2012 saw the comedy podcast universe continue to expand, with new shows popping up from industry veterans, comedy neophytes, and everyone in between. Dan Harmon launched Harmontown; Dana Gould kicked off The Dana Gould Hour; Earwolf debuted Brian Posehn's Nerd Poker, Jake Fogelnest's The Fogelnest Files, Adam McKay and Owen Burke's Funny Or Die-produced Owen & TJ Read the News, and a slew of non-comedy programs; Nerdist started up Jonah Raydio, Cashing In with T.J. Miller, and Mary Lynn Rajskub's Kickin' It Mary Lynn Style; and Maximum Fun snatched up Risk! and Throwing Shade in addition to launching the UK/US game show International Waters and turning The Sound of Young America into Bullseye.
Milestone-wise, WTF with Marc Maron, The Nerdist, and Never Not Funny turned 300, You Made It Weird, Who Charted?, Walking the Room, The Long Shot, and Sklarbo Country turned 100, and most impressively, The Best Show on WFMU reached 500 episodes (and 1500 hours). Several new podcast networks also debuted in 2012, including All Things Comedy, Jay Mohr's Fake Moustache Network, and Feral Audio (not to mention one on this very site). Scott Aukerman's Comedy Bang Bang jumped to TV, marking the first podcast to do so, while shows based on Nerdist, WTF, and You Had to Be There are on the way in the new year. All in all, it was a pretty eventful year in the podcast world and one that sees that world continuing to grow larger and larger by the second.
Now, let's look back on the year in podcasts as our team of contributors (credited with initials) hands out accolades to some of the best shows going:
If 2012 proved anything, it was that few comics are as beloved as Chelsea Peretti. The stand-up/former Parks and Rec writer has always been “one of the greats”– from being a frequent topic of conversation on BFF Pete Holmes’s You Made It Weird to her amazing appearances on shows like Doug Loves Movies – but this fall, Feral Audio put together the perfect premise for her very own podcast: Call Chelsea Peretti. Within its first few episodes, the show was ending up on weekly best-of lists, and even though it’s just reached double digits, it’s already a podcast fan favorite. The format – call the show’s hotline for a chance to talk to the comic, or leave a voicemail – works perfectly for Peretti, a wry and whip-smart conversationalist who can turn even the most mundane call into something amazing. [SP]
Paul Rust has been appearing on Comedy Bang Bang since its inception in '09 and has always been incredibly funny on the show, but he kicks it into a new gear in episode #167 with the debut of a new bit that's funnier than anything I've heard on a podcast all year. Rust appears on the episode as a Bill Maher-esque "telling it like it is" comedian, doling out absurdly incoherent pieces of advice a la Maher's segment "New Rules" with his own segment, "New No-Nos." It's a delight and no surprise that Rust was asked to reprise the bit for the show's 2012 Holiday Spectacular. [BE]
Most Disruptive Guest: (tie) Pete Homes, T.J. Miller, Jeff Garlin (on Doug Loves Movies)
Podcasts are only as good as their guests and while most guests understand their role and play along, some just kick off their shoes and put their feet on the coffee table like they own the place. There is no better example of guest horse-assery than Doug Loves Movies #550, which features all of our nominees. To quote the old sports cliche: "You can't stop Pete Holmes, TJ Miller, and Jeff Garlin. You can only hope to contain them." This isn't to say they are not thoroughly entertaining, but each one can derail a podcast on his own. Put them together and you have what George Clooney calls "The Perfect Storm." Doug Benson couldn't even get to any of his games. Since Doug couldn't tell which guest was most disruptive, neither could I. Therefore, 2012's Most Disruptive Guest is a tie between Pete Holmes, T.J. Miller, and Jeff Garlin. [JK]
Catchiest Theme Song: (tie) Comedy Bang Bang / You Made It Weird / The Steven Brody Stevens Festival of Friendship
It doesn’t take much to get a song stuck in my head (one time, for a few weeks, the McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it!” jingle kept popping up), but on the spectrum of things I can’t stop singing to myself in public, theme songs are my real weakness. This year, with tons of new shows alongside established classics, there were so many amazing themes to choose from that we couldn’t settle on just one. [SP]
Comedy Bang Bang – theme by Reggie Watts
You Made It Weird – theme by Reggie Watts
The Steven Brody Stevens Festival of Friendship – theme by Clownvis Presley
I should never declare anything to be my favorite. Every time I do — snack foods, soft drinks, TV shows — it inevitably goes away. And so it seems to have happened again, this time with a podcast. The delicious, bite-sized chunks of Affirmation Nation, a “self-helpless” show hosted by Bob Ducca (the sad-sackiest character ever, sprung to life from the brain of comic actor Seth Morris) ended abruptly at Episode 144 this past February, with an installment called in by Ducca on the road, stranded at a truckstop in "parts unknown." Here's hoping Bob Ducca finds his way out of that truckstop in 2013. [MH]
