this week in comedy podcasts

The Best Comedy Podcasts to Binge During Coronavirus Quarantine

Photo: Vulture

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.

Best Coronavirus Edition of a Regular Show

Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend - A Very Special Self-Quarantine Episode featuring Andy Daly

Conan O’Brien and his crew on Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend are helping those of us forced to shelter in place, exercise social distancing, and otherwise isolate ourselves in the face of the coronavirus threat the best way they can, by providing a special episode to keep us entertained. Rather than brave the usual studio setting, O’Brien, his assistant Sona Movsesian, and guest Andy Daly are hunkered down in the Pasadena home of show producer Matt Gourley. Nobody seems exactly sure why they’re here and why they’re doing this, and there’s a slightly manic edge to the laughter. But there are lot of laughs to be had thanks to Daly’s zip-quick improv matching wits handily with O’Brien, and then the addition of a couple of Daly’s fantastically bombastic characters making the scene. Cowboy poet laureate Dalton Wilcox swaggers in, claiming to have shot the coronavirus in a bar (Wilcox is known for attacking strangers who may or may not be monsters in disguise with his trusty six-shooter full of silver bullets). And plucky Bavarian travel expert August Lindt shows up to reassure people that now is the best time to travel “because the prices are super low!” In the middle of the mix is Team Coco assistant David Hopping, who gives the lowdown on what life is like now that he can’t visit Disneyland a couple or three times a week. Right now, life is tough all over for everyone — you owe yourself a good hearty laugh in the face of it all with O’Brien and his self-quarantining pals. —Marc Hershon

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Unqualified Medical Advice

Urgent Care With Joel Kim Booster and Mitra Jouhari

With misinformation spreading faster than, well, you know, it can get kind of hard to know who to turn to for sound medical advice right now. One place you should absolutely turn to for that is Urgent Care With Joel Kim Booster and Mitra Jouhari. Mitra and Joel are not doctors and they’ve never claimed to be. In fact, sometimes they suggest you don’t take their advice at all. Yet still, that doesn’t stop people from calling and writing in asking for help with their problems. While their advice may not be medically accurate, it’s usually pretty thoughtful and, as proven by repeat callers, pretty helpful. Plus, people’s problems are all kept anonymous, and hearing Mitra and Joel come up with nicknames for callers is endlessly entertaining. Episodes usually feature lots of advice about relationships and making new friends, which, who knows, may come in handy again one day when we’re back in the world making new friends and navigating relationships. At a time when urgent care clinics are encouraging you to stay away if it’s not an absolute emergency, consider adding Urgent Care into your podcast rotation. —Leigh Cesiro

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Show to Remind You We All Once Had Jobs

Entry Level With Brooks Wheelan

Remember jobs? Also known as “occupations,” they were positions that people held in which we did tasks in exchange for money. But now that this social construct is a thing of the past due to government-mandated quarantines, there’s no better time to remind yourself of this concept with the help of Entry Level With Brooks Wheelan. Each week, the former one-season SNL cast member talks with comedians about the shitty, wacky, or simultaneously shitty and wacky jobs they’ve held throughout their lives. It runs the gamut from Jono Kenyon’s role as a Goblin in one of The Hobbit movies to Alana Johnston’s employment at a pearl store (where she was paid in pearls) to Moshe Kasher’s stint as a sober, in-recovery drug dealer. There’s over 125 episodes, so check it out while you wait for the government check to arrive that will allow you to owe your landlord only two months rent, instead of three, when the eviction moratoriums expire! —Pablo Goldstein

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Friends to Hang Out With Since You Can’t Hang Out With Your Own

Best Friends With Nicole Byer and Sasheer Zamata

Chances are you haven’t seen your friends in few days. Maybe you’re starting to get a little lonely. Maybe you’re starting to get a little sick of your own thoughts. Stay calm — best friends Nicole Byer and Sasheer Zamata are just a few clicks away and make for excellent stand-ins during these weird times. Technically they’re each other’s best friends, but there’s nothing in the rule book that says they can’t fill in for yours while we all try and get that curve flattened out. Each week Nicole and Sasheer let us hear what hanging out with them is like. They give friendship advice to listeners, take online friendship quizzes, and share friendship stories. You can jump in at any episode, and lucky for us there’s a pretty solid backlog of episodes to pick from. If you want to make it a group hang, start with one of the episodes where they’re joined by other pairs of best friends like Betsy Sodaro and Mano Agapion, Lauren Lapkus and Laura Wilcox, or my personal favorite, Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael. So while you sit and wait for when you can see your own friends again, sit tight and let Sasheer and Nicole keep you company. —Leigh Cesiro

