Since I started subscribing to the WTF with Marc Maron podcast six months ago, I truly wonder why anyone bothers with radio anymore. At first, I tried to cram my WTF listening sessions into household chore time. But I soon realized that Maron's in-depth, funny, often intensely personal interviews with his fellow comedians required the kind of listening attention that comes in the car. So long, radio. I have no more use for you.
The podcast revolution has allowed comedians like Maron to rewrite the rules of standup, to say nothing of comedy and show business, creating shows on their own terms and often securing direct sponsorship (among Maron's is Madison's Just Coffee). The raspy comic produces the podcast in his L.A. garage, where he invites big comedy names - Richard Lewis, Garry Shandling, Dane Cook - as well as many lesser-known performers to detail their paths to fame, approaches to the craft and, quite often, their inner demons.
A recent interview with The Onion's Todd Hanson explores not just the paper's move from Madison to New York, but Hanson's suicide attempt. Maron, who himself has considered suicide and openly addresses his bouts with depression and addiction, approaches the subject with an admirable sensitivity and directness many career reporters would envy. It's a brilliant piece of work for any medium.
Joining Maron among can't-miss comedy podcasts is Mike and Tom Eat Snacks, or MATES, starring Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh. The premise is straightforward, if decidedly goofy: Each week the former stars of TV's Ed pick a snack - Fudge Stripes, Lay's potato chips, Bugles, Teddy Grahams - to eat and rate. Each episode is a study in "yes, and..." improvisation, where the players fuel each other's detours, pushing them further and further toward complete absurdity.
MATES is ultimately an excuse for funny men to egg each other on, and it's a blast. So, too, is The Nerdist with Chris Hardwick. Hardwick started his showbiz career as host of MTV's Singled Out in the mid-1990s, but he now fills many roles - standup, Wired contributor, gadget reviewer, producer of other Nerdist properties - that only bolster his nerd cred.
Like Maron, Hardwick dives into what inspires his fellow comics in interviews with people like Jim Gaffigan, Patton Oswalt and Ed Helms. He usually can't resist geeking out every few minutes, dropping references to Dr. Who and Dungeons & Dragons or employing a Shakespearian accent. At over an hour each, Nerdist podcasts allow Hardwick to conduct an engrossing interview and get in plenty of cracks himself.