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 Margaret Cho — Mortal Minority - The Chinese Massacre of 1871 with Helen Hong
The “model minority” myth has been used against Asian Americans for decades. However, comedian Margaret Cho tackles the absurdity of the stereotype and addresses the history of racism toward Asian Americans in the new season of her podcast, The Margaret Cho — Mortal Minority. The season’s first guest is comedian Helen Hong, who recently premiered her YouTube show Old Korean Dad Stories where she interviews her parents about their lives, from growing up in Korea to raising their family in the U.S. Hong recounts her father being verbally attacked by a grocery store employee and how her reaction to the event differed from her father’s. Cho brings up the cultural differences between their parents’ generation and their own with how they handle hate crimes, and how while their elders have gone through so much in this country, they still find kindness for those around them. They discuss the 1871 Chinatown massacre, its effects on Chinese people in Los Angeles, and how history has repeated itself in the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings. Throughout this season, Cho will continue to educate her listeners on the history of Asian Americans in the United States and, through empathy and compassion, provide resources to help stop Asian hate. — Alejandra Gularte
Smartless - Stephen Colbert
I didn’t expect this week’s Smartless episode to be as funny as it turns out to be. I mean, I know that hosts Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett are funny — they’re becoming the audio version of the Three Stooges (and I mean that in the most delightful way). And Stephen Colbert? Razor-sharp and drop-dead funny. But this episode is like Colbert has been sitting with these guys since the show first started and just now decided to lean into the mic like he’s part of the crew. Bateman reveals the reason why he wasn’t very friendly the last time he was on Colbert’s The Late Show — it’s a scatological tale of epic proportions. There’s quite a bit of that kind of humor, some of it getting aimed at Conan O’Brien, who isn’t on hand to defend himself — and the hosts and guest gleefully pile on their absentee punching bag. They also get into Colbert’s improv roots and his character he played when he hosted ten years of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, but these four can’t stop swiping and sniping at each other in a way that I didn’t want the episode to end. — Marc Hershon
POOG - Mornings Could Be Huge
Last year, we moved beyond the likes of Goop and Poosh and into the welcoming arms of POOG, a podcast from comedians Kate Berlant and Jacqueline Novak, and we’ve never left. Unlike the posh, celebrity-backed brands, POOG isn’t trying to scam listeners into buying any of the many snake oils available from the trillion-dollar wellness industry. Instead, they hope to score that stuff for themselves for free by “try[ing] products and practices, consult[ing] healers and experts, and ask[ing] the ultimate question: Is it truly wellness they’re after or just the thrill of the chase?” It’s equal parts parody and praise as Berlant and Novak apply a healthy level of skepticism and humor to an industry they can’t get enough of. This week it’s all about mornings, because “the hags are up at 9 a.m. and levitating on caffeine while displaying their morning voices,” as they say, or as the episode reveals, they’re up and ready to discuss a host of morning-related products and wellness activities. They also riff on other early-riser staples, such as the hotel breakfast buffet and “morning fathers.” Like a good cup of coffee, this episode is the perfect one to start the day with. — Becca James
Cuddle Club With Lou Sanders - Ep. 46: Lolly Adefope
British comedian Lou Sanders has cornered a niche in the comedy market, especially for those of us left touch-starved by the pandemic: a podcast about cuddling. As an interviewer, Sanders skips straight to the good stuff: If her guest’s parents had a favorite child, if they have ever been aroused by a cuddle, and rapid-fire questions like “iPod Touch or touching on the butt?” Sanders’s dexterous hosting means Cuddle Club ranges from sweet to profound to dry and witty or even delightfully ridiculous. Her latest guest is actress and comedian Lolly Adefope (Shrill, Ghosts, Miracle Workers). Sanders and Adefope’s chemistry makes for a banter-fueled episode, including musings on the underrated joy of linking arms, the signature pose of friends on a night out or, apparently, a couple who are in an open relationship and pleased about it. Cuddle Club achieves an impressive balance in a climate where positivity can feel dilute, if not out of reach. Sanders’s is a special brand of irreverent positivity — unironic but saucy and, most importantly, fun. — Kriska Desir
Spanish Aquí Presents - What You’re Selling Is Vibes (w/ Doggface)
With something that seems very much like light appearing at the end of the long pandemic tunnel, people are beginning to wax philosophical. That includes the hosts of Spanish Aquí Presents (Oscar Montoya, Raiza Licea, Tony Rodriguez, and Carlos Santos) as they kick off this episode musing about serendipity, and is it chance, luck, fate, or … what? Licea points out that if she hadn’t been bounced off a Harold team at UCB in L.A., the podcast that they have all been on may not have happened. After the gang passes around some interesting “What might have happened?” tales, they bring in their guest, Nathan Apodaca. You may know him better as Doggface, or you might remember him from last year’s viral video cruising on a skateboard to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” while swigging cran-raspberry juice from a bottle. Again, serendipity. He tells how his beater of a car conked out about a mile from his job, so he grabbed his board and shot down the road in a mellow mood while capturing it on his phone. Now the guy’s a TikTok star. How’s fate treating you these days? — Marc Hershon
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
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