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Thursday, July 21st, 2011

This Week in Comedy Podcasts

Comedy podcasts! They’re funny, they’re free; distract you from existential angst, give you something to talk about when you inevitably run out of things to say. But which comedy podcasts will you listen to? All of them? No way, friend — not unless you have about a thousand hours to spare. That’s why we’ve scoured the crop for you and selected only the juiciest offerings. These are the best comedy podcasts of the week:

Top 5 Comedy Podcasts This Week (In alphabetical order)

Earwolf Challenge Week 2 — Jimmy Pardo, Jason Sklar

Two weeks in and it’s clear that the idea of a reality competition podcast works. One of the most compelling aspects is hearing intelligent comedy minds talk seriously and thoughtfully about the medium. Through out all three episodes, Matt Besser would say things like “I never thought about that before,” and it seems like not many really have. What the best reality competitions do, like Top Chef, is use a series of challenges to reveal all that goes into the art form. Though theme song might seem like the most miniscule of criteria to judge, the point was actually that with the best podcasts all these little things are thought through and executed with intention. Beginnings got the boot this week partly because of a poor intro but mostly because the show was the least focused. Podcasting has a very low barrier to entry, meaning that a show can be out into the world with out really knowing what it is. Hopefully, the Earwolf Challenge will help raise the bar.

The Long Shot #320 — Jack McBrayer

Being a legit TV star, Jack McBrayer is a real get of a podcast guest. You’d expect the Long Shotters would make sure he was front and center yet the complete opposite is true. Jack can be heard in maybe three of the episodes 71 minutes. He tells a brief story about the kid who was voted “Most Original” (because he listened to classic rock) from his high school growing up to rob a bank but otherwise he’s barely audible. It came off like he was too polite to interrupt. Instead the episode was hilariously dominated — as the show often is — by Eddie and Sean ferociously riffing. They butted in every 50 seconds in the voice of an old newsreel announcer, shouting the increasingly absurd headlines from way back in 2006: “Teddy Roosevelt celebrates the completion of the Panama Canal.” “Italians start talking with their hands.” “The year of Vaseline and bookmarks.”

The joke goes from funny to killed to funny again in minutes. Still, if you’re looking for a McBrayer fix may we suggest looking at his amazing headshot.

Who Charted? #33 — Marc Maron

Despite being arguably two of the most consistently enjoyable comedy podcasts, WTF and Who Charted?, are on the exact opposite ends of the seriousness spectrum. That’s why it was so great to hear the “darkly titillating” Marc Maron have a blast with Howard and Kulap. He seems to have so much fun making up fake country songs and explaining why he thinks Scott Aukerman (Comedy Bang Bang host/Kulap’s husband) would be good in bed (it had something to do with singing Radiohead) that it’s easy to forget that last week he was talking with a comedian about attempting to commit suicide. Still, the best moment might have come when he was at his most Marc Marony; when asked what is one of the “top new things on Marc Maron’s face,” he ignores the obvious glasses answer to instead talk about getting his mild skin cancer removed.

WTF #193 — Richard Lewis

Comedy legend Richard Lewis made his way out to the Cat Ranch this week for a truly epic edition of WTF. Lewis has been in the business for over 40 tumultuous years, and the experience shows. This is a man who knows the business of being funny inside and out, and a man for whom being funny is so natural that it just pours right out of him on a constant drip. At this point, he is so entrenched in the persona of the uber-neurotic Jew that it’s difficult to tell whether he’s serious or not sometimes — especially in the moments where there are sparks of tension between him and Marc Maron. In a too-quick hour and a half, the comedian manages to cover the whole spectrum of his long career, talk show politics, the lengths he goes to keep his premises fresh, and some of his darker pre-sobriety moments (including a beyond-awkward encounter with Bruce Springsteen). It’s a credit to Marc Maron’s skills as an interviewer that the eventual slide into talking about Lewis’ fabled drunken years feels completely organic and unrushed. Lovers of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the show that has brought the comic some deserved late-career relevance, will also appreciate hearing the surprising story of how he and Larry David first met, and what they thought of each other at the time. This is easily up there with the Louis C.K. episode as essential WTF listening.

You Had to Be There #25 — Kurt Braunohler, Todd Barry, and Mike Daughty

After the first episode of You Had to Be There was transmitted out into the world this past January, some jackass on iTunes reviewed the podcast unfavorably, calling hosts Sara Schaefer and Nikki Glaser “boring” and “whorish” and swearing that they wouldn’t last 25 episodes. This is probably why it was with extra relish that the ladies celebrated their 25th episode this past week in fine style, recording at live at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York, with some terrific guests. Kurt Braunohler gets into a hilarious discussion with the hosts about the worst possible things people might say upon the moment of orgasm (“Are we in love?” is a personal favorite). Todd Barry does his inimitable, laconic Todd Barry thing all over the place, greeting the suggestion that he have his own podcast with a systematic dismantling of the whole concept of podcasts. The cherry on top of the ice cream sundae that is this episode is checking out the picture of Sara on the beach, which is featured on the YHTBT website, after hearing her tanning disaster story. Just do it.

Honorable Mention

Totally Laime #76 — Paul F. Tompkins

If there is one flaw with the Earwolf Challenge, it’s that they don’t pick a winner of each challenge. The closest we got was Matt Besser saying he thought Totally Laime nailed it, which was true. Also true, but Besser probably wouldn’t as freely say, is that TL is the front-runner to win the whole thing and this week’s interview with Paul F. Tompkins showed why. The show is the most fully conceptualized, consistently pulls the biggest guests, and rivals Who Charted? in terms of blast having. Also, it should be noted that we couldn’t go two weeks with out mentioning a Paul F. podcast appearance or we’d lose our coveted podcast criticism license

The Gentlemen’s Club #103 — Paul Rust

Comedian Caleb Bacon is funny enough to keep The Gentlemen’s Club podcast afloat when a porn star guest turns out to be dead weight, so when he has someone like Paul Rust on, who can more than hold his own, the show really soars. Rust is a writer/actor/all around comic performer whose guest turns on podcasts are always worth a listen. Here he talks about working with Paul Reubens and getting pulled over by cops while dressed like Paul Reubens (long story), as well as many other moments in his burgeoning career. The actual interviewing, though, only takes place in between some sharply deadpan back-and-forth bits of conversational improv with Caleb, which keeps things lively.

Pop My Culture #48 — William Zabka

One of the things that sets Pop My Culture apart from other comedy podcasts (in a good way!) is their fixation on culture from the 1980s, which seems to come from a place of fond remembrance rather than ironic fake-nostalgia. This week Cole Stratton and Vanessa Ragland take on seminal 80s bad guy, William Zabka, who seems at peace with the fact that people will always want him to say “sweep the leg” (it’s the first thing he says here). Zabka proves to be a game guest, neither clinging to or resenting his place in cinematic history. Also extra-fun on this episode is Vanessa, who is a little loopy due to injuries sustained from rolling down a hill. Yeah, you read that right.

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

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

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Frank-Pulaski/551352428 Frank Pulaski

    Great re-cap! I'm a big fan of The Longshot Podcast and made a newsreel video inspired by the 2006 riff from episode 320. Check it out:
    2006: A Year in Review Newsreel – The Longshot Podcast Episode #320
    http://FunnyOrDie.com/m/5wb0
    Aloha!