Since I have an hour commute to work now, my iPod is getting a work out. I don’t like listening to music on long drives all the time because it doesn’t make the time pass as quickly. So I tend instead to listen to podcasts. If you don’t know what a podcast is, it’s basically like a radio show that you download for your mp3 player. I wrote about some of my favorite podcasts once before, but I’ve added some new ones to my list and thought I would share them with you. I’ll be recommending good jumping in points for each podcast, but subscribing to all of these through iTunes is not a bad idea either.
Comedy Bang Bang: I first got into CCB because I heard Amy Poehler was going to be on an episode so I gave it a listen. Comedy Bang Bang is hosted by Scott Aukerman (a writer and improviser) and features long form improv. It is hysterically strange and weird. The premise of each episode is that Scott interviews a celebrity, and partway through the interview someone else drops in to interrupt. The person interrupting is a usually a comedian or writer with a background in improv. The whole show is improvised which can lead to some gut busting moments. The improvisers are not usually themselves very famous, but to long time listeners of CCB they become stars. Paul F. Tompkins is an all star guest who makes appearances as Buddy Vallesco (The Cake Boss) Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Werner Herzog to name just three. Comedy Bang Bang is really hard to explain, but trust me it’s really really funny.
Best Audience: If you like comedy and don’t mind some bad language/other not so nice language (AKA Mom this is not for you)
Check Out: Episode 245: “Poehler Ice Caps” featuring Amy Poehler, Neil Campbell, and Paul F. Tompkins as Alan Thicke. (Tompkins’ Thicke impression is hysterical!) Episode 238: “Marissa Wompler’s Birthday Pool Party” featuring Jessica St. Clair as Marissa Wompler, Lennon Parham as Marissa’s teacher Miss. Lissler, Jason Mantzoukas as Marissa’s on again off again boyfriend Eric-Gutterballs-Gutterman, Brian Husky as Marissa’s stepfather Dr. Seth Wompler, and Melissa Rauch as Marissa’s enemy Danielle Bartiromo. (I’ve gotten strange looks in public places because of how much I was laughing while listening to this episode). Episode 159: “Apickelypse featuring Alison Brie, Jason Mantzoukas, and Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman (Yes, from Breaking Bad. The riff that Alison, Jason, and Scott do on a buddy cop film has me crying tears of laughter every time I hear it!) Episode 131: “Mayor of Hollywood” featuring Jason Mantzoukas and Andy Daly as Chip Gardner. (Jason Mantzoukas is one of the all stars of this podcast. Any episode he appears in is usually a gold mine.) Episode 120: “Farts and Procreation” featuring Adam Scott, Harris Wittels, and Chelsea Peretti. (Another laugh until I cry episode.)
The History Chicks: I love history. I especially love history that focuses on a subset of people generally not given as much attention as their male counterparts; women. I found this podcast through another podcast that I listen to and mention later. It is done by two women, Beckett and Susan, in their living rooms and has a real lived in feeling to it. They also have a website where they post in depth show notes as well as links to more information about their chosen topic. They’ve done real women in history as well as a study of the women in fairy tales, and Jane Austen novels. The sound mixing isn’t the best, but considering these women are not professionals, it’s pretty good! I’m slowing making my way through each episode from the earliest to the latest so I won’t have as many recommendations as the other podcasts listed.
Best Audience: Anyone who loves history and learning new things. This podcast is very clean. No bad language etc (so Mom, go ahead and listen to this one).
Check Out: Episode 2: Laura Ingalls Wilder– I learned some new things particularly about Laura’s daughter Rose Wilder Lane.) Episode 4: Abigail Adams– Abigail Adams is my favorite Revolutionary War woman. Her admonition to her husband to “remember the ladies” when he helped form the government is just one of the many wonderful things she did. Episode 7: Helen Keller– If all you know about Helen comes from the movie The Miracle Worker you have only learned the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this amazing woman. Episode 8: The Mrs. Astor– This is the woman who helped usher in the Gilded Age. I especially recommend this episode to those who are big Downton Abbey fans.
How Did This Get Made?: This podcast consists of 3 regular hosts (Jason Mantzoukas, Paul Scheer, and June Diane Raphael) and a different guest host who sit down each week to in their words “make sense of the movies that make no sense.” I love this podcast because it is light and easy and really funny. The outrage that Jason, Paul, and June feel about the horrible decisions made in the movies they are watching is hysterical. The live episodes in particular are great as the added energy of the crowd seems to invigorate the hosts. This is another podcast where I find myself laughing out loud to myself often. The show isn’t making fun of movies just to make fun of them. In fact, the hope is that whatever movie they watch is so bad it eventually becomes good.
Best Audience: Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Fans of bad movies and the jokes that can be made at their expense. There are some language warnings that come with these episodes so again my mother should not listen to this podcast.
