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.
Terrified – Dave Ross
LEIGH: To mark the one year anniversary of Terrified, host Dave Ross moves over to the guest spot and has his friend Jake Weisman take over as host. (It's also worth mentioning that Weisman's turn as guest on Terrified is one of my favorite episodes.) If you're not familiar with the format of the podcast, it starts with two questions: "What are you afraid of?" and "What do you not like about yourself?" Maybe it's because they're friends, or because Ross has listened to so many others answer these questions before, but it gets pretty deep and honest right off the bat. Weaving naturally and seamlessly between lighthearted jokes and more serious stuff like self-worth, self-esteem, and "being a piece of shit," the conversation is both funny and therapeutic. It's pretty heavy stuff but don't kid yourself — if you have any kind of feelings at all, you can relate. Above all, listen to this episode for the new Dave Ross sound effect.
Comedy Bang! Bang! – Jason Mantzoukas, Andy Daly
ROB: Some fantastic Comedy Bang Bang episodes are pretty accessible to new listeners. Others, like this ridiculously canon-heavy 300th episode… not so much. Nevertheless, listen to it. This week’s show “Oh Golly! You Devil” is a continuation of #274, “Oh, Golly!” in which host Scott Aukerman and CBB favorites Jason Mantzoukas and Andy Daly set the stage for an epic battle between good and evil. But don’t think listening to #274 will fully prepare you for #300: To thoroughly understand this episode, you’ll need to have listened to every Daly CBB appearance and all seven episodes of The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project, too. That’s because, in an incredibly impressive performance, Daly brings back almost every character he’s ever introduced inCBB’s five-year history. And unlike the 2012 episode “Wipeout!” where Daly briefly brought back a few characters for a hilarious ending, most of the 14 personas that Daly oscillates between have unique roles in #300’s unfolding drama. If you’ve ever heard an episode with this lineup before, you know Aukerman and Mantzoukas, particularly, relish challenging Daly’s improvisational skills. So with Daly playing a dozen characters simultaneously for over an hour, opportunities abound for the two to mercilessly prompt him to switch between characters in quick succession or to come up with limericks on the spot. Those moments — Daly audibly squirming while Mantzoukas breaks into hysterical laughter off-mic — are definitely high points, but the whole episode is an Andy Daly tour de force, proving he’s one of the best improvisers on CBB or anywhere.
Sound Opinions – Rob Reiner
PABLO: "Big Bottom." "Sex Farm". "Bitch School." "(Funky) Sex Farm." There's only one band on Earth with the musical chops, raw sex appeal, and total lack of humility necessary to write masterpieces like these. That band, of course, is Spinal Tap. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of This Is Spinal Tap, hosts Jim DeRogatis and Greg Knot of Sound Opinions invited director Rob Reiner to discuss the genesis of his influential mockumentary. It starts at UCLA in the 1960s where a young Reiner became friends with fellow film students Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison, and continues in San Francisco where Reiner's improv troupe The Committee attracted fans from the counter-culture scene like Janis Joplin. With those seeds planted, Reiner and another Bruins alumn Harry Shearer later came up with an idea to film a fake documentary about thick-headed roadies. But after Meatloaf released a movie on that same subject, the duo combined their concept with improvised rock star characters independently created by Christopher Guest and Michael McKean to spawn Spinal Tap, a goofy parody that has outlasted nearly every group they were ridiculing way back in 1984. The artist formerly known as Meathead is extremely game throughout this interview and indulges the hosts with stories about the film's four-page script, Black Sabbath's misguided anger towards the filmmakers, and the reason why he and his three costars haven't seen a single penny from their groundbreaking rock 'n' roll lampoon. And if Reiner's interview doesn't satisfy your need for unintentionally hilarious musicians with zero self-awareness, DeRogatis and Knot end the episode by reviewing the latest album from Morrissey!
You Made it Weird – Deepak Chopra
SCOTT: Deepak Chopra is the guest this week, and provides a strong counterweight to the recent spate of science guests. If you, like me, felt shortchanged by Chopra’s all-too-brief interview on The Pete Holmes Show, you get what you’ve been waiting for here. He sets the tone for the episode right away, admonishing “if you aren’t surprised by existence, you don’t deserve to exist,” and it doesn’t lighten up from there. The mysteries of the universe unfold between Holmes and Chopra as they discuss the great cosmic joke and the idea that all of existence is a paradox. Chopra takes scientists to task for not properly understanding the limitations of how we observe the universe, then goes on to explain that the universe is the ultimate magic show, and that we don’t understand even the simplest trick: how we are able to physically experience anything at all. This is another episode in which Holmes takes a backseat to the guest out of reverence and awe, and you can almost picture (in your third eye, most likely), Holmes sitting there looking upward in bliss as a floating Chopra says that God, having to watch over 10^22 habitable planets, is too busy to care about the porn you watch. It’s an episode filled with wonder and miracles, not the least of which is that Pete Holmes doesn’t call him “Deepey Chopes” to his face. Thank God for that.
Judge John Hodgman – Hunter-Gaveler
MARC: To the best of my knowledge this is the only podcast where people bring their disputes before a Famous Minor Television Personality to be heard and judged. This week, Judge John Hodgman (in spite of his other TV and films roles, probably best recognized as “PC” opposite Justin Long’s “Mac” in Apple’s long-running series of commercials) hears the case brought forward from Claire against her husband Brian. It seems they’re moving from an apartment in Augusta, GA, to a house with some acreage in the country and Brian is getting the itch to do a little huntin’. Claire is against it, not because she’s a vegetarian (she’s not), but because she’s squeamish about knowing where her meat is coming from. Brian, on the other hand, is a bit of a novice and has never bagged a deer or rabbit in his life. Hodgman summons novelist/journalist Jonathan Miles as an expert witness, who not only gives the thumbs up to Brian’s knowledge of firearms but, following the Judge’s compromise decision – Brian can do his hunting but only when his wife is safely sequestered from having to watch the carnage – he offers to join Brian on his first hunt to show him the ropes. Some of the most fun in these episodes is after the judgement is rendered, when Hodgman and his bailiff, Maximum Fun’s Jesse Thorn, are relaxing in chambers with a stiff drink, smooth jazz, and a few followup cases to comment on.
ZOE: It’s a scorcher, isn’t it? Oh, sorry. I was talking about this episode, but now that you mention it, I guess it has been pretty warm outside. How’s Dave Hill doing, you ask? He’s absolutely fabulous, thanks so much for asking. It was really rainy and unsafe out there when he recorded the show, but the pride of Cleveland brings on comedians Rob Cantrell and Ben Lerman to cheer him up. Perhaps an alternative title of this episode could be “Song of Myself” (Walt Whitman’s pretty metal, right?) because these guys certainly contain multitudes and all happen to be musicians: Hill rocks, Cantrell raps, and Lerman croons on the uke. Cantrell and Hill debate some pretty hot-button topics such as: Is world peace possible? Is milk gross? And most importantly, what’s Dave’s summer coffee plan? (Hint: not Stumptown. That would be very not rock and roll.) Lerman joins in later to perform charming hits like “Lazy Eye,” “Bonerville,” and “Multiple Orgasm Pam,” which sounds kinda like if Tenacious D rewrote “Meet Virginia” by Train. If you like hot jams but need a break from the heat, turn the AC and this episode up to 11.
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.
Photo credit: Nerdist