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.
Anna Faris Is Unqualified
Even though the title of her podcast deems her unqualified, Anna Faris actually uses this show to give out some thoughtful and useful relationship advice. And why shouldn’t she? She’s half of what seems to be one of the most loving and genuine marriages in Hollywood. In this episode Faris talks with Aubrey Plaza who played her husband Chris Pratt’s TV wife on Parks And Recreation, which leads to some revelations about the actor, not least of which is that his balls are perfect. Once the calls start rolling in, Plaza’s confusion about who the people calling in are showcases perfectly why she’s so widely loved: She’s strange and charming and quietly uninhibited. Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence make a surprise cameo via phone, but it’s the talks with the regular Joes that stand out. While Plaza hilariously tries to sabotage these relationships (“Just knock her up! Then she’ll be stuck with you!”), Faris really cares about each person and their romantic issues. She’s endearing as she genuinely struggles to come up with the best solution for each stranger, each of whom she talks to as if they’re her best friend.
Better Friendship Through Podcasting
Better Friendship Through Podcasting hosts Kristin Rossi and Adam Ellis are back after a five-month break, with drinks in hand and questions ready for this week’s topic: “control.” The conceit of the show—Rossi and Ellis choose a theme and prepare questions for each other based on that theme—works well thanks to the hosts’ effortless rapport and total willingness to be as weird and as honest as the questions require. This week, the theme inspires topics like hypnosis, the Janet Jackson album Control, pooping your pants, and questions like, “If you could inhabit another person’s body for a day, who would it be, and what would you do first?” (Ellis picks the president in order to read classified emails, and Rossi chooses an oral surgeon so she could perform her own wisdom teeth surgery.) The whole episode is hilarious and the best kind of strange that it’s easy to forget it’s a podcast and not two of your own best friends riffing with each other as they get increasingly more drunk and ridiculous—like the moment of the show when Ellis explains the Pokémon-like evolution of Fritos to Doritos to burritos.
Call Chelsea Peretti
Just In The Nick Of Time
Fans of Kroll Show rejoice! The show may be over but two of its most beloved characters are very much alive in the latest episode of Call Chelsea Peretti. Nick Kroll joins Peretti in an episode that that is one of the most unhinged, ridiculous, and hilariously dramatic of all time. Before taking some calls, the episode starts with at least two minutes straight of Peretti and Kroll growling and barking at each other, which only they could pull off, inducing giggles. Everything is going according to plan until Kroll Show favorites, Bobby Bottleservice and lover Farley hijack the podcast, apparently killing Peretti and Kroll in the process. From the moment Bobby B says “radio tech over, radio tech over” it’s hard not to fantasize about the two having a whole podcast of their own. What follows is a rollercoaster of emotions, as Farley and Bobby talk to callers while simultaneously trying to deal with their volatile relationship. They attempt to get every caller to have a threesome with them (“Where you stay at though?”), talk about Farley’s dead father and how whack he was, and get mad at each other every other minute. It’s chock full of quotable moments from start to finish, from Farley explaining that people call her “Fartley” to hurt her feelings, to Bobby B giving advice like “Lift weights and eat protein, deal with your shit.” The episode proves how incredibly strong the characters are and how hilarious the dynamic between Peretti and Kroll is. It’s the perfect pairing for a perfect episode.
Home Of The Brave
Absolutely, God Told Us To Do This
There’s something sardonic about Scott Carrier’s unfailingly amazing podcast bearing the title Home Of The Brave. As if to suggest to the uninitiated that the stories documented within would be those of American exceptionalism, Carrier is more interested instead with the cracks in the country’s once-gleaming facade. In fact if there is bravery to be explored Carrier more often seeks out the misguided, wrong-headed sort, and this week’s installment is shining example of just that. A few weeks ago Carrier happened to be near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge at the time of its seizure by Ammon Bundy and his armed militia. This fortuitous occurrence afforded Carrier the perfect opportunity to capture a truly unique portrait of the men behind the occupation. Carrier’s measured, unassuming interview style has long been his greatest asset as a roving audio documentarian, putting subjects at ease and creating a space for them to open up with surprising candor. It pays dividends in this episode as Carrier speaks with Bundy associate Brand Thornton, who has no problem telling Carrier of the religious reasons behind the militia’s plan to overthrow the government. What follows is a fascinating portrait of homegrown radicalism, and one which further solidifies Carrier’s position as the most interesting producer in independent podcasting.
