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.
How Was Your Week? – Merrill Markoe
ZOE: “I hate to mention you constantly in the same breath as your ex, because no woman deserves that,” says host Julie Klausner to this week’s guest Merrill Markoe. And that’s why I’m going to put it like this: Markoe, the extremely talented writer who went from teaching art to winning three Emmies for her work on — breath — Late Night with David Letterman — breath — is one of those rare geniuses who’s so ridiculously personable it’s easy to forget she’s a genius. Her breadth of experience, also including Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Newhart, and Sex and the City, translates into some amazing stories for listeners. For instance, did you know that her then-partner David Letterman and Michael Keaton once danced to the tune of “Macho Man” while dressed like characters from Deliverance? They sure did. Klausner is a huge fan of Markoe's, and her well-versed enthusiasm pervades the conversation in the best, funnest way possible. They’re both women in comedy who just get it, which makes for many cathartic moments of "YES! OH MY GOD, YES! YOU GET IT!," punctuated by Klausner’s hysterically on-point asides. To quote the podcast itself, “Behind every genius there’s another genius with a vagina.” Amen.
Sklarbro Country – Gabe Liedman
PABLO: As a sports-obsessed heterosexual bro, I don't often refer to my fellow dudes as a "delight." But dammit, if that's not the perfect description for Gabe Liedman, this week's guest on Sklarbro County. The standup comic and writer joins the Sklar Brothers to break in the new Earwolf studio while on a short two-month break from the Brooklyn Nine-Nine writers' room. This hiatus has been a very busy one for Liedman, who has been trying to quickly meet The One before going back to the 60+ hour work week of a TV writer. So far, OKCupid hasn't matched Gabe with anyone worthwhile, but co-host Dan Van Kirk comes up with a pretty good idea for someone looking to meet single gay men with insane work schedules: Exclusively date flight attendants. It's one of the more logical suggestions made on County, a show that celebrates the illogical. And this week is no different with a story right out of the gate about a Las Vegas masseuse who stole a $35,000 Rolex from her client and hid the watch inside herself. When police arrived, the accused woman was defiant about the alleged theft, leading Clark County officials to ask a judge for what was probably the first search warrant ever issued for a vagina. But it's Vegas, so you never know. The Sklars could have probably focused the entire episode on this one story, but Van Kirk also has tales of two other County geniuses: one featuring a gentleman who ate every Burger King sandwich in a single sitting and another about a teenager under the influence of mushrooms who was told by his uncle that porcupines are filled with precious minerals. This leads into some primo Uncle Chat given that all four co-hosts and guest have nephews, but each goes about being role models in their own way. So make sure to listen to this week's episode to find out who is a nice uncle, who is a mean uncle, and who are the uncles who look and sound identical to Dad.
WTF with Marc Maron – Todd Barry
ROB: This week’s WTF with Marc Maron is a two-for. Maron does a little pre-interview chat with Dave Attell, talking about his upcoming special Road Work, and how the venues and taping style fits Attell’s club comic persona. But the main event this episode is Todd Barry, who’s actually appearing on the official one-on-one WTF podcast for the first time. Barry and Maron go back a long time, so the interview isn’t a comprehensive look at Barry’s bio. But Barry does get into some of the details about his early ambitions, influences, and peers in comedy, as well as his move to, and humble beginnings in Manhattan. For someone with a stage persona like Barry, it’s a good reminder that he’s a regular person – or at least there was one point in his life he wasn’t quite so exaggeratedly cocksure. The two also chat about Barry’s new Crowd Work special, the venues he chose, how he approaches audiences, and which cities had the worst crowds (it might surprise you, but maybe not). The conversation winds down in the last quarter of the podcast, touching on touring, doing late night TV, and Louis C.K. Because Barry and Maron are familiar, this episode isn’t as in-depth as you might want, but Barry also keeps his cards close to the vest, so it’s not too surprising. But it’s definitely worth a listen if you’re interested in what went into making Barry’s new special.
MARC: The world of podcasting grows ever more niche-y, and delightly so, with Monster Party, a show that features four Hollywood denizens – James Gonis, Shawn Sheridan, Larry Strothe, and Matt Weinhold – who love movie monsters, and never more so than when they get liquored up and start arguing about them. In this episode, they focus solely on the creature cadre out of Universal Studios: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the Mummy. Joining them is their first-ever guest, the Pitbull of Comedy, Bobby Slayton, who proves to be just as big a monster fan as the regulars. The conversation and trivia-baiting ramps up as the drinks go down, but it’s Slayton who bears the biggest shame badge, revealing that he had to liquidate his collection of Creature from the Black Lagoon memorabilia – one of the largest in the world – in order to pay for things like a mortgage and a new roof for his house. Monster Party isn’t for everybody, but, if you love monsters and monster movies, it definitely IS for you.
