The comedy podcasting bubble, despite predictions to the contrary, is still in full bubble, thank you very much. The huge surge in popularity the medium experienced thanks to the success of WTF with Marc Maron has become its own cliché, and a lot of the new wave of comedy podcasts end up sounding kind of the same. As a result, while shows like Comedy Bang! Bang! command a cult-like army of fans, some of your best options in state-of-the-art comedy podcasting can fly under the radar or get lost in the shuffle. Here are some of our favorites!
I think even the hosts of 12 Hour Day (The Chris Gethard Show’s J.D Amato and Connor Ratliff) would say that this podcast sounds like peak comedy-dude narcissism: Two guys record themselves talking for twelve hours straight every episode. In the hands of lesser hosts, it might have been. But not only has 12 Hour Day turned out to be a formally inventive exercise in endurance on their part, it’s also a weirdly comforting experience. Whether they sequester themselves in an apartment and make a meal or just wander around New York all day bumping into friends, they will hit that moment a few hours in where they kind of forget they’re recording a podcast, and the artifice of the medium is largely stripped away.
Will Hines and Anthony King might have the most underrated rapport in podcasting. That likable everyman quality extends to the premise of the show; enthusiasm is its own kind of expertise. Having improvisers/comedians come on to talk about anything other than improv/comedy isn’t just refreshing, it’s accessible: Just hop on board with whatever topic interests you most. Whether the show sparks a new obsession or inspires a heated debate (I have spent many happy afternoons discussing what qualifies a “Band That Does Its Job”), it will remind you how much fun it is to just hear someone talking about something they love and want you to love.
It’s not an official spin-off of Don’t Get Me Started, but if Will Hines could have devoted multiple episodes to his lifelong obsession with the Beatles, it would look something like this. Hines packs each panel with equally knowledgeable and Beatles-manic improvisers and comedians, then goes through the entire catalogue album-by-album. Beyond giving you a renewed appreciation for the scope and depth of the band’s genius, the chronological breakdown of the Fab Four’s personal dynamic leads to some pretty wonderful running jokes at their expense. Not Ringo, though. They won’t hear a word against Ringo.
As Lauren Lapkus is a delightful regular on plenty of podcasts, Earwolf’s offer of her own show would have been a no-brainer, except: Lapkus hates hosting. The solution? She becomes the guest each episode, with the actual guest serving as the host—a premise that complicates itself further when you consider the show is different each week, as are Lapkus’s (totally improvised) characters. With Special Guest delivers a nonstop showcase for her unparalleled character work and is an heir apparent to Comedy Bang! Bang!’s insanity.
Danielle Schneider and Casey Wilson’s Real Housewives-themed podcast takes podcast fandom to the next level. Secret regional Facebook groups uniting thousands of Housewives fans are only the tip of the iceberg. A dedicated fanbase is already up and running—you just have to join up. At the heart of all of this is Schneider and Wilson, two insanely inventive hosts who elevate Bitch Sesh far, far beyond the usual purview of recap podcasts. You 100% do not have to be a fan of Bravo shows to enjoy a good Bitch Sesh.
The Nerdist podcasts recorded at Meltdown Comics in L.A. have made the store a kind of Mecca for comedy nerds. Who better to interview the comedians, writers, actors and other “adults with interesting jobs” than the Boy Prince raised in the heart of it? Gil Letelier, son of Meltdown’s co-founders, has been hosting The Mutant Season since he was like nine years old. Those early episodes are insanely cute, with Gil acting as your pint-sized Pete Holmes. Now thirteen, Gil is a basically a seasoned professional, and The Mutant Season is still going strong, providing insight on its guests’ careers and life from a perspective you wouldn’t expect.
Going off BoJack Horseman: If UCB is the Church of Scientology, and the manual is Dianetics, then these guests are… members of Sea Org? I lost the metaphor, but the point is that UCB Longform Conversations has created a kind of oral history of the theatre and offers nuggets of advice from its key players that any student of improv will jump at. Like any good improv scene, it has also morphed and adapted as time goes on—the podcast is currently on a kick where the guest of each episode is the host of the next one, keeping the show as fresh and informative as ever.
The satirical website Reductress has been on fire for a while now, between its expanding online presence and last year’s excellent book How to Win at Feminism. The latest feather in its cap is the truly marvelous podcast Mouth Time, featuring ‘ladymag editors’ Quenn and Dikoda (Nicole Silverberg and Rachel Wenitsky) who embody with next-level commitment every quality of the media Reductress lampoons. Guests ranging from established celebrities like Aubrey Plaza to exciting new faces like Mary Houlihan and Patti Harrison are all equally comfortable in Quenn and Dikoda’s world, and the result is something special.
Graham Techler is a New York-based writer and actor. Follow him at @grahamtechler.