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 Deep Dive With Jessica St. Clair & June Diane Raphael — “We’re Off to See the Wizard! w/ Casey Rose Wilson”
The Deep Dive feels like June Diane Raphael and Jessica St. Clair’s ideal pre-pandemic hangout vibe: tucked up on a couch like a cat, surrounded by best friends, and skipping the pleasantries. (“This isn’t appropriate cocktail conversation.”) Their new podcast investigates adult womanhood via their friendship. While they know that “No one has said, ‘We need two more white women talking about very little and yet everything,’” The Deep Dive addresses a particular nearing-end-of-the-pandemic need for vulnerability, reflection, and a give-no-fucks attitude. These actresses, writers, comedians, and podcast veterans have built a space so intimate and open that, halfway through the first episode, you’ll expect an invite to their next desert retreat. This week, they highlight our biological need for healing after the past year, and, from her recent breast-cancer experience, St. Clair has a pertinent perspective on the importance of ritual and letting loose after dark times. Their first guest, actress and comedian Casey Wilson, shares her healing journey, from the time she co-ran a retreat for her own friends to why she has a gift certificate to see a wizard. Whether or not you’re able to curl up on your friend’s couch yet, these women will support you and tell you that the braid on top of your head is not working. —Anna Marr
Gangster Party Line — “Doing Dirt w/ Frankie Quinones”
Remember the Gangster Party Line? That pitch-perfect parody of late-night adult-chat-line commercials, which swapped out phone sex for gangsters wanting to talk some shit, wasn’t just one of the funniest viral comedy shorts of the 2010s. The phone number in the video is a real one owned by Brent Weinbach, who has been collecting voice-mails and answering them live on episodes of DJ Douggpound’s The Poundcast for years. And now that brilliantly lowbrow line is being answered on a weekly basis on the new Gangster Party Line podcast. Along with fellow stand-ups, co-host Greg Edwards and guest Frankie Quinones, the debut episode has the comics going toe-to-toe with several verbal pugilists, including one squeaky voiced teen who is clearly the meanest shit-talker of his schoolyard/Zoom biology class. —Pablo Goldstein
What a Time to Be Alive — “Threat Display (w/ Luke Mones)”
Luke Mones is this silly little guy who is kind of a folk hero on What a Time to Be Alive because of the life he’s led, including the often-referenced time he saw a bird kill itself and this week’s instantly classic retelling of having to read the Michael Clayton monologue for a network-sitcom audition. It goes without saying, then, that his sensibilities fit perfectly with hosts Patrick Monahan, Kath Barbadoro, and Eli Yudin, which is why Mones has now earned the right to choose their top-five weird news stories to count down when he’s a guest. Predictably, it’s a delight. From longing for the days when you could buy whole seasons of television shows on VHS to the three-minute silent film Adelaide police released of a stolen Big Bird costume, these stories are the cream of the crop of recent episodes. Positioning Mones as the final guest on their now-yearly Better Show Month definitely raised some excitement, and his soon debuting untitled podcast will be a weekly listen. —Noah Jacobs
Armchair Expert — “William Jackson Harper”
One of the TV shows that was a sheer pleasure to binge during the COVID lockdown was all four seasons of NBC’s The Good Place. So it’s a fun listen with host Dax Shepard going deep with William Jackson Harper, who played Chidi Anagonye, the show’s uptight, nerdy philosophy wonk. We find out a lot about Harper’s upbringing in Texas and the magnetic pull that drew him to New York to pursue his dream of stage acting. It manifested in some Off Broadway work because “there’s not a whole lot of roles for unknowns in nonmusical shows on Broadway,” says Harper, “and I don’t sing or dance.” He hadn’t gone out for much television and figured his audition for The Good Place was just another exercise. Then he got flown to L.A. for a series of callbacks and, eventually, a “chemistry test” with Kristen Bell, the series’ main star (and, of course, Shepard’s wife). “I remember her coming home that day,” says Shepard, “and saying, ‘I think we found our Chidi!’” It turns out that when Bell and Harper’s characters finally got romantic in the arc of the show, there was no bigger cheerleader than Shepard: “I was yelling at the TV: ‘Yeah! Go for it!’” —Marc Hershon
Welcome to the OC, Bitches! — “The Pilot With Josh Schwartz”
Named for the infamous line from The O.C.’s pilot, this podcast goes right back where it started from to break down the unforgettable teen drama turned cultural phenomenon. With “the original O.C. bitches, friends, and co-stars” Rachel Bilson (Summer Roberts) and Melinda Clarke (Julie Cooper) hosting, the weekly revisit is primed for behind-the-scenes scoops and big-get interviews. First up, of course, is a discussion about the show’s pilot episode, with creator and executive producer Josh Schwartz guesting. The episode offers an excellent combination of silly, as they laugh about how young Clarke was to play the mom of a teenager, and sweet, as they reminisce about how both Clarke and Bilson went from guest stars to series regulars. In Bilson’s case, Summer needing to break the seal ended up sealing the deal, as Schwartz mentions that her delivery of “I have to pee — do you have to pee?” made it obvious she should stick around. Full of factoids like this, the podcast is a welcome return of The O.C. —Becca James
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
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