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Thursday, May 19th, 2011

This Week in Comedy Podcasts

Regardless of all the technological bleeps and bloops or the futuristic sounding name, podcasts are still rooted in one of the oldest entertainment formats, the talk show. People have been gathering around and talking for as long as there has been talking and gathering. From time to time, like with televised talk shows, guests will make the rounds on podcasts. Previously, the most obvious example was probably Casey Wilson’s recent blitz promoting the premier of Happy Endings. Her spate of appearances pales in comparison to Jen Kirkman’s this week, though; in promoting her new comedy album, she appeared on six podcasts in the last 10 days (more than even Adamandeve.com, this week’s ubiquitous — and sexy — podcast sponsor.) Of course, Kirkman is usually as charming and funny as a puppy in a top hat, but showing up on that many shows is also as ridiculous as a puppy in a top hat. Regardless of whether guests have something to plug or not, podcasts are still at a point where most guests appear to show up without an agenda beyond having fun. That’s why when a comedian “makes the rounds” this way, and so quickly, it serves as a harsh reminder of the business side at the core of it all. As time goes on, weeks like Jen’s will probably become less the exception and more the rule. For now, here are the week’s best podcasts (some unavoidably featuring the lovely Jen Kirkman):

Top 5 Comedy Podcasts This Week (In alphabetical order)

1. Comedy Bang Bang # 105 — Jon Daly, Matt Walsh, Scott Armstrong
There is probably no greater rivalry in the world of comedy podcasts than Comedy Bang Bang’s Daly vs. Daly (Andy and Jon respectively). OK, so it should be noted that this rivalry doesn’t actually exist, at least explicitly, but it should. Currently, Andy has Jon beat in total number of appearances (nine to seven) but, with performances like this week, Jon seems poised for a comeback. Jon appeared as Sappity Tappity, the premier drunken, English, roller-blading Christmas tree/incredibly offensive limerick writer/friend of En Vogue and quite possibly the most absurd character ever brought to Comedy Bang Bang (and Comedy Death Ray before it). This is CBB at its best, a performer completely locked into a character with Scott and the other guests, in this case Matt Walsh and a Hangover-Part-II-promoting Scot Armstrong, pushing it to the even more ridiculous.

2. How Was Your Week # 10 — Pico Won’t Know Our Baby
The fabulous, foreboding specter of Cher dominated much of Julie Klausner’s podcast this week. Whether in the form of a documentary on Cher’s transgender daughter/son Chaz, or an amazing story from guest Jen Kirkman about the experience of actually meeting Cher herself, the iconic musician/actress/life force was often a focus. First comes Klausner’s play-by-play recap of Becoming Chaz, the aforementioned documentary, which is best summed up by the host’s observation that Becoming Chaz has basically become Chaz’ career. It’s only during Jen Kirkman’s recounting of actually meeting and getting hugged by Cher, that the depths of Julie Klausner’s devotion really come out. Her rapt attention as the story unfolds (“Wait, back up — what was she wearing and what did she smell like?”) makes the story feel epic, and her reaction to each new detail is priceless. Elsewhere on the show, Klausner chats with cute comedy couple, Andrea Rosen and John Gemberling, in an interview that unearths the wonderful title line of the episode. The icing on the cake this week is an interstitial segment that struggles to explain the endless appeal of the Tears for Fears song, “Sowing the Seeds of Love.”

3. The Morning After…Podcast #44 — Kayden Kross, Kyle Kinane
Kyle was another comedian all over the podcast map this week, which is a great thing as he is generally one of the best up and coming stand-ups out there. Beyond Morning After, he also appeared on Comedy Film Nerds and also The Nerdist by way of Jonah Ray’s surprisingly on-point impression of the burly comedian. The Morning After premise is a volatile one; pair a famous porn star with a neurotic comedian and see what happens. This week’s episode the contrast couldn’t have been more drastic between the two double KK named guests; Kayden was everything you’d expect in a porn star and Kyle was at his most anxiety ridden. There is an interesting conversation comparing the vulnerability of having sex on camera with being the type of stand-up that draws directly from his personal life. The best moments come during the weekly debate of cats vs. dogs, as Kyle describes the unfortunate lives of marmosets.

