best of 2018

The Year in Comedy Podcasts

From the end of 2 Dope Queens to the beginning of Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.

Photo: Maya Robinson/Vulture
Photo: Maya Robinson/Vulture

Twenty eighteen was another big year for comedy podcasts — so big, in fact, that what was once just a comedy-nerd activity broke into the mainstream. Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson’s beloved 2 Dope Queens came to an end with guest Michelle Obama and made its television debut as a series of HBO specials (with more on the way). My Dad Wrote a Porno also garnered the attention of HBO and is being developed as a 2019 comedy special. The Good Place launched a behind-the-scenes podcast, while some guy named Conan O’Brien started a podcast of his own.

Elsewhere in Podcast Land, Paul F. Tompkins, Lauren Lapkus, and Scott Aukerman’s Threedom and Wayne Federman’s The History of Standup launched; while Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas’s beloved How Did This Get Made? celebrated its 200-episode mark. The Onion released the very funny A Very Fatal Murder. Jay Leno went on WTF. Staind Glass made its glorious return. There was also an entire podcast devoted to the movie Tag.

It’s a lot to keep up with, so as we’ve done in years past, our weekly reviewers have sifted through another packed year of podcasting episodes to select the funniest, most interesting, and most important comedy podcast episodes of 2018, divided by a handful of superlatives (because the award for Best Paul F. Tompkins Appearance is important!) as well as our picks for the five best episodes of the year.


Best Podcast We Said Good-bye To — 2 Dope Queens

We throw around the phrase “it’s the end of an era” a lot these days, like “Thank you” or “No, Pepsi is not fine,” but it’s no overstatement to say that this is really the end of an era. The beloved 2 Dope Queens was one of the preeminent podcasts of the earbud golden age and topped the iTunes charts and the charts in our hearts for four years, all the way through their last episode this November. From Phoebe Robinson’s Blaria blog, to her monthly Brooklyn stand-up show Blaria LIVE! with Jessica Williams, to the 2 Dope Queens podcast debut in 2016, to their spin-off Sooo Many White Guys, and their hit HBO specials this year, the Queens have nailed it every time and showcased female comedians, comedians of color, and LGBTQ comedians you haven’t heard of yet but will soon. On their last episode they reached the apotheosis of podcasting and sat down with Michelle Obama, so there was nowhere to go but onto bigger and better media. Culture in general owes a big debt to 2 Dope Queens. —Kathryn Doyle

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best New Concept — Cool Playlist

The anxious fun that goes into making someone the most emotionally revealing of gifts — the mixtape — is not dead in the digital era, no matter what decrepit clingers of physical media might lead you to believe. And there are few people who understand the love that goes into creating a playlist more than comedian and head writer of TBS’s Drop the Mic, Eliza Skinner. Debuting in February 2018, Cool Playlist’s concept hit that sweet spot between simplicity and genius: Each week, Eliza and a guest create a ten-song playlist based on a scenario of the guest’s choosing. Due to the idiosyncrasies of her guests, this means episodes run the gamut from helpfully practical (“Getting Ready for a Girls’ Night”) to self-help positivism (“First Day in a Very Cool Outfit”) to scenarios that will never happen but are just cool to think about (“I Suddenly Have Super Powers, I Gotta Figure Out How to Use Them”). All great podcasts create an eerily personal connection between host/guest and listener, but that can take months to establish. Cool Playlist, on the other hand, forms those bonds instantly with episodes where Lauren Lapkus shares her ‘90s middle-school dance playlist, or Will Weldon reveals what’s playing while he eats fast food alone in his car. —Pablo Goldstein

Listen: Apple | Website

Best Advice Podcast — Sip on This With Ashley Nicole Black

Earlier this year, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee’s Ashley Nicole Black “secreted” her way to a new gig by announcing on Twitter that she wanted an advice column. DAME magazine agreed and quickly launched her column “Sip on This.” But advice is always best when it comes with multiple perspectives, which is what makes the Sip on This podcast so successful. Black has recruited some of the wisest and funniest women to help tackle the burning questions of listeners and figure out the current state of the world. The guest list includes everyone from Rebecca Traister to Black’s mom, Angela, but some of my favorite episodes feature Black’s fellow comedians including Amber Ruffin and Samantha Bee. The show never shies away from tough topics — several episodes were taped during the Kavanaugh hearings — and the questions often revolve around race, activism, and female anger. It’s a podcast that will make you laugh and just might make you a better person. —Elizabeth Stamp

