Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Lauren Lapkus, Scott Aukerman and Paul F. Tompkins
Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Vulture Festival
PodmassPodmassIn 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.

A Podmass series spotlight

Comedy Bang! Bang!
10th Anniversary Part 1 & Part 2

Last week, Comedy Bang! Bang!, a longtime staple of every comedy nerd’s podcast feed, celebrated its tenth anniversary. That’s no small feat. Ten years ago, most people didn’t know what podcasts were, and those who did thought the entire medium was a flash-in-the-pan, foolhardy attempt to resurrect talk radio for a digital age. In the last decade, however, host Scott Aukerman has proven naysayers wrong by not only producing one of the most popular and consistently funny shows around, but creating one of the first podcasting empires, introducing countless comedians to new fans. Still, Aukerman was determined to commemorate the anniversary by doing something even more impressive. In a full embrace of the show’s long-held “open door policy,” he invited any and every iconic guest/character to stop by for a visit during a record-breaking ten-hour episode (divided into two five-hour episodes on most platforms). Undoubtedly, to some of you, a largely improvised comedy podcast that runs for nearly half a day sounds like an untenable slog. But, reader, it is great. All of it.

Part of what makes this marathon goof-around so successful is the pacing. Guests shuffle in through the studio’s revolving door, sometimes in pairs or trios, but none of them stay for longer than 25 minutes, meaning the entire ten hours feels like all killer, no filler. The other crucial element is that CBB has built an insane roster of comedy heavy-hitters over the years, from old friends like Paul F. Tompkins, Andy Daly, and Lauren Lapkus to newcomers like Shaun Diston, Carl Tart, and Madeline Walter. Fan-favorite characters like Marissa Wompler and Andrew Lloyd Webber, recent additions like the Calvins Triplets and Martin Sheffield Lickley, and even old friends from the show’s first year like Lil’ Gary get their time in the spotlight. We would continue to list each guest and corresponding character because they’re all great, but there are literally 41 of them.

While ten years is quite a milestone, Scott Aukerman makes it clear again and again that he’s nowhere near finished. Hell, he’s still got the 600th episode to celebrate next week, and we’re sure that’ll be yet another laugh-packed carousel of silliness. [Dan Neilan]

Archive 81

Left of the Dial: The Passenger

Archive 81’s weird and unnatural horror has been exciting audiences for three seasons and a miniseries, and Left of the Dial is their newest adventure into this universe of risky rituals. “The Passenger” is the first episode of this three-part miniseries, following the beloved characters introduced in season three, Nicholas and Static Man. Nick has undertaken a new ritual for his eldritch friend, one that entails going on a road trip that eerily mimics the road trip tropes of classic teenage Americana. The creative minds at Archive 81 have constructed here a storyline with an impressive yet subtle depth of symbolism. Capitalizing on having built the radio up as a core element, “The Passenger” introduces more terrifying radio-based creatures and conceits via Archive 81’s magnificent sound design. It is bone-chilling, but it’s easy to root for these protagonists, even when they’re making dangerous decisions in the strange land of the Blacktop. The world-building here is intricate despite its apparent simplicity, a desolate wasteland dotted by people and things that they, and the audience, do not comprehend. A lack of understanding of the rules, and the eventual dawning realization, will bring fear into everyone’s hearts. [Elena Fernández Collins]

Asian, Not Asian

Captain America of the Race War (Feat. Kenice Mobley, 2 Dope Queens)

Racial anger and anxiety are plumbed for laughs in this casual comedy offering from two dudes billing themselves as Asians not from Asia talking about stuff Americans don’t care about. The opening segment finds our hosts accusing Japan of coasting on its 1980s reputation and ends with the introduction of Kenice Mobley, the show’s first ever black guest, who regales the audience with tales of being considered not black enough, first in her high school class and later among even the nerdy students at her historical black college. Her trauma-cum-war stories awaken a shared sense of otherness in the male hosts—in their case, it’s being people of color stereotypically depicted as the least sexually desirable of their gender. This leads, perhaps inevitably, to talk of how a coming race war would play out. Finally, news of some group in China promoting masculinity camps to counter the feminizing effects of K-pop provokes discussion of whether handsome or hardcore guys get laid more. [Zach Brooke]

Aw…Crap, A Hellboy Podcast

Hellboy Movie (2019)

Hosted by Mark David Christenson and Kaitlin Thompson, Aw… Crap, A Hellboy Podcast is entirely devoted to Mike Mignola’s iconic Hellboy comic book series. The comics have, over the years, inspired a number of adaptations, including two popular live action movies directed by Guillermo Del Toro and a 2019 reboot directed by Neil Marshall. This episode unpacks the latter, which stars David Harbour, replacing the beloved Ron Perlman in the title role. Joining hosts Thompson and Christenson this time around are Beth Appel and Johnny Meeks; all four of them are fresh off of seeing the new film, and they all have good things to say about Milla Jovovich’s performance as the lead villain. Thompson and Christenson have read the comics and are able to take into consideration how the movie compares to the source material, kickstarting a fun discussion of the movie that includes topics like how long the runtime feels, David Harbour’s performance, the accent work, and the potentially inappropriate “crackling sexual energy” between various characters. Their conversation provides the enthusiastic back-and-forth that movie and comic book fans love to listen in on just as much as engage in themselves. [Jose Nateras]

