Podmass_In [Podmass](https://www.avclub.com/c/podmass),_ The A.V. Club _sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at [podmass@avclub.com](mailto:podmass@avclub.com)._  

Hey, you like podcasts? Make sure you check out Reasonable Discussions, the A.V. Club podcast. Podmass comments can be directed to podmass@avclub.com.

To listen to these and other podcasts, visit Podcast Central, our podcast hub.

(Note: This week’s episode of Mental Illness Happy Hour features Podmass contributor Dan Telfer, so we have recused ourselves from reviewing it this week; but you should still check it out!)


“I apologize I’m repeating these jokes… but I want them to get laughs.” —Jimmy Pardo on bombing at the roast of his father-in-law, Walter Koenig, Never Not Funny

“You are hearing what you want to hear, dear. I’ve heard it all before from people like you. You take a man out, you size him up and see how big his wallet is, and then you try to dip your nylons right into his fuckin’ butthole.” —Tom Leykis (James Adomian) to Amy Poehler, Comedy Bang! Bang!

“In my opinion, [Parks And Recreation has] the best cast on TV, of current shows.  I think After M*A*S*H had the best cast of any TV show—because they got rid of the fat from M*A*S*H.”
“I agree. I would only say that Joanie Loves Chachi comes closest.” —Scott Aukerman and Jason Mantzoukas, Comedy Bang! Bang!

“‘Rum bullion’ is the full given Christian name of rum!… Should you care to learn more about rum, visit your local library and look up the Triangle Trade!”
“Please, darling, I learn with my liver, not my library card!” —Paget Brewster and Paul F. Tompkins as alcoholic paranormal investigators on The Thrilling Adventure Hour

“What do you call people who steal from stores all the time—a necrophiliac?” — Stop Podcasting Yourself, “Overheard” report



The David Feldman Show
On his eponymous radio show and podcast, veteran writer, stand-up comedian, and broadcaster David Feldman strikes an unmistakably avuncular and partisan figure. Feldman is a fire-breathing Jewish liberal of the old school, a smart, informed crank whose podcast is at once proudly goofy and unmistakably adult. The David Feldman Show offers listeners an opportunity to sit at the grown-ups’ table as Feldman and his distinguished panel of guests talk about the intersecting and overlapping realms of politics, show business, and pop culture. As with so much of the comedy-podcasting world, The David Feldman Show offers the pleasure of conversations between smart, engaged, and informed people who take palpable delight in each other’s company. Regular guests to The David Feldman Show include Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Frank Conniff, fellow political podcaster Jimmy Dore, Robert Altman repertory player Paul Dooley—who is as charming and engaging in real life as he is as an actor—and, in keeping with the 2012 Eddie Pepitone Podcast Domination-Assimilation-Over-Saturation Act, the ubiquitous Eddie Pepitone.


The format of The David Feldman Show can change dramatically from episode to episode, encompassing everything from straight interviews with filmmakers, comedians, and newsmakers to Politically Incorrect­-style panel discussions to sketches performed by the show’s repertory of accomplished players. But the show seldom strays from the world of politics for very long, in the process proving that political talk is only tedious and soul-crushing when done wrong. It’s a podcast for folks who believe that strong political convictions and a sense of humor do not have to be mutually exclusive. [NR]



Grammar Girl
Part of the Quick And Dirty Tips family of micro-podcasts, Grammar Girl has been doling out weekly tidbits of linguistic wisdom since 2006. With more than 330 episodes in the can, the subjects understandably stray into more esoteric territory from time to time, such as the excellent, grammar-snob-baiting “What Does ‘Proper English’ Mean?” or the labyrinthine fact-checking discussion of “How Do You Tell If Something Is True?” But while Grammar Girl has come a long way from the simple days of “Threw, Through, Thru,” it remains as straightforward as ever—sometimes to the point of being as dry as, well, a grammar lesson. Host Mignon Fogarty keeps things clear and concise as she reads through five-to-10-minute blasts of information written by herself and guest contributors, laying—or is it lying?—out in plain English the ins and outs of not-so-plain English. (A recent episode on using present tense in stories about the past makes a valiant but brain-bending effort to codify one of the more squirrely grammatical conundrums.) For visual learners, the text of each episode is also transcribed in the podcast’s lyrics and on the show’s website. [GK]



