The Year in Comedy Podcasts
Throughout 2017, our trusty team of reviewers covered everything that happened in the world of comedy podcasts with nearly 50 weekly roundups. And in 2017 there was a lot to cover, from podcast anniversaries and milestones (Beautiful/Anonymous, Hollywood Handbook, Who Charted?) to promising newcomers (ActionBoyz, Raised by TV) to highly anticipated returns (U Talkin’ U2 to Me?) to final episodes (Pop My Culture). With that, let’s get right to it — here’s a roundup of our reviewers’ favorite comedy podcast happenings of the year:
Best Podcast Guest Duo – John Early and Kate Berlant
Leigh: John Early and Kate Berlant are the best comedy duo period. Their appearances on The Tonight Show, their web series 555, and their banana phone saga on Instagram are all gold. So, duh, of course they’re great together on podcasts. This episode of Comedy Bang Bang when they were on together as Tricia L. and Tricia R. was one of the funniest things I listened to all year. And they were also both a part of the staged reading of Chelsea Peretti’s play Rain’s Comin In, which was the actual funniest thing I listened to all year. You can hear the story of how they met and started working together on this episode of Last Things First. I’m pretty sure Kate Berlant and John Early could just record themselves reading the phonebook and it’d be better than a lot of podcasts out there. Come to think of it, there’s a free idea for you, universe.
Most Triumphant Return – Nick Kroll, Jason Mantzoukas, and Seth Morris on Comedy Bang Bang
Mark: Robert Downey Jr. Blink 182. Jesus Christ. These titans of entertainment have made triumphant returns after prolonged absences, but this list pales in comparison to the lists created by another returning titan — Bob Ducca. In Ducca’s first appearance on Comedy Bang Bang in nearly four (!) years, Seth Morris proves no guest puts more hard work into an improv podcast appearance than he does. After Nick Kroll and Jeffrey Characterwheaties (the actor who portrays Jason Mantzoukas, duh) yes-and their way through the first segment, Scott Aukerman’s hypochondriac stepfather brings the heat with three glorious lists. You never realize how much you miss hearing phrases like “areola ebola” and “ska band horn section infection” until they’re gone. With no new episodes of Affirmation Nation in what feels like centuries, this is the best Bob Ducca fans are going to get. Cherish every horrific second.
Best Crossover – My Favorite Murder/Unqualified
Elizabeth: The best crossovers, whether it’s TV, movies, or even podcasts, bring together two very different things to create something unexpected, yet familiar. While My Favorite Murder and Anna Faris Is Unqualified may share the distinction of being two of the most popular female-helmed podcasts out there today, their subject matter and formats could not be more different. (After all, the main advice MFM hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark give is “Stay sexy. Don’t get murdered.”) But the crossover episodes of these two podcasts gave all three women a chance to shine in a new way. Anna gets to show off her dark side, while Karen and Georgia give excellent and heartfelt advice to several listeners. The crossovers feel true to both shows, while giving listeners something new. Here’s hoping these talented ladies will team up again in 2018.
Best Segments – The Podcast for Laundry
Noah: Brett Davis has been the crown jewel of Brooklyn alt-comedy for years, and 2017’s launch of The Podcast for Laundry has done nothing but reinforce how critical his voice is. Playing (?) as a disgusting streakstained laundry-obsessive, Davis took the one-note topic trend in podcasting and tossed it on its head by forcing all of the rest of the most hip New York comedians to show up at their local laundromats and sit through the truest ramblings of a madman that anyone in idiomatic history could have ever anticipated. Brett likes to pad his episodes with superfluous segments like “Spin Doctors” where he asks someone what they like to listen to at the laundromat, as if it matters; “Bleach Please,” a thickly-disguised chance for Brett to rant that no one understands; “What’s Your ‘Turge?,” a closed-ended segment where he finds out what laundry detergent his guest uses; and “Turn the Tide,” which itself is barely a segment (the guest is allowed one opportunity to shut Brett up and change the topic by physically turning a canister of Tide detergent so that the label is facing a different way). This kind of deep bench of segments could only come from a mind like Brett’s.
