BRITTANY LUSE: Hi, I'm Brittany Luse, and welcome to Sampler, the show where we play you handpicked moments from podcasts that you just have to hear. Today we're going to dive deeply into one of the funnest — and funniest — categories of podcasts: the comedy podcast. And on that note, a warning: some of the humor and themes we're going to get into might be too mature for younger listeners. So, if you want, you can put earmuffs on your children, or headphones on your self.
BRITTANY: Okay so I have to admit that I'm actually not a huge aficionado of comedy podcasts. I'm familiar with most of the big names, but in order to go deeper, I realized that I needed to enlist some help. So for this episode, I'm bringing in the big guns. To guide me through this journey into the unknown, I could not think of better guests than my fellow gimleteers, hosts of Reply All, PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman.
PJ VOGT: Hey.
ALEX GOLDMAN: Hi Brittany.
BRITTANY: Welcome to Sampler.
PJ: There are definitely better guests and bigger guns just so you know [laughing] there are so many people that would be better at this.
BRITTANY: Reply All is “a show about the Internet,” but when they’re not making these beautiful, long-form stories on internet phenomena, they listen to a shit ton of comedy podcasts.
PJ: We do really, really love comedy podcasts. So at least we can speak as ardent enthusiasts. What is the reason that you have not gotten into comedy podcasts?
BRITTANY: So like, I have a duality to my sense of my humor. I would describe it as 50 percent Richard Pryor, 50 percent Fozzie Bear from the Muppets.
PJ: That totally exists in comedy podcasts. How come that's the setup for why you don't listen to comedy podcasts?
BRITTANY: I feel like sometimes I can't keep up. Like the jokes, sometimes are like, like I'm getting into the conversation late...
PJ: Oh man, I feel like we have brought you things that do not address that problem at all.
BRITTANY: No but that's good though. Because it's like, in order to build your muscles you have to tear them down and repair them. Is that what weightlifting is about?
ALEX: I've never lifted a weight so I can't answer that question.
PJ: I've watched you lift a weight. You're playing like the Alex Goldman Character. I've literally watched you lift weights.
BRITTANY: So yeah, so like today we're going to do some comedy podcast weight training.
BRITTANY: So I'm going to hand the mic over to you first PJ.
PJ: So definitely, definitely my favorite comedy podcast, and I think Alex's too? Yes, no...
ALEX: Uh, probably.
PJ: Is Comedy Bang Bang!
BRITTANY: Oh yeah. I'm familiar.
PJ: How familiar are you?
BRITTANY: I know that it's hosted by Scott ACKerman.
PJ: So, have you listened to it ever?
PJ: Were you immediately a huge fan and listened to it a lot more times?
BRITTANY: Not quite...
PJ: Okay, so that is totally reasonable and normal. Like, Comedy Bang Bang, is an acquired taste, and once you acquire it — it’s like so good and so rewarding. So the way the show works, is like, he's the host for the first segment, it’s always him interviewing some guest. And it's pretty straightforward. It's like a slightly funny but normal interview. And the second segment, after the break, another comedian who is playing some character will like knock on the door and then come in, and that’s kind of when the best parts of the show happen, is like they're figuring out who this weirdo who just came in is and the person kind of has to invent it on the fly. The other thing that's really great about it is they're really good comedians, and so they'll mess with each other. Like, they'll intentionally make the other person's job harder.
ALEX: There's a comedian named Andy Daly who does probably a dozen or more characters on the show, and one of them is a cowboy poet.
PJ: Oh my god, Dalton Wilcox, the “Poet Laureate of the West.”
ALEX: And um, frequently they will say to him, ‘This reminds me of a poem of yours’ ... or like, ‘Oh, you should really tell us a poem that will describe this situation,’ forcing him then to come up with a rhyming couplet about what is happening on the show. And you can hear his frustration a little bit as he's trying to come up with them, and it's very funny.
PJ: So actually this clip is Andy Daly playing Dalton Wilcox, but then it's also Scott Aukerman just being Scott Aukerman, and Jason Mantzoukas, who is also a wonderful comedian, being Jason Mantzoukas, which means like, they're all kind of messing with each other a little bit, and breaking the rules of what's supposed to happen.
