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.
Edge of Fame - Norm Macdonald
Kathryn: In the new WBUR/NPR podcast collaboration with The Washington Post, Edge of Fame, journalist Geoff Edgers paints a picture of celebrity by following a few in their daily lives. Half of the first eight episodes feature comedy idols: Norm Macdonald, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and Weird Al. Episode 1 features Norm Macdonald, whom Geoff follows from a September 2016 appearance on Jimmy Fallon (in which Norm loses jokes on the way to the show and his wallet on the way to the airport) to a 2017 set at a club on Inauguration Day (where Norm becomes distracted by low-level basketball games he’s put money on). Both times, Norm kills, and by 2018 he’s negotiating for his own Netflix talk show. Edgers juxtaposes Norm’s personal and public lives on these occasions, weaving together joke highlights and analysis from his early days at SNL with present-day talk show appearances and private conversations to make a convincing argument that Norm today is funnier than he ever has been, though that doesn’t align with his level of fame over time. It’s an in-depth profile of a person and a career, rather than the usual face-to-face sit-down at a recording studio: more This American Life than Comedy Bang Bang, including actual reporting, interviews with Letterman and Norm’s mom, and Norm himself talking about the nature of success while audibly shaving. [Apple Podcasts]
Whiting Wongs - Gender Neutral Scripts & the Great Shark Debate
Marc: When Dan Harmon, the mayor of Harmontown, wants to unwind (but still be doing a podcast), he’s doing it in the company of Jessica Gao. Most of their interactions are about race and writing and, as they say in the show description, they know they won’t solve racism in Hollywood, but they still like to talk about it. Now 14 episodes in, Harmon and Gao decide it’s time to take to the podwaves by answering listener mail. Turns out that said listeners are very well-spoken (well-written?) when it comes to issues of race, sexuality, and the forces arrayed against them. Harmon goes off talking about the attempt he once made to write a script around a character that never had their gender described in the entire show, and how difficult it was to actually write for that. Gao takes her co-host to task later on about his almost fanatical hatred of sharks. All sharks, bar none, and no quarter given. Despite his rabid “sharkist” ways, Harmon and Gao patch things up by show’s end. [Apple Podcasts]
Off Book: The Improvised Musical - Reborn In The Fire: Live at Nerdmelt (w/ Rachel Bloom)
Mark: Have you ever seen live musical improv? Good musical improv is rare and hard to beat. Bad musical improv is far more common and much harder to recover from. Have no fear, you’re always in good hands with Zach Reino and Jessica McKenna at the mic. Even better hands with this week’s guest, the foremost musical comedian on television today, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom. Bloom is in far lighter spirits than she was in her grounding appearance on The Hilarious World of Depression last week. What begins with a very inside basketball dig at UCB’s Maude Night turns into several rousing numbers on basketball, sports betting, firemen, and betting on firemen. It’s a blast, and the performers playing to the live audience compounds the fun. Every episode of Off Book is an amazing feat of comedic and musical synchronicity – even the ads are must-listen. [Apple Podcasts]
Doodie Calls - Erin McGown
Pablo: You ever keep a dead podcast in your subscriptions on the off chance it’ll come back to you? I was that person, standing atop my widow’s walk hoping that my favorite podcast about shitting your pants would sail back into my life. And to my surprise, Doodie Calls actually returned last December after a two-year hiatus. The podcast picks up right where it left off with a story from Erin McGown about crapping herself while working as a celebrity assistant. McGown tested the Shit Gods by having a decadent dinner before babysitting her boss’ kids, only to immediately poop her pants. And when she turtle-walked to the bathroom, there was no toilet paper. Good thing Erin didn’t have both a storytelling show and a first date following work… oh wait, she totally did. Let this be a lesson to all Hollywood assistants: If your boss tells you she’ll take care of buying toilet paper, that means she wants you to buy toilet paper. [Apple Podcasts]
Comedy Bang Bang - Patton Oswalt, Andy Daly, Mary Sohn
Marc: I think it’s safe to say that Comedy Bang Bang, considered to be the flagship show of the Earwolf network, and its host Scott Aukerman, consistently deliver a great comedy product. This week is no exception, especially with powerhouse guests like Patton Oswalt playing himself and Andy Daly returning as Dalton Wilcox, self-proclaimed Poet Laureate of the West. A refreshing new voice comes in the form of Mary Sohn, who not only embodies physical therapist Pam Tran but also co-stars with Oswalt on NBC’s new A.P. Bio comedy series debuting this week. Oswalt and Aukerman share memories of doing “punch-up” joke writing on a Looney Tunes cartoon series for TV a while back, and the lead-off guest also taking his daughter to visit the set of Sesame Street. Things roar off in a crazier direction when Dalton Wilcox starts spinning stories about his recent trip to Scotland, where he “took down” the Loch Ness Monster. “Nessie” happened to be shapeshifted into the form of a rude bartender at the time and Wilcox, who is always on the hunt for vampires, werewolves, and the like, was able to dispatch the ancient critter with a single silver bullet. “I only use silver bullets these days,” he assures us, “because who wants to be caught out with regular bullets if you don’t have to?” [Apple Podcasts]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
improv4humans - Bobby Moynihan, Dan Lippert, Betsy Sodaro
1994 - January w/Josh Gondelman
Podcast: The Ride - ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
Almost Better Than Silence - All Logic is Out the Window
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.