The 10 Best Comedy Podcasts of 2015

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5. Spontaneanation

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Podcast pro Paul F. Tompkins launched Spontaneanation in the spring and it quickly became one of our favorites. The show plays to Tompkins’ strengths, from his charming conversations with guests to the long-form improv that makes up the second half of every episode. Between his consistently great guests, a rotating roster of improv regulars and the presence of longtime collaborator Eban Schletter, whose piano work makes the show feel as classy as Tompkins’ suites, Spontaneanation is both an illuminating chat show and a strong argument in favor of the often-maligned artform of improv comedy.—GM

4. Hollywood Handbook

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The concept behind Hollywood Handbook seems groanworthy: two successful but relatively obscure comedy writers (Hayes Davenport and Sean Clements) act like they’re huge Hollywood successes, and offer horrible advice to their legitimately more famous guests on how to make it in show business. Mocking the arrogance and delusions of grandeur stereotypical of Hollywood types isn’t ground-breaking or perceptive. Davenport and Clements are hilarious, though, and their characters so deeply stupid and condescending that they make it work. It’s a satire of self-important celebrities, but it’s so absurd that it also works as a satire of satire of self-important celebrities. Check out the three episodes with The Best Show’s Tom Scharpling, in sequence, to see how great this show can be.—GM

3. How Did This Get Made?

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I love watching bad movies. I’ve seen all of the Twilight movies, at least two of them in theaters, I forced my friends to see The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, and for some reason I watched the entirety of Man of Steel, unable to stop, as if possessed by a horrible spirit or a curse from a faerie. But the best part of watching bad movies is talking about absolutely everything that went wrong. How Did This Get Made? is a podcast that is just that experience, and it is delightful. This year, Paul Scheer, June Diane Rapheal, and Jason Mantzoukas get together and watch terrible, terrible shit and then have the conversation that everyone always immediately wants to have. ‘Cause sometimes you really have to wonder—what in the fuck happened there?—GJ

2. The Best Show

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2015 was a highway roadside trash bag of a year, but it had one thing going for it over 2014: The Best Show was back. After a depressing year-long hiatus Tom Scharpling’s weekly revue came back in full force at the start of 2015, ditching terrestrial radio entirely for the cyber future of today. The mix of top-notch comedy guests, surly caller participation and elaborately orchestrated phone calls with Jon Wurster returned intact, making it feel like the show had hardly left. The Best Show’s labyrinth of in-jokes and callbacks might be off-putting to new listeners, especially when Scharpling and Wurster dig deep into the arcane history and ecosystem of Newbridge, New Jersey, but once you give yourself over to The Best Show it’s hard to ever really pull away. Scharpling and Wurster have spent the last 15 years constructing their own idiosyncratic comedy world, with its own peculiar rhythms and outlook, and it’s as impressive as radio (or, now, podcasting) gets in the 21st century.—GM

1. WTF with Marc Maron

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5 years and over 600 episodes in, WTF feels as essential as ever. The added confidence of his success and longevity pairs nicely with Maron’s natural anger and anxiousness. The show may have built its reputation on the early years when Maron was bitter and had an axe to grind but it’s found it’s best version as Maron has settled into being the most empathic and intuitive interviewer in any format. The Obama episode was definitely the highpoint in terms of publicity but Maron’s best showing was the following episode, 614, when Maron reflects on the experience of having the president on the show and producer Brendan McDonald reflects on dealing with Maron dealing with the experience. That’s the show at its best—searching for the human element, looking for the connection and sharing a knowing laugh.—GP

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