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Descent Into Madness While Trapped at Home

I Don’t Want To Talk About Fight Club Anymore

Most people, normal people, do just about anything to avoid watching Fight Club 31 times in a row over a 72-hour period without sleeping. But Jacob Wysocki isn’t most people. A nine-part descent into madness has never been this pleasant, with a pretty unflappably positive host who stays upbeat even when he’s falling apart (he knows the listeners are little pigs who are reveling in his demise) and some great guests like Nicole Byer, Carl Tart, Big Grande, and the Bath Boys, who pop in for one viewing and then return to their normal, healthy lives. There’s never been a worse time to subject yourself to Fight Club, the height of 1999 white-man navel-gazing and a world where a man’s worst problem is that nothing is wrong, so he needs to engineer getting punched in the face. Twenty years later, there’s actually a lot wrong in the world on a macro and micro scale, and a lot of people don’t have jobs, or a condo full of nice things, or employer-sponsored health insurance (should’ve used it to seek mental-health treatment, Edward Norton!). What a dream, to have those non-problems! And outside the movie itself, you can listen to a man who is trapped in his house and unable to leave while the world passes by outside. Feel like you’re moving around, watching the same thing on your laptop in the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room, on the front stoop, in the backyard, and losing your mind? So does he. —Kathryn Doyle 

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Way to Travel Vicariously

Take Me There

Hang on for a sec while I blow your mind. The reason “What’s the deal with airplane food?” is the most classic stand-up comedy cliché is because comics, actors, and entertainers all have something important in common that sets them apart from the rest of us regulars (other than usually being hotter and more unapproachable): They travel all the time. A stand-up comic who has toured has probably been on a plane 500 more times than you, at least. Even a non-stand-up who’s just trying to make it big somewhere has shuttled between JFK and LAX way more than anyone should, so they have stories to tell about traveling. So it makes sense that there would be lots of fodder for two entertainment people to talk to their entertainment-people friends about places they’ve been. If you miss being outside and going places, you can listen to Laura Wilcox talk about Puglia, Italy, or Caroline Cotter talk about Kansas City, or Yoni Lotan talk about Israel, or Halle Kiefer talk about Delaware, and the sting of jealousy at the privilege of traveling around so much will be blunted by the reality that no one might ever travel for fun again! —Kathryn Doyle 

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Reminder of the Human Connection

Beautiful/Anonymous - Hit By a Truck

Recorded live from SF Sketchfest in January 2020, this Beautiful/Anonymous episode dates back to the pre-quarantine era. It was a much simpler time, when health emergencies ranged from getting hit by a truck to being diagnosed with MS — or in this case, both. Chris Gethard wastes no time labeling this caller “an impressive human being” after learning about the lifetime’s worth of nightmares he’s dealt with in just the last few years. The caller somehow remains determined to enjoy his new ten-acre property (eight acres to park on) to the fullest, whether or not he needs a Mad Max–style wheelchair to get around. Gethard even claims the caller’s sense of humor to be one of the darkest in Beautiful/Anonymous history, which is no easy feat. The tech exec and neurologist-filled San Francisco audience adds a fun wrinkle to the caller’s bucolic life. Most importantly, the whole conversation is a reminder that if this guy can keep pushing forward, so can we. —Mark Kramer