Best Podcast for Aspiring Comedians to Listen to – The Hilarious World of Depression
Mark: It must be draining to work in a macho industry like finance, where admitting to depression can be seen as a sign of weakness. Presumably, the six-figure salary helps. Even without the consolation prize, aspiring comedians and creators are lucky to have The Hilarious World of Depression. Nothing helps deflate the sads more than hearing about others who successfully came out the other side. Aside from the feelings, any wannabe funnyperson has plenty to learn from John Moe’s work ethic. The amount of care he and his team put into every single podcast is admirable. Each episode weaves a gentle, cozy narrative from the fabric of another conversation. A conversation that could easily make a separate, also satisfying podcast. The wide range of guests keeps things fresh, with Neal Brennan and Patti Harrison making particularly memorable appearances. The sporadic laughs come as welcome relief of the heavies. The Hilarious World of Depression may not qualify as therapy, but listening to it is damn sure therapeutic.
Best Episode Titles – Tuesdays with Stories
Leigh: “Galapagos Dump.” “Goopy Old Tamp.” “Mark Duffalo.” “Diddle Britches.” The explanation as to why Tuesdays with Stories wins the title of Best Episode Titles should not have to go any further than that. For those still not convinced, I’ll even throw in “Gurgle Wave,” “Dibulge,” and “Statutory Crepe.” And those are from this year alone. These guys have 4 years worth of things like “Snatch Chat,” “Testie Oint,” “Colin Quink,” “Latina Turner,” and “Spud Money.” This is all really just a roundabout way of saying Tuesdays with Stories hosts Mark Normand and Joe List are two of the funniest guys in the game. As is the case with most podcasts these days, the title usually comes from a phrase or a word that’s said during the course of the episode. But what sets Tuesdays apart from the rest is that these two gifted New York comics never commit the ultimate podcasting sin of saying something funny and then calling it out as a good thing to use as an episode title. It’s what I assume would be the 2017 equivalent of laughing at your own joke. This show is one of the most reliable podcasts out there, both in how consistently entertaining it is and in how they never miss an episode, despite their busy touring schedules. Two things that haven’t gone unnoticed by devoted Tuesgays, Fatties and Crazy Kooks far and wide.
Best Mock Thought Leader Podcast – Dexter Guff is Smarter Than You, and So Can You
Marc: Business advice, and “thought leadership” in particular, make up a big juicy slice of Podcast Land. It therefore stands to reason that someone is going to take aim at the tasty target and bring it down a peg or two. Peter Oldring, who partners with Pat Kelly on Canada’s magazine show spoof This Is That, appears as the bombastic Dexter Guff in this tight-as-a-drum sendup that has Oldring nailing trope after trope of the typical, know-it-all business wonk. Whether it’s him holding court in his “Thought Palace” (from which he utters his “thought release” each show) or his own special brand of snake oil remedy (Guff Pills), you kinda sorta want to believe the guy’s advice. The show’s host starts to unravel by episode 2 and 3, after which you find yourself listening to his downward spiral. He has ever-growing issues with Tammy, the unheard show producer. Guff nibbles at the edges of stalking a female thought leader that he thinks is attracted to him. And a lawsuit over his Guff Pills leaves him penniless. By episode 10, Guff is gone and there’s a great closing episode done in the style of Missing Richard Simmons, with the search on for where Guff may have disappeared. I hope he comes back.
Best Format – Good One: A Podcast About Jokes
Pablo: I try to avoid dissecting the comedy frog. With music or paintings or video games, I can enjoy the medium purely as a fan. But when you work in comedy, the magic of a phenomenal standup set, the kind that first made you fall in love with comedy, can be lost when you see a comic workshop her set over and over again to make it perfect. Thankfully there’s Vulture’s chief writer of all things comedy Jesse David Fox, who has mastered the skill of not killing the frog during surgery. Taking after the “100 Jokes (and more) That Shaped Modern Comedy” piece he painstakingly curated, Good One asks comedians to explain how a single joke of theirs was created, developed, and polished to completion. It’s a simple podcast premise, but one that pays dividends with a host like Fox who can toe the line between two standups (even though he isn’t one) debating sentence structure over 2:00am matzoh ball soup and the passionate journalist with a deep knowledge of comedy and its history. Some episodes, like Ron Funches’s “Fuck Linda” neck tattoo bit, are examinations of a single joke. But the podcast also explores singular jokes in all forms: an SNL sketch, a song from the Groundhog Day Broadway musical, or even a Shondaland-esque show-within-a-show parody in an episode of Dear White People.
