Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

A Seriously Comprehensive Guide to Comedy Podcasts

It’s official: there are now more essential comedy podcasts than there are hours in the day. We’re fully outnumbered, people. It would be an impossible, Icarus-like ambition to listen to them all and still function as a human adult person. Don’t even try — it’s not worth throwing your life away. Perhaps some of you haven’t listened to any podcasts yet, though, and merely clicked on this link to find out what your nerdy co-worker won’t shut up about. These jaded ears envy your innocence and adventurous spirit. You might not realize it but right now you’re like Jake Sully, newly arrived on the planet Pandora — except instead of virtual space-legs, you’re about to receive a hard drive filled with comedians talking about funny stuff.

While some comedy podcasts adhere to a late night talk show template, many others also contain trace elements of sketch fest, improv exercise, intimate stand-up venue, and backroom history lesson — all coming together to perform the Heimlich maneuver on your laugh-hole. No matter which comedic style you’d prefer, there’s an embarrassment of riches out there, waiting to be devoured for free. Unfortunately, there’s also an embarrassment of garbage. Lucky for you, I have spent a TRULY embarrassing amount of time sifting through the murkiness to sort out which is which. I initially wrote the Fairly Comprehensive Guide to Comedy Podcasts, then spent the next few months digging in deep to a different comedy podcast each week. The resulting guide will surely help you find just the right podcast to soundtrack your next trip to the gym game of Arkham Asylum. Ready? Okay, let the chuckles commence!

So here's how this will work: first, there are the original entries from the first guide. Then, there are shortened versions of my weekly reviews of other podcasts. Finally, there's a listing of notable other podcasts that I didn't have a chance to do full-on reviews for, but are still worth checking out. It should be noted that where a podcast falls in this list isn't necessarily indicative of its quality; there are podcasts in the final list that are better than some of those from the original guide. So, let's get to it!

Host: Chris Hardwick, with Matt Mira and Jonah Ray
Podcastin’ since: February 2010
How often: Weekly
Format: Funny people hanging out, tagging each others jokes, and talking with guests
Recurring features: Lengthy, loose, interviews
Typical guests: Eugene Mirman, Mythbusters, Alison Brie
Has Jon Hamm been a guest? Yes
What’s different about this one: Because it’s called Nerdist, conversations will frequently delve into Second Life, 4G networks, Winger, and Dr. Who
Live shows: Sometimes. You can catch them at Largo in LA or Comix in NY
For Fans of: Esoteric things, the lives of comedians, old-timey voices, snappy banter
The Verdict: Highly recommended. Even though Chris Hardwick is an in-demand multi-hyphenate whose career has been steadily rising, he considers himself a nerd for good reason. It’s touching, for instance, to see his genuine affection for and hero-worship of Weird Al Yankovic. Although the podcast originally aimed to talk about only nerdy things, since most of the guests were comedians the focus shifted pretty radically toward that end. Most of the interviews focus on comedy history, what it’s like being a comic, what it takes to make it, and the answer to the question, “what is your process?” Hardwick’s affability and energy keep things moving in between breakdowns of SNL skits that never made it to air, and discussions about how, once upon a time, appearing on The Tonight Show could change your life overnight (if your name was Drew Carey.) The wide range of interesting guests bodes well for Nerdist’s longevity.

Host: Marc Maron
Podcastin’ since: September 2009
How often: Twice weekly
Format: One-on-one interview, with very few holds barred. Excuse me, I meant none — no holds barred.
Recurring features: Comedians talking about therapy
Typical Guests: Bob Odenkirk, Robin Williams, Maria Bamford
Has Jon Hamm been a guest? No
What’s different about this one: Marc’s style is confrontational, intense, and almost intrusively personal.
Live shows: Sometimes. You can catch them at Comix in NY
For Fans of: The book, “Here’s the Kicker”; the Metallica film Some Kind of Monster
Verdict: Highly Recommended. WTF has become the go-to forum for setting the record straight and clearing the air in the comedy community. Marc Maron famously confronted Carlos Mencia about his alleged joke-stealing head-on, and ended up doing a follow-up podcast because he didn’t believe what Mencia said the first time and he wanted to investigate further. Marc Maron, Comedic Detective, etc. These interviews together comprise a Director’s Commentary track about comedy itself, and the individual stories of everyone who works in the field. Marc and his guests often end up exploring what it is that drives them to do what they do. The two-part Judd Apatow episode, especially, served as a master class in comedy, ambition, and what makes comedians tick.

Marc Maron has a reputation for filling a room with tension when doing a set, and that strategically tactless approach is put to ballsy use in these recordings. You can pretty much hear the air being sucked out of the room when Marc asks Dane Cook about why Dane seems like such an asshole all the time. With so much drama, WTF occasionally has a soap opera feel to it. The revelations come at you fast as lightning: Patrice O’Neal sort of hates women and white people, Bob Odenkirk comes off as cranky and maybe a dick, Dane Cook seems like a control freak, but a basically decent guy. People tend to say things to Marc Maron for some reason that they might not say elsewhere. And despite everything stated in this description so far, WTF is actually really funny, too. If you only listen to one comedy podcast, this should probably be the one.

