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2012: Andrew Beckerman

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Our in-house comedian could care less for music. Here are his favorite funny albums and podcast of the year.

2012: Andrew Beckerman

Because I have a terrible memory for what music came out each year and because my disgusting life is steeped in comedy, every December I pick out my favorite albums and podcasts of the year. While I am still listening to most of the podcasts I’ve picked in former years (You Made It Weird and Who Charted? especially), each year I choose new podcasts so that I have something to actually write about. You’ll notice my tastes tend toward people who are good at being both weird and truthful at the same time; however, if you disagree with anything on this list, feel free to murder me.

James Adomian won my heart with his appearances on Comedy Bang! Bang!, and his first album on Earwolf is similarly funny and endearing. The thing that’s always made his impressions so good is his ability to find a true core about whomever he’s impersonating, which he then spins off into insanity. His bits similarly walk that interesting line between honest and silly. It’s a difficult balance to pull off, but Adomian does it pretty masterfully.

Dana Gould’s been one of my favorite comedians for a long time, both as a stand-up and as a writer on The Simpsons, and his show is the next stage of evolution of the interview/conversation podcast. A fully-produced show that centers around different themes, The Dana Gould Hour weaves in and out of anecdotes, narrated stories about obscure-ish references and improvised bits. Plus the show frequently features Mr. Show’s John Ennis and stand-up Eddie Pepitone. So flush your despair down the toilet and throw away your nooses, friends.

I saw Sean host an indie improv show at the Cave and the Creek when I first moved to the city years ago, and he destroyed like he was performing at Carolines or at anywhere besides an indie improv show. If you don’t know anything about indie improv shows in New York, they’re a dime a dozen and mostly awful, so to turn it on and crush for that crowd is pretty special. Standard Operating Procedure is a great example of his energy, charm and power, and also, it includes one of the darkest and most amazing jokes in the world: “My grandmother – she had Alzheimer’s Disease – she recently discovered the cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s called death.”

I like joke-jokes, sure, but a stand-up that’s engaging and that’s fundamentally a funny person is much more substantial and memorable than one that’s simply an engine for set-ups and punchlines. (To be honest, anyone with the slightest social presence and an understanding of humor can write and perform a joke.) Greg’s not just a joke-making-thing though; he’s a funny person, and with a delivery style that’s almost somewhere within a matrix of Todd Barry and Brian Posehn, he bounces back and forth between absurdity and honesty in a very delightful way.

This came out at the tail end of last year, so I’m including it here, just like I’m sure Kyle Kinane’s album from a week or two ago will make next year’s list. A Great Stillness is possibly one of my favorite stand-up albums ever. Eddie perfectly combines silliness and truth, and his voice is so specific that it’s tough to not have it inhabit your head after listening to him. If Louis CK is the perfect embodiment of the absurdity of our society, Eddie is the perfect embodiment of its discontent and anxiety.

While only one episode of Podhouse 90 exists so far, it’s so good that it ‘s among the best stuff that’s been produced this year. Written by and starring Frank Conniff – TV’s Frank from Mystery Science Theater 3000Podhouse 90 is an anthology series of radio plays. The first episode is a musical set in Oz that centers around electing a new wizard – the music is fun and the writing sharp, and it features the voice talents of Dana Gould, Dave "Gruber" Allen, and Laraine Newman among others.

As the iTunes market gluts with conversation and interview podcasts, more and more, creators are turning to scripted material: radio plays, sketches and anything else that’s not five white dudes yakking about jerking off. Actor James Urbaniak – of Hal Hartley’s Henry Fool and Professor Venture on The Venture Brothers – has entered the podcast arena this year with Getting On. Each episode is a monologue written by screenwriters and playwrights, which Urbaniak delivers as a fictionalized version of himself. Urbaniak’s an incredible actor, and each episode is weird and interesting.

Produced and hosted by Bullseye’s Jesse Thorn, International Waters is a very silly game show that pits two Americans vs. two Brits in a contest that will determine which is the better country. Mostly though, it’s just goofy, and points are handed out as much for funny answers as they are for right ones.

Every month or so at UCBLA, Paul F. Tompkins pretends to be a time traveling H.G. Wells. The concept of the show is that Wells brings different authors from the past like J.R.R. Tolkien or Dorothy Parker (played by Matt Walsh and Jen Kirkman) to the future and interviews them about their lives (which the actors mostly know about from the authors’ Wikipedia entries). This is just the basis for Tompkins and his guest to improvise though, and Tompkins is fantastic, seamlessly weaving from straight man to weird guy to always keep the improvised conversation grounded and fun.

There really isn’t much more to say about Live that hasn’t been said already. It’s one of the most honest and one of the funniest stand-up albums that exists, and it’s pretty much essential listening, especially for anyone that wants to do stand-up. I really wish every comic aspired to Tig’s level of truthfulness and humor in this, though the rarity of it is, of course, what makes this so great. Though if everyone did, open mics wouldn’t feel like quicksand. Slow, annoying, soul-eating quicksand.

By Andrew Beckerman

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