Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
From left: Harmontown's Jeff B. Davis, Spencer Crittenden, and Dan Harmon
Photo: Emma McIntyre (Getty Images)
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.

All Told
Altamont part 1: How the ’60s most disastrous concert came to be; Altamont part 2: Re-creating a day of chaos and violence 

December 6 marked the 50th anniversary of the Altamont Speedway Free Festival, the day-long concert headlined by The Rolling Stones that turned into a disaster for everyone involved, onstage and off. The show was already captured on film for the 1970 documentary Gimme Shelter (and writer Saul Austerlitz dropped a book about it last year), but Washington Post national arts reporter Geoff Edgers gives listeners a quick, two-part crash course on the whole rushed, horrific experience, laying out how Altamont was doomed way before Hells Angels showed up as security, knocking people out with pool cues and eventually killing Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old Black audience member. Edgers rounds up interviews with several people who were there, including Stones tour manager Sam Cutler, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, David Crosby, writer/critic Greil Marcus, Patti Bredehoft (the white girlfriend of the slain Hunter), and Keith Richards, who agrees that it was “a nightmarish day.” [Craig D. Lindsey]


Black Friday
Acute Spontaneous Melanization

The premiere episode of fiction podcast Black Friday introduces the listener to a bizarre occurrence via a local news report largely ignored when it was broadcast the Friday after Thanksgiving. Reporter Valerie Hawkins (Leslie Gideon) interviews Sam Gregor (A.J. Beckles), a white man who wakes up to discover that he has turned into a Black man. Although his real name is Kevin Fields, he uses an alias for the news report, and is surprisingly upbeat and humorous given his circumstance. Deeper insight on this situation is provided by AudioLab, a podcast-within-a-podcast whose narrator contacts Hawkins for a Skype interview. While Hawkins details her reporter-origin story, one can sense her concern for Kevin, whose life has gone from bad to worse in a matter of months. From bodycam footage of a police-stop-turned-shooting to Kevin’s unraveling state of mind in his last interview with Hawkins, it’s clear that depression and rage have taken hold of him, along with the idea that he’s not the only one that this has happened to. From the mind of Tycho Newman, Black Friday reveals just enough within its first installment to leave listeners wondering how this plot will thicken. [Jason Randall Smith]


Fuck Hut Music School For Teens
Monday

If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that sexy teen dramas have had it too good for too long! Thankfully, comedian Mitra Jouhari (Urgent Care, Three Busy Debras) debuted a new scripted podcast last week that finally takes those steamy sordid tales of idiotic teenagers down a peg. Set in a cursed warehouse with locks on the doors, the titular Fuck Hut Music School For Teens is populated by a cast of horny students who dream of one day being famous musicians and aren’t going to let the fact that they’re all dumb as bricks get in the way of that. Anyone familiar with the genre will recognize the archetypes: Timoshy (Whitmer Thomas), the jock who gives up sports to pursue “playing drum”; Serena (Patti Harrison), the overly sexualized teenage girl; and Mr. Teacher (Anna Seregina), the misanthropic instructor who conspires to send one of his students to jail. In between the hilarious dialogue and Grammy-worthy original music, Jouhari also manages to fit in some biting meta-commentary that really puts this absurd miniseries over the top. [Dan Neilan]


Harmontown
Cliffhanger

“I’ll give you a choice: We can either start to share some of our favorite memories from the show, or I can get your advice on whether I should get an 8K TV.” With those words, Dan Harmon rings in a boisterous, funny, and big-hearted farewell to the podcast he and Jeff Davis began seven years ago. Ending the show seemed to light a fire under the team’s ass, creatively—the final episodes have been among their finest, and “Cliffhanger” has all the hallmarks of an ideal installment of Harmontown. Dan delivers a mama-fucking rap; Rob Schrab receives a surprisingly moving standing ovation; Brandon Johnson sings; Spencer Crittenden remains the most entertaining low-key hype man to the last; and the liquor flows so freely, even Jeff is blotto by show’s end. It’s not the last you’ll hear from these people—Jeff and Spencer already announced they have a new podcast in the works, and you might be somewhat familiar with Dan’s day job—but it’s a fitting goodbye to one of the most inspired and freewheeling conversational podcasts of the past decade. [Alex McLevy]