Pod F. Tompkast
Host: Paul F. Tompkins
Podcastin’ since: July 2010
How often: Monthly
Format: Well-structured blend of extended riff suites, sketches, and “award-worthy” character scenes
Recurring features: A series of phone calls mockumenting a secret project between Andrew Lloyd Weber, Ice-T, and John C. Reilly—all of whom are voiced by Tompkins; a real phone call to comedian Jen Kirkman
Typical guests: Jen Kirkman
Has Jon Hamm been a guest? No
What’s different about this one: A lack of co-hosts and guests; an absurdist tone
Live shows: No
For Fans of: Showing up at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre randomly
The Verdict: Highly recommended. Although we’re only two episodes in, these dispatches are shaping up to be the purest distillation of Tompkins’ loquacious brand of humor yet. He really uses the freedom of not being in front of a live audience to tap into his gifts beyond stand-up.

Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show
Host: Kevin Pollak, frequently joined by Samm Levine
Podcastin’ since: March 2009
How often: Started off twice-weekly, but the podcast is now weekly
Format: Very conversational. Like a talk show. Duh.
Recurring features: The Larry King Game, wherein fans of the show do impressions of octogenarian sea creature, Larry King. In character, players of the game give away highly sensitive personal information that Larry King would probably not disclose, and end by throwing over to the phones in another city. Basically the best game ever.
Typical Guests: Jim Gaffigan, Martin Mull, Neil Patrick Harris
Has Jon Hamm been a guest? Yes
What’s different about this one: Considering the movies Pollak has been in, the roster of guests is deeper than most other podcasts (his director in The Usual Suspects, Bryan Singer, was scheduled to appear at one point.)
Live shows: Not yet.
For Fans of: The Dick Cavett Show; deep, probing interviews; old showbiz tales
The Verdict: Recommended. Pollak may be most famous (to me) for his role as Phillip Green in Casino, but he is also a respected old-school standup. He has a relaxed, patient interview style, and a canny selection of guests. His long-form interviews tend to creep toward the two-hour mark, but if you’re into that sort of thing, this is your jam.

Doug Loves Movies
Host: Doug Benson
Podcastin’ since: February 2008
How often: Weekly
Format: Half talk-show, half game-show, all about movies.
Recurring features: The Leonard Maltin Game: an elaborate, difficult version of Name That Movie.
Typical Guests: Adam Scott, Morgan Murphy, Matt Besser
Has Jon Hamm been a guest? Yes
What’s different about this one: The game show aspect and the focus on movies
Live shows: Yes — usually at the Upright Citizens Brigade in LA
For Fans of: Movies (duh), funny people talking about movies
The Verdict: Recommended. In addition to just being fun to listen to, Doug Loves Movies is also a great example of how podcasts differ from, say, late night talk shows with regard to plugs. The guests’ upcoming projects are not treated with that fake-casual “You just happen to have a movie coming out I heard through the grapevine” approach native to TV talk shows. The plugs are obligatory, and here they are acknowledged as such, in a mutual back-scratching way that doesn’t take anything from the friends-hanging-out vibe. Rather, at the end of each episode, Doug will simply ask, “Got anything you need to plug?”—and be done with it

The Adam Carolla Show
Host: Adam Carolla a/k/a Ace Man (cool nickname alert!) and co-host, Teresa Strasser
Podcastin’ since: February 2009
How often: Several times throughout the week
Format: News, listener call-ins, guest interviews
Recurring features: Games such as “What Can’t Adam Complain About,” which are more or less self-explanatory
Typical Guests: Jay Mohr, Olivia Munn, Ralphie May
Has Jon Hamm been a guest? No
What’s different about this one: Opinionated; lots of news; very high episode frequency for a podcast
Live shows: Sometimes, when Adam is on tour.
For Fans of: Terrestrial radio, hostility, political incorrectness of the Look-Ma-No-Hands variety
The Verdict: Not recommended. If you’re a fan of Carolla’s old radio show, you’re in luck because this couldn’t be any more like a radio show. Random noises are frequently beamed in from the producer’s booth—a Will Ferrell Anchorman line, apropos of nothing; a 1990s techno beat meant to evoke ‘gay’—and presumably in an effort to kill time, jokes are beaten into the ground mercilessly. The success of this #1-rated podcast just goes to show you how far a loyal following will get you.

Comedy Death Ray
Host: Scott Aukerman
Podcastin’ since: May 2009
How often: Weekly
Format: Chatting with a “co-host” and a “special guest” who basically serve the same role, interspersed with improv, songs, and sketches.
Recurring features: At least one visit each week from a fictional character; Doug Benson phones in from Doug Loves Movies
Typical Guests: Nick Kroll, Tom Lennon, Garfunkel & Oates, Sarah Silverman
Has Jon Hamm been a guest? Yes
What’s different about this one: The format of this podcast is completely bonkers—there’s blessedly zero scheduling consistency. The songs played are all funny, either intentionally (The Lonely Island) or otherwise (Joe Pesci put out an album quite recently.) There’s considerably more improv at work here than in any other podcast.
Live shows: Sometimes, at Upright Citizens Brigade in LA
For Fans of: Mr. Show, silly things, funny voices of all stripes
The Verdict: Highly recommended. This podcast evolved out of a famed weekly comedy show in LA that host Scott Aukerman founded with fellow Mr. Show alumnus, BJ Porter. Each week’s co-host and special guest will usually be a friend and peer of Aukerman’s in the comedy world, but if the guest happens to be a personal hero like Weird Al Yankovic (that guy gets mad love from everyone), a full-on interview will commence, complete with a question about ‘process.’ Some guests appear anonymously as characters like the observational comedian who only talks about disgusting things nobody can relate to, or the uber-macho novelist who writes “poetry for men”. You never know what you’re going to get from episode to episode, which raises the likelihood that any given podcast will contain something amazing.