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Movie Podcast — Black Men Can’t Jump in Hollywood

Jonathan Braylock, Jerah Milligan, and James III have been judging movies on the “Did it help the Cause?” scale for a few years now. After making (as part of the talented ensemble) Astronomy Club’s hilarious digital series for Comedy Central, and recently landing their own development deal with IFC, things are moving in a well-deserved direction for these three hypertalented comedians. And progress finally seems to be inching ahead for Hollywood altogether. Films with underrepresented leads came out this year across a wider variety of budgets and genres than ever before, making Black Men Can’t Jump’s analysis even more essential. Episodes reviewing 2018 releases like The First Purge, BlacKkKlansman, Sorry to Bother You, Creed 2, Uncle Drew (including a bonus interview with director Charles Stone III), Crazy Rich Asians, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Widows, and Black Panther, to name a few, offered meaningful insight rarely found in the straight-white-male–dominated world of film criticism. The only way Black Men Can’t Jump in Hollywood could improve in the new year is if they allowed some racist guest to “mix things up” one episode, only for Will Smith’s iconic Hancock to swoop in halfway through and power-bomb that person into the moon. James III will get his wish one day. —Mark Kramer

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best BTS Podcast — The Good Place Podcast

Only in reference to this podcast is this true: “Everything is Great!” In a race leading up to season three premiere, Marc Evan Jackson (Shawn) and his guests covered, in depth, all 26 episodes of seasons one and two of The Good Place like true motherforkers. They’ve been digging into season three each week since then. Every moment of every episode is dissected and enlightened by every resident of The Good Place, from actors, writers, producers, costume designers, casting directors, and honestly I’m waiting for the boom op and D’Arcy Carden’s stand-in. This isn’t just for the “show universe” nerd in you, this is a crash-course in TV production. It spends as much time with the special-effects director as it does with The Ted Danson and The Kristen Bell. The “weirdest half-hour of American television,” as Jackson’s affectionately nicknamed it, itself attracts a cult-like following, and for fans with questions, theories, and an obsession with Neighborhood 12358W, this podcast is your fix in between episodes. Shirt, I can’t even go into all the juicy anecdotes you get because I might SPOIL something for some dink who isn’t caught up! Do yourself a favor: Don’t listen without having watched the corresponding episode. What are you, an Arizona dirtbag? —Anna Marr

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Podcast for Aspiring Comedians — The Need to Fail With Don Fanelli

If you want to get into comedy, or any creative profession, really, you’re going to have to get used to rejection and failure. But knowing that failure is a part of any career doesn’t make it easier when it happens. What does help is knowing that you’re not the only one, and that the people whose careers and credits you put on pedestals have fallen on their faces and considered giving up just as many times as you have. The Need to Fail came back from a four-year hiatus in 2017, and this past year brought a number of standout episodes including interviews with Insecure’s Natasha Rothwell, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee’s Kristen Bartlett, and First Impressions’ Frank Garcia-Hejl. Whether you want to be a performer, a stand-up, a writer, or a musician, Fanelli has interviewed someone this year who has been in your shoes — and made it through. —Elizabeth Stamp

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Miniseries — (tie) Doughboys’ Octdoughberblessed & Podcast the Ride’s CityWalk Saga

Other than sharing the same extended podcast universe and featuring a total of five childless men as hosts, both of these consistently excellent shows extract every possible ounce of entertainment from their respective subject matter. Doughboys has been lauded plenty for its semiannual themed runs, ranging from “so bad it’s good” (Rocklobsterfest) to genuinely great (Tournament of Chompions). This October brought us Octdoughberlessed, a tribute to fast-food chains tied to religion. Chains visited included Chick-Fil-A and Cracker Barrel and culminated in a shocking brunch with Lindsay Katai at a location too controversial to reveal in writing. The biggest change in format was evident in the hosts’ chemistry, where Mitch and Wiger exchanged their trademark hostility for niceties. The refreshing dynamic ensures Octdoughberblessed will be a joy to relisten to in five years when both hosts will be, by their own accounts, long deceased. Meanwhile, Scott Gairdner, Mike Carlson, and Jason Sheridan tested Podcast: The Ride’s limits by shifting from the minutiae of theme parks onto the corporate utopia that is Universal CityWalk in a whopping 19 episodes in 19 consecutive days. Even as the hosts’ interest in the kitschy casual dining restaurants and clothing stores wavered, contributions from enthusiastic guests like Paul Scheer, Eva Anderson, the supernatural Sector Keeper (Anthony Gioe), and Zach Reino’s wonderful theme song kept each episode fresh. The saga serves as a handy travel guide to current and future residents of Los Angeles as well as a lesson on commitment to a bit. —Mark Kramer

