This Week in Comedy Podcasts: Jimmy O. Yang on ‘Whiting Wongs’
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.
Whiting Wongs – Paris Is Too Chinese For Me with Jimmy O. Yang
Pablo: Silicon Valley‘s Jian-Yang has gotten backlash in some circles for what people might view as a racist caricature. And in an age where Kumail Nanjiani is now a leading man years after he refused to do accents and Aziz Ansari makes entire TV episodes about that topic, it can seem insensitive without context. But to the actor who portrays Jian-Yang, Jimmy O. Yang, the answer to this ethical dilemma is nowhere near a binary choice. As he goes into great detail in a must-listen episode of Dan Harmon and Jessica Gao’s podcast about race in Hollywood, Yang has a lot of respect towards those actors for making that choice. But as an immigrant who he says sounded exactly like Jian-Yang when he arrived in America, Yang explains how touchy it can be to portray immigrants onscreen. Whether it’s a character whose ethnicity means almost nothing (Ken Jeong in The Hangover) or everything (Matthew Moy in 2 Broke Girls) to the part, Asian immigrant portrayals often get lumped into being considered racist, which, of course, could be seen as racist in itself. And that’s what Yang points out has happened with Jian-Yang, originally a 2-line role that he has expanded into this season’s antagonist. Released with little fanfare under one of the worst titles in recent memory, Whiting Wongs is nevertheless one of the best new podcasts of the year and this episode is an excellent jumping-off point. Whiting Wongs is a show where you can ask the question “Was it racist that King of the Hill’s Kahn Souphanousinphone was created and voiced by a white man?” and get a thoughtful, funny conversation instead of two warring sides or the dreaded echo chamber. Whether they’re discussing Pat Morita winning an Oscar with an accent, lazy agents who lie to their clients about networks “going diverse,” or calling out Max Landis for jumping into the Ghost in the Shell casting controversy, it’s essential listening for anyone interested in the POC experience in Hollywood and how race affects staffing and casting in your favorite TV shows. [Apple Podcasts]
Marc: Eugene Mirman’s Hold On podcast is one of several that gets into the weeds of comedians’ acts — not unlike British comic Stuart Goldsmith’s The Comedian’s Comedian or Mike Birbiglia dissecting his own comedy albums with friends in the limited series The Old Ones. In the latest installment featuring guest Sara Benincasa, Mirman plays a chunk of material from her act where she’s attending the funeral of a great aunt in a New Jersey funeral home operated by the sister of Jon Bon Jovi (whose real Italian last name is Bongiovi, the same name on the establishment). She goes into detail about her uncle Tommy and her other uncle Tom, one of whom is blood, the other being his “roommate.” The gimmick here is that Mirman’s stops the recording of Benincasa’s act every so often to get clarification on various points: “How did you know these guys were gay?”, “Was it really Bon Jovi’s sister?”, and “Do you still have the Grand Canyon diaphragm?” That last is the crux of the story and refers to an actual oversized birth control device which was bequeathed to Benincasa at Uncle Tommy’s deathbed. The story is well worth the listen and – spoiler alert – she does still have the diaphragm. [Apple Podcasts]
Sorry I’ve Been So Busy – Bryan Tucker
Mark: This week, SNL co-head writer and father of two Bryan Tucker makes his bid for the title of busiest guest on a podcast whose entire premise centers around busy guests. Tucker offers a peek behind the curtain at two of the most memorable weeks of the past two seasons. First, he recalls earlier this month, when 30 Rock hosted real-life Shaq, Charles, Kenny, and Ernie for a remote Inside the NBA. Who would have guessed the TNT crew favored improv over sketch so heavily? Later, Tucker details the last-minute changes leading up to the 2016 Dave Chappelle post-Election Day episode. Apparently, Wednesday’s table read was so dark that Chappelle came close to calling it quits. Hosts Matt Goldich and Andrew Goldstein’s genuine excitement to hear the stories feeds into a jam-packed must-listen for SNL fans searching for every crumb of behind-the-scenes goodness. [Apple Podcasts]
Maybe It’s You – I’m Deciding How You Feel
Marc: For fans of the late Walking The Room podcast, Greg Behrendt has a new show: Maybe It’s You. He hosts it along with his wife, Amiira Ruotola, and while it’s not the rambling lunacy machine of his previous series with Dave Anthony, it’s a show that is, by turns, funny, touching, instructive, revealing…pretty much everything you’d want in a show about relationships. In the latest and fourth episode of the show, the couple welcomes family friend Paul Doucette, who happens to be a member of the band Matchbox Twenty. They get into the drama and uncomfortable moments that can come up with exes. Paul’s ex-wife is also a family friend, Moon Zappa, and taking turns co-parenting has a wealth of difficulties. It’s not all about making love work (or not), and we learn that Behrendt’s family not only owns the almost seven decades-old Golden Gate Kennel Club in San Francisco, but that he goes every year to pitch in and help, from announcing the Best In Show to swamping out kennels with bleach. It’s much more of a chat than an interview, and the listener kind of feels like they’re curled up in an easy chair, listening in on friends having a conversation. [Apple Podcasts]
Good Christian Fun – Matt Gourley
Kathryn: Hosts Kevin T. Porter and Caroline Ely take on The Donut Man for a live episode of Good Christian Fun (from famed podcasting venue Rose City Church in Pasadena), a good natured exploration of crazy Christian pop culture. A lot of listeners may not know anything about the songs, movies and educational CD-ROMs that form the cornerstone of Christian cool, and that’s okay. Most of the fun comes from hearing Kevin describe the premise of The Donut Man, in which a pastry repairman teaches parentless children how to fill the god-sized hole at the center of their donuts. Creator Rob Evans (“The Donut Man”) and his deranged sidekick Duncan the Donut have sold more than 6 million CDs and DVDs and appeared at more than 2,500 church concerts on the back of what is basically a carb-loaded Veggie Tales. To give the Donut Man his due, Kevin and Caroline are joined by gentle podcaster Matt Gourley who – fun fact – owns David Koresh’s guitar. [Apple Podcasts]
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
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Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.
Kathryn Doyle is a science writer from New York.
Mark Kramer is a writer, comedian & human boy from Staten Island, New York, but please don’t hold that against him.