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.
Who Charted - Paul F. Tompkins, Brett Morris, Kevin Bartelt
Pablo: Last week’s shocking Who Charted saw co-host Kulap Vilaysack announce that she was leaving the show after seven years. While the split was anything but acrimonious, her sudden departure and vague reasons for doing so left many a Chartist wondering how Howard Kremer was going to continue the show without her. On his first episode as the sole host, Howard copes with the loss by counting down the five stages of grief through a music chart. It’s played for laughs and there’s also a lengthy movies chart segment with PFT about the Academy Awards, but I can’t help but wonder what Howard is going to do with the show. Kulap’s honesty, emotional empathy, and the ability to keep the show moving and on track perfectly meshed with Howard’s tangents and eccentric beliefs. Will he get a new host? Will unofficial co-host and engineer Brett Morris step in? Maybe a reboot is in order. Summah is coming up quicker than you might think. [Apple Podcasts]
The Need to Fail Podcast - Josh Gondelman
Mark: Doing comedy in the 1950s must have been unnerving. All it took was one Ed Sullivan appearance for a comedian to go from being a complete unknown to a household name. By the time he or she (but most likely he) appeared on national television, he presented a finely polished product. People like Don Fanelli are doing essential storytelling right now by letting the next generation hear the seemingly endless struggle that comes before the big break. Previous guests have represented all avenues of comedy, from writers to standups to improvisers and all the hyphenates in between. Even America’s tweetheart, Josh Gondelman, had his low points, as he so generously shares in this week’s episode. Without giving away the story, you have to think anyone who’s ever been to Atlantic City before could have warned him about taking a weeklong gig at the Tropicana. After the cringey club story, Gondelman gives a hearty breakdown of the unique combination of writing, math, and hustle that goes into life as a working standup. Send this to silence your loudest co-worker – the one who says he should try comedy too. [Apple Podcasts]
Go Fact Yourself - Kirsten Vangsness & Jason Kravits
Marc: This trivia/game show, hosted by J. Keith van Straaten and Helen Hong, pops out every two weeks and is recorded in front of a live crowd in Los Angeles. The latest guests vying to be smarter than the other are actress Kirsten Vangsness (Criminal Minds) and actor Jason Kravits (frequent TV guest star). What makes this show unique in the genre is that the guests tell the hosts what topics they really love, and the bulk of the Q&A then puts that affection to the test. In Vangsness’s case it’s the band Duran Duran, while Kravits knows the movie Young Frankenstein like the back of his hand. The questions ramp up in complexity and obscurity, and there are even experts in the subjects to judge the contestants on the hardest questions. In the case of Young Frankenstein, it’s Danny Goldman, who played Medical Student in the class Gene Wilder’s character is teaching in the beginning of the film. Van Straaten is the consummate host for a show like this, with Hong doing a great job adding great commentary and keeping things moving. [Apple Podcasts]
Hollywood Handbook - Peter Serafinowicz and Griffin Newman
Kathryn: It took just four years of dishing dirt on the secrets of Hollywood success for Sean and Hayes to discover press junkets. And now that they have, there’s no going back. They immediately sign up to cycle through interview rooms and probe the biggest stars about their newest projects alongside other media outlet juggernauts like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. Our hosts grab a brief one-hour time slot to chat with Hollywood’s hottest voice (Peter Serafinowicz) and body (Griffin Newman), AKA “The Tick and his friend,” as they return to Amazon for the second half of their first season. On their first-ever junket, the Hollywood Boys knock it out of the park, playing chess, ruminating on Peter’s hog, and asking “What’s the story with bugs, and how big of bugs?” making for an overall primo audio experience. [Apple Podcasts]
The Podcast For Laundry - BONUS! CEREAL The Podcast w/ Bridey Elliott
Noah: The Podcast For Laundry presents a free version of the new Patreon-exclusive sub-show Brett Davis has been promising for months: a podcast about cereal called Cereal. While it shares no stylistic similarities to the soundalike that inspired it, it’s still the perfect first expansion on Laundry’s world: after another abrupt ending to another hostile interview on the main show, Brett has stalked Bridey Elliott to the laundry room across the street from her apartment to fulfill the promise he made to his supporters that he’d also get her to do Cereal. Brett’s psychosexual obsession with laundry continues in explicit form with Bridey, whose name also rhymes with his new lover, an extra large bottle of detergent called Tidey that was introduced on Brett’s cross-country move – flee, really – to Los Angeles. Bridey’s landlord intervenes, “blue lives don’t matter,” and more parody songs debut in an episode that makes a strong case for anyone on the fence about supporting the show. It’s safe to say there have been a lot of stupid send-ups of Serial, but podcasting didn’t know dumb concepts until Brett Davis came along. Don’t take that the wrong way, Brett. Please. Don’t kill me. [Apple Podcasts]
Armchair Expert - Adam Scott
Marc: Actor Dax Shepard (Hit and Run, Without a Paddle) has kicked off a podcast of exploration because he says he’s “endlessly fascinated by the messiness of being human,” and he considers himself qualified thanks to ten years of sobriety, a degree in anthropology, and four years of improv training. He also has a smartphone with celebrity friends’ phone numbers, which gives him much needed access. His latest excursion has Adam Scott in Shepard’s attic to plumb the depths of his life, which includes a generous sharing of anecdotes from that adventure starting with growing up in Santa Cruz, California. He explains how his headlong pursuit of dramatic acting accidently led him into comedy, to the point that he is now co-producing (with his wife Naomi) the comedy-meets-supernatural-investigation TV show Ghosted. Shepard reveals that Scott beat him out for a role early on in both of their careers, the resentment lasting just until he saw the film (Step Brothers) and realized that his soon-to-be-buddy was exactly right for the role. A fun extra element of the show is that actor Monica Padman (CHIPS), who is a kind of producer/sidekick, sits with the host after the guest has left and fact-shames Shepard for all the references thrown out that he got wrong. [Apple Podcasts]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
Entry Level - Kyle Mooney
Dumb People Town - Andy Richter
Learnt Up - Judy Chicago & Rebecca Walker
Las Culturistas - Advanced Actresses (w/ Tyler Coates)
Playable Characters Podcast - Peppy Hare from Starfox (w/ Patrick Reidy)
The Best Show - Philly Boy Roy! Sound Collage! Miss Alex White! Ayyyyy SMR!
Got a podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.
Kathryn Doyle is a science writer from New York.
Mark Kramer is a writer, comedian & human boy from Staten Island, New York, but please don’t hold that against him.