This Week in Comedy Podcasts: Amy Poehler’s ‘Improv4Humans’ Debut and Sam Simon on ‘WTF’
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 comedy.
Improv4Humans #84 – Amy Poehler, Seth Morris, Joe Hartzler
JENNY: Amy Poehler and Matt Besser go way back, having founded the UCB Theatre together in the mid-’90s, but this is Poehler’s first time ever on improv4humans, Besser’s improv-centric show that takes the kind of thing that goes down onstage at UCB and puts it in podcast form. Needless to say, Poehler fits in very well performing alongside Besser and seasoned humans4improv Seth Morris (Funny Or Die, Max’s weird friend Scotty on Happy Endings) and Joe Hartzler (UCB LA improviser). The group takes on the darkest of Twitter suggestions, trying out material on grotesque physical injury and what to do in case of the apocalypse but brings it all back to relationships in a number of the scenes as well as at the end as Amy tries to get Joe to share his feelings about a mysterious special someone. The episode moves along at a very steady pace, and it’s a pleasure to hear a group of talented improvisers, especially ones so highly respected, churn out some good, funny stuff.
WTF with Marc Maron #389 – Sam Simon
ROGER: 94 minutes just isn’t enough time to talk to Sam Simon. He was a showrunner on Taxi, a writer and producer on Cheers, and arguably the man most responsible for the sensibility of The Simpsons. After officially retiring at the age of 35, he became a boxing manager, a professional poker player, and massive philanthropist, most notably to combat animal cruelty. Two months ago, he announced that he has terminal cancer. Despite a damn awkward segue from discussing death to an ad for Adam & Eve in the intro, Marc Maron managed to find a suitable balance between discussing Simon’s prognosis and the highlights of his writing career with his guest. Maron admitted to thinking about all of The Simpsons fanatics listening and spent more time than anything else television-related on that show’s beginnings, which was of course great. Simon was open to talk about his current condition, admitting that it was on his mind “every three minutes,” but he was far away from feeling sorry for himself. It’s too bad that Simon said he isn’t interested in sitting down for an interview with the Archive of American Television on account of how boring and tedious they are, because there is a lot more to touch upon. But if the worst case scenario comes to pass, this Maron/Simon discussion will more than suffice for educating new comedy fans on the renaissance man.
Before You Were Funny #19 – Erin McGathy, Tim Simons, Joe Wengert
SAM: This latest installment of Before You Were Funny – the show that celebrates comics’ earliest, most dubious work – sincerely delivers on the adolescent awkwardness. Hosts Justin Michael and Jacob Reed present “Kitten Penis,” a title-says-everything scene that was almost their sketch team’s namesake (we’re glad they went with Tremendosaur instead); Veep‘s Tim Simons brings a bunch of sincere poetry complete with his teacher’s confused annotations; Joe Wengert, an improviser and actor who can currently be seen on ABC’s How To Live With Your Parents, presents some sketches from college that illustrate his early trouble with stage directions; and Erin McGathy, host of relationship-centric podcast This Feels Terrible, submits several scenes she wrote while her 15-year-old self was enduring both her mother’s terminal illness, and an intense crush on her cool-dude English teacher. McGathy’s thinly-veiled attempts at seducing her supportive mentor are, in retrospect, pretty heartbreaking, but that’s kind of the point of Before You Were Funny – exploring the things that motivated writers to start working, and looking back on them candidly, with the ability to poke fun at even the most heavy-handed of attempts.
Mohr Stories #160 – Will Sasso
JAY: The best comedy podcasts replicate the late night talk show format before it was ruined by publicists, focus groups, and network executives. Equal parts interview, improv, and goofing off, successful podcasts give us insight into the history, personality, and talent of the guest. This week’s Mohr Stories would be right at home next to Carson’s Tonight Show or Letterman’s Late Night. Jay Mohr and Will Sasso (who co-hosts the Ten Minute Podcast with Chris D’Elia and Bryan Callen) effortlessly hit it off like old college buddies. Highlights include: dueling Bryan Callen impressions, Three Stooges movie stories, and MadTV history. This podcast takes on the pace on an epic tennis match, with Sasso deftly returning every one of Mohr’s improv volleys. By the end, Mohr realizes he’s found his equal and asks Sasso to return once a month. This episode of Mohr Stories harkens back to a time when hosts really allowed their guests to shine. It’s hard to imagine Will Sasso having a better showcase for his comedy skills.
Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #80
MARC: Mike And Tom Eat Snacks (or MATES) was the third podcast I ever reviewed for TWICP and it remains one of my favorites. Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh have now unspooled four score episodes solely devoted to the PER system (“Pick a snack, Eat a snack, Rate a snack.”) and just generally farting around, conversationally speaking. Their most recent episodes have the boys going off on some broad flights of fancy, including several where they were on the run being pursued by Hostess snack thugs and, in this most recent installment, having just been awakened after years of being in suspended animation on their way to mine asteroids in deep space. That whole fantasy was mostly fueled by their current snack, which is – SPOILER ALERT! – astronaut ice cream. (The freeze-dried confection lives up to their expectations, which are not terribly high to begin with). The other reason for the hiber-slumber storyline might be that the boys haven’t gotten around to churning out an episode for almost two months. Every MATES outing is a reason for Black to show off his improv chops and for Cavanagh to inject his boyish charm into a format that defies logic by remaining an entertaining reason to put up a podcast.
This Week on the Splitsider Podcast Network:
In this episode, a sequel (or “squeakquel”) to an episode from 2010, we discuss an array of topics. We cover selling broken iPads on eBay, Michael Jackson, wearing jeans to basketball practice, buying school gym coaches football hats and eating gummy vitamins as an adult. Also, Tom tells a story about a recent heart attack victim concerned with a child’s safety at a Wendy’s fast food restaurant and Tim tells a story about a 4 year old getting injured at a miniature golf establishment and seeking refuge in a 1980s Taco Bell.
Max Silvestri (Big Terrific) stops by to watch one of his favorite childhood TV shows, Airwolf. The bad news: the show is terrible. Max and Craig discuss how a show can be almost fully made up of shots of helicopters taking off and landing, and Max discusses his recent voyage on a Top Chef cruise.
This week on the Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin show, Jeff interviews Matt Golden, who has played Mr. Met for more than 10 years. They talk about how to deal with fans at the stadium, how to talk properly to people when you are wearing a giant head, and what it’s like acting as a mascot compared to acting in a Shakespeare play.
Our story this week: Christian talks with Nick Kanellis about one horrible night when Nick suffered the perfect storm of bedbugs, robot vodka, human urine on an air mattress, and being cast off from the summit of Mount Olympus, home of the gods.
Roger Cormier has no idea that he just uttered a Don Knotts joke.
Samantha Pitchel writes about and watches comedy in Austin and Los Angeles.