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.
The Thrilling Adventure Hour – Beyond Belief, “Basil's Day”
ROB: For those who aren’t familiar, "Beyond Belief" is the story of Frank and Sadie Doyle (Paul F. Tompkins and Paget Brewster), two boozy, unflappable upper-crust exorcists. As sometimes happens, The Thrilling Adventure Hour had to tape a few "Beyond Belief" segments without Paul F. Tompkins last year. For one of them (#125 "Art Imitates Life"), co-writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker created an alternate reality where Frank never existed. Instead, they cast Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) as “Basil Valentine,” the love interest of Sadie “Parker,” in a one-off episode that had its funny moments but was kind of confusing and a little sub-par. This week’s "Beyond Belief" (with Tompkins) redeems Valentine, who’s now an adventurous archeologist dealing with a demon possession problem, as well as an even upper-crustier twit that instantly gets under Frank’s skin. Frank’s jealousy (he knows about the alternate reality relationship) provides Tompkins with several opportunities for some great sarcastic one-liners, but Whitford gets to really ham it up this time and delivers one of the biggest laugh lines of the episode. In TAH’s old-timey radio production style, they used live doubled voices for the demon-possession effect, which gets a little muddled at times, but pays off when Sadie gets fed up with an obnoxious sibling spat between two ancient demons. Though Acker and Blacker have scaled back on jokes about Frank and Sadie’s unabashed alcoholism, the writing is clever and hilarious as usual. If you’re not a fan of TAH’s "Beyond Belief" segments, it’s time to give it a listen – it’s one of the best and most consistently funny podcasts around.
Doug Loves Movies – Rob Huebel, Ben Schwartz, and Rich Sommer
ZOE: This week's Doug Loves Movies comes to you live from UCB LA, featuring three very charming guests, Rob Huebel, Ben Schwartz, and Rich Sommer. The group catches up on Oscar buzz, their latest projects, and how Matthew McConaughey, despite any of his amazing performances since Dazed and Confused, never seems to escape his legacy as the "All right, all right, all right" guy. Huebel goes on a super entertaining tangent about almost being kicked in the face by Jean-Claude Van Damme, who actually wears a hat that reads "JCVD," a detail that will brighten most anyone's day. The games portion presents us with some great substance-based movie categories, a few of them being Meryljuana (movies where Meryl Streep smokes weed), Sober January (movies with January Jones or sobriety), and Getting Doug (movies that have the word "high" in the title). The episode concludes a scramble to list a final Eddie Murphy movie, after which Huebel realizes he failed to suggest Norbit… which he was in. As with most any Doug Benson show, the most fun is in listening to he and the guests riffing and enjoying each other, which this episode is no exception to.
Hollywood Handbook – Grace Helbig
JOSH: This week, YouTube phenom Grace Helbig drops by Hollywood Handbook to discuss her upcoming movie Camp Takota and explain the differences (there are any) between V-Logging and the hit television series Saved by the Bell. Before Helbig joins the comedic fray, Hayes and Sean promote their new Hollywood Ham book and play an exhilarating round of "Blind Items" in which we learn the real story behind the infamous Peyton Manning/Ariana Grande break-up. Later, Helbig attempts to educate Hayes and Sean on the intricacies of new media as well as the correct way to turn on a computer. Hint: Even though it defies conventional wisdom, it's not the space bar. As the show progresses we're treated to another visit to the "Popcorn Gallery" where inquisitive fans of Hollywood Handbook ask Helbig standard podcast questions like, "How much money did you make from your appearance on@midnight?" and "Which A-list celebrity would you most like to see fail?" Do Hayes and Sean want to see O.J. Simpson in more or less movies in 2014? Listen to this week's episode to find out!
