Today, one of my favorite podcasts released it’s final episode. With episode number 200, Spontaneanation from comedian host Paul F Tompkins (PFT) comes to a close.
For the past four years (since 2015), this show has been a regular “must listen” for me after their release each Monday. In the catalogue of Earwolf shows, Spontaneanation stood alone in format and content. Spontaneation is a podcast that normally involves an opening monologue from host Paul F Tompkins, introduction of musical accompaniment Eban Schletter, an interview of a special guest, followed by an improvised scene using elements of the monologue and interview segment by a collective of improvisers, and the show is closed out by plugs and promotions by everyone involved.
The following are my top ten favorite episodes of this amazing podcast. When I was deciding on this list, I thought about “which episodes were the essential episodes?”. Some episodes featured incredible interviews (listen to any of the appearances of Nathan Lee Graham) or had amazing improv segments (Summer Theater Camp), but what it came down to was which episodes were the total package of great interview along with great scene. Without discounting how amazing the other episodes were, here are my top ten episodes of Spontaneation:
10.) (TIE) Episode 63: “A Coffee Plantation in Bali” – Special Guest: Kulap Vilaysack – 6/6/2016 and Episode 164: “The Price is Right” – Special Guest Allen Maldonado – 5/14/18
9.) Episode 37: “Saltwater Tuffy Shoppe” – Special Guest: Andy Daly – 12/7/2015
Look this episode up on YouTube. This live episode was filmed in it’s entirety, and features not only a great show, but also PFT falling off the stage and Andy Daly’s memorable reaction.
8.) Episode 121: “Karaoke Night at a Small Logging Town Tavern” – Special Guest: Scott Aukermann – 7/17/2017
7.) Episode 6: “Dracula’s Bedroom” – Special Guest: Maria Thayer – 5/4/2015
6.) Episode 75: “Aquarium” – Special Guests: Sean Clements and Hayes Davenport – 8/29/2016
5.) Episode 4: “Savannah, Georgia” – Special Guest: Melanie Lynskey – 4/20/2015
This early episode set the tone for the episodes that followed. The first ten episodes are some of the best of the whole series, but this one in particular stands out as the best of that first batch. Not only was the interview charming, but the improv that followed provided the inspiration for a character that would be carried over to the Comedy Bang Bang podcast in the years to follow.
4.) Episode 36: “A Dinner Theater” – Special Guest: Ben Garant – 11/30/2015
Ben Garant gave the ideal Spontaneanation interview. It was insightful, you learned new things about the guest, he had fascinating stories, and elements of the interview provided a great framework for the improv that followed. The improv that followed was also notable as it had some of the most improvised music in a single episode.
3.) Episode 30: “Vent Haven Ventriloquist Museum” – Special Guest: Laraine Newman – 10/19/2015
Not only was a Laraine Newman a great interview guest, but this had to be one of the funniest improv narratives I’ve ever heard. Jeremy Carter and Marc Evan Jackson provide some of the most memorable single lines in the podcast’s history, and Maria Balssucci’s absent minded young character provided awesome opportunities for improv for the rest of the group. Easily the best improv segment of the series.
2.) Episode 99: “Ice Cream Parlor” – Special Guest: Craig Cackowski – 2/13/2017
Craig Cackowski pulls double duty in this episode as both the interview guest as well as the one man improv cast (alongside PFT). As a podcast regular and friend of PFT, the chemistry between Cackowski and PFT is palpable. The interview was fun, and the improv about a retired baseball player at the ice cream parlor was wildly entertaining.
1.) Episode 18: “A Theme Park Break Room” – Special Guest: Raphael Bob-Waksberg – 7/27/2015
If there was any must hear episode of the Spontaneanation podcast, this is the one. Raphael Bob-Waksberg is a great interviewee whose stories are perfect for this show. The improv that ensues is hilarious. Who knew the idea of a break room for costume characters and ride operators at a theme park could provide such a perfect back drop for an improv scene?
Spontaneanation has to be one the greatest improvised podcasts in the past 5 years. The interviews provided were memorable and also framed guests in ways we would probably never hear otherwise. For a show where spontaneity reigned, PFT provided an atmosphere where performers interacted as friends. Whether you were Lavar Burton, Karthik Nemani, or Nicole Parker, the show was eclectic and had a feeling of normalcy within it’s randomness. In the end, I think the only thing that can sum up the 200 episodes of this amazing show is the show’s central catchphrase, “Semper en Presente”.
Thank you, Paul F Tompkins.