Most Missed Pop Culture Podcast – Pop My Culture
Marc: As of January it will have been a year that Pop My Culture, hosted by Cole Stratton and Vanessa Ragland — a pair of comic actors and improvisers – folded up its tent. In 2011, the year after it dropped, it was named one of the 10 Best Comedy Podcasts of the Moment by Rolling Stone. They went out five years later with a live show performed at San Francisco’s annual Sketchfest show (which Stratton also co-founded and produces each year). The show format was to have a guest on – usually a comedian or actor – and then only lightly touch on that person’s life and career while mainly focusing on pop culture-ish things of the day. The show often ran well over an hour and would close with Ragland plying the guest with a strangely poised “this or that” kind of philosophical question. I emailed a few questions about the show to Stratton, who was kind enough to reply. Who was his favorite guest? “That’s tough to choose from, but Weird Al was a dream guest and he did our 100th episode.” After 213 episodes, what do you miss most about doing the show? “I miss meeting amazing actors, musicians, writers, directors and comedians whose work I admire and then getting to just chat with them for an hour. And I miss doing it with Vanessa, who is one of my best friends but we don’t get to collaborate that much anymore.” Stratton and Ragland do perform in Los Angeles together in an improv show called Pretty, Pretty Pony. And he assures me that he has “a couple of projects in the audio realm” that may be out soon.
Best Replacement for News – Bitch Sesh
Kathryn: Apart from staying up to date on thousands of hours of programming for the nine domestic Real Housewives franchises and their countless spin-offs and copycats (basically anything airing on Bravo), Bitch Sesh offers its listeners breaking news: between regularly scheduled episodes, when a big story breaks, a two-minute “special announcement” or “emergency address” will appear in your feed. Like a push notification from The New York Times, only less likely to deal with a mass shooting. These are solemn announcements from Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider you’ll want to tune in for, and unless you’re a truly diehard Real Housewives fan you won’t know what it’s about until you’ve listened. Personally, I don’t watch any of the Housewives shows and don’t even have cable, but still feel connected to the zeitgeist thanks to Bitch Sesh.
Best Replacement for Friends – Las Culturistas
Kathryn: Las Culturistas is one of Esquire’s Best Podcasts of 2017, and you know the magazine that chooses each year’s “sexiest woman alive” is a cultural bellwether, honey. Las Culturistas is a sit-down interview show with New York and LA comedians, like so many other podcasts, but theirs has the best hook, because it can mean anything you want it to mean. Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers ask each guest when they first knew that culture was for them. That can be reruns of The Golden Girls, or a first trip to Disneyland, or the Phil Collins soundtrack on Tarzan. It doesn’t matter — as long as you’re obsessed, Bowen and Matt will be too. They showcase lots of guests you don’t get to hear on other podcasts, and even if it’s someone you’ve never heard of before, you know it’s going to be a delight. Listening in feels like you found a secret garden of conversation, like you’re part of the group and you’re all just chatting over spinach and artichoke dip at a T.G.I. Friday’s. It’s a joyful show; even the one-minute rants at the end of each episode are joyful. Las Culturistas can go negative and stay positive, and I hope they stick around.
Best Podcast That’ll Make You Sound Smart to Your Friends – Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air
Mark: If you’ve never argued over politics, congrats! Ignorance is bliss. But if you’re not one of those lucky braindead-types, you can probably use some material for your next discourse. There are tons of informative political shows out there, but life is too short to be completely devoid of humor. Enter Larry Wilmore, who bounced back from his canceled Comedy Central show to gift the audio world with The Ringer’s excellent Black on the Air. In just over six months, Wilmore has rolled out an impressive lineup of guests, from entertainers like Issa Rae and a post-scandal Bill Maher to activists like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He’s even landed politicians like Bernie Sanders and a pre-scandal Al Franken. Wilmore exudes empathy and always finds the funny buried in the darkest of topics. Improv podcasts are great, but nothing beats two geniuses discussing current events. Smart thoughts will enter your brain through osmosis. Your friends will be so impressed.
