The comedy podcast universe is ever expanding, not unlike the universe universe. We're here to make it a bit smaller, a bit more manageable. There are a lot of great shows and each has a lot of great episodes, so we want to highlight the exceptional, the noteworthy. Each week our crack team of podcast enthusiasts and specialists and especially enthusiastic people will pick their favorites. Also, we'll keep you posted on the offerings from our very own podcast network. We hope to have your ears permanently plugged with the best in aural funny.
Brad: Beginnings #63 – Chris Gethard
Chris Gethard apologizes throughout his appearance on Beginnings, a New York-based podcast hosted by self-described “fledgling comedians” Mark Bisi and Andy Beckerman, because so many of his stories from his past are bleak, but for those who don’t mind these pitch-black tales, it’s a revealing and intriguing listen. Gethard’s recounting of his violent New Jersey public high school days, which involved a race riot and him honing his sense of humor to get other kids to defend him from bullies, are just as grim and compelling as him reliving his comedy world struggles. Hosts Mark and Andy bring plenty of great stuff to the table as well, including Mark discussing writing and performing a song with his girlfriend for her mother’s birthday (the very thought of which makes Chris Gethard freak out), and Andy telling a story about fake coming out to his dad just to test his response. It’s a nice long chat that moves ably between heartbreakingly sad moments and light-hearted funny ones too.
Jay: Doug Loves Movies – Brody Stevens, Bert Kreischer, and Ari Shaffir
Doug Benson killed it last week with three star-studded episodes of Doug Loves Movies and one episode of The Benson Interruption, live from Seattle's Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival. Those podcasts were all great, but I chose the one he did when he got back to the friendly confines of Los Angeles' UCB Theatre because it features three of my favorite podcast hosts and/or guests. Comedians "Steven" Brody Stevens (of HBO Go's Brody Stevens: Enjoy It!), Bert "The Machine" Kreischer (of The Travel Channel's Trip Flip), and Ari Shaffir (of Ari Shaffir's Skeptic Tank podcast) join Doug for movie talk, contests, and of course, The Leonard Maltin Game. The episode gets off to a super awkward start, but Bert is there with crazy Bert stories to get it back on track in a hurry. Then Ari tells us how he accidentally extinguished JFK's eternal flame at Arlington National Cemetery. The guys play How Much Did This Shit Make with Batman and Robin. Brody gives a stirring rendition of his Hangover and Due Date lines. And the podcast concludes with a highly entertaining edition of The Leonard Maltin Game. Check out this episode of Doug Loves Movies. In the words of Brody Stevens, you'll "enjoy it!"
Jesse: Gelmania XI – Paul Scheer
I can't imagine this episode being released this week is a coincidence. Go On premiered this Tuesday. The sitcom represents Brett Gelman's biggest break to date. Yes, Gelman is fucking great on the show; however, if you've followed Gelman, you can see where he might feel strange, even apprehensive about the whole thing. As he revealed in his WTF interview, Gelman wanted to be a great theater actor, so you can imagine he'd have some difficultly accepting that he's a network sitcom star. This episode of Gelmania starts with a rant about what it means to be a real artist, opposed to just a hustler, and it partly felt like Brett was talking to himself. What followed was a satirical conversation between Paul Scheer and Brett that was meant to mock the shallowness and self-congratulatory nature of Hollywood. He eventually has a sex scene with himself, which, one can argue, was meant to send up how these entertainment industry conversations are no more than masturbation. The episode was not a laugh riot – though there are some very funny moments – but it was more than that. It was Brett declaring that though he might be on a big network sitcom with the guy from Friends, he still can find a way to be an artist.
Joel: You Made It Weird #83: “Live From SF Outside Lands” – Eric Andre, Jackie Kashian, Jon Glaser and Brett Gelman
A live Pete Holmes podcast sees him switching from intimate offbeat interviewer to a slightly neurotic and energetic panel host. It’s a fun change of pace, especially considering the oddball collection of guests at the San Francisco fest show. Holmes lays the fun groundwork from the get go with a great list of fake inappropriate video game titles. Eric Andre’s yelling impersonation of Holmes kicks off the guest portion and then Holmes and Andre get into a serious obnoxious-off. Next, Jackie Kashian shows up and they all end up trading mistaken facts and sad confessions, keeping things weird and awkward. Holmes and Jon Glaser are a great juxtaposition of approaches, with Holmes’ talkative riffing mixing greatly with Glaser’s deadpan obnoxiousness. The specific Holmes-Glaser joint awkwardness is a live episode treat, and, boy, it lasts for a long time. A thoughtful Gelman shows up after the great awkwardness and Holmes kicks back into serious interview mode. Holmes self-satisfaction with his test balloon jokes is always a treat and his ability to let the guests go, keeping things loose and definitely weird. Gelman and Andre even manage to squeeze in a bit of live podcast awkwardness of their own. There’s not a lot of structure other than audience being treated to a great group of comedians sitting around trying to make each other laugh, starting and stopping into a lot of conversational traffic jams and maybe learning a little about each other along the way. It’s all pretty messy but that’s okay. As Pete notes, it is definitely the weirdest, most uncomfortable episode yet, which is a great thing.
