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“The meth-head woman starts going, ‘That’s not a word!’ She wants to argue… I go, ‘Really, is this your cause? We’re in a psych ward playing fuckin’ Scrabble. It’s over, honey. In the world we’ve created, ‘GMR’ is a word.’” —Artie Lange, Mohr Stories

“When does friendship start?”
“At conception?” —Pete Holmes and Jon Dore on You Made It Weird

“It’s a foul parody of an abortion of a mockery of a pizza.” —Greg Proops on Wolfgang Puck’s airport restaurant pizzas, The Smartest Man In The World


Tom Rhodes Radio
The premise of Tom Rhodes Radio, like so many chat-show podcasts hosted by comedians, is fairly simple: Once or twice a month, Tom Rhodes sits down with a guest—typically while on the road—to have a one-on-one conversation about nothing in particular. In a sense, it’s a bizarro version of WTF With Marc Maron; a good-natured, international veteran comic who seemingly has never upset another person in his life travels to his guests’ location of choice to explore shared interests and dish about the industry with level-headed pragmatism and few gripes.


When talking about Rhodes’ work ethic and attitude on the short-lived sitcom Mr. Rhodes, Stephen Tobolowsky describes him as “grasping onto the truth like people grasp onto a rope falling over a canyon.” That commitment to the truth ensures episodes never wander into pretention or indulgence—impressive for a successful, intelligent, and well-traveled comedian who surely has a wealth of stories to share. Instead, Rhodes is more interested in the connections between him and his guest, which range from big conceptual topics like philosophy (Christina Pazsitzky), race (W. Kamau Bell), and religion (Dana Gould), down to an appreciation of camera techniques and the Pixies. An emphasis on high-minded conversation over outright comedy tends to require a patient listen, but Tom Rhodes Radio offers a unique, positive perspective from a man who’s spent equal time in and outside Hollywood—a welcome change of pace from some of the more insular and cathartic shows of its kind. [SM]



Frum Shrum
The hosts of political podcast Frum Shrum both inspire ambivalence on their respective sides: Bob Shrum is a veteran Democratic consultant who’s best known for the campaigns he’s lost, and David Frum is a former George W. Bush speechwriter and right-wing think-tank fellow who’s frequently called out the GOP on its willfully nutty rhetoric. Their weekly-or-so conversations about the election and the fiscal cliff feel more like broad discussions of political strategy than like left-right pundit showdowns: Each host feels more focused on fleshing out the context of, say, tax policy than about driving home broad ideological points. It’s possible to go most of an episode without being reminded of which political side each one favors. Frum and Shrum inevitably tend toward pretty dry analyses of the political process, and the episodes aren’t especially tight or disciplined, but it’s a consistently edifying break from the maddening sourness of mainstream political commentary. [SG]



Freakonomics #103: The Things They Taught Me
This week Stephen Dubner goes back to college, where he interviews three of his old professors from Appalachian State University in North Carolina. Finding that economists don’t really have a good tack on why a college education brings “value” to a given student, Dubner turns to the humanities for an answer. But no one has a good grasp on the alchemy that turns teenagers into literate adults. The format of the episode veers pretty far from typical Freakonomics territory, with Dubner getting personal in three of his undergraduate classes. It’s a nice change of pace, though; instead of another example of the paradoxes and quirks of our modern economic system, Dubner reminds us of how much the small moments in education matter. [NC]

Hang Up And Listen: The Worth Its Wait In Gold Edition
Lately, Hang Up And Listen has been especially aggressive in bringing in special guests for interviews, and an already great show has gotten better for it. This week, after some chatter about Johnny Manziel, the first freshman ever to win a Heisman Trophy, the gang brings on Joe Drape, author of Soldiers First: Duty, Honor, Country, And Football At West Point, to discuss the noble reasons why Army hasn’t beaten Navy since 2001. They then follow it up with a conversation with shot-putter Adam Nelson, who won the silver medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. News broke this week that the gold medalist, Ukraine’s Yuriy Bilonog, failed a drug test, putting Nelson in line to take the gold, but his excitement over the prospect is tempered by concerns over cheating in the sport and the difficulties unpaid amateurs face in trying to get to realize their Olympic dream. [ST]


