Social media’s like punk rock, it knocks down walls for all, and that’s good. But it frees up as much, or more, rubbish as it does material of quality. Nevertheless, some people, usually those with a love-hate relationship with radio, were very enthusiastic lo these many years ago, about the platform that podcasting provided. That enthusiasm has waned in recent times. (Though not for everyone.) Lately, comedy seems to be revitalizing it.
Comedy podcasts run the length of the field, from one-man ruminations to frantic bit-factories to interview shows. Some are free, some cost, and many offer a combination of the two options. Below the fold, I offer a far-from-inclusive introduction to different types of comedy podcasts and have tried to include a few that are acknowledged to be influential.
The Ricky Gervais Show. Gervais was an innovator, putting comedy podcasting on the map in 2005, under the auspices of the Guardian. Over the next two years, Gervais released about three dozen podcasts, which went to iTunes for a fee. It is said to be the most downloaded podcast ever. As to the content, I’ve always found Gervais’s comedy to be pub rock posing as punk and the genius mostly in the marketing. I’m clearly in the minority.
What the Fuck? Comedian Marc Maron’s podcast has gained huge momentum over the last year and for good reason as far as I’m concerned. Wide in scope, Maron combines introductory monologues of mind-bending self-absorption with interviews, on-site reporting (Creation Museum, anyone?) and live shows.
Sometimes the interviews are super funny. Tom Lennon of The State and Reno 911 and Bob Saget of Full House, America’s Funniest Home Videos and How I Met Your Mother almost bent space-time they were so funny. Sometimes, like his interview with the late Mike DeStefano, they’re touching and at other times, like Judd Apatow and Robin Williams, they’re extremely interesting, winkling out details you’d never heard elsewhere.
Two interviews were profoundly squirm-worthy: Gallagher (who walked out) and Carlos Mencia (who required two interview for Maron to dislodge him from his talking points.) Few journalists could match Maron’s interviewing technique, neither for quality nor for the risks they take.
Comedy Death Ray Radio. CDR Radio grew out of Comedy Death Ray, a weekly Los Angeles-based comedy show that began in 2002 and has been credited in part for creating what is now known as “alternative comedy.” One of CDR’s co-creators, Mr. Show writer Scott Aukerman, is the host.
The strong position the show has given the podcast in the world of comedy and comedy fans has given it a lot of reach. Wise guest choices (Paul Tompkins, Andy Richter, Nick Kroll, Reggie Watts, Sarah Silverman, Russell Brand and Tig Notaro) have kept its momentum up.
Walking the Room. Comedians Greg Behrendt (best known for “He’s Just Not That Into You” and “telling jokes in front of people”) and Dave Anthony (he’s this one guy) co-host a slop-bucket of a podcast, sloshing with unspeakable filth, studded with neologisms and streaked with tittering.
Recent episodes include “Old Yeller Hamster and Fish Cliffhanger,” “Blood Toilet and the Little Big Dollhouse Explanation” and the vacuum-inducing “Blood Face Nap Man and Cracky the Bike Thief.” Sometimes the show’s very funny, sometimes a bit insidery, but always a performance and (so far) free as the wind.
Other comedy podcasts of note
- Jimmy Pardo’s Never Not Funny
- Paul F. Tompkins’s Pod F. Tompkast
- The Sound of Young America
- The Nerdist
- Greg Fitzsimmons’s Fitzdog Radio
- Doug Benson’s Doug Loves Movies
If you’d like to read much, much more about comedy podcasts, more by far than I hate myself enough to match, check out Splitside’s “A Seriously Comprehensive Guide to Comedy Podcasts.”
Finally, if you want to tell me that podcasts have never been more popular and will be the vehicle of our salvation, or that Gervais is a genius, or just recommend comedy podcasts not mentioned above, have at ‘er. And speaking of ‘er, where are my comedy podcast ladies at? They seem a little thin on the ground.