Comedy Bang! Bang! #176: Out Of Bleeps: Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas, James Adomian
Scott Aukerman prefaces episode 176 by announcing “the funniest person in the universe,” Amy Poehler, will be the guest, but James Adomian scores the biggest laughs as misogynist shock jock Tom Leykis. In Adomian’s hands, Leykis is hilariously cartoonish, but not far removed from reality—the DJ’s website has ads for “the LAWYER that WIVES FEAR,” a realtor who advises “Get a House, Not a Spouse!,” and condomjungle.com (“Hump responsibly”), which is a real thing and apparently not something Adomian made up. Jason Mantzoukas is awesome as always, and Poehler is of course charming and funny, but the episode takes off once Leykis shows up. A good Would You Rather? and a new speed-round segment round out an excellent episode. [KR]

Hang Up And Listen: The Watching Football Is Depraved Edition
Professional football is the most popular sport in America right now, but with reports of devastating head injuries on the rise, it’s becoming harder and harder to write off those helmet-to-helmet hits on Sunday as acceptable gladiatorial entertainment. Washington Times sportswriter Patrick Hruby comes on to this week’s episode to discuss his decision to stop watching football, drawing some healthy skepticism from the HUAL crew, who hesitate to take such an extreme stance despite the frequent concussion talk on the show. They also bring on their favorite NHL expert, Yahoo!’s Greg Wyshynski, for news about the NHL lockout, the latest in an endless series of work stoppages for the league. This time around, the issues between the players and the owners seem relatively minor and resolvable, but now that the union has hired Donald Fehr, who famously never met a strike he didn’t like, there are concerns the dispute could drag on for a while. [ST]


How Was Your Week? #80: “Ubu’s Owner”: David Sirota
This week marks the return of the How Was Your Week book club as Julie Klausner welcomes David Sirota, author of Back To Our Future: How The 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now—Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything. In a wide-ranging discussion that seems to touch on every beloved ’80s figure and trope, Sirota shows how Ronald Reagan stands as a monolithic figure, one whose ideology underpins every aspect of the decade’s popular culture. It’s not entirely new territory, but Sirota’s argument is fascinating all the same—especially so when he and Klausner consider the ways these ideas continue to inform current thinking on topics like race and class. It’s easy to see why Klausner is so excited to have Sirota on her show, and her enthusiasm makes this one of the most absorbing installments in recent memory. [DF]


Monday Morning Podcast
Recording back in his old apartment in New York and without any persistent distractions to speak of, Bill Burr’s ranting this week is still as discursive as ever, but each segment is more focused than usual. As a result, they’re much funnier and more thoughtful, giving him the opportunity to make self-aware callbacks that create a sense of cohesiveness. That sense is reinforced by musings on what Diners, Drive-Ins, And Dives outtakes would look like that unintentionally bookend the episode. In between are consistently strong riffs on drag-racing and wacky late-night talk-show gags, along with a handful of good listener emails. [CG]

The Moth: Damien Echols: Life After Death
Damien Echols was railroaded to prison for a murder he didn’t commit, spent 18 years on death row, and got out only last year. Naturally, the triumph-of-spirit element is prevalent in his Moth story about the ordeal, but that’s not what really comes to the surface. Echols tells it just as grimly as he’s entitled to tell it, beginning with his torture at the hands of prison guards. In the end, Echols was released on a perversely flawed court deal that’s unjust in itself. Strong as he is just for getting through it, his story leaves the impression of a man who’s had much of his life stolen and muted. [SG]


My Brother, My Brother And Me #120: Shuddering Ectoplasm
This week’s episode, filled with consistently funny goofs throughout its entire running time, serves as a great reminder of why decent (but not great) episodes like last week’s can be so underwhelming. There are too many terrific bits to list, but one on Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva La Fiesta! at the beginning and another on Fifty Shades Of Grey near the end are both great, as is another about Pokémon names in between the two. Genuine retellings of significant moments in the respective lives of Travis and Justin McElroy are a nice touch, even if they do quickly devolve into silliness. [CG]


