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.
The History of Sketch Comedy — The Earth Cooled, and Then the Dinosaurs Came
Fans of Keegan-Michael Key and lovers of sketch comedy who don’t mind scaling the Audible paywall will find a lot to enjoy about this new “audio series” (Audible eschews the P-word). If the first episode is any indication, Key has not only done his homework on the topic but also a shit ton of sketch comedy on his own. He’s credited as the creator and the narrator, but he’s not just narrating here — the 30-plus-minute episode is more like a one-man sketch presentation. He digs up evidence of the earliest glimmerings of the art form going back to ancient Sumer and Greece (including a timeless fart joke). But we’re not just on a trudge through time. He leaps forward to his first sketch inspiration: a piece on Saturday Night Live with Eddie Murphy and Stevie Wonder, who is auditioning — badly — to be a Stevie Wonder impersonator. The title of this episode is a line from another one of Key’s springboards into sketch: the movie Airplane!. It might take a few minutes to get into Key’s technique in rolling out this information, but you’ll likely be hooked by his storytelling and performance. —Marc Hershon
Grifthorse — Griftstonk
Wall Street’s manic response to last week’s Reddit-powered GameStop short squeeze was so blatantly corrupt that public figures as divergent as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Barstool Sports’ Dave Portnoy were in agreement over the basic notion of who was right and who was wrong. Also in agreement are Howard Kremer and Megan Koester, two L.A. comedy-scene stalwarts who chronicle their vast arsenal of grifts, cons, frauds, and swindles each week on Grifthorse. Last week’s events were tailor-made for Grifthorse, which focuses primarily on grifts that simultaneously chip away at sinister corporations and enable poorly paid creatives to squeak out a month-to-month living in expensive cities. But while you may relate to Kremer’s frustration with the barriers that stock-trading apps hastily put up to prevent commoners from buying GME and Dogecoin, the self-proclaimed master’s other low-key moneymaking schemes put him on another level. That is, unless you’re also scouring the Craigslist “free stuff” section for Windows XP start-up discs and selling them on eBay to government officials with crashed hard drives. —Pablo Goldstein
Don’t Ask Tig — Sarah Paulson
Don’t Ask Tig is both the title of Tig Notaro’s advice podcast and a warning that the comedian “doesn’t have all the answers, but that won’t stop her from fielding your questions on life’s many challenges.” Joined by friends and the occasional expert, Notaro employs her signature charm and wit to give the “best inexpert guidance.” This week her friend is actor Sarah Paulson, who Notaro describes as “one of the funniest people” she knows. Fittingly, Paulson’s presence ups the affable and amusing aspects of the show with ease as the duo discusses her impressive career. Later, while tackling a question about social media, Notaro and Paulson are both practical and comical, ultimately saying with a laugh, “We don’t know,” even though their advice is pretty good. They also offer guidance on receiving subpar baked goods and correcting someone’s word usage before naming a car and auctioning off a gavel. —Becca James
Keeping Records — Fugue Chicken State With Zoe Lister-Jones
In 1977, NASA sent two gold records into space to give aliens a glimpse of life on Earth. Now comedians Caleb Hearon and Shelby Wolstein are making new records with help from their funniest friends to introduce the aliens to the messy, indulgent, and more often than not very horny society that has since been established. Each week they invite a guest to not only suggest what they would add to their own golden record but to also decide what to erase from the planet’s society forever, and along the way Hearon and Wolstein shed light on the nonsensical things that were included on the original records, like the aggressive sounds of a chimpanzee and a not entirely accurate depiction of how humans eat, lick, and drink. This time around, Zoe Lister-Jones joins the hosts to add Liz Phair, chicken, Michaela Coel, and more to the record. Hearon and Wolstein are roommates in real life, and their rapport on the podcast reflects that, bringing added joy from that essence of human interaction that we’ve been missing for the past year. Along the way they manage to keep things light and full of laughs while simultaneously shedding light on the things that define our existence, which over the course of the podcast have ranged from true love to an especially satisfying fart. —Brianna Wellen
What Are You Watching? — Kevin Avery
If you were a fan of the decade-long-running Comedy Film Nerds podcast, you’ll be happy to learn that Chris Mancini (who co-hosted that show with Graham Elwood) is back up and running with a new jam. It might just be a P3 — a perfect pandemic podcast. What Are You Watching is an hour of Mancini and a guest kicking around shows and movies available on TV or streaming that you’ve seen listings for and wonder, Are they worth it? This week, the host and comedian-writer Kevin Avery (Last Week Tonight) talk for a bit on the sad state of live stand-up today, then crack open the tube to recommend some hot viewing. Avery is stoked about Lupin (Netflix), a fun crime show from France about a modern-day “gentleman thief” (Omar Sy). Also a Starz throwback from a couple of years ago, Counterpart, starring J.K. Simmons embroiled in a plot so amazing that, enthuses Avery, “I can’t really tell you anything or it will spoil it!” They go gaga over the evolving Easter egg that is WandaVision (Disney+) and can’t stop raving about Apple TV’s Ted Lasso starring Jason Sudeikis. There’s more in store as well, so if you’re looking for more to binge, this podcast is the place to get your fix. —Marc Hershon
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
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