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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of the essential elements necessary to consider something a work of genius, a willingness to take risks is perhaps the most important. Without facing tremendous stakes, there exists no reward for chances taken. By that measure alone, the Bodega Boys podcast is quite high in the running to attain such a status. It is, however, a further testament to the comic sensibilities of show hosts Desus Nice and The Kid Mero (a.k.a Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez, respectively) that the hilarity comes less from a continued pushing of the proverbial envelope and more from the pair’s amazing rapport. This free flowing, conversationally comedic quality is at the forefront with this week’s episode, as the pair run the gamut from navigating the bathroom when snowed in with a new romantic partner, rat cannibalism as a metaphor for life in New York City, and a post-apocalyptic Guy Fieri-threesome, to deeper topics about how they feel lucky to have evaded jail time, the new problems attendant with becoming rich, and how community service is perhaps the most humiliating sentence one can receive. The real accomplishment of the Bodega Boys podcast is that it manages to be one of the most comprehensive pop culture commentary podcasts, delivered in an idiosyncratically hilarious and hyperactive fashion.
Brand New Podcast
One Way Stranger
Comedians and Twitter geniuses Brittani Nichols and Ariana Lenarsky started Brand New Podcast after discovering they lived a block away from each other. And while there’s no overarching theme to the show—they call it “a podcast about nothing”—the lack of limitations makes the show even better. It allows the hosts to talk about anything and everything from thinking about how planes and the internet shouldn’t exist to mistaking a skunk for a leprechaun to getting out of a car in protest because a friend said something ridiculous. Nichols and Lenarsky have amazing comedic chemistry; they’re also both incredibly different people and unafraid to argue with one another when they disagree, which leads to interesting thoughts, like in their debate about the value of establishing boundaries in relationships. Throughout, Brand New Podcast features two people actively trying to better understand the world through each other—and in the moments when their banter isn’t inducing giggles, it teaches listeners new things about this strange world.
Michele Bachmann On Her Run For The White House
It seems all but impossible that listening to 47 minutes of Michele Bachmann talk could be so riveting, but in the third episode of new podcast Candidate Confessional, the former Minnesota Congresswoman is well spoken, candid, and unflinching in her analysis of the 2012 presidential campaign. Hosts Sam Stein and Jason Cherkis talk to her about the rise and fall of the campaign, how and when she knew it was over, and about that notorious wild-eyed Newsweek cover in 2011 that she gamely refers to as “the bride of Frankenstein.” Stein and Cherkis mostly stay out of the discussion, guiding Bachmann with an occasional question—a strategy that could probably only work this well with politicians. Bachmann’s matter-of-factness about how campaigns are more work for women somehow garners empathy both for her and for current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. If future interviewees are half as open and interesting and Bachmann, Candidate Confessional will be a podcast to keep listening to. Best surprise from this episode: Michele Bachmann is a big Kristen Wiig fan and always looked forward to Wiig’s portrayals of her on Saturday Night Live.
[Laura M. Browning]
Comedy Bang! Bang!
The Intern Challenge: Rob Huebel, Jon Gabrus, Jessica St. Clair
It’s been a long time coming, but at last the mic-stealing interns who have solidified themselves as crucial Comedy Bang! Bang! characters go head to head in an episode brimming with drama and raging hormones. Gino Lambardo and Marissa Wompler finally confront each other, and tensions are high. Played by the consistently hilarious Jon Gabrus and Jessica St. Clair, both characters are unhinged in a way that Scott Aukerman has to continuously tame by declaring, “It’s not that kind of a show.” Gino is quick to call out Marissa on her incessant need to make everything about her personal life, and the two fight continuously while simultaneously trying not to relate to each other, which is inevitable. Completely in character, Marissa perceives their passionate hatred for one another as sexual tension. The image of the two as total opposites, Gino being perilously thin and Marissa being shaped like an upside down muffin, perfectly heightens their ridiculous dynamic. Rob Huebel (“from The Descendants”) is a guest on the episode as himself, and his humor is the perfect antidote to the drama occurring around him as the first-ever Intern Challenge—which will determine who gets to continue on as Aukerman’s intern—goes down.