So here is Dalton Wilcox, Poet Laureate of the Old West:
DALTON WILCOX: The West is very much alive and well now... as long as there are cows that need rustlin’ up, there will be cowboys.
SCOTT AUKERMAN: How long do you think that'll be?
DALTON: I feel, I figure that'll be forever, I reckon that'll be until the Earth crashes into the sun.
SCOTT: Well, that's not going to happen.
DALTON: You don't think the Earth is going to crash into the sun?
SCOTT: Sir, I do not…
DALTON: That's what they say is going to be the end of humankind...
SCOTT: I don't know... I think that something is going to crash into the Earth before we crash into the sun...
DALTON: No, that's precisely what I'm saying. A gigantic meteor will crash into the Earth.
SCOTT: But that'll kill us all! That'll be the end. Not the crashing into the sun part... there will be—
DALTON: I will tell you why you're wrong.
SCOTT: You think so?
DALTON: Because we will know that it's coming, and we will move underground, and we'll protect ourselves, and there’ll be cows down there underground, and we'll need cowboys to rustle ‘em up... there will be cowboys underground.
SCOTT: I don't see this happening, and at that point, once we're living underground, we are cannibals... I think the cows are gone, everything's gone, we are cannibals... this is like a Mad Max scenario..
DALTON: It's not going to matter because within a year, the Earth will have been knocked off it's axis by this meteor.
SCOTT: Within a year you say?
DALTON: Well it's not going to happen right away, but it'll take a year...
SCOTT: Oh okay, not a year from right now...
DALTON: To crash into the sun... no I don't have an accurate prediction of when it's going to happen. But...
SCOTT: I bought, I bought property on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro... because when it happens, all the sudden oceans rise, it'll be beachfront property [nasally “Wipeout” theme that descends into coughing] Okay I'm done.
Jason Mantzoukas: What are you done? What happened? I thought you were going to go through the whole song...
SCOTT: [nasally “Wipeout” theme...]
JASON: Now you're going into a different song. You started with “Wipeout”...
SCOTT: Is that “Wipeout”?
JASON: I believe it is...
JASON: And then you went into totally... I do love that you expected us to rescue you from that... [laughing]
DALTON: I wish that people at home would have appreciated the dance moves...
JASON: I wish the people could've seen the look on his face that was screaming: "Help me! I'm starting something that I don't want to keep going."
ALEX: Score one for the comedy team.
BRITTANY: Like the commitment.
BRITTANY: Like he totally didn't want to be still singing that big rendition of “Wipeout,” but he did it anyway, because he was committed and everybody else was there with him, like this Andy Daly does not break character at all, even though this entire ridiculous exchange is happening wherein literally there is one person singing a combination of two songs, for like 95 seconds.
PJ: I think that thing about commitment's really true. Like, one of the reasons this show is really fun to listen to over a long period of time, but people might not immediately find it funny the first time they listen, is like… you know like, the Borat character does like, ‘My wife.’
PJ: Scott Aukerman would do that ‘My wife’ joke anytime anyone mentioned their wife on the show for like…
ALEX: Four or five years.
PJ: Four or five years.
PJ: And so it at first you're like, this is so annoying, and then it becomes like very funny, and then it becomes very annoying, and then it becomes extremely funny. And eventually he changed it to, instead of doing ‘My Wife,’ he’d go ‘Friday Night Lights’ which makes no sense, but is also really funny. But if you tune in and the first thing you hear is some guy who keeps saying ‘Friday Night Lights’ you're just like, ‘What is this?’
PJ: But eventually the whole thing feels like a really long “Wipeout” joke.
BRITTANY: Well I like that, because it's payoff too. So it's like, you have all this investment, and I feel like obviously you've invested a lot if you know that he's been saying this...
PJ: I've probably listened to, like, if you just laid out the hours, like months of my life, I've just been listening to Comedy Bang Bang.
ALEX: Hundreds of hours.
BRITTANY: What have you lost? Like, what have you given less attention because you were listening to Comedy Bang Bang?
PJ: I could've been calling people. I could've been talking and driving. Which is not good.
BRITTANY: No, that's dangerous anyway, so this actually…
PJ: Saving lives.
BRITTANY: Saving lives. Well that's the verdict, Comedy Bang Bang, saving lives.
PJ: I have like a comedy bang bang introductory plan that I just sent to another podcast person which I will send to you.
