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.
Pablo: Journalist James Andrew Miller made his name over the last decade with three excellent oral histories on show business: Live From New York (SNL), Those Guys Have All The Fun (ESPN), and Powerhouse (CAA). And now the master of this format has recreated it for his new podcast, Origins. For its first “chapter” (all five episodes have been released simultaneously), Miller is documenting the genesis of Curb Your Enthusiasm ahead of its long-awaited season 9 premiere. In its first minutes, we find out that Larry David’s post-Seinfeld plan was to get back into standup and that Jeff Garlin recommended filming it for a documentary. While David disliked the idea, he thought the hour special might work if they peppered his routine with lightly scripted mockumentary scenes about his daily mundane life. But as they developed and began filming it, the standup parts became less interesting to them and the standalone scenes seemed more like a TV series. And just like that, a piece of essential comedy was born. The first episode covers a lot of ground, from a young David meeting former HBO head Chris Albrecht as a struggling standup to Cheryl Hines nailing the audition for David’s wife after a lengthy search. I haven’t dived into the other episodes yet, but they’re sure to be a must-listen, especially the final episode where David explains why he came back after all these years. [Apple Podcasts]
Fresh Batch - Bachelor in Paradise: Episode 7
Kathryn: Ostensibly a Bachelor-focused TV roundup hosted by Michelle Collins (The View, Bachelor in Paradise: After Paradise, Little Talk Live), Fresh Batch is more like a genuine therapy session this week when Collins is joined by Jessie Jolles and Claire Burns of the live show No Such Thing as Love. They talk about real things, like being single, losing a parent, keeping both parents, and being too tall to date. The episode’s refrain becomes “I can’t talk about it, it’s too personal!” but it’s not too personal and they do talk about it – so much so that an hour goes by before they get to the subject matter in the episode title. It’s a good time to eschew the Bachelor franchise, with Dean on Bachelor in Paradise currently making television’s hardest heel turn since Paul Bearer betrayed The Undertaker at SummerSlam 1996. Oh Internet, once we were Deanie Babies and now we have Deanie Rabies. Witness Dean’s technically flawless fuckboi coup de gras: treating Kristina like dirt until she finally leaves him, reassuring her that as a “confused, bad guy” who “hates himself” he is therefore still the real victim. Like a Lenwich cinnamon-raisin bagel with a scoop of tuna, we can’t talk about it, it’s too personal. [Apple Podcasts]
Wooden Overcoats - Funn Fragments
Marc: Just about this time last year, the cast and crew behind British sitcom podcast Wooden Overcoats were hip-deep into production for their second season. Those episodes dropped through the last quarter of the year and all has been still as the corpses at Funn Funerals ever since. Until now. Just last week, WO’s latest Kickstarter campaign got started with hopes of getting to a goal of 10,000 pounds, which is what the producers declared they would need to mount season 3. To help spur pledges, the campaign says, for every 2,000 pounds raised, they will produce and release a mini-episode — four in all — each a part of the “Funn Fragments” collection. In less than a week, pledges smashed through the 10,000-pound ceiling and, good as their word, the cast and crew have dropped all four “minisodes.” They are entitled “Antigone Antagonised,” “At Home in the Dark,” “The Social Rudyard,” and “Practical Magic.” They are sort of the equivalent of “bottle episodes” as they’re known in the TV sitcom world — all take place in one location (Funn Funerals) and they star series regulars Felix Trench, Beth Eyre, Tom Crowley, Ciara Boxendale, and Belinda Long in different combinations. (WO series creator David K. Barnes and the producers are also now on the hook for throwing in a bonus episode at the end of the season, “Rudyard Ruins Summer,” as a treat just for Kickstarter contributors.) Each of the minisodes is a quick snack, with none running longer than 12 minutes, but they’re just the thing to keep your ears occupied until season 3 is in the can. [Apple Podcasts]
Wow! What a Story! - Camping Trip
Leigh: If you’ve ever listened to NPR’s StoryCorps and wished they’d crank up the weird a whole lot more, then have I got a show for you. Professional storyteller, and if you ask me, professional nickname-giver Matt Radlow is back with another batch of Wow! What a Story! episodes. While the episodes are never longer than 10 minutes, they’re jam-packed with hours’ worth of “Did he really just say that!?” moments. Each one of these scripted episodes is so expertly crafted that the stories may sound like the ramblings of a psychopath, but if you’re paying attention, every single word is so perfectly placed it’s incredibly satisfying to hear jokes coming together. With this newest episode, “Camping Trip,” filled with gentle reminders of what things were like back in the ‘90s, you’re not only getting a nostalgic tale of a Boy Scout trip gone right, there’s also a spooky story tucked away inside waiting for you. Because hey – what’s a camping trip without one of those? And, if you’re like me, you’ll be plowing your way through the back catalog of old episodes as soon as you’re done listening to this one. [Apple Podcasts]
The Need to Fail - Alison Bennett
Elizabeth: After a four-year hiatus, Nightcap actor and UCB improviser Don Fanelli has brought his podcast, The Need to Fail, back—hopefully for the long haul. For the latest in the new batch of episodes, Don heads to downtown Los Angeles to interview You’re the Worst and LA>Vegas writer-producer Alison Bennett. Alison talks about the pilot that led her to quit her day job in New York, and why ultimately missing out on that show when it went to series led to an even better opportunity writing on MTV’s Hey Girl. She also shares why the hustle never ends even when you get your dream job and describes balancing a full day in the You’re the Worst writers’ room with pregnancy and working on her own projects. Don asks Alison about her love of self-help and she talks about how she read a ton of books on public speaking (and a few by Olympic athletes) when she started pitching her own projects. They wrap things up by discussing how she’s using another failure—her divorce—to fuel an upcoming project and the importance of staying prepared, being organized, and setting monthly, yearly, and long-range goals. It’s a great episode for anyone who wants to be a TV writer but is still figuring out how to get there. [Apple Podcasts]
WTF with Marc Maron - Steve Jordan
Mark: Even if you’re not a music fanatic, some of the best episodes of WTF are with musicians. Maron’s depth of knowledge and unbridled enthusiasm shines through the usual bitterness and implied envy we’ve come to know and love. Comedy fans may not know Steve Jordan by name, but the longtime drummer has played on some of the most legendary comedy and rock & roll stages in history. ‘70s SNL. The Blues Brothers tour with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. ‘80s Late Night with David Letterman. Not to mention he shared the studio with BB King, Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, Stevie Nicks, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and too many more luminaries to list. Props to Maron for doing an admirable job not fanboying too hard. In one too-good-to-be-true tale, Jordan recalls happening to wander into the Rolling Stones’ recording studio in London. Simply hearing it will make you believe in a higher musical power. [Apple Podcasts]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
How Did This Get Made - Bratz (w/ Kate Berlant)
Super Hero Speak - Rusty Symbol
Doughboys - KFC with Paul F. Tompkins
The Dork Forest - Sara Schaefer
Stick It! With Mr. Biggs - Moldable Glue and Salted Plywood
WTF - Warren Hutcherson
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.