Check Out: Episode 9: “Fast Five” with guest host Adam Scott. Highlight of the episode is when Adam Scott talks about how a character in the movie reveals that she is pregnant. Episode 10: “Mac and Me” with guest host Adam Pally. The gang have a great time ripping this ET rip off to shreds. Episode 24: “Superman III” live episode with guest host Damon Lindelof. This is an episode I listen to over and over again. Highlight is when Jason Mantzoukas talks about how evil Superman is just a date rapist. Episode 55: “The Devil’s Advocate” live episode with guest host Julie Klausner. Everyone gets a chance to try their best Al Pacino impression, and it is glorious!
How Was Your Week?: What can I say about this podcast. This is my favorite of them all. The one I would take with me to a deserted island. Julie Klausner is my spirit animal. She is funny, intelligent, and insightful. Julie usually begins the podcast by doing a monologue about the things she has been thinking about over the past week. They are funny, honest, and a little sad all at the same time. She really lets her audience into her life. She used to interview two guests a show although lately she’s be doing one guest in order to have more time for the monologue (which is fine with me!) She is a comedienne who cut her teeth at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater (an improv group that Amy Poehler co-founded) and so her comedy guests have pedigree. She also interviews authors, musicians, and documentary filmmakers. You name it she does it. She’s also great about fan interaction. I’ve written to her twice and gotten response both times. One of the times she actually responded to me on the podcast. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. It’s going to be really hard to recommend specific episodes because they are all wonderful. If you don’t subscribe to any other podcast I recommend, subscribe to this one.
Best Audience: Everyone. Seriously, everyone will love her. Even though sometimes she uses bad language my mom has laughed out loud multiple times at her monologues. (I don’t know of a better recommendation than that!)
Check Out: Again it’s hard to recommend specific episodes because what makes How Was Your Week so great has less to do with its guests and more to do with Julie herself. That being said I would check out Episode 32: “Tiny Faces” with guests Amy Poehler and Rich Fulcher. The opening monologue has a great riff about Rosie O’Donnell’s short lived talk show on Oprah’s network. Episode 55: “A Jaw That Could Open A Can of Tuna Fish” with guests Mo Rocca and Dave Cullen. Dave Cullen wrote an excellent book about the kids who committed the crime at Columbine and Julie does a great job interviewing him. Episode 90: Night Trote with guests David Rees, and Laura Benanti. Julie loves Broadway and Laura Benanti’s story about her time working with Patti LuPone is hysterical. Episode 135: Walking Ballads with guest Tom Ruprecht. This features an extra long monologue which is always wonderful, and a great interview where at one point Julie and Tom riff about how horrible Eric Clapton is. Episode 137: Houdini’s Waffles with guests Chris Elliott and Jason Woliner. The monologue has a great story about Julie losing her wallet, and the interview is also a lot of fun.
The Nerdist: This podcast is the flagship of what is quickly becoming a vast entertainment empire started by host Chris Hardwick. Along with his co-hosts Matt Mira, and Jonah Ray, The Nerdist podcast is a long interview format with creators and actors of typically nerdy endeavors. Although, now with over 400 episodes the scope of who they interview has widened. This podcast can be overwhelming to newcomers. They put out 3 episodes a week! I’ve found the best way for me to enjoy this podcast is by only listening to an interview with someone I already know that I like, and the episodes that just feature the three guys. (Called hostful episodes). Also every week The AV Club.com will make a list of the best podcasts from the last week and if they put a Nerdist episode on there I tend to download it because I trust The AV Club’s judgement. (I’ll link to that feature at the end of this post.) I like this show because the guys lets their guests guide the conversation. It’s not about promoting anything. It’s about people getting together and talking about things they enjoy.
Best Audience: Anyone! Seriously look at the episode list. Whatever type of popular culture you enjoy I guarantee you The Nerdist boys have interviewed someone connected with that area. Lots of cursing, but not much vulgar language.
Check out: Again this one is difficult to write. The ones I am going to put I’m putting because I already enjoyed these people and wanted to hear an hour long interview with them. That being said Episode 82: Jimmy Fallon I think anyone who thinks Jimmy Fallon is wonderful will love. Episode 153: David Tennant gives you lots of Doctor Who stuff to get excited about as well as hearing David’s Scottish accent for over an hour (yum). Episode 167: Conan O’Brien gives great insight into how Conan felt about the whole late night NBC debacle. Episode 187: Rob Paulsen and Maurice LeMarche. These dudes are the voices of Pinky and The Brain! One of the most interesting episodes I ever listened to. Episode 228: LeVar Burton is funny and charming. Episode 267: Tom Hanks is everything you would want an hour and half long interview with Tom Hanks to be; funny and delightful. Finally, I would highly recommend Episode 317: Yvette Nicole Brown not just to people that enjoy the show Community, but to any Christian who is trying to make it in show business. (So basically my best friend AJ.) Yvette is a great example of how to be successful without losing who you truly are.