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website / Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Live Episode — With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus, Conan O’Brien: Wild Horses Live at Largo

A once-available episode that has since disappeared behind the dreaded paywall is far and away the best live episode of 2018. In my opinion, this alone justifies signing up for a Stitcher Premium account. From the get-go, our audience is excited and ready to go, and their energy can be felt through the cheapest pair of headphones. What has the crowd so lively, you ask? Obviously it’s the spirited conversation between the L.A.-based Wild Horses (Lauren Lapkus, Mary Holland, Stephanie Allynne, Erin Whitehead), and up-and-coming comedian Conan O’Brien. I like to believe O’Brien had so much fun here that he felt the need to start his own podcast. Given the Wild Horses are accomplished performers, combined with O’Brien’s 4,000+ live shows of experience, the five clearly know how to work a crowd — seeing the Wild Horses riff caused excitement usually reserved for a Rolling Stones concert. In the latter part of the show, their conversation takes an interesting turn toward that of depression and therapy. After O’Brien shares some insightful thoughts on the matter, Lapkus brings us back to Sillyville with one of the funniest callbacks of all time. O’Brien described the moment as “atomic.” If you don’t have time to leave the house and see a live comedy show, do the next best thing and download this one today! —Tom Rainey

Listen: Website

Best Theme Song — Dumb People Town

One of the most delightful things about the medium of podcasting is that those with it are free to cherry-pick some of the best parts of the various media that preceded it. That included the old TV show tradition of having themes with actual lyrics that introduced the characters and spelled out the main premise of the show. Not every show does it, but of those that do, they tend to be pretty catchy. Add to their number the opening strains to Dumb People Town, with Dan and Randy Sklar, and Daniel Van Kirk:

Dan and Rand and Jay will share

Tales of folks so unaware

They lack in grace and sometimes choose the life

The life they choose will make the news

Breaking down each epic fail

In Florida there’s half-priced bail

I’m happy to say they couldn’t make this up

So welcome to our podcast jam

With our co-host, our man Dan Van Kirk

Don’t be a jerk

’Cause when the music quits

The funny hits

And we are gonna take you down

Stick around, make a sound

Hunker down, it’s Dumb People Town!

In their 100th episode (that dropped this month) from Largo at the Coronet in Los Angeles, their theme was done up in fine style and performed live by musician Ted Leo. —Marc Hershon

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Extended Podcast Universe — Las Culturistas & Seek Treatment

Last year, Las Culturistas, hosted by Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang, firmly established itself as one of the best podcasts of 2017. Between their delightful chemistry with each other, deep pop-culture knowledge, and beloved “I Don’t Think So, Honey” segment and now live shows, Bowen and Matt became a reliable font of hilarious takes on all things culture. Then, earlier this year when Seek Treatment with Cat & Pat, hosted by Catherine Cohen and Pat Regan, first burst into our earholes, they referred to themselves as the sister podcast of Las Culturistas. Now, 20+ episodes into Seek Treatment, it does in fact feel very much like a natural extension of the Las Culturistas universe. They have many of the same guests —  especially those you may not get to hear from a lot on other podcasts, sometimes in the same or consecutive weeks. They’re both on the Forever Dog Podcast Network. They perform live on the same shows. And it’s safe to assume some kind of Las Culturistas/Seek Treatment crossover event will likely happen at some point. Individually, they’re all over the internet’s deluge of year-end and best-of lists, and this one is no different (though why my favorite song of 2018, Catherine Cohen’s “Other People,” was not on some sort of Billboard top whatever list seems like a grave oversight to me). They’re four brilliant voices (both in the singing and the of a generation senses) shaping a new wave of New York comedy. So given the fact that between the two podcasts we can hear from them twice a week? I hope this is okay to say, but … yex of courx we’re obbssoooossed. — Leigh Cesiro

