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.
Elizabeth: Lately, my podcast listening habits have been leaning heavily towards shows about how we’re all going to die at the hands of serial killers, climate change, or gerrymandering, so it’s a delight to listen to Jo Firestone’s Dr. Gameshow, which is just pure fun. The popular program, which features comedian guests and listeners as contestants in listener-submitted games, recently moved from WFMU to Earwolf after a hiatus. In the latest episode of the season, Jo and her co-host Manolo Moreno are joined by Aparna Nancherla, Ashley Brooke Roberts, and a trove of musical instruments. They play the surprisingly intense “Alaska, I’ll Ask Her,” which asks the contestants to guess whether some supposed Alaskan towns are real places and if so, to name their populations. Next, they’re joined by listener Mello and some people she met on Craigslist—including a guy named T-Bone—for “Can I Have That Seat?,” a game that tests the contestant’s ability to get Manolo to give up his subway seat. The show closes with the contestants combining genres to create a film to be greenlit by producer Manolo in “Pitch a Masterpiece.” [Apple Podcasts]
How To Be Amazing - Taran Killam
Kathryn: Michael Ian Black puts craft and care into selecting guests for How To Be Amazing and into constructing its episodes, with aspects of editing and post-production rare in the comedy interview format. And he doesn’t complain about how much work it is, unlike your average podcast host, perhaps because he’s genuinely interested in the people he talks to. Taran Killam (of SNL, Hamilton, and his directorial debut Killing Gunther) makes a perfect guest, equal parts candid and likable. Black had a love scene with Killam’s wife Cobie Smulders in David Wain’s They Came Together, but that doesn’t make things weird. Killam talks frankly about how dating Amanda Bynes and starring in The Amanda Show shaped his view of fame, and achieving industry success without demanding the limelight through consistent hard work. Killam is one of the most honest comedy performers working today, who managed to make it all the way to the top, survive at SNL for six years, and get somewhat painfully cut before his final year, and still has a healthy relationship with show business. He’s been critical of how the show handled Trump pre- and post-election: profiting on his campaign, then profiting on condemning his presidency, and doesn’t seem intent on staying in Lorne’s good graces or on burning the place down behind him. [Apple Podcasts]
The Gist - Putting Dr. Seuss on the Couch
Marc: The Gist is a daily offering, part of the content catered by Slate. Host Mike Pesca has just the kind of engaging and slightly sardonic delivery that I particularly enjoy in a podcast that talks about selected current events. Coming in usually under a half-hour per episode, Pesca has to pick and choose which subjects to delve into but, coming out on a daily basis, he eventually gets to anything that’s worthwhile. Each day there’s a guest who serves as a kind of anchorpoint for the show, with patter from Pesca on either end. Recently Philip Nel helps the host to unpack the incident in September where Melania Trump offered to donate some Dr. Seuss books to the library at Cambridgeport Elementary School in Boston. What ensues is a fascinating short dive into Nels’ study of Dr. Seuss and how many of his stories are either blatantly or subtly racist in nature, while others use storytelling to rail against it. (The title character in The Cat in the Hat, for example, seems to have used the template of a minstrel singer for a portion of his characterization.) Pesca closes the show with a monologue of sorts, which he calls the spiel, and this one’s a goody: What if President Trump’s whole agenda is all about leveraging his office for the sake of stirring up constant and willful distraction? [Apple Podcasts]
Lou Reads the Internet - Reads Posts From Hiccup Forum
