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.
Doug Loves Movies
DC Pierson, Cameron Esposito, Grant Lyon
A mix of nerves and alcohol were apparently to blame for Onur Tukel’s rambling non sequitur-filled performance in Michigan last week, and based on how sincere Doug Benson sounds during the introduction of this Madison Comedy On State recording, it seems like the Summer Of Blood actor-writer-director redeemed himself the following day during a panel, so good on him. The discussion portion this time around is far less fraught, fortunately, with easygoing returning guests DC Pierson and Cameron Esposito, as well as first-timer Grant Lyon. The filmography of Scarlett Johansson gets an overview during a round of Love, Like, Hate, Hate-Like. Under The Skin prompts some fun debate, Pierson chats about his Captain America: The Winter Soldier experience, and everyone shares their thoughts on Edge Of Tomorrow. Of the two episodes that plopped this week, this one has less competitive giggling. [DJ]
Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy
An official podcast of Wire magazine, this episode is part interview and part discussion. Host David Barr Kirtley conducts his interview with science-fiction writer Charles Stross with a great deal of curiosity, both about Stross’ work and his literary politics. Stross combines post-modern spy thriller sensibility with humor and the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, meaning there is much to discuss about how Stross pieces his inspirations together. But Stross has also become a player in Amazon.com’s efforts to manipulate and marginalize publishers like the writer’s own publisher, Hachette. This in turn leads to a lively rant on the history of techno-thrillers and how Edward Snowden’s misadventures may end up playing into the world of fiction. Regardless of a listener’s investment in the independent publishing wars, fiction, or security politics, the three topics collide so fascinatingly in this interview it will likely spark interest in at least one of the three realms. If listeners would like a bit of palate cleansing after said interview, the second half of the podcast is a discussion about the heyday of the original Nintendo Entertainment System with guests Alison Haislip and Blake J. Harris. Both halves are conducted remotely, leading to a few awkward stutters in communication, but Stross is a bracingly focused personality, and Haislip and Harris are both so genial that no moments feel lost in translation. [DT]
Chris Gethard Shows Off His Guns
Ex-NPR Sports golden boy Mike Pesca left the public radio conglomerate in early 2014 and joined Slate to become the new face of their podcast network at the helm of The Gist, a half-hour daily digest with edge. The format sees Pesca relay some world news, interview a personality, and close with a rant about a topic that’s bothering him. Pesca has the sometimes bullheaded opinions and the commanding speech patterns of a lifelong talk-radio pro, but he corners a far more centrist market underrepresented on the dial. On Tuesday’s episode, he invites A.V. Club favorite Chris Gethard to the studio to continue to publicly work through the evolution or death of his eponymous public-access program The Chris Gethard Show. Gethard is his typically frank self and clearly appreciates Pesca’s line of questioning as he spends the segment talking meaningfully about the kinds of kids still attracted to public access and the kinds of celebrities who alienate them. The Gist is worth a half an hour every day, especially when it lands guests that can match the host’s thoughtfulness. [NJ]
How Did This Get Made?
Sharknado 2: The Second One (With Scott Aukerman)
About a year ago, a TV movie about sharks in a tornado became an out-of-nowhere cultural phenomenon. Sharknado was such a hit that the How Did This Get Made? crew immediately rearranged their schedules and rushed out a magnificent tribute to the movie. Last week, SyFy aired Sharknado 2: The Second One, the first inevitable sequel of many. Scott Aukerman returns after appearing on the original Sharknado episode. His signature purposeful stupidity inspires a lot of great running jokes—who knew a giant lady lived inside the Statue Of Liberty?—but it also derails promising threads a few times too many. Also joining the crew is Paul Scheer and Diane Raphael’s brand new baby, whose cooing occasionally keeps Raphael occupied off-mic. In a rare situation, the opinions are split between Sharknado 2 being a terrible movie and being a decently self-aware romp. The funniest conversations come from the crew riffing on the movie’s unintentional stupidity, like Tara Reid’s unimaginably childish handwriting, and pointing out numerous missed opportunities. That last thread leads them to challenge themselves to preempt next year’s shark tornado by writing their own script for Sharknado 3. If there is any justice in this world, we’ll have two versions of Sharknado 3 to choose from next year. [MK]
How Was Your Week?