Lindsey: Throwing Shade #45
Erin Gibson got to attend the Democratic National Convention this week and got to offer Jordan Catalano cookies so she wins at life. You might be thinking that cookies aren't the thing that you would offer Mr. Catalano, but it should be. Cookies for Catalano should have been a thing long ago and it should definitely be a thing now. Let's make it happen. This episode of Throwing Shade also delves into the early years of Bryan Safi. We learn that when he was straight he lost his virginity to a lady with velveteen curtains. (Real curtains. Also vagina.) I'm supposed to pick a different podcast every week, but it's getting hard not to just review Throwing Shade every time because it has been on a roll lately. I have a friend who just got into it and listened to every episode in a week. It can be done, people. Catch up!
Marc: Here’s The Thing #24 – Fred Armisen
While not technically a comedy podcast, Alec Baldwin hosts enough comedians (Chris Rock, David Letterman, Kristen Wiig) and has funny enough interviews (such as his exchange with Billy Joel) to qualify on an honorary basis. And although his back-and-forth with SNL and Portlandia’s Fred Armisen isn’t rip-roaringly funny, he gets some terrific background and insight into one of the more novel comic minds to emerge in the past few years. Armisen’s history as a drummer for punk rock group Trenchmouth is no secret, nor is his time hitting the skins for the Blue Man Group in Chicago. Baldwin, however, gets him to talk about how those gigs influenced his comedy. Drumming for BMG, for example, taught Armisen, “Simplicity. To not over think ideas. Speed. They change from one bit, as it were, to the next very quickly…that is what I came away with the most. That audiences want to be entertained.” (Some podcasts could benefit from the same lessons!) Most intriguing is Armisen’s desire for comic discovery: “I want to invent a type of entertainment that is really blurry between comedy and something else. That doesn’t have a name yet…another level of fooling people as opposed to just doing a character.” Baldwin is so taken with Armisen’s Portlandia show that he asks which role he should play in the upcoming third season. “A meat aficionado,” suggests his guest.
Roger: Harmontown #8 – "Cleft in Twain!"
At first, Harmontown was an almost mythical monthly show that supposedly took place in Los Angeles' 200 person maximum capacity NerdMelt Theater. Apparently, Dan Harmon took time out of his busy schedule showrunning Community to shoot the shit with his buddy, Whose Line is it Anyway? veteran Jeff Davis, and lay down some massively intelligent, funny, and at times controversial nuggets about life, pop culture, himself and his employees in his halting, uncertain, yet magnetic voice. One time, he played a voice mail from Chevy Chase. Eventually it leaked online, which eventually kinda cost Harmon his day job, which freed him up to make Harmontown a weekly event that, hell why not, is recorded and presented in podcast form, since he can't get fired for saying something bad about NBC or Chevy Chase again, right? The eighth podcast episode, "Cleft in Twain!" continued the funny running gag of Harmon and Davis saying terrible things about Nike in order to appease Adidas for some sponsorship monies, and the boys finally had their first Dungeons and Dragons adventure, which had been set up over the past few weeks by Spencer, the Dungeon Master they employed a month earlier. The adventure never got boring thanks to Harmon and Davis' consistent humorous pontifications on even the most minute of the D & D details. The highlight of the show was when Davis insisted that Harmon demonstrate how awful he is at telling jokes. The man who made Joseph Campbell cool repeatedly attempted and failed to tell a joke "properly" or to Davis' satisfaction, because he kept over-explaining and thinking out loud about the motives of the characters, which of course was fifty times funnier than hearing the street jokes correctly.
