Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Comedy Podcast Review

When's the last time you listened to talk radio? Is there a reason to even bother anymore? As broadcast media forces converge, luckily there are independent sources for audio entertainment and information and they're not coming just form the satellite. Podcasts are reinventing the form of someone talking into a microphone with clever integrations of sounds, music and user questions and feedback.

Because it is easy to put together a podcast, it's a more visceral and raw medium without the filters of advertising, enforced mentions and studio breaks. And it's the perfect form for comedians, who are personalities with a distinct voice that make a living talking into a microphone already. So, below we present a review of some of our favorite comedy podcasts. This is no means a complete list of everything out there and please feel free to comment or email us at with your own.

Comedy and Everything Else [RSS] (may not work, demand has exceeded network space!)
The latest exc
iting podcast comes L.A. comics Jimmy Dore, ex-pat Todd Glass and more as they talk about comedy and...everything else. The group has interests and opinions beyond making you (and each other laugh) and have found a way to talk about the serious and silly at the same time. Basically, just like you would with your friends. The only difference is they are a lot funnier.

Things We Did Before Reality [RSS]
We don't know much about NYC, formerly San Francisco "absurdist comedic performance artist" Will Franken, but this podcast gives a pretty good idea of what's deep inside his brain. Every episode of 'Things We Did Before Reality' is made up of dozens of short sketches (if you can call them that) that are all voiced by Will Franken. Yep, he does the voice of all the characters, no matter young or female, white or not, old or young. The sketches can be hit-or-miss, but if you hang around for a while something will come along that will knock you out. He just released the twelfth and final installment entitled 'Side Two of Abbey Road':
“I am very proud of this one. Extremely proud...Some may call the piece racist, or sexist, or not ‘culturally sensitive’. Actually, the piece is none of these things. It is rock-n-roll. Rock-n-roll is what existed before globalization castrated it.”

Never Not Funny [RSS]
L.A. (by way of Chicago) comic Jimmy Pardo hosts weekly discussions about anything that comes to his mind. It could be Iron Maiden, food, or whatever is actually happening in their lives. With over one hundred shows in the can, the podcast has developed a large archive of running jokes and guests that only get funnier the more you hear it. The show went to a pay format this season (26 90-minute shows for $20, you cheapos) and the quality has gone up even more with recent appearances by Andy Daly, Todd Glass and Doug Benson. Plus, there's video now, here's our favorite moment from this season so far, although it may not make much sense to the uninitiated. And of course there's the always funny "Third Chair" Pat Francis.

Hey, We're Back [RSS]
Jonathan Katz (star and creator of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist) is back with tiny sketches that similar to the TV show often feature H. Jon Benjamin and Tom Snyder. Overall the material here is dry and deadpan and the bits usually hit their mark and end before getting old. Of special interest are his calls to directory assistance (you know, 411, yeah, they still exist)...oh poor ladies that work for directory assistance.

The 40 Year Old Boy [RSS]
He'll never be the most famous Mike Schmidt in Philly, but he's definitely got the best podcast of all the Schmidts out there. Once a week Mike gets in front of a microphone and tells stories from his life, often prefacing them with "so this happened". With no one to play off of and what appears to be very little preparation, Schmidt's stories of the fights that his mom has been in (that was the Mother's Day episode), unsuccessful attempts at three-ways and weirdos at the gym are consistently hilarious. And he mentioned us in one of the episodes, so he's got us hooked for life.

Comical Radio [RSS]
Although not tecnically a podcast, it essentially is for anyone that doesn't have a radio tuned to New York City stations. Every week Danny Lobell and the crew (they're all comics) talk to established stand-up comedians. The overall tone is give-me-the-dirt Howard Stern style, but almost every episode contains some unique insight from the comedian being interviewed. Demetri Martin talked about his struggles with NYC's mainstream comedy clubs as he was coming up, Pablo Francisco told stories about living with Doug Stanhope in Arizona (crazy stories attributed to Stanhope seems to be a theme of the show overall) and Greg Behrendt discussed struggling in San Francisco in the 90's with David Cross and Janeane Garofalo.

Radio Labs - "Laughter" [RSS]
Radio Labs, from public radio's WNYC, routinely take on Big Questions with a fresh take using scientific study and neat editing effects. Recently they analyzed the concept of laughter, a reaction that we learn is almost unique to human beings. Aristotle believed that the first laugh of a baby was what "ensouls the creature" and moves it from human to human being. The later discoveries- like the idea that we need something funny to laugh, the producers point to the laugh track of 'The Nanny' sitcom as their basis- are suspicious, but there's probably some truth to the statement that human laughter signals that "it's ok, we're just playing".

The Cold Bath [RSS]
Although this isn't actually a comedy podcast, it's produced by Michael Blieden (Melvin Goes To Dinner, Super High Me, The Comedians of Comedy, Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion) and is all-around exceptional, so we'll include it. This show is made up of conversations between Blieden and Mr. Anonymous, who was a political consultant in New York for over 40 years. Now, with Mr. A.'s health failing, he feels compelled to spill the beans on a few things. While he doesn't come straight out with revelations on political and cultural processes in the world past and present, there are running themes that may make you question what you believe. With hours and hours of ancedotes and theories (some of them conspiracies), the show morphs as the listener hears more and more. At first something may not make sense, but it will hit you later. There's a large jump between the abruptness of first episode and the latest (the 24th from February of this year) and hopefully the future holds more as this political season goes on. Not that you should believe anything that Mr. A. says, as he warns: "Remember, I have no name and there is no me as a real person."

13 comments:

Media Yenta said...

"Things we did before Reality" is far and away the best podcast. It's inventive, strange and very funny.

As for Pardo - I do with less of his producer. You have Jimmy Pardo and another great comic, but this Matt guy insists on telling boring stories. Even Pardo and his guests have to respond.

Comedy and Everything else is funny also. It's like listening to AM talk radio that's more balanced and not out to get anyone.

Please check out "Things we did before Reality."

-Marty Flipman

Anonymous said...

Radio Labs? I wish there was more than one...

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