ALEX: You should put it on the website.
BRITTANY: You should.
BRITTANY: This is a resource that could help a lot of people.
PJ: Yeah, that's true.
BRITTANY: Lots of drive-talkers.
PJ: Yeah we're combatting that scourge.
BRITTANY: Alright, well um, we are going to take a quick break. To recap what we heard so far: the excruciatingly long rendition of “Wipeout” came from Comedy Bang Bang. So, after the break, more comedy moments from PJ and Alex.
—————AD BREAK ————
BRITTANY: Hi! And welcome back to Sampler. Today my guests are Reply All hosts Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt, who are graciously taking me through some of their favorite moments from comedy podcasts. So, I feel my comedy muscles getting stronger.
BRITTANY: Yeah. What is it they say? Like, ‘I'm bulking.’
PJ: Yeah you're bulking up.
BRITTANY: I'm bulking up right now, I can feel it. So what's next?
PJ: Okay so there's this podcast called You Made It Weird. The guy who does it is named Pete Holmes. So Pete Holmes was a devout Christian. The first time he had sex it was the woman he had married. Then, she cheated on him with a guy named Rocco from Long Island.
BRITTANY: Everyone knows this?
PJ: He talks about it on his show a lot.
ALEX: All the time.
PJ: So what happens was he went through this whole life change where he was like… he stopped being Christian. He started like drinking, and doing drugs, and having sex. So the show is him interviewing other comedians, but it's also him trying to figure out how to live. And he's also looking for a new spirituality. So he talks to people about, ‘What do you think happens after you die?’ And sometimes he'll talk to religious people, but mostly he talks to comedians. And they talk in a way that is somewhere between like they're telling jokes and they're having a conversation. Like it toggles between those two things really well. So this is an interview he did with Kurt Braunohler. It's Kurt telling a story about auditioning for a part in the Sacha Baron Cohen movie “Bruno.”
KURT BRAUNOHLER: My manager had called me, and he was like, do you speak German? And I was like, now. And he was like, ‘Oh,’ and then he hangs up. And then he calls me right back, and he was like ‘Do you speak in a German accent?’ and I was like ‘Ohhhhh, like a comically bad one’ and he’s like ‘Okay’ and then he calls back and he was like ‘I got an audition for you.’ And I was like, oh this isn't gonna go well.
PETE HOLMES: Oh no.
KURT: And then I showed up...
PETE: What's your agent's name? This one.
KURT: That was my manager...
PETE: Oh... see you ask these probing questions, you get the truth, you get the truth... What's your manager's name?
KURT: [laughing] Why do we have to talk about what my…
PETE: Show’s not called “Let's Have a Normal Conversation.” That's why! No go on, go on... [laughing] Please go on. No names needed.
KURT: Yeah yeah yeah, so I go in, and I do this audition. And I just speak in this terrible German accent, and I improvise, and... uh...
PETE: Can we try, I'm not putting you on the spot, let's both try one. ‘Ve have vays of making you talk,’ stuff like that?
KURT: Do you vant to make a pizza?
PETE: Do you vant to make one of my German pizzas? Oh, let's think of Inglorious Bastards....
KURT: Ve are on uncertain ground here. Mr.? Mr. Holmes....
PETE: So the fuhr.. fuhr... fuhr...
KURT: It looks like your mouth is pooping when you do that. It really does. It's awful.
PETE: Okay please, I'm annoying myself with how I'm interrupting the story.
KURT: Oh okay, so I improvised in a German accent, and the at the end, he says ‘Do you speak German?’ and I was like here's where I fuck myself... I'm like, ‘Oh yeah…..'
PETE: Do you know it's for “Bruno” at this point?
KURT: No, so I just made German-sounding noises, and she thought I was speaking German...
PETE: Right of course... ‘Yeniden freudian’... that sounds Swedish...
KURT: Yeah right, I kleinen wie hassen spassen. Oh offen stizen!
[yelling together in fake German and laughing]
PETE: Go on.
KURT: So she's like, ‘Okay we're going to bring you back. This is the new Sacha Baron Cohen film. So you're going to be auditioning with Sasha tomorrow.’ She’s like ‘So when you go in there, just say you speak German,’ and I was like, oh okay… because I had demonstrated to her that I spoke German.