Pen & Paper: Andy Austin
Courtroom sketches are a relic of the American judicial system that hasn’t yet caught up to the rapid changes in technology and communications. (Although some states allow forms of audio and/or visual recording in the courtroom, it’s not typically allowed in federal cases.) Because of this slow-moving cog in an even slower-moving judicial system, Andy Austin was able to enjoy a career as a courtroom sketch artist for more than four decades. She takes center stage in this episode of Criminal, revealing details about John Wayne Gacy that are surprisingly heartrending, and explaining what she had to do to get him to smile for a particular sketch that she needed. Austin is somewhat soft-spoken, but there’s no doubt she’s a badass: She once made a woman look bad in a sketch because she had refused to move over an inch to make room for Austin (she swears this was a singular occurrence); she’s gotten threats from Chicago Mafia bosses; and she’s survived the undoubtedly harrowing details of many a murder case. Host Phoebe Judge doesn’t push quite hard enough to find out exactly what happens when a Mafia don threatens a courtroom artist, but Austin’s stories alone are worth a listen.
[Laura M. Browning]
The Garbage Time Podcast
The world of sports media has so long been dominated by the sanitized output from ESPN, it has reduced the status of the sportscaster to something of a fungible commodity. The shadow cast by the so-called mothership is so large that it feels sports fans have to turn to independent platforms to find a person who commits every last ounce of themselves to the art of being a sports media professional. Lo and behold, however, that person is Katie Nolan, an employee of Fox Sports One. Listening to Nolan’s podcast provides an amazing opportunity in which listeners can enjoy the comic candor, insight, and poise that has helped position her as the future of sports broadcasting. This week’s episode feels like a rather special occasion then, as Nolan sits down for a long interview Mike Francesa, the veritable dean of American sports broadcasting. Francesa’s appearance is rather amazing in and of itself—he doesn’t really do interviews, much less show up on podcasts—but the real attraction is in hearing Nolan and Francesa go toe to toe. It feels like a baton passing disguised as an engaging interview about the realities of the changing broadcast landscape.
Hanks For The Memories
If you’re going to dedicate a podcast to dissecting the films of one of America’s greatest living actors, you can do a lot worse than Tom Hanks. Not only do his 79 hits for acting on IMDb ensure plenty of potential episodes, but he’s just one of those performers who somehow manages to project an air of familiarity through the screen. Talking about him feels kind of like talking about an old friend. And that’s kind of the charm of Hanks For The Memories, in which Consequence Of Sound‘s Managing Editor Adam Kivel sits down with a fellow Hanks fan (ostensibly, at least—there’s only been one episode posted so far) to engage in a casual conversation about a selection from the actor’s filmography. For this episode, the guest, hip-hop artist ShowYouSuck, chose 1994’s Forrest Gump, for which Hanks won his second consecutive Oscar. While most of the back-and-forth is engaging, the standout moment comes about a third of the way into its hour-long running time when Kivel drops a bomb on his guest and explains why many viewers consider the film to be a conservative fable. The sense of betrayal in ShowYouSuck’s voice as the argument comes into focus is almost heartbreaking.
Hello, From The Magic Tavern
The First Jew Of Foon
Hello, From The Magic Tavern has worked hard on building the mystical land of Foon. It has expanded the scope of its creatures and cultures to become an intriguing-enough landscape for listeners to inspire exploration week after week. Listeners have met magical creatures that open up an opportunity for the most creative of improv to emerge. In this episode, Arnie, Chunt, and Usidore chat with Peter Smith, the First Jew Of Foon. It’s incredibly refreshing to both Arnie and the audience to meet someone from our world, as Peter Smith is just a typical Jewish man who traveled to the land of Foon through a portal hundreds of years ago, finding himself at Erik’s Island, greeted by the Waving Woman. When characters like Peter Smith, who are so grounded in the real world, find themselves surrounded by the supernatural, it perfectly heightens what is so hilarious about normal people. Played by the extremely talented Chicago improviser and Second City Mainstage performer Daniel Strauss, Peter Smith is just enough of a stereotypical Jew to pull off being the founder of Judaism in Foon, but never veers too heavily into being a caricature. As long as the three hosts remain as strong as they are, hopefully each new guest will also find their comedic chops elevated in a way that benefits both the character and the world.
