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.
Juliet Litman is an epic podcaster. She cut her teeth on any number of Grantland-affiliated shows, and has since been a consistent voice on The Ringer’s Channel 33 podcast network, which is reliably churning out content as the site itself prepares for launch. Among her many shows is Bachelor Party, an evolution of The Right Reasons, a now-defunct podcast she co-hosted with Grantland’s David Jacoby that covered every corner of the reality TV world. Bachelor Party, as its name implies, has a much more streamlined focus, with Litman and her special guests dissecting whatever iteration of The Bachelor is currently on air. Since the series returns next week with the latest season of The Bachelorette, Litman sits down with fellow Ringer writer Allison P. Davis to pick apart the myriad hunks that will be competing for bachelorette JoJo Fletcher’s heart. As always, Litman deftly infuses her casual, unhurried approach with genuine enthusiasm and whip-smart barbs. As she did on The Right Reasons, Litman never allows her intellect to overwhelm her energy, and it’s a riot to hear she and Davis highlight which guys they’d probably fall for, which ones they’d avoid at all costs, and which ones are clearly producer plants. (One guy’s occupation is listed as “erectile dysfunction expert.”)
Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast
There is something particularly magical about the rediscovery of hilarious comedians by younger generations, and there is no person doing a more amazing job of it than Gilbert Gottfried with his Amazing Colossal Podcast. On this week’s consistently ebullient episode Gottfried and co-host Frank Santopadre welcome Orson Bean to the show to reminisce about his wide-ranging career. Though listeners may only be familiar with Bean from his later work on shows like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Desperate Housewives, or his engagingly odd performance in Being John Malkovich, this interview shows just how deep and influential his involvement in the world of comedy has been. The discussion feels like it may be one of the program’s more rollicking hours from its very first moments. The stories that follow include such luminaries as Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters, and a who’s who of legendary character actors. There is an excellent moment when Gottfried is coerced into doing an impression of John McGiver, much to the delight of Bean. After all of the wild ups and downs of the conversation, Bean ends the show on a sweetly comic note, singing his famous recording “I Ate The Baloney.”
Hey We're Back!
Jonathan Katz is one of the most creative comedians around and his podcast, though sporadic, is always a treat. The format isn’t dissimilar to the his classic cartoon. Dr. Katz Professional Therapist allowed him to play the straight man to the absurd plights of comics like Dave Chappelle, Sarah Silverman, and Emo Phillips who walked into his office. Hey We’re Back! is an audio situational comedy in that vein. Some episodes are short absurdist stories, but often the show narrows in on the subtle nuances of an over the phone conversation. Though the runtime here is only 13 minutes, it packs a punch with guests including David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, and Erika Rhodes. “I’d like to offer you a job as my personal assistant,” Katz says to Cross. It’s a power move that forces Cross to figure out why in the world he thinks this would be a job of interest. It seems Katz enjoys putting people in strange predicaments and it’s fun listening to comics dig their way out of them. Here’s hoping Hey We’re Back! comes back soon.
The Indiana Jones Minute
Raiders Minute 15: There Is No Apple You Can Possess…
There are casual Indiana Jones fans, and then there are hardcore Indiana Jones fans. This is a podcast for fans who would probably be made fun of by people in either of those camps. Every day, hosts Pete Mummert, Tom Taylor, and Gerry Porter devote a full episode to each discrete minute of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’ Indiana Jones movies. As of last week, they’re just 15 minutes into Raiders Of The Lost Ark, so there’s another hundred installments to go before they move on to Temple Of Doom, presumably sometime in September. The kind of person for whom this project appeals most likely doesn’t need much of a push to give it a try, but they should know that it’s not nearly as tedious as a thing like this could potentially be. The episodes are succinct, usually under 20 minutes with discussion moving along at a brisk pace. And, while they’re all clearly huge fans of the movie, they’re not about pointing out plot holes, bits of silliness, and what a jerk Indiana Jones has a tendency to be. Pete and Alex of the very similar and equally fun Star Wars Minute will be guests on coming episodes, so they seem to have given this their blessing.