Terrified with Dave Ross – Grace Helbig
LEIGH: This week on Terrified, YouTube phenom Grace Helbig gets introspective with self-proclaimed "feelings nerd" Dave Ross. The conversation kicks off with three questions – what are you afraid of? what are you worried about? and, why do you hate yourself? Helbig jumps right in and talks about how the answers all overlap for her. And guess what! Turns out, YouTube stars? Well they're just like us too. They cover fears like failure and success, making good first impressions, wanting to be liked, being authentic, feeling validated, surrounding yourself with good people and being accepted in the comedy scene. Sure, that's some pretty dark and terrifying stuff, but the conversation is always so comforting and relatable, you almost forget all that. It’s reassuring to learn that YouTube is home to more than just the trolls who lurk inside the comments section. As Helbig points out, it's actually a very collaborative and supportive community. The episode hits a high note when the two discuss how the internet has changed the way we make friends, interact with people and function in the real world. Or as Helbig so eloquently puts it “It's becoming socially acceptable to be super socially awkward.” Above all, don't miss this episode if you can appreciate when someone finds a way to throw an “A/S/L?” into a conversation.
Comedy Bang! Bang! – Weird Al, Paul F. Tompkins
ROB: You should listen to this episode. If you’re a fan of the show, this episode is one of the instant classics that I predict will end up in the year-end “best of” show, in one form or another. If you’re not familiar with the show, this week’s combination of Weird Al, Paul F. Tompkins, and Scott Aukerman’s moderating is quintessential Comedy Bang! Bang!. This episode is full of references, tangents, callbacks, games, and just the free play of improvised comedic ideas, compounded on itself throughout. To paraphrase Chelsea Peretti, the bit saturation in this episode is crazy. You can tell the energy level is high from the very start, where Aukerman turns his overly-delayed introduction of guest Weird Al into a quiz. Later on, another (newish) quiz comes up organically in the conversation, almost the way a “plane break” would when CBB recorded in the old studio. In the second half of the show, Tompkins plays Alan Thicke, Growing Pains star, theme song writer, “world’s greatest Robin’s Dad” and unexpected convert to fundamentalist Christianity. But this episode isn’t really driven by his character or story. It’s driven by three comedians that are comfortable with each other and enthusiastically locked in to almost any fleeting suggestion that comes up. Every show with this lineup is worth listening to, but together they shine this week.
The K Hole with Kurt Braunohler – Josh Gondelman
SCOTT: Kurt Braunohler opens the episode with the story of his engagement. After years of his girlfriend talking about going up in a hot air balloon, he arranged to propose in one, only to find out she’s been doing a bit this whole time and is actually terrified of them. It’s the perfect start to the episode, where Braunohler takes Josh Gondelman (Totally Biased, @SeinfeldToday) out to get him lost in Los Angeles, only to find out that their destination is closed on Saturdays. Along the way, Braunohler and a blindfolded Gondelman drive around LA, talking about witnessing the birth of a child's phobia, the fine line between respectfully attempting to speak other languages and being offensive, and Gondelman’s time in Boston where he endured a comedically sad weekly trek to an open mic. With the “Get Lost” premise of the podcast being a bust this time around, a still-blindfolded Gondelman suggests yet another format for The K Ohle: “Comedians in Cars Getting Kidnapped”. They can count among their first subscribers the cop that paused only briefly to check out, but not talk to, the two men, one blindfolded, parked in front of an empty train museum.
Chillpak Hollywood Hour – Rick Overton
MARC: Chillpak Hollywood Hour is one of those podcasts that veers in and out of the comedy classification amongst podcasts. This week, about a month shy of kicking off their eighth year producing their weekly show, hosts Dean Haglund and Phil Leirness swerve head-on into the comedy fast lane, starting with Phil’s refusal to acknowledge the late Mickey Rooney as a talent to be reckoned with, their take on some current comedy movies (Anchorman 2, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lego Movie) and others, and followed up with second half of Haglund’s interview with comic great and host of the Overview podcast, Rick Overton. The fact this show is named for an out-of-production computer cooling system invented by Haglund and is sponsored by the fictional Empire Gas Co. just helps to cement its place firmly in the ranks of comedy podcasts.