Pablo: Every couple of years, a news story will appear about somebody who has been hiccuping for 8 years straight. It’s scary and a little funny but mostly scary because I’m sure karma will get me for chuckling at unstoppable body spasms. Dating someone with this condition would be almost as annoying as being the hiccuper, but to the weirdos on HiccupForum.com, a nonstop hiccuper is the ultimate catch. On the latest Lou Reads the Internet, Lou Fernandez spends an hour bringing this fetish to life through their own words. The first thread he reads doesn’t disappoint: “Why do teen girls hiccup up the most?” Their unscientific theories include boob development and constant giggling. If that doesn’t send you running, there’s lots more cringeworthy threads about keeping calm when family members can’t stop hiccuping and which Disney Channel star they’d love to see hiccup. Make sure to hold your breath, bite a lemon, or pull your tongue before listening to this episode. [Apple Podcasts]
WTF - Willem Dafoe
Marc: Part of the fun of listening to an interview is seeing how the interviewer “cracks the code” to get inside of his subject and get to some truly compelling conversation. My guilty pleasure with WTF host Marc Maron’s recent chat with actor Willem Dafoe is that he doesn’t quite get there. Oh, it’s a good conversation. Dafoe is a fascinating guy with a filmography as long as your arm (118 features and counting), but he seems to have developed the ability to deflect people away from whatever’s lurking inside. At one point earlier in their talk when Maron’s gotten him to talk about his early family life, Dafoe says, “Oh, we’re going there pretty quick,” and after that it seems that it’s game on. Once a guest starts to take an interest in Maron’s existence, that’s when the host can slip inside, but Dafoe doesn’t take any of the bait. That’s all very meta, though. Rest assured Dafoe passes along some great anecdotes, and you’ll likely learn more about one of the more fascinating actors of our time than you ever have before. [Apple Podcasts]
Hollywood Handbook - Erin Gibson, Our Close Friend Again
Noah: You can usually spot the mark of a new era in Hollywood Handbook a mile away. Since their 200th episode threat to quit, the boys have doubled down on their efforts to turn their podcast into a profitable enterprise with guests like Jessica Chaffin, DC Pierson, Lou Wilson, and Bryan Safi joining to give their own advice and voiceovers to two Hollywood it boys whose stars are increasingly fading. A week after her Throwing Shade co-host Safi made perhaps the biggest breakthrough so far in Hayes and Sean’s quest, Erin Gibson hits the studio to alternately shame Bryan for being a bad person who couldn’t keep up (even though Sean and Hayes always give their guests a lot of opportunity and only steamroll one another) and give practical advice on what to do when your wheelin’ and dealin’ silver screen career invariably is met with allegations of sexual assault. The boys, as always, come prepared, with Sean all but stumping Erin when he reveals that his scenario was actually one involving him and the dog he lives with in the sick basement apartment in his dad’s house. Co-host Sean, in fact, really comes out of Hayes’s shadow this week – the first appearance of Santa Man in months steals the show in a great batch of ads. Seriously, watch out for Tom Scharpling. [Apple Podcasts]
The Worst Writer in the World - Rapunzel, Part 1
Marc: If you’re not familiar with Rufus and Howard, hosts and creators of such multi-season comedy podcasts as ManBuyCow and The Adventure of Grett Binchleaf, you’ve missed a lot of humor by two British guys who’ve known each other since childhood. Now in their 30s, still friends, and deeply into their second childhoods, they’ve just kicked off a new offering, The Worst Writer in the World. It refers to Howard, who has dredged up everything he’s written since he was a boy. While exceedingly prolific, Howard clearly was riding a steep learning curve when it came to figuring out how this whole writing thing works. Rufus takes on the task of giving a dramatic reading of Howard’s works, all the while attempting, through conversation with his partner, to work out how Howard’s brain works. In part 1 of “Rapunzel”, Rufus discovers that Howard has attempted a sort of reboot of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale. As he plays the several roles that have been penned, Howard offers a running stream of rationales for his wordy and often ridiculous narrative. What I’m not doing this show justice at is how funny it is – pure Rufus and Howard. [Apple Podcasts]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
2 Dope Queens - Marc Maron Is Very Needy
Barely Friending - The Return of Chris Gordon
Playing Games with Jimmy Pardo - Premiere with Nikki Glaser
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.
Kathryn Doyle is a science writer from New York.