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.
Make My Day — Make It Easy for the Bartender With Craig Finn
Where many of his fellow comedians falter, Josh Gondelman (Desus & Mero) walks the fine line of hosting a game-show podcast by taking made-up rules and points that don’t matter to their absurd conclusion. Take this week’s appearance by Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn playing the drinking-forward interview “game” Sips Don’t Lie: Finn separately scores 160 points for explaining the concept of rock and roll singers and their “medicinal whiskey,” but only 7 for closing down an open bar on gin martinis, somehow still ending the show as the all-time points leader. But the litany of unique drink orders spread across lyrics in Finn’s musical career makes him the clear authority for a game like this, and as we approach a year of sheltering in place to varying degrees, his command over the subject and Gondelman’s obvious excitement combine for a rare instance in which hearing people swap drinking stories is hilarious and relieving. —Noah Jacobs
I Said No Gifts! — Chris Estrada Disobeys Bridger
Depending on the individual, the gift of cold, hard cash is either uncouthly impersonal or it’s simultaneously the most practical and affectionate present one can give. For Chris Estrada, comedian and co-creator/star of the Hulu pilot Punk Ass Bitch, it clearly falls in the latter camp. On this week’s I Said No Gifts!, Estrada breaks Bridger Winegar’s one rule by bringing the host a $20 bill, which leads into a greater discussion about the merits (and rules) about gifting cash. It’s the ultimate gift, he argues, as it solves small problems, it’s inoffensive, and it’s the one item that humans spend most of their lives working to get … and here you are, the most selfless person ever, just giving it away. Plus, if you and a loved one are in agreement, like Estrada and his mom, who’ve been giving each other the same couple hundred bucks for birthdays and Christmases for years, the gift-giving becomes a tender, loving zero-sum game. —Pablo Goldstein
Comedy Gold Minds — Hasan Minhaj
It’s probably not that big of a surprise that Kevin Hart would get around to anchoring a podcast. After all, there’s kind of nothing this comedic fireball hasn’t tried. That idea alone fuels part of his discussion with another restless comic spirit and the guest for his fourth-ever episode, Hasan Minhaj. The premise of this podcast is that Hart cracks open the minds of his guests to find out what makes them tick and, of course, tries to get at what makes them funny. Minhaj’s relentless work ethic is what keeps him pressing forward, starting from when he was on a school debate team learning how to improvise brilliant defensive arguments before segueing into open mics. He talks about a pressing need to succeed in the U.S. as a child of immigrants and proving the worth of his pursuit in the face of high parental expectations. (They finally relaxed when he became a correspondent on The Daily Show.) Lots of great stories here, like when he paid out of his own pocket to build a set and shoot a pilot for his show Patriot Act … all because he got a meeting with Netflix to “kick around a few ideas.” So he walked in the door with the pilot: “Here’s my idea.” And there are laughs — at one point he gets Hart laughing so hard with a joke about the host’s appearance in Jumanji 2 that Minhaj brings him to tears. —Marc Hershon
Just to Be Nominated: An Award Season Murder Mystery — The Best Actress Race
Here’s an Oscar prediction no one had: the death of the best actress. That’s right, on the very same night she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, Riley Audrey is found dead. But fret not: Leo Gold (Brendan Scannell) and Terri McPherson (Zach Noe Towers), hosts of the popular award-prediction podcast Just to Be Nominated, are on the case. The duo work to catch the killer by revisiting their previous interviews leading up to the big night. Created by Jorge Molina, this podcast about a podcast is a meta murder mystery that smartly pokes fun at Oscar buzz as it looks at Audrey’s “long and arduous campaign” and sudden demise. The entire ruse is so perfectly detailed — take, for example, their bit about a young intern with a lot of intel — that the satire never fails to evoke laughter. Let it be your date to this year’s Oscars season. —Becca James
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
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