Deep Democracy

Organizer Clarissa Brooks on Accountability

Sorting through the current political trash heap can feel tiring and demoralizing, but movement-building pros and hosts of Deep Democracy Gina Christo and Wilnelia River infuse politics with Beyoncé and T.J.Maxx candles, creating an engaging conversation that calls you to joy and justice. Highlighting the marginalized folks doing work to galvanize communities, Deep Democracy facilitates a new conversation around representative democracy. This super dense episode demystifies the vital nature of the recent mayoral elections to the run-up to 2020, unpacks big issues heading to the Supreme Court, and explains the implications of adding a citizenship question to the census. Journalist and organizer Clarissa Brooks (Teen Vogue, Nylon, The Guardian) joins the conversation this month, addressing the challenges of organizing at Spelman College, the need to have flexibility and evolution in politics, and the polarizing nature of her 2015 BLM protest against Hillary Clinton. Stressing the importance of visibility in organizing, Clarissa exposes the challenges that movements face as they become monetized. From hot takes on Shaun King’s open apology to a biting analysis of Mayor Pete, this episode proves that Deep Democracy might just be peerless in the political podcast space. [Morgan McNaught]

Hit Parade

The Posthumous Hits Edition, Live From Seattle

During this year’s Pop Conference at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, Chris Molanphy hosted a live episode of Hit Parade examining chart-busting songs that gave listeners life after an artist’s death. In between stumping audience members with hit trivia questions (three out of nine contestants claiming bragging rights with right answers), Molanphy invites some of the best music journalists in the business to frame these posthumous tunes in their proper time and space, creating real-time biography excerpts that unfold before your ears. Some notable moments include Karen Tongson waxing poetic over her guarded love for The Carpenters and Karen Carpenter’s transcendent vocals, while Jack Hamilton comes to terms with the shocking murder of John Lennon via the sentimental positivity of “(Just Like) Starting Over.” Regarding the unforgiving gut punch that was 2016, Molanphy focuses on swan song releases from David Bowie and A Tribe Called Quest (R.I.P. Phife Dawg) alongside back catalog chart toppers from Prince and George Michael. Equally memorable is the gloriously petty fashion in which he points out the inaccuracies of the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, defiantly proclaiming afterwards, “This is Pop Con: we care about the details here.” [Jason Randall Smith]

LadyGang

Laura Wasser

LadyGang is the women empowerment and Hollywood gossip podcast hosted by Keltie Knight, Becca Tobin, and Jac Vanek. On this week’s episode, they welcome celebrity divorce attorney and “disso queen” Laura Wasser, who has represented some of the biggest celebrities, including Angelina Jolie, Ryan Reynolds, and Ashton Kutcher. While Wasser’s had a 25-year career and has become the go-to divorce attorney to the stars, she shares why she’s reluctant to call herself famous and explains the importance of being a behind-the-scenes champion for some of the most high-profile people. Wasser tells the story of how her iconic Vogue photoshoot got canceled due to her pregnancy, and talks about why her kids have become experts in helping other children navigate divorce. Unfortunately, she doesn’t spill the beans about any of her clients, but she does have more than a few juicy tidbits to offer the ladies. Plus, she answers a ton of fan questions and helps real-life women figure out the right strategies for ending their marriages. Whether you’re going through a divorce or just like a little bit of hot gossip, Wasser has the answers you’re looking for. [Vannessa Jackson]

The Cut On Tuesdays

The Pursuit of Total Friendship: Nicole Cliffe and Daniel Mallory Ortberg

Nicole Cliffe and Daniel Mallory Ortberg, founders of the (tragically defunct) website The Toast, share the kind of friendship that’s all too rare, especially for adults. With Molly Fischer, host of The Cut On Tuesdays, they tell the story of that friendship; The Toast; and how it feels when a best friend who’s just like you changes radically. Cliffe and Ortberg met through Ortberg’s “all-star career” as a commenter on the website The Hairpin. Their first real-life hangout involved watching Hitchcock’s Rebecca and perfecting their Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier impressions. None of this is any great surprise given The Toast’s own sense of humor, which was at once extremely online and extremely erudite without coming off as pretentious or exclusive. Cliffe and Ortberg’s dynamic is warm and charming, and their conversation explores the vulnerabilities of close friendship with humor and tenderness—from Ortberg’s attempts to come out as a trans man via subtle hinting to Cliffe’s transformative conversion to Christianity. The episode is a love letter to how friends can stay in each other’s lives even as they change, and how love needs and thrives off of transformation. Of course, some things, like that pitch-perfect Fontaine impression, last forever. [Jade Matias Bell]

