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.
Hollywood Handbook — The Podcaster’s Promise Sessions: Volume One with Paul F. Tompkins and Ayo Edebiri
March is special in the Hollywood Handbook schedule, marketed as the one month a year where hosts Hayes Davenport and Sean Clements put effort into the recordings and producer Kevin Bartelt lands them actually famous guests to whom they can put in effort. Arguably, though, the boys made bigger waves this year when they doubled down on their own Flagrant Ones Patreon and leapt from the Earwolf ship in a group including Off Book — and longtime shared presence Dana Wickens, who has since been outspoken about the exodus. And while Paul F. Tompkins and Ayo Edebiri are both “Try Month” veterans, it makes sense that Chef Kevin might struggle in the early days of this independent period to secure the dream guests like Nathan Fielder, Tim Robinson, or Bob Odenkirk that he admits to reaching out to. Instead, Hayes and Sean are reimagining “Tri [sic] Month,” beginning with an early draft of their prestige narrative program The Podcaster’s Promise, set in the year 3010 under President Crooked Media (and Dax Shepard is alive). Mix the goofy premise with Earwolf insiders like PFT and Ayo, who are willing to cryptically dish on the fracturing business of comedy podcasting, and this month is off to another great start. —Noah Jacobs
Hysteria — “What’s Up, Doc?” with Dr. Heather Irobunda
“Erin, baby, you know the title of your podcast, right?” Isn’t it time a show called Hysteria talked about women’s bodies and health care? Hosted by comedy writer Erin Ryan and former Obama White House deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, Hysteria helps you process the news and learn creative insults for Ted Cruz. First, OB/GYN and women’s health advocate Dr. Heather Irobunda jumps on to chat about racism in medicine and using TikTok and Instagram to “empower vagina owners.” She even answers commonly asked questions like, “How should it smell?” Useful! Then, writers Rheeqrheeq Chainey and Julissa Arce join Erin and Alyssa to share their personal frustrations with the health-care system. They got a record number (hundreds) of email responses about the topic; it’s clear it needs to be covered, so why not do so with funny women who are A+ stand-ins for the friends you haven’t seen in a year? They discuss being told pain is in their head (hysteria!), doctors’ fat-shaming, and “having to caucus with your girlfriends because some bitch wouldn’t give you Plan B.” The catharsis continues with this week’s “I Feel Petty,” which, among other petty grievances, addresses the question I’ve been screaming into the void for weeks: “What the f*#k is Clubhouse?!” —Anna Marr
The Sloppy Boys — Trinidad Sour
Many of us have turned to alcoholic beverages in recent months, including comedy rockers The Sloppy Boys, who launched a podcast dedicated to making and trying the International Bartenders Association’s 89 officially recognized cocktails in October. It’s not such a big leap for the band known for songs like “One Last Bender,” “Tom Collins,” and “Here for the Beer.” Each week, hosts Mike Hanford, Tim Kalpakis, and Jeff Dutton check in on general Booze News, unravel the history of the cocktail both in human history and the boys’ personal history, and cap it off with a classic taste test. They cover everything from the classic Manhattan to offbeat selections like the subject of episode 19, the Trinidad Sour: a newly invented cocktail that’s basically all bitters. Listeners can drink along with the show (actually something you can do with any podcast, but this time it’s by design), or if you prefer, just listen to the Boys get slightly buzzed over the course of the episode. Plus, there are musical interludes that even a teetotaler can enjoy. Whether you’re a fan of the sound of sipping or a full-blown party animal yourself, you’ll find something to like about The Sloppy Boys — they specialize in having a good time. —Kathryn Doyle
The First Laugh Podcast — Dr. Gonzo!
Sometimes it’s nice to get back to the sound of a homegrown podcast that takes its time and rambles around a bit with a comedian guest who comes fully loaded with hell-gig stories and anecdotes about opening for bigger-than-life stars. Hosted by Illinois-based comedians Josh Freeman and Kyle Fields, The First Laugh goes long and deep with John Means, a.k.a. Dr. Gonzo, from his art studio in Mason City, Illinois, next door to the Mason City Limits Comedy Club. This is Gonzo’s old hometown (his father was a doctor in town who actually delivered host Freeman as a baby), but for two and a half decades from the late ’70s through the early ’00s, his blend of stand-up and musical parody rocked the country out of the San Francisco Bay Area. Literally. He talks about the years opening for more bands than he can remember, including Huey Lewis and the News, Jefferson Starship, Joe Walsh, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Robin Williams and Dana Carvey is just the tip of the raconteur iceberg as he reels off backstage stories galore, including playing baccarat with Whoopi Goldberg at a casino in Nevada. —Marc Hershon
Dead Eyes — The Big Zielinski
To give too much away about the season-two finale of Dead Eyes would ruin a riveting reveal. This culmination of actor and comedian Connor Ratliff’s “quest to solve a very stupid mystery that has haunted him for two decades: why Tom Hanks fired him from a small role in the 2001 HBO miniseries, Band of Brothers” is shocking. While Hanks’s reason for letting the actor go has been attributed to Ratliff’s “dead eyes” — a piece of evidence that the podcast thoroughly investigates through in-depth interviews, archival audio, and more — this week’s guest provides the most insight yet. Band of Brothers lead writer and supervising producer Erik Jendresen joins Ratliff to find the truth about the role of Private John S. Zielinski and the real man who inspired it. Uncovering this new information takes listeners on a wild ride. But the strength of the podcast remains its ability to, as Jendresen says, “delve into some real truths about this incredibly bizarre business that we’re all in” with a relatable humor that could fuel future seasons easily. —Becca James
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
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