In Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends 10–15 of the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at email@example.com.
The Betrayer Of The Patriarchy: Anil Dash
This week on Another Round, Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton review Macklemore’s new song “White Privilege II.” The track title sends Nigatu into a fit of giggles before they can start talking about it. The hosts agree that they don’t really care about the song because it isn’t for them—they don’t need a white rapper to teach them about white privilege—and it is nine minutes long for no reason. Nigatu has a childhood tale on deck for the segment “What Had Happened Was” about the time she broke her head open in third grade—a traumatic story that both she and her sister remember very clearly but her mother doesn’t remember. And they interview “OG Internet Dude” Anil Dash—cofounder of MakerBase, the IMBD for apps, and tech industry activist—about watching Master Of None with his Indian immigrant parents, traveling while brown, Dash’s regular encounters with TSA, why all the money from Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie should have gone to Indian people, and how Dash proposed to his wife with a mango—a story that is just a little too adorable for Clayton. “This is disgusting. You are so gross,” she replies in mock disgust.
Death, Sex & Money
Why Jeb Corliss Jumps Off Cliffs
Anna Sale interviews professional BASE jumper and wing-suit flier Jeb Corliss, who developed an interest in BASE jumping when he was a teenager. Finding a life purpose in the extreme sport was what saved him from a suicidal depression. The irony is that now he risks his life every time he jumps; six well-known athletes died in wing-suit accidents just last year. He’s lost many close friends to jumping accidents. Corliss has jumped from the Eiffel Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, and off a waterfall in South Africa, where he nearly died after slamming into a rock and breaking both his legs. Confronting death on a regular basis has made Corliss extremely logical about things that normally stir up a lot of strong emotions—like fear, dying, and romantic relationships. He tells Sale about the time he got “catfished”—he fell in love with someone on the internet who lied about their identity—and says he loves that catfish more than he’s ever loved any real person, because it taught him how to better handle his emotions. “I think feelings are an archaic way of dealing with things. I think dogs work on pure feeling.”
One Week To Iowa: 1/25/16
As the body politic prepares to press full force into the dank and pungent core of the electoral season, FiveThirtyEight offers up a new weekly source of aural stat porn for polling-obsessed nerds. In the official inaugural episode of the election-specific website (there have been a number of “pilot” episodes released into the data website’s What’s The Point podcast feed), rock star statistician Nate Silver and his staff of joyful number crunchers take a hard look at the Iowa polls just ahead of the state’s caucuses and compare them to where they stood in presidential contests past. Can a surging Donald Trump overcome Ted Cruz’s meticulously managed ground game? What would it mean for Bernie Sanders’ campaign if it gets edged out by Hillary Clinton in the heavily white and liberal Democratic voting bloc? What if he’s more than edged out? It’s all dealt with in a surprisingly buoyant crowded table patter that is at once conversational and explanatory. This will likely be a must-listen resource for a great many people who can’t help but analyze the stats on FiveThirtyEight multiple times during the day.
Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast
Gilbert Gottfried has so much hiding beneath his public perception that it really is something to behold. For many, Gottfried is a performer intractably linked to his work in broad comedy and cartoon voice-over. Such is the treat of podcasting then that it grants listeners a window into Gottfried’s brain, a place riddled with obscure facts and anecdotes about old Hollywood. This week, Gottfried and podcast co-host Frank Santopadre—himself an equally fascinating storehouse of showbiz knowledge—welcome none other than George Takei onto the show for a wide-ranging and rollicking interview covering everything from Shakespeare to Donald Trump. Takei is in wonderful spirits, speaking with great candor about his tetchy history with William Shatner on the set of Star Trek and beyond. What makes the interview such a vital listen are the tales that Takei tells about experiences as a young actor and the necessity for greater diversity in film and television. The entire affair is brimming with hilarity as well. At one point Takei mentions how Gottfried is a dead ringer for his late Uncle Susumu, which later leads Gottfried to make Takei perform Shylock’s “Hath not a Jew eyes?” soliloquy from The Merchant Of Venice to even the score.