Samantha: Fitzdog Radio – Judd Apatow
Considering the scope of Judd Apatow's influence, it's surprising the producer/director/writer doesn't pop up on more podcasts – so when he does, it's always awesome, and the latest episode of Fitzdog Radio is no exception. Apatow's on to plug This is 40, a semi-autobiographical comedy that features his IRL wife and kids, and after hearing him talk about the way he brings his life onto the set we're even more excited for the film's highly anticipated winter release. In addition to some behind-the-scenes details on how he and wife Leslie Mann share production duties, Apatow also reveals some of the relationship advice he's learned over the years; quotes like "the perfect person is going to make you deal with everything that's messed up about you" feel straight from an episode of Freaks and Geeks (or Girls). It seems that the guy responsible for turning schlubby man-children into romantic heroes has grown up, and while that might mean the episode is a little heavy on Hollywood problems (like hiring the perfect assistant), it's comforting to know Apatow's out there blazing a trail for the rest of us adults-in-training.
This Week in the Splitsider Podcast Network:
A Funny Thing #26 – Jim Santangeli "Killer Moves"
Parents. They're supposed to be our rock, our paragons of sure-handed, stoic capability. Oh, but aren't they all too human? Maybe no one ever says "divorce", maybe we still go out to dinner as a family, and maybe this makes as much sense as driving from France to America, but they'll do it. And maybe, in their desperate all too human effort to hold it all together, to stave off the chaos of the world for just one more precious, fleeting moment, they leave a Buick-wide wake of mutilated animals and stunned children. Perhaps that is just the cost of doing business, the cost of being a parent, the cost of family. A cost that is counted in silence and goose heads.
It's That Episode #33 – Jay Chandrasekhar/"Arrested Development"
In addition to acting in and directing the majority of the Broken Lizard films, including Super Troopers and Beerfest, Jay Chandrasekhar directed some of the best TV comedies around. Jay joins Craig Rowin to discuss "Justice is Blind," one of the many episodes of Arrested Development that he directed. Get your Arrested Development fix then listen as Jay explains why his group Broken Lizard has thrived since college. Jay also talks about his role in one of Jackass' best pranks ever, and reminisces about working with the late Michael Clarke Duncan on the set of The Slammin' Salmon.
The Complete Guide to Everything: Richard Dawson and Glasses
Look, sometimes you want to do a podcast that will be informative and comprehensive, covering a topic in-depth and teaching the world a thing or two. And sometimes you'd rather discuss your feelings about former Family Feud host Richard Dawson and talk about carrying around a large stick of pepperoni in case you want a quick snack sometime. This week's episode falls into the latter category. In a freewheeling discussion, Tim and Tom talk about working in a butcher shop, lewd jokes made by game show hosts, the problem with American cheese and boat murders, among other things. Also, Tom has some complaints about the way he was treated when he went to get an eye exam. This week we also have another installment of our segment Fifty Shades of Tim, in which Tom explains Fifty Shades of Grey to Tim one chapter at a time, and we answer a listeners' question about a wedding gift in this week's Tim and Tom Solve Your Problems.
You Had To Be There #78 – Scott Moran
This week, Sara and Nikki waste no time on chitchat before introducing their storied Renaissance man of a guest: stand-up, visual artist, filmmaker, and boyfriend Scott Moran (@scottmoran9876). With his already-acclaimed new webseries Modern Comedian, Scott documents the comedy scene by crafting elegant video profiles of other rising comics. Scott recalls Sara's hilariously aloof introduction to his father and the couple outlines their official opinion of baby talk. The trio touches on that unique disappointment of fulfilling a dream and finding its outcome underwhelming, and later offers some prescient advice about the Tonight Show's budget woes. Things start wrapping up with Sara talking pee about web journalist Xeni Jardin and Nikki auditioning for an honorary spot in the Scott-Sara relationship. Super casual, super funny episode.
The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show – Facebook Designer Ben Blumenfeld
This week on The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show, Jeff talks to former Facebook lead designer Ben Blumenfeld about what it's like to build a product that's used by over a billion people. Ben talks about how you make changes to something as big as Facebook, what it was like when the IPO came around, and what he's up to that he's left the company.
Jesse David Fox is a 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.
Jay Kuperstein is a writer, founder of ComedyK.com, and attorney working in Washington, DC.
Joel Mandelkorn is the co-Founder of The Plop List, Producer at CleftClips, Producer of The Super Serious Show.
Lindsey Allen lives in Austin, TX. She has perfect teeth and a nice smell. A class act, all the way.
Marc Hershon is host of Succotash, the Comedy Podcast Podcast and author of I Hate People!
Roger Cormier forgot his kazoo.
Samantha Pitchel does things for HuffPost Comedy and SXSW Comedy.