Podcasts of 2015: Superlatives for the Best and Brightest
Last year, podcasting saw a welcome increase in popularity, with notable newcomers both in podcasts and podcasting networks. This year, the hot streak continues. Podmass is celebrating these achievements by awarding accolades to a few of the best and brightest in this year’s class. Below are The A.V. Club’s Podmass superlatives for 2015:
- •Biggest get: Barack Obama - WTF: President Barack ObamaThough President Obama has appeared on Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis, joked around with Jimmy Fallon, and has generally proved himself to be a genial and media savvy guy, no one would have guessed he would pop up on a podcast anytime soon, let alone one that records in some dude’s garage. Yet he did, making an appearance earlier this summer on Marc Maron’s WTF.
- •Class clown: Earwolf Engineer Cody “Grease Nose” Skully - Hollywood Handbook: The Grease Knows Eggs Show With Jesse ThornWho will ever forget this year’s most shocking coupling, between bona fide Hollywood insiders Sean Clements and Hayes Davenport and high school DJ Tom Scharpling, long considered unworthy of even vacuuming the red-carpet-lined back hallways of this industry called showbiz? These strange bedfellows tickled our funny bones every time they got behind a microphone together at Earwolf’s Los Angeles studios, and in no small part thanks to their sound engineer Cody “Grease Nose” Skully.
- •Most likely to quash racism and homophobia: Kid Fury and Crissle - The ReadFor all the show’s amazing segments, Crissle and Kid Fury do some of their best work as professional shade-throwers when there is a racist or homophobic viewpoint ready to be torn to shreds.
- •Biggest journalistic heartbreaker: Lina Misitzis - Here Be Monsters: Last Chance To Evacuate EarthDuring a series of devastating interviews with a Heaven’s Gate suicide cult survivors, Here Be Monsters contributor Lina Misitzis spoke at length with one forlorn survivor in particular named Steve who is now estranged from nearly his entire family. Hearing how Steve lost his wife to the cult—and nearly his own life—is heartbreaking, but even more so once he reveals how he attempted to return to his children.
- •Most likely to infect your nightmares: Charles Manson - You Must Remember This: Charles Manson’s Hollywood #9Over the course of the eight preceding episodes in a series covering Hollywood at the tail end of the ’60s, host Karina Longworth—whose podcast focuses often stories of the film industry’s darker side—slowly and methodically unspools intimate details about the Manson family murders. Fans of Serial will find a lot to like here, though be advised: Listening in an empty house at night is not recommended.
- •Best parent: Dave Shumka - Stop Podcasting Yourself: Alicia TobinAs is typically the case with these kinds of things, Dave Shumka’s great moment in parenting was born of necessity. As he tried to rock his daughter to sleep one night, his wife Abby did the dishes in the next room over, the door wide open. When texts to his wife weren’t answered, Shumka had to resort to more drastic measures: communicating through song.
- •Most musical: Darren From Work (Jon Wurster) - The Best Show: Martin Courtney! Gail Bennington! The Newbridge Wall!When Darren Ploppleton, Tom Scharpling’s childhood friend and co-worker at Consolidated Cardboard, called in to The Best Show to tell Scharpling that he’d found the long-lost cassette of “The Newbridge Wall,” listeners had no idea what was in store for them. For this call, a masterpiece that is easily one of the best and most ambitious Scharpling and Wurster bits in The Best Show’s 15-year run, Wurster and a band recorded six Newbridge-inspired songs parodying Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
- •Best fictional place we want to go to: The Vermillion Minotaur tavern - Hello, From The Magic TavernAs the podcast medium has gained momentum, it sometimes feels like a large number of new shows consist merely of two or more dudes sitting around a table and talking. While it isn’t entirely wrong to categorize Hello, From The Magic Tavern as one of those shows, it would be grossly, almost negligently reductive to do so. That’s because the world created by host Arnie Niekamp, and co-hosts Adal Rifai and Matt Young, is perhaps comic podcasting’s most continually rewarding achievement.
- •Most likely to moonlight as your therapist: Alison Rosen - Alison Rosen Is Your New Best FriendIf you’re a fan of Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend, you already know from the show’s hilarious and unpredictable panel episodes and her thoughtful interviews that Rosen is, without a doubt, best friend material. But judging from the conversations she has with her guests, she’d make a great therapist, too.
- •Cutest couple: Sean Clements and Hayes Davenport - Hollywood Handbook: Nip/Tuck CommentaryHollywood Handbook has such a specific tone, it’s a miracle they can get guests to fold into it successfully. The personas that Hayes Davenport and Sean Clements embody are so particular and ever evolving, it becomes one of those things that must be experienced rather than explained. The only reason that these objectively awful, cringe-inducing characters turn out such comedic gold is because of the strength of their chemistry as improvisers.
- •Most sincere: Dave Shumka, Graham Clark, John Hodgman, and John Roderick - Stop Podcasting Yourself: John Hodgman, John RoderickWith over 400 episodes in the can at year’s end, few podcasts can match the output of the multi-time Canadian Comedy Award-winning Stop Podcasting Yourself. This episode highlights what’s been right under the noses of so many for so long: the sincere, unifying power of podcasts.
- •Grossest food podcast that will still make you hungry: Doughboys - Doughboys: Taco Bell: Jack Allisonn every episode of the wonderfully earnest and very funny Doughboys, Nick Wiger and Mike Mitchell subject their bodies to various chain restaurants’ offerings and give their thoughts on the food, along with memories they associate with each restaurant. Doughboys—consistently very strong thus far—will likely remain essential listening until the ’boys run out of restaurants.
- •Most inspirational: Before You Were FunnyThe road to success is a rocky one, and no one knows this better (or has proven this to be true more publicly) than the guests on Before You Were Funny. Justin Michael and Jacob Reed, the duo behind sketch group Tremendosaur, ask their guests to dig deep into their vaults of written material and bring to life the sketches, scripts, diary entries, poetry, and more from a time when the very funny participants were less so.
- •Best demystification of showbiz: Box AngelesWhile Mike “Box” Elder’s guests differ in fame and experience, they all have one thing in common: They’ve been able to carve out a living for themselves in show business. Elder—a burgeoning actor and improviser himself—remains consistently fascinated by their varying levels of success on his podcast Box Angeles, not from a place of envy or starfuckery, but from a place of educational interest.
- •Most improved: Cheap HeatWith the fall of mighty sports and pop culture site Grantland earlier this year came the sad disintegration of its vast, uniformly solid podcast network. Caught in the collapse was Cheap Heat, a wrestling ’cast hosted by HOT 97’s Peter Rosenberg and brainy wrestling scribe David Shoemaker, who wrote for Grantland and a host of other sites as The Masked Man. The potential loss of Cheap Heat was particularly sad, as 2015 was a banner year for the podcast.