The Great Debates
The Weatherman Has The Easiest Job On A News Team
There is much to love about The Great Debates, the freewheeling, comic podcast from the wild minds of hosts Steve Hely, Dave King, and Dan Medina. The premise is deceptive in its simplicity. Hely and King participate in a series of off-the-cuff debates over topics posed by moderator Medina without a modicum of seriousness. The brilliance of the show comes in the way Hely and King—both talented television writers for programs ranging from Parks And Recreation to Late Night With David Letterman—attack their chosen argument, whether for or against, despite having no real investment in the argument. This week’s topics concern whether Earth is simply too small, as well as the degree of difficulty inherent with performing the duties of a television weatherperson. The resulting positions held are often completely ludicrous, such as Hely’s argument that standing is among the hardest things to do in television. Between debates the hosts cover several topics, including whether actors having big heads indicate their use of human growth hormone. One of the best things comes when the three discuss how the show’s Donald Trump inspired hats, which read “Make America Debate Again,” have the unintended effect of being mistaken for actual Trump merchandise.
Guys We Fucked
When was the first time you fell in love?: Amber Rose
After having endured the ravages of winter Storm Jonas, as well as a terribly timed urinary tract infection, Guys We Fucked co-hosts Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson still were able to snag a fantastic guest for this week’s episode of their wonderful, ribald podcast. The pair traveled to Los Angeles to sit down at the home of the multifaceted model, actor, author, and designer Amber Rose to talk about her interesting path to stardom as well as how she is using her celebrity to affect positive change. Rose has long been a proponent of sex-positivity and the act of reclaiming the word “slut” as a way of owning female sexuality in a world which seeks to reduce such agency. The conversation that Fisher and Hutchinson have with Rose is great simply for being, especially given that for all the press attention paid to her, Rose is scarcely given the platform to voice her story. The discussion is frank and fun, with Rose’s level of openness regarding her sexual agency being very refreshing to hear from a celebrity. In all, the episode is a worthwhile listen for many reasons, especially in light of the events of the past week.
Chris Gethard, Our Close Friend
Hollywood Handbook is no stranger to the bizarre, but never before has the show gone quite as dark and strange as this one. Chris Gethard joins Hayes Davenport (and briefly Sean Clements over the phone) to finally “dispel the rumors” and “pull back the curtain” on the mysterious happenings behind the “extremely successful” Comedy Central show, Big Lake, which Davenport wrote for and Gethard starred in. Of course, in real life, the show is hardly famous at all, which makes their ramblings about the rabid fan community all the better. They make fun of themselves and the show by pointing out the standard devices and jokes in Big Lake and venerate them as groundbreaking. They handle the topic with so much faux sensitivity and gravity that it almost feels like a real Marc Maron-like interview until things escalate. Gethard and Davenport recount the story of how Gethard’s character, Josh Franklin, began to take over his body and mind, declaring, “Josh shall dominate.” The two work well together, as Davenport sets up ridiculous stories about Josh, and Gethard expands and justifies them with the utmost seriousness, recalling, “Every night, if I wanted to sleep I needed to look into a mirror and ask Josh permission to sleep.” By the end of the show, the drama is heightened in such a way that the only thing to do is laugh.
While it may seem that the headlines borne from Glenn Thrush’s Oval Office interview with the president (“President Obama Says Republicans Have Gotten ‘Meaner’,” “President Obama Just Put A Thumb On The Scale For Hillary Over Bernie”) is all one needs to know about that conversation, that’s kind of a misreading of the situation. Yes, those headlines are technically correct, but they were taken from lesser moments in this 40-minute conversation. As the Politico reporter touches upon during the episode’s intro (recorded immediately after he was led out of the office), this is a remarkably relaxed, almost whimsical Obama staring at the snow falling gently onto the White House’s rose garden while thinking back fondly of the many long and tiring days he spent campaigning in Iowa eight years ago. He may have had some political agendas, as many have suggested, in granting Thrush the chance to question him, but he’s a well-practiced enough politician that any such intentions fail to come through as the defining features of the interview. Anyone who opts against listening to this because they read an account elsewhere should reconsider.