FitzDog Radio
Host: Greg Fitzsimmons, Mike Gibbons
Podcastin’ since: August 2009
How often: Weekly
Format: Interviews and news, with the occasional game
Recurring features: Half-a-Man (listeners and guests list off celebrities who seem similar and who are similar-looking), Liar’s Poker (guest tells two stories; host guesses which is false)
Typical Guests: Tom Arnold, Zach Galifianakis, Lisa Lampinelli
Has Jon Hamm been a guest? Yes
What’s different about this one: More frank sex talk than most comedy podcasts
Live shows: No
For Fans of: Howard Stern, sex
The Verdict: Recommended. Greg Fitzsimmons is a funny, genuine-seeming guy, and a true veteran of the comedy circuit. The interviews he conducts with his fellow survivors of early 1990s HBO specials are lively and interesting. The world might not have needed to hear so much about Susie Essman’s boobs in her episode, but I guess that comes with the turf when you’re also on Howard Stern’s radio station, and at least she got an episode.

Host: Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier
Podcastin’ since: February 2007
How often: Weekly
Format: Loose, rambling, all too personal. The two men shoot the shit in front of a live audience
Recurring features: Do self-deprecating fat jokes count as a feature?
Typical Guests: Cast and crew of Kevin Smith films
Has Jon Hamm been a guest? No
What’s different about this one: The focus is usually localized around Smith’s personal universe.
Live shows: Yes, always. Smith owns a theatre in LA where he records these in front of an audience that laughs appreciatively at every single remark, it seems.
For fans of: The filmography of Kevin Smith, sex (but not necessarily having it), dick jokes
The Verdict: Not recommended. SModcast is a house built on even more crude sex talk than Fitzsimmons’—only this talk often includes hypothetical gay sex with Kevin Smith. The behind-the-scenes tales of how various Smith productions came together should hold plenty of appeal for die-hard fans, but nearly everyone else might find them tedious. The director also makes so many self-deprecating jokes about his own weight that it crosses a line beyond uncomfortable and becomes apparent that we’re listening to a person who sort of hates himself (but who clearly does not hate not wearing jean shorts all the time.)

Kevin Smith has expanded the SModcast universe beyond just one show. His audio network now includes five programs, almost all of which are weekly and feature Kevin Smith. There’s Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, Hollywood Babble-On, and there’s also Tell ‘Em, Steve-Dave!, which is hosted by two of Smith’s boyhood friends, and which I have not listened to because, when it comes down to it, each of us is allotted only precious few hours to dwell upon this island Earth. Finally, one of the sponsors of SModcast is noted men’s masturbation aid, the Fleshlight. Kevin Smith is actually paid to give out samples of these things to audience members during live tapings of the podcast. Gross. So gross. And also creepy and just yuck.

Sklarbro Country
Host: Jason & Randy Sklar
Podcastin’ since: August 2010
How often: Weekly
Format: Sports and pop culture news, a long interview, and some well-chosen indie rock in between.
Recurring features: Douchebag of the Week; a parody of sportscasters, “Racist Vin Scully”
Typical Guests: Glenn Howerton, Nick Thune, Janeane Garofalo
Has Jon Hamm been a guest? Yes
What’s different about this one: The focus is on sports. Also, of course, the hosts are identical twins with cartoon animal voices and impeccable comic timing
Live shows: Not yet.
For Fans of: ESPN’s Cheap Seats, overlapping sentences
The Verdict: Recommended. The Sklars definitely have a unique style, and they know just how much sports talk they can get away with before zooming right over the average comedy nerd’s head. Also, just try to think about the words ‘Sklarbro Country’ and not crack a smile. It is very difficult!

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The Lavender Hour
Duncan Trussell and Natasha Leggero are sometimes described as a comedy power couple, which would be an accurate descriptor if it weren’t a terrible, oxymoronic way to describe something. They are a pair of thriving stand-ups who’ve been in various shows and short films, and on The Lavender Hour, they talk Twitter politics with Steve Agee, discuss Cuba with The Office’s Oscar Nunez (who tells a story about getting screamed on by Oliver Stone), and instigate Tim Heidecker’s evisceration of Saturday Night Live.

Duncan is an awesomely bizarre individual who seems to know about everything weird that has ever happened. Sometimes it’s not at all apparent what the hell he’s talking about, but who cares when it ultimately leads to a sentence like this: “If someone killed your mother, would you want to put them in a pantyhose egg and lather them down with LSD?” As you can probably tell from that sentence, the subject matter of the show is fairly open. The meaning of “celebrity” is a recurring theme, and the hosts make their position known from the very first episode, entitled Professional Assholes. “Kim Kardashian burps advertisements,” Natasha says, and sort of proves it by reading a series of Ms. Kardashian’s tweets regarding Carl’s Jr. The element of the podcast that really stands out is that the hosts are constantly cutting away to “commercials,” with Natasha slipping into a Southern accent to parody KFC. These pre-recorded bits help liven things up if the talk ever gets too far away from being funny.