How To Do The Pot
What’s up with CBD? The Pain Episode

This new education and advocacy show about modern cannabis usage feels beamed in from the latter half of the next decade, depicting a future where cannabis consumption is glossy, sanitized, healthy, and branded to all hell. Hosted by a fashion designer turned founder of a women-focused cannabis lifestyle brand, and featuring a mixed martial artist sponsored by a CBD supplier, the show is billed as a “modern woman’s guide to legal cannabis” and debuts with an explainer that helps all genders figure out WTF CBD is. Short answer: an active ingredient in cannabis that does not spark a high but may provide relief from anxiety and chronic pain. Some but not all CBD products also contain THC and thus will magic up your mellow. Dr. Jessica Knox unpacks the workings of the body’s endocannabinoid system, and UFC fighter Michelle Waterson speaks to CBD’s ameliorative properties on herself and her in-laws. A closing segment contains rapid-fire responses to CBD FAQs, such as whether it will show up on a drug test. (Spoiler: No promises). [Zach Brooke]


Prince: The Story Of 1999 
Rearrange

To coincide with the whopping five-disc Super Deluxe Edition remaster of Prince’s classic 1982 album, 1999, Warner Records, the Prince estate, and Paisley Park have teamed up to release a companion podcast that completely dissects the musical mythos around both the album and the late, great Purple One himself. While episode one of this four-part series talks of Prince’s headspace directly after being booed off stage while opening for The Rolling Stones, episode two sheds light on Prince’s first home studio, located in the quiet suburbs of Chanhassen, Minnesota. After introducing the home to listeners, host and music journalist Andrea Swensson interviews Revolution members Bobby Z. and Lisa Coleman to swap stories about some of the newly unearthed songs that appear on the expanded edition of 1999, as well as describe how Prince’s first home studio functioned amongst his peers. Engineer Peggy McCreay also shares a fond memory of getting drunk before recording Prince delivering a beautiful piano ballad in his studio. As heartwarming as it is insightful, this series is full of previously unheard tracks, touching stories, and an onslaught of Prince facts for any music nerd listening to 1999 in 2019. [Kevin Cortez]


Spanish Aquí Presents
Thankful For Cafecito (W/ Danny Navarro)

Released just before Thanksgiving, this episode of Spanish Aquí Presents starts off with hosts Oscar Montoya, Raiza Licea, and Carlos Santos talking about their respective holiday traditions. It’s a wide spectrum of Latinx perspectives, from Licea’s Americanized Cuban celebration in Florida, to Santos’ Puerto Rican lechon-flavored turkey, all the way to Montoya’s choice to abstain from celebrating Thanksgiving. The hosts discuss how, despite the ways that holidays bring families together, the negative cultural realities behind occasions like Thanksgiving can’t be ignored. The guest this episode is Danny Navarro, one of the owners of El Cochinito and Café Tropical, which Licea endorses as one of the most legit Cuban restaurants in Los Angeles. Navarro brought un cafecito for all the hosts as well as food for the hosts to enjoy while they chat about vegetarianism, Latinx food, and the differences between life in California and Florida. Rounding out the episode, the hosts—who are all comedians—perform an improv scene inspired by their interview with Navarro. It’s a great example of how Spanish Aquí Presents strikes its balance between nuanced conversations about the hosts’ respective Latinx experiences and a sense of humor that keeps listeners coming back. [Jose Nateras]


The Best Show
THE AVALANCHE BOB TRIBUTE!

In November, one of the strangest and most memorable callers in Best Show history, Robert Cribbie (a.k.a. Avalanche Bob), passed away. In this tribute episode, host Tom Scharpling welcomes Cribbie’s manager, Owen Kline, to celebrate the elderly outsider musician who truly believed he was going to take the world by storm with his snowboard yodel punk songs. A selection of his music, including the anthem of hope “The Day That Hate Died,” highlights his off-the-wall sensibilities and complete lack of rhythm and timing. Clips of past calls showcase his eager self-promotion and bizarre yodel improv skills as well as a talent for exasperating Scharpling by being one of the few callers he could never control. Despite the occasional friction, Scharpling makes it clear that he always liked Bob and even calls out Jimmy Kimmel for mocking him on his talk show. This defense and celebration of outsider underdogs has been at the core of The Best Show from the beginning: Scharpling and company will always be on the side of those, like Bob, who sincerely and passionately pursue their dreams. Tom sums up this sentiment and his feelings about Cribbie by declaring, “God bless the weirdos.” Rest in peace, Avalanche Bob. [Anthony D Herrera]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter