4 Podcasts to Inspire and Entertain You [Backstage]
For these performers, taking their careers into their own hands was as simple as “Testing, 1, 2, 3...”
“Denzel Washington Is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period”
They say the formula to success on the Internet is specificity. If you couldn’t tell by the title, W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery—comedians, hosts, and co-creators of “DWITGAOATP”—have that part down. But what makes their podcast stand out goes beyond niche. Bell and Avery have made it their mission to mark, with unabashed adoration, all of the reasons Denzel Washington lives up to their appellation, and in the process manage to marry equally humorous and grounded observations about the craft of acting, Hollywood, and the state of film and television for actors of (and not of) color.
Over the course of 80 episodes thus far, our hosts discuss every Washington movie ever made, alongside Spike Lee, Ava DuVernay, David Alan Grier, Michael Rapaport, and many others. Some guests share anecdotes about encounters with the man (Grier hilariously talks about meeting him while he was preparing to shoot Lee’s “Malcolm X,” and recalls how the award-winning actor refused to break character despite being on another film’s set), while others discuss their own careers—and, obviously, “Mo’ Better Blues,” “Training Day,” and “Man on Fire.” (Everyone is made to rank their favorite Washington performances and explain their reasoning.)
Consistently funny and always poignant, get to listening and you’ll be hashtagging #Denzealots before finishing the first episode. —Briana Rodriguez
“How Did This Get Made?”
Hosted by Paul Scheer (“The League”), June Diane Raphael (“Grace and Frankie”), and Jason Mantzoukas (“Sleeping With Other People”)—plus a who’s who of comedic guests including Nick Kroll, Chelsea Peretti, and Scott Aukerman—“How Did This Get Made?” has established itself as one of the funniest podcasts around. And it just happens to be great for actors!
The biweekly series from the Earwolf network incisively breaks down some of Hollywood’s greatest mysteries, posing its titular question about history’s finest filmic flops (“The Adventures of Pluto Nash”) and cult classics (“The Room”) alike. It stands out from the masses of fellow movie podcasts thanks to the seamless, hysterical, and impassioned banter between its hosts. Scheer and Raphael, for one, are married, so you know their comedic chemistry is on point. And because they’re all creatives both in front of and behind the camera, this trio knows a thing or two about the industry’s ins and outs, often choosing films that calculatedly aimed for blockbuster success (but missed miserably) and discussing them with as much insight as humor. “The Last Airbender,” “Spider-Man 3,” and “The Boy Next Door” are all here, and they’re all cut down with a sharp tongue and keen eye. Actors take note: You may learn a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t, both in filmmaking and in comedy! —Benjamin Lindsay
“With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus”
Perhaps best known as Susan Fischer, one of the more lenient correctional officers from “Orange Is the New Black,” Lauren Lapkus has had her share of onscreen roles. She’s brought her quirk to everything from “Are You There, Chelsea?” to the short-lived TBS sitcom “Clipped,” but make no mistake: It’s in the podcast world where Lapkus truly shines. The performer started in 2012, making appearances on Earwolf’s “Comedy Bang! Bang!” and “improv4humans,” with Upright Citizens Brigade founding member Matt Besser. Two years later, the network approached Lapkus with a two-year contract to host her own show.
On “With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus,” her guests (who have included everyone from Ben Schwartz to Nick Kroll) play the hosts, while Lapkus plays a character being interviewed. Need a good intro episode? Try the classic “A Lil’ Dab’ll Do Ya,” wherein Scott Aukerman plays 96-year-old caricaturist Dabney Coleperson and Lapkus is Regina Crimp, the fictional composer of the “America’s Funniest Home Videos” theme song. The two chat about Regina’s struggles as an artist. Sound relatable, actors? You’ll listen, you’ll laugh, you’ll queue up 20 more episodes. —Rebecca Strassberg
“Here’s the Thing With Alec Baldwin”
Listening to Alec Baldwin interview artists, leaders, and fellow performers on this WNYC podcast series, it becomes clear how he’s attained his level of success. The award-winning actor is passionate about art that matters and is as warmly personable as the best radio hosts. But it’s his ability to listen that truly sets him apart. The way he asks just the right questions to both showcase his guests’ brilliance and get them to open up about their personal and professional lives—and then humbly lets them steer the interview—illustrates what it must be like to share a screen or stage with Baldwin.
The connection he shares with his interviewees is especially apparent in “Here’s the Thing” episodes featuring actors (and friends) such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Julianne Moore, and, of course, Baldwin’s “30 Rock” mother, the late Elaine Stritch. The tone in his baritone voice is reverential, even worshipful, as he asks for details about their craft and actorly beginnings. If you’re looking for a podcast that delivers insights into the careers of the entertainment industry’s finest in the most beautifully intimate ways, let Baldwin be your guide. —Jack Smart