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.
U Mad?: Margaret Cho
Another Round hosts Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton are ready for 2016, but instead of making traditional resolutions, they have “rememberlutions” jars to collect slips of paper where they write all of the awesome things they’ll do this year. In their clapback segment, Nigatu and Clayton give McDonald’s some well-deserved grief for their “all-day breakfast” menu that doesn’t include McGriddles and remind men that women do not go to the gym to be stared at or talked down to about their exercise machine choices. At the center of the episode is an incredible interview with the stand-up comedian/activist/writer/musician Margaret Cho. The Another Round hosts and Cho are a match made in feminist interview heaven, and Cho is unapologetic and frank as they discuss a variety of silly and serious subjects including the freedom to get mad at white people openly, rebuilding body ownership through tattoos, smoking pot with Snoop Dogg, and refusing to forgive her rapist. “We can learn to heal both ourselves and others through harnessing this rage,” Cho says. “I’m healed by the cathartic power of rage, and anger serves as my bodyguard.”
Bitch Sesh: A Real Housewives Breakdown
Hamptons, 90210: Morgan Walsh
Andy Cohen and his merry wives may not hold the same spot in the pop culture zeitgeist as they once did, but Bravo TV’s Real Housewives fleet of franchises doesn’t show any signs of slowing down; despite earlier claims that the madness would end after Miami, Dallas, and Potomac (Maryland) will have their own casts before the year is out. There might not be anyone more qualified to comment on all things Housewives than self-described historians Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider, both of whom have been parodying the series for years on Hulu’s The Hotwives and the UCB Theater’s ongoing dramatic live reading, The Realest Real Housewives. Only five episodes into Bitch Sesh, both hosts are already questioning their choice to frame the podcast around Beverly Hills, once the franchise’s crown jewel, now a tedious slog where excitement only seems to happen off-camera. That’s left plenty of room for more tangential analysis, though, like whether women in their 40s with hair as long as Kyle Richards can ever really be trusted, or most critically, what in God’s name is going down in the women’s bathroom at Villa Blanca. This week’s red wine and pill-infused deep dive into Vanderpump Rules provides more entertainment in 45 minutes than the actual series has in four seasons.
Comedy Bang! Bang!
Peanuts Awareness: Ben Schwartz, Horatio Sanz
A Comedy Bang! Bang! tradition, Ben Schwartz (or The Elegant Mr. S) and Horatio Sanz join Scott Aukerman to ring in the new year, and do so with all the singing, dick jokes, and characters one could hope for. The three talk about Schwartz’s part as voice consultant for BB-8 in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which turns into a brief but hilarious scene where Sanz voices Chewbacca and Aukerman originates Luke Skywalker’s long awaited catchphrase, “I… am… out of here!” The trio is on fire in the first segment, particularly with how dark some of Sanz’s jokes are and how appalled Aukerman and Schwartz become. Later, Sanz returns as a small business owner named Ted Ronson whose vocal inability to differentiate the words “peanuts” and “penis” ends up being the joke that carries the rest of the segment. The confusion gets so great that Aukerman asks Ronson to draw a peanut and a penis and point to whichever he means, which doesn’t clear up much at all. Finally, Schwartz and Ronson play a classically convoluted game of Would You Rather, which subsequently becomes about dolphin rape and Schwartz having cancer. Before the close, Aukerman asks Schwartz and Ronson to sing a new plugs theme for the year, and though it’s a great one, he fails to specify that it’s meant to be the closing plugs theme rather than the opening. Schwartz campaigns that it was fully Aukerman’s mistake and that he should have to deal with it for the rest of the year, but only time will tell. Relishing in the hilarious dynamic of the three, this episode is by far the best of 2016.
Don't Get Me Started
Jason Mantzoukas On Improv
Don’t Get Me Started is a podcast hosted by comedians Will Hines and Anthony King, where they talk to industry folk about what they love, rather than what they do. This episode bends the rules for the one and only Jason Mantzoukas. Rather than talk about a band he loves or a comic book, Mantzoukas opts to talk about improv, which is in fact a thing they all do. It couldn’t be a more perfect. Because the three of them are all actively immersed in the improv scene, and have been for so long, they have ample topics of conversation to choose from, from the early days at UCB, to improv styles and favorite moments. Mantzoukas is always a compelling podcast guest, but when he talks about improv, it’s a whole other level. You can truly hear how obsessed he is with improv, it’s endearing and endlessly captivating. It’s so easy to get swept up in his love for it, and since King and Hine’s are in that world, they are able to ask the right questions. They talk about his early UCB teams and how the landscape of improv training is changing, the things he loves and hates in an improv show, and everything else that could fit in an hour-and-40-minute episode. It’s the podcast at its best, and sure to be a favorite for any similarly improve-obsessed listeners.
