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 one 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.
Dumb People Town – James Adomian: Tooth-like Structures
The Sklar Brothers Randy and Jason, along with Daniel Van Kirk, hit on a pretty bulletproof format with their Dumb People Town format a few seasons back — riffing on news stories about stupid criminals doing stupid stuff — and it’s still going strong. But as funny as the show is regularly, certain guests crank the laughs up to 11. Case in point: James Adomian, who drops in this week. He is superfast and ultrafunny as himself, but when he uncorks his deadly accurate vocal caricatures of opinioned blowhards like Jesse Ventura and Rudy Giuliani, even the trio of hosts have trouble keeping it together. The stories Van Kirk selects to feature are often gems in themselves, and this week is no exception. The first one, about the robbery of the ingredients for making Popeye’s now famously lethal chicken sandwich from a store in Florida, sets off Adomian’s impression of egotistical radio personality Tom Leykis. (“I don’t steal chicken batter,” he insists. “Chicken batter steals me!”) The second tale, also set in Florida, involves a perp running from cops only to then get into a predicament that has him begging for their help. The last story isn’t about a crime, per se, but the parents of a young boy should be found criminally negligent for letting a weird lump in their son’s jaw go unchecked for years. Finally, doctors operate to discover a space in his jaw that yielded more that 500 “teethlike structures.” Adomian-as-Giuliani gets ultra-shrill: “Some of us only have tooth-like structures occupying where there used to be teeth!” Sometimes the best way to get to Dumb People Town is by hopping aboard the Crazy-Train Express. —Marc Hershon
Urgent Care with Joel Kim Booster + Mitra Jouhari – Icelandic Meat
In the debut episode of Joel Kim Booster and Mitra Jouhari’s advice podcast, Urgent Care, Jouhari explains the podcast’s namesake: “Urgent care is the place you go when you don’t have any other options available.” They double down on this advisory in the podcast’s description, calling themselves “lifestyle gurus [and] very successful freaks” who willingly “dispense completely unqualified advice to people who apparently have nowhere else to turn.” But when they start taking calls and reading emails (both of which they stress are real), it quickly becomes clear that they’re capable of giving competent counsel. The bonus is that it comes with a side of comedic perspective. Booster and Jouhari’s ability to help is most evident when they decide to call back advice-seekers Lucy and Eli, high-school seniors who endearingly exclaim, “This is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us!” It’s a spirited conversation about a love triangle, which Booster responds to with personal experience that’s as funny as it is honest: “Every time I’ve given a straight guy head, it’s after he’s offered to quote-unquote smoke me out.” That’s real talk. Tune in for more general words of wisdom, or get specific by contacting them yourself. —Becca James
Chapo Trap House – Human Deadspinality Project feat. David Roth
If I scour my brain to find one admirable thing about Donald Trump, it’s that he makes no bones about his distaste for dogs. The man just doesn’t like dogs, presidential tradition or baseline emotional empathy or bad Photoshops be damned! It’s an especially brave opinion, since dogs are a classic humanizing salve for politicians. That’s the first topic on this week’s Chapo, as Will Menaker and Felix Biederman introduce guest David Roth to “Big Structural Bailey,” a two-story Neon Genesis Evangelion version of the dog Elizabeth Warren adopted five months before announcing her presidential run. But if you recognize the name David Roth from his vital essays on President Trump, then you know the main focus of this episode is Deadspin, Roth’s former employer until last week. Here, Roth gives a firsthand account of G/O Media CEO Jim (pronounced “ˈərb”) Spanfeller’s dismantling of Splinter and Deadspin in order to sell ads that autoplayed with sound. Well, that, and to satisfy his private equity bosses’ mandate to get Deadspin to stop covering sports, politics, news, and culture from a leftist, pro-labor angle. Why else would you tell your employees to “stick to sports” when Deadspin had been financially and creatively successful for almost 15 years — an eon in online time, an eternity in post-2016 time — by doing the exact opposite? In any case, I’m sure G/O Media editorial director Paul Maidment will pick up the slack from the two dozen or so employees who resigned last week by … never mind. He literally quit minutes before I wrote this sentence. —Pablo Goldstein
The Best Show – Slice of Life! Impress Mike! More!
It can be tough to commit to appointment listening when Tom Scharpling is out of the studio as he has been lately, working on a super-secret mayonnaise commercial. But the fill-in trio of regular contributors Jason Gore, Pat Byrne, and Mike Lisk has found a groove and deserves attention. In particular, AP Mike revels in taking advantage of the decade-long myth building that the show has constructed at his expense to hold court whenever there’s even a hint of Tom’s absence. The topic proves to stump an admittedly narrow selection of drunk male callers, but Jason expertly hosts Pat and Mike through 90 minutes of understated conversational comedy. After one caller tries to impress by claiming he’s Randy Travis, Pat attempts to connect with Hey Arnold! references to complete disinterest, and Mike goes on to steamroll every call with “Speaking of …” tangents. Circumcision (“I got clipped when I was an infant”), unleashing feral cats at MetLife Stadium, and heart-stopping meat concoctions are among the tiny tangents that Mike and his court indulge in this week, and the through line is, even for an off-brand, beyond impressive. —Noah Jacobs
The Orbiting Human Circus – Naughty Till New Years: Firstly, the Janitor
Gather ’round, because The Orbiting Human Circus is back. The “fantastical, wildly popular” radio show broadcast from atop the Eiffel Tower begins season two, “Naughty Till New Years,” by reuniting us with the Janitor, a lonely young man who lives in the Parisian landmark but has no idea how he got there. In a world full of magic, music, and mystery, the Janitor embarks on a brand new adventure with a cast of mesmerizing characters voiced by Julian Koster, John Cameron Mitchell, Susannah Flood, Tim Robbins, Drew Callander, David Barlow, and many more. The product of a partnership between Night Vale Presents and WNYC, The Orbiting Human Circus continues to push the aesthetic boundaries of podcasting by using a mix of modern and antique recording technologies, including a 1930s wire recorder, a 1940s ribbon microphone, and a 1960s tape machine. It’s a unique performance, and lucky for us, Merge Records is set to release original songs from the show throughout the season. The humor is subtle, keeping company with a slight sadness, which charms and immerses you in a full-feeling and wondrous world. If you’re looking for an escape, now is your time to run away and join the circus. —Becca James
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
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