KURT: But she doesn't speak German, she doesn't know I was just totally lying.
PETE: Inshnell definen....
KURT: Inshnell definen! That means to define a snail. That's the snail dictionary.
PETE: Um... Germans love asking questions, that's what I've noticed...
KURT: They love asking questions…?
PETE: Like in Inglorious Bastards they're always like, so tell me, how many rooms in your house? Just like... [laughing]
KURT: Oh no no, okay, let's be specific here.
PETE: No, no, no...
KURT: When Gestapo come to houses they happen to ask a lot of questions.
PETE: Noooooo [laughing]
KURT: And so therefore people... ‘Germans like to ask a lot of questions.’ When there's a person hunting humans, they happen to ask a lot of questions, that and so therefore an entire country loves questions...
PETE: Oh my god I am so dumb. Please continue.
KURT: So the next day, I don't know what to expect, and I kind of walk in. There’s just like thirty people in the room, and I don't expect it, and then behind a giant big desk, is Sasha Baron Cohen, like my comedy idol. And he's sitting behind this big desk, and then there's all the producers and directors there. And I sit down, and the first question out of the director’s mouth is ‘So we understand you speak fluent German…?’ At this point, I'm like, I'm here...
KURT: I'm going to go for this.
PETE: Something's going to happen.
KURT: Uh... and so I'm like, ‘Yes I do…'
PETE: The shotgun’s cocked... pull that trigger...
KURT: Yeah. And he's like... ‘Great... well we're just going to have you start off speaking some German with Sasha.’ And I was like, that's, I couldn't imagine a better way to start this...
PETE: AHHHH! So Sasha's going to do the scene with you. In German.
KURT: It's not even a scene. He's just going to ask me questions, and I'm going to respond in German. This is literally just a language test.
PETE: I've heard this story before, and that just frightened me...
KURT: Yeah. And so he speaks to me in German, and... I just look him dead in the eye, and then just say like "Mmmmm... Ein kleinen vie hasn svarten, un zvie hatten zie! Eeen kleinen mein assen farten." And then just give this shit-eating grin, around the room, just like, bet you haven't heard German that good before.
ALEX: That story makes me anxious.
BRITTANY: Oh my god that was satisfying, and also very stressful. But also I can't lie —pretending to know a language is something I would do.
PJ: Yeah. I did stuff like that in college. It never worked out well. Sometimes it worked out well. It mostly didn't work out well.
BRITTANY: I mean does it ever?
PJ: Two times out of ten, which makes you keep trying it. Eight times out of ten are horrible. The other thing I just like about that is like he's breaking every rule of interviewing. Like he says he already know the story. He keeps interrupting to do German accents. And I really like it... like I don't think I'd like it if anyone else was doing it, but I love him doing it.
BRITTANY: It's like Oo! Tell it. Tell it. It's like you know when you got a party with your best friend or something like that, and they're like oh my god, tell the story about blah blah blah... and the whole time you're telling it they keep interrupting like ‘Can you believe…?’
ALEX: Yeah yeah yeah.
BRITTANY: That's kind of what it was like. Which never happens in an interview.
PJ: No. Because you never, people don't acknowledge that there is an audience. I think he's aware of an audience in a way that feels good.
ALEX: It's kind of like he's breaking the podcast fourth wall.
BRITTANY: Is there a podcast fourth wall?
ALEX: Nooo... but it's like... I mean it’s like, if there were, he would be breaking it.
BRITTANY: That was beautiful, PJ. Alex, do you have a counterpoint? I've turned this into a competition.
ALEX: I feel like this is a competition I'm about to lose.
PJ: Stand in your boots!
BRITTANY: I have a feeling though that I know that you're going to play. I don't know what you're going to play, but I have a feeling I know what show it's from.
ALEX: The show’s called The Bone Zone.
BRITTANY: I know...
ALEX: The reason...
PJ: Let's just linger on that. The Bone Zone.
BRITTANY: Sounds a little gross.
PJ: Sounds a little gross.
ALEX: It's meant to sound gross. I talk about it all the time. And literally cannot convince anyone I know to listen to it.
PJ: I've listened to it.
PJ: Sometimes I find it funny, but the parts of it that you love, speak to like a part of you that I can't support.
PJ: So Alex's idea of what a good joke is, is it's like, ‘Crimble bramble?’