Pop Culture Happy Hour: This is a podcast done by NPR. WAIT if you are politically conservative don’t just skip to the next podcast! Pop Culture Happy Hour is produced and hosted by NPR, but it is not a political show at all. The show has 4 regular hosts; Linda Holmes, Glen Weldon, Stephen Thompson, and Trey Graham. Every week the four of them sit down and discuss two topics. These topics can range from picking favorite one hit wonder songs, to discussion of the fall TV season. The episode always ends with a segment called “What is making me happy this week?” These can be books, television shows, movies, songs, or even websites. These things are always linked to the audience through NPR’s pop culture blog (edited by Linda Holmes) called MonkeySee. The podcast length is usually under 50 minutes, so it’s the perfect slice of listening.
Best Audience: anyone who likes, books, television, music, movies, and theater. The four hosts of the show all have different parts of pop culture they gravitate towards (Linda:TV, Glen: comic books/nerd culture, Trey: books, theater etc, and Stephen: music). So every type of pop culture is covered. This is a clean podcast. No bad language; nothing. Safe for all to listen!
Check Out: This is one where archives aren’t necessarily the best place to start. Most of the episodes have a topical nature to them. So I would recommend listening to the last few episodes. October 18, 2013: Pop Culture That Makes Us Cry. This episode focuses on Tom Hanks’ new movie Captain Phillips, and what pieces of pop culture make the hosts cry. October 10 2013: ‘Gravity” And The Thrill Of The Fiasco features a review of the Sandra Bullock and George Clooney movie, as well other great fiasco moments in pop culture. October 3, 2013: ‘Breaking Bad’, Bad Boys, Bad Choices has a non spoilery review of the series finale of the aforementioned show, as well as a discussion about Linda’s foray into video games.
Up Yours, Downstairs!: I love Downton Abbey. I also love making fun of how ridiculous Downton Abbey can be. This podcast is run by a husband and wife duo (Kelly and Tom) who recap episodes of the hit show with plenty of snark to go along. They are hysterically funny especially when they hate a certain character. (They copyrighted the phrase “Shank Bates!” which I now yell at the screen anytime Bates’ character drives me nuts.) What’s nice about the podcast is within the episode recaps Kelly and Tom take breaks to tell their listeners about the historical background of whatever is happening in a given episode, and do a segment on fashion of the time. They watch the show when it airs on PBS (which is well after it airs in England), so during the long hiatuses, they recap other movies and mini series that have to do with the Edwardian Era.
Best Audience: anyone who loves the show Downton Abbey, but doesn’t mind having the ridiculous parts of it pointed out. This podcast is generally pretty clean. I would listen to it with my mom with not much fear. (I love how my mom has now become the barometer for this section of the post).
Check Out: I’m not going to list all the episode recaps of the actual show Downton Abbey because they are all great and if you are a fan you should go back and listen to them all. But, of their special episodes I do have a few recommendations. Look For It On The Internet In 1998. This episode is about the Robert Altman movie Gosford Park. I laughed out loud many times during this episode. Jenny McCarthy I Hope You’re Paying Attention. This is a full episode of the “Tom Repeats History” and “Fashion Backwards” that are usually just segments on the regular podcast. Lot’s of pre WWI Europe is discussed as well twenties fashion. Pucker Up Billy Zane, I Know What You Did In The Summer Of 1912, and The Cheerful Charlies Ride Again are a trilogy recap of James Cameron’s Titanic that are epic in both length and humor. This Is The Worst Prom Ever recaps with disgusted glee a horrible cartoon about the sinking of the Titanic called Titanic: The Legend Goes On.
Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!: This is a podcast version of the NPR news quiz show that airs every Saturday at 4 pm. I don’t always have time to listen to it on Saturday so I download the episode the following Monday. The host is Peter Segal and the show consists of several games listeners can play as well as a panel of celebrities who answer questions. All of the questions in the games come from the previous week’s news. There are straight question and answer quizzes, a game called “Bluff The Listener” where a caller has to guess the real news story out of three read to them, and a game called “Limerick Challenge” where a caller has to guess the rhyme in a news poem. The show also has a guest celebrity call in halfway through the show to play a game of their own. The show is witty,funny, and it makes me feel smarter when I know all the answers. I have yet to call in but I will one of these days mark my words!
Best Audience: Anyone who likes quiz shows, the news, and being proven right. My mom loves this show. I often get home from work on Saturday and hear her listening to it upstairs.
Check Out: Again, this show is very topical so going too far back is not a very good idea. Just click on the link above and download the last few episodes. Then start listening in real time on Saturday’s at 4. Or the Monday after when iTunes puts them up!
*WHEW* Holy Cow that was a long entry! If you any of you are still reading by this point I would love to know your thoughts. Have you decided to try any of these podcasts? Have you tried any of them all ready and if so what did you think of them? Do you have any other podcasts you could recommend? (Remember I have 10 hrs of commuting every week so I can always use more options). Leave your thoughts in the comments!
PS: Here’s the link to the AV Club’s Podmass feature where they review the best podcast episodes of the week.