Perhaps no podcast right now is more fun than The Todd Glass Show, and a lot of the thanks goes to the various bells and whistles that host Todd Glass has at his fingertips each week. The sound effects and music cues add another dimension of hilarity and absurdity to Glass and his company's antics and are a key ingredient in keeping the show fast, funny, and loose and putting all other podcasts to shame with the comedic heights that silly stuff like the reverb effect and the trumpet recording help them reach. Of course, the sound effects are just the icing on the cake of The Todd Glass Show, but they're essential to the podcast retaining its refreshingly fun and unpredictable spirit. The sound effects amp up the gang's ever-growing arsenal of running bits and help with making this is one of the few shows that's just as good (if not better) when an episode doesn't have any guests. [BE]
Where do two show business friends go to hang out and chit-chat if not a coffee joint or a steakhouse? How about a podcast? 70-some-odd episodes ago, that’s what Michael Ian Black (The State, Ed, Stella) and Tom Cavanagh (Ed, Yogi Bear, Royal Pains) decided to do when they launched Mike and Tom Eat Snacks. What started out as an excuse to hang out quickly found followers and the two guys have been picking, eating, and rating a different snack food every episode since. So far, they've not repeated a nibble and they’re waiting until episode 100 to take on that holiest of holy snacks: The Oreo. [MH]
Neil Hamburger and Mike H.'s funny podcast – in which it is always New Year's Eve, just as the forefathers of T.G.I. McScratchy's Goodtime Fooddrinkery always dreamed – seems tailor-made for at least one 10-episode run on Adult Swim, with its irreverence to show business, specifically with a straight faced ire towards classic rock and pop artists. The prevalence of copyrighted songs – even when interrupted by uncopyrighted breakdowns by a racially insensitive Neil Diamond – combined with Hamburger's trademark takedowns of existing companies would likely make it a legal nightmare. Ditto The Fogelnest Files, which would be terrific on TV, but it would be impossible to acquire the rights to most of the video clips Jake Fogelnest and his guests talk about, especially the ones most deserving to be mocked. [RC]
Podcast That Most Deserves Being Turned into a TV Show, Right Now: Superego
The Superego podcast has been consistently hilarious since its inception. With their Achewoodian gift for unique comedic language, professional production value (AAC file format! Pictures with every chapter!), and experience in Funny or Die videos, it's hard to believe that Jeremy Carter, Matt Gourley, Mark McConville, Jeff Crocker and company don't already have a Funny or Die Presents sketch show by now. [RC]
I have a confession: my father dragged me to a lot of Bad Company shows. They were way past their prime and I was maybe four, but they've always had a special place in my heart because my dad was having such a good time. So imagine how excited I was when Tom Scharpling started talking about Bad Company regularly and then actually using their music in the FUNNIEST way possible. Slowly fading in anything is funny. Slowly fading in Bad Company so that the caller is drowned out and hearing Tom laugh in delight while it's happening is even better. This is definitely my favorite thing The Best Show has ever done. So much so that I have been looking on eBay for the best BC T-shirt so I can get some nods of recognition from fellow FOTs. [LA]
Comeback Podcaster of the Year: Brody Stevens
This category recognizes a podcaster who overcame a setback, only to come back stronger than ever in 2012. Brody Stevens had a bit of a mental breakdown and returned to host both The Brody and Esther Podcast and The Steven Brody Stevens Festival of Friendship this year. Podcasting, as I see it, is all about cutting through the noise and getting to the truth. Brody's meltdown was so honest, that he broadcasted it in real time on Twitter and documented it on his HBO Go show Enjoy It. To be able to come back and resume his podcast with Little Esther, as well as starting his own solo podcast is not only inspiring, but a real testament to his character. We are glad all of our nominees are back with us and continuing their podcast careers, and we hope none of them end up in this category again. [JK]
Best Guest Of The Year: Lennon Parham
After thinking it over, I think Lennon Parham may not just be my favorite guest of 2012, but my favorite person in general of 2012. Every podcast she appeared on became an instant classic by just listing her name. Best Friends Forever was an excellent one-season wonder (RIP, you beautiful show) and also made me realize that I need this woman to be a more prominent figure in my life. She stands out in everything, whether it's an episode of improv4humans or performing as Miss Listler (who probably deserves a paragraph of her own), She's basically perfect. And while I know that Lennon already has a best friend, her BFF co-creator and all-around awesome human being Jessica St. Clair (Womp it up!), I feel like there is room for a third and that the third should be me. I'm here, waiting. Come find me. [LA]
