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.
Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air - Michael Bennett on the Importance of Activism and Being a Historian
Mark: This is definitely preaching to the choir, but here’s a tip for those seething in anger over the NFL’s national anthem protests: just listen. Listen to the players who kneel, listen to black voices in the media, and listen to those who have to actually face widespread systemic oppression on a daily basis. Luckily, you can check all those boxes in one tidy 49-minute conversation between Larry Wilmore and Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett. Earlier this year, Bennett was wrongfully profiled by Vegas police and spoke about it in a letter every American citizen should read. It is an awful thing to happen to anyone, but in this episode Bennett proves he’s more equipped than most to handle the weight that comes with this kind of spotlight. I doubt you’ll find another NFL player that teaches Black History at his daughter’s school and has already watched the entirety of Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War. If you’re going to boycott the NFL, do it because Roger Goodell covered up CTE research, or because Roger Goodell outlawed dancing for 10+ years, or because Roger Goodell allowed the Jets to have a winning record this year. Don’t do it because fellow human beings are deciding to peacefully express their First Amendment rights. [Apple Podcasts]
Classroom Crush - Some Horny Mistakes with Fran Hoepfner
Noah: Dedicated podcast fans may know Rebecca Bulnes as a leading voice in the silly subset of critics who are podcast critics for occasionally recommending things other than Hollywood Handbook in The A.V. Club’s controversial “Podmass” feature, which gives her the rare distinction of being someone who actually should be starting a podcast this late in the game. Now on its third episode, Classroom Crush brings in Clickhole/The Onion/Twitter’s Fran Hoepfner to celebrate the times that boys being mean to them in high school made them inexplicably, uncontrollably, wrong-number-texting horny. Every week Rebecca daringly reads from actual transcripts of her pubescent flirting on Facebook to tear apart the pretense that this isn’t something every single one of us did when we were young and thirsty, and this episode’s featured crush/hot shit/cyber bully Enzo is a particular piece of work. It eases Fran into her own pass at her own 6’5” teenage alcoholic crush, Mark, and then further into a more serious conversation about coming out as a bisexual woman. Classroom Crush is beyond a refreshing podcast – it’s a brave new voice and a force in romance and young adult storytelling. [Apple Podcasts]
All Fantasy Everything - Kanye
Pablo: Choosing your top 5 Kanye West songs is a hard enough proposition (My picks: “All Falls Down,” “Guilt Trip,” “30 Hours,” “Everything I Am,” “Real Friends”), but the latest ep of All Fantasy Everything increases the scope of a Kanye draft by allowing anything Kanye-related. That means Kanye’s 2005 interview with Sway denouncing homophobia and his late mother Donda West are fair game to pick. Joining host Ian Karmel are AFE regulars David Gborie and Sean Jordan and comedian Marcella Arguello to draft the ultimate Kanye team. In last place is Sean’s list, which includes a couple merely OK songs off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Graduation and a pick for “Golddigger” solely for introducing him to Jamie Foxx’s singing career. While Gborie and Karmel’s drafts have some solid picks, including the beat from Jay-Z’s “Heart of the City” and Kanye’s debut performance of “Runaway” at the 2010 VMAs, the winner of the draft is clearly Marcella. Her lineup includes “Last Call,” introducing Amber Rose to the world, Kanye’s early TV appearance on Chappelle’s Show, Donda West, and College Dropout inspiring her to actually drop out of college. But she doesn’t just win for being a great rap GM. The former Bill Nye Saves the World writer tells an amazing story about The Science Guy sitting down to dissect two of Yeezy’s greatest bars: “I’m living in the future so the present is my past / My presence is a present, kiss my ass.” [Apple Podcasts]
Hard Nation - Craig Rowin
Kathryn: We’re overdue for a national conversation on the topic of standing for the national anthem, and Hard Nation is finally tackling it this week in the free speech zone. The Hard Bros. (Mike Still and Paul Welsh) sort everything out with Miguel Wargo (Craig Rowin, Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later), a homeless warbler who will automatically croon for any public gathering of six to twelve people, be they at a sporting event or an amateur fish fry. Listening to this episode is a patriotic display in its own right, given the stirring renditions of American standards like the Chili’s Baby Back Ribs song, Rent’s “Seasons of Love,” and the horniest version of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” you’ve ever heard. Wargo also debuts a groundbreaking mashup of the musical Into the Woods and the Hal Holbrook movie Into the Wild, and seeks justice for the pettiest crime of all, the death of Tom Petty. [Apple Podcasts]
372 Pages We’ll Never Get Back - Several Discreet Openings
Marc: One of next year’s hotly anticipated films is Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One. If you were planning to cram for the March release of the film by reading Ernest Cline’s 2012 novel the movie is based on, you might want to throw 372 Pages We’ll Never Get Back into your earholes. Or not. Because hosts Conor Lastowka and Michael J. Nelson are not fans. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that these guys hate Ready Player One with a passion. So much so that they’ve devoted this podcast to taking us through Cline’s version of a dystopian future chapter by chapter. The most recent installment looks at chapters 19 through 24, and the hosts relish in torturing each other by reading passages from that stretch. They also roast, in various turns, the logic, writing, and other inconsistencies that cause them to grown in the retelling. A regular feature of the show is “Stupidest Sentence of the Week,” candidates for which are sent in from their listeners, who the hosts regard as a kind of fellow haters’ book club. While I actually enjoyed breezing through Cline’s tribute to pop culture of the latter half of the 20th century, I can’t deny a certain pleasure in reliving it through 372 Pages’ comedically brutal thrashing. [Apple Podcasts]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
On Comedy Writing - Brian Kiley
The Hilarious World of Depression - Neal Brennan Gives Ketamine and Magnetic Impulses a Try
The Podcast For Laundry - Sam Taggert
The Bill Simmons Podcast - Marc Maron on Pioneering Podcasting, Performing Comedy in Boston, and Interviewing Celebrities
Inappropriate Earl - Josh Trovato of Hell’s Kitchen
Puppet Hunt - Episode 5
Doughboys - Yard House With Matt Besser
Got a podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.
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.