The J.V. Club #40: Vanessa Ragland
According to Janet Varney, Vanessa Ragland has the honor of being the J.V. Club guest who most resembles Anne of Green Gables in her everyday life, and maybe it’s Ragland’s connection to the beloved book series that gives her such good chemistry with Varney. It takes a good 20 minutes to get to the adolescence discussion, but once the two get started, they have a great conversation about Model UN, Madeleine L’Engle, and discovering how little they had in common with the popular kids. Distractions from a visiting plumber and Varney’s dog lead her to call this one of the sloppiest episodes of the show, but it adds a certain homey charm to the proceedings. [OS]


The Mental Illness Happy Hour #90: James “Jamie” Franzo
The best Mental Illness Happy Hour episodes often feel less like an interview and more like an experience for Paul Gilmartin and his guest. It’s a distinction that’s clear during episode 90, which features an absorbing conversation between two friends who seem to be on the better side of lives that once teetered toward self-destruction. Although the gory details of Franzo’s life are compelling—he was kidnapped by a motorcycle gang at 13 and later became a heroin addict—the episode’s strength goes beyond them. Gilmartin and Franzo seem to love each other genuinely and share the bond of people who have escaped the fog of addiction and depression. Even when the discussion turns to spirituality, it feels natural and earned. The conversation is likely one of the most interesting and rewarding uses of a couple hours this week. [TC]

Mohr Stories #114: Artie Lange
The road to hell is paved with good money. Artie Lange skyrocketed from blue-collar comic to the Howard Stern Show hall of fame, then crashed and burned spectacularly. The walking cautionary tale has returned to the post-FM talk-show scene, and this appearance plugs an upcoming scars-and-all autobiography. Lange is always more than forthcoming about his disastrous personal life, and while Mohr doesn’t quite go full Maron on him, the host gets Lange to open up a smidge wider than usual. Mohr coaxes out detailed accounts of Lange’s heroin use, his stays in various psych wards, his reported suicide attempt, and the appearance that sank sportscaster Joe Buck’s HBO talk show. [DXF]


Monday Morning Podcast
It’s clear from the very beginning of this week’s episode that guest Michael Rapaport has much more in common with Bill Burr than just red hair and origins in the northeastern U.S.: He, too, is a naturally funny, loudmouthed “average Joe,” and their resulting rapport is incomparable. Rapaport’s musings on “dog-shit bags” at the top are damn near stage-worthy, and the on-mic chemistry between the two (which consists in large part of giving each other shit) makes a long stretch of sports talk engaging and very funny. Rapaport’s tales of being on the set of True Romance aren’t too shabby, either. There’s a lot of energy and momentum throughout all the segments of the episode, and as a result the nearly 90-minute running time really flies. [CG]


The Moth: Elna Baker: A Mexican Mormon Christmas
Elna Baker’s one of those Moth storytellers who can’t help but have a wacky tale. Growing up both Mexican-American and Mormon, she amassed a larger-than-average supply of quirky anecdotes and cultural clashes, many of which she shares in pretty short order here. It works because she’s willing to keep looking for nuance in this mess of identities, not just play up the reserve of quirkiness it provides. She isn’t too focused on driving home the broader point, instead focusing on a simple story about losing her cell phone over Christmas break and turning it into a prank. Ultimately it’s not especially poignant, but simply an enjoyably silly tale. [SG]

Nerdist #293: Paul Williams
The man who penned “Rainbow Connection” and a bevy of other iconic pop songs, Paul Williams, sits down with the Nerdist crew for an interview that runs the gamut from Williams’ professional career to his struggles with substances. During the latter, Williams has a way of making his hitting rock bottom sound surprisingly cheerful as he details the lessons he’s learned and perspective he’s gained since sobering up. The stories behind his best-known songs are what make the interview so engaging, as Williams’ accounts are as detailed as they are interesting. While both Matt Mira and Jonah Ray are mostly quiet this episode, Chris Hardwick does a great job of relating to Williams and asking him questions that lead an open, honest interview with the singer-songwriter. [DA]