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website / Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Paul F. Tompkins Appearance — The Dumbbells

Between the several that he’s hosted in the past, the ones he currently hosts, and the no fewer than one billion that he’s been a guest on, Paul F. Tompkins is the undisputed king of podcasts. While such a title undoubtedly brings great honor and respect, singling out his best podcast appearance of the year gets increasingly harder. But the time he joined Eugene Cordero and Ryan Stanger on The Dumbbells is a standout — not only as a good listen, but as something that could help you on your way to becoming a better person. The three not only talk physical health and fitness, as you do when you’re on The Dumbbells, but PFT shared great insights on his approach to mental health and self-care. And, as you close out 2018 promising yourself to be better next year, The Dumbbells is the perfect podcast to help you tackle those lofty 2019 goals. —Leigh Cesiro

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Podcast to Pull a Vanishing Act — Whiting Wongs

Dan Harmon and Jessica Gao’s brilliant podcast project originally arose out of last year’s Pickle Rick-Susan Sarandon whitewashing mistake. It also represented a powerful rejection of Rick and Morty’s toxic male fandom. The show quickly became a must-listen for just about anyone interested in the future of the entertainment industry. Seven months after the season one finale, there are still too few consistently hilarious podcasts where you can find such candid arguments about stereotypes, fake diversity in Hollywood, and privilege. As a half-white, half-Asian listener, these discussions often mirrored those I’ve spent a lifetime bouncing around —  part Harmon, shamefully confronting my own internalized biases and outdated societal norms, and part Gao, quick to call bullshit and often fed up with the Harmon side. Harmon welcomed playing the white guy punching bag to a broad range of stellar guests like Jimmy O. Yang, Jas Waters, and environmental scientist Sora Kim. The conversations were always nuanced and thoughtful, modeling the type of necessary dialogue that is impossible to replicate on social media. With Rick and Morty’s infinite episode pickup by Adult Swim and Gao’s exciting development deal at ABC, the future of Whiting Wongs is still up in the air. But fans are still blindly rooting for a return, if only to fill the orc-sized hole left when Gao and Harmon ended the internet’s foremost platform for roasting Max Landis. —Mark Kramer

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Podcast to Call It Quits After 100 Episodes — I Was There, Too

Reaching that 100-episode milestone seems to be a defining point for many podcasts. (Your “limited edition” model need not apply.) Shows either hit the wall and hang up the mics (Mike and Tom Eat Snacks), or else hunker down for the long haul (WTF). The latest member of the Centepisode Club is I Was There, Too. Host Matt Gourley opted to make it his final lap for this one, closing out the series with guest Brooke Smith. She portrayed Catherine Martin, the girl imprisoned in the well by the killer in Silence of the Lambs (1991). This podcast hit the scene four years ago with a very novel theme: Gourley interviews the famous, nearly famous, and the obscure who happened to have played a small, bit, or even walk-on part in a famous film. Remember Paul F. Tompkins from There Will Be Blood? Or Yeardley Smith from City Slickers or The Legend of Billie Jean? Or Steve de Souza from Die Hard? Well, they remember being in those films, and Gourley always did a nice job pulling out interesting details from what may have been only a day or two on set, in many cases. In his adios episode, Gourley is a little regretful but admits that interviewing folks is something he’s never entirely comfortable with, not to mention the challenge of finding guests — some of those fleeting faces onscreen are hard to find. With plenty of other projects on his plate (Superego, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, and more), let’s not worry about Gourley himself fading into obscurity. —Marc Hershon

Listen: Apple | Website

Best Podcast to Come Out From Behind the Paywall — Threedom

After spending time together on the Comedy Bang Bang tour and realizing they all like hanging out with each other, Lauren Lapkus, Scott Aukerman, and Paul F. Tompkins — three titans of the podcast universe — decided the best way to continue hanging out was to start a new podcast. And so, in a real Captain Planet situation, these three powers combined to form Threedom. The bad news was that it was only available on Stitcher Premium behind a paywall, leaving most people wondering what it was like to hear Lapkus, Aukerman, and PFT hang out. That was until what I can only assume was the ghost of Ronald Reagan decided to tear down that paywall and release Threedom on a free stream! For the people! And it’s everything you ever imagined hanging out with these three would be like, and more. While they frequently cross paths on other podcasts, they’re usually playing characters. But with Threedom, they’re talking as themselves (though you could say that’s the hardest character of all to play), so we get to hear stories from their lives we may not have heard otherwise. It is endlessly entertaining, and the amount they make each other laugh is downright delightful. —Leigh Cesiro