Keith and the Girl
When a podcast runs five days a week, it’s probably going to be steeped in current events, and this one is no different. What distinguishes this show is Keith and Chemda’s personalities, their interaction with an unusually devoted audience, and their relationship with each other. Keith has a total guy’s-guy point of view but he’s a solid comic and even when talking about hacky subjects, he finds a way to put a personal spin on things. Chemda makes a good foil for Keith as she tends to be a bit more good-natured, but is not above ripping someone a new anus if she’s in the mood. Both of them read comments on-air from listeners writing in during the podcast, take calls, and have a poll at some point during each episode that fans can weigh in on. The show can get pretty Howard Stern-y sometimes, but the sex stuff is actually quite interesting because of the hosts’ particular circumstances. Keith and Chemda are an ex-couple who still lives together, which gives a heated charge to their discussions on dating and relationships.

You Look Nice Today
The overriding style that You Look Nice Today has perfected could be described as Deadpan Conversational Improv. The hosts will start in on a topic in a completely serious way, and end up going off on extended surreal tangents without ever changing their tone at all. A discussion about raising awareness for various causes leads to a convincing case for how ‘mouth breathers’ are the most unfairly maligned of all groups. Eventually the population has been divided into Noseys and Moutheys, with heated speculation about whether celebrities like Ed Begley Jr could potentially be “outed” in the mouth breather magazine, “Gape.”

The three hosts are Hot Dogs Ladies (whose popular joke-saturated Twitter feed is totally worth a look), Lonely Sandwich (real name: Adam Lisagor) and Scott Simpson (who doesn’t have a nickname, but it feels like he does since his name is always said in full). “We are in deep Larry David territory here,” Scott Simpson announces during one episode, and in their dissections of common annoyances and domestic miscellany, they do occasionally dwell there, but they are by no means confined to it. More often they are hard at work exploring odd universal truths like the desire to grab the gun out of a cop’s holster on line at Starbucks. The only unfortunate aspect of You Look Nice Today is its irregular schedule. When the show started in early 2008, it was a weekly. After about a year, it slowed to a monthly, and now, well, the November offering was the show’s first since mid-summer, and there hasn’t been a new one since.

The Joe Rogan Experience
Joe Rogan is a member in very good standing with the comedy community. If any comedians have a negative opinion of him, they tend to keep it to themselves, which may or may not stem from the fact that they are all 100% sure Rogan could absolutely destroy their asses with tactical proficiency in a cage match. He used to fight competitively and he still practices jujitsu, but more importantly, Rogan is a commentator for the Ultimate Fighting Championship and he knows everybody in the MMA world. Fighting and mixed martial arts are frequent topics on the show, and fans of those pursuits will surely eat up these conversations about who can take whom, and who is under investigation for steroids, et cetera.

Oddly then, the conversation also strongly resembles fogged-out dorm room chatter at times because Joe Rogan loves drugs. He is a big proponent of mind-expansion via mushrooms and DMT, and his passionate advocacy of marijuana is so pronounced that during pretty much every episode, he and the other hosts are apparently barbecued out of their minds. There’s a lot of overlap in topics, and lots of narrowly avoided overlap too (“We’ve talked enough about Eddie Griffin in the past, so let’s not get into it again.”). If the show were a little tighter there’d be less repetition because the hosts wouldn’t need to fall back on comfort zone topics in order to shove past the two-hour mark.

The Bugle
The conceit of The Bugle is laid out right in the tagline: “An audio newspaper for a visual world.” Basically it’s the podcast equivalent of The Daily Show and The Onion, but British, and with a little Monty Python-style absurdity thrown in for good measure. The Bugle is a weekly satirical dispatch about world events which proudly trumpets (or bugles, I guess) the increasing irrelevancy of the format it’s mocking. After all, in a world gone nutty for 24-7 news, who exactly would need an actual straightforward radio program chronicling the week that was? The show is hosted by two comedians, John Oliver from The Daily Show and Andy Zaltzman, with whom American audiences will be less familiar. John always sounds boisterous and celebratory, giving his sarcastic quips a whiff of cognitive dissonance. (How could a delivery so chipper carry content so biting?) Andy is often more reserved, but no less funny. He’s a British comedian of the Daniel Kitson mold.

So much preparation and thought go into each episode, you’d think there was a small staff of writers, or at least more than two of them. It’s amazing how many jokes they manage to cram in. The show smacks of effort in the best possible way. See for example, one episode’s section mocking self-help books offers this impressive list of fake titles: “How to Shout in Public and Find Love”, “You and Your Eyebrows: Unlocking the Power of the Frown”, “The Stranger Whisperer: How to Make Friends on Crowded Public Transport By Gently Whispering into People’s Ear About Fun Things You Might One Day Do Together,” and “The Expectant Expectorant: Spitting for a Long Life.” Another example of the seemingly offhand greatness of the show is the way Andy introduces John at the beginning of each episode. He always throws in some hilariously unnecessary over-the-top praise during the announcement, see for example: “The Mahatma Gandhi of making gags, the Jesus Christ of joke cracking, the Ludwig Van Beethoven of lampooning those buffoons, the Barbra Streisand of biting satire, it’s John ‘The Pitchfork of Accountability’ Oliver.”

