As the Buggles once forecasted in their 1980s pop single: “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Today, it's more accurate to say that the podcast resurrected the radio star, or more specifically, the comedian.
Over the last three years, podcasts have become a platform for comedic artists to extend their brand and service fans in the boonies. But now they're looking like a calling card for bigger projects.
On Sunday at 11 a.m., KCRW began airing 10 weekly episodes of WTF With Marc Maron, a podcast numbering 200 episodes that has been a therapy chair for funny people. We take a look at the top 10 comedy podcasts, many of which are fresh, some of which are old shoes.
“Are you a fan of charts?” host Howard Kremer asks his guest, actor Joe Lo Truglio.
“I like graphs and charts,” responds Lo Truglio, “When I pick up USA Today, I go straight to the lower left corner.”
“You like to countdown?,” asks Kremer, getting more excited.
“Who doesn't like lists, that's why this show is such a great idea,” says Lo Truglio. Like audience suggestions at an improv show, Who Charted's review of random top Billboard and box office charts are a fountainhead of conversation starters and tangents for its comedian guests, i.e. Zach Galifianakis and Thomas Lennon. A discussion of hip-hop tracks flashes Lo Truglio back to a New Orleans Mardi Gras when Richard Simmons madly chased his Reno 911 float. The weekly podcast, one of many produced by Scott Aukerman and Jeff Ullrich's Earwolf productions, is also co-hosted by Childrens Hospital nurse Kulap Vilaysack, who serves as Kremer's voice of reason. The biggest treat: Listening to Kremer continually wax his priceless “Summa” bit.
Since December, hosts Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas and June Diane Raphael have been a headache for studio publicists as they fry popcorn films into corn nuts. They're the nightmarish opposite to KPCC's button-down FilmWeek. Deconstructing Suckerpunch: “Every man is raping someone in the movie,” complains Scheer. “And how do (the girls) fight back? Sexy dancing,” adds Mantzoukas. “Watching (this film) would be the same way my parents would feel if they molested me thorugh my teen years,” pipes guest Chelsea Peretti.
While Los Angeles waits for Albert Brooks to morph his Twitter into a podcast, we can rely on his Real Life leading man for an audible dose of 'what are they crazy?' sarcasm. More political interstitial than comedy podcast, Grodin's clips are an absolute hoot whenever he loosens his ties, from shitting on surveys (“One asked me 'How do I make a living?' If we answered all these surveys, we wouldn't make a living!”) to sitting next to underwear-clad airline passengers (“Majority of people in a recent Daily News poll don't have a problem with passengers flying in their underwear…Why not start an underwear airline where all these people can fly together?”) His forked-tongue wit, like his brief 60 Minutes II stint, reminds us that he's the heir apparent to Andy Rooney.
Those nostalgic for Zucker Brothers comedy will delight in this bastard grandchild; a satirical '40s radio serial hatched from the dirty minds of Scott Aukerman and Neil Campbell. Rob Huebel voices the sexual-harassing title character who is hired by the curvy Stephanie Client (Grey DeLisle) to locate her sister. She's been abducted by Kelsey Grammer — or has she? Like the weather in every episode, the show's guest-star lineup of Andy Daly, Weird Al Yankovic and Galifianakis is like the celebrity-strewn film It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World: Perfectly overcast.
To Jimmy Pardo's credit, there's a certain type of guest that is suitable for his show and that's a person — typically a comedian — who likes to truly converse and briefly segue to other topics as they pop up, whether it's the Falkland Islands War, Jim Croce's canon, actress E.G. Daily's nude scenes in Valley Girl or Pardo pains like the discomfort of Hanes underwear. A conversation with Jon Hamm turns into a discussion on his hometown St. Louis and how they're famous for fried raviolis. It's been said that Pardo doesn't write any jokes, and from listening to his rapid Don Rickles-like responses, that's no hoax.
Like Paul F. Tompkins' well-tailored vintage suits, his hour-plus long podcasts are reminiscent of old comedy vinyls, ones that spun their share of offbeat skits and narratives. Most episodes feature Tompkins' soothing-toned absurdisms, elegantly backed by classical piano. This then changes up to a number of segments: A John Lithgow impersonation, a real-life story from comedienne Jen Kirkman or vaudevillian hijinks from his Largo stage show.
The sad-sack, physically handicapped alter-ego of Seth Morris has good intentions: He wants to heal ailing listeners with his daily two-minute axioms. Sometimes it's an ode to what Ducca adores, like coconut water (“It has the potassium of 8,000 bananas”). Other times, he warns others by listing a number of activities he's no longer permitted to do in society: Taking community college showers, accessing wiki erotica at the public library and giving himself hand-sanitizer baths at CVS. Morris' delivery as Ducca is priceless: In each episode he carries the severity and tone of an NPR talk show host.
Thanks to the power of iPod technology in car stereos, the Jewish mothers you left at the theater, can now run their mouths non-stop from the backseat of your car. Like their critically-acclaimed stage show, Ronna & Beverly, respectively played by Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo, smother their guests with intrusive questions and filter-less opinions. (“Who's the black girl in the movie?,” asks Beverly to Bridesmaids director Paul Feig. “I'm surprised she didn't break into song…Then there's the heavy set girl and I don't want to see anyone that size on the screen.”) They bicker, they gossip, they knit-pick, they sing patriotic songs — what's funny is you could swear you ran into them at the deli.
What was old is so new. If you loved the barbershop Apple Sisters on stage, they're even better on podcast, especially when you're relaxing in the bathtub. In every show, it's 1943, we're at war and F.D.R. is president — yet it's hard to decide what's more charming about Candy (the tomboy), Seedy (the Bible-thumper) and Cora (she just loves “sea-men”): their vibrant toe-tapping ditties like “Hey There Pudding” or their outrageous Katharine Hepburn-toned patter, peppered with modern pop culture references and foul-mouthed naivete. If Maron's podcast catapulted him to NPR, one hopes that the Apple Sisters (played by Rebekka Johnson, Sarah Lowe and Kimmy Gatewood) fall out of a tree onto a Broadway stage.
What makes Marc Maron the best interviewer? A host that continually attracts comedy's top-working talent like Amy Poehler, Ed Helms, Louis C.K., etc.? He lets his guests talk. Maron doesn't overshadow them with his opinions, nor does he take a long time to ask a question a la Charlie Rose. Rather he leaves the airtime to them. Such selfless tactics has produced candid insights from Poehler expouding on her work with Lorne Michaels to Rob Riggle's balancing military and comedy life. While most late night talk show hosts are former stand-ups who sold-out, the takeaway with Maron is that he approaches his guests with a riveting, working man's pov. His guests for the first three weeks on KCRW include Judd Apatow (July 24), Conan O'Brien (July 31) and Bob Odenkirk and Maria Bamford (August 7).
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