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Podcast to Listen to in the Car With Your Kids — Dr. Gameshow

This feels like a jerk move, but the best podcast to listen to in the car with your kids is ending. However! If you’re a fancypants parent, babysitter, or aunt/uncle, you can find the full archive at Stitcher Premium. For you regular-pants adults with kids in your cars, you can enjoy 60+ free episodes on whatever podcast app you prefer, for forever and all time! Comedian Jo Firestone and her sleepy comedian sidekick Manolo Moreno play listener-submitted games, regardless of quality, with their comedian friends. Self-described as “the dumbest game show podcast Earwolf’s ever produced,” Dr. Gameshow is uniquely silly, pure fun. It’s that rare entertainment fit for both children and adults without being an animated film reliant on heavy-handed innuendos. It’s charming to hear adult comedians simply be themselves around kids, who are often fellow in-studio guests and live call-in players. They treat these kiddos with respect and embrace how naturally hilarious they are. With such an uproar from fans upset that they’ve lost the only podcast they could listen to when babysitting their cousins, hopefully Dr. Gameshow will find a new home. For now, enjoy the increasingly epic final episodes. —Anna Marr

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Interview Podcast From Actors We Kind Of Recognize — Armchair Expert With Dax Shepard & Inside of You With Michael Rosenbaum

One of the most prolific forms of podcast formats is that of the one-on-one interviews. And why not? It’s less hassle than anything other than a solo host talking into a microphone. But not everyone is good at it. When you’ve done a lot of interviews, even when you’re a guest on the other side of the dynamic, you can pick up some tips. And so it is that both Armchair Expert hosted by Dax Shepard and Inside of You with Michael Rosenbaum have emerged in the past year. Both hosts are known from their various roles in television and film (and talk-show guest appearances), and both have proven to be very engaging as hosts in their own right. The extra plus of having a true showbiz pedigree is that they pull in some great guests — folks we are not likely to hear on other podcasts. Shepard recently had Conan O’Brien, Vincent D’Onofrio, and, oh, his wife Kristen Bell. Rosenbaum is no slouch, either, having hosted Stephen Merchant, Justin Hartley, and, oh, Shepard’s wife. —Marc Hershon

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website / Spotify | Apple | Website

Most Triumphant Return — R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: ME? — Staind Glass 2 With Todd Glass

Roll out the red carpet, start popping that champagne, and get ready to celebrate the most triumphant return since Jesus Christ. That’s right, the King of Reverb himself, Todd Glass, once again joined forces with the Scotts to deliver the highly anticipated second installment to the acclaimed podcast episode, Staind Glass. A lot has changed in the four years since their last installment. One may even say IT’S BEEN AWHILE! Since their last episode, we’ve seen a new incarnation of R U Talkin’, Glass finally became a party planning consultant, and, um, oh yea, the world nearly ended multiple times as nationalism continued to rise globally. Now I’m not trying to connect the two, but had Staind Glass 2 come sooner, maybe some of this would have been avoided. Much like the first installment, the Scotts gleefully torment Glass for his lack of musical knowledge — this time around, however, the focus is on what he believes David Bowie’s alter-egos to be: “Iggy Ziggy Pop” is just one of the many guesses. Like a fine wine, Staind Glass only got better with age. Let’s raise a glass to them and hope the third installment gets here before the nukes start going off. —Tom Rainey

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Most Positive Podcast — Gettin’ Better With Ron Funches

