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.
Comedy Bang! Bang! — Steak My Day
Comedy Bang! Bang!’s first broadcast from “the bunker” dropped this week. More accurately, it’s the first episode of the show recorded remotely via Zoom. Fret not — Scott Aukerman & Co. do a bang-up job bringing their signature blend of conversation and character work. The sound quality and timing also remain, which is a major plus. Guesting are Burnt Millipede (Paul F. Tompkins) and Joan Pedestrian (Nicole Parker), hosts of The Neighborhood Listen podcast, who join Aukerman to chat about the residents of their hometown, Dignity Falls. Joan, for those not in the know, is the “top realtor,” and when she outlines how she’s been battling COVID-19 to continue selling houses via simulated tours, it’s equal parts eerily accurate and hilariously outrageous. Pro tip: Cheese makes good makeshift floors, and you can use your fingers to mimic a person walking through a house. Millipede, on the other hand, is sharing a seedier type of information, as he lets us in on a deep, dark secret explaining why he isn’t allowed to perform as Santa Claus anymore. Rounding things out, a food critic named Dickie Caroline’s (Ryan Gaul) stops by in a time when we can no longer stop by restaurants. The bit hits in more ways than one. —Becca James
Why Won’t You Date Me? — Dating During Coronavirus (With Jacquis Neal)
The first of the remote Why Won’t You Date Me? recordings kicks off with guest Jacquis Neal (Culture Kings). There’s plenty of thoughtful essays out there about how quarantine will affect relationships — including how it will potentially bring a boom in marriages and in divorces — and this is a more fun, less self-important podcast version of that. Jacquis is in a 13-year relationship and owns a bidet, but still uses toilet paper (gasp). Nicole was dating two guys and talking to a third, but now she’s doing YouTube yoga at home and crying in her car at Costco. Comparing these two experiences, they arrive at a few fundamental conclusions: One is that “focus on you” is a common refrain in dating advice, but it doesn’t really work when the only thing you have to focus on is yourself. Another is that it’s not actually possible to be friends with an ex. Which is worse: being trapped indefinitely in a 500-square-foot box with a person you want to still find you attractive, or going on a first date via FaceTime? We may never know the answer, but it’s an interesting question to ponder while you’re crying in your car in the Costco parking lot. —Kathryn Doyle
The Dumbbells — Live 3 of ? (With Will Hines)
Nothing would make Big Quarantine happier than the population letting everything go, Wall-E style. Dumbbells’ Eugene Cordero and Ryan Stanger have been livestreaming their quarantine episodes on Instagram to make sure that doesn’t happen (and to show off Stanger’s Kurt Russell hair). Unlike the litter of non-comedy workout podcasts out there, The Dumbbells doesn’t push snake oil or aggro challenges — only forgiving, achievable advice. On the IG streams, the two have shared extremely helpful tips on home workout setups, dealing with cravings, how to be more accepting of this lifestyle reset, and much more. Will Hines, who self-identifies as “the least likely person to be a regular on a weight-lifting, fitness, and diet podcast,” joins this week to discuss how the quarantine has messed with his physical therapy and dating life. The hosts give Hines’s frozen shoulder the metaphorical pat that everyone could use right now. Stanger even offers a handy, creative work-around to quarantine dating. The conversation serves as a reminder that we can each make the best of this new reality, as long as you have access to a keyhole saw and some plywood. —Mark Kramer
Life Is Short — David Harbour
You can chart how swiftly the scene is changing around the coronavirus situation by the cues in podcasts. The episode of Justin Long’s Life Is Short podcast that dropped Tuesday was recorded a scant three weeks ago with guest David Harbour, and not only had he just casually gotten off a flight from London, but he and Long were still in New York talking face-to-face. The introduction to the show, with Long and his producer and brother Christian Long shooting the shit, has a whole different tone. The brothers are holed up together in Connecticut, and Christian has tested positive for COVID-19, albeit exhibiting only mild symptoms. Fortunately, it’s a good show to take our minds off the current state of affairs as Long and Harbour spend more than an hour and a half talking about Harbour’s ever-brightening career — he’s excited about his role as an unhinged Russian superhero in Marvel’s upcoming Black Widow. Harbour is a garrulous guy and an enthusiastic raconteur. His tales of being a young, hungry actor in the Off–Off Broadway world are amazing (at one point, he’d become a pretty addicted card player and would blow a week’s acting salary of $3,000 in a single evening) and segues nicely into the way his cinematic career has laddered up. That leads to the skyrocket that is his journey with Netflix’s Stranger Things, and he talks about how he had to lose 70 pounds for his ongoing role for the upcoming fourth season of the hit show. They get into a whole lot more than just showbiz: Long and he both had a childhood obsession of catching and collecting toads, for instance, a discovery that send both men into a relentless nerd spiral that they barely pull out of in time for the show’s conclusion. —Marc Hershon
Oh No, Ross and Carrie! — Carrie Meets Kimberly Meredith: Single-Blind Edition
This is far from a character-driven, laugh-out-loud comedy outing typically featured in this column, but Carrie Poppy’s expert journalistic eye may have found the perfect angle in COVID journalism. For the uninitiated: ONRAC is a show where, typically, Poppy and Ross Blocher infiltrate fringe science groups to report on their respective merits and falsehoods. With social-distancing guidelines in effect, Poppy reaches out solo through Skype to a quack who claims to have cornered the market on coronavirus literature with a best-selling Amazon e-book and “multiple double-blind studies” that she holds up as reinforcement of her “spiritual healing.” It’s tough enough to listen as Poppy dons her supportive fluff-piece voice and walks Kimberly Meredith through easily debunked claims of her medical background, but it becomes gripping when Poppy pounces. Poppy’s due diligence finds that none of Meredith’s reputable organizations endorse her, but Meredith can’t help herself from keeping on with the interview even as she threatens to end the call. The finale, when Meredith defies herself to engage Poppy in a spiritual e-reading, pops the tension with the absurdity one might expect from a deranged sketch character. It’s worth laughing at. —Noah Jacobs
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
Action Boyz — Shadow Wolves March
Got a comedy podcast recommendation? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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