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Thursday, February 13th, 2014

This Week in Comedy Podcasts: Michael Ian Black's and Michael Showalter's 'Topics' Joins Earwolf

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.

Topics with Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter – The Little Things

ZOE: The Michaels are back in the saddle in their first episode of Season 3 of Topics now part of the Earwolf network — with an extremely valuable exploration of the little things in life: the smell of autumn, birds chirping, Tchaikovsky, things like that. But who’s to say the little things aren’t hot wives with big hair and thigh-high boots? The hosts’ subtly competitive relationship, which has been brewing since day one, is bordering on hostile now, making their weak attempts to veil it even funnier. They’re walking on organic, cage-free eggshells the whole time. Black’s little things are exact definitions of what Showalter describes as the big things. Just when it seems like Black’s about to concede by describing a quaint apple-picking trip, he turns it into a parade of his expensive car, hot wife, and envy of the onlooking “dumpy” families (“There are so many dumpy families out there,” he laments). Showalter encourages him to focus more on things like the crunch of toast with butter and jam, which sparks the kind of passive aggressive quibble these two have turned into an art form. Canned outro music adds the perfect touch of irony. Expect big things for the rest of Season 3.

The Goods from the Woods – Reza Asgari

PABLO: This week's guest on The Goods From The Woods is Reza Asgari, a former rapper-turned-standup comic. So naturally, the theme of the episode centers around the always entertaining world of hip hop. Asgari's rapping past wasn't just a mere hobby, as his story about battling underground legend Madlib can attest. Because of his background, Asgari quickly finds common ground with fellow hip hop heads and co-hosts Rivers Langley and Pat Reilly as they reminisce about their favorite rap beefs, ODB's impromptu Grammys speech, and their most memorable rap concert experiences. Let's just say Dave Chappelle having to admonish a stoned Mos Def for doing nothing but a capella versions of Cake songs (yes, THAT Cake) stands out. While co-host Mr. Goodnight admits his knowledge of rap only goes as far as Breakin', he gives the quote of the show by comparing the daunting task of getting into the Wu-Tang Clan's discography and mythology to that of converting to Shia Islam.

The Dana Gould Hour  Dungeons and Bondage

ROB: After a little lull in production, an excellent new episode of The Dana Gould Hour hit the web this week. In typical fashion, the episode is a bit of a themed variety show, featuring conversations with two groups of people interspersed with other segments and bits. This episode’s theme, as the name implies, is fantasy and role-playing: with sex, in the form of Bondage and Domination, and in nerds’ basements, in the form of Dungeons & Dragons. Gould’s guests include Blaine Capatch of Nerd Poker and Chelsea Lately’s April Richardson (among others), but by far the most interesting guest this episode is a pseudonymous former freelance dominatrix, “Jane.” The stories and insights “Jane” provides about the fringe world of B&D are great fodder for comedy, and for example Richardson can’t help herself but to perpetually use the phrase “stompin’ on nuts,” with Marissa Wompler-esque giddiness. But even though B&D was a serious part of Jane’s life, she has a good sense of humor about it – along with an incredibly well informed, intellectual perspective. Because Jane is such a great guest, it seems the D&D guys get short shrift, but their conversation fits the episode, as it also eventually winds around to sex. I’ve said it before, but at its best, The Dana Gould Hour feels like it would fit in well with high quality public radio shows like Fresh Air – if, of course, NPR allowed constant references to stompin’ on nuts.

The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project  The Wit and Wisdom of the West with Dalton Wilcox

MARC: The rule of thumb around here is to wait until a new podcast has a half dozen or more episodes under their belt before giving them a review. In the case of Andy Daly’s new Earwolf show, there’s no need to wait — and for two reasons. 1) It's hilarious 2) Every episode is completely different. The gag is that Daly and his producer, Matt Gourley, have been sifting through a mountain of “cassettes” of podcast pilots submitted to the network for consideration. The truth is that Daly, Gourley, and others are creating the pilots themselves. If the first one, “The Wit and Wisdom of the West with Dalton Wilcox," is any indication, we’re in for a pile of fun as this concept rolls out. The host, a cowboy poet billed as “the Poet Laureate of the Old West”, Wilcox also kills vampires and werewolves and “Frankensteins." There’s a cowboy poetry reading ‘round a campfire sound effect. And several songs by The Journeymen off their album Mount Us More. The delightful absurdity runs more than two hours and, if anyone’s wondering why podcasting’s Superego hasn’t been heard from lately, the gang’s mostly here with Gourley being joined by Jeremy Carter, Mark McConville, and James Bladon. There are also visits from Earwolf regulars Paul F. Tompkins, Sean Conroy, and Betsy Sodaro.
You Made it Weird – Jared Logan
SCOTT: Comedian Jared Logan joins Pete Holmes this week. It’s an episode that, for the first half, derives most of the weirdness from friction. It’s hard to tell how much is real and how much is bits, but Logan doesn’t seem to want to get on board with Holmes and joke through topics like weight problems, "mom-girlfriends," and mental health. As often happens, Holmes becomes so enamored with his own jokes that he pushes them on the guest — a trait that is equal parts endearing and off-putting depending on the moods of both listener and guest. Logan seemed to find it off-putting. Things loosen up as Holmes allows Logan to talk more fluidly about his mental troubles when he first moved to New York, and how he lost 60 pounds through sheer anxiety. The two eventually find the flow, talking about the merits of being a grumpy guy, the weirdness of religion, and the up-and-downsides of conspiracy theories. The way Holmes manages to weave through the awkward start and open Logan up for a great conversation reminds us again that he’s a master of the hosting Judo that’s required for this kind of podcast (not to mention a late night show).

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.

Zoe Schwab is a writer/fraud living in NYC who is somehow up-to-date with ABC Family's Melissa & Joey.

Rob Schoon lives in Brooklyn and writes about tech, media, comedy and culture.