Podcasts Are Wonderful
Hello, From The Magic Tavern #1
Podcasts Are Wonderful is a podcast where Greggy Hockstetler and his 11-year old-son, Alex (who plays different top-tier comedians), talk about other podcasts. It’s hard not to smile while listening to this show. Alex’s giggles are downright contagious, and it’s not just because he’s a kid on a podcast, which is already a great (yet risky) idea. It’s that he’s genuinely funny and strangely compelling. In this short yet perfect episode, Alex plays the roast master general, Jeff Ross. Hockstetler knows exactly how get the best out of him, like when he asks Alex if he (Jeff Ross) has writers for his roasts, to which Alex responds promptly, “No, it’s all improv, baby.” Though the episode is meant to focus on the pilot of the podcast Hello, From The Magic Tavern, that discussion is cut short because the two are having too much fun roasting each other and discussing Jeff Ross’ platform for running for president. Alex endlessly roasts his father with gold like, “I’m not a baby, I’m a full-grown man. You on the other hand—full-grown baby,” whispering after every jab, “roasted.” Like most children, he is unfiltered and uncontrollable, but he is also smart enough to recognize a comedic game when he sees one, easily mastering what adult improvisers take years to learn. The dynamic between the two is equal parts adorable and hilarious, and Alex’s commitment to his role only exemplifies the genius of the concept.
Porn Minus Porn
Porn Minus Porn is exactly what you’d think it is. It’s a live recording of a show in Chicago’s Under The Gun theater where actors cold read real life porn scripts, without the sex. This episode’s script comes from Cinemax’s soft-core series Life On Top, which centers on a nerdy college graduate, Sophie, who moves to New York where her sister Bella lives. Bella is secretly an erotic model, of course. The script is, as one would expect, ridiculous. What makes it incredibly funny is that, though no one is watching the show for the plot and dialogue, it truly does feel like the writers are trying their hardest to make it clever, and nothing is funnier than bad jokes. The actors who read the script are brilliant in their delivery, playing it straight and highlighting how absurd and abrupt the placement of sex scenes are in the show. The script tries so hard to make Sophie seem extremely intelligent, while Bella delivers gems like, “My sister’s in my apartment and I know she’s snooping around, just like Sherlock Holmes” a declaration that pays off when Sophie finds Bella’s dildo in a chest, to which the script reads, “Bella was right, Sophie is just like Sherlock Holmes.” It’s an extremely fun listen with a surprising cliffhanger ending.
Kanye, Shut Your Black Ass Up
As the title of this week’s episode of The Read makes clear, Crissle and Kid Fury have a lot to say to Kanye West after his Twitter-shots-heard-round-the-world directed at Wiz Khalifa and his ex Amber Rose. But there are a lot of other shenanigans to cover first. The hosts have a lot of questions for B.O.B, who recently claimed the Earth is flat and started a feud with Neil DeGrasse Tyson (“Did you even watch Cosmos?”) and whoever made the decision to hire a white actor to play Michael Jackson in a new British TV show. After advising a listener with homophobic relatives, they use the second half of the show to dissect every word that led to Amber Rose’s now-legendary #FingersInTheBootyAssBitch tweet, and both Kid Fury and Crissle are firmly in Rose’s camp. They agree her hashtag was problematic and homophobic, but also declare the shade was well-deserved after Kanye brought her child into his Twitter beef with Khalifa, not to mention the misogyny and double standard behind his repeated shaming of Rose’s stripper past considering his wife Kim Kardashian’s fame originated with a sex tape.
The Ross Report
Royal Rumble Review: Bryan Alvarez
For those unfamiliar with Jim Ross, he’s been a mainstay in professional wrestling from 1982 to 2013, playing many roles in many organizations. Most, however, will remember him as the best color commentator the WWE ever had, though listeners won’t find his signature bombast on his podcast. Rather, The Ross Report is committed to amiable interviews and thoughtful dissections of the modern wrestling landscape. There’s plenty of the latter on this review of last week’s divisive Royal Rumble, wherein WWE stalwart Triple H won the WWE heavyweight championship and babyface Roman Reigns was, for the second Rumble in a row, essentially booed out of the building. That latter point dominates Ross’ conversation with Figure Four Weekly’s Bryan Alvarez, and the pair ponder whether there’s any way that WWE’s coronation of Reigns will ever pay off. Spoiler alert: not at this rate. This sort of talk can be found in countless Reddit threads, but Ross and Alvarez are two of the most trusted voices in the industry and their informed discussion goes far beyond fantasy booking. Stick around to end to hear Ross spend a few minutes ruminating on his departure from WWE in 2013. It’s a sweet and sad little digression that quietly conveys just how much passion he has for this business he had a hand in creating.