Admit it: You love positive podcasts. We need them right now. When you’re sick of listening to people recapping political hellfire or complaining about things they hate, you need a warm, down-to-earth hug in your earbuds. Gettin’ Better is Ron Funches’s way of sharing the ups and downs of his betterment journey, including losing 150 pounds, pursuing his career as a stand-up comedian and actor, and parenting a son with autism. His comedy is about wrestling, weed, being a dad, and gummi bears, a.k.a. things he loves. More likely than not, your brain and heart feel happier when listening to someone talk about what they love versus what they hate. Start with the fun theme song that guarantees, “It’s about having bad sex and being a good friend and doin’ the best that you can!” Then there’s Funches’s weekly affirmations, like, “I hope you’re having a great day. I hope you know you’re beautiful and wonderful and strong.” Of course, we know the sweetest treat of all: Funches’s infectious giggly laugh. Help yourself along your own path to gettin’ better by getting yourself in a positive frame of mind. —Anna Marr

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Most Celebrity Fans — My Dad Wrote a Porno

Podcasts usually feel like a weird fandom-corner of the internet where comedy nerds who walk around with headphones on all day listen to their favorite other comedy nerds who have podcasting equipment talk to each other. If you’re loyal to one specific pod (one that hasn’t “crossed over” like WTF or Comedy Bang Bang), you’re usually part of a small but devoted group of normals, safely flying under the radar of regular life. But something strange happened with My Dad Wrote a Porno, in which Jamie Morton reads his dad’s amateur erotica aloud: Celebrities loved it. What does a famous person need with a podcast? Don’t they have an assistant specifically assigned to walk around next to them all day preventing them from learning what a podcast is? Yet somehow MDWAP breached that firewall and spread among the famous like high-end dermatology advice. Let’s count up some of the celebs who have appeared on the bonus Footnotes episodes: Dame Emma Thompson, Jon Ronson, Hayley Atwell, Elijah Wood, Daisy Ridley, Nicholas Hoult, Rachel Bloom, and Michael Sheen. With that kind of clout it’s really not surprising that My Dad Wrote a Porno struck a deal with HBO to bring the podcast to U.S. TV this year. Congratulations on crossing over, MDWAP, you star-studded butt plug. —Kathryn Doyle

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Newest Big-Time TV Talk-Show Host to Start Podcasting — Conan O’Brien

It’s had to believe that Conan O’Brien is lacking in friendships, considering all of the people he’s both worked with as a TV writer (including The Simpsons and SNL), not to mention the legions of guests who have sat across the desk from him on the various incarnations of his talk shows. But that’s the premise of Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend. Each episode he gamely swallows his pride and chats it up with people who most of us would probably not have a shot at even taking a selfie with, let alone being pals. Needless to say, he’s got his conversational chops down, and the chats never lack for places to go or topics to touch on. And with guests like Will Ferrell and Bill Burr in the early going, the laughs are many. So far, those visiting O’Brien’s makeshift podcast studio (a regular room draped with movers’ blankets) have pretty much said that they’d be willing to go farther down the friendship route with him. It seems that the weak link in the chain may be what it has been for O’Brien up to this point: a willingness to commit to the relationship. —Marc Hershon

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Episodes of the Year

Punch Up the Jam — It Wasn’t Me (With Ify Nwadiwe)

Punch Up the Jam burst onto the charts this year as one of the funniest and most musically impressive podcasts in recent history. A handful of Jams are Best of the Year–worthy, but this one, featuring Nerdificent’s Ify Nwadiwe, is a standout. When hosts Demi Adejuyigbe and Miel Bredouw are hitting all the right notes, they force listeners to listen to an overplayed hit from a whole new perspective — which is exactly what happens while breaking down Shaggy’s legendary infidelity anthem “It Wasn’t Me.” What most remember as a playful reggae banger in 2000 now comes across as the instruction manual for gaslighting. Of course, the climax of each episode is the Punched-Up Jam at the end. Adejuyigbe’s remix takes the song to all-new heights, spinning the tale of an “alleged” murderer and his complicit friend. The music production and energy thrown into the jam and throughout each episode truly set this show apart from other music podcasts. The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” with Biniam Bizuneh and Céline Dion’s “That’s the Way It Is” with the buttery-voiced Eliot Glazer also made for fantastic episodes worth revisiting. —Mark Kramer

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Off Book: The Improvised Musical — Forecast: Puberty Live! (With Nicole Byer and John Gemberling)