4. Uhh Yeah Dude #271
“America Through the Eyes of Two American Americans” is UYD’s motto, so it’s no surprise that two episodes into the post-Osama world, there’s still a little boasting going on here. Seth Romatelli jokes about how he and his co-host Johnathan Larroquette’s pro-America vibes over the years basically make them honorary members of the group that got bin Laden (“Seal Team 6 plus us. Seal Team 8.”) Since Andy Rooney felt the need to mention that he’s only had a couple of occasions in his lifetime in which he celebrated a person’s death, the hosts speculate on who those other two people were (Hitler and Ossie Davis.) Although there were a lot of other funny moments on this sharp episode, one not to miss is the imagining of what would happen if Johnathan were a contestant on the singing competition show, The Voice. Someone at NBC, please make this happen

5. Who Charted? #24 — Paul Rust
Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack’s podcast keeps getting better and better. The stated goal of the show (besides generating laughs, of course) is to get to know a new guest each week through the prism of their opinions on music and movie charts. Sometimes the guests’ opinions about popular music help us get to know a little too much about them, but this week’s breezy episode with comedic multi-hyphenate Paul Rust seems to contain absolutely no contempt for the things being made fun of. Whether it’s reenacting dialogue from Fast Five or wondering on whether Thor’s penis itself has six pack abs, nobody seems too invested in disparaging these targets. Also, one of the highlights of each episode is Howard Kremer’s intentionally dumb questions tying into whatever song or movie is being discussed (on Thor: “Have you ever thrown a hammer at anyone?”), and Paul Rust’s quick responses keep the show moving at a steady, funny clip. And when Kremer’s questions aren’t dumb, well, so much the better (“If Paul Giamatti was your wrestling coach would you listen to him or would you intentionally disobey him so he yelled at you and make the veins on his forehead stand out?”)

Honorable Mentions:

Comedy Film Nerds #58 — Kyle Kinane
This episode tends to lean towards more film discussion than would be ideal but Kyle has enough one-liners to make it worth it if you are a fan of his. In of itself, his explanation of going to see the Pirates of the Caribbean series in a theater filled with children and getting lost in the pirate-fueled glee is worth the $.00 it cost to download.

Glitter in the Garbage #23 — Matt Besser, Sean Conroy
Do to the nature of they very improvised format, Drew Droege’s GitG tends to be pretty uneven most weeks. This week is good all the way through thanks two great guests, Sean Conroy and the incomparable Matt Besser. The sketch where Besser plays the pope fielding questions from reporters played by Droege and Conroy, is hands down one of the shows all-time best.

Judge John Hodgman — The Bedroom Three-way
Often the comedy on JJH stems from Hodgman’s wonderful, smarty-pants condescension, yet this week the Judge seemed to be actually having a good time with his college-aged guests. The ruling was obvious from the start, so instead the Judge spent most of the episode having a blast with the youngsters and marveling at one’s organ playing chops.

Mike & Tom Eats Snacks
Another week another snack, or in this case two. This time the boys try two snacks submitted by viewers (they’re not viewers). One of which is the Ireland’s own Meany’s Corn Snacks. Accordingly, MIB slaps on his best, or maybe worst, Irish accent to tell the story of the down on his luck Meany’s factory worker.

WTF with Marc Maron #174 — Sally Wade
In honor of George Carlin’s birthday, Marc has on his ex-“spouse without papers” who had recently published a book of letters from their relationship. The interview fluctuates between touching, overly revealing, and weird but is a must listen for any Carlin fan, which is basically everyone.

Jesse Fox is a freelance writer, podcaster, cat person, and Jew (in that order). He lives in San Francisco. His iPod is broken.

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

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