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Thursday, May 12th, 2011

This Week in Comedy Podcasts

“So many comedy podcasts, not enough hours in the day.” That’s what people are constantly saying to each other all the time. Frankly, it’s getting old and people should really stop saying that. In the meantime, we’ve pledged to sort through as much of the clutter as possible to find out which shows are worth checking out each week. Because we’re total heroes. If we somehow missed your favorite, though, please direct all cries of “Philistines!” to the comments section below, and perhaps a future episode will make the cut. For now, though, here are the best podcasts of the week:

1. Hype Men #39 — Max Silvestri
If there was anything resembling “conventional wisdom” about the incredibly niche realm of comedy hip-hop podcasts, it would suggest that the ideal guest be a comedian who is also well versed in Wacka Flocka Flame. On this week’s episode of Hype Men, that nonexistent CW is debunked when comedian Max Silvestri shows up with an admitted deficit in recent music awareness, and still kills it. Silvestri proves to be a great guest, very quick and prone to the same faux-flustered stacking of explanatory sentences that are his signature in stand-up. Because the guest’s knowledge of hip-hop peaked during the Dr. Dre and Snoop era, the topics stay less inside baseball-y than usual, freeing Eric and Jensen to get into more surface-level discussions like whether Jennifer Aniston knows who Drake is. This episode is also notable for featuring a conversation about Williamsburg, Brooklyn that offers a fair survey of its residents, refreshingly sans contempt, without uttering the “h”-word. (Hint: it’s not “Hasid”.)

2. Mike & Tom Eat Snacks #16
Every week Michael “Mike” Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh eat snacks to varying success. With yogurt as this week’s snack, Mike and Tom created quite possibly the best episode of the show’s short history by playing to the hosts’ strengths: Mike’s is being a prickly asshole and Tom’s is encouraging Mike to be a prickly asshole. The conflict was instantaneous as Mr. Men In Black admitted that despite it being “so good” for his yeast infections, he always hated yogurt. Over the course of the episode his animosity grows until it peaks with an exasperated “yuck!” when he tries to shove some Yoplait down his gullet. The episode was very funny and it also captured in gripping detail the tragic fate of a dude who doesn’t like yogurt.

3. Nerdist #76 — Dana Dearmond
Dana Dearmond is an honest to goodness porn star. Before you decide she’d be better suited for Joe Rogan’s show (he seems like a bro who would oft interview porn stars), Dana flashes many nerd bona fides: she loves Star Trek, is a huge gamer, and routinely sticks cat toys up her ass. Ok, maybe scratch that last one. Still, it is apparent that Dana has long been a huge fan of comedy and is friends with many comedians. She was even at the infamous Zach Galifianakis 4th of July party that represented the pinnacle of fat, drunk Chris Hardwick. Most importantly, she loosened the boys up. Take their riffing on the idea of a Grandma filter for Facebook that translates the inappropriate (“My asshole hurts”) into the appropriate (“puppies are huggable”) or conversation about the Brown Bunny that turns into a game of movies that sound like nicknames for pooping. If there are any more porn stars with senses of humor (which seems unlikely), hopefully they are already scheduled to appear in the future.

4. Pod F. Tompkast #10
After a series of unfortunate delays, PFT is back. Rejoice Tompkamaniacs! After disclosing a shocking pro stance on unisex silver jumpsuits and expounding on the benefits of a two-time machine household, Paul acknowledges that the show is an acquired taste even for himself. For those that have acquired the taste it is a great episode; featuring a hilarious ramble about how musicians make their money these days, a solid episode of The Great Undiscovered Project, and a better than usual chat with Jen Kirkman. Still what stood out was the clip from his live show at Largo, in which he unveiled a new segment, Advice To The Probably Dead. This sketch involves him answering old letters to advice columns from the 50s and 60s. Advice includes, “Try withholding sex as a punishment. Either it will work like a charm or he will end up seeking sex outside the home. Which he’s probably doing anyway since it’s 1955 where you are. But if you divorce him you’ll be damaged goods. Sorry you don’t have rights yet.” The best part of a week-delayed Tompkast is that we won’t have to wait as long for the next episode.

5. Walking the Room #50 — Patton Oswalt
The insular, catchphrase-laden world of Walking the Room is shaken up this week by the show’s fourth-ever guest, “Classic American Gasbag” Patton Oswalt. This appearance was long in the coming, as Patton has been a champion of the show since it first started, often emailing in bonus jokes to the hosts during the recording. For half the episode, his presence registers as just a wheezy stream of laughs at Greg Behrendt and Dave Anthony’s verbal diarrhea, but this clear delight in being around these guys carries over into the discussions he’s involved in as well. The show starts with everyone taking a turn to tell stories of their favorite memories of Osama Bin Laden (Greg recalls bumping into him at an audition for the movie American Pie), and maintains a consistently offbeat tone from there. Unsurprisingly, Patton wins the day with a story about how being an overweight dad affects his daughter’s upbringing — a story which will hopefully find its way into his act.

Honorable Mentions:

The Nerdist #87 — Ed Helms
Although Ed Helms was a guest on Marc Maron’s show recently, it’s hard to get sick of the guy, as he is consistently good-natured, humble, and thoughtful addition to any podcast. Here he tells stories about coming up through the ranks of bubbling comedians at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York last decade, and the surreal nature of knowing Steve Martin through the bluegrass community. (FYI: Ed Helms is waist-deep in the bluegrass community.)

Pop My Culture
This week Vanessa and Cole discuss TGIF with Garfunkel & Oates, which is a very specific type of nerd’s wet dream. The worst trend in comedy podcasts might be the need to discuss how awful it is to go out on auditions, yet this week’s PMC’s version is redeemed by the image of Kate Miccuci in the most twee Olive Garden commercial ever.

My Brother, My Brother and Me #54 — Thorwatch 2011
The brothers McElroy started off this week’s episode joking about wanting to talk only about Thor, and then quickly proceed to work in references to the movie in the advice they give to listeners who’ve written in (“It sounds like she’s playing a trick on you,” Griffin says, “much like Loki plays tricks on Thor.”) No show is better at doling out advice that straddles the line between ridiculous and totally actionable.

Professor Blastoff #2— Nick Offerman
After a hit and miss first episode that spent more time with pseudo-metaphysics than trying to be funny, this week’s less weighty topic, bees, seem to afford Tig and friends more room to bring the funny. The comedic gravitational pull created by Nick Offerman and his moustache alone makes it worth a listen.

Who Charted? #23 — Brent Weinbach
Howard was in rare form this week. Brent was a surprisingly dry guest; however, with classic Wie-Wie questions like the Wiz Khalifa inspired, “If WWII was just German, England, Japan, and Pittsburgh would we have won?” the episode ended up memorable.

WTF with Marc Maron #172 — Sue Costello
This episode starts off on shaky ground with Maron screaming in his best (or maybe his worst) Boston accent for 10 minutes while trying to tell some story about screaming in Boston accents. Luckily, Sue is such a dynamic and charming presence that her stories of her rise and fall and rise again are not sullied by Maron’s persistent attempts at dropping his r’s. The tale of her getting the part in The Fighter is equal parts inspiring and touching.

WTF with Marc Maron #173 — Jonathan Winters
Maron shows a great deal of restraint with this interview with a comic legend. He makes sure to stay out of Winters’s way and allow him to take the interview in the many directions his mind wanted to take it. Maron strikes a perfect balance between displaying his heartfelt admiration for the comic genius and asking pointed questions that elicited captivating stories.

Jesse Fox is a writer/podcaster who lives in San Francisco and is incapable of walking, washing dishes, or tying shoelaces without a podcast playing.

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