Walking the Room
Greg Behrendt is a strange case in the comedy world. He’s a 20-year veteran of the standup circuit, but he’s most famously known as a bestselling author and self-help guru, having written He’s Just Not That Into You. That massive hit book, and the movie it inevitably inspired, may have made Behrendt millions, but it broke his reputation. It’s a classic case of a person being haunted by their own freak success. Dave Anthony is a comedian and writer who’s been on the verge of making it for a long time. Suffice to say that both of these guys have a lot to prove these days, which seems to be the unspoken motive behind the podcast they co-host, Walking the Room.

The tagline for the show is “Kind of a podcast,” but a more accurate line would be “The most existential comedy podcast.” A great deal of airtime is devoted to the concept of podcasts and what it means to have one. When the hosts are not jokingly slagging off the quality of their own show, they are opening up and detailing sincere-sounding thoughts on how the ubiquity of podcasts is a good thing. The main thrust of the show is that these guys are mostly concerned with what is happening with their lives right now at every level. Lucky for them, they’re able to do so in way that is funny. Both Greg and Dave are middle-aged parents and they work pretty hard at hilariously deglamorizing the lifestyle of aging comedians. They talk about aging a lot — about having to deal with it in general, but also dealing with it specifically as a comedian. Walking the Room is enjoyable enough, though, and hardly ever takes itself seriously.

Uhh Yeah Dude
It’s pretty impressive that Jonathan Larroquette and Seth Romatelli have been producing weekly episodes of their show, Uhh Yeah Dude, for almost five years now without any guests. At this point, though, guests would probably just get in the way of the easy comic chemistry between the hosts, which is what makes the show. Jonathan and Seth combine the regular-guyness of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia with a jaded LA attitude and an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture. Seth is a sometime actor from Boston whose biggest role to date was in the Britney Spears vehicle, Crossroads, and Jonathan is Hollywood royalty, being the son of… well, I bet you can guess who he is the son of. Seth is the more tightly wound of the two, and when he vents a head full of steam about something in his Masshole accent, Jonathan usually just backs off and laughs as the rant intensifies. While Seth has the tirade thing down, Jonathan is probably the better storyteller, offering funny bits from his childhood, annoying encounters with the denizens of LA, and tales from being on the road with his electro-acoustic band, Jogger. By now their timing is well honed enough that they can jump all over each other’s sentences in a complimentary way and never miss a beat. Their rapport is nearly telepathic.

Although Jonathan and Seth often talk about the general state of society, the show isn’t exactly topical. It’s obvious they make a conscious effort to avoid talking about whatever everybody else will be talking about. Instead, they tend to report and comment on the many News of the Weird-type items that either fall between the cracks or end up on the lower slugs of CNN’s webpage. Jonathan and Seth have a knack for glomming onto the kind of anecdote-bait studies you’ll want to tell someone later on, such as scientists conclusively refuting the famous 5-second rule. (“How about the no seconds rule?” Seth asks. “How about even if you catch a piece of food on the way to the ground, don’t eat it?” Jonathan counters.) What elevates this podcast to the very top tier is its consistency — every single episode has steady laughs to spare.

Risk! is one of those gems which bring together a diverse group of performers who are unafraid of embarrassing themselves if it means making a connection with the audience. It features comedians, writers, and various film and TV people sharing personal stories they never thought they’d reveal. “True tales boldly told” is the tagline, and the resulting show comes off like a cross between This American Life and a series of ASSSSCAT monologues at UCB.

The podcast is hosted by Risk’s creator, Kevin Allison, who hails from densely populated comedy troupe, The State, and who is still in possession of the fun, goofy energy he brought to The State’s MTV show in the 90s.

Each episode has a theme, like Dreams, Awful Jobs, or Strange Sex. Although some of the stories tie only loosely into the theme, it doesn’t really matter as long as the product is funny or at least interesting. The focus in selecting talent for the show seems geared toward finding the best raconteurs with the best stories, rather than just going after big names (although there are some of those too). Not every story is one you’ll find worth listening to — they can’t all be winners — but when the quality dims, quantity is there to even things out. At least four guests are featured on each show, and the fact that Risk! is made up of so many short vignettes means that if you don’t like what you’re hearing now, the odds are you’ll get a kick out of the next bit.

Comedy & Everything Else
Jimmy Dore must have a decent reputation in the comedy world, because he books headlining shows and has a steady stream of quality guests for the podcast he hosts (along with co-host Stef Zamorano). David Spade ended up being a really compelling interviewee, and how could Joan Rivers’ story not be worth hearing? Sometimes there are playful bits with guests, where it sounds like everyone is having fun, but at some point each episode undergoes a tonal shift. The slide from stories about comedy to opinions on day-to-day news feels abrupt every time. As long as Jimmy and company don’t get too carried away they tend to make some interesting points, but the hostility that eventually emerges must be off-putting if the listener isn’t 100% on board with the philosophy behind it. When guests seem to feel uncomfortable agreeing with the partisan opinions Jimmy tries to goad them into endorsing, you just might find yourself squirming.

