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 and 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.
Ask Ronna - It’s a Bummer with Conan O’Brien
After a brief holiday hiatus and potential Toobin situation, Ronna Glickman (Jessica Chaffin) and Bryan Safi are back in the Carriage House doling out advice. Starting 2021 on the highest of high notes guest-wise, they’re joined by the biggest thing to come out of Boston, Conan O’Brien. After a quick discussion about why grown men continue to insist on wearing baseball caps and jerseys, the trio gets down to brass tacks solving listener problems. Starting with some insightful friendship advice, they pivot effortlessly to acting as sex therapists for a Swiss man before moving on to bidet etiquette and finally, coping with a crush on a boss over Zoom. For that one, O’Brien is definitely onto something with his suggestion to stage a fake run-in on line for a COVID test. In a time where we’re inundated with one insurmountable issue after another, it’s refreshing and hilariously delightful to hear these three confidently take on listeners’ problems and offer up solutions. —Leigh Cesiro
Off Book: the Improvised Musical - Lounge January
After ten months of impressive adaptation (to, you know, remotely record musical improv), Off Book is settling into a new normal — this time, on its own terms. Off Book is independent, Sleepy Babies! You’re invited to Lounge January, the cozy, casual appetizer ahead of hosts Zach Reino and Jessica McKenna’s official independent launch in February. This episode is a perfect opportunity for new listeners and particularly satisfying for longtime fans. With renewed energy and a fresh sense of autonomy, Zach and Jess peel back the curtain (i.e., ever wonder why the sung ads disappeared?) and reveal that, yes, they “know what the bangers are.” Between unveiling the new model of the show (“It is the same — except for the ways in which it’s different, it’s very much the same”) and teasing a month-to-month ongoing musical, the pair mix in some bangers and turds (mostly bangers), similar to their early-lockdown Undercovers. They introduce a canon hero in the instructional dance lyrics of Celery Face David (banger), revolutionize how to spell Stacy/Ceighpsy (absolute banger), and promptly end a song about American capitalism (turd). Sit back, relax, and sip your hot prosecco at the best — probably the only, but still the best — lounge party of January 2021. —Anna Marr
Competitive Literature - A Series of Unfortunate Events with Jamie Loftus
Each week, Competitive Literature pits hosts Julie Greiner and Grace Freud against one another to determine who has the best opinions on literature. The outcome is decided by a weekly guest who must ask themselves questions such as “Who is smart?” and “Who is bad?” before announcing who has won. For the debut episode, the guest is Jamie Loftus, a brilliant (My Year in Mensa) reader (Lolita Podcast) herself, and the books are Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Full of synopsis via silly riffs, the conversation covers everything from the characters, who Freud hilariously nicknames “little droopy sad weirdos,” to the absurd sense of time and government. All of this commentary is sure to make listeners laugh as they reminisce about the fantastical YA series of yesteryear. Tune in to hear who will claim the victory this week. —Becca James
Pod Save America - Tweets and Reconciliation
The heavy current events going on right now are a little easier to take with a dose of wry humor mixed in, which is why the pundits on Pod Save America are making things a little more bearable. The commentary swings to the left, which is no surprise considering the four hosts — Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer, and Tommy Vietor — are all former aides to Barack Obama. Monday’s episode dug into the details that were still emerging after last week’s assault on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. and the suspension of President Trump’s Twitter account. “I have to say that it was nice to wake up and not read a half dozen Trump tweets for a change,” said Favreau. At the end of this episode, Favreau chats with former Bernie Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir about how Biden is going to be able to work with a narrowly divided Senate. To be clear, these guys are not hilariously capping on the news. It’s very informative, with plenty of details. And the quartet is not in lockstep with their perspective; their differences often strike some comedic sparks between them. But there’s an informality and comedic edge to their commentary that often pulls out a smile or a laugh as you listen. —Marc Hershon
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
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