Chris Gethard and Don Fanelli’s soda-centric podcast is finally back! Fanelli and Gethard are absolutely obsessed with soda. One could say they are the best comedians with a soda podcast of all time. The last episode of Fizzy Boys was Episode 13 released in May of 2014, and turns out there was meant to be an episode 14, but Fanelli simply forgot to release it. The hosts spend some time at the top catching up and discussing Fizzy Boys’ history, including the last time they did the show, which resulted in a “diarrhea blowout.” Next, they hatch an insane plan to fly to Guatemala in search of the original Delaware Punch formula, because they are really dedicated to soda. It’s all fun and games until they get to the real reason they are there though: to try a soda they’ve never had before. It’s finally revealed to be a Bruce Cost (“I love Bruce Cost, I’ll suck his dick”) Limited Edition Ginger Ale called “Blood Orange Meyer Lemon.” It’s when you’re actively anticipating hearing two guys drink a soda for the first time, that you really realize the power of the podcast. The suspense and gravity that cloaks that first sip is hilarious and yet undeniable. It plays out like the most serious thing in the world, as Gethard notes, “I’m mixing it, and Don is staring at it like a cobra ready to strike.” The episode flows as if there was never a hiatus at all, and one can only hope that it won’t be long before the next installment.
Improving Brett’s House: DC Pierson
With Sean Clements still “in Hawaii” shooting “Super Argo,” Hayes Davenport is joined by DC Pierson to record an episode at engineer Brett’s house. The Earwolf studios are unfortunately unusable, because engineer Cody set off fireworks at the New Year’s party and the studio has become a makeshift hospital. Of course. The episode immediately becomes about the two criticizing Brett’s home, and discussing ways they can improve it. What follows is a laundry list of ways to pimp Brett’s place to meet industry standards, each more ridiculously specific than the last. Pierson and Davenport have such strong chemistry and are instantly on the same wavelength, paving the way for each other’s jokes and following through seamlessly. They effortlessly pin down characteristics of the worst of L.A. types and home in on them as if they’ve always been a part of who they are, and who Brett should become. From having the right books (Infinite Jest, Just Kids, and of course both Bossypants and Yes Please) to building the perfect Man Cave, complete with koozies and lots of “chive stuff” because as Davenport says, he’s going to be “keeping very calm and chiving on extremely hard.” Brett plays along perfectly, quietly fumbling through the episode as the perfect foil to their personas, having many genius moments like when he shyly remarks, “that owns, that owns” or refers to Atlanta as “Hotlanta.” Though Sean Clements is greatly missed, this episode proves that Davenport can hold his own with the right guests, and that the tone of the show will always persevere.
Note To Self
A Neuroscientist’s Guide To Getting Organized
This latest episode of Note To Self is the perfect thing to listen to during the first week of the new year when you’re organizing your New Year’s resolutions. Host Manoush Zomorodi talks to Dr. Daniel Levitin about how one can better accomplish our big goals and daily tasks small by better organizing our brains. Thanks to multiple social media platforms and an endless stream of information accessible on our smartphones at all times, it can be overwhelming to figure out which task we should cross off our to-do lists first. Levitin suggests that we start by taking stock of all the ways we spend and waste our time at work and at home every day. By recognizing those patterns, we can stop obsessing over all the things we “should” be doing that keep us from focusing on the present moment. He also recommends writing down your tasks in order of priority in order to clear your head. Because our brains can only juggle four things successfully at one time, writing things down—as well de-cluttering your physical spaces and communicating with the people around us—is a great way to keep stress levels from spiraling out of control in 2016.