Matt Berman “One of the Few Living People That Has a Ghost”
Julie Klausner has created a delightfully singular vision with How Was Your Week? The program’s specific point of view is an asset in this standout installment, which features a frenzied monologue that highlights some of Klausner’s talents as a storyteller and personality. The opening is an incredibly fun frolic through meeting Dennis Haskins of Saved By The Bell fame at a Broadway show, making a terrible comeback to Whitney Cummings, ranking fruit, and being a victim of a mistaken pregnancy comment from a stranger. Klausner gets the most out of the stories, which lead into the wonderful detail and absurdity of the fruit list (guava is number 30 out of 30 fruits, because she’s never had guava). An interview with Matt Berman, former creative director of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s George magazine, is also a good time as he sounds like he’s blushing while Klausner tries to get him to talk about his late boss’ hunkiness or dish about Barbara Walters and Barbra Streisand. Berman never sounds like he’s going through the motions of a book tour during the interview, which feels both casual and concise. [TC]
Judge John Hodgman
Daily Security Beefing
In this week’s episode, Judge John Hodgman and guest bailiff Monte Belmonte hear a case involving a long-time couple, sharing an apartment in a crime-ridden area of Pittsburgh, who cannot agree on the efficacy of shutting the blinds on their unlockable windows during the day as a deterrent to burglary. Of course, this minor squabble serves as a convenient entryway into the push-and-pull—anxiety-inducing cautiousness vs. disturbing recklessness—of their relationship. It also gives Hodgman a chance to pull out his “dumb husband voice” and issue his first “buzz-shaming” edict to the couple’s apartment management company. The happiest surprise of the episode comes when “Hodgmina,” the judge’s “12-year-old daughter who’s technically 35 years old inside” enters the studio to weigh in on some of the cases from the docket. Since we so often hear husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and children interacting, arguing, and bickering as family members will, it’s a treat to hear some of Hodgman’s own family dynamic seeping onto the show. [DD]
Never Not Funny
In an odd sort of way, Eliot Hochberg’s explanation of the rules for hopscotch serves as an unintentional framing device for Never Not Funny’s season 15 premiere. The show’s unofficial punching bag is asked for his input early in the episode, gets immediately cut off, and then gets the opportunity to advance his description by a few words here and there, whenever things get slow. Not that there are many slow moments, with Maria Bamford and Jimmy Pardo sharing a room. In her usual endearingly damaged way, Bamford lets the audience into her world, explaining why she encourages her Las Vegas audiences to walk out of her performances mid-set and admitting that she cried three times during Guardians Of The Galaxy. People who already love Bamford’s comedy will almost certainly enjoy this one, and those who don’t may still. It’s certainly not weighed down by her neuroses. She seems to be in a pretty good place in her life, making for a very loose but engaging episode. Oh and, after about 90 minutes, listeners eventually learn all the rules to hopscotch. [DD]
No Such Thing As A Fish
No Such Thing As A Dangerous Daffodil
The BBC panel/game show Q.I. has been hosted by Stephen Fry for over a decade, and its habit for delving deep into science and history means its research department always has far more than they can share on the telly. Cue the No Such Thing As A Fish podcast, curated by the research team that is known colloquially as the Q.I. Elves. The elves have helped to perfect the light and humorous edge the show has come to be known for, and the quick deluge of facts featured here often weave into each other. For instance, after a long discussion about a bee-stinging experiment, the subject is broached about an old myth that bees hate bad language and sting people who swear, which eventually leads to yet another myth about swearing. And once some voice-acting facts about Disney are discussed, a seemingly never-ending rabbit hole of Disney facts is revealed, such as Disney World being the second largest purchaser of explosives in the U.S. after the military in order to keep up its fireworks supply. The episode’s host panel is composed of researchers Anne, Andy, Dan, and James, all of whom have a great rapport that allows them to riff off of each other easily and go after even the darkest of arsenic jokes. [DT]
Roderick On The Line
A Cocaine Economy
John Roderick has a wonderful knack for getting himself into a lot of trouble. That much is apparent within the first few minutes of any given episode of Roderick On The Line, which consistently provides glaring examples of the weird happenstance that follows Roderick. Case in point,
Roderick regales Merlin Mann this week with the long buried story of how he got drunk and started a successful jazz cafe with a stranger that wound up being, to no surprise, little more than a front for cocaine distribution. But a simple riveting anecdote has never sufficed for Roderick and Mann. They go on to espouse on the cutely manipulative nature of lonely pot dealers and the folly of listening to Skinny Puppy while hoping against hope to score some free kush, leading Mann and the listener through the unmarked back door to some actual life lessons. Roderick closes the show just as strongly by indulging everyone who has ever wondered about the route the brave souls at their local airport’s Chipotle storefront take to report to work every morning. [NJ]
Ebola Outbreak Continues In West Africa
