#StickToSports: My Five Favorite Podcasts

Mike Lawrie

You know, as much as I love writing about the Syracuse Orange, sometimes I want to write about other stuff. This week, it's about my favorite podcasts.

You know, as much as I love writing about the Syracuse Orange, sometimes I want to write about other stuff. Movies. Pop culture. News stories. A stupid conversation I overheard at the coffee shop. Whatever it is, this Friday column is my place for it. Don't like it? Want me to "stick to sports?" Tough noogies.

While the TNIAAM Podcast has been a spotty work at-best (at least until recently), I've become a big lover of podcasts. I think what makes it hard for me to commit to doing podcasts is because I see what makes the ones I love work (everyone in the room together, focus on comedy, big characters), and realize I can't do that right now and get discouraged.

But, I digress. I admit I was late to the whole listening-to-podcasts game. For a long time all I wanted on my iPod was music. And then I finally broke down and decided to download a couple podcasts. I believe I started with WTF and then discovered Earwolf and I was hooked.

Whats great about the podcast "scene" is that its so incestuous. So many of the guests work the podcast circuit and so if you like a specific guest, like James Adomian, you can start to follow him onto other podcasts and discover new shows you had no idea were out there.

And seriously, if James Adomian is appearing on a podcast, it's required listening.

So while I can't admit to being a connoisseur of all the podcasts out there, I have developed a small but serious addiction to various ones that now dominate my iPod. Whether I'm going for a run, taking the bus or just sitting in the coffee shop working, chances are I'm listening to one of these programs (and skimming past yet another Bonobos ad...).

Honorable Mention

WTF with Marc Maron - Considered the gold standard of comedy podcasts, it's a really good place to start. The Patrice O'Neal episode is the stuff of legends.

Nerdist - Chris Hardwick is the Letterman/Leno of the comedy podcast world. A good mix of A-list guests (Tom Hanks) with good comedians and unique folks (Mel Brooks). Hardwick is very polished as a host, which can be good and can be meh.

The Art of Wrestling - I don't actually watch pro wrestling but I'm still invested in it. I haven't listened to any others but I'm reasonably confident Colt Cabana hosts the best wrestling podcast around. Lots of guests from today and day's past with tons of stories about the biz.

The Top 5

5. You Made It Weird - If you've got the stamina to listen to a 2-hour show, this one-on-one format is usually one of the more informative and illuminating shows out there. It's always two comedians talking but they're always talking about way more than just comedy. Host Pete Holmes is extremely likable, especially once you accept that his larger-than-life laugh is never going away, and even if you don't agree with his beliefs, he seems to be cool with everyone else's. No matter who's on the show, expect the discussion to veer from comedy to religion to families to society and right back around again.

Fave Episode: Paul Scheer, in which Scheer lets down his "hair" as he and Holmes have an earnest, real conversation about...everything. Like I said, it's two comedians but it's not all about the comedy.

4. NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour - I'm an elitist Jew liberal, you just KNEW that an NPR podcast was going to end up on here. Not punchy or shocking, it's just a consistently entertaining and funny take on whatever's going on that week. Usually they discuss a major show or movie that's making noise before segueing into a big picture discussion about pop culture at-large.

Fave Episode: I've only started listening recently so their recent discussion about Downton Abbey is the one that caught my attention. Don't worry, they don't spoil anything if you haven't watched the whole season yet, but they provide some good insight into what makes the show work (and not work).

3. Comedy Bang Bang - It's a little cliche but there's a reason this is routinely near the top of everyone's podcast list. Great guests, great host (Scott Aukerman, whom I can never not picture as the guy from the Mr. Show Taint sketch) and a treasure trove of characters. Come for the funny interviews, stay for the ridiculous appearances by Jesse Ventura, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Huell Howser and more (not actually them).

Fave Episode: My favorite overall episode has to be Out Of Bleeps, featuring Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas and "shock jock Tom Leykis." It's a perfect storm of everything great about the show. My favorite all-time bit has to be Brett Gelman's "iBrain" story from And A Happy New Year! What starts as a cautionary tale about technology turns into...something else. Headphones up on that one.

2. Sklarbro Country/County - Is it uncool to like the Sklars? Seems like it'd be uncool. Whatever. Since my No. 1 choice only pops up once a week and this one is usually good for 2-3 episodes a week, this is the most likely one I'm listening to. The guests are almost always funny and the Sklars bring a really great balance of hosting & making jokes of their own. The difference between the two shows is that Sklarbro Country is usually more interviewy while Sklarbro County brings in Dan Van Kirk to share ridiculous stories of the day while everyone then takes turn riffing. Frequent appearances by "Mark Wahlberg," "Jesse Ventura," and more.

Fave Episode: Sklarbro County 20 feat. Mike Schmidt, which introduces us to "buttchugging," meat sandwich assault and the most dangerous pet store in Albuquerque. It's quintessential County and if you like this one, you'll like plenty more.

1. How Did This Get Made? - A bunch of people sitting around making fun of a movie has been done to death but this is the gold standard of how-to. Plus, it's the perfect mix of people to do it. Paul Scheer hosts and keeps the insults moving along. Jason Mantzoukas is the MVP, with more funny (usually angry) thoughts per minute than anyone. And June Diane Raphael tries her damnedest to find the art hidden beneath garbage like Sleepaway Camp and Twilight. Even if you've never seen the movie they're discussing, it's worth it to hear the horror stories. And in a weird way, you usually end up wanting to watch the terrible movie they're destroying afterward just to witness the carnage.

Fave Episode: Episode 47 - Super Mario Bros is a great place to start. A movie this ridiculous and off-the-tracks provides everyone with a treasure trove of material to work with, and goodness do they. It's a live episode, which is rare, but the live energy seems to enhance the laughs. Another great one is their breakdown on The Love Guru with guest Matt Walsh.

Of course, there are SO MANY podcasts out there it's hard to feel like you aren't missing out on 20 amazing ones. If you've got one to share, please do so below. I've got plenty of space left on my iPod.

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