Three staffers, three unabashed recommendations.
Cameron Esposito And Rhea Butcher, Back To Back
Once (and perhaps future?) A.V. Club columnist Cameron Esposito has spent a ton of time plying her trade—being funny in various formats—over the past couple of years with her wife, Rhea Butcher. They created and starred in Take My Wife, a sitcom on the now-defunct Seeso service, and they also tour together. Back To Back documents a night of stand-up, with the duo in charming Vaudeville mode at the top of the album, joking about how they’re basically never apart (“We’ve figured out how to make bickering a marketable skill!”), and teasing each other. Then there’s a bit of solo material; Esposito finishes it up with her amazing story about her first concert experience, Celine Dion. “The stage itself was opening,” she says, in awe all these years later. It’s hilarious. [Josh Modell]
Playing Games With Jimmy Pardo podcast
Comedian Jimmy Pardo half-jokingly refers to himself as a “podcast pioneer,” but he’s earned the half that isn’t joking: His podcast, Never Not Funny, has been around since 2006, making it one of the longest-running shows out there, especially in the comedy world. It remains essential listening (pony up a few bucks for the Players Club to get an extra episode every week), but he and co-creator-producer Matt Belknap have distilled some of NNF’s charms into a new 30-minute game-show podcast, Playing Games With Jimmy Pardo. The format builds on Pardo’s strengths: his hosting skills (he has a few TV shows under his belt) and excellent banter, honed after decades of doing stand-up that’s largely crowd work. On Playing Games, a celebrity guest and three call-in contestants join Pardo, Belknap, and bandleader Mike Henry to answer trivia about pop culture and current events from the past few decades. First, the callers go head to head against each other; whoever emerges victorious competes against the celebrity guest to win a free subscription to Stitcher Premium, a comically low-stakes prize that’s treated as such. The limited-run show—just six episodes—was produced for Stitcher Premium, whose subscribers get episodes a week early. All episodes are available to everyone now and can be heard in any order; start with the episode featuring longtime friend Rich Sommer, a.k.a. Mad Men’s Harry Crane. They’re all immensely enjoyable and funny, and a nice snack-size version of what makes Never Not Funny so great. [Kyle Ryan]
The best part of any movie copying the venerable Groundhog Day formula is the bit in the middle, when the time-looped hero realizes that they’re functionally living in a video game. Bill Murray finds ever-more inventive ways to kill himself, Tom Cruise keeps getting the shit killed out of him in training, and in Happy Death Day, protagonist Tree (Jessica Rothe, who gives a great performance as a slowly unthawing asshole) starts seeing her repeating executions by a mask-clad psycho as a chance to methodically weed out suspects, and have a little fun with people along the way. If Happy Death Day hadn’t leaned into the inherent fun and freedom of that premise, it would be a real slog of a slasher flick; as is, it’s a surprisingly delightful dark comedy, even if the needless addition of a ticking clock on Tree’s not-so-endless resurrections does leech a little fun out of the proceedings in the interest of providing “stakes.” [William Hughes]