Jordan Jesse Go!
The titular Jordan and Jesse are Jordan Morris and Jesse Thorn, a couple of funny guys who are both articulate and full of relatable opinions. Jordan is a comedian and TV host whose only film credit (All About Steve) is a perennial target of gentle ribbing, usually self-inflicted. Jesse Thorn is an all-around digital magnate with several podcasts and websites to his credit. Both of these guys are quick and sharp enough to go beat-for-beat with some of the funniest comics and writers working today and never seem too outmatched. Typical guests include actors like Martin Starr, literary humorists like Sarah Vowell, and pretty much every comedian who has a podcast, has ever been a guest on one, or ever will.

Rather than simply interviewing, the hosts include guests in the discussions they have planned out and whatever else happens to come up. There are dissections of modern social behaviors alongside rundowns of TV shows, music, and restaurants. It’s usually such free-flowing conversation, though, with everyone jumping in and detouring in different directions, that it’s a wonder they ever get back to whatever they were talking about in the first place. “This show needs Ritalin” Scott Aukerman said when he was a guest, prompting a bit about Ritalin sponsoring the show. Overall, Jordan, Jesse, GO! is a funny and subscription-worthy podcast from some total pros who’ve been at it a long time.

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Never Not Funny is the weekly podcast of national treasure, Jimmy Pardo. It is a thing of beauty. Although Pardo does charge a fee for subscribing, you can download a shortened version of each episode for free on iTunes.

Superego features improv games and sketches with some A-list guests

How Did This Get Made is Paul Scheer’s brand new weekly podcast devoted to deconstructing the abysmal failure movies that are currently stinking up a theatre near you. His co-hosts are Jason Mantzoukas (who co-stars with Scheer on The League), and June Diane Raphael.

Comedy Film Nerds is an in-depth look at movies from comedian/filmmakers Graham Elwood and Chris Mancini

Who Charted? is a new one from Howard Kremer (a/k/a Dragon Boy Suede), wherein he and a guest discuss the top 5 chart makers in music, movies, and television.

The Morning After is a podcast notable for pairing up comedians with porn stars to reach new levels of sexy awkwardness that you probably are not yet prepared to encounter.

Judge John Hodgman is the work of John Hodgman and you love John Hodgman so I’m not even going to say any more about this one.

Harland Highway is a trip into the wacky psyche of comedian Harland Williams, whom you will recognize from his bit roles in all the early Farrelly Brothers movies (i.e. the good ones).

Road 2 Shambala is a weekly podcast with up-and-coming New York comics celebrating conversation, Good Times, music, mystery, and beer.

UCB Asssscat! is a recording of the flagship show from L.A’s branch of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

Funemployment Radio is the project of two former radio hosts from Portland who turned their stint at unemployment into a popular comedy podcast.

40 Year Old Boy is the brainchild of one Mike Schmidt. He describes it as “a brutally funny and profane steam-of-conscious monologue about my life” and he is not wrong.

The Best Show on WFMU features brilliant TV writer Tom Scharpling doing things to the radio call-in show format that are truly innovative. The 3-hour length requires patience, but also rewards it.

The Mike O’Meara Show is a fun mash-up of real-life, pop culture, news of the day, dynamic audio clips, and four guys busting each other’s balls.

Stop Podcasting Yourself is sloganed “Vancouver’s Top Comedy podcast?,” to give you an idea of the self-effacing wit of its hosts. The show is an affiliate of Jesse Thorn’s Maximum Fun family of podcasts.

MATTs Radio was an awesome weekly visit from comedians Matt Braunger and Matt Dwyer that had a stellar lineup of up-and-coming guests like Julie Klausner, Joe Mande, and Kumail Nanjiani. Unfortunately the Matts stopped recording in August of 2010, but with over a year’s worth of episodes banked, the show is worth seeking out.

Walking with Michelle is recorded while Michille Biloon goes on an adventure with some great guests.

The Dork Forest is veteran comedian Jackie Kashian hitting the sweet spot for comedy nerds who are also nerd-nerds, like, for real.

Bill Burr Monday Morning Podcast, Steve Agee: Uhhh, and Dave Hill’s Podcasting Incident are all exactly what those titles would lead you to conclude.

Joe Berkowitz edits books and writes stuff. He also has a Tumblr.

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  • Christopher Scott

    Can I recommend:
    Pass The Carrots http://passthecarrots.podbean.com/
    and Left Hand Radio http://lefthandedradio.libsyn.com/

  • http://falala.la Dan Sweeney

    Great list. Never Not Funny is one of the originals and still the best!

  • http://www.twitter.com/becca_oneal Rebecca O'Neal

    Good list!

    The comedy podcasts on Breakthru Radio (where I think Stop Podcasting Yourself is now hosted) are consistently great. They tend to focus on NYC-based comedy. There's a monthly best-of podcast of the Jenny Slate, Gabe Liedman, Max Silvestri hosted Big Terrific show – along with a podcast called We're All Friends Here that's confessional without the heart of WTF. Portrait of a Comedian is pretty good too. All three of these shows usually showcase great but not-yet-famous comedians who are definitely going to be names we hear more of in the coming months and years. If you look at the guest backlogs, you'll see what I mean.

    And I just discovered a show called Grandma's Viginity that's pretty weird, but they have a great episode with Community's Dan Harmon and Dino Stamatopoulos, who plays Starburns, but has also written for like… every comedy show you've loved over the past 10+ years.