Nerdist #294: Judd Apatow
With the impending release of This Is 40, it’s not surprising to see Judd Apatow making the rounds to promote the film. He spends his time on Nerdist providing an in-depth analysis of This Is 40 (including how his own experiences of aging and marriage inspired it) and his past projects. Fans of Apatow are probably aware of his time spent as a young comedy nerd interviewing the likes of Jerry Seinfeld and Garry Shandling, but his willingness to disclose his obsessions is endearing. Apatow and the Nerdist hosts jump quickly from one topic to the next, while inviting listeners into their private lives and relationships. The episode provides a great look at Apatow as a person, and with his teasing of the Anchorman sequel at the end, it’s a great listen for comedy fans. [DA]


Nerdist #295: Malcolm McDowell
Malcolm McDowell’s lengthy acting career saw him go from playing a violent psychopath in A Clockwork Orange to much more subdued roles on the stage and screen as he grew older. The veteran actor has plenty of anecdotes to share with a typically excitable Chris Hardwick, who knows the right questions to ask to get his guest to share stories of drunken cockneys asking for autographs and working with Stanley Kubrick and Rob Zombie. [DA]

Professor Blastoff #82: Voice: Lake Bell
One of the best things about Professor Blastoff is the hosts’ ability to spring a minor detail into a full-blown, character-driven sketch, powered by Kyle Dunnigan’s impressive vocal performances. This week’s premise lets Dunnigan shine, starting with Del LaRue, an archaic, Andy Daly-like vaudeville character so funny the bit never feels like it’s biding time waiting for guest Lake Bell to arrive. With Dunnigan’s made-up, El Chupacabra-esque Spanish at the close, it’s a neat and fitting bookend to an episode devoted to voice and the nature of accents, affectations, and that “sexy baby” thing socialite celebrities do. Bell’s vocal training and experience as producer, director, and star of Sundance-accepted film In A World informs the discussion, and her vocal lessons—not to mention her rapport with “dear friend” Tig Notaro, who appeared in Bell’s film just before contracting pneumonia—take the already-zany episode to another level. [SM]



Sklarbro Country #124: Two Giraffe Lengths From The Red Ass: Jim Burrows, James Adomian
Weeks of plugs on their podcast couldn’t save the Sklars from the cancellation of the CBS sitcom Partners, but the show at least landed them the legendary sitcom director Jim Burrows as a guest. Burrows produced and directed episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, Wings, Cheers, Frasier, and more over his 40-year career. The Sklars get into his sports-fan background, but the best part is the extended interview, where the brothers cede the floor to Burrows for stories about casting and directing the pilot of Friends, how he initially resisted working in entertainment because of his father (writer and humorist Abe Burrows), and his innovative direction of multi-camera sitcoms. [KM]


Sklarbro Country: Sklarbro County #29: Wayne Federman, Jason Nash, Dan Van Kirk
Comedian and character actor Wayne Federman has had so many bit parts in movies and guest spots on television shows it’s hard to keep track of them all. Not only does he bring great commentary to the Sklars’ show, but he also brings along a piano to play intro music for the entire episode. Beyond that, he was the head monologue writer for Jimmy Fallon, and he wrote a biography of NBA legend Pete Maravich, so he’s the perfect guest for a podcast that focuses on sports and comedy. [KM]

The Smartest Man In The World #186: Heists
Typically there’s no real through-line for a Greg Proops podcast. Usually The Smartest Man In The World is a series of rants that dig into history, politics, movies, or baseball, with nothing but a few callback jokes to create continuity. “Heists” breaks the mold with an ongoing art-theft narrative that Proops makes up on the fly as he discusses his favorite artists and the museums that house their work. It’s an interesting, hilarious experiment in solo-improvisation that holds the rambling wreck of a podcast together. Better yet, Proops’ wife is in the crowd for the taping, and pipes up every time he forgets a name or salient fact in his stories, giving the proceedings a homey quality that his professorial stand-up usually lacks. [NC]


Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Johnstown Flood
On May 31, 1889, one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history took the lives of more than 2,000 people and wiped Johnstown, Pennsylvania, off the map. Relentless rainfall overpowered a terribly planned dam, sending 20 million tons of water—a 40-foot-high wall of it—into town. It is said to have had as much force as Niagara Falls, and it took only 10 minutes destroy Johnstown and kill about 10 percent of its population in the process. In the end, human manipulation of the environment was clearly the reason for the disaster, a tragic example that fortunately affected how similar projects were designed. [DT]