The Longest Shortest Time
Kids Ask Chris Gethard Unanswerable Questions
The latest must-hear irreverent parenting podcast is the blossoming The Longest Shortest Time, a product of WNYC that, with this episode, became the latest acquisition of the Earwolf Network. Host Hillary Frank welcomed alt-comedy’s it boy Chris Gethard to the studio to mark the occasion, and solicited a handful of “unanswerable questions” from children for him to flex his improv muscles on. Gethard takes the opportunity to think on his feet on behalf of every parent out there who doesn’t know what to say when their children ask whether dinosaurs go to heaven or hell when they die or wonder who Jesus’s grandparents are. The answers he and Frank chisel out together are only half-false and scaffold children toward greater understanding of the world we live in—the Tooth Fairy recycles the tooths [sic] she takes, of course, because the Earth can feel tummy aches and sore throats just like people do. Kid-friendly edits of each of Gethard’s answers are available alongside the raunchier first take, too, so youngsters can hear if they’re the real Batman straight from the horse’s mouth.
On Lore, host Aaron Mahnke has never shied away from the gross-out imagery that accompanies many regional myths. But he also knows that true horror doesn’t just come from is-it-real-or-not violence; it comes from how people react to the rumors surrounding it. In the case of Chiloé—the small Chilean island at the center of “The Cave”—its citizens are so afraid of a tribe of self-professed warlocks, they’ve given them exorbitant amounts of money and power. It doesn’t matter that there’s no evidence to prove their reported atrocities, most notably a figure called The Deformer who’s in charge of kidnapping infants and gradually disfiguring them—the group still knows how to prey off of mankind’s collective fear. One could say the same thing about many politicians, too, which makes “The Cave” all the more frightening. You don’t have to be superstitious to be manipulated.
Jill: Dear Grandpa
“No exaggeration, no embellishment, just God-given awkwardness.” A year into their podcast series—a natural extension of their 14-year stage show and 2013 documentary film—Neal and Dave of Mortified have elevated teen crises to an art form. And while every episode has its own unique blend of poignancy and cringeworthiness, the teen diaries of this week’s performer, Jill, are a moving attempt to process legitimate loss. At 15, her Holocaust-surviving grandfather (who raised her beside her single mom) passed away, and Jill maintained a connection to him by starting a diary and addressing the entries to “Dear Grandpa.” This would be merely a sweet gesture were her journals not chock-full of 15-year-old sexual awakenings. Thoughts on hand jobs, the pill, and a gushing review of Titanic are conveyed to the deceased right alongside reassurances like “I love you!” and “we all miss you,” with the reliable oblivion that makes this podcast so special. And as outlandish as it sounds read aloud 18 years later, it’s clear how well this process helped Jill cope with her first personal tragedy. The absurdity somehow feels essential, and the audience responds with all the love and understanding of a family.
A New Deal for Libya?
On a 2009 episode of This American Life, Ira Glass prefaced an hour-long primer on the Wall Street banking crisis by admitting some news stories, no matter how important, just dissolve into white noise whenever he tries to follow them. “I sat out Kosovo. I’m not proud of that fact, but I did.” The god awful mess in post-Gaddafi Libya and the factors working for and against the current U.N.-backed unity government deal is one of those stories for a lot of veteran journalists, let alone casual news readers trying to make sense of it all. On the BBC World Service’s weekly topic breakdown show, host Owen Bennett Jones sits down with a panel of experts to dissect and add context to single topic for an hour, usually one that affects the week’s news but isn’t directly covered, such as the world’s oil reserves or the Obama Doctrine. On this week’s breakdown, Guma el-Gamaty, Libyan envoy to the U.K., and three others help explain why ISIS’s expansion is outpacing diplomatic efforts to allocate power from both within and outside the country. It’s dense stuff, but as an added bonus, it’s incredibly amusing to hear terms like “higgledy piggledy” get tossed around in discussions about foreign relations.
