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.
Truth & Iliza - Chris Kelly
Leigh: If you’re a regular reader of this weekly roundup on a comedy website, odds are you’re already well aware of who Chris Kelly is. And I most likely don’t have to bother telling you the reason he’s on this week’s Truth & Iliza is to promote his new movie Other People, because chances are you’ve already seen it or have plans to. There are plenty of podcasts out there where comedians who already know each other very well sit down for an “interview,” so it was nothing short of delightful to hear host Iliza Shlesinger sound genuinely excited to meet Chris Kelly for the first time and talk to him. They talk getting hired at SNL (podcasting law actually now mandates that you’re legally required to talk about what happened the day you got hired on SNL), phone addictions, the importance of being nice and normal, mining your own Twitter for material, what to tell people who ask you for advice, and watching comedy vs drama outside of work, including a maybe/maybe not spoiler of The Night Of. (For more Chris Kelly, also check him out on this week’s Vulture TV Podcast.) [iTunes]
Industry Standard - JB Smoove
Pablo: JB Smoove is such a force of nature in Curb Your Enthusiasm that it’s difficult to watch pre-JB episodes without the bulldozing, loudmouth roommate/leach Leon Black. Sometimes a character is so forceful that it can even muddy your perception of that actor when off-screen. I’ll cop to that belief with Smoove, as I listened to the latest episode of manager Barry Katz’s podcast expecting Smoove to be as boisterous as the people he plays. But instead the actor speaks seriously and imperturbably about his steady rise from a working standup to an SNL writer so good on Monday afternoons that he earned the nickname “King of the Pitch” to his breakout role on arguably the best sitcom of all time. Professionalism is the recurring theme with Smoove’s career and not just because Industry Standard focuses on the behind the scenes minutiae of show business. When he tells a story about an A-list actor messing around on the set of Smoove’s talk show Four Courses, it’s the boom operator and the cameraman’s time being wasted that he brings up, not just his own. [iTunes]
My Favorite Murder - What About Mimi?
Marc: Hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark make My Favorite Murder a delightful two-hander of a podcast. First, both are funny comedians. Second, as much as they enjoy exposing listeners to some of the creepiest tales of murder out there, they’re also selectively squeamish about various details of the stories. It’s not unlike watching a horror movie with someone who loves them yet has to turn away at the most violent and sinister moments. The “What About Mimi?” episode, after the opening stretch of hostful banter (which includes an impromptu review of the BBC mystery series Rosemary & Thyme) spends most of the time looking at the Jane Mixer murder case and its connection (or disconnection) to the Co-Ed Killer case that brought attention to serial killer Edmund Kemper. Kemper was thought to have killed law student Mixer in 1969 due to similarities in her murder to Kemper’s other victims. Years later, police in Ann Arbor, Michigan re-opened the cold case when new DNA evidence came to light and they discovered and arrested someone completely different (but just as creepy). The back half of the show is a suspenseful re-telling of an almost-murder — a woman assaulted in the middle of the night in her high security apartment in Texas…by one of the Pinkerton guards assigned to watch the premises. Kilgariff cops to having grabbed the narrative from a TV show about the incident, but it doesn’t make the account any less gripping. The hosts’ comedic commentary laced throughout make this show a novel and entertaining listen. [iTunes]
Hard Nation - Michelle Obama Sets It Off (w/Ego Nwodim)
Mark: Hard Nation has been one of the few outlets that have been able to successfully hyperbolize this already-bonkers election season. Hosts Mark & Pete Hard (Mike Still & Paul Welsh) have mostly targeted right-wing pundits on their show of late (John Gemberling as Roger Ailes was superb), so it was exciting to see superwoman Michelle Obama (Ego Nwodim) on this episode. How does one poke fun at the perfect human? After Mark delivers a riveting 9/11-themed educational poem, we hear a version of Michelle Obama that makes the real one look like a triangle – not even a full square. This version bench presses Barack every morning, is 420 friendly, and is responsible for the death of a certain former First Lady (hint: it’s chronologically impossible). She watches unreleased TV pilots in her spare time, plans on taking over the Larry Wilmore slot once she leaves the White House, and offers to describe Barack’s penis in detail. Only one of these was not actually mentioned in the episode. Check it out if only to hold yourself over until the real FLOTUS inevitably visits Marc Maron’s garage next year. [iTunes]