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Way to Get Your Hoops Fix


On Thursday February 13, 2020, the day before the NBA’s All-Star festivities began in Chicago, an all-star team of podcasters joined forces at the Virgil in Los Angeles to raise money for charity. Conceived and expertly hosted by Air Buds’ Jamel Johnson, Mike Benner, and Peter Moses, the event doubled as a coming-out party for a new genre of performance, dubbed by Dunktown’s Agata Monica and Anastasia Vigo: basketball comedian. Many of the biggest names in NBA comedy podcasting (plus unconfirmed reports of Ernie Johnson rolling up weed in the back) turned out for two hours of NBA–themed bits, games, songs, and improv. Highlights among the talented roster include Brook and Robin Lopez (of Roundball Rock fame) giving their Oscar picks, Vulfpeck’s Joey Dosik and “Michael McBolton” slowing things down to serenade the audience, and Dunktown closing things out with the 2020 Cutie All-Stars. It’s a joyous celebration of a silly game that fans across the podcast universe hope to get back to soon. —Mark Kramer

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Doughboys - Munch Madness Series

For many Americans, professional sports and fast food have consistently served as a crutch from the anxieties and frustrations of everyday life. Due to the virus who shall not be named, access to both of these channels is now severely limited. Instead of allowing daily tensions to build up, why not turn to everybody’s favorite Boys of Dough for some relief? In combining the NCAA’s yearly tradition of March Madness with McDonald’s extensive menu, Doughboys month-long “Munch Madness” series is a surefire way to help you get your fast food and sports fix in one easily downloadable place. Without diving into the convoluted rules of the fast food single-elimination tournament, just know that each episode features hosts Nick Wiger and Mike Mitchell as they eat their way through the entire McDonald’s menu. Along the way, they and a guest will vote on which items get eliminated from the 64-sesame seed bracket, and which will continue on to the final chompionship match. Much like the actual March Madness tournament, you and your friends can fill out a bracket and play along. Although that may sound a bit silly, I assure you that completing your own bracket makes listening that much better. —Tom Rainey

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Live Episodes to Make You Feel Like You’re in a Crowd

Off Book: The Improvised Musical - Matt Rogers in A Gay Rock: The Musical

If you’ve ever seen musical improv done well, you know that you and your fellow audience members experience communal magic in a bottle. Off Book’s live episodes are the closest you get to that without physically being in a theater/basement, and, with theaters/basements closed for the time being, it’s a dang good solution! While all of their live episodes are a joy (à la the recent Doughboys episode), this one has something special: Matt Rogers (Las Culturistas). Rogers’s infectious energy travels through time and space from the Bellhouse in Brooklyn last September. He’s a wild and shameless vocalist, unafraid to leap across octaves or into a killer falsetto or Elphaba belt, and the audience eats it up like the fresh produce we all want right now. All three performers embrace what Reino calls the “Queer Eye, Harry Potter, Avatar fan/cast” energy of the show to improvise a pop-synth space musical about gay rocks. Thank goodness! Journey from the USS Michigan spacecraft, where they’ve just discovered the universe’s first gay rock (that we know of) to reflect upon a timely message: Even when your life is in danger, the most important question is, “Will I find love?” This is the Matt Rogers and space love story we need right now. —Anna Marr

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Why Won’t You Date Me? - Having Sex in Drag

“Having Sex in Drag (Live From DragCon 2019 w/Vicky Vox),” is the best and most boisterous episode of Why Won’t You Date Me?, thanks in large part to an enthusiastic crowd that won’t stop attempting to AirDrop photos to host Nicole Byer. A move that other hosts might ignore becomes a sidesplitting experience when Byer and her guest Vicky Vox choose to engage. “I’m going to leave it on. I want to see what pictures I get today,” says Byer after deciding not to block the incoming images. It keeps the episode lively throughout instead of making listeners wait for audience interaction via the obligatory Q&A that usually closes a live event. In general, though, both Byer and Vox are experts at vibing with a crowd, paying as much attention to the audience members as they expect to receive in return. Vox will shout out questions and answers back and forth when someone catches her ear. At the same time, Byer often riffs off of a sound she hears from or a person she sees in the audience or helpfully shares a description of what’s happening by reminding us that “podcasting is a listening medium” before painting a picture of the space. All of this creates a sense of togetherness that will leave you feeling like you’re a part of a fantastic crowd from the comfort of your own home. —Becca James

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Best Binges

Beyond (Season Two) 

