing until she became housebound raising her first child. Moms listening will certainly be able to relate to some of the situations shared by both Brooker and her guest, while the rest of us may learn a thing or two we didn’t know before — like why the reason new mothers may seem so chatty in line at the store or the post office is because it may have been days since they had a conversation with an adult. Or how toddlers don’t understand that SAHMs are working just as hard as daddy, who blissfully skips off to work every morning, leaving mom holding the diaper bag. My reactions to the stories I heard in this episode were alternately laughter, sympathy and awe at being able to churn out creative work while juggling the responsibilities of being a mom. [iTunes]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
Not Safe Podcast with Nikki Glaser - Depressing
Harmontown - What Did You Do To Norman Lear?
Star Wars Minute - Seven Chances
The Poundcast - Pound House Live 2
How To Be A Person - Simon Abrams - How to Review Movies
Tuesdays with Stories! - Hoot & Nanny
Dopey: On Drugs & Addiction - #26
Happy Sad Confused - Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Eric Bana
improv4humans - Jenny Owen Youngs, Tim Meadows, Katie Dippold, Eugene Cordero
Got a podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elizabeth Stamp is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.
Leigh Cesiro is a writer living in Brooklyn who only needs 10 minutes to solve any Law & Order: SVU episode.