The sheer levels of joy this fuzzy blanket of an episode brings is one for the ages. Off Book has had quite the year. Just when you thought Jess McKenna and Zach Reino couldn’t get better, Nicole Byer and John Gemberling stop by to bring them to new heights. As this was a live show, the charm, charisma, and serious improv skills on display helped blow the roof off of the Dynasty Typewriter theater in Los Angeles. Seriously, these folks brought the heat and should be considered for a Tony Award immediately. With a plot that follows some horny teens, a sex-ed teacher, and Lean Cuisine lunch breaks, this musical proves it can hang with the titans of Broadway. You hear that, Hamilton? Much like Aaron Burr, Forecast: Puberty is aiming to take you down. Following curtain call, our “cast” sits for a Q&A that features writer Neil Gaiman, real-life meteorologist Dallas Raines, and a delightful performance of the new Lean Cuisine jingle sung by McKenna and Reino. If you haven’t done a deep dive into the greater Off Book catalog just yet, let this episode serve as a gateway to one of the best podcasts of 2018. Here’s to another wonderful season of musical improv from our friends over at Off Book. Tom Rainey

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

You Up With Nikki Glaser — Divorce Cupcakes (With Rachel Feinstein, Amber Tamblyn, Dan Ryckert, Greg Fitzsimmons, Jeff Ross, & Dave Attell

After her Comedy Central show Not Safe ended and took its companion podcast with it, there was a period of time when Nikki Glaser was arguably the best podcast host without a podcast. Earlier this year when her SiriusXM show You Up started releasing a weekly podcast version of the show featuring highlights from the week, it seemed like the podcast universe started to course-correct itself. In what was hands-down the funniest thing I listened to this year, this episode features Rachel Feinstein reenacting fake announcements she made at a karaoke party a few nights earlier. She goes on to embody a vaguely religious character who continues to interrupt a party in what seems to be some sort of church all-purpose room to announce things like that someone’s divorce is official, a sweatshirt has been found, and what to do with your silverware. I know what you’re thinking: This sounds like a bit you’ve heard before or maybe your dad does it at holidays. But the type of hyperspecific details Feinstein comes up with get better and better as the bit goes on. What makes it even more delightful is how hard Glaser and You Up co-host Tom Thakkar are laughing. It’s a clip I have listened to countless times this year, and the joy that comes with each announcement never gets old. —Leigh Cesiro

Listen: Apple

Armchair Expert With Dax Shepard — Kristen Bell

In the spirit of Dax Shepard’s vulnerability on Armchair Expert, I’m not ashamed to say this episode has helped me out. I’ve recommended it to multiple people, and even more have recommended it to me. Ten months later, I still think about it. The first episode of this year’s hit new podcast starts off with bickering. Now, sure, listening to a couple figure out how to apologize and be vulnerable can be initially uncomfortable, but it’s also a crash course in communication. Dang, is it inspiring. And quotable! The crux of Bell’s whole philosophy is “happiness over suffering.” Carry that around all day! They explore her high self-esteem and talk about boobs. Their approach to social media, shared in a discussion on comparison hangovers, is exactly how they treat this episode: Lead with imperfections and be honest about how much work their relationship takes them. It’s clear they disagree on almost everything, and that’s almost refreshing. “Self-improvement and communication and betterment” feels like a much stronger approach to relationships than wishing for rom-com or fairytale romances, making them much more realistic role models — something they acknowledge. As Bell says, “A lot of good change comes from people having hope.” —Anna Marr

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Why Won’t You Date Me — Booty Call Horror Story With Jameela Jamil

There have been a lot of terrible stories told on Nicole Byer’s podcast about dating and relationships, but none is as harrowing, unbelievable, and completely hilarious as Jameela Jamil’s tale about a Tinder date that ends with an ambulance call and an inappropriately timed erection. Throughout the course of the episode, Jamil shares her less-than-successful history with romantic partners, focusing a majority of her chat with Byer on the importance of self-love and subverting expectations that have been built into society over time. Most of this episode isn’t even about dating, it’s about the reasons Byer and Jamil love themselves (and by the end of the episode, each other, of course). She hits on some pretty heavy topics, but all the while proves herself to be extremely funny. Byer is a larger-than-life personality who is always very much in charge of the direction of the conversation of the podcast, so it’s refreshing to see Jamil come in and not only hold her own, but take over with some entertaining matter-of-fact advice. The Good Place star and host Byer have a fun chemistry, so many common ideals, and such admiration for each other that it’s hard to argue against them becoming everyone’s favorite power couple. Brianna Wellen

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The Year in Comedy Podcasts