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.
Nerdist – Morgan Freeman
SCOTT: If you ever wanted to hear Morgan Freeman narrate his own life, this is the episode for you. Sometimes stilted and guarded, sometimes open and profound, this episode of Nerdist, the first podcast Freeman has ever done, succeeds in imparting to the listener the feeling of what it would be like to interview a legend. At first, it seems like Freeman is taken aback by the more intimate podcast style, and he even seems reticent to answer some personal questions, but eventually he gets comfortable enough with Chris Hardwick and Jonah Ray to toss out the occasional smooth burn while also saying the wisest thing you’ve ever heard. His perspective on his career, its seemingly late start, and its longevity, will speak volumes to anyone trying to make a go at a life in the arts, and it certainly satisfies Hardwick, who admits to seeking an ersatz father-figure in Freeman. They talk about Nelson Mandela, and when Freeman says that their relationship was one of equals, nobody doubts it for a second because throughout the episode he does nothing but radiate the aura of a truly great man. He not only tells us to enjoy our burrito, but he explains why we should do so, and it’s as powerful as anything else he’s said in the preceding hour.
Todd Barry Podcast – Aparna Nancherla
ZOE: The Todd Barry Podcast brings in the funniest comedians around and lets them be normal people who happen to be funnier than everyone else you know. Barry is extremely earnest and relatable as an interviewer, which is a departure from the muted (and perhaps even soothing) wryness of his standup persona, but very in line with his reputation as a human being. His discussion with this week’s guest, standup and Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell writer Aparna Nancherla, flows so naturally it feels like it was recorded by mistake, then released after they discovered what an entertaining interview it was. Whether they’re talking frequent flyer miles, touring schedules, or living arrangements, the conversation is full of insight into two comedians’ lives you don’t always get to hear. As her fans already know, there’s something disarming about how relaxed and down-to-earth Nancherla is; she’s comfortable with her perspective and doesn’t have anything to prove (though she’s so funny, there’s really nothing left to prove). When Barry asks if she’d ever have her own show, she quickly answers, “I don’t want my own show… The Aparna Files. That’s too much pressure,” and then jokes, “I just want to be the person who comes out, says a thing, then leaves. Is that too much to ask?” Toward the end of the interview, she cites Amy Sedaris’s career as an ideal, which, given her unique sensibility and true-to-self approach, feels like it might not be so far away.
Doug Loves Movies – Jay Chandrasekhar, Morgan Murphy, Eddie Pepitone, Matt Braunger, and Rory Scovel
ROB: Doug Loves Movies attracts a very loyal audience, but a lot of general comedy podcast listeners who don’t really care about the Leonard Maltin Game might have only heard a couple episodes of Doug Benson’s movie-centric quiz show before falling off. For those listeners, this is the perfect episode to coax you back in (fans will love it too). Recorded in New York, this installment has an all-comedian panel, featuring veterans like Rory Scovel and the ebullient Eddie Pepitone in his first appearance on DLM. The first half of the show doesn’t feature any movie quiz, but just the five guests and Benson clowning around, creating bit after bit — about 40 minutes worth. The panel’s introduction, by itself, takes a long time because it’s so full of hilarious rapid-fire tangents (and because there are five of them). But that’s also how the rest of the episode goes, thanks to the full, all-comedian panel: Benson at one point says that he keeps thinking of something funny to add, but by the time he’s about to speak, 18 other things have happened. Regular listeners will love how competitive the panel is playing Last Man Stanton and the LMG, despite some of the comedians getting a little more sloppy and chaotic with every round of drinks.
How Was Your Week – Jolie Kerr
LEIGH: "If it comes out of you, it's a protein stain." Quotes like that make it clear why I'd listen to anything Jolie Kerr says. Anything. No really, anything. Jolie Kerr, bonafide "clean person" and author of My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha stops by How Was Your Week, and to be clear – this is not your mother's cleaning advice show. Now don't let the cleaning advice part scare you away. Host Julie Klausner's interview this week is not only hysterical, it's also extremely educational. From cleaning hockey equipment and sneakers, to what to do with wet sponges, using a feather duster and plenty of other stuff we could all use help cleaning, Kerr seems to know pretty much everything. In fact, any bodily fluid Klausner threw at Kerr (no, not like that), she had a trick for removing. So, just like Klausner is now hooked on OxyClean, it's hard not to be hooked on Jolie Kerr after listening to this episode. Also, HWYW wouldn't be complete without some Jessica Seinfeld news! And boy is there some. There were some exciting Instagram comments this week and it should be noted that if this podcast is your go-to source of all things Jessica Seinfeld, you may need to look elsewhere in the future.
Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast – Dick Cavett
MARC: It was just a matter of time, really, before Gilbert Gottfried got into the podcasting game. We couldn’t expect him to keep that trademark cackling laugh restricted to the odd roast or obscure gig forever, could we? This week his Amazing Colossal Podcast debuted and…it’s a podcast. It’s Gottfried ensconced in his New York City apartment, chatting it up with whatever friends he can get to stop by. When you’re Gottfried, that can be an impressive list to draw from. Dick Cavett is his debut guest and he does not disappoint. A master raconteur and, although there’s a bit of quaver in Cavett’s unmistakeable voice, he conjures up anecdotes of Hollywood and Broadway luminaries upon request until Gottfried and his co-host, Frank Santopadre, run out of names to ask about. Johnny Carson, Jack Benny, John Lennon – and those are just the guys whose names start with "J." Host and guest laugh a lot during this first hour, although Gottfriend’s impression of an aged Groucho Mark brings a wistful Cavett to the brink of tears with its uncanny tones. The chat refreshingly veers out of the comfort zone of the politically correct from time to time. And the most time seems given over to Cavett’s fascination with Chinese character actor Richard Loo, including his impression of the man. If the first show is an apt indicator, we’re in for a treat.
Skeptic Tank – Bert Kreischer
PABLO: On the latest Skeptic Tank, Ari Shaffir once again invites a comedian friend over to listen and dissect, track-by-track, one of their standup albums. But as Shaffir mentions in the anxiety-driven opening, this episode differs wildly from the others for one crucial reason: The album sucks. Luckily for Shaffir, his guest Bert Kreischer is in total agreement about the quality of his debut release, Bert Bert Bert. What follows is a long but extremely beneficial look at the growth of a comic from a five-year-in know-it-all aping heroes like Dave Attell and then-popular acts like Dane Cook to a 15-year veteran who has long since taken command of his own voice. You have to give Kreischer a lot of credit for allowing Shaffir to critique his work, especially given how cringe-worthy a lot of the racial material sounds today. But his change from writing what makes audiences laugh to writing from a place of truth is evident in comparing this album to his more recent work. Last month on Sklarbro Country, Kreischer told a story about attending the 2014 BCS National Championship Game where his alma mater Florida State made a huge second half comeback to win the title. Bert, as he is wont to do, got fucking hammered at the game, but ended up leaving at halftime because he badly missed his family. While maintaining the grown-up frat boy persona he's cultivated over the years, the evolution of Kreischer's standup is clearly evident from the unexpected ending image of him laid out on his backyard trampoline while his kids jumped around his nearly passed-out body. So if you're an aspiring standup, take Shaffir's advice and don't even think about recording an album before your first decade in comedy is up, no matter how funny you think you are. Otherwise, your future self will most definitely be trash talking you on a podcast.
Leigh Cesiro is a writer living in Brooklyn who only needs 10 minutes to solve any Law & Order: SVU episode.
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.