Crazy talented performers Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider host this one, which is ostensibly a Real Housewives recap show but which is actually so much more. Familiarity with Bravo’s reality franchise is totally not required; about half the guests seem to have never seen any version of it. This ep is really satisfying, with some incisive criticism of the movie Florence Foster Jenkins (here nicknamed Flo-Fo-Jenky) and some big-picture discussion of middle-aged femininity writ large with Jamie Denbo, who’s the latter half of the comedy team Ronna and Beverly.
This is probably my favorite podcast, and this early episode is goofy and wonderful. The premise is that the two hosts, Sean Clements and Hayes Davenport, are Hollywood insiders sharing their hard-won wisdom with listeners. But it’s of course a facade, and they’re really just sad guys who scare easily and who are desperate to seem relevant in the context of youth culture. There’s a fifteen-minute chunk in the middle in which Grace Helbig tries to explain how computers work that I’ve gone back to time and time again for laughs.The first time I heard it I ended up being a little late for work because I couldn’t pull myself away from my headphones.
This is probably my pod-of-the-moment, in which two comedians visit a different chain restaurant every week and review it in sometimes painful detail and earnestness. This episode marks a point at which the antagonistic Odd Couple dynamic between hosts Nick Wiger and Mike Mitchell really started to solidify. As for this ep, Wendy’s holds a dear place in my heart, as it might in yours, too. And Paul Rust is immensely likeable and funny, as always. Plus he makes a great keto/Cheeto joke.
The impossibly clunky title of this ep stands for “Thank God It’s the Guardians of the Galaxy Original Soundtrack,” and, yeah, it is what it sounds like. This podcast is a cool script-flipper, in that the actual host (improv wunderkind Lauren Lapkus) doesn’t actually host the show. Instead, her guests make up concepts for podcasts on the spot and she sits in as a guest on those, creating a character out of thin air. Hayes Davenport and Sean Clements are the ostensible guests, and they match Lapkus’ frenetic energy.
This incredibly consistent podcast is hosted by Matt Besser, one of the founders of the UCB theater, an important training ground for many of the comic actors you see on TV and in movies these days. If you’re an improv skeptic, this will probably sell you, as the performers are the best at what they do in the world. I picked this episode in particular because the guests—Jessica St. Clair, Lennon Parham, and Jason Mantzoukas—are frequent collaborators with crazy quick comedic instincts. Their rapport is warm and funny, and because they’ve been buds for so long, they have great stories about one another.
What makes Superego a little different from almost all other improv-based shows is that it’s highly produced and edited. The four original performers, Jeremy Carter, Matt Gourley, Mark McConville, and Jeff Crocker (along with some great guests) create long, weird scenes that Gourley cuts down and augments with sound effects and music. That means you’re listening to sharp five-minute bits rather than lagging long-form scenes that may not pay off. Though some characters recur, there’s not a lot of continuity in this show, so a best-of is the best way to get a taste.
Ronna & Beverly grew out of a stage show in which Jessica Chafin and Jamie Denbo play fiftysomething women (proud Jews, proud Massachusites) interviewing performers. They’re generally closed-minded, judgmental, narcissistic, indifferent to facts, unapologetic, and far too willing to dispense advice, which also makes them deeply funny. This episode gets off to a great start—Beverly improvising an anti-ISIS version of “Do You Hear The People Sing?”—and barely lets up. She also sketches a peace plan that involves air-dropping soup dumplings and pug puppies throughout the Middle East. Guest Jessica St. Clair is an improv ace (see also the improv4humans episode elsewhere on this list) and easily holds her own in a convo that bounces from sandpapery soap to Channing Tatum.