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.
The Need to Fail - Neil Casey
Leigh: There are no fewer than one billion places you can go if you want to learn about the comedian of your choosing’s big break. But over in a smaller, quieter, more introspective corner of the internet, Don Fanelli has been gathering the stories of the continued failures of our favorite writers and comedians and how those got them to where they are today. And this time he’s even got scientific proof, in the form of an article from The Atlantic, that there’s value in our failures. That brings us to this week’s guest, Neil Casey. If it seems like Neil Casey is on every show these days, it’s because he is. But instead of looking back at his career trajectory and wrapping it up in a nice, linear bow, Casey is very open about all the low points and the even lower points he had to work through to get to the place he’s at today. Whether it’s recognizing when you’ve hit a wall or the dangers of getting too comfortable or complacent, Casey’s stories are full of advice, encouragement, and yet another reminder that there’s value in your failures. [Apple Podcasts]
Suicide Buddies - Socrates
Mark: Too often, popular crime podcasts can feel like reading a Wikipedia page. Suicide Buddies is like reading a Wikipedia page if that page was annotated by two very funny comedians who know way too much about Rage Against the Machine. Each week Dave Ross and Hampton Yount swap roles – one looks up the story behind a famous suicide, and the other mercilessly interrupts him with silly bits. Both hosts complement each others’ ability to take the mundane and turn it into something borderline offensive and definitely funny. This week, the government-ordered suicide of Socrates is the focus, but as always, the laughs are prioritized over actual knowledge. Even though the ancient Greek philosopher was a martyr for free thought in the beginnings of democracy, the two comedians thankfully resist every urge to bust out the “now more than ever” and “it CAN happen here” platitudes. The darkness of Socrates’ demise is easier to swallow when it’s covered in 420/69 jokes and characters like the Yahtzee Nazi and Danny Dorito. In between all the laughs, you might even pick up a few trivia facts about Greek history. Not many shows deliver the laughs and fascinating history lessons like Suicide Buddies consistently does every week. [Apple Podcasts]
Marc: Whether you have or haven’t seen HBO’s The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, an amazing documentary on the life and comedy of one of America’s most unique comic voices, you’ll enjoy this episode of Sup Doc, featuring hosts Paco Romane and George Chen. Their guest is comedian Wayne Federman, a producer of the documentary (although he insists here that his involvement was “minimal compared to a lot of other people”). And the hosts are actually his guests as the interview is happening in Federman’s new house in Los Angeles. Federman is someone who ended up spending a lot of time around Shandling, both professionally (appearing on Shandling’s The Larry Sanders Show as Larry’s brother, Stan), and personally (“We went to the movies a lot because I was easy for him to hang around. I didn’t ask for a lot”). Their guest occasionally apologizes for taking the conversation down many tangents and side streets, but every one of them, whether Shandling was involved in the telling or not, is fascinating. This chat is a nice appetizer if you’re planning to see the documentary, or a great “after-doc” treat as it contains a lot of behind-the-scenes stories of both the two-part film and Shandling’s life off-camera. [Apple Podcasts]
Sooo Many White Guys - Terry Gross
Elizabeth: The interviewer becomes the interviewee on the latest episode of Sooo Many White Guys as Phoebe Robinson sits down with Fresh Air host Terry Gross. They start with Terry aka Terr-Bear aka T’s beginnings on a feminist radio show at the age of 22. She talks about learning on the air, thanks to the small listenership of her early stations, and how she handles asking uncomfortable questions about things like race and gender. Then they switch gears to discuss her somewhat unconventional relationship with her now-husband, who she was with for 18 years before getting married and moving in together. Terry—true to form—flips it around to question Phoebe about her long-distance relationship. She also gives some important advice to young women trying to get into a competitive field: Forget about believing yourself—work as hard as you can to do as good a job as you can and keep doing it until they make you stop. While the episode comes to a close, this isn’t the end of T and Phoebe. Look for them at Madison Square Garden sipping rosé and checking out Bruno Mars—possibly in coordinating Bruno/Cardi B outfits. [Apple Podcasts]
Bad Science - Star Wars
Pablo: While the question of whether Star Wars movies are sci-fi or not is up for debate (after all, it is centered on a religion that gifts its followers with metaphysical powers), you can’t argue that those space droids and space spice smugglers sure love doing stuff in space! On the premiere episode of Bad Science, Ethan Edenburg has invited NASA systems engineer Emily Manor-Chapman to answer his and Reggie Watts’ scientific questions about The Empire Strikes Back. Would cutting open a Tauntaun and sleeping inside its belly help you survive a freezing snowstorm? How does Bespin compare to our solar system’s own gas giants? How do Star Wars’ ion cannons differ from real life ion engines? Wait, ion is a real thing and not just a convenient plot tool allowing ships to be disabled without being blown up? The only thing they don’t answer is how proponents of the AT-AT’s phonetic pronunciation refer to the AT-ST. In the coming weeks, Bad Science will continue to excavate scientific knowledge from the American pop culture mine with movies like Back to the Future. [Apple Podcasts]
Jordan, Jesse, Go! - Aparna Nancherla
Kathryn: Aparna Nancherla is in LA to film season 2 of Comedy Central’s Corporate and stops by to see Jordan and Jesse this week to talk temporary LA life, bungalows, hoarding chaise lounges, and frying eggs (flip or no flip?). Nancherla’s always a fun person to have a meandering conversation with, so this episode works really well. It’s not really an interview at all – they talk more about what’s going on in Jordan and Jesse’s lives, and in The Rock’s career, than about their actual guest. Sure, it’s less anchored to anything, but that also means it’s not at all forced. [Apple Podcasts]
This Sounds Serious - The Call
Marc: The proliferation of true crime podcasts has led to the inevitable: Spoofs of true crime podcasts. Like many, This Sounds Serious lifts elements of style from Serial, the one that started the avalanche, as well as others that have come since. The premise is that journalist Gwen Radford, whose hobby is listening to 911 police emergency calls, is in the process of falling down the rabbit hole as she pursues one of those callers to get his story. The premiere episode is front-ended with bits and pieces of a call made in 2007 to a police emergency services operator from a man, Daniel Bronstadt, who has just discovered the body of his brother – his identical twin brother – Chuck, dead on his waterbed in the condo they share in Orlando, Florida. Daniel rambles to the operator, first in a panic, then in a conversational tone, then abruptly taking his shirt off because he’s hot, and ultimately dropping the phone to wander outside. Years later, Gwen tracks down Daniel to find out what happened that day and where he has been all these years later. I’m afraid my description doesn’t do the sly humor of this show justice but, suffice to say, I’ve subscribed so I don’t miss the next installment. [Apple Podcasts]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
Bitch Sesh - Live from Largo with Kaitlin OlsonAndy Daly Podcast Pilot Project - Rockin’ and A Rollin’ with Wolfman Hot DogFresh Air - Michelle Wolf on the Correspondents’ DinnerLA Podcast - SINCE YOU BEEN GONDOLANerdette - Power Up: Amy Schumer and Aidy BryantLet’s Talk About Sets! - TRUTH w/Kaytlin BaileyPodcast: The Ride - Kings Island with Dave FergusonLoner at Coyowolf Creek - Michellowolf Creek
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.