This Week in Comedy Podcasts
It’s all happening now. Comedy Bang! Bang! has been picked up by IFC to become a television program. Pack your bags my fellow pod-people, our beloved artform is hitting the big time (well the relative big time of the very premium, premium cable). Expect a flurry of questions from your nonpod-person friends: “So what is a podcast anyway? Are they on the radio? Who is the man in that nice suit pretending to be Ice-T? What’s a Nerdist? What’s a Tig Nataro? Am I saying that right, Nah-tah-ro?” It’s the beginning of the end or maybe the end of the beginning. Either way we better start readying ourselves so take a sip off these delicious iPod juices.
BRADFORD: Jordan, Jesse Go! #206 – Eddie Pepitone
Some podcast guests are a perfect match for a particular show, and my pick this week is an example of just that. Jordan, Jesse, Go!’s easy-going, riff-heavy nature fits stand-up comedian Eddie Pepitone like a glove, allowing Pepitone and hosts Jordan Morris and Jesse Thorn to have an energetic, fun conversation that digresses into all kinds of absurd tangents. The trio covers a lot of ground during the hour and change they spend together, from Pepitone’s recent “appearance” on 2 Broke Girls to Pepitone and Thorn’s shared fascination with Antiques Roadshow, from Eddie Pepitone being punched in the face at a music festival to the foreboding feeling one gets when meeting someone with a Hello Kitty memorabilia collection. Jordan, Jesse, Go! is a show that’s rarely serious, and Eddie Pepitone is a guy that’s very good (and experienced) at not being serious.
JESSE: improv4humans #8 – Sean Conroy, Brett Gelman, Curtis Gwinn
Improv4humans has been promising but lacking. Something just felt stilted about listening to improv performed without an audience. Even funny episodes felt overly technical and way too low energy. Someone needed to shake things up, make things a bit more unexpected. Brett “Incredibly Loud & Extremely Close” Gelman was that person. His tendency to push things quickly to its darkest most extreme angle effectively removed the show from its rut. Heartening as well was they figured out how to incorporate the bros broing-down nature of podcasts within the structure of a traditional Armando, by including bits from the pre-monologue chats into the scenes. These things take time but improv4humans has definitely found its footing, human footing.
JOEL: Pop My Culture #64: “Pop The Cork: The Best of 2011, Part 1” – Tony Hale, Rob Paulsen, Meredith Salenger, Paul F. Tompkins and James Urbaniak
Cole Stratton and Vanessa Ragland, the ever upbeat and often offbeat Pop My Culture hosts, take this whole intimate just-hanging-out-don’t-mind-if-we-do podcast thing up a notch with their first installment of their 2011 Year-In-Review show. They bring back five of their favorite guests from the past year for a jovial party to discuss their 2011 favorites and loathsome least favorite things pop culture-y. Part 1 focuses on the positive. Pop My Culture doesn’t take the easy way out and offer up some half-ass clip show with commentary. They basically recorded their own party. A party with lists! It’s a treat to listen in on an honest, adult and free-flowing conversation among a group of talented and fun folk. Don’t worry – Stratton and Ragland are still in charge, keeping the loose format from bursting into full party chaos. Their party/podcast guests for the night include: Tony Hale, Rob Paulsen, Meredith Salenger, Paul F. Tompkins and James Urbaniak. Each of them adds their own perspective to the proceedings. Above all, Stratton and Ragland’s force of personality and likeability again manage to make pop culture something grounded, adult and enriching. Go figure. Although, Part 2, turning to the what-I-don’t-like game, could always descend into a brawl.
While he may not truly be — by his own admission —the smartest man in the world, comedian Greg Proops does come off as being pretty damned big-brained in his podcast. (Full disclosure: Proops and I were in an improv group in San Francisco a quarter century ago and I know, from personal experience, that he is not only steeped in all manner of arcane knowledge but is also one of the fastest comic minds I’ve ever met.) You most likely know his mug from both the British and American flavors of Whose Line Is It Anyway, but here on TSMITW, he’s got no one to play off but himself. For an improvisor, that’s like the Fastest Gun In The West trying to outdraw himself. So some of his streams of consciousness, rather than evolving into laugh riots, turn into diatribes against (in this episode) the Iowa Caucus, Anderson Cooper or LA’s scattershot arsonist who was recently arrested. Every once in a while you find yourself realizing that his mile-a-minute monologing is totally improvised — truly standup without a net — and that’s where the bravado of the show’s title is justified. (The sheer amount of amazingly trivial and random references helps!) And those rare times when he burrows himself into a vein that doesn’t pay off in funny, Proops has the integrity to cop to it, switch gears and is off on another route to find the comedy mother lode.
ROGER: Comedy Bang Bang # 139 – Bob Odenkirk, Brian Huskey
Host Scott Aukerman claimed on this week’s podcast that Bob Odenkirk is solely responsible for him having a career in show business, on account of Odenkirk hiring Scott-o-bot as a writer/occasional performer on the highly respected Mr. Show. (They did not get into if the hiring process involved the revealing of skin between two certain body parts.) The two’s comedic chemistry made the first fifteen minutes of the podcast silly and entertaining, including the man who portrays Saul Goodman “spoiling” the final two seasons of Breaking Bad by admitting that due to the show being created by a textbook manufacturer, Walt is simply going to go back to teaching high school chemistry. As per usual, an attempt of Aukerman to ape Marc Maron’s podcasting style of going deep into the personal lives of his guests was interrupted by a wack job, this week played by improv veteran Brian Huskey, making his Bang! Bang! debut. Huskey’s character Paul Luzak, Aukerman’s landlord, admitted to a lot of weird stuff throughout the remainder of the episode that could have easily been expanded and riffed on for hours, but weren’t: one Odenkirk set-up that he saw FBI vans outside led “Luzak” to claim that that’s probably due to the “erotic assassination” tapes he’s in possession of. The all too abbreviated discussions of all of those strange things had to make way for an average but brain teasing all the same “Would You Rather?”, which humorously led Bob Odenkirk to reveal that his mortal enemy is Doc Ock (we have something in common!) The plugs portion was the most exciting in a long time, thanks to Odenkirk announcing that David Cross and himself will perform together next month and that he heard Tenacious D’s new album and it was “unreal.” Aukerman admitting that he hadn’t even heard that they were making an album confirmed that the master was still ahead of the student, if how close they are to Jack Black is a measure of such things.
Fitzdog Radio – Andy Richter
The Long Shot #415 – Brett Gelman
The Nerdist #156 – David Cross
WTF with Marc Maron #224 – Russell Brand
You Made It Weird #13 – Nick Kroll
Jesse David Fox is a freelance writer, cat person, and Jew (in that order). He lives in Brooklyn. His iPod is broken.
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.