The Read hosts Crissle and Kid Fury celebrate Blue Ivy Carter’s fourth birthday by kicking off their latest episode with a rendition of Destiny’s Child’s cover of Bee Gee’s “Emotion,” which ends abruptly when Kid Fury’s falsetto turns into an uncontrollable cough. Another episode highlight is Kid Fury and Crissle’s no-nonsense evisceration of the rapper Future after his recent Twitter hissy fit that Ciara won’t let him see his child—even though he allegedly doesn’t pay child support—and the internet trolls who seem to think women shouldn’t sue men for money to raise their children. They have great thoughts for listeners, too—like the person afraid to tell their friend they hate their fashion line—and the white people who seem think that self-love in the black community is somehow equal to white hate. “We’re not saying white girls are all sour and rancid and should die. That’s probably an issue that you’re having personally in your head,” Kid Fury says, and as usual, it’s hard to tell if you’re laughing because of how funny he is or how right he is.
This Is Why You're Single
Text Messages Are Confusing: Taylor Strecker
Laura Lane and Angela Spera launched the This Is Why You’re Single podcast in advance of their satirical dating guide of the same name, immediately making a big splash in the charts—“Grace Helbig was a few down from us,” they once noted. It could have been an easy, temporary hype machine for their book launch, but now a month afterward Lane and Spera have established that they’re sticking around with exponentially trickier listener mail and more frequent guests. XM radio host Taylor Strecker is the latest to join in and gamely discusses her recent divorce while providing a rare perspective among Lane and Spera’s usual rotation of happily coupled people. This week’s reason why you’re single—text messages are confusing—leads to Strecker playing one of Lane and Spera’s constantly charming hypothetical scenario games as the hosts read her seemingly blatant breakup texts (“I’m in Africa. Bummer.”) that they jump through hoops to brush off. Dating advice show junkies should find a place among the best for Lane and Spera’s growing, modern millennial voice.
Most comedy fans will probably listen to Marc Maron’s talk with David Spade to gain more insight into the strange behind-the-scenes-world of SNL, not to mention his deep yet often painful bond with Chris Farley. And while he does open up about both those things, the juiciest parts of the interview involve guns—not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the sly, slightly built comedian. But lo and behold, much of his childhood was spent hunting and playing army (with actual rifles) in the Arizona desert with his brothers. Regardless of one’s stance on firearms, there’s no denying Spade’s interest in the things helped him out years later, when the shotgun he kept under his bed helped saved his life after his personal assistant tried to kill him in the middle of the night. The comic describes the event like the true horror story it is rather than some badass yarn, even though it sounds like something that happened to Hunter S. Thompson, not an SNL alum.
Your Mom's House
The Mommies Have Become Mommies!
The husband and wife duo Tom Segura and Christina Pazsitzky, both Los Angeles comedians, came back to their recording schedule three weeks after the birth of their first child, and not much has changed. In theory, the show has never been any different from the loosest, most laid back podcasts out there. But while the “Main Mommies” may possess a number of apt comparisons on paper to Uhh Yeah Dude or the seminal You Look Nice Today model of pressing record when you’re talking to your friends anyway, the feeling inYour Mom’s House is as warm and comfortable as the title implies. As they often focus their shows around clips they bring in to surprise each other with, this week’s highlights are a teen girl seemingly vlogging adoringly to Adolf Hitler and Segura inviting Pazsitsky to watch a graphic sex tape he insists features retired NFL coach Jimmy Johnson. The love they share for this time in their week, especially in their first time in the Dome post-childbirth, is palpable and inspiring, and while inside jokes abound, every episode is a gateway.
“People are so afraid of women, and I think if we really understood the power that we do have, I think that we could collapse the patriarchy. We already have done a good job at starting to dismantle it, but if we really recognized our own rage as positive strength, it could be revolution.”—Margaret Cho on refusing to forgive her rapist and dismantling the patriarchy through rage, Another Round
“You thought it would be like a ’60s thing where there’d be like a bowl of cigarettes?”
“Or like Snoop has a bowl of joints…”
“Excuse me, what did you say?”
“I said ‘joints,’ but then I remembered now that you have thing…”
“Please tell me you were talking about Spike Lee movies.”—DC Pierson and Brett Morris trying not to trigger Pierson’s fear of weed, Hollywood Handbook
“Brandy apparently purchased the rights to my spirit, and like, inner being, and she decided to basically shake it up like a snow globe with these vocals that she placed on the internet.”—Kid Fury gushing about Brandy’s new album, The Read