The K Ohle
Get Lost: Chris Hackett
In the intro to this week’s episode, show host Kurt Braunohler proclaims mightily that his ensuing conversation with artist Chris Hackett is perhaps the most interesting interview in podcast history. While it’s a dubious claim to make, not to mention otherwise impossible to judge against the entire catalog of podcast recordings, Braunohler is at least correct in claiming it is more interesting than Marc Maron’s chat with President Obama. For listeners otherwise unfamiliar, Braunohler’s podcast is something of a novel delight, switching freely between five or so different formats with each episode, all serving as the catalyst for hilarious and eye-opening discussions. This episode, following the show format known as “Get Lost,” finds Braunohler driving Hackett out to a boat graveyard on Staten Island while the pair discuss everything from making freegan alcohol from artisanal donuts to Hackett’s near death at the hands of a confetti and gunpowder-laden starter pistol. The most potent discussions involve Hackett’s ideas about art, autodidactism, and his experiences as an inmate at Rikers Island. This phenomenal piece of audio captivates listeners’ attentions while subtly expanding their horizons; something which can’t be said of most comedy podcasts.
My Brother, My Brother And Me
Coyotes Ate Our Dad
When the McElroy brothers laugh, it’s infectious. In this episode of My Brother, My Brother And Me, every moment is an opportunity for a hilarious bit. Right out of the gate, the bit game is strong as Griffin McElroy declares that he is now Bliss Delight, “a ball of energy that surfs the cosmos on a wave of pure energy and joy.” After Bliss Delight describes how angel/demon Lin-Manuel Miranda aided his transformation, the brothers move on to giving some advice, which spirals out of control as Bliss Delight passionately rants about how incredible My Fair Wedding’s David Tutera is. They then try to wrap their heads around the “ate my balls” meme, never shying away from using it as a callback. The show peaks when the brothers answer a Yahoo question from a father named Kenneth who needs advice on how to handle a coyote that his two sons have been feeding in their back yard. This spawns such outrageous fervor in the brothers as they plot out a film based on the coyote (that they name Kyle) who wants to eliminate the father and make the family his own. It all leads to the following declaration: “We are changing everything right now! Film! Music! It’s all on the fucking table. The world is ours. We just have to take it.”
Note To Self
When FOMO Meets JOMO: Caterina Fake, Anil Dash
Thanks to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, it only takes a few clicks to feel connected to our friends and loved ones. But the darker side of these internet communities create what is most succinctly described by the acronym “FOMO,” or “Fear Of Missing Out,” as popularized by Caterina Fake. Note To Self host Manoush Zomorodi speaks with Fake and her long-time friend, fellow technologist Anil Dash, who developed his own acronym: “JOMO,” or “Joy Of Missing Out,” after he had to miss a long-awaited Prince concert on the night his son was born. The three discuss what we can do to encourage more JOMO and less FOMO—and whether the founders of these apps and online communities have an ethical responsibility to consider how their new technologies could negatively affect their users’ lives, like Google’s unwillingness to develop accountability standards for YouTube commenters. It’s a tricky question when people’s lives seem to improve the less time they spend online, but the financial success of these apps and online communities depend on them staying glued to their screens.
The Projection Booth
The Projection Booth has no love for Showgirls, the steaming yet intriguingly sequined turd crapped out by director Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas in 1995. But that doesn’t mean the podcast’s hosts aren’t open to hearing out more positive viewpoints of the film. Over a three-hour sprawl, they get a variety of perspectives from their guests, from Showgirls actress Rena Riffel—who found so much comedy in the movie that she developed a musical parody of it (and an even trashier sequel)—to Adam Nayman, author of the self-explanatory book Showgirls: It Doesn’t Suck. Regardless of one’s own feelings on what’s now become a cult classic, the fact that so many view it as hot trash while others see it as self-aware satire at least lends it some analytical merit. As The Projection Booth shows, people are still talking about the damn thing with a lot of insight over 15 years later. Most Best Picture winners don’t even have that kind of longevity.
