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Funny podcasts for unfunny times

I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts – maybe a little less than back in Normal Times when I was commuting 1.5-2.0 hours a day, but if I’m putterin’, I’m pod-listenin’.

I find it wearying to envelope myself in coronavirus or political podcasts these days. I’m not sure why. Maybe you have some ideas. In any case, I’ve been turning to comedy more and more.

Here’s a list, in alphabetical order. I am not necessarily proud of any of these.

  • Alchemy This. Kevin Pollack – yes, that Kevin Pollack – has assembled a troupe of improvisers who do three scenes in each hour. At their best, they find an absurd narrative coherence that is mindblowing and reminiscent of Firesign Theatre’s scripted pieces. At their worst, I can’t make sense of the flow of the scene – too many of their voices sound the same to me – but still find the moments of it funny.
  • Behind the Bastards. Each episode tells the story of some despicable person, often someone I have never heard of. It’s not flatout comedy, but the tone is comedic. Often excellent.
  • The Dollop. Much like Behind the Bastards, but not focused purely on bastards. One of the two comedians who put it together reads an essay about some odd incident in history while the other reacts while hearing it for the first time. Ranges from hilarious to never quite getting up to comedic speed. And it’s entirely possible that the comic style is not exactly to your taste. It’s not exactly to mine.
  • Good One. This is one of my favorites. Each episode interviews a comedian for an hour about one single joke of theirs. The interviewer is a total comedy nerd, and the interviews can be very revealing about the comic process.
  • How did this get made? Usually recorded live at a theatre, three funny people riff about some terrible movie. Funny bad taste all around.
  • Improv4Humans. Matt Besser’s improv troupe improvs scenes, much like Alchemy This. I personally find it less consistent, but it came be very good. For example, the archival show with Zach Woods, recently re-released, has some very funny stuff on it.
  • Mike and Tom Eat Snacks. This ended a couple of years ago, but its hundred episodes of Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh are still available. The two of them, unscripted, review snack foods, a timeless topic. (Spoiler: The snack reviews are just a pretense.)
  • Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. As a tote-bag carrying NPR supporter (and once time serial All Things Considered commentator), this one is obvious. It’s also consistently funny.
  • WTF. Marc Maron’s podcast used to focus on comedians but has expanded wildly. Which is good, because he is an excellent interviewer. The recent interview with Dan Ackroyd, for example, is great. It turns out that the real Dan Ackroyd is like a Dan Ackroyd character.

I also listen to many other podcasts that don’t talk about current events but are not comedic. Some are fantastic. But it’s comedy tonight!

What would you add to this list?

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