Guardian article about podcasts

The Podfathers (and mothers): top 10 comedy podcasts

Podcasts give comedians the freedom to improvise and let rip. Hazel Davis picks out the best one

* Hazel Davis
*, Wednesday 23 June 2010 14.06 BST
* Article history

It's all well and good watching a comedian testing their mettle in the live arena, but modern comedy fans want to hear what they're like at play as well. A podcast provides an opportunity for comics to improvise, stretch out and indulge themselves in a way they wouldn't be able to on stage, radio or TV. Ricky Gervais and Collins and Herring paved the way for funny podcasts, but now all comedians seem to be at it. Here are 10 of the best:

Ray Peacock and Ed Gamble

From the concertina opening music to Gamble's unfettered roars of laughter, the Ray Peacock and Ed Gamble podcast is a real chance to listen to comedians riffing. The pair apparently record for hours and hours, edited down to 35 minutes of pure gold. They even have their very own Karl Pilkington in former EastEnders actor Raji James.

Highlight: "I think I've been playing Top Trumps wrong … Is it always the highest is best? What about if it's Aids?"

Carl Donnelly and Chris Martin

One of the most engaging and bendy-minded comics on the circuit, Londoner Carl Donnelly and his sidekick standup Chris Martin talk rubbish for 30 minutes. It's directionless, lacking in theme and immature (subjects include taking a bet on whether you can get burned through glass and doing a gig in your pants if you lose). The quality is frustratingly tinny – but it's one of the funniest podcasts out there.

Highlight: "I had a hamster called Horace but I found out he was girl so had to call him Doris. She was living a lie. She was the first ever pre-op transsexual hamster."

News with jokes

The chance to hear three of the circuit's best comedians batting gags about in the comfort of their own homes. Sipping tea and eating biscuits, Midlands comics James Cook, Gary Delaney and Andy White talk computer repair shops, Swiss commandoes and Maxine Carr.

Highlight: "Anton du Beke. That's just a fancy way of saying Ant and Dec."

The Bugle – Zaltzman and Oliver

It's a shame this Times product is disappearing behind a paywall, because it's good. The Bugle ("an audio newspaper for a visual world") is a satirical news podcast recorded weekly and hosted by political comics John Oliver (in New York) and Andy Zaltzman (in London). Whether it's telling two-and-a-half-thousand-year-old jokes or laughing at Mitt Romney, it's always funny and always relevant.

Highlight: "Was Stonehenge an ancient tax dodge?"

Phil Butler's Green Room

For the comedy fan, the Green Room is something to behold. Recorded backstage at various venues on the UK comedy circuit, it's a rare insight into the life of a standup. Featuring everyone from Jimmy Carr to Michael Legge, the podcasts benefit from Butler's likable manner and genuine affection for his fellow comics.

Highlight: Duncan Oakley singing Big Bush Woman

Robin Ince's Utter Shambles

Essentially Robin Ince chatting to his mates, the six-part Utter Shambles is one of the more amiable entries in the comedy podcast canon. With guests such as Barry Cryer, Stephen Merchant and Chris Addison, it's gentle, intelligent late-night chat for a certain type of comedy fan.

Highlight: Barry Cryer: "A young comedian wrote to me years ago saying 'I think I've got the material. Can you write me a style?'"

Robin Ince: "And what does Ben Elton do now?"

Nick Doody and Rob Heeney – Doubling Up

Worth a listen if just for Nick Doody's revival of his embarrassing student Bill Hicks interview (in which he declines Hicks's offer to come and support him), Doubling Up sees Yorkshireman Nick Doody and Manx Rob Heeney chewing the fat with their circuit mates and even family members. Great chemistry and better craic.

Highlight: Nick Doody: "I actually answer my spam. It doesn't always work but all my penises are massive."

Richard Herring – As it Occurs to Me

Recorded live in front of an audience and distributed for nothing, As it Occurs to Me is "Podfather" Richard Herring's best wheeze. It's him at his best – uncensored – and it's completely free as he charged the punters a tenner a pop when it was recorded at the Leicester Square Theatre in London.

Highlight: "I have managed to travel through time like Marty McFly but without the embarrassment of my mum trying to have sex with me ..."

John Bishop's Alphabet Soup

Technically the podcast of Bishop's popular CityTalk 105.9 radio show, it's still a great chance to hear the Scouse standup's best and most pointless musings.

Highlight: "What will happen to the company who make orange jumpsuits now Guantánamo Bay has closed down?"

Marsha meets ...

Immaculately researched and with the eagerness of a genuine comedy geek, XFM DJ Marsha Shandur talks to her comedy idols in a series of 10 podcasts featuring Milton Jones, Richard Herring and Stewart Lee, among others.

Highlight: Lucy Porter: "One of the most important things about standup is the song you play at the end. No matter how bad you've been, if you play a good song they leave in a good mood."