Over ten years ago, host and comedian Mike Kelton, a “vessel for the ‘uni’” (universe), had a simple interaction with a doorman that changed his life forever. Last year, it inspired a nine-month docu-podcast journey to answer one question: Is this doorman Kelton’s guardian angel? Each episode of Beyond’s second season feeds the answer and ponders whether or not strangers come into our lives for a reason. According to Kelton, this was “too big of a topic to take on for season one.” (And last season he discovered he shared a past life with his boyfriend and mom. So.) I can’t tell you much more. You don’t want any of this spooky, playful, possibly angelic investigation — that’s right, a real-time investigation — spoiled. So many synchronicities! So many times people yelled, “STOP!” Too many technological interactions with spirits! Kelton proves he’s an exciting, moving, and hilarious storyteller who’s appealing to folks who are spiritual or not, who like Serial or not, and who watch drag queen reality shows or not. You better believe I listened to season two’s finale when it dropped on Christmas Eve at 7 a.m. in the United Terminal of LAX … and wept. It’ll make you feel better about humanity, and that’s hot right now. To quote Chris Harrison, “You think you know how this ends, but you don’t.” —Anna Marr

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website


Bubble, the first scripted comedy series from Maximum Fun, begins as a cutting and comic look at millennial misadventures. Set in Fairhaven, “a literal bubble of corporate utopia,” the opening scene depicts a bunch of young people as they all “brunch and vape and watch shelter dogs and have too-loud conversations” about social media, documentaries, and the like. Written and created by Jordan Morris with an impressive comedic cast including Cristela Alonzo, Keith Powell, Judy Greer, Kyle Kinane, and more, the story seems ordinary until it isn’t. At first, Bubble calls to mind any number of fictionalized-to-the-point-of-fantasy cities you see millennials inhabiting on your favorite TV show. But that doesn’t last long. Cue the abrupt appearance and slaughtering of a reptilian monster, and suddenly narrator Tavi Gevinson’s introduction “This is all happening now, but it’s happening someplace else” makes more sense. At the same time, two years after its release, a podcast about “a small band of monster killers [struggling] to make ends meet and find love in a nightmarish version of the gig economy” starts to feel a lot closer to home. A Bubble binge will bring you a similar sort of comfort as Contagion in this uncertain time but with many more laughs. —Becca James

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Dead Eyes

Dead Eyes’ pilot episode aired on Earwolf Presents last summer, and its long-awaited HeadGum debut has not disappointed. In seven stellar episodes so far, Connor Ratliff has unfolded his everyman story: getting hired to work on the HBO series Band of Brothers, only to be fired because Tom Hanks said he had “dead eyes.” On paper, the story may not sound like the most relatable, but there’s hardly a more human effort than entertaining a grudge from nearly 20 years ago. Ratliff revisits the story from all possible angles, interviewing everyone that could have possibly been involved in the casting process and/or would answer his emails: actor Adam Sims (the man who replaced him), director Rian Johnson (a bizarrely key figure), Bobby Moynihan (Hanks’s David S. Pumpkins co-star), and many more. Ratliff’s vulnerability helps each interview expand beyond the “dead eyes” mystery into some deeper meaning about failure, chance, and resilience. The editing is superb, the tone shifts with ease, and the segments never linger, consistently leaving listeners wanting more. —Mark Kramer

Listen: Spotify | Apple | Website

Jon and Sam’s Alex Inc Inc

Way back in 2018, Jon Millstein and Sam Fishell made five episodes of a twisted meta miniseries called Alex Inc Inc. It was a podcast based on a Zach Braff sitcom based on a Gimlet podcast that is about the founding of the Gimlet podcast network. If that’s not an arcane maze you can get lost in, I don’t know what is. The episodes are only 15 to 30 minutes each, and they’re definitely easier to follow if you shotgun them all at once. Plus, if you listen to the Gimlet podcast about itself, watch the Zach Braff sitcom, listen to Alex Inc Inc, and then read this review of Alex Inc Inc, imagine how much time that would take up! If you’re up for a deep (weird) dive into the best niche podcast that 2018 had to offer, pop this one into your queue.—Kathryn Doyle 

Listen: Apple 

The Best Comedy Podcasts to Binge During Self-Quarantine