ALEX: Do you hear me cracking up? That is funny.
PJ: DOOMBLE SAMPLE. Like just new syllables to him.
BRITTANY: I don't see the problem.
PJ: Uh, you don't work with the problem. You don't work many hours a week with the problem.
ALEX: So The Bone Zone is this podcast, it's two comedians, their names are Randy Liedtke and Brendon Walsh. Basically it's these two guys who hang out, they live in the same apartment complex, one floor up from another. And most of it is them making really, really crude jokes and prank phone calls. Crude jokes, like the way the doctor tells how health you are is by putting his finger in your butt…
ALEX: Taking it out, smelling one side of it, and then licking the other side of it... And that’s how you tell whether someone’s healthy or not.
BRITTANY: [laughs] THIS SOUNDS AMAZING. This is how I talk.
PJ: I think I'm going to be alone in this room.
ALEX: And then the other thing they do is they prank phone call people, and part of what makes their prank phone calls so great is because they are so dumb and they like commit to a bit in a way that you would not believe. So like they call Hugo Boss and boss people around.
PJ: I think the prank calls are really funny.
ALEX: One of my favorites is they call Best Buy, and they're like ‘Hey, I bought this phone lie detector, and I think it's broken, can I ask you some questions just to test it out?’ And they'll be like ‘Do you like your job?’ And the guy will say yes, and they'll play like an "ahhhh" sound effect. Or like, they'll call a phone sex line and they'll be like ‘Hey what are you wearing’ and they'll be like ‘I'm wearing a blah blah blah’ and they'll be like "ehhhhh" and they'll be like, okay what are you really wearing? And they'll be like ‘Oh I'm actually wearing jeans and a t-shirt.’
ALEX: It's amazing.
PJ: They're a little bit meaner than the comedy that I like, sometimes they can be a little more mean...
ALEX: They can be very mean.
PJ: And they just spend more time in like goofy, in a way that Alex really appreciates and like, for me a little goes a long way. And for Alex, it's like, if he could just live with them he probably would. Like I have no doubt in my mind that if The Bone Zone offered Alex a job that he would leave.
ALEX: If you could put The Bone Zone in an IV and just feed it to me, I would definitely.
PJ: You know that podcasts come on headphones right?
ALEX: I've been consuming them all wrong... So this particular clip is like a perfect example of them committing to a super dumb bit. So before this clip plays, they had just called a Taco Bell, and said ‘We just got gay married, and we want a reservation,’ and they're like, ‘This is Taco Bell, there are no reservations,’ and they were like, ‘You're doing this because we're gay, right?’ And so they keep this woman on the line for a very long time, talking to her, just being super annoying. She's not laughing, she’s not playing along. And then they ask ‘Is Tony Rice there?’ Just a name they made up. And she laughs. And as soon as they get off the phone with her, they're like, we've got to start calling everybody and asking if Tony Rice is there. So they start calling everybody. This is them calling Edward Jones to see if Tony Rice is there.
PJ: Who’s Edward Jones?
ALEX: Edward Jones is an investment company.
PJ: Did you know that Edward Jones was an investment company before this podcast existed?
ALEX: No, I'd never heard of Edward Jones.
ALEX: I think what initially happened, is they tried calling a Tony Rice in the phone book, and it turned out to be an Edward Jones, and then they started calling a bunch of Edward Jones' asking for Tony Rice.
RANDY: Ask for Tony rice again. Why is that so funny?
BRENDON: Because it's... it's dumb...
FEMALE VOICE: Edward Jones?
BRENDON: Uh yes, hi, could I speak with Tony Rice please?
FEMALE VOICE: There is nobody who works here by that name.
RANDY: Hmmm... that's odd because you just got pranked...
BRENDON: Oh yeah!
RANDY: This is the prank patrol on 103.7, today's hottest country...
BRENDON: OOHHHH YEAH.
RANDY: Did we fool you?
FEMALE VOICE: No.
RANDY: We didn't?
FEMALE VOICE: No....
RANDY: Do you want tickets, you one free tickets to uh see Tim McGraw tonight?
FEMALE VOICE: I did??
BRENDON: You just got pranked again...
RANDY: We just pranked you againnnnnn... did we trick you that time?