The Patdown With Ms. Pat

Tell Your Truth

If newcomers to The Patdown don’t immediately recognize Ms. Pat from one of her many memorable guest spots on The Joe Rogan Experience, WTF With Marc Maron, Ari Shaffir’s Skeptic Tank, or The Breakfast Club, they’ve probably seen her on TV. She’s a veteran stand-up comedian who performs regularly at big-name comedy clubs across the country, winning audiences over with her irreverent sense of humor. Ms. Pat is funny, but in this episode, she and producer Chris Spangle discuss an extremely un-funny news story about an ex-Baylor frat president who was charged with four counts of sexual assault only to walk free without jail time. “That’s what you call white privilege in America,” Ms. Pat told Spangle, explaining that the accused would likely receive a much more severe punishment if he were a black man. However, Ms. Pat, herself a survivor of sexual assault, is quick to point out that she believes anyone, regardless of race, should be held accountable for crimes of sexual assault. In a surprisingly cathartic moment of levity, she told Spangle, “If an onion fucks an orange, the onion need to go to jail. All joke aside, he should be locked the fuck up.” [Sofia Barrett-Ibarria]

The Secret Life Of Canada

The Medicine Line

It’s common knowledge that during the Vietnam war thousands of Americans fled to Canada to avoid the draft. But did you know that at least 30,000 Canadians crossed the border into the United States so that they could fight in Vietnam? This is just one of many pieces of forgotten history covered in the latest episode of the CBC podcast The Secret Life Of Canada hosted by Leah-Simone Bowen and Falen Johnson. Each week they highlight the stories of Canadian people and places that have been ignored or erased from modern history. “The Medicine Line” was the name that First Nations people gave to the U.S./Canadian border that ran through their tribe’s territories and allowed the Canadian government to institute financial penalties for simply living in their ancestral homes. This is an ongoing issue that First Nations people still contend with, and Bowen and Johnson bring it to life with warmth and understanding, but they also throw in healthy amounts of snark and wit. This isn’t a lecture. You’re not back in high school. This is history with a focus on humanity. [Anthony D Herrera]

The /Filmcast (AKA The Slashfilmcast)

Avengers: Endgame

Since 2005, /Film has been a leading authority in movie news and criticism on the internet, and their podcast, /Filmcast, boasts the backlogs to prove it. Journalists David Chen, Devindra Hardawar, and Jeff Cannata have dissected hundreds of films through their respective microphones in the past, but none have ever seemed to carry the immense weight of the 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Endgame. This particular episode feels like a culmination of Marvel blockbuster criticism. Clocking in at just over two hours, YouTube film critic Patrick Willems joins the /Filmcast trio to pick apart Avengers: Endgame piece by piece. After 30 minutes of the hosts setting up expectations for listeners, the podcast heads right for heavy spoiler territory, chopping up the movie’s three-hour superhero epic with digestible observations. Those who can’t seem to stop the whirlwind of thoughts surrounding this cultural hype train of a blockbuster will find solace with this crew’s insightful and terrifically varied in-depth discussion. [Kevin Cortez]

The Worst Sitcom Ever Made

“I Just Want To Go Now”

The Worst Sitcom Ever Made is a hybrid of investigative journalism and comedy podcasting. Focusing on the New Zealand sitcom Melody Rules, host Geoff Houtman tries to understand what made the sitcom such a massive critical failure. There are plenty of podcasts like this, structured around making fun of terrible art—but the twist here is that the host is one of the creators of that terrible art, fully owning up to his failures. In this final episode, Houtman plays an episode of Melody Rules to a group of people who have somehow never heard of the show despite its absolute infamy. After seven episodes documenting the true comedy of errors that was the creation process of Melody Rules, there’s a certain degree of schadenfreude that makes this experiment with unwitting viewers so appealing. How the podcast concludes, though, is surprising, and maybe even a little moving. In this final episode, The Worst Sitcom Ever Made cements itself as not just a funny story, but a rumination on creative ambition and greatness. [Wil Williams]

Voices Of The Movement (Cape Up With Jonathan Capehart)

The Day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Died

At times, history can seem far away, maybe because learning about it through books and documentaries gives it a feeling of having happened “over there.” Voices Of The Movement, a project of the Washington Post’s Cape Up With Jonathan Capehart, closes that historical distance by handing the mic directly to the people who were there. In 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, his entire SCLC team had a sense that something was wrong. Despite warnings from Andrew Young, Ralph David Abernathy, and others, King continued his work. After making the journey to help at a sanitation workers’ strike and delivering one of his most famous speeches to date, King still had his sights set on marching to Washington, D.C., followed by international activism. Dr. King would go on to pass that dream to his family and friends. Today, freedoms are still fought for and celebrated thanks to the heroic acts of civil rights leaders from the past. Voices Of The Movement is a reminder that some of these leaders are still around to teach us, and their teachings are still necessary for finding the path forward. [Nekala R. Alexander]

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