Nerdist #257: Michael Dorn
As past episodes of Nerdist have proven, when a Star Trek alum joins the crew, Matt Mira has trouble containing his excitement. Not that it ever overtakes the episode, but it can make the discussion seem a bit one-note. This week, however, he reins it in a bit, resulting in an interview that focuses less on the sci-fi institution than previous outings. In fact, the episode sees Dorn discussing the intricacies of being a pilot and what led him to become a vegan. It’s this second topic that prompts Jonah Ray and Dorn go back and forth about important vegetarian- and vegan-conscious documentaries and books, all the while avoiding pretension. It’s not the subject matter one would expect given Dorn’s presence, but it creates an informative atmosphere that thankfully remains lighthearted throughout. [DA]

Nerdist #258: Ben Folds
With the recent release of the first new Ben Folds Five album in 13 years, The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind, and with a Nerdist-produced music video for “Do It Anyway” circulating the Internet, it’s only fitting that Ben Folds joins the Nerdist podcast for an in-depth interview. While the brunt of the episode focuses on Folds’ musical career—as it rightfully should—there are enough tangents to keep it from being a nuts-and-bolts interview about his creative process. Instead, Folds shares anecdotes about his first experience in a recording studio, hypothetical titles for books he may or may not write, and challenging himself by writing a lengthy overture. The short Fraggle Rock bit tacked on the end is a nice addition, but doesn’t improve upon the episode’s previous hour. [DA]



Nerdist #259: Anna Kendrick
With an acting career that includes both an Oscar nomination and a recurring role in the Twilight series, Anna Kendrick has a great deal of topics for Chris Hardwick to use as jumping-off points. It also doesn’t hurt that she took part in the Nerdist-created Ben Folds Five music video, “Do It Anyway.” Kendrick’s guard seems down throughout the interview, as she talks frankly about her career and the challenges inherent in having a role in the Twilight films. There are no major revelations, but it’s plenty entertaining all the same. [DA]


Never Not Funny #1113: Nicely Roasted With Dave Holmes
At this point, joking about 9/11 is about as fresh and edgy as joking about rape or dead babies. Never Not Funny hasn’t been shy about making “never forget” jokes (or worse), which pop up whenever Jimmy Pardo misspeaks, and that this episode was recorded on Tuesday, September 11 could imply potential hackwork. Instead, Pardo holds court for most of the two-hour episode to share a wandering but captivating tale of the roast, toast, and Hollywood-star ceremony of his father-in-law, Walter Koenig. Pardo’s bombed stand-up set for Star Trek and Babylon 5 fans could replace his Stand Down story, and the rest alternates between fish-out-of-water observations and vivid details of the weekend’s many logistical troubles. If any episode needed a familiar guest to know when to interject and when to “sit down and be quiet,” it’s this one, and Dave Holmes is rewarded for his exemplary job with an extra half-hour to share his own set of stories. [SM]

Sklarbro Country #112: Now Connotes Today: Ian Roberts, Jason Nash, Chris Cox     
Self-publishing a raunchy sex and relationship manual titled It’s Her Fault that delves deep into the author’s elaborate theories about the genitalia of Hispanic women is a dodgy proposition to begin with, but it becomes disastrous when the author’s day job is coaching basketball. On the latest Sklarbro Country, the Sklars and guest Ian Roberts tear into that juicy story and glean all manner of merriment from a job posting for the position of the Phoenix Suns gorilla. Roberts is a sturdy if unremarkable guest, and the talk of boxing and improvisation can get a little dry, but the extra-long episode ends strongly with back-to-back calls from Sklarbro Country all-stars Jerry Jones (as voiced by Chris Cox) and Bryant Gumbel (Jason Nash). [NR]


Sklarbro Country: Sklarbro County #17: Steven Cohen, Kenny Hassan, Dan Van Kirk
One of the best aspects of the Sklar brothers’ unchecked spillover conversations is that their conversations with other sports fans work them into an everyman groove that’s both insightful and refreshingly uncomplicated. Such is the level of discourse with guests Steve Cohen and Kenny Hassan when discussing football—pardon, soccer—which gets a terrible rap from American sports fans. The conversation deconstructs the bullshit notion that the game is boring because there isn’t enough scoring by comparing it to sports like basketball, where there’s so much scoring that it renders most of the game meaningless, and American football, which has piteously little action in a much longer runtime. [KM]


