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.
Never Not Funny — The 1,000th
One of the pioneers of podcasting, particularly the “chat format” of the medium, is comedian Jimmy Pardo and his show Never Not Funny. As of last week, that was 1,000 episodes ago, in 2006. He was urged to do so by Matt Belknap, who has been producer of the show and Pardo’s co-host since the very beginning. Most episodes have featured a guest — often another comedian — but for the 1,000th installment, it’s mostly Pardo, Belknap, videographer Eliot Hochberg, and assistant Garon Cockrell in the NNF studio. I say “mostly” because Belknap has loaded up his booking gun with an array of live and recorded calls of congratulations to Pardo from a number of past favorite guests and “friends of the show.” Folks like Jon Hamm, who pledges to donate a thousand dollars to a charity of Pardo’s choice if he can name any of the businesses on the four corners of the intersection he’s passing in his car. (He can’t, but Hamm says he’ll donate it anyway.) Or Scott Aukerman, who drafted Pardo’s show into the Earwolf lineup back in its 14th season, which brought it out from behind the paywall it had been using since the show’s second season. Other call-in guests on this three-hour marathon of a show include Paul F. Tompkins, Jen Kirkman, Janet Varney, Rich Sommer, and Mike Schmitt, who was actually featured as the “third chair” co-host for the first 59 episodes of the show before parting ways on less-than-ideal terms. He went off to start his own podcast, The 40 Year Old Boy, and has returned as a guest many times in the intervening years. Pardo gets choked up several times during the show from all of the callers and reminiscing, but it’s clear at the end, even after a thousand episodes, that Pardo and company will be going strong for some time to come. — Marc Hershon
Off Book: The Improvised Musical — Live From Vancouver With Mike Mitchell and Nick Wiger of The Doughboys
Still bummed that Netflix nixed Planet Earth from your queue? Zach Reino and Jessica McKenna take the stage live in Vancouver to provide you with an equitable alternative, thanks to two adult male elephants themselves, guests Mike Mitchel and Nick Wiger of Doughboys. After some charmingly trope-y ribbing between Mitch and Wiger, Mitch has the audacity to say, “There’s always time to learn more about giraffes,” naturally prompting a fully improvised musical about giraffes. It would be impossible not to enjoy this sweet, laugh-out-loud, and strangely educational (or not) musical. Three animals who may or may not be giraffes embark on a journey to figure out who they are in this messed-up jungle/desert world. Sure, it’s entertaining, but it’s also chock-full of real animal facts, like how if something is not a giraffe you legally have to tell it. You’ll think you’re listening to David Attenborough himself! Mitch and Wiger, seasoned Off Book guests, not only totally hold their own but have such easy chemistry with Zach and Jess — probably because they all had the unique warmup of doing an entire Doughboys podcast just hours before. Listen to that one, too, for a superb double feature. — Anna Marr
Hollywood Handbook — David Sedaris, Our Storytelling Friend
Often, Hayes and Sean come into these types of recordings armed with a closed-off reference they want to conform their guest to — a pair of hyenas on the attack. But when David Sedaris, legendary star of the written word and a man of snark that rivals the hosts, gets stuck with having to revamp their “so … it’s me … and …” intro, even the Boys cannot keep the topic on track. Long-term fans will pop for the resurrection of lost bits like how Sean went to Harvard and Hayes studied at Second City, but even newbies can be sucked in by Sedaris’s clear affection for their style — specifically the perfectly cultivated anti-braggart that Sean has become since the launch of the Hollywood Masterclass spinoff. In fact, the only prepared segment that Sean and Hayes have deployed in many months — playing clips of MasterClass while seeking the approval of a legit MasterClass alumnus — is surprisingly only one of the highlights of an episode chock-full of effortless back-and-forth. The trio notes that they only just snuck Sedaris in before he went to record more professional gigs with Kimmel and Richter, but that also-ran energy strikes perfectly at the heart of today’s most incisive insider podcast. — Noah Jacobs
Boys’ Bible Study — The Penny
Whether you call them Christian movies or faith-based productions, there’s one thing we can agree on: Their production quality has really gone downhill since The Passion of the Christ. That’s where Ash, Scott, and Julian of the podcast Boys’ Bible Study come in. Every week, they review a B-for-biblical B-movie featuring a revolving cast of middle-age white-guy protagonists who find their faith challenged before an inevitable third-act car crash reminds them of the power of God. This week, they reviewed 2010’s Magnolia-for-Christians drama The Penny, a movie that asks the big questions like “Does everything happen for a reason?” and “Why is Amazon.com’s page for a DVD copy of The Penny the only proof that this movie ever existed?” I’m not sold on the concept of theological determinism, but I hope the defunct Wisconsin-based production company that never made another movie after this bomb saw it as a sign from God. — Pablo Goldstein
Dyking Out — Compulsory Heterosexuality With Rachel McCartney
Each week, Dyking Out hosts Carolyn Bergier and Melody Kamali set out to “advance the gay agenda” by inviting special guests to “dyke out with them.” This week, that means comedian Rachel McCartney stops by to talk about compulsory heterosexuality, or when heterosexuality is seen as able to be adopted by people regardless of their sexual orientation, and deviation is seen as unfavorable. The discussion tackles the complicated nature of finding yourself, which of course opens it up for funny stories about the women’s experiences. Levity comes with quick quips, such as Bergier’s joke about coming out to coworkers: “They’ll ask me what my husband does, and I say, ‘Oh, actually it’s my wife. She’s an engineer,’ and they say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ and I say, ’It’s okay, she’s not that boring.’” And there’s some cringeworthy but comical reminiscing from Kamali about the old internet, which made stumbling upon her dad’s porn-viewing habits and history exceptionally easy that will have you laughing too. Full of everything from self-reflection to movie recommendations (Portrait of a Lady On Fire, The Kids Are All Right), Dyking Out is a comedy and culture podcast with a human center. —Becca James
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
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