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.
Comedy Bang Bang – Oh, Golly!
JOSH: Fans of Comedy Bang! Bang! are conditioned to expect the unexpected when Scott Aukerman, Jason Mantzoukas and Andy Daly team up, and this week's episode is certainly no exception. The episode begins on a relatively normal note. Aukerman and Mantzoukas engage in some playful banter, Mantzoukas recalls a romantic encounter where a date took a break from a make-out session to breastfeed her son; you know, standard Comedy Bang Bang fare. Eventually, Andy Daly joins the fray — ostensibly as an entertainer named Gil accompanied by his trusty puppet, Golly. From there, the episode evolves into a magnificent array of Andy Daly character callbacks. We find out about Cactus Tony's latest exploits, learn that Chip Gardner is now running a "Murder Contest" on the open seas and that Don Dimelo is essentially the linchpin of evil. This eventually culminates in Scott Aukerman and Jason Mantzoukas, who are possibly already dead, teaming up with Dalton Wilcox and Bill Carter to compete against the aforementioned characters in an epic battle of good vs.evil. The episode ends with a "to be continued"; a rare occurrence for Comedy Bang! Bang!. The good news is we may find out what happens to the fate of all mankind next Monday. The bad news is we may already be dead. If we're not, tune in next week!
Writers' Bloc – Chuck Tatham
ZOE: There’s definitely a joke somewhere in the fact that Arrested Development writer Chuck Tatham has a banana allergy. But if we take away anything from the wisdom he offers in this episode, it’s that no joke is worth holding up the bigger picture. Host J.R. Halvan and Tatham get along famously, making for a very natural interview that spans Tatham’s career from quitting his job in advertising to writing for the final season of How I Met Your Mother. Pop culture enthusiasts will be very excited to learn about his start on Full House, where the showrunner taught him the secret to telling the Olsen twins apart: first, you have to give a shit. Tatham graciously gives us more gems like this as he walks us through meeting Mitch Hurwitz on Ellen and eventually joining Arrested Development’s third season. Since Arrested has become almost mythical in its legacy, hearing Tatham’s firsthand account makes it a bit more tangible for the rest of us, while confirming that it’s one of the greatest shows ever to have worked on. The last third of the episode is full of great advice and anecdotes for aspiring writers, which could possibly save you thousands on film school. And finally, Tatham answers the age-old question, “What’s funnier, 23 or 37?” The topic might sound crazy to the general public, but it’s just the kind of thing comedy nerds would proudly debate for hours.
PABLO: One of WTF's recurring "storylines" is Marc Maron's obsession with the lore and dark history of The Comedy Store. As a member of Sam Kinison's crew, Maron spent only a year at the Store, but owner Mitzi Shore's notoriously tightfisted control of the club created a sense of fascination within Maron about what really went down behind the scenes. The latest former Comedy Store regular to enter the garage is Allan Stephan, an "intimidating and frightening" person to Maron, who reached out to correct some of the stories he heard on previous episodes. Stephan was a major figure in the Store's early years and he has the Pauly Shore babysitting stories to prove it. When Maron inevitably turns the conversation towards the infamous Comedy Store strike of 1979 and Steve Lubetkin's suicide, Stephan discusses it from his perspective as a comic who crossed the picket line, a move that Jay Leno never let him forget. Stephan's most interesting divulgement comes during their discussion of Mitzi, a figure that scared Maron and other comics for decades due to her hostile personality. But according to Stephan, it was nothing more than an act designed to prevent comics from pulling a repeat of the '79 strike. A revelation like that only creates more questions than answers, so hopefully there are more episodes to come documenting the oral history of this famous American comedy club.
One of the marvels of You Made It Weird
is how the tone of the conversation between host Pete Holmes and his guests can leap from absurdity to sincerity. His comfort level with second-time guest Moshe Kasher heightens this contrast, punctuated by Holmes’s trademark chortle. This show embraces podcasting’s ability to resist political correctness which is why we get to enjoy Kasher’s impression of Racist Stephen Hawking and the running gag called "Going, Going, Ghandi," a radio show where they take shots at races and personalities. Then they go deep on the both of them being in committed relationships – the last time Kasher was on they were both the opposite of that to the extreme. Two hours is a lot of time to cover but in there Kasher also shares details of having to be a part-time Hassidic Jew as a kid, they talk the difference between myth and truth in religion, and even touch on the Council of Nicaea. It doesn’t matter how odd or arcane the conversation gets, the beauty of You Made It Weird
is that it always finds its way to being funny.
The Nerdist – Andy Daly
SCOTT: Andy Daly talks to Chris Hardwick and Jonah Ray and does so without being any character other than Andy Daly, which is notable in and of itself. They discuss his career, which has seen him more often than not just supporting a show as a weird character, and how it has led to finally helming his own show. Daly, like so many others, credits seeing his first ASSSSCAT show at UCB with being the turning point that put him on his path. He talks about the challenges of building a career out of being a sketch and improv comedian at a time when standups were the big commodity and how miserable his time on MADtv was (he did not like the show at all when he was hired). Ray, Hardwick, and Daly all have some fun at the expense of the typical comedy club audience that has no patience for, or appreciation of, character bits and sketches, which has always been a challenge for Daly, who loves getting on stage but has never been a traditional set-up/punchline comedian. They breeze right past talking about Daly’s new show, Review, to discuss how hard he commits to characters and how that relates to playing role-playing games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, which, on the Nerdist podcast, is definitely a popular topic. If there’s a theme to this episode, it’s about piecing together a career in an industry that doesn’t always have a place to put you – something Andy Daly has done very well.
Fat Man on Batman – Bernardin Forever, Part 2
ROB: Fat Man on Batman usually only appeals to a niche audience: Big fans of Batman and comic books, with at least a taste for filmmaker and podcast auteur Kevin Smith’s stoner brand of conversational humor. This week’s episode (download last week’s too, as it’s a two-parter), however, will be delightful for anyone who has ever been disappointed by a big, dumb, summer blockbuster. That’s because Smith drops the usual interview format and instead creates a full-length movie commentary track for 1995’s megahit, Batman Forever. Joining Smith is writer, critic, and journalist Marc Bernardin to help pick apart what was, at the time, one of the biggest box office successes and critical failures ever. But don’t think it’s going to be all jabs and jokes, as Smith often draws attention to aspects that could have made Forever into a good Burton or Nolan-esque movie, as well as fascinatingly drawing you into the mindset of a fan seeing the film for the first time in '95, before Christopher Nolan – or for that matter, before Forever’s follow-up disaster, Batman & Robin. Smith certainly isn’t the first to do real-time film commentary as a comedy podcast, but nevertheless, it’s an innovative way to stretch the medium – especially with his informed background as both filmmaker and fan. And you’ll find yourself laughing out loud, often. Just find a copy of the movie, sync up the podcast, and enjoy.