Angela Yee is often the voice of reason on The Breakfast Club morning radio show, which is remarkable given the wide range of people they interview, from Birdman demanding “respeck” to Hillary Clinton announcing the hot sauce in her bag swag. As host of the Lip Service podcast, things are a little less hectic with sex and relationships being the topic of each discussion. Rapper and Empire cast member Bre-Z is the guest, and the show kicks of with a segment in which guests give a tip to listeners. “How do you spice things up in the bedroom when things get a little boring?” Yee asks. Less than a second later, co-host Gigi Allen blurts, “Have a threesome!” The podcast follows the tradition of racy late-night radio shows, but Yee and her co-hosts benefit greatly from the freedom of podcasting. There is plenty of explicit language, but it’s never for the sake of shock value. It’s more of real conversation between people who use explicit language. Also, there is a fisting story.
Letters To The Dead
This week’s episode of Memory Motel is a fascinating, emotional look at the art of the obituary and how tributes to the dead reflect the cultural beliefs of the living. In America, a newspaper obituary will likely cost you if you’re not a public figure whose death would be considered news; death notices in The New York Times start at $263 and can go all the way up to $13,000. But in Iceland, obituaries are printed in the newspapers free of cost and revered by most of the population as a kind of literary genre. The obituary tradition has seen an interesting evolution throughout the years; recently Icelandic papers had to institute a word limit because they could no longer keep up with the sheer volume of submissions, which were often long letters to the dead written by their loved ones. We also hear from retired obituary writer Kay Powell, who made it her mission at the Atlanta Journal Constitution to create a more “democratic” obituary section by highlighting the life stories of more than just public figures. In telling stories that normally would have been overlooked by the newspaper, Powell saw firsthand how her devoted memorials to the dead were responsible for unlikely connections between the living.
Nickelodeon Animation Podcast
Michael Dante DiMartino And Bryan Konietzko
Animation is one of the most mysterious fields in the entertainment industry. This premier episode of the Nickelodeon Animation Podcast tears down that barrier by talking to the creators of some of the most inventive cartoon programming in the studio’s history. Host Hector Navarro, is a natural conversationalist with all the infectious energy you’d expect from a former Nick intern and all-around nerd. What the podcast does best is humanize the people behind the scenes. Guests Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino are responsible for such hits as Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend Of Korra. “I was feeling disillusioned, and I was like, I don’t want to work on this sitcom stuff anymore,” says Konietzko, explaining how the stability of working for King Of The Hill wasn’t as fulfilling as the type of programming he was interested in making. Navarro’s navigation of the interview shines a light on what’s of interest to people hoping to enter the field. This freedom allows listeners to take an honest peak behind the curtain and hopefully inspires the next generation of cartoonists, and brings a voice to those who are already doing it.
No One Knows Anything
Al Franken Is Very Happy In His Current Job
It may come as a surprise to some people that the media-averse junior senator from Minnesota actually used to have somewhat of a career in comedy. Apparently, he spent the better part of two decades as a writer and performer for a late night weekend sketch show of some repute. Well, it now seems as though Senator Al Franken is allowing some of his old sense of comic timing to creep back into his speaking style. He’s actually very funny in this live conversation he had with Evan McMorris-Santoro, the host of BuzzFeed’s No One Know’s Anything podcast. Oddly though, he’s not funny the way he used to be funny when he was accusing people of being lying liars and calling Rush Limbaughs big fat idiots. Here, he manages to pull a lot of laughs from the audience while simultaneously presenting himself as a serious and respectable statesman. This new tone seems polished, and it may account for why shied away from jokes for his whole first term in office. He covers a lot of ground in this half-hour talk, defending his decision to support Hillary Clinton as a superdelegate, explaining the value of caucuses and commenting on how Donald Trump’s nomination is totally, totally not a laughing matter.
On The Media
How The “Fake News” Gets Made
It’s been almost a year now since Jon Stewart erased his name from The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, and the world continues to grieve its loss, especially in this absurd and upsetting campaign season. The several “fake news” shows currently on the air that were spawned from that original program have had varying degrees of success in finding their own voice due to and despite the percentage of The Daily Show’s DNA they each retained. In the special episode of On The Media, recorded live at The New School in New York City, Brooke Gladstone moderates a panel of writers from The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore, and Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, many of them with backgrounds in straight journalism, in an effort to find out what goes into the creation of news satire show and where the line is drawn between reporting the news and making fun of the news. One of the more interesting aspects of the talk is how these writers view their place in the greater cultural conversation and the areas of discussion that they feel their shows cannot easily tread.