This week on The Read, Crissle doesn’t want to win the Powerball jackpot because it’s too much money (although she’d settle for a smaller win) and Kid Fury just got a new puppy: “She was the only one who was like, ‘I don’t give a fuck whether you come, go, stay, die; I’m an independent bitch and I don’t need you.’ So I was like, ‘Give me her.’” The hosts also discuss the struggle of giving up sugar and dairy and how they wouldn’t be able to date someone in prison—or more than three stops away on the train—too far. Crissle doesn’t have an entire list of reads this episode, but Kid Fury more than makes up for her with an entire list of read that includes the Elle writer who wrote an essay objecting to the movement #BlackGirlMagic, people against mothers breastfeeding in public, Neiman Marcus’ failure to deliver Kid Fury’s shoes two separate times, and wraps up with a breathless indictment of Donald Trump that ends with Kid Fury dropping his headphones like a mic: “Eat ass on Thursday. And I’m out this bitch.”
Red Man Laughing
The disparate indigenous tribes of North America are so underrepresented in mainstream media, it’s no wonder that many have embraced the equalling power of on-demand audio to tell their stories. Ryan McMahon, an Ojibwe/Métis Canadian comic who is in many ways the face of the young Indians & Cowboys Network of podcasts, provides painstakingly produced on-the-ground reporting live from tribal conferences across the country with his Red Man Laughing program. The latest series kicks off after a six month silence from a four-day Nipissing First Nation reconciliation workshop in Ontario. The result of McMahon’s efforts recording Aboriginal youth and tribal elders conversing with one another is clearly the tip of the iceberg but still provides a comprehensive and inviting glimpse into the culture, with his use of bed music and strategic interjections for context helping to highlight the passion of the people at the center of these talks. Reconciliation is a long way away—200 years, according to some of the elders’ proverbs—but the gains being made across the continent are as apparent and accessible as they’ve ever been thanks to the concerted efforts of those most affected.
Does Amy Schumer’s new guy, custom furniture-maker Ben Hanisch have the ideal boyfriend profession? David Wallace-Wells, Maureen O’Connor, and Allison P. Davis discuss why carpenters and other men who work with their hands are such a turn-on for heterosexual women, as evidenced by some of the male characters in Sex in the City, Girls, and Magic Mike—and the Instagram photo of Schumer’s boyfriend posing in what looks like blackface that makes him less than the ideal man. They also interview sex educator and porn director Tristan Taormino and talk about the consequences of sexual taboos becoming more acceptable in popular culture, improving sex education through porn, and how mainstream movies and TV can be more harmful than porn to young people learning about sex. “Every movie I see involves people locking eyes and falling in bed together, no communication necessary, totally ecstatic, simultaneous orgasms, always revolving around intercourse for straight people,” says Taormino. “If you set someone to think if you meet the right person, they’re going to be able to just intuitively know how you like to be touched, that is a setup for failure.”
Talk Is Jericho
Freddie Prinze Jr.
Freddie Prinze, Jr. has had a weird career. Once the bland face of countless turn-of-the-century rom-coms, he’s since established himself as a go-to voice actor with his work on nerd fare like Star Wars Rebels and video games like Mass Effect 3. What most people don’t know is that Prinze, Jr. is also a writer and spent several years on the WWE’s creative team, writing promos and working with top-tier talent like The Undertaker and Jeff Hardy. Prinze, Jr. proves himself a charismatic storyteller in this interview with Chris Jericho, which bounces between the legacy (and promiscuity) of his famous father, his time with WWE, and a childhood spent learning martial arts from Chuck Norris and his godfather, the legendary martial artist Bob Wall. Unsurprisingly, this being a wrestling podcast and all, Prinze Jr.’s stories of scripting for the squared circle are the highlight, from his controversial work with Alberto Del Rio to his struggles gaining respect in the locker room (for a time, John Cena refused to call him anything but “Ashton Kutcher”). Prinze, Jr. is that rare kind of once-teen idol, the kind whose time on the Hollywood A-List was simply just a springboard to the careers he’s forged out of his passions.
After nearly 700 episodes of chronicling the world of comedy, music, and film, one would begin to imagine Marc Maron’s WTF would have trouble continuing to surprise and delight with its celebrity interviews but it’s simply not the case. In what is amazingly his first interview with a member of The Not Ready For Primetime Players-era Saturday Night Live cast, Maron sits down with Garrett Morris—perhaps the most oft-forgotten member of that esteemed group. As Morris tells it, there are reasons both good and bad for why he isn’t held in the same regard, and they make for a fascinating listen. His path to stardom is one of intense circumstances, from growing up in Louisiana before ending up homeless in New York City, to landing on SNL as an introverted writer with little comedy experience. Morris’ recollections of his time on the show are not expressly fond, naturally making them all the more interesting. There is a quality of retrograde lecherousness to Morris at times that can make moments of the interview feel a little cringe worthy, but it is generally outweighed by his overall freewheeling wit. The most amazing moment comes late when Morris calls out Martin Lawrence for writing him off of Martin while he was recovering in the hospital from a gunshot wound.