    I tried listening to the UCB podcast, but I only did improv for two years in high school. Unless you're deep in the underbelly of the improv world, the podcast can be a bit impenetrable. Lots of insidery improv terms bandied about. I need a Rosetta Stone just to get through it.

    There are just too many podcasts!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ethan-Herdrich/1231358365 Ethan Herdrich

      YES GRANDMA'S VIRGINITY! I listen to most of the podcasts on this list, but by far my favorite podcast is Grandma's Virginity. Consistently hilarious, only podcast I've continued to listen to after being laid off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dustin-DAddato/1000728318 Dustin D'Addato

    Might I also humbly suggest my podcast over at thecomedynerds.com. We are comedy nerds and comedians who talk about comedy stuff with comedy people. That's a lot of comedy.

    • http://www.twitter.com/becca_oneal Rebecca O'Neal

      I really liked the episode with Rebecca Trent who owns The Creek and The Cave!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mark-Feinsod/558621366 Mark Feinsod

      I'll second this. The Comedy Nerds rock.

  • http://sorryyourheinous.tumblr.com/ sorry your heinous

    It's only two episodes in, but I love How Did This Get Made. Paul Scheer I knew was hilarious, but Jason Mantzoukas and June Diane Raphael are amazing co-hosts. They all are funny in slightly different ways and it has worked perfectly so far. First episode was on Burlesque, second on, uh, the latest Nicolas Cage one with the witch? I haven't seen either, but want to now just on how brilliantly they critique them.

    [it's also relatively short, which for a podcast fan like me, is welcome at this near-saturation point; my favorite podcast remains Doug Loves Movies]

  • Liberlegis

    PNSexplosion is pretty good, too. It's amateur, aggressively gay and crass; but consistently funny. I started listening to podcasts 5 years ago, and it's one of the few to which I am still subscribed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Cohen/557086526 Andrew Cohen
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Bancel/13805991 Terry Bancel

    clearly you don't listen to the adam carolla podcast.

    • harper alexander

      Yup, my thoughts exactly. And yet clearly you hate on it anyway.

      1. Teresa Strasser hasn't been co-host for weeks, if not months. So… "seriously comprehensive" but not accurate.
      2. They're not "random noises". The drops may not be your cup of tea, that's fair, but calling them random is lazy.
      3. Adam has his fall-back schtick, sure, but so does everyone else (what else does Maron do if not "hammer into the ground" his self-defeating, jealous, insecure shtick? Or Pardo his blowhardy wisecracker? Or PFT his arch highminded jerk persona?)

      • http://sorryyourheinous.tumblr.com/ sorry your heinous

        The entire Adam Carolla Podcast section is repeated from the previous article (from months ago) so 1 is not really fair. Perhaps all the previously reviewed sections should be updated, but let's be honest, this was a lot to undertake and (correct me if I'm wrong), Adam's show has gotten, if anything, more like a radio show than it had been. I think for some that isn't a good thing and the primary negative in the review above.

        • harper alexander
    • http://www.anfscu.tumblr.com Joe Berkowitz

      Um, you got me? I don't listen to Adam Carolla for two hours every day. I did listen to several episodes back in September, though, and I think I got the gist. But the good news for you is that he has the #1 rated podcast in the world so it doesn't matter that it wasn't my personal cup of tea.

      • harper alexander

        So you concede inaccurate and intellectually lazy? Um, ok, you're gotten?

        • http://sorryyourheinous.tumblr.com/ sorry your heinous

          Joe, seriously, never concede you don't listen to a show as obsessively as its fans. It is the only way to appreciate Adam's nuance, which he is known for.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terry-Bancel/13805991 Terry Bancel

            I get that his tax rants can get tiresome fast but I wouldn't say his show should be described as right wing. ALSO, a lot of the guys listed above are huge fans of his (Greg Fitzsimmons, Doug Benson are frequent guest hosts).

  • Guy Whitey Corngood

    In addition to the podcast for The Best Show on WFMU with Tom Scharpling, I highly recommend the Best Show Gems podcast, which updates every other week with classic Best Show/Scharpling & Wurster material.

    Those two podcasts, along with the Pod F. Tompkast, are really all you need. Everything else is, as Tom might say, podtrash. Especially Carolla!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Isaiah-Machiz/735538718 Isaiah Machiz

    The "Heidi and Frank Show" and their "After Hours" show blows this entire list away.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Iqbaljeet-Badesha/739346924 Iqbaljeet Badesha

    Richard Herrings "As It Occurs To Me" (AIOTM, AIOTM!) should definitely be on this list.

  • http://vagary.tv/blackcouch Marcus Green

    My Brother, My Brother, and Me. Go listen to it now.

  • Laraine

    Great job!
    I'm a happy subscriber to the Never Not Funny podcast and adore Pardo. I even attended the recent 12 hour Pardcast-a-thon that raised money for Smile Train…such a great evening.
    I wish they would bring MATTs Radio back. I love the music selections they had and they never failed to putt a smile on my face.

  • PeteinLville

    Great article- I will think of this as the Rosetta Stone (the real one, not the one that teaches you foreign languages) of comedy podcasts.
    Talkin' Sh*t with Jim Jefferies and Eddie Ifft is another one to check out.
    What about a weekly review of podcasts as a podcast (too 'meta'?)?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Mischnick/699648889 Michael Mischnick

    It's hard to take you seriously as a reviewer if you say SModcast is "not recommended." I don't know when I've laughed harder than at most of the SModcasts I've listened to.

