Improv Comedy Podcasts

Improv is a great oral tradition and lots of amazing thoughts, ideas and approaches have been passed down through the years. One of the great things about the modern era is that podcasts are capturing the musings of improv legends past and present. Here are a couple of my favourites.

Improv Nerd

If Jimmy Carrene’s self esteem wasn’t so low he could easily call this podcast “Legend talking to legends doing legendary scenes”. Humble to the point of not having a Wikipedia page, Jimmy Carrene studied with Del and was involved with the foundation of the Annoyance theatre. One of the masters of slow comedy and co-author of the great Improvising Better
Improv Nerd is great chance to hear lots of amazing improvisers (primarily in Chicago) talk about what drew them to improv, espouse ideas and discuss how they developed. What makes Improv Nerd special is that they will then do scenes and then discuss how those scenes went. Dave Razowsky’s interview quickly turns from being an interview into a lecture on the beauty of Chicago-style long form.

Key episodes

  • Dave Razowsky – “The actor wants you to sit down. The character wants you to stand.”
  • Tim Meadows – Amazing vulnerability from the SNL and Grime & Punishment veteran
  • Susan Messing – Susan is a mantra generating machine.
  • Matt Besser – “Everyone is good? Really? What about that guy?”
  • Bill Arnett – “Improv isn’t chess … it’s battleships”
  • TJ Jagodowski – of TJ and Dave fame
  • Dave Pasquesi – of TJ and Dave fame
    And there are also great episodes from Brian Stack, Andy St.Clair, John Lutz, Craig Cackowski, Horatio Sanz, Cook County Social Club, and my iO teacher Lyndsay Hailey. And many more.

Out on Feral Audio

Long-form Conversations

Will Hines and John Frusciante of the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre talk to vets of the New York improv scene. There are a tonne of references to great Harold teams of yesteryear (Fwand, 1985, Mother, MoneyDick or Respecto Montalbon), but also lots of chats with current UCB teachers and performers.

The show’s second season is easy to find, but the amazing first season disappeared from the internet. Fortunately Steve Perlstein of ImprovObsession hosts a link on his Google Drive.

Key Episodes

  • Achilles Stamatelaky – Super technical episode with a pattern game, initiations, heightening, second beats.
  • Don Fanelli – Handsome and hilarious, Don breaks down his approach to character
  • Abra Tabak – Abra taught me, is the best person in the world and is coming to London in January
  • Matt Besser – Matt discusses what he hopes to achieve with the UCB Comedy Improvisation Manuel (less corny improv)
  • Season One has some great chats with Zach Woods, Billy Merrit, Chris Gethard, John Lutz (who has blow my mind on 3 separate occassions), John Gemberling, Shannon O’Neil and … well it’s worth hunting down. And by hunting I mean hitting this link.

Longform Conversations

Improv Obsession

LA based improv podcast where Steve Perlstein (who is just a dude in some improv classes) talks to all his teachers, performers he likes and anyone who will spare him an hour. This is one of the most technical improv podcasts out there and great for 60 minutes of pure notes. It’s very LA-centric to the point where there’s a whole episode with Neil Campbell on the mechanics of Harold Team auditions but LA has lured some of the finest teachers from New York and Chicago so that’s no bad thing. And most of the guests are really excited to be on the show to unashamedly nerd out on a thing they love, and really get into forms, initiations and styles of play in a really honest way. There’s also a great “pearls of wisdom” section at the end where teacher share great notes they’ve been given in class.

Key Episodes

  • Ian Roberts – One of the UCB 4, Ian basically gives an hour long workshop on premise improv and how to find the game organically via his “flashing” exercise. One of my favourites.
  • Alex Berg – One third of cage match stars Convoy, and current artistic director of UCB LA, Berg breaks down how Convoy’s fast-paced style developed, talks about character and covers his great “dragon” note.
  • Billy Merritt – Great advice from one of the senior UCB-LA teachers and a deep discussions about forms. “Suggestion is opening. Opening is form. Form is not form”.
  • DC Pierson – More from a Shitty Jobs performer, breaking down why they play so weird and lots of rants about creativity in improv.
  • Dominic Dierkes – A wonderful breakdown of the craziness of his team Shitty Jobs and how they push themselves.
  • Alex Fernie – Great for so many reasons, with an honest discussion of Cage Matches, how Convoy play, playing with specifics, and what “top of your intelligence” means.

Improv Obsession

Improv4Humans

Matt Besser from legendary improv team The Family and one of the UCB4 hosts “the best podcast in the universe”. There’s very little discussion in regular episodes, instead there’s a modified Asssscat, where various performers pop in and do premise-based improv scenes inspired by short stories from the cast, YouTube videos, or events in the news. They also try to serious get into things that are bothering them, debate topics and get into scenes from there. But there’s also a great episode from the Del Close Marathon where Matt records a class with some NYC Harold performers and breaks down how he approaches “heightening” as pitching a sketch, rather than attempting to be “better”. And the Ask The UCB episodes look into some of the history of the theatre and the controversy around their finances. But the shows are great just to hear Besser, Tim Meadows, Lauren Lapkus, Sean Conroy, Betsy Sodaro or Andy Daly play around. You even get Adam Mckay on episodes.

Key Episodes

  • #19.5 – Tim Tebow Bonus Episode (Chad Carter, Sean Conroy)- Matt’s a huge sports fan and Tim Tebow’s signing and faith leads to some fun scenes with Chad Carter and Sean Conroy in this bonus episode.
  • #59 Gun Control – Recorded on the day of some school shootings Matt, Paul Rust and Dominic Dierkes discuss the tragedy … and then do some scenes
  • Live from the Del Close Marathon #3 – Highlights from a workshop with Matt Besser
  • Ask the UCB #3 – Matt discusses “selfish” improv and his contempt for short form
  • #85 – Animal Lovers – Matt Walsh, Paul Rust, and John Gemberling have fun with Tom Petty and Gemberling’s views on beastiality “why’s it ok to eat a chicken but wrong to fuck it?”
  • #29 No Joking Around – Chris Gethard and Adam McKay (also of the Family) get incredibly cinematic.

On Earwolf

Comedy Bang! Bang!

Improvised but not classic textbook improv. In many ways bad if not worse improv than the legendarily sloppy improv of Asssscat. Bang!Bang! is filled with blocking, negation, anti-comedy and other things that wouldn’t fly on stage. But has brought more joy to my life than most audio comedy. And it’s 100% the reason I improvise. So there.

Key Episodes

I can’t begin to list them but episodes with Jason Manzoukas, Andy Daly, Paul.F.Tompkins, John Daly, Lauren Lapkus and Jessica St.Clair have been great. And one of my all time favourite episodes goes by the title Farts and Procreation.

Also on Earwolf

Make Yourself Comfy

Lots of fun with the NYC folks and aforementioned delightful superstar in waiting Abra Tabak. Filled with great performers from all over New York like Shannon O’Neill, Neil Casey, D’Arcy Carden and Will Hines and with a charming theatre of the mind quality.

Get comfortable

There are many, many more – SuperEgo jumps to mind as does The Dead Author’s podcast. You could share your favourites in the comments. Or start a UK one. I have a microphone.

Posted on November 25, 2013 in Improv Tips

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