BRENDON: Ohhhhhh yeahhhhhhh.
FEMALE VOICE: No because I'm not sure who Tim McGraw is...
BRENDON: Turning the tables on the prank patrol.
RANDY: WE JUST GOT PRANKED. Is it okay if we use your likeness on the air?
RANDY: She hung up.... [laughing]
BRENDON: She was NOT into it…
BRITTANY: Oh my god. How do you not like this? What is wrong with you?
PJ: I like that a lot.
ALEX: Their sense of humor is so infantile, but like they just go all the way with it.
BRITTANY: This genuinely is the way that I communicate in my regular, everyday life.
PJ: Like you have a soundboard that you're constantly…?
BRITTANY: Yeah, unlike you, I have a soundboard in my body.
ALEX: PJ carries around a little synthesizer with wooden buttons.
BRITTANY: It’s so funny.
ALEX: And I'll be like trying to edit something, and all of the sudden I'll hear like, “booo doo, boo doo, boo doo.”
PJ: That's a very good impression of my synthesizer.
ALEX: Yeah and I'll be like, ‘That's great PJ, can you turn the arpeggiator off please.’ And you'll be like ‘Oh, are you sure you don't want the resonance to be louder?’ [laughter] It’s not annoying at all.
PJ: And also a thing that I do that Alex hates, like he never finds it funny is when we're finishing the show and we're on deadline and everybody is all like cracked out and crazy, I have a dance hall siren app on my phone, which is like "booo booo booo booo, booo booo boo" and so when he's reading a line for the last time in his life, I'll do it and it makes him so mad.
ALEX: Can you imagine how annoying that is?
BRITTANY: I actually do know how annoying that is... because my boyfriend has a sitcom soundboard on his phone. And sometimes after I say something funny, he'll have like canned audience laughter, or sometimes when I walk in the door, it'll play like, you know the little establishing music that comes, when a sitcom comes back from a commercial? Yeah, like this happens to me all of the time. Sometimes I'll like sit down on the couch, and he'll like, play something that sounds like it came from...
ALEX: You're giving him terrible, terrible ideas.
BRITTANY: It's weird because you love Bone Zone, but you don't love real life mischief or pranks.
ALEX: I’m fine with it…
[air horn sounds]
ALEX: You know what it is that's so annoying about it when PJ does it? Is like, he never knows when to stop.
ALEX: See? We're still going. I get the joke already.
PJ: The joke isn't the horn. The joke is Alex getting so mad.
BRITTANY: [laughing] I really appreciate you guys coming, today. You reminded me how to laugh.
ALEX: Wow. That's big.
BRITTANY: You guys were literally the best.
ALEX: I believe it.
PJ: Um, thank you.
ALEX: [laughing] That's what I meant. I meant thank you.
PJ: Alex Goldman. Human garbage.
BRITTANY: So today you have heard clips from Comedy Bang Bang, You Made It Weird, and honestly I think maybe my favorite of the day, The Bone Zone.
PJ: Alex won?
ALEX: Now you can play the dance hall siren.
PJ: No I don't want to....
BRITTANY: OK look, we know that those shows barely scratch the surface of all the many, many kinds of comedy podcasts out there — so we wanted to know: what are YOUR favorite moments from comedy podcasts? Can you break down why those moments are so funny for you like PJ and Alex did? If so, you might make it onto the show the next time we sample from the comedy world. So record a voice memo on your phone telling us about a particular moment in a comedy podcast and why you just couldn’t hold it together when you heard it. And email that voice memo to us at email@example.com. You just might be featured on a future episode of Sampler.
Stay tuned after the credits for a taste of what we are sampling next week.
This episode was produced by Rose Reid, Sarah Abdurrahman and myself. It was edited by Peter Clowney and Annie-Rose Strasser. Our theme music was made by Micah Vellian and our ad music was made by Marc Phillips. Other original music in the show is by Bobby Lord. The show is mixed by Matthew Boll. Sampler is a production of Gimlet Media.
————EPISODE 10 PREVIEW————
BRITTANY: Next week on Sampler… we talk Death, Sex and Money with Anna Sale
ANNA SALE: And of course if Dan Savage is going to ask me one question, it’s like going to be ‘What’s the deal in your bedroom?’ I should have expected that, but I didn’t. I didn’t somehow.