Best Excuse to Laugh at the State of the World – Lovett or Leave It
Elizabeth: You may have noticed that things aren’t going well in the world right now. (And if you haven’t noticed, congratulations on not being on Twitter.) But fortunately for those of us who can’t bring ourselves to shut it all out but would at least like to get a few laughs out of the situation, this year brought us Lovett or Leave It, a comedy podcast tailor-made for the age of Trump. Hosted by Crooked Media co-founder and former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett, the show brings together a panel including journalists and comedians, from established names like Sarah Silverman and Andy Daly to rising stars such as Jaboukie Young-White. The show goes over the events of the week with games (in which audience members compete for a highly coveted Parachute gift card), dissections of the most bizarre TV interviews, and the Rant Wheel, which tackles everything from Jared Kushner to Gogo in-flight wifi. Sometimes chaotic, but always enjoyable, Lovett or Leave It was the silver lining to an otherwise depressing year.
The Barack Obama on WTF Award for Biggest Get – Andrew Dice Clay on The Best Show
Noah: An otherwise less than noteworthy late-summer episode of The Best Show seemed held down at the time by a sometimes-distracted in-studio guest, Kevin Corrigan. But the live listener could not have predicted that Tom Scharpling’s half-joking prodding about whether or not Corrigan could get him Andrew Dice Clay someday would materialize in a bizarre, spontaneous, and completely dangerous-for-work phone call from the Diceman himself. Corrigan sits back to listen, as we all did, for fifteen nail-biting minutes of Tom – whose family-friendly show has notably lost the seven-second delay that WFMU afforded him – tries to interview Dice – who openly has no idea who Tom is – about his infamous “hour back, get it?” bit. When Dice goes all-in on an insane hypothetical about “boomerang fucking, one leg up, belly full of milk” some “chick’s big fat rumpus” in a hotel room, Tom’s classic faux-tough guy routine meets a match it likely hasn’t seen in seventeen years of radio broadcasting. Tom opened every show this year with a date stamp for post-apocalyptic historians analyzing The Best Show, and we’re just lucky to have lived through this one.
Funniest Not-a-Comedy-Podcast Podcast – The Starters
Pablo: When Neal Brennan admitted that he sometimes runs jokes by Blake Griffin, comedy’s intertwining with the NBA reached new levels. And no show has been better prepared to cover how fun the NBA has become (especially next to the dependably staid MLB and increasingly repulsive NFL) than The Starters. Originally founded as The Basketball Jones in the podcast dark ages of 2006 and hosted by Canadians J.E. Skeets and Tas Melas, American Trey Kerby, and Australian Leigh Ellis, the show has maintained its goofy sense of humor since they were acquired by the NBA and turned into a weekly TV show. But it’s their podcast-only episodes on Tuesday and Friday where their chemistry shines. The foursome can easily transition from serious NBA talk to drafting a starting 5 that’s most likely to finish an escape room. They understand what makes the NBA fun with recurring segments like “Say What?” where they challenge each other to guess which mundane announcer conversations during meaningless Phoenix-Milwaukee November games are real and which ones they made up. The NBA is a personality-driven league and no funny basketball podcast (there’s a surprising amount of them) covers it better. It’s no surprise that they count comedians like Joe Mande, Ian Karmel, and Sean Clements as fans.
Cutest Couple – Marty DeRosa & Sarah Shockey, Marty & Sarah Love Wrestling
Noah: For the second year in a row, Sarah Shockey runs away with the award for Cutest Couple! Last year, she reluctantly accepted for her won’t-she, she-won’t flirtations with her improv partner Ryback (played by Marty DeRosa). This year, we heard it here first from alleged wrestling journalist Nathan Beebs (played by Marty DeRosa) that Sarah had entered an actual, real-life relationship with her podcast partner Marty DeRosa. Attentive buddies may have spotted the clues of them moving in and adopting a cat together, but the cat’s out of the bag now and we can deg-declare that Marty and Sarah are the definition of “relationship goals.” Their comedic chemistry gets better every week – highlights of the year are the introduction of Marty’s best friend, the alien named Brad who lives in Sarah’s stomach and loves Baron Corbin, Kyle the choir boy searching for his father, and a terrific kid-friendly episode that climaxed with clips of adorable children being goaded into cussing. That, of course, and the power of love.