The Smartest Man In The World #176: Herbs
There’s a refreshing sense that Greg Proops is back in his element this week. After his recent jaunt in Scotland, Proops does this week’s Smartest Man installment from one of his home venues in L.A., opening with an extended, endearingly dorky tribute to recently deceased lyricist Hal David. (Of course, he chews up his fair share of goofy old songs, classic or otherwise.) Don’t expect the semi-serious ranting to end early, as Proops soon switches gears to the Democratic National Convention, but even if he’s hamming it up, at least he’s back in the right groove. [SG]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Joseph McCarthy And The Red Scare: Part 1
While Americans are perhaps a little less distrustful of each other now than they were in the aftermath of 2001, mass suspicion has taken control of the country on more than one occasion. Special guest host Ben Bolen talks conspiracy, the House of Un-American Activities Committee, and the early probes of Hollywood in this examination of the McCarthy era and its roots in the fear of Communism in the United States. Bolen makes a great fill-in, explaining both sides and allowing listeners to figure out for themselves where the committee made mistakes. Joseph McCarthy emerges late in the episode, as the hosts describe not only the historic speech where he revealed his poorly researched theories and non-existent list, but how strange its delivery was. [DT]


Stuff You Should Know: Are We All Martians?
Starting with the idea of RNA, hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant quickly spiral into a string of off-topic riffs on the idea that life on Earth originated on another planet. Though the theory may sound ridiculous, the more evidence science collects, the more plausible it seems. Not only have we found microscopic organisms that can survive in the vacuum of space, but when the Viking probe was launched in 1975, it discovered that Mars’ atmosphere and Earth-bound meteorites had the same signature. In other words, rocks can travel from planet to planet and survive intact, and through a disgusting-sounding process called panspermia, propagate life across the universe. While it’s a heady topic, Clark and Bryant have fun humorously poking at it. [DT]


This American Life #474: Back To School
In a time when highly politicized discussions of education reform are commonplace—like the furor over the recent Chicago teachers’ strike, or the Davis Guggenheim documentary Waiting For Superman—Ira Glass and This American Life jettison that part of the issue entirely to focus on an exciting, forward-thinking, and experimental approach to education that has roots in psychological research. It starts with University of Chicago economist James Heckman, who found that test scores don’t give a full picture of success when comparing high-school graduates to those who attained GEDs. It’s a path that leads to the suggestion that cognitive development—things measured by IQ or standardized tests—isn’t as easy to teach students who come from a stressful home environment as what falls under the umbrella of “non-cognitive skills,” things like resilience or impulse control. It’s a timely, well-reasoned episode that skirts the tiresome political focus. [KM]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #88: Beyond Belief: The Yesterday Shop On Today Street
The ever-wonderful Tom Lennon guests as one of the spooks on Thrilling Adventure Hour’s series about drinking, the supernatural, and drinking. He adds a fun element in time, but as usual, the highlight of “Beyond Belief” is Paul F. Tompkins and Paget Brewster dashingly tearing through the silliest, snappiest dialogue Thrilling Adventure Hour can muster. Thanks to a bottle of “slavery-era rum” in a cursed shop, this storyline has the bonus of deftly combining the show’s two main themes. [SG]


Walking The Room #121: Bad Jedi And A Therapy Stream
Dave Anthony wrings a lot of funny out of his anger-management problems, but give it up for Greg Behrendt, whose disparate set of issues brings its own touch of absurdity to the closet. This week’s opener highlights Behrendt’s need for others to think he’s cool, a facade that’s ruined when his therapist finds him relieving himself outside her office. Less obvious but more informative is his scattered brain, which lends itself to this episode’s manic and largely segue-free nature. After more talk of Behrendt’s troubles and a laughable threat from a cosplay Jedi, the hosts debate the true intentions of Mitt Romney and Twitter sensation Chuck Woolery, riff on Woolery’s friend Charlie Daniels, rant on political nobodies using hatemongering to get attention, and give an update on those dubious hobotangs. It’s a bit of a stilted listen, but its many moments of brilliance easily make up for the occasional bump. [SM]


