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.
Doodie Calls – Alison Rich
ZOE: Guest Alison Rich got two important calls this week: one from Saturday Night Live and the other from, yep, you guessed it: doodie. Right before recording this episode, Rich found out she was hired to write for SNL, and what better way to celebrate than talking some shit? In the wake of her exciting news, you’ve probably read about her many web series and writing credits, but perhaps her most impressive accomplishment of all is battling food poisoning naked in a hospital bathroom with her jaw wired shut while —as if it couldn’t get worse—her mom sat beside her. The next story is little off-topic, but one that’s emotionally on-point and deeply resonant for any woman who’s had this nightmare: you know that one where you get your period unexpectedly, and it gets on the chair? A white linen chair? As you’re tutoring a high school student on his SATs? And it’s just him and his dad in the house? And then even though you want to run away and never see them again, you have to come back the following week? And then there’s a new chair? Yeah, that nightmare. Seventeen Magazine’s Traumarama section’s got nothing on what Rich is serving up this week.
The Untitled Kondabolu Brothers Podcast – W. Kamau Bell
PABLO: If you were a fan of the canceled Totally Biased, listen to this week's Untitled Kondabolu Brothers Podcast, a recording of their hilarious PowerPoint-laden live shows. On this episode, the brothers Ashok and Hari invite the latter's former boss, W. Kamau Bell, to discuss interracial dating, the perils of appearing on Real Time with Bill Maher, and general white demonry. The show starts off with a retelling (complete with YouTube clips) of Hari's awkward appearance on the schlocky morning show Good Day New York to promote his album Waiting for 2042. Let's just say the two hosts, one the son of a former NYPD commissioner and the other the daughter of a former Gambino crime lord, don't see quite eye-to-eye with Hari's comedic take on growing up as a first generation Indian-American. Later in the show, the topic turns to interracial relationships, revealing that there is a website solely devoted to helping white moms manage the hair of their black daughters. Episode #14 is a hilarious episode filled with anecdotes about Barbara Walters, tales of the KKK, and the difficulty in recommending an author besides Junot Díaz when you're a 20-something brown male who watches way too much TV.
Modern Day Philosophers – Shecky Greene
Comedian Danny Lobell moves into his second year of hosting Modern Day Philosophers,
wherein he interviews a comedian guest and “pairs them” with a philosopher to then examine and discuss. Podcasting has become a place to hear some of the great comedians from the comedy wave two booms back – the '50s and '60s – and Lobell presents us with Shecky Greene, a classic funnyman if ever there was one. The philosopher this time out? Blaise Pascal, the 17th century polymath who was a mathematician, inventor, physicist, and writer. He built one of the first mechanical calculators, a fact that Green and Lobell marvel over. “Kind words do not cost much,” said Pascal, “But they accomplish much.” And Greene proves to be a very gracious guest. He sings. He speaks in dialects. He regales Lobell with stories of standup gigs of old. They dip into subjects such as Greene’s gambling problem, developed at a young age when his father schooled him in horse race betting and continuing through his time headlining clubs and lounges in Las Vegas. He’s quite forthcoming, revealing elements of his depression, his failed marriage, and his views on some of his contemporaries. (“Don’t ask me about Lenny Bruce. I’ll tell you sometime. Today I don’t feel like talking about Lenny.”) We’ve lost some of our great comic minds lately – this is a wonderful opportunity to hear about the life and times of a comedy icon who is still quite lucid in his 80s, before it’s too late.
Don't Ever Change – Nate Bargatze
You couldn't pay me enough to relive high school, but I'll gladly listen to comedians talk about what they were like as teenagers. So it's a good thing Don't Ever Change
exists. If you've never listened, host John Roy asks his guest what they were like at 14 – where they grew up, where they went to school, who were their friends, what their family was like. You may know this week's guest Nate Bargatze as a comedian now, but back in high school he was the homecoming king and self described "not bad" athlete. And, while the point of this podcast is to hear what Bargatze was like in high school, we need to change gears for just a second and talk about his dad. I get that saying someone is a cool dad probably isn't a cool thing to say, but get this. For starters, he taught in his son's school. The thought of that might make you squirm, but we're talking about a guy who was also a professional clown and magician. So aside from the fact that he once cut his own son from the school's basketball team, what a cool dad! But it's not all nostalgia. Roy transitions the conversation nicely into a discussion about the differences between Bargatze then and now, which leads to some good advice for kids in high school today and his two-year-old daughter. Also, an important learning moment: there are actual human people in this world who don't believe in dancing. If you find that hard to believe, listen to this episode and hear it for yourself.
Superego – Episode 4:1
Paul F. Tompkins is now officially a part of Superego,
the Nerdist podcast that re-launched with season four this week after more than a year off. If you’re a neophyte to Superego,
as I am (only having heard a few episodes before), it’s as good a time as ever to enter the vortex of improvised sketch comedy that this podcast is. Superego
purports to be a series of psychological profiles “improvised and analyzed” by Drs. Matt Gourley, Jeremy Carter, Mark McConville, and now Paul F. Tompkins, who guest starred so frequently in previous seasons that he’s now a full-on member. What Superego
really is, is a series of short improvised sketches edited down and produced into an disorienting whirlwind of absurdity — featuring lots of guests you know from other great podcasts and the comedy world in general, but may or may not recognize, depending on the sketch. It’s a bit like if Thrilling Adventure Hour
dispensed with the plot and cranked up the pace, or if Monty Python happened now in ADHD podcast form. But any comparisons are really a disservice to the hilarious weirdness of this show, and there isn’t much you can do to ease yourself into your first bewildering listen anyway — so you might as well dive right in!