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Listen Up: The 20 Best Comedy Podcasts Right Now

Laugh it up with the Internet’s funniest interview shows and stand-up comic showcases

20 best comedy podcasts

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Even in 2014, the podcast universe is in constant expansion. While the ears of many early adopters are full — they've chosen favorites, hunkered down and given themselves names like "blastronaut" — many more would-be subscribers are still searching for something to suit their particular brand of fandom.

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The best shows are those capitalizing on brands established early on, true, but there are others making their mark by toying with traditional talk-show formats, old-timey radio plays and rant-filled monologues. And as the popularity of podcasts grow, many producers find a helpful give-and-take between cloistered recordings made on a laptop at the kitchen table and big, live events in front of packed theaters. There are favorites here — each one accessible to the casual listener, sans glossary — but this list is also a glimpse at the podcast future. Listen up. By Matthew Love

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4. ‘Thrilling Adventure Hour’

Where many podcasts might be described as hastily assembled, rudderless fishing pontoons, Thrilling Adventure Hour is a showboat: Opulent, unhurried and delivering passengers to their destination in style. Ben Acker and Ben Blacker's tongue-in-cheek tribute to the bygone days of radio drama boasts witty wordplay, characters with names such as Sparks Nevada, occasional foley artistry and interstitial spoofs of classic advertising. The show continues to foster guests and regular partners-in-crime like Paul F. Tompkins and Paget Brewster —who trade Algonquin-era bon mots as effete, drunken mediums Frank and Sadie Doyle — that share a similar sense of showmanship.

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3. ‘The Bugle’

Former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver and U.K. touring stand-up Andy Zaltzman's satirical "audio newspaper" may have the best combination of sharp writing and improvised turns of phrase in any podcast. Not only knowledgeable about the issues — elections in India, Syrian refugees or whatever is most exasperating in the news — but incisive in its analysis, the show combines Zaltzman's understated yet intricate wordplay with Oliver's incredulous rants. This news digest dismantles politicians, yes, but lest a potential downloader imagine it's all righteous bombast, the duo is not above the occasional odd item, such as the recently reported discovery of Napoleon's penis in New Jersey.

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2. ‘Comedy Bang! Bang!’

With nearly 300 episodes and a TV spin-off running on IFC, there's no question that the quirky formula of Comedy Bang! Bang! — which interviews comic celebrities alongside peers who play big, goofy characters or do longwinded impressions — is one that works. Thankfully, even with host Scott Aukerman's undoubtedly busy schedule, the podcast's relish for absurd premises and bold performances has not flagged. As always, the former Mr. Show writer giddily plays the ringmaster, directing attention to his collection of oddballs including Seth Morris' allergy-prone Bob Ducca or Jessica St. Clair's 15-year-old intern Marissa Wompler, giving each their time under the spotlight while inviting in just the right amount of chaos.

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1. ‘WTF With Marc Maron’

WTF interlocutor Marc Maron is many things to many people: A confessor who won't balk at tales of excess or self-destruction; a bitter but persistent stand-up with whom many other comics have shared bills and breakdowns; and an alt-God who leveraged his podcast's popularity into industry success. Wrestling with and cackling at his own neuroses some 500 episodes in, Maron helps old friends, artists he's eager to learn more about about — Stephen Malkmus, Tool's Maynard James Keenan — and living comedy legends like Mel Brooks to do the same. Whether digging in the dirt or allowing subjects room to reveal themselves, Maron innately knows how to move a conversation along better than anyone else, and when getting a laugh might just get listeners closer to the truth.