WTF With Marc Maron #314: Kliph Nesteroff
Kliph Nesteroff isn’t your typical former stand-up comic. He’s spent his time since he stopped performing building an online archive of interviews and well-researched articles on the darker side of old-timey comedy, to show it wasn’t all Leave It To Beaver idealism. Guys like Shecky Greene and Jack Carter may not understand exactly what format Nesteroff works in, but this isn’t just laughing at old guys who don’t understand the Internet. It’s enlightening, oft-profound work that deconstructs long-held myths about legendary comics—like Lenny Bruce’s perceived originality and bad-boy status with regard to profanity—in a way that isn’t sniping or sour grapes, but focused on highly informative preservation. Nesteroff’s conversation with Maron is nothing short of fascinating. [KM]


Doug Loves Movies: Rory Scovel, Brendon Walsh and David Huntsberger
This episode is an exercise in bad time management. The chat portion drags on without ever finding its rhythm, leaving Doug Benson no choice but to rush through the games. [MS]


The Flop House #110: Battleship
Genuine analysis of the problems underlying summer stinker Battleship is given much more time than the usual silly banter, and the jokes that do make it through are buried too deeply in pop-culture references. [CG]

Judge John Hodgman: Snooze Control
Judge Hodgman has a Seinfeldian talent for drawing comedy from the mundane, but the case of a guy who wants his wife to wake up just a little bit earlier in the morning is too much even for him. [ST]

The J.V. Club#28: Erin Gibson
Janet Varney’s chat with Throwing Shade co-host Erin Gibson is a serious discussion of self-image combined with a rap about being a drill team alternate, but it doesn’t quite reach the emotional extremes of the past few episodes. [OS]


Sound Opinions #355: Buried Treasures, Divine Fits Review, Greg’s Desert Island Jukebox
Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis’ “below-the-radar” picks this week—including Bassnectar and The Black Belles—have their charms but are a tad anticlimactic as underground highlights go. [SG]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #235: Lori Gibbs
In this week’s for-fans-only episode, the chat portion mulls over the undramatic nature of concert encores, and “Overheards” elevate the show with Lori Gibbs’ reports on her autistic son’s unfiltered behavior. [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Orson Welles And The War Of The Worlds
While this is a fun episode, the dense format of the show doesn’t lend itself to the well-known radio stunt. [DT]


Stuff You Should Know: How Book Banning Works
Untangling the ever-changing laws, societies, and values that contribute to banning books results in a leaden, confusing episode. [DT]

The Todd Glass Show #64: Pete Holmes And Daniel Kinno
Episode 64 meanders for a good 51 minutes before guest Pete Holmes shows up and injects his bloodcurdling laugh into the equation. [MS]

Uhh Yeah Dude #339
Jonathan Larroquette and Seth Romatelli devote the majority of this hour to playing evolutionary psychologist, evaluating the instincts of parents, primates, and birds mourning their dead. It’s not exactly their wheelhouse, and dips back into football and failed TV offer the episode’s strongest moments. [CW]


Who Charted? #94: Next Level Shit: Jon Daly
There’s a lot of talk about Katy Perry and Drake, but none of it is particularly compelling, and Jon Daly has a great Tom Sizemore story that he doesn’t get to tell until the end of the show. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #315: Key And Peele
Marc Maron’s chat with sketch duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele is upbeat, mostly engaging, and often funny, but still not particularly memorable. [CG]

You Made It Weird #84: Jay Larson
Comedian Jay Larson is engaging and mildly insightful when talking about relationships in this overlong episode, but much less so on mystical topics such as psilocybin-induced visions and real-life gnomes. [CG]


You Made It Weird #85: Kristen Schaal  
Kristen Schaal is delightful, but her episode of You Made It Weird takes a long time to get going, then ends abruptly, though there’s some interesting conversation about spirituality in between. [NR]