Stuff You Should Know: Why Isn’t The U.S. On The Metric System?
American customary units still cling to the old days of measuring things with body parts like palms, thumbs, and feet, even though the U.S. legally adopted the metric system—it just didn’t make its use mandatory. Meanwhile, the metric system dedicated itself to extreme scientific accuracy, making it all the more necessary in important stuff like architecture and engineering. The hubris of the U.S. digging in its heels only gets more stunning as the history unfolds, and this episode should make excellent ammunition when your patriotic cousin drops a token metric-system joke at a Christmas party. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Will We Reach Peak Oil?
Although some people still think we will never run out of oil (the definition of “peak oil”), most people agree that demand will eventually overcome supply, forcing us to use alternative sources. (In the U.S., 70 percent of all petroleum goes to transportation.) Those alternative fuels seem to be catching up, but no one really knows how long we have. There’s no way to define how much is left, or even how traditional petroleum is made. The best guess is it’s a 10-million-year process, meaning any research into alternatives is good research. [DT]


The Todd Glass Show #77: Gary Gulman And Daniel Kinno
This episode of The Todd Glass Show featuring repeat guest Gary Gulman clocks in at well over an hour, but it could easily be the most fun hour of the listener’s day. As usual, Gulman is an enthusiastic participant in all of Todd Glass’ various bits, particularly nailing the character of a shrill, middle-aged woman trying to convince everyone around her that she’s fun. The in-studio crew also has a good time merging some morbid anti-drug PSAs with Neil Diamond’s “The Pot Smoker’s Song.” Glass veers into serious territory when he gets onto a tangent about child abuse, but he doesn’t derail the consistently silly thread running throughout a very solid episode. [MS]


Uhh Yeah Dude: #351
It’s inevitable, when a podcast features two inveterate pessimists, that the wryness of the observations will occasionally shade into legitimate bummer material. Episode #351 begins with tales from North Korea’s brutal “Camp 14,” where “three generations” of imprisonment is the punishment for political dissent. But the laughs don’t end there: Jonathan Larroquette and Seth Romatelli also unearth that old chestnut, the holiday suicide rate, and there’s even time to dig into the issue of long-simmering family discord. Mercifully, there are some excellent late-episode riffs on “trending fruits” to end things with some froth and remind listeners that this is indeed a comedy program. [CW]

Walking The Room #133: Car Crash And Hard Candy
Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt could carry an episode with their flatter-insults and grotesque metaphors alone, so it comes as a bonus whenever a legitimately riveting story needs to be told on Walking The Room. Even better, Anthony’s life seems to be circled by cartoon characters, which inflates an already dramatic story of a car accident to a whopping 30-minute segment that bounces around stretches of hilarious bafflement, Behrendt’s penchant for merchandising, and Anthony’s default response mode of rage. Behrendt, who wisely delayed hearing the details until recording, responds with his own troubling collision and early signs of a potentially endless WTR well: His daughter is reaching the dating age. [SM]


Who Charted? #106: Alpaca Dinghy: “Weird Al” Yankovic
The fact that “Weird Al” Yankovic has done possibly hundreds of podcast appearances, many of them on Earwolf shows, doesn’t stop him from bringing an uninhibited exuberance to his Who Charted? guest slot. A lot of the comedy is visual, particularly involving Yankovic shaving Howard Kremer’s head, but it still translates well to the audio medium. This may be the hardest Kulap Vilaysack has laughed in the history of the show, and that’s saying a lot, since she will crack up at the drop of a hat. Also, no Yankovic appearance would be complete without his breaking into song, as he does with the latest Bond theme for Skyfall. [MS]

You Made It Weird: #108: Live From San Francisco!
Pete Holmes tries to squeeze in a perfunctory bit of “weirdness” at the end of this episode, going down the panel of guests to get quick-hit impressions of their religious views; but by that point, the spirit of near-anarchy that pervades the rest of the episode has taken such a hold that everyone basically treats the query as a joke. Besides, a panel that includes T.J. Miller, Doug Benson, Moshe Kasher, Kyle Kinane, and Alex Koll was never going to be a particularly introspective one, and this live show is far more prone to giddy outbursts and near-incoherent tangents than thoughtful musings. That’s a good thing, though occasionally exhausting, especially when Miller and Holmes go into their “who can be the loudest” routine, which should be familiar to Doug Loves Movies listeners. Benson, for his part, is a relatively quiet but vital part of the discussion, doling out his disdain for Holmes in delicious little nuggets of sarcasm that the host characteristically eats up with a hearty laugh. [GK]