Rumble Strip Vermont
The latest episode from Rumble Strip Vermont with Erica Heilman is a response to recent issues in the Vermont’s Department Of Children And Families (DCF), including the murder of caseworker Laura Sobel last year, who was shot by a client who had recently lost custody of her daughter to the Department. Her death devastated social workers all over the country and served as an alarming reminder that the role they play in families’ lives—many parents actively view DCF caseworkers as “home-wreckers” and “baby snatchers”—can often be a dangerous one. Because caseworkers can’t talk publicly about their work in order to protect the privacy of their clients, the day-to-day lives of DCF caseworkers are somewhat of a mystery. Heilman breaks some of that silence by interviewing three anonymous Vermont caseworkers, who explain the true role of DCF, building relationships with families, making the impossible decision to remove a parents’ custody of their children, and what keeps them in such a difficult, sometimes dangerous line of work. What isn’t shared is the voices of the families working with DCF, but Heilman will be interviewing parents in the coming months so their side of the story can be shared as well.
The X-Files Files
Xthon Part 1: Glen Morgan, Live From Cinefamily!
Leading up to the premier of the new The X-Files miniseries, Kumail Nanjiani hosted a marathon where he screened six of his favorite episodes, interviewing various special guests throughout. In the first part of three episodes that cover the event, he discusses episodes “Folie A Deux” and “Home,” the latter having been written by prominent The X-Files writer and producer, Glen Morgan, who served as the first interview of the day. Fans of the show will know that this particular episode is one of the most disturbing, yet funny, violent, and simultaneously heartwarming episodes of the show, and the interview with Morgan helps to demystify the man behind the magic. It’s an extremely humanizing peek behind the curtain as Morgan drops gem after gem of details, like how David Duchovny was always annoyed that they made Mulder a big Elvis fan, so writers would intentionally put in as many Elvis jokes as they could just to annoy him. Morgan offers great insight into the episode while staying incredibly humble, and the unabashedly worshipping Nanjiani thrives in front of an audience. He tells the hilarious story of how the two met and how Morgan came to listen to the podcast, which, Morgan declares with beautiful sincerity, was the momentum producers needed to push through and make the miniseries. It’s the perfect full circle story of how Nanjiani came to be admired by those he venerated most.
We see what you said there
“Um, I would fix all those people who can’t eat roasts. It’s like my favorite dinner, so I’d fix that for them.”—11-year-old Alex as Jeff Ross on what he would do if he were president, Podcasts Are Wonderful
“Never tease a gay man when he’s holding an eyeliner pencil”—Tim Lee as Bernardo the makeup artist, Porn Minus Porn
“Part of the whole uproar behind the whole #OscarsSoWhite situation is shit like this. When there is an opportunity where a black actor should be cast in a film, you deliberately go out of your way to exclude us. And then you greenlight dumb shit like another Adam Sandler movie or fucking Zoolander 2—Who the fuck needs Zoolander 2? You put your own dumb shit out there for people to look at but there’s actual talented people of color making movies and trying to hire other people of color, and you routinely, systematically ignore them and shut them out. Fuck the entire industry. Fuck all y’all.”—Crissle reacting to the announcement that white actor Joseph Fiennes will portray Michael Jackson in a new British TV show, The Read
“He continues to call himself the greatest artist of all time. The whole time? All of the time? The whole time. Time magazine? Hammer time? Nap time. Nap time? Bath time! Space-time continuum?”—Kid Fury disputing Kanye West’s assertion that he’s the “greatest artist of all time,” The Read
“Life can be bad, but at least you don’t have to fuck your mother.”—Kumail Nanjiani on The X-Files episode “Home,” The X-Files Files