You Made It Weird – Emily Maya Mills
SCOTT: Emily Maya Mills (UCB) sits down with fellow smiley person Pete Holmes, who kicks off the weird right away by labeling them both "smiley." Holmes drives the episode the whole way through, and the riffing and subject-changing come at a blistering pace as they go from hippie parents to magic to natural disasters to some weird Hans Zimmer/George Zimmerman combo character in the span of a few minutes. Mills is game, though, and keeps up wonderfully. She explains how she gets emotional, even cries, at picket lines and farmer’s markets because of the beauty of a bunch of people coming together for a singular purpose in a communal way, and Holmes manages to transition the conversation to a discussion about Marina Abramovich’s breasts, and not only does she know what he’s talking about, she’s even a little ahead of him. I listened to it twice and I couldn’t figure out his segue, but Mills stayed with him and kept it rolling. The episode might as well be called "Petey’s Playhouse," because they manage to at least graze most of Holmes’s favorite topics within the first 30 minutes but keep it going for more than two hours. New Age thinking, Scientology, Eminem, meditation, “gabbing like gals” — halfway through you’d have won You Made it Weird bingo five times over (or been blackout drunk from playing the YMIW drinking game). Later, when Mills admits to having had open relationships and trying DMT, it’s clear that everything in her life has prepared her to be the perfect You Made it Weird guest. The conversation flows so well, blending all the topics so fluidly, that there’s a premature “keep it crispy” before Holmes realizes that he hasn’t asked any of his standard ending questions. This episode stands out for its manic pace and freestyle approach that really highlights the energy that makes Pete Holmes Pete Holmes – an energy that was muted while he was waiting to learn the fate of The Pete Holmes Show.
MARC: Hosted by Adam Spiegelman, Proudly Resents usually is in the business of talking about cult, odd, and just plain bad movies. With his recent TV producing gig (Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell) recently coming to an end, it’s given Spiegelman more time to get a bit more fancy with his podcast – such as his live version at the New York City Podcast Festival. With a pile of guests (such as Robert Prichard from Class of Nuke Em High and Asta Paredes & Catherine Corcoran, stars of Return to Nuke’Em High, this tribute to the campy horror films of Troma Entertainment is a fun ride, albeit incomplete. (No one from Toxic Avenger, Baconhead, or 1963’s Balboa, Conquistador of the Pacific? Come on!) The show opens with an earnest, just-learned acoutic guitar version of the original Nuke ‘Em High theme song as performed by Ben Lerman, and Spiegel runs with it from there, hosting the show mostly through the low-budget hazards of making films like the just-released Return to Nuke ‘Em High.
Lou Reads the Internet for You – Episode #118
PABLO: The internet's impact on society is so huge that it's hard to remember what life was like before it. Nearly every home has a computer that can instantaneously access the breadth of mankind's knowledge and your average citizen holds in their pockets a device that can spark dictator-toppling revolutions. But if we're being honest, 95% of the internet is used by weirdos to talk about whatever disgusting thing is on their mind. On each episode of Lou Reads The Internet For You, voice actor Lou Fernandez does the Lord's work by reading message board threads verbatim in his dulcet baritone voice. Fernandez typically pulls these threads from forums that cover some of the weirdest topics imaginable, like bestiality proponents, sneezing fetishists, adult babies, or Bronies, and he reads them out loud without judgement or additional commentary. On the latest episode, Fernandez returns to the forums of FetLife to help us understand what it's like to be sexually attracted to gaping anuses. Lou Reads The Internet For You is definitely not for the squeamish, but if you want to hear the words of an internet commentator comparing his swimming style to octopus propulsion read out loud by a man whose orotund voice belongs in movie trailers, then this is the podcast for you.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.
Marc Hershon is host of Succotash, the Comedy Podcast Podcast and author of I Hate People!
Scott Reynolds is a comedian and writer in Brooklyn, NY.
Rob Schoon lives in Brooklyn and writes about tech, media, comedy and culture.
Zoe Schwab is a writer/fraud living in NYC who is somehow up-to-date with ABC Family's Melissa & Joey.
Josh Sorokach is a comedy writer living in NYC who was once referred to as a "Poor Man's Joshua Jackson" while on a date.