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. We hope to have your ears permanently plugged with the best in aural comedy.
The Dead Authors Podcast – Jon Daly
ROB: No historical writer is quite as perfect to be a guest on The Dead Authors Podcast as Oscar Wilde, and it would be hard to find a better comedian to portray Wilde than Jon Daly. His hyperactive and mischievous comic sensibility blends into his Oscar Wilde seamlessly and actually brings the character to life in a not-so-unrealistic way (at least compared to other, more absurdist DAP guests). Actually, Daly seems to have done a lot of homework — or at least he printed out Wilde’s Wikipedia article — because he follows the historical conversation closely and seems prepared to spin a half-true story at every turn. And, as the “making up Oscar Wilde quotes” internet meme is still well-known enough to constantly be in the back of the audiences' minds, Daly’s various turns at fabricating creative, counterfeit Wilde quotes don’t go without appreciation. Though Daly doesn’t get all of his facts straight (but, of course, that’s not the point), his Wilde impression is full of enthusiasm, and it fires up host Paul F. Tompkins’ H.G. Wells character to encourage lots of hilarious detours. This is an all-time great episode of DAP because there’s nothing quite like having two modern comedians from Pennsylvania faking old-timey British accents while having a BS conversation about literature.
How Was Your Week? – Jason Nash
LEIGH: Jason Nash, writer/director/star of the upcoming movie Jason Nash is Married, sits down with host Julie Klausner on this episode of How Was Your Week. They talk about whether James Lipton or Sean Penn is more interesting, make some great points about how awful reality TV can be, how important it is to have a point of view, and the percentage of people who are evil. The conversation takes a sharp turn to Mad Men after an honest Donald/Roger Sterling mix up (a mistake you know you've also made at least once). And finally, I'd be doing you a great disservice if I didn't point out the highlight of this episode that happens during the monologue while recapping the Broadway musical, Beautiful. You know when people do very specific, very annoying things but you don't really know how to describe them? Well, while she can't make the annoying things go away, Julie Klausner can give you the phrases you need to call them out. The people who control the dictionary better be paying attention so they can make "murmurs of recognition" official. As Klausner explains, they're a form of laughter that's not about something being funny, but more about showing your peers that you get what's going on. Unrelated, but equally brilliant is Klausner's idea for The Moth for Moms. So now when you listen to this episode of HWYW, you can all do a collective murmur of recognition when you get to the part where Klausner explains just what that could be.
You Made It Weird – Ray Romano
SCOTT: You’d be forgiven if you spent most of this episode wondering when Pete Holmes will do his Ray Romano impression and what Romano’s reaction would be. I’ll save you the distraction and anxiety – in the biggest display of self-control in You Made it Weird history, Pete Holmes doesn’t do an impression that he loves to do. This episode is weird not because of subject matter but because of the interaction. It has a “don’t meet your heroes” vibe sprinkled with occasional bits of "just two guys talking about comedy," but when Homes mentions a recent set at UCB and Romano asks the question "What’s UCB?", it’s clear that this is a man that doesn’t live in the same comedy world as Holmes, the listeners, and most prior guests. Add that to the running game where Holmes tells Romano about something he said or wrote that Romano insists he never said or wrote, and you have a recipe for a stilted, weird conversation. They do manage to connect and dive into their bond with standup and how it holds sway over them even when they’re pursuing other projects, and this is the first episode in a long time to dive deep into the guest’s comedy roots, which is a nice throwback to the “comedy/sex/God” days of the podcast. By the end, we’re not sure if Romano really wants us to "keep it crispy," but we’re definitely sure that he’s glad to get out of there.
The Smartest Man in the World – “Popes”
MARC: While many solo podcasters rant their way through a show, it takes a gifted wit to master The Spew – that gift of limitless gab that remains on track, unhesitant, and often glib (if not out-and-out hilarious at times.) Bill Burr is a Master of The Spew. Larry Miller is a Venerable Master of The Spew. But they work in rooms or studios, generally by themselves. Greg Proops dares to Spew in front of live audiences and The Smartest Man In The World showcases his mastery consistently and intercontinentally. This week’s episode, "Popes," was from the most recent literary Hays Festival in Wales, featuring Proops showing off his American-with-a-boost-of-Brit vocab and pulling laughs out of an over-heated tent crowd. The front end of the podcast was an improvised telling of his miserable trip form London to Hay. The back end was rougher (and lost a few folks) as he ripped the top off a can of righteous indignation over world events, politics, and the filthy rich. His Whose Line Is It Anyway? chops brought it back around with flip and hiliarious answers to questions from the crowd, which fled into the night having been charmed by a true Master of the Spew.
Leigh Cesiro is a writer living in Brooklyn who only needs 10 minutes to solve any Law & Order: SVU episode.
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.