2. New Year’s Eve with Neil Hamburger
This podcast is similarly adept at creating a world of its own. Here, comedian and musician Gregg Turkington assumes his frequently-corny, often-antagonistic stage persona, Neil Hamburger, and brings you a new year every week or so. From “Hollywood Times Square,” Hamburger and his co-host, fellow alt comedian Major Entertainer Mike H, conduct fake interviews with found audio and play cheesy, wah-and-synth heavy songs until the final countdown.
Key Quote: “Mike, good to see you on this most holy of holidays.”
McSweeney’s contributor and indisputable hero of Twitter John Moe hosts this charming, aptly-named public radio show / podcast, which features guests like John Hodgman, Neil Gaiman and Maria Bamford for skits, songs and interviews. Here, Henry Rollins and singer Lissie preview coming attractions:
4. Judge John Hodgman
You might know John Hodgman from those old Mac ads, or from The Daily Show. He’s a brilliant humorist and each episode of his podcast consists of a mock trial. Hodgman rules on minor social matters, from how often it’s acceptable to text in front of someone (“Antisocial Networking”) to whether a couple should raise their kids to believe in Santa (“Probable Claus”). His Judge Judy-ish brusque persona seems to be a goof, but his advice is clearly genuine. I went to the Judge John Hodgman SF Sketchfest show, and at one point there was a puppy on stage, John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats appeared as a musical guest and expert witness in a tarot-related case, and I had so much fun that I chose to miss the last train to the East Bay rather than leave early.
Key Quote: “You have part of my attention, you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back in my chambers, where Bailiff Jesse and I are doing things that no one in this room, including Mike and Lauren, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing. Which is to say we’re in there shutting pieholes. Bailiff Jesse, swear them in.”
5 and 6. The Best Show on WFMU / Best Show Gems
When I classify The Best Show as underrated, it’s not because the show doesn’t have a substantial and avid following -- it does. I say it’s underrated because The Best Show is one of my favorite things that exists, up there with the short stories of John Cheever, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and complaining. The podcast is a recording of Tom Scharpling's free-form radio show, in which he holds court on pop culture and takes calls from the likes of Todd Barry, Ted Leo, and a slew of bizarre and unfriendly characters played by Scharpling’s comedic partner Jon Wurster. He plays the song “Bad Company” over boring callers. Recently Scharpling had callers help him outline a script for the upcoming Entourage movie over the air. The Best Show Gems podcast posts clips from the show, mostly calls from Wurster.
Key Quote: “Can you imagine? That guy [Kelsey Grammer.] Handcuffed to that guy. I’d be like, meh, you know what? My right arm’s not that good. Y’know what I mean? Me and my right arm had a good run. Time to say goodbye to ya, buddy. You’re going to live with Kelsey Grammer now.”
Also worth mentioning:
Thrilling Adventure Hour
How Was Your Week with Julie Klausner (The opening monologue in the recent Episode “Heavy Things Onto Stages” tackles topics ranging from the death of a friend to the new season of Smash, and is one of the funniest, most heartbreaking things I’ve ever heard).