Photo: Michael George (Food 4 Thot)
The A.V. Club
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

DopeTown 3000
An Affair To Remember w/ Dhruv Uday Singh

How many times is too many for someone to tell you their boyfriend would love it if you had sex with them? Dopetown 3000’s consistently delightful interviews-turned-freestyles get blessed up this episode by comedian and actor Dhruv Uday Singh (Good Trouble, I’m Too Effing High) and his tale of cuck. Singh went six and a half months without a first date until he hooked up with wholesome glass of milk Jennifer. Her name isn’t Jennifer, of course, and she definitely has a boyfriend. His witty descriptions of sex almost sound like choreography, and his rapport with hosts Zora Bikangaga, Shaun Fisher, and Greg Smith makes this one of the most sexually thrilling freestyles of the series, earning it a parental warning. This episode will bring you pleasure, whatever you’re into. [Morgan McNaught]

The Rally

From fiction-podcast producers extraordinaire Night Vale Presents, Dreamboy has quickly cemented itself as one of the most interesting new shows around. It’s a strange series that always keeps listeners on their toes with its weird and wonderful writing, and this episode, “The Rally,” is no exception. The story, which follows spun-out musician Dane as he receives mysterious cakes meant for the boy next door and meets neighbors who all have their own stories to tell, is set against the backdrop of the eerie Pepper Heights Zoo and the campaign to save Zoe the zebra, led by three surreal girl scouts that Dane can’t seem to escape. This storyline comes to a head this week in an ethereal nighttime adventure where symbols unravel, secrets are revealed, and only a couple laws are broken. [Alma Roda-Gil]

Food 4 Thot
The Thots Go To Hollywood (feat. Steven Canals!)

Food 4 Thot focuses on relationships, race, sex, and identity hosted by Fran Tirado (Deputy Editor, Out magazine), Tommy Pico (poet), Dennis Norris II (former figure skater, former violinist, current writer), and Joseph Osmundson (scientist and non-fiction writer). This episode they’re joined by guest Steven Canals, creator of FX’s ’80s dance musical Pose. Having such a diverse group of hosts is beautifully refreshing when it comes to queer, male conversations, and the entire series is a necessary addition to investigations of queer identity, adding nuance with valuably specific voices. From Tirado’s childhood surrounded by the art of Diego Rivera, to Steven Canals’ experience getting into screenwriting, their shared journeys are inspiring for queer POC to hear. The hosts (who are PhD-holding, successful, intellectual, and queer men of color) manage what few podcasts can: the artful turn from fun, frothy, pop-culture commentary to touching, hard, inspiring anecdotes on the work that goes into elevating and amplifying the narratives of often marginalized individuals. [Jose Nateras]


It’s fitting that most of the conversations in the first episode of the BBC Sounds podcast NB take place in liminal spaces. Faced with the prospect of coming out as nonbinary to their family in Australia, host Caitlin Benedict discusses the process of realizing their gender while on trains, at thresholds, and walking down stairwells. Co-host Amrou Al-Kadhi, Museum of Transology curator E.J. Scott, and drag performer Victoria Sin discuss their own experiences outside the gender binary, illustrating gender’s entanglement with cultural, religious, and generational experience. This episode is a perfect introduction to nonbinary identity for listeners who might not be familiar with it, while still being interesting and informative for those who are. Although the premise of the show might sound disconcertingly raw at first, gender self-discovery is, as Bennett says, often internal to the point of being isolating. Amplifying that process through other voices destroys that isolation. Bennett’s anxiety about their gender audibly evolves into excitement throughout the episode: They begin their journey already not alone, with the sound of wherever they’re going all around them. [Jade Matias Bell]

Public Official A
Part 5: Treat Me Nice

For most people around the country, corruption and Illinois politics are practically synonymous. So when Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was accused in 2008 of attempting to sell off President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated senate seat exchange for political gain, no one was all that surprised. But this blatantly illegal backroom deal is really just one part of Blagojevich’s lengthy political career, one that, prior to being plagued by scandal, was filled with so much promise. Over the past six weeks, WBEZ in Chicago has been detailing Blagojevich’s rise and fall from working-class Democratic representative to convicted felon. This episode covers the bizarre PR campaign the ex-governor embarked on in the weeks after his initial arrest and removal from office. Against better judgement, Blagojevich appeared on numerous talk shows and news programs, framing himself as a “good guy” caught in a bad situation. Unfortunately for him, the hours of taped phone recordings secured by the FBI tell a different story. It was also during this time that Blagojevich appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice and formed his initial relationship with Donald Trump. In a bizarre twist of fate, that relationship could provide the disgraced governor with his best shot at a pardon. [Dan Neilan]

The Government Won’t Tell You to Get A Cab: An Awful Telephone Scam w/ Abby Holland

Nearly everyone has gotten scammed at least once, and that’s what fascinates ScamWow hosts Caitlin Brodnick and Sue Smith, who sit down each week and discuss the many different large- and small-scale cons that catch their attention. They recently sat down with comedian Abby Holland as she recounted a Halloween night that started with a voicemail and soon involved a stolen car on the border of Texas and Mexico, as well as a drug cartel and the CIA. The entire hour-long episode will keep listeners captivated, anxious, and questioning what they would do if they were in Abby’s shoes. Throughout Abby’s story, Caitlin and Sue provide the validation, emotional support, and comic relief that anyone who has ever been scammed would appreciate. [Nichole Williams]