Comedians can often be a bit light on real substance. Like the heavy shit – politics, media and general oh-shit-ness of society these days. Newly freed from their former Ruper Murdoch-owned media overlords, the righteous and never not silly comedic pals of The Bugle, John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman, were merciless with their satirical attacks in 2012. They let loose on the U.S. Presidential election, the media, the Olympics, U.K. policies and press and a string of both important and obscure world events. The rage is real. The comedy is grand. The Bugle is a celebration of the freedom of podcasting. No censors, just great "go get ‘em" satirical anger at the powers that be, creating one truly bad mutha of a show. [JM]
Chris Hardwick hired Conan's ex-talent booker Ashley Olivia for his podcast The Nerdist this year, making his show probably the only podcast with a talent booker, but it paid back in spades with Hardwick and fellow hosts Jonah Ray and Matt Mira landed a ton of big-name guests who don't usually do the podcast circuit. Folks like Will Ferrell, Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers, Jimmy Kimmel, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt all did the show, but no guest was a bigger "get" for a podcast this year than Tom Hanks. Hardwick and company wooed two-time Oscar winner Hanks into appearing on The Nerdist after sending him a vintage typewriter and receiving a very nice and funny note back. Scoring America's biggest actor as a guest is a big coup for The Nerdist and for the podcasting industry as a whole, proving that the still-new medium is now more relevant in the entertainment industry than ever before. [BE]
There are few things more difficult than making a comedian laugh, and a few weeks ago on the Roadstories Podcast, comedian Jon Roy only mentioned two comedians when he got specific about comedians that make other comedians "lose their shit and start crying laughing": Todd Glass and James Adomian. Thankfully on one March day, the two were recorded talking together on The Todd Glass Show, a relentless, well-oiled clusterfuck playground that uses jingles, sound effects, and the funny playful humor of its host to constantly experiment on which combination of words, tone, and music would combine to make the most hilarious bit of all-time. There is possibly no other guest better-suited for the show than Adomian, an extremely talented impressionist and stand-up who on his second ever appearance on the show used his voice throwing skills and well-honed comedy reflexes on everything Glass threw at him to take part in helping to achieve the podcast's raison d'etre on numerous occasions. There were so many bits worth mentioning that words will never do justice, like Adomian as Andy Kindler singing Glen Campbell's "Gentle on my Mind"; Adomian as Campbell chewing out Todd Glass as Paul Anka on the phone; Adomian as a Tom Leykis who cold calls California residents then pretends to had been the one that was called; Adomian as Leykis as a born-again Christian who still manages to be an obnoxious, misogynistic jerk; Adomian and Glass acting out how a Todd Glass biography would sound if Glass had been dead for ten years and nobody liked him; and a PSA for cookies. It's amazing that it was all in one episode. [RC]
Tom Scharpling put all these podcasts in their place this year by ringing in a milestone that none of them will hit until at least 2014: a 500th episode. Best Show 500 serves as a celebration of the show and its legacy, kicking off with a set of previous Best Show themes that'll bring back fond memories for veteran listeners (and new fans who have journeyed through the archives). Plus, there's a face-off (or felt-off) between Gary the Squirrel and Wally Wackiman, and calls from all of the show's best regulars (famous and non-famous) to commend Scharpling on the momentous achievement. There's amazingness contained throughout the entire three-hour program, but the highlight is a brilliant, hour-long call from Jon Wurster that might just be the best Wurster call yet. Here's to 500 more! [BE]
In 2012, the lo-sho-po’ers found new ways to find the fun in their mismatched group. This August episode is pretty much a remix of classic Long Shot bits, initiated by returning guest, comedian and super fan, Joe Wagner. No Pepitone, no problem. Jamie Flam, Amber Kenny and Sean Conroy are a punchy bunch this time out, freely digging and provoking one another from the get-go. Flam continues his excellence in frustration and waywardness. There’s a classic conversational bit involving Flam’s means-nothing overuse of “entity,” along with a failed adult discussion of “heroes” and a sublimely stupid argument involving Heartbreaker Benmont Tench. Wagner superbly plays the devil’s advocate the whole way, pushing buttons and instigating stupidity. The episode is overflowing with silliness and camaraderie. It’s a true treat for longtime listeners. [JM]
