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.
Las Culturistas - The Top 200 Moments in Culture History
Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang are at long last back recording in the same room for what is not just a landmark moment, but an historic event 200 episodes in the making. And like all momentous occasions, this one is being honored with a list, because as every culturista knows, “culture is lists.” And so Matt and Bowen get down to business, counting down the top 200 moments in culture history, a comprehensive list of things that shaped culture in a definitive way, covering all of recorded history in its entirety. There’s nowhere else on Earth you’re going to find a list that has both “Exploring of Our World’s Seas” and “Honey Nut Cheerios.” Never before have Kenan and Kel’s orange soda bit and Artpop appeared anywhere near each other, and I dare you to find any other list where Celine Dion’s Vegas residency is ranked right above Mario Kart. You can’t, because it’s never been done. Other highlights include an official ranking of Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslet, and Saoirse Ronan’s American accents, and Dakota Fanning setting the precedent for a child actress only to be eaten by her own sister Elle. Though they only get through half the list during this episode, they’re pretty confident in teasing that what they’ve chosen for No. 1 is indisputably the No. 1 moment in all of culture. Bottom line is, if Matt and Bowen take the time to make a list, we all need to take the time to listen to it. —Leigh Cesiro
Newcomers - Spaceballs (with Mary Holland and Ahmed Best)
One of the greatest delights of Nicole Byer and Lauren Lapkus’s deep dive into the Star Wars universe has been their undying love for some of the franchise’s most-criticized aspects, not least of which is Jar Jar Binks. From the jump, Byer declared him her favorite character in the series, so it’s fitting that the final episode of the season offers redemption for the much-maligned Gungan in the form of the actor who portrayed him, the charming and hilarious Ahmed Best. The hosts are joined by Best and Mary Holland, supposedly to talk about the 1987 Star Wars spoof Spaceballs (which they eventually do, albeit briefly), but the real meat of the episode comes from Best telling stories about his personal relationship with the series before and after being cast, including some enlightening details about the groundbreaking technology that went into creating Jar Jar, and the surprising, well-known celebrity who was hoping to be cast in the role. Luckily, though this is the season finale, fans of Byer and Lapkus’s infectious laughter and comforting rapport have more to look forward to: The pair announced they’ll be covering The Lord of the Rings series next. But this episode brings their galactic chapter to a perfect end with justice for Jar Jar. —Brianna Wellen
Culture Kings - The Jacquis A. Neal Show
Hosted through the Culture Kings Stitcher Premium platform, this full-blown Stephen A. Smith parody show is a near-perfect piece of comedy. Although we hear from the delightful Jacquis Neal weekly, it’s been roughly a year since we’ve been graced with an appearance from the ill-mannered Jacquis A. Neal. Much like a skilled method actor, Neal embodies the very essence of Stephen A. Smith. He’s able to accomplish his full transformation through outlandish statements, long rants that go nowhere, and opinions that can best be described as incorrect. In thinking of a proper comparison, Anthony Atamanuik’s portrayal of Donald Trump comes to mind. In an effort to parody an already heightened persona, Neal turns his Stephen A. Smith meter up to 11 by changing the name of COVID-19 to COVID-23 (to honor the GOAT: Michael Jordan), explains why athletes should be considered essential workers, and talks about only wanting children if they come out of the womb NBA-ready. Much like any radio show, call-ins from “listeners” and commercial parodies for products like “COVID Juice” help fill out the extended Jacquis A. Neal universe. Even if sports aren’t your thing, you won’t be disappointed by this rip-roaring good time! —Tom Rainey
Let’s Go, Atsuko! - This Land Was Made By You’s & Me’s with Wyatt Cenac!
Hosted by Atsuko Okatsuka, Let’s Go, Atsuko! is a weekly podcast that promises “in-depth yet silly interviews.” This week’s episode delivers on that promise as Wyatt Cenac joins Okatsuka, and they find themselves poking fun at the song “This Land Is Your Land.” They arrive at this piece of music after Cenac recalls his last appearance on the podcast, when he decided his worst fear was being trapped in an elevator with an aggressive Joker fan. Reflecting, he jokes that while that scenario still sounds scary, “I don’t know if people are still talking about Joker or they’ve just replaced it with, ‘Release the Snyder cut.’” Both agree that regardless of the current film discourse, this person would be the type to belt “This Land Is Your Land” in your face. The conversation goes from silly to serious when they point out that the famous folk song doesn’t resonate for them, and is rather only an anthem for white men. This balance continues as they talk about the lengths they went to, like giving handies in the bathroom, to try to fit in as teenagers, which is both funny and distressing. Check it out for a dose of comedy and social commentary. —Becca James
Good One - Hasan Minhaj’s “We Cannot Stay Silent About George Floyd”
Kudos to Jesse David Fox, host of Good One, for going off the template with this week’s episode as he features — rather than a portion of a comedian’s routine — the entire 11-ish minutes of Hasan Minhaj’s special digital short “We Cannot Stay Silent About George Floyd.” (It is now available as an episode of his Patriot Act series on Netflix.) Even in audio form, Minhaj bristles with righteous indignation at the treatment that Floyd suffered at the hands of Derek Chauvin and other Minneapolis police officers. But beyond that, the former Daily Show correspondent insists the image of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck was “cropped wrong.” He goes on to describe the original shot, in which bystanders are watching nearby, and doing nothing to try to intervene. The piece is not completely without jokes (about al-Shabaab: “Hands down, funniest-sounding terrorist organization”), but it’s clear that Minhaj felt compelled to get this piece out in front of people. Fox gets deep into not just the why of this piece but also the how: The comedian’s show has been on COVID-19 lockdown for months, so he had to work out production wrinkles as best he could. They also talk about how to effectively use comedy when trying to get serious about difficult issues. —Marc Hershon
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
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