Of the unlikely heroes that emerged from Netflix’s Making A Murderer, the dynamic defense duo of Dean Strang and Jerry Buting has found the most footing. Strang in particular has been called a “heartthrob” by Slate and was asked outright by Bustle if he’s single. Adam Carolla admits that he’s never seen his wife more fired up about anything than she is by the case of Manitowoc County V. Steven Avery. When Strang appeared on Carolla’s new legal chat podcast Reasonable Doubt—cohosted by Mark Geragos, a California attorney perhaps best known for representing Scott Peterson in 2004—it was a major coup. Strang’s media face has been affable in contexts from newspapers to Dr. Phil, though the freer scope of this interview is only going to fan those flames further. Strang expertly clarifies some of the circumstances behind the evidence left out of the show, like the revelation that Steven Avery’s “sex dungeon” wasn’t in the film because it wasn’t included in the trial to begin with, and continues to tread the fine line between sex symbol and model lawman.
Raising The Bar: Leslie Miley
This week’s episode of Reply All features the story of Leslie Miley, who grew up in Silicon Valley and has worked at big tech companies like Apple, Google, and Yahoo. After dropping out of college, his programming skills and back-end software work eventually led him to a dream job at Twitter. But in October, he quit his dream job because as the only black engineer in a leadership position, he could no longer ignore the discomfort he felt working at a company made up almost entirely of white men. Miley was essentially told that while diversity was important, the company didn’t want to “lower the bar” in order to hire more people of color. Though there are decades of research to back up the argument that diverse companies actually lead to better products because people with different backgrounds can solve problems more quickly, companies still resist hiring for diversity, in part because it’s easier to run teams made up of similar people who can understand each other easily. But Miley isn’t having it: “For those of you who say, ‘Hey, we have to move fast, so we just wanna get people who all know the same thing,’ I say, ‘Go to hell.’”
Magic And Tonic
Gimlet Media gets meta with their newest podcast, Sampler, which debuted this week and is a podcast about podcasts. Host Brittany Luse, who also co-hosts the delightful and hilarious show For Colored Nerds, introduces herself as the “Sacagawea of the podcast world,” and promises to help listeners navigate the often-overwhelming world of podcasts. With her guest co-host Gimlet senior producer Chris Neary, Luse discusses the podcasts that have caught her attention recently—Bodega Boys, The Dead Authors Podcast, and Sleep With Me, the one podcast that actually wants to put you to sleep —but Sampler is more than just a list of podcast recommendations. The show is engaging and interactive, and fun to listen to, largely because Luse is humorous and honest when she explains what a particular podcast means to her. One of the best parts of this inaugural episode is when she calls her 60-year-old mom and plays her a clip from Bodega Boys to see if the podcast has universal appeal outside its target demographic. Her chosen clip, a series of jokes about men accidentally falling into relationships, is a catalyst for a slightly uncomfortable conversation between Luse and her mom, who declares emphatically, “A booty call is not a relationship.”
We see what you said there
“I thought a skunk was a leprechaun once. I was walking up Sunset Drive years ago, and I did not have a car, and there was something leprechaun-height moving among these cars, and in my head I was like, ‘Of course that’s not a leprechaun,’ but I could not come up with any other thing that it could be. It was also when I had just moved to this neighborhood, and I’d never come across a skunk before. I had never seen a skunk just bopping around. So I was like, ‘It’s not a squirrel, it’s not a cat, it’s not a dog… the best guess I got is leprechaun.’”—Brittani Nichols on the time she saw a skunk in L.A., Brand New Podcast
“The hill that [Hillary Clinton] has to climb on appearance, [it’s] just a different hill than men have to climb.”—Michele Bachmann, Candidate Confessional
“Lorne Michaels called, he wants you to fucking clean up his shits.”—Jessica St. Clair as Marissa Wompler on Gino Lambardo’s (Jon Gabrus) impression of her, Comedy Bang! Bang!
“Can I use the phrase ‘Jew Magic,’ or is that offensive?”
“That’s what it is!”—Adal Rifai as Chunt and Daniel Strauss as Peter Smith on “Jew Magic,” Hello From The Magic Tavern
“Joel Davis sent this one in. It’s by Yahoo Answers user Kenneth, who asks, ‘What’s the frequency?’”—Justin McElroy, My Brother, My Brother and Me.
“She’s like Yosemite Sam with titties.”—Heather Drain on Elizabeth Berkley’s acting style in Showgirls, The Projection Booth
“We should all be trying to get better, and if getting better means you have to be uncomfortable for a little while, you know what? So be it.”—Leslie Miley on the long-term worth of developing more diverse teams in Silicon Valley tech companies, Reply All