Sooo Many White Guys - Phoebe Welcomes Token White Guy Mike Birbiglia
Noah: Like a ship in the night, Phoebe Robinson has come and gone having wrapped up a legacy-quality first season of Sooo Many White Guys with her token white guy guest, Mike Birbiglia. When Robinson questions him as “a representative for white people,” putting the show’s thesis statement in full view, Birbiglia is an affable and, frankly, worthy mouthpiece. His honest probing, too, of Robinson’s experience – especially his cute disbelief toward the necessity of the title of Robinson’s upcoming memoir You Can’t Touch My Hair – makes for an enjoyable listen through the promoting of his latest film Don’t Think Twice. But the dark horse pick for biggest loss of the offseason is Pheebs’s producer and sidekick Joanna Solotaroff, whose muffled, dorky anecdotes from the control room made her one of the most talked about parts of the show. When “Joanie Mitch” embraces her clowny side and peppers a perfectly curated selection of Frasier clips into the pre-interview banter, that much is clear. [iTunes]
Earwolf Presents - Questions for Lennon with John Lennon
Kathryn: I’m a big fan of advice columnists, big fan: Prudie, Abby, Savage, Sugar, you name it. Your quintessential advice columnist is tough but fair. But on the new Howl Original Questions for Lennon, which premiered this week on Earwolf sans guest, Mike Hanford’s John Lennon turns the form on its head: he’s kind but wrong. “Stop wearing grey shirts,” he says. “Everyone’s wearing grey – squint and it looks like a fog is rolling in. Screw man caves, build a man nest. Don’t ask for a raise.” None of this is good advice, but you can’t hold it against him. Longtime CBB favorite Lennon is just so relentlessly upbeat, always welcoming to listeners who may not be familiar with his rock group, The Beatles. Come for the bad advice, stay for the anecdotes about Tricking Ringo (future segment?), who unfortunately is still alive and therefore cannot serve as co-host. In the meantime, you’ll get by with a little help from John Lennon. [iTunes]
Terribly Funny with Steve Basilone - Megan Ganz
Elizabeth: Each week on Terribly Funny with Steve Basilone, the writer sits down with comedy writers and performers to talk about the horrible things that have happened in their lives. For the latest episode, writer Megan Ganz starts by talking about her dad’s death and experiencing his open casket wake as an 8 year old. But then the conversation shifts to some of the other awful experiences she’s had specifically as a woman in Hollywood. She describes “all the sprinkles on the shit sundae” of being a woman writer (not a writer, a “woman writer”), bringing up infuriating examples and revealing that she has experienced sexual harassment of half of the six jobs she’s held. They discuss ways that men can help to support women in writers rooms—not talking about how terrible your wife is or putting your hand on the small of their back, for starters. She also describes what it’s like to be on the other side of the power dynamic and her experiences of being in charge and trying to hiring a gender-balanced staff. [iTunes]
No Such Thing As A Fish – No Such Thing As Train Jam
Marc: The quartet of researchers behind British TV’s celebrated QI show have become such a force unto themselves that they announce the second season of their own No Such Thing TV show during this episode. A great entry in the “comedy trivia” category (that’s a funny presentation of trivia, not trivia about comedy…), No Such Thing brings a simple, solid format to life through lively conversation between four educated and funny people. Each of the four hosts (Dan, James, Anna, and Andy) offers a fact of the week, which is discussed and then rapidly springboards into several tangential factoids before segueing to the next host’s topic. So many trivial matters are touched on that it doesn’t do the show justice to simply run the topics down here, but listen for laser-bearing trains (and the titular “train jam” as well), spiders, chicken sex, Arthur Conan Doyle’s ghost, and six-toed Pueblo native Americans. It’s like a fun bathroom book for your ears. [iTunes]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
Improv Nerd - T.J. Miller
Not Safe Podcast with Nikki Glaser - Really Good at Friendships
How To Be A Person - D’Arcy Carden - How To Not Hate People
I Was There Too - Jurassic World with Lauren Lapkus
The Unwritable Rant - Driveway drinking, an imp bearing gifts, and a drug fueled exorcism
Mouth Time with Reductress - Adulting! w/Shannon O’Neill
Sklarbro Country - Wiest Mode w/ Rob Huebel
High & Mighty - Being Fat w/ Nicole Byer
Paint It Black - We Go Sober
Retail Nightmares - Sean Devlin
Your Mom’s House - #361
Got a podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.
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.
Mark Kramer is a writer, comedian & human boy from Staten Island, New York, but please don’t hold that against him.
Kathryn Doyle is a science writer from New York.