Best Upsell – Action Boyz
Kathryn: I’m here from the other side of the paywall (a Patreon contribution of $5 per month) to tell you that upgrading from High and Mighty to Action Boyz is worth it. These days plenty of podcasts offer you extra eps or special content for a small additional fee, and choosing which ones to commit to feels like a lot of pressure. But this is the right way to do it: take recurring eps of the free pod that listeners seem to like and spin it off into a second show. Jon Gabrus took his favorite action boys co-hosts Ben Rodgers (Dr. Runtime) and Ryan Stanger (Stangerbot 2009) and made a whole new podcast centered on their mutual love of problematic ‘80s action movies. It didn’t take long for the weekly episodes to spawn in-jokes and catchphrases, and since debuting in June they haven’t even made a dent in the list of great Schwarzenegger/Stallone/Van Damme/Seagal vehicles available on YouTube. The top of show mini-scenes, inspired by today’s movie, today’s news, or just something happening in the room at the time, have become standouts. For a show where the hosts openly discuss taking a shit outdoors, pubescent adventures with found porn, and sex workers they used to casually hang out with, it’s curious that the most uncomfortable part of any Action Boyz ep is still Stanger’s commitment to making his star ratings “brutal” because it specifically delights one dude online.
Best Podcast to Pull a Vanishing Act – Ronna and Beverly
Leigh: Excuse me! Would it have killed you to call? Would it have been so hard to let us know you’re doing okay? Was it something we said? If yes, then sure, go ahead, leave. But to just up and leave without so much as a goodbye? You’ve had us worried sick. For all we know, you could have been dead, God forbid. These are only some of the guilt trip-laden remarks I can imagine Ronna and Beverly would have said to listeners if we disappeared on them the way they’ve disappeared on us. With the last episode airing in June, it’s been a long, hard six months of radio silence. In that time there have been an endless number of things that have happened that I’ve found myself wondering what Ronna and Beverly’s takes would have been. In all fairness, it does seem Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo are busy with other things. And are there bigger issues to worry about these days? Sure. Irregardless, I know I’m not alone in feeling the Lainie–sized hole (read: too big, not very attractive) in my life created by the absence of their podcast.
BEST EPISODES OF THE YEAR
Call Chelsea Peretti – Rain’s Comin’ In
Kathryn: So much shit happened this year. But I’d wager by far the most important event was the April UCB LA staged reading of Chelsea Peretti’s play, the rural family drama Rain’s Comin In. It was about time to joyfully skewer Alexander Payne-esque pastiche, wherein coastal playwrights are sure they can elevate rural family drama despite never having been to a farm or, seemingly, interacted with a family member. If you love LA comedians and Tennessee Williams plays (who doesn’t) this is the audio experience you’ve been waiting for. It was a one-off of staggering achievement, harnessing the voice talents of Kate Berlant, John Early, Yassir Lester, Esther Povitsky, Moshe Kasher, Xosha Roquemore, and Emily Spivey. So good we wrote it up in our weekly roundup. So good it was written up in Paste. So good I’m still laughing about it, right now. I’m not afraid to say it: Rain’s Comin In is better than Hamilton. And I still haven’t seen Hamilton. [Apple Podcasts]
Doughboys – Nugget Power Hour w/ Nicole Byer and Jon Gabrus
Mark: Who better to join the Doughboys for the most disgusting thing to ever be recorded on a podcast than the two people tied for the title of numba-one fuckperson, Jon Gabrus and Nicole Byer? In honor of the Doughboys’s 100th episode (but really 4/20), this fearsome foursome decides to do a Power Hour, but with chicken nuggets instead of beer. If you don’t know what a normal Power Hour is, feel free to move onto the next blurb — this one isn’t for you. If you do understand the gravity of how revolting this challenge is, then hurry back and listen. This episode has it all: dead dads, numb penis, three white guys. Gabrus, ever the fitness unenthusiast, races well past the 60-nugget finish line. This delightful clustercluck will go down in the history books as the closest anyone has ever come to dying while recording a podcast. Long past their expiration dates, Mitch, Wiger, Byer and Gabrus will all live on as ashamed members of Mount Doughmore. [Apple Podcasts]
High and Mighty – Conspiracy Theories w/ Anthony Atamanuik (Live at Now Hear This!)