The Keto Diet

It’s always fascinating to hear science writer Brian Dunning weigh in on the latest wellness trends; diet fads, in particular, are a deep well he continues to return to ever since taking down wheatgrass juice way back in 2006. Dunning bristles at being labeled a mere debunker, but the reality is that his show knocks down far more ideas than it props up. That’s what makes the few topics that pass muster so enthralling. Newly installed among that group is the keto diet, albeit with several qualifications, chief among them being that any diet works so long as fewer calories are consumed than burned. Dunning even hesitates to throw cold water on theories that ketosis—a metabolic state where fat is converted into ketone bodies to fuel cells—could help treat neurological diseases, saying it’s an idea with merit, if little in the way of actual evidence at this point. But unless you’re a diabetic or epileptic, he recommends considering other diets that come without common keto side effects like “keto flu,” halitosis, constipation, and diminished athletic performance. [Zach Brooke]

Small Doses With Amanda Seales
Side Effects Of Fame

When it’s awards season, fame flu sweeps the country, and it’s easy to see why it’s so contagious. Celebrities pose in stunning custom gowns, give red carpet interviews, and deliver tearful acceptance speeches that can make even the most hardened critic smile at all the glamour. On this episode of Small Doses, host Amanda Seales explores the hidden side effects of fame, the ones ladened with personal responsibility instead of social media buzz. With her signature enthusiasm, Amanda highlights the differences between being known for a namesake and being known for producing quality work. To her, there’s a hefty distinction between fame and prestige. It takes more than having the masses knowing who you are to be legendary; it takes being busy like you’ve never been busy before and stepping out of your celebrity status to maintain your integrity and self-awareness. The “gem drop” pinging sound you’ll hear is your indicator to take notes and remember that eventually the ball gowns go back on the hanger and the trophies collect dust. So if you’re going to pursue fame, make sure you pack your principles in your suitcase. [Nekala Alexander]

The Brilliant Idiots
Why You Always Lyon?

No topics are off-limits when it comes to Charlamagne Tha God and Andrew Schulz’s witty discussions about race, politics, pop culture, and life. The friends and constant collaborators sit down to go over the recent controversies that have plagued the fashion industry, and they have a spirited debate on whether Colin Kaepernick is actually a martyr, breaking down his current standing with the NFL and what this means for his cause going forward. From there, the hosts offer their insight on the Tristan Thompson and Khloé Kardashian scandal and asked the question on everyone’s mind: Why does Thompson keep getting caught in “public displays of infidelity”? Even though the news cycle has been relentless, both Charlamagne and Schulz agree that they had their suspicions about the Jussie Smollett controversy from the beginning, but Charlamagne was more interested in exploring why the current generation feels the need to have an instant opinion on everything. Is it possible this country has an unhealthy obsession with celebrity? The answer is yes, but the pair also believes there was and is way more to this story than meets the eye. [Vannessa Jackson]

The End Of Time And Other Bothers
Point Of Contact

The world of “actual play” podcasts (as in, people actually playing tabletop RPGs together) has exploded since the advent of the massively popular The Adventure Zone in 2014. One of the standouts in this genre is The End Of Time And Other Bothers, the story of a human, a half-demon, and a fairy from a bureaucratic future who are pulled into the past to stop the end of time (and, you know, other bothers). What makes The End Of Time And Other Bothers especially delightful is the hosts’ commitment to their story: Before recording, they took improv classes to make sure they were all on their A-game. They don’t just commit to the comedy, though; that training comes through in the drama, especially with “Point Of Contact.” In this episode, everything the team’s been working to comes to a head as one of the player characters, Darcy, faces The Shattering—the ominous force threatening the timelines. The episode’s sound design heightens the conflict in the episode, slowing the action down so much it becomes more like a musical arrangement as the stakes get higher and higher. [Wil Williams]

Three Swings With Rhea Butcher
Money And Baseball (w/ Parker Molloy)

Heartbreak is an intrinsic part of being a sports fan, and Rhea Butcher’s Three Swings continues to highlight the specific heartbreaks of being a LGBTQ sports fan. Butcher is joined by writer and Cubs fan Parker Molloy to discuss their history with the team, which includes using day games as an excuse to get drunk at noon, and their complex feelings about the current owners who have political and financial ties with the GOP and President Trump. Three Swings has always been about weightier topics than just stats and game predictions, though Butcher can reel off the former and ponder the latter with the best of them. Issues touched upon in the interview include homophobia, domestic abuse, and racism in baseball. Covering these subjects opens the podcast’s appeal to a wider audience: Even if you don’t like baseball, these same problems haunt every form of sports and other mass entertainment today. There is a general optimism to the episode, with acknowledgments from Molloy that some change is happening for the better. At one point, however, Butcher does admit, “I don’t have hope for anything because hope is false.” [Anthony D. Herrera]

The Pageant

The production studio of HartLife NFP, known for the long-running and critically acclaimed fiction podcast Our Fair City, has returned this week with the first three episodes of Unwell: A Midwestern Gothic Mystery. Protagonist Lily Harper moves back to the small, desolate, and weird town of Mt. Absalom, Ohio, to take care of her ill mother and her mother’s boarding house. “The Pageant” forefronts character relationships while not leaving aside the conspiratorial mystery of the town. Lily and Dot Harper enact the estranged and bitter dance of their cringeworthy dysfunction, while Abby Douglas critiques the erasure of Native Americans in white colonizer mythology through a fiery and confrontational speech. Unwell’s strongest element is how gothic it remains while subverting the worst tropes of the genre. Unwell doesn’t shy away from lingering in its superb sound and musical design to highlight how creepy Mt. Absalom is, as heard in a town anthem about the celery crop, in the echoing squeal of a microphone as it fades into a brief, awkward silence, and in the Southern gothic stomp and folksy strum of the theme music. [Elena Fernández-Collins]

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