We Hate Movies
We Hate Movies’ takedowns of more obscure films aren’t always as satisfying as blockbusters like The Lost World and Jingle All The Way, simply because the movies themselves aren’t as familiar to the listener. But every now and then, the gang will uncover a gem that moviegoers feel like they’ve seen, even if they haven’t. On the most recent episode, that gem is last year’s Russell Madness, a dog-playing-sports movie that switches out Air Bud with a Jack Russell terrier creatively named “Russell” and basketball (or any of the other countless sports in the Air Bud franchise) with professional wrestling. The WHM guys barely get into the plot, instead taking plenty of entertaining detours into the logistics of how a small canine would even pin a full-grown man (against wrestling rules, Russell merely stands on their backs), the sadness of his manager (a Carpuchin monkey), and the salary of star John Ratzenberger. Like so many other great episodes ofWe Hate Movies, it’s as much about the tangential journey as the final assessment of the film.
At the start of this episode, Kumail Nanjiani explains what is about to follow. It’s almost preemptively defensive as he says, “I am very nervous when I’m doing this, so if I mess up or say something stupid, I’m sorry. Again, I had not planned to do an interview, I did not have questions planned, I was very nervous, so just set your expectations.” He needn’t be so apologetic, because one could argue that the brief conversation between him, David Duchovny, and Gillian Anderson that follows is better than anything that could’ve been meticulously planned out. The thing about The X-Files Files is that everyone is in it together. Kumail Nanjiani has been a voice for so many fans, and when it was revealed he’d be in an episode of the upcoming season, they could proudly live vicariously through him. In the episode, listeners get a real fly on the wall perspective of the relationship between Duchovny and Anderson, which is such an amazing gift. Nanjiani acts as the fan boy within all of us, and it’s exhilarating. As they reminisce on past episodes, it’s revealed that Duchovny has an incredibly detailed memory of the show and its many episodes. Anderson is incredibly charming as she struggles to remember some of them, shocked at a few of the more ridiculous concepts. There are great anecdotes, and perfect examples of how hilarious and wonderful the two leads are. Nanjiani should be incredibly proud of himself, the fans’ knight in shining armor, saying the things they only dream they could.
“Why don’t you air out my dirty laundry?!”
“Okay I will. Beautiful panties, delicious bras and underwears…”—Chelsea Peretti and Nick Kroll as Farley and Bobby Bottleservice, Call Chelsea Peretti
“I don’t need your 1.6 billion and the whole world looking for me. I don’t. That’s too much money. Even if you take the lump sum and it’s like, 848 million, that’s too much money to have overnight. It will fuck your life up. And if you think you can be anonymous, or have your attorney claim it or whatever, niggas will find you if you win the jackpot, sweetie, they will. I don’t want it. I don’t want it! Can I just get like, a quarter million? I’m not asking for much.”—Crissle on how she doesn’t want to win the recent 1.5 billion Powerball jackpot, The Read
“Furniture-maker is the chosen profession of all fantasy boyfriends because everybody, universally, when you say, ‘He’s a carpenter,’ or ‘He’s a furniture-maker,’ their eyes roll back in their head like they’re savoring a delicious meal or something. Or at least I do. My friend has a husband who’s a furniture maker, and he’s just the most attractive men I’ve ever met, so maybe that’s where it started for me.”—Allison P. Davis on fantasy boyfriend professions, Sex Lives
“I would take the demystification of sex over keeping it shrouded in mystery or keeping it underground or keeping it inaccessible. I feel like if there was a trade-off, I would say put it all out on the table, normalize it, because I still think we as humans are going to figure out ways to turn on and to get off, and I want people to know more, I don’t want them to know less.”—Sex educator Tristan Taormino on how talking openly about sex is better for our culture as a whole than trying to preserve sexual taboos by keeping quiet, Sex Lives
“You know what a good sport for dogs is? Cockfighting.”—Eric Szyszka on the wrestling-dog film Russell Madness, We Hate Movies
“We’re talking about penises”—Gillian Anderson to an X Files crew member at 3 a.m. the morning between shooting, The X-Files Files