Pablo: Anthony Atamanuik’s portrayal of Donald Trump on The President Show is far and away the best Trump impression for a simple reason: its complexity. While most depictions stop at how silly he looks and sounds, Atamanuik’s Trump is a mentally ill, conspiracy theory-believing child who was stunted at the pre-pubescent age when he received his father’s first beating. Perhaps part of why Atamanuik’s impression is so good is that he too is obsessed with conspiracy theories. On this live episode of High and Mighty, Atamanuik’s fourth appearance about this topic on Jon Gabrus’s podcast, the duo gets super stoned to once again dive deep into conspiracy theories and why people believe in them. Atamanuik thinks the root of conspiracy theories are “vessels for white supremacy and anti-Semitism,” perfect for our Conspiracy Theorist in Chief. But they don’t just stop at the Rothschilds or the belief that Europeans are the descendants of white giants. Atamanuik also enlightens Gabrus that some wackos believe that China and Russia use low-flying planes to salt our American clouds with aluminum to create destructive storms. Atamanuik makes it clear that he doesn’t actually believe in most of the conspiracy theories he’s discussed over the four episodes. But his impeccable knowledge of all things that supposedly lurk in the shadows of our government explains why he’s so great at channeling the paranoia and mistrust that defines the man in the Oval Office. [Apple Podcasts]
Dumb People Town – Mid-Squat, Pants Down, & Unashamed
Marc: As the field of podcasts grows wider in leaps and bounds, the idea of choosing a “best episode” (or even a giant double handful of best episodes) gets more ludicrous every year. Because how can you pick?! Sometimes it’s just a process of elimination. Dumb People Town, hosted by Randy and Jason Sklar, along with Daniel Van Kirk, churns out consistently funny episodes based on the simple premise that “the world keeps getting dumber.” To prove the hypothesis they read news articles featuring (mostly) crimes perpetrated by some amazingly dumb people. To aid them, the Sklar Bros and DVK draft great comics and actors to help them dissect the dumbness. They’ve had folks like Thomas Middleditch, Maria Bamford, Chris Sullivan, Colin Hanks, Tig Notaro, Kumail Nanjiani, and Jon Hamm. But darn it, that pesky everyguest Paul F. Tompkins pops up in episode 37 and sets the place on fire, hilariously speaking. Whether it’s a fracas about hedgehogs or the formerly mysterious dump-by jogger in a suburban neighborhood, Tompkins is onboard, ready to quip and rip as fast as the three co-hosts can keep up. Maybe it’s his unique combination of improv chops and guest etiquette, but Paul F. scores major pointage wherever he shows up. And one day in 2017, much to the delight of all, he popped up in Dumb People Town. [Apple Podcasts]
With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus – Erin Whitehead, Stephanie Allynne, Mary Holland: Sex and the City
Leigh: In the spirit of full transparency, I have never watched Sex and the City. Not for any particular reason, I just never did. But because I am a living, breathing citizen of Earth who was alive during the years it aired, I’m fully aware of the impact it had. I remember the parodies, the jokes, the quizzes, the generalizations about each character, so I feel like I get what its whole deal was. That being said, this episode of With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus where Lauren Lapkus, joined by the rest of Wild Horses Erin Whitehead, Stephanie Allynne, and Mary Holland improvising as the four women of Sex and the City, was one of the best things I listened to all year. The fact that I don’t know SATC inside and out just speaks to how talented these four women are. Whether I truly got a lot of the references or not, they’re just so delightfully funny, it was a joy to listen to either way. This was one of those episodes I had to stop listening to in public because I was laughing too hard. It’s also one of those episodes I’ve listened to a million times over. Considering how funny I found this episode, I have to imagine it’s even funnier to people who have actually watched Sex and the City. Which I also have to imagine is most people. [Apple Podcasts]
You Made It Weird – Melissa Villaseñor