    Perhaps if you are squeamish about talking about sex, but then why would you want to listen to a podcast hosted by Kevin Smith anyway?

  • fromtheburro

    Adam Carolla: not recommended. And Smodcast. Yeah, you are way off base. Although WTF is awesome.

    How about trying: http://www.thepwashow.com it's called The P.W.A. Show.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nat-Towsen/578782675 Nat Towsen

      How can someone be "off base" for telling you that THEY don't recommend something?

  • http://www.beardownpodcast.com rjv

    http://www.beardownpodcast.com Matt Walsh -UCB Theater & Scot Armstrong – Old School, Semi Pro, The Heartbreak Kid

  • Liz

    So many podcasts I've never come across before. Can't wait to dig in and find some new favorites.

    To add to the list…if you like comedy AND hip-hop (like me!) I highly recommend listening to the Hypemen podcast. It is half comedy, half hip-hop in scope, and the brothers that do ItsTheReal co-host it with Jensen Karp. It's about an hour long, weekly, and conversational/interview-y. They've had tons of great guests on. Paul Scheer, Hannibal Buress, Jon Daly, Martin Starr to name a few. Good stuff.

  • http://www.openmedi.de openmedi

    I really like "The Complete Guide to Everything" with Tim and Tom (and I'm not paid (much) to say this).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marc-Brandl/904465723 Marc Brandl

    Pretty good list – I love love love the Bugle – a couple additional British podcasts to check out – The Frank Skinner Show podcast – the best bits of a comedy based weekend radio show – also 'The Perfect Ten' with Phil and Phil – comes out very very irregularly but good stuff when it does – also – The Adam and Joe Show is excellent and from the BBC.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nat-Towsen/578782675 Nat Towsen

    This article is good…at first. Why did you give up with the rubric after the first third? And then give up on commentary altogether at the end?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Wilson/587830807 Dan Wilson

    Allow me to add Radiostar Improv to this list. Full improvised radio plays, posted every other Monday. There are a couple of dramatic pieces in the batch, but it's about 98% comedy. They've got over 180 shows posted so far. http://www.radiostarnetwork.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Geoffrey-Welchman/1024833551 Geoffrey Welchman

    My own podcast: The Inverse Delirium. Inspired by Python, Mr. Show, Firesign Theater, and a few of the podcasts listed in this article. http://inversedelirium.libsyn.com

  • http://philm.tumblr.com philm

    SplitSider should do a Weekly Podcast roundup! Might I throw my hat in the ring for this (unpaid) position?

  • aj

    Jon Hamm was on the most recent Pod F. Tompkast. Time to update that entry!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Geoffrey-Welchman/1024833551 Geoffrey Welchman
  • matthewdl@twitter

    Great list! Can I recommend two more?

    1. The Dr. Matt Podcast – http://thedrmatt.com/
    2. The Spoodcast – http://www.spoodcast.com/

  • Cave Comedy Radio@twitter

    Hey Joe!

    How about some of this!:


    Thanks and keep up the hilarious, supportive and great work.

  • Leon Sjogren@facebook

    I notice there's not many recommendations of Australian podcasts…they're funny too! Check out The Boardroom podcast http://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/the-boardroom-au/id420299585

  • Sean Ranzell

    I think the funniest podcast on this list has to be Adam Carolla. The WTF podcast is okay but it is not real comedy driven from what i have heard. I especially like The Hotshot Whiz Kids Podcast, who have a more conversation style delivery but are pretty hilarious most of the time. http://www.hotshotwhizkids.com

  • marshall stevenson

    Also check out http://www.3dudesandabroad.com 4 new york area comics

  • sansured

    I'd bet that you are crapping on the Adam Carolla podcast because of your moronic devotion to left wing political correctness. Carolla's is by far the most entertaining comedy podcast out there, which is why it's the #1 downloaded comedy podcast in the world. Because Adam has a mind of his own and doesn't step in line for the liberals and bow down, he is attacked and his fantastic podcast is mischaracterized. Go listen people..you will love it (especially great are the episodes with David Allen Grier "DAG") .

    • http://twitter.com/nichobert nich obert

      Some people just find him grating, you know.

      He can be amazing, but I really feel bad for you if you think that everybody in the world who has the audacity to be annoyed by Carolla is "bowing down for the liberals"

      Also funny is how much little republicans sound like communists from when I was in high school. It's truly amazing that the GOP has brainwashed people into thinking they give two shits about freedom.

      The thing is, none of these shows are PC. comedy bang bang called Black Friday "n*gger Friday" and almost all of them make rape jokes or retard jokes or religion jokes on a regular basis.

      Is it true that some people don't get Carolla is putting on an act to a degree? Certainly, but dude. He can be REALLY grating.

      Don't worry, you'll get your Ron Paul R3volutuon and then Wal Mart will be able to carve the Rockies into their logo and dye the rivers Wal Mart blue just like freedom should be!!

  • Wynneux

    Great List! I'd add Dead Author Podcast. The Crab Feast. Mohr Stories. Girl On Guy. You Know What Dude. Smartest Man in the World. Professor Blastoff.

  • Tedbert

    might have been mentioned in the comments already, didn't check and don't care, smartest man in the world with greg proops is always hilarious and periodically edifying