You Made It Weird #109: Jon Dore
After several episodes of fairly earnest, introspective conversation, it’s a relief to hear Pete Holmes and Jon Dore ricochet through a disconnected sequence of goofy banter. At times, they even spend time literally just laughing at each other, and nearly a half-hour goes by before either bothers sharing some insights into his comedy career. And after a strong burst of giddy, uncomfortable jokes, it’s easier to be patient with You Made It Weird’s more serious side. [SG]


Comedy Bang! Bang! #190: You Know What I Mean? Demetri Martin, James Adomian, Pamela Murphy
First-time guest Demetri Martin hits it off with Scott Aukerman, but James Adomian’s character (Santa? Orson Welles? God?) never coheres, and Murphy’s character (a stand-up from New Jersey) doesn’t quite, either. [KR]


How Was Your Week? #92: “Banana Steaks”: Kyle Dunnigan, Beth Hoyt
An interview with Beth Hoyt of My Damn Channel Live features a long discussion of Jon Hamm and other hunks. Kyle Dunnigan’s segment focuses on a long, embarrassing story about a bad dance-floor experience and terrible Halloween party—familiar to people who heard Comedy Bang! Bang! #160—that would be better with more energy from Dunnigan. [DF]

Judge John Hodgman: Thanks, But No Pranks
A potentially funny case about housemates engaged in a “pranking war” with other houses down the street—which ended when one of them thought the pranks were going too far—is undone by the woeful lack of imagination that went into the pranks themselves. Glitter and baby oil? That’s the best you’ve got? [ST]

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #72: Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll/Nut Goodie
After a great return last week, this episode fizzles quickly, leaving viewers disappointed by the time it ends. [DA]


Mohr Stories #113: Gary Gulman
Fans of Joe DiMaggio, Lou Ferringo, and That’s Incredible! will listen, rapt, as Last Comic Standing finalist Gary Gulman and Mohr riff, quote other comedians, and revisit ’80s stand-up tropes. [DXF]

My Brother, My Brother, And Me #132: iJolene
Even the McElroy brothers admit this is an off episode as they prepare for next week’s Candlenight spectacular. [NC]

Never Not Funny #1125: Projecting With Andy Kindler
Andy Kindler’s appearance hints at insightful appraisal of the comedy industry, parody of hacky comedians, and the personal connection he has to Jimmy Pardo, but it never coheres. The constant struggle to establish rhythm, focus, and delivery makes for a sporadically funny episode with little payoff. [SM]


Sound Opinions #367: Best Albums Of 2012
Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis cast a wide net on Sound Opinions but are also pretty clear about their passions. Their 2012 roundup may be a worthwhile listen for anyone who hasn’t followed the show much lately, but will be unsurprising for those who have. [SG]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Why Was Juana Called “La Loca”? Part 1
After research delays, hosts Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdy tackle Juana of Castile, a favorite topic of listeners, though her life events promise to pay off more in part two. [DT]

This American Life: #481: This Week
TAL revisits the theme “This week,” looking at events international and hyper-national in the seven days leading up to the show. This newsy, fast-moving installment is, however, a little too newsy and fast-moving, sacrificing the detail and voice that marks the best TAL episodes. [CZ]


WTF With Marc Maron #341: Mike Lawrence
Any episode of WTF that has Marc Maron shouting “Am I self-indulgent?” as an actual question out into the ether isn’t a good sign. His interview with comedian Mike Lawrence covers his passion for comic books and an excessively degrading seven-year stint working at McDonald’s, which provides a harrowing few minutes within an otherwise ordinary episode. [KM]

WTF With Marc Maron: #342: Andy Dick, Chris Garcia, Ron Lynch, Lance Bangs, Jim And Eddie
Live shows from WTF are always an unwieldy mixed bag, and this installment from the Riot L.A. Alternative Comedy Festival is no different. Andy Dick is relatively subdued thanks to sobriety. Chris Garcia, Ron Lynch, and Lance Bangs all provide insightful, but not laugh-a-minute segments. Eddie Pepitone is loud. [CZ]