I wrote about this episode when it first aired, and I still think about it often. Fourvel, the shaky-voiced, stabbing-inclined, musical orphan is someone we should be remembering fondly about once a day. It made me appreciate Bobby Moynihan in a whole new way. In fact, his sketches on SNL are even funnier now because I just imagine that Fourvel grew up and finally got to be an actor like he deserved. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber (of course PFT is in this, it's not a best episode without him) is at the top of his game, being playful and ultimately falling for little Fourvel as well. The game of "Who Has All The Knives?" also tops the list as one of my favorite made-up games on CBB. Fourvel is so good at it! Also, I think I should mention again that every single time Fourvel utters the word "program" or curses at Scott, I giggle with sheer delight. [LA]
The movie studios backload their "award-worthy" films at the end of the year because they think (know?) The Academy has a short memory and can't possibly remember films from earlier in the year for Oscar consideration. Luckily for WTF, I am much better at my job than The Academy (and I actually recognize the existence of comedy). Back on January 16th, Todd Glass and Marc Maron put out the best comedy podcast of 2012. I first became a fan of Todd Glass when he was a contestant on NBC's Last Comic Standing. If his comedy could be described in a word, it would probably be "silly." There was no indication that he was hiding something about himself for his whole career. That is why it was so shocking that Glass came out of the closet on WTF. Feeling a responsibility to gay youth, Todd bravely chose to make his sexual orientation known in a very public way. Comedy is so important because it is one of the only forums where people can truly be honest and make kids feel like they are not alone. If this episode of WTF makes one kid more comfortable with him or herself, it is by far the most important podcast of the year and thus, is my podcast episode of the year. [JK]
Randy and Jason Sklar met Richard Simmons on an unforgettable plain flight that also featured Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, and the RZA in attendance, and they pulled him into the Earwolf studios for one of the most fascinating and delightful podcast episodes of the year. As expected, Simmons is a ball of energy, bouncing off the walls and singing showtunes throughout the program. What comes as a surprise is how open and willing to discuss his private life Simmons is. The exercise guru reveals to the Sklars and co-host Dan Van Kirk that, despite his outgoing public persona, he leads a solitary, glum private life. It's a bittersweet, edge-of-your-seat episode of Sklarbro Country that gives audiences a revealing look at a beloved pop culture mainstay's previously-unknown double life. [BE]
One of my favorite episodes from this past year has got to be when David Koechner was a guest on Fitzdog Radio with Greg Fitzsimmons. Koechner, who is always a great guest on podcasts, takes his time, warms up to the host then places great shots throughout his visit without ever overpowering. He also got into playing Talk Your Way Out of It, a little game that Fitz likes to play with his guests where he sets up an awkward scenario then asks the guest what they will say to get out of it. In this case, the set-up was that Dave was at a Starbucks and had to use the bathroom. Whomever was there previously had left a horrible, stinky mess, so when Dave finishes and leaves, the next person in might think it was him. Well, the person waiting for the restroom is Penny Marshall, according to Fitz's scenario. Well, Ms. Marshall's Hollywood power seems to have waned a bit because Koechner starts out laughing hysterically that this interlude is going to have any bearing on him, if it was to have really occurred. He continues laughing for a couple of minutes, to the point that Fitz himself breaks down laughing at the ridiculousness of the whole thing. Inevitably, every time I hear this episode, I can't help laughing myself and that represents, for me, the power that a podcast can have. [MH]
You Made It Weird #83 – “Live From SF Outside Lands” with Eric Andre, Jackie Kashian, Jon Glaser and Brett Gelman
Really not being a dick here with this selection, but it’s important to note Pete Holmes’s 2012 podcasting excellence is exactly why this delightful shit show of a live episode is truly remarkable. A supposedly easy-going afternoon festival recording with a live audience quickly turns into one of the more authentic and awkward public gatherings of entertainers. At the core, Holmes unwittingly kick starts Jon Glaser’s ire by casually mentioning their shared connection to a certain talking baby commercial. Glaser takes umbrage to Holmes’s public disclosure and hilariously forces the discomfort of Holmes and the other guests. It’s so honest and raw, the Glaser-Holmes tension seeps into Brett Gelman’s stories, Jackie Kashian’s comedic helplessness and Eric Andre’s failed attempts at diffusing and interrupting. It’s a slow motion car wreck of personalities that still manages to sneak in humor. There are no bad guys here, just some awesome realness among funny people who happen to not be on the same page. It’s one of the more honest comedic hangout sessions you’ll come across. Thankfully, Holmes and the podcast format are okay with shit getting real for a little bit. [JM]
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