Each week, I recommend two podcasts that are worth your time, as well as plug my own podcast.
Ronna And Beverly
To me, the most impressive type of comedy is character-driven. The ability to embody a developed character and to be put in any situation and to react in character takes a special talent. Right now, there's no better example than Ronna and Beverly. Played by thirty-something actors, Ronna and Beverly are older Jewish women in their sixties living in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Elderly Jewish women? Like Linda Richman in Coffee Talk? No, not even close. Instead of relying on one-liners and your typical yenta stereotypes, Ronna and Beverly are fully developed characters with deep backstories and psyches that motivate their actions.
Ronna, a wealthy widow, is the voice of reason of the two. She enjoys the luxuries in life and makes sure she tells others how they should be living their best life. Beverly, on the other hand, is often inappropriate, drama-fueled, and often has a dark side. There are the expected idiosyncrasies of Jewish stereotypes, including their stifled racism, love for food, and obsession with telling people how to behave in relationships. As a longtime listener, I can't help but get wrapped up in the world that have created. One in which Beverly talks about her twin daughters, the beautiful one and the "heavy" one, her ex-husband, guidance counselor Aaron Ginsberg, and the drama she has with the Sisterhood of her local synagogue (their friends, known as the "Barbaras").
Each week, a comedian/director/actress is interviewed, rather, bombarded, by Ronna's drilling over how they should quit show business and get a real job, forced to talk about their sex life with Beverly. Generally, the more game the guest is to be berated by the duo, the funnier the results. It's all in good fun, except when Marc Maron shows up, for a delightfully uncomfortable episode. I look forward to the inevitable moment of each episode when Beverly turns on a guest for not supporting Israel, or uses her special power of seeing men as a unique animated inanimate object. Or Ronna's incessant use of "Isn't that funny? Isn't that cute?" as a self-congratulatory phrase.
Ronna and Beverly is more than a podcast. To me, it's a transformative experience. This is where great theater and great comedy combine. Jamie Denbo and Jessica Chafin, the women who play the characters, deserve so much more acclaim than they have. Although they do have a show that currently airs in the U.K., I hope they get more recognition in their homeland soon. And, for those of you (un)lucky enough to live in the Los Angeles area, they have a popular monthly show at the Upright Citizens Brigade.
Alison Rosen Is Your New best Friend
Most people know Alison Rosen as a segment host on the Adam Corrola podcast, which I have not listened to or ever really plan to. I became aware of Alison through other means, and she is just so damn delightful. Her show is an interview format, with mostly comedians/writers/actors, and my only complaint is that it can run a bit long (around two hours). However, that's hardly a complaint because Alison has incredible skills as an interviewer, getting the guest to open up as well as managing to share her own stories to relate, but not doing it in a Tyra Banks "let's make this about me" kind of way.
Alison is more enjoyable that most because she shares some vulnerability and insecurities, which is just generally all-around nice to hear. Like in a "hey, stars are just like me!" sort of way. Besides a free form interview, there are some regular segments like "go fuck yourself," where she reads some hate mail, and "is it just me or does everyone," where people write in about secretive habits. Ah, if only the title were the actual case IRL.