It’s no secret at this point: the comedy-podcast market has become completely over-saturated. Podcasting is a format that’s entirely free, and in 2012, there are simply too many options to choose from. Of course, there are a few undeniable heavy hitters in the game—WTF With Marc Maron, the Nerdist podcast and The Adam Carolla Show—but there’s just so much more. There are podcasts by famous stand-ups, improv-troupe stalwarts, writers, actors, thinkers and, um, Alec Baldwin. There are podcasts that dole out advice, talk about videogames, and specialize in terrible movies. To help wade through the ocean of laughs, here’s a quick round-up of some essential podcasts, sporting all the colors of the comedy rainbow:
Mike and Tom Eat Snacks
Premise: Buddies and former Ed co-stars Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh review a snack food per podcast.
Why you should care: Yes, it is hilarious to hear two grown men dissect candies and treats in a comically scientific analysis, but the show is best when it goes off the rails (and it often does). A conversation about Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream devolves into a bit teasing out the personalities of Ben & Jerry and fictional Haagen-Dazs employee Rolf. Spoiler alert: Rolf dies.
Premise: Four Polygon writers—Chris Plante, Russ Frushtick, and brothers Justin and Griffin McElroy (also of the excellent advice podcast My Brother, My Brother, and Me)—give a week-in-review of “the best” games and, King of the Hill style, see if that week’s best game is better than their reigning champion. The show’s slogan: “Because shouldn’t the best of games be chosen by the best of friends?”
Why you should care: During weeks light on good games, the podcast normally devolves into glowing reviews of bad-sounding iOS games. And how many other videogame podcasts make this many Ghost Dad references? (Full disclosure: the McElroy brothers are friends of your humble correspondent, which doesn’t make their podcasting endeavors any less funny.)
The JV Club
Premise: Actress and comedian Janet Varney has a conversation with various actresses/comedians about their adolescent and teen years.
Why you should care: Varney’s conversations with the likes of Gillian Jacobs and Christina Hendricks have a coffee-table easiness to them, which is a refreshing alternative to the typical “comedy talk” format podcasts like this tend to have. Her conversations have revealed, for example, Jacobs’ Halloween costumes and Hendricks’ high-school production of Agnes of God.
How Did This Get Made?
Premise: Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, Jason Mantzoukas, and a celebrity guest watch terrible films and discuss what makes them so fascinatingly (or excruciatingly) bad.
Why you should care: It’s a podcast that’s the product more of joy than cynicism. Each episode normally features a moment where they act out a completely bonkers scene, like the one in Old Dogs where John Travolta discovered his dog had died. It’s also great when everybody sounds haggard and exhausted by having just watched, say, Mac and Me or The Smurfs.
Uhh Yeah Dude
Premise: Hosts Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette give, as they describe, “a weekly roundup of America through the eyes of two American-Americans.”
Why you should care: UYD is held together by rants, bits and monologues about a variety of ridiculousness Romatelli and Larroquette find on the Internet. The passion with which these two guys investigate Craigslist postings, talk about vegan-chipotle mayonnaise, or act out the tribal birth of Matthew McConaughey’s child is incredible.
Judge John Hodgman
Premise: Author, expert and certified judge John Hodgman, accompanied by bailiff Jesse Thorn, hears conflicts between two parties and makes the tough decisions.
Why you should care: In cases like, “Is it okay to ask a cab driver to drive through Arby’s on the way home from the bar?” or, “If our friend has a well-paying job, is it okay to ask them not to sleep on our couch while they’re in town?” Hodgman uses his expertise of complete world knowledge to pass judgments on the parties involved, usually ridiculing at least one of them for their decisions.
Premise: Howard Kremer, Kulap Vilaysack and a guest discuss what’s hitting the top of the charts each week in music, movies and more.
Why you should care: Normally, the most popular stuff in a given week is way too easy to goof on, so when, for example, Zach Galifianakis is brought in to talk about Rihanna (“That’s a terrible song,” he says), it’s a relief when he instead tells a fake story about discovering Hilary Duff at a karaoke thing. “She was 12 at the time, and I said, ‘Hey, do you wanna hang out?’”
How Was Your Week?
Premise: Writer and comedian Julie Klausner gives a round-up of the week of her and her guests’ lives.
Why you should care: Klausner’s impressions, vocal nuances and phrasing (referring to Talking Funny as Talking Funny With Richard Gervais and Colleagues, for example) is awesomely telling of how she feels about a given topic. She’s also an excellent interviewer who’s more than willing to fall into a bit with her guest.
You Look Nice Today
Premise: Merlin Mann, Adam Lisagor and Scott Simpson just talk. Their tagline? “A journal of emotional hygiene.”
Why you should care: Of all the podcasts in this list, You Look Nice Today easily has the least structure—it’s always an absurd conversation between the three guys spliced between ukulele riffs. It was gone for about two years, but it looks like within the last month, they’ve finally begun to make their triumphant return. On “Razzledazzle,” they talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s banjo playing. Also, his penis.
The Smartest Man in the World
Premise: Greg Proops of Whose Line Is It Anyway? fame hosts a live weekly podcast all over the world where he talks about his life, celebrities and current events.
Why you should care: As a veteran of both radio and improv comedy, it should make sense that Proops would be an excellent podcast presence. What’s astonishing is that he can deliver a new hour of topical and personal stand up and throw it on the Internet every week in a different city. Who cares if he’s the smartest man in the world—his show gives him an edge in the “hardest working man in podcasting” competition.