Science Friday is a public radio show that mixes interviews with current news, and as the biggest and deadliest Ebola outbreak in history continues to spread through West Africa, guest host John Dankosky interviews Daniel Bausch, a professor of tropical diseases, to explain both the state of the current outbreak and some of the science behind the virus. Mortality rates are relative and shift constantly, through Strauss notes that even in this modern age it fluctuates mostly within a terrifying 60–70 percent range. And though local HIV and malaria infection rates may be enabling the outbreak to thrive locally, there is little stopping it from spreading into less opportunistic areas less known for their concurrent struggles. Of particular note is that health care providers seem unable to protect themselves from infection the way they might with other diseases, which not only speeds the spread of the disease in health care centers but means a particularly virulent strain may be at work. The information comes from the front lines, and Bausch has the experience to put it into harsh relief with previous outbreaks. The interview is also far more thorough than much of the breezier reporting being done that focuses more on infected persons being allowed into the United States for treatment. [DT]
Stuff You Missed In History Class
Victor Lustig: Con Man Extraordinaire
Hosts Holly Frey and Tracy V. Wilson may be discussing a famous con man in this episode, but considering even his real name has remained shrouded in mystery, he is still likely someone left out of the average listener’s history class. Victor Lustig is perhaps best known for faking the sale of the Eiffel Tower twice for his personal profit, but Frey and Wilson string along this tidbit until the very end of the episode, first leading listeners through the young scandalous life of Lustig. His most entertaining and strange con involved filling an ornately designed wooden box with elaborate but unconnected machine parts in order to fool black market investors into thinking he’d invented a money-making machine. He would take the device on pleasure cruises, showing it off to as many people as possible and days later settling on the highest bidder. That all of these cons took place over 100 years ago and under an assumed identity keeps the element of mystery high. Frey and Wilson also find Lustig incredibly charming, another benefit of his crimes taking place so many years ago, and so rumors of the Eiffel Tower falling into disrepair are both well researched and ripe for asides. [DT]
Garfunkel And Oates
It’s a testament to Garfunkel And Oates’ innate ineffable charm that even now, after years of critical accolades and international celebrity, Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome still manage to give the impression that they’re just a couple of your quirky comedian friends making silly music videos in their living room. Despite the torrent of gushing praise for their new eponymous IFC show that they receive here from Elvis Mitchell—whose long-running pop-culture Q&A show The Treatment is a regular stop for many of the biggest names in independent film, including Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino—they maintain their self-effacing “We can’t believe our good fortune” attitude so thoroughly, and so convincingly, that one gets the impression that it’s for the most part genuine. (The reality that they’ve now reached celebrity status has to have seeped in to some degree, right?) In discussing their new TV project, they give some interesting insights into not only their creative process but also their intense work ethic. It would appear from this conversation that now that they’ve got one hand on full-blown success, they’re not letting go for anything. [DD]
Why Oh Why?
Movies In Your Head
Andrea Silenzi became the hottest free agent in radio production when Why Oh Why? burst onto the WFMU schedule around the same time The Best Show went off the air. Her meticulous editing and authentic subjects resonated with a vocal base who quickly grew to trust her unconditionally because of her openness about sex and dating. Why Oh Why? moved into second gear when Silenzi suddenly dropped the documentary format in favor of a freer form interview and call-in show in April. Slowly, Silenzi also moved away from sex and dating and into exploring women’s issues told by less audible female producers she respected. Longtime friends of the show like sociologist Holly Wood and accidental feminist icon @solikebasically earned renewed focus and her funny, creepy friend Randy—the Jon Wurster to her Tom Scharpling—fell by the wayside. This week’s installment points to Silenzi’s continued growth as a host, as she welcomes Kaitlin Prest of the Audio Smut podcast collective to expand on the problems with daydreaming. Prest presents a tour de force of a radio drama about a woman who falls in love with a stranger on the train and continues to bring Silenzi’s world of interests together. [NJ]
“I also think it’s funny that when a woman gets that hot, we’re like, ‘She’s either going to eat us or we’re going to put something in her. We don’t know what else to do.”—Cameron Esposito on Scarlett Johansson, Doug Loves Movies
“Any celebrity who feels inaccessible is choosing to be that way.”—Chris Gethard on being a fan, The Gist
“To me, the sharknado was that movie universe’s 9/11.”—Scott Aukerman, How Did This Get Made?
“A bad orange is just off… It’s kind of, like, sweaty and a bummer and the citrus isn’t sharp, it’s just given up like an old rubber band that’s lost its elasticity. That’s a day ruiner.”—Julie Klausner justifies ranking oranges outside the top 10 of her top 30 fruits list, How Was Your Week?
“Germany has fantastic bee laws. If bees break away from their hive, they are only still your bees if you are in pursuit. So as long as you are in pursuit, they are your bees. If you have to run into the House Of Parliament, you can.”—Co-host Dan Schreiber, No Such Thing As A Fish
“I think 99 percent of bags are full of cocaine. They have to be.”—John Roderick, Roderick On The Line
“It was basically just a small box. It had a slit cut on each end. It would have levers and knobs and buttons and look very mechanically engineered. And he would claim this was a money duplicator.”—Holly Frey describing Victor Lustig’s favorite con, Stuff You Missed In History Class
“It’s so hard to know how to spend your time… You wake up and you’re like, ‘Do I write today? Do I record today? Do we make a video today? Do we spend today trying to organize a special?’ It’s kind of open, which is great, but it’s also hard to know how to manage that. And there’s not many people you can talk to about it.”—Riki Lindhome, The Treatment
“The sad thing about making movies in your head is you’re in post-production before you even know it.”—Unidentified voice actor, Why Oh Why?