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.
Maeve in America - The Nayyef Episode: Sleepless in Seattle
Marc: Here to put a lighter spin on what can often be a difficult proposition — immigration to the United States — is Irish comedian Maeve Higgins. Seen as the co-host of StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson, she recently kicked off Maeve in America, traveling the United States to chat with folks about their adventures in coming to this country. Her subject this week is Nayyef Hrebid, a former soldier in the Iraqi army whose service acting as a translator for American armed forces there in the early 2000s earned him a Special Immigrant visa to the US. The subject of a documentary released this year, Out Of Iraq, Hrebid’s story has many facets including the fact that he is gay — a lifestyle so shunned in his native country that family members have been known to kill their own because of it — and he left behind the love of his life, Btoo Allami, a fellow Iraqi soldier. With her delightful Irish lilt, Higgins makes for a charming reporter of what can often be a startling subject. [iTunes]
WTF Uncovered - Patton Oswalt
Elizabeth: Back in the heady days of 2006, a younger and angrier Marc Maron headed back to Los Angeles with producer Brendan McDonald to craft a series of pilots for the local Air America affiliate. They’ve only been heard by a few select ears—until now. Through the end of the year, Marc will be releasing these recordings on Fridays as part of a special Uncovered series. Kicking things off is a show with guest Patton Oswalt, who at that time was best known for a Sierra Mist commercial and King of Queens. After an intro by Jim Earl and a segment where Marc solicits the opinion of several variations of God, Patton and Marc get into the main topic of the interview, which is guns and why they are cool. Patton also talks the Comedians of Comedy TV series and his current (at the time) comedy pet peeves: compartmentalizing comedians and the idea, brought on my Last Comic Standing, that a 5-minute set will make or break you. Since the pressure hasn’t changed and we still have plenty of labels for comedians, it’s easy to forget that this is from 2006, but luckily the sounds of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Reel Big Fish throughout the episode bring you back to the era. [iTunes]
Mark: Ah, Thanksgiving Eve. That magical night of the year when young adults return home to welcoming parents, who are quickly ditched for drinks with high school friends. Add High & Mighty’s (2nd) Annual Power Hour to the list of Thanksgiving Eve traditions to get excited about. Much like your night out with old friends, you’ll share laughs mostly at one person’s expense (poor Mitch). Someone will take their clothes off. And disappointingly, an unexpected Trump supporter will show up, when Gabrus calls his mother on speakerphone in a live theater in a true test of podcast audio boundaries. In between Boston/Long Island accent bits and the usual tangents galore, one guest even manages to out the UCB audience as a bunch of non-cocaine-holding squares. I listened to this while running and nearly vomited in solidarity with the hosts. Who knew that listening to a bunch of funny strangers do a power hour was more enjoyable than participating in one. [iTunes]
Nerdist - Tracey Ullman
Leigh: Comedy legend Tracey Ullman stops by Nerdist this week to chat with Chris Hardwick about her new show,Tracey Ullman’s Show, her old show, The Tracey Ullman Show, and everything in between. Long before it was easy to make your own stuff and everyone had a web series or you could do whatever you wanted on YouTube, Tracey Ullman was doing that on TV on the newly formed Fox. She was such a success because as she puts it, “I was a girl no one had heard of on a network that didn’t exist.” She’s got advice on how to not get caught up in the whirl of wanting fame, confidence, and finding inspiration for characters. Plus, she and Chris Hardwick come up with a solution to everyone thinking they’re so special, and it starts with a finite amount of shrimp. With a total of four TV shows with her name in them (four!!) over the span of 30 years, it’s hard to deny that Tracey Ullman’s career reads like a masterclass in doing your own thing. For anyone else trying to make a career out of doing their own thing, consider this episode your first assignment. [iTunes]
The Bugle - Zaltzman Showdown
Marc: The John Oliver-less incarnation of The Bugle is now in regular production, held up ably by Bugle co-founder Andy Zaltzman. Aiding him will be a revolving collection of guest co-hosts. The latest drop features his sister Helen Zaltzman, well-known host of the The Allusionist and Answer Me This podcasts. (It may be a team-up of convenience, as she’s had a rental mishap and is currently crashing at her brother’s place.) She fits right into the dry and snarky tone of the show from the start, and their sibling shorthand makes for lively repartee as they run down items of world news. All of the usual segments from the news satire show have remained following the departure of Oliver, plus this episode also introduces a new Donald Trump feature, “The Trumpet,” in which The Zaltzmen look at the latest movements to come from the US President-elect. It’s not clear how often his sister might be co-hosting the podcast, but Zaltzman will hopefully maximize the opportunity until she finds a new place to rent. [iTunes]
I Was There Too - The 50th Episode Squib Spectacular
Kathryn: It’s a very special 50th episode event on this week’s I Was There Too, as Matt Gourley takes a break from talking to actors present for the great scenes of cinema history. This week, Matt Was There Too, for the first time (technically the second time), getting squibbed. Squibbing is usually only a prominent conversation topic on IWTT, rather than the theme of a whole episode. But as James Caan wasn’t available to talk Godfather tommy guns, Matt recruited his podcast partner and boon companion Mark McConville to document the real thing with himself as the victim. You might think an audio medium is not the best way to experience the dazzling pyrotechnics involved in faking explosive gunfire, blood and death, but! Actually it is. Andrew from J&M Special Effects in Brooklyn does a great job of describing the process, and having Gourley’s other boon companions Paul F. Tompkins and Jeremy Carter there for the blessed event only amplifies the joy. You’ll learn a lot, and you’ll hear a longtime podcast hero’s dream come true. [iTunes]
Star Wars Minute - Attack of the Clones Minute 13
Pablo: On Sunday night, thousands of Star Wars fans bought tickets for Rogue One, confident in Disney’s ability to make quality space operas after the success of Episode VII. But would we have still bought those tickets if George Lucas was still at the helm? Probably. It’s not like the stink of Attack of the Clones, far and away my least favorite Star Wars film, drove us from seeing Darth Vader’s volcano-y birth in Episode III. And it hasn’t stopped me from listening to Star Wars Minute. After a short break to recover from The Phantom Menace, Alex Robinson and Pete the Retailer are back to analyze, scrutinize, and make fun of this dumpster fire of bluescreen sets, wooden acting, and a screenplay that was finished literally days before principal photography. Minute 13 focuses on the beloved, iconic scene replayed by generations of children: An ASN courier droid cuts open a window to Padme’s bedroom and drops some weird poisonous slugs to assassinate the senator. Seems like a convoluted attempt to kill someone, but I’m no bounty hunter. What makes Stars War Minute so great is the dual manner in which the hosts examine these movies. After several minutes of nerd talk trying to figure out what governmental role, if any, the Jedi have with the Galactic Republic, they put on their film critic hats complete with totally unnecessary blast shield to examine if this trilogy could’ve been saved by a different director. While a different, actor-orientated director could have provided the saga’s young stars with actual (read: any) advice or suggestions, it doesn’t change the fact that THE SHOOTING SCRIPT WAS COMPLETED DAYS BEFORE PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHY. [iTunes]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
Comedy Bang Bang - Ben Schwartz (and Lin Manuel-Miranda!)
How Did This Get Made? - The Lawnmower Man Live with Neil Casey and Emily Heller
2 Dope Queens - Bonus Episode! Oh, Hello
This Week Had Me Like - Stand With Maggiano’s
Pappy’s Flatshare Slamdown - Pay the Hotel Bill
You Made It Weird - Moshe Kasher #3
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.