Mark: Melissa Villaseñor has had a helluva few years. This August 2017 episode of You Made It Weird coupled with her September 2015 appearance on The Mental Illness Happy Hour marks just how far she’s come — in both her career and overall mental health. The Melissa we hear on Mental Illness Happy Hour is in a dark place, after dealing with a recent breakup and headlining America’s Got Talent tours without even having a full hour of material under her belt. It’s amazing what a few years and a healthy dose of self-care (plus a breakout on SNL) can do for one’s emotional well-being. Villaseñor has no problem playing jukebox to Holmes’s shameless impressions requests, which include Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Owen Wilson, a peppy squirrel, and so many more. Not many YMIW guests can match Pete Holmes’s energy and silliness guffaw-for-guffaw like she does. This episode, along with her MIHH appearance, will be excellent chapters to revisit at the end of what will no doubt be a long and illustrious career in comedy. [Apple Podcasts]
Norm Macdonald Live – Caitlyn Jenner
Mark: Against the likes of Jim Carrey (!), David Letterman (!!!), and Tim Allen (grunt), Caitlyn Jenner ended up being the most interesting interview on Norm Macdonald Live this season. In fact, the discussion of transgender issues was so captivating, they ran out of time to read Norm’s beloved jokes. Norm flashes his diehard sports badge as he pesters Jenner with questions about the Olympics, as well as her Vanity Fair cover and Republican beliefs. It’s queasy at times, but ultimately entertaining, to hear Macdonald and co-host/whipping boy Adam Eget navigate their way through what sounds like unfamiliar territory. It may even sound like your dad is conducting the interview. More importantly, it’s a welcome expansion of the narrow worldview of the straight white rich dudes that often visit the Norm Macdonald Live studio. [Apple Podcasts]
Beautiful Stories From Anonymous People – Made Out With My Teacher
Noah: Chris Gethard dropped his most explosive episode of Beautiful/Anonymous long before the Silence Breakers hit the cover of Time magazine in an overdue acknowledgement of gross, criminal patriarchy. The anonymous caller frustrated many at the time for laughing throughout a truly distressing recap of her teenage affair with a teacher at her high school after long blacked-out feelings had recently been filled in by a chance encounter at a coffee shop. Knowing what culture seems to know now about childhood sexual trauma, one would hope that the young lady would face a little less backlash over that if the episode were released today. There’s very little – if anything – that can be called side-splitting comedy in this raw phone call, but it certainly has an ominous place in Gethard’s career as yet another example of his creative projects running ahead of the times. [Apple Podcasts]
Hollywood Handbook – Jason Mantzoukas, Our School Friend
Noah: Throw a dart at any Tuesday in 2017, and you’re likely to hit an episode of Hollywood Handbook that would be more than at home atop any year-end list. The Boys celebrated the incredible achievement of their 200th episode, railed against political correctness with Erin Gibson, won the Shrimp Off in an embarrassing landslide on the Doughboys’s home turf, went viral with Drew Tarver, coined a really sweet phrase with Spencer Crittenden, was honored in The Best Show’s 2017 Podcast Awards – the list goes on and on. That their year was filled with the highest highs of any comedy only makes this standout episode reminiscing on their origin story studying and working in the front office at a prestigious all-boys boarding school with Jason Mantzoukas all the sweeter. Hijinks from puberty like Hayes’s weekly rough washing with a pumice stone by the beautiful school nurse Madame Uma Brioche, replacing alternators despite being clean-cut and kinda preppy, and starting a nice version of ISIS are on-point and relatable. Plus, in perhaps the most scorching roast of an Earwolf intern in the long and storied history of dunking on Earwolf interns, Kevin Bartelt MMA is called out for “getting” to go on a date by winning a school bus safety poetry contest. An all-time corker! [Apple Podcasts]
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.
Elizabeth Stamp is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York.
Leigh Cesiro is a writer living in Brooklyn who only needs 10 minutes to solve any Law & Order: SVU episode.
Mark Kramer is a writer, comedian & human boy from Staten Island, New York, but please don’t hold that against him.
Kathryn Doyle is a science writer from New York.