Storm Drain—Live from SF SketchFest: Jon Hamm, Craig Cackowski, Matt Gourley, Janet Varney
Just over a year into its run, the real revelation of Spontaneanation has been that it’s not just another funny podcast. Sure, the humor comes by the truckload, but at its heart the show feels like a conscious attempt to unbalance the rampant sameness of the genre and create something genuinely unique. While host Paul F. Tompkins created the show with three distinct set pieces—his improvised monologue, a celebrity interview, and a long-form narrative improv—these sections function more like scales in jazz, allowing for endless variation on the same themes within the boundaries, creating an entirely fluid show that is boldly adventurous. This week’s episode was recorded live as a part of the SF Sketchfest—a boon since celebrity interviewees often take part in the improv during live shows—and features special guest Jon Hamm. Hamm is a true delight throughout, whether it be found in the excess of random facts gleaned from his obsession with The People’s Almanac book series or his stories of getting lost in the sewers at age 7. Janet Varney, Craig Cackowski, and Matt Gourley are on hand for the improv, and they predictably knock it out of the park with a Goonies style subterranean quest, replete with ridiculousness including Tompkins as Hitler, toilets galore, and Hamm as, well, TV’s Jon Hamm.
The Secret Room
Podcasting is already an incredibly intimate medium. New podcast The Secret Room doubles down on that intimacy by inviting people to anonymously confess their deepest secrets. In a recent episode, Kathy tells co-host Ben Hamm something that she’s never told anyone before: She hates her sister. For most of her life, Kathy has watched her sister depend on her mother financially, refusing to take any responsibility for her bad choices. Kathy has cleaned up her messes, helped pay her bills, stood by as she sabotaged the sale of her mother’s home and organized her husband’s funeral without even a thank you. Still, as strong as her resentment may be, Kathy has been unable to completely cut her out of her life; just like her mother never gave up on her sister, Kathy can’t seem to either. Good Sister is a beautiful meditation on the illogical love and obligation family inspires in us, whether they deserve that love or not.
We Still Scream For Scream Factory!
Shock Waves will probably sound familiar to horror fans. Not just because it’s the name of a Nazi zombie flick from 1977, but also because it features the same three hosts–Rebekah McKendry, Rob Galluzzo, and Elric Kane–as the recently folded horror podcast Killer POV. Fans of that podcast should rejoice, because Shock Waves is, as the hosts say, a “reboot” rather than a reinvention. As on Killer POV, the hosts begin by discussing the horror they watched that week, then segue into an interview with an industry luminary. What’s changed is that the podcast is now part of the Blumhouse network–McKendry and Galluzzo are both editors at Blumhouse.com, a repository for all things horror–and will likely reap the benefits that come with having the production juggernaut at their back (Elijah Wood, for example, will be guesting on next week’s episode). On this episode, the trio is joined by Jeff Nelson and Cliff MacMillan of Scream Factory, the foremost purveyors of Blu-ray horror releases. Nelson and MacMillan offer some fascinating insight into such a niche business venture, as well as a peek into which movies tend to sell best, but the true takeaway is the amount of horror recommendations you’ll glean from every episode. Everyone involved here knows their stuff, and it’s nearly a guarantee that they’ll mention at least one title you’ve never seen.
Is Everything Fair On The Air?
We often hear about ubiquitous gender bias in broader terms, but the Uncommon Ground podcast gets specific by focusing each episode on a particular field of work, and interviewing one male and one female in that industry to cut to the chase. The topic of this episode is broadcast radio. Host Alli Breen talks to Bonnie McFarlane and Andy Fiori who produce and host shows at Sirius XM. Fiori started off as an intern and moved his way up to a full time position in the comedy department. When asked if there was a gender balance amongst the interns at the time, he says “I think there was actually more female interns than males. Conversely, more of the people doing the hiring of the interns were men.” It’s something he never thought of before, but it’s rewarding to see how a simple question can lead to that realization. Since they are all friends and entertainers, the conversation leans toward comedy. They dissect the concept of radio friendly voices and why some people claim to be annoyed by the sound of a woman on the airwaves.
“La Croix is just a little better than tasting your own mouth.”—Megan Neuringer, Doug Loves Movies
“That is supposedly based on the real life thing, that [Frank] Sinatra didn’t get From Here To Eternity because he was messing around with Kim Novak, who was the property of [producer Harry] Cohn, and the line that he allegedly said was, “That dago son of a bitch is fucking my eating pussy!” Another thing for you to cut, Frank. We’re gonna get this show down to 20 minutes!”—Orson Bean, dispelling any myths that old Hollywood was a nice place, Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast
“I don’t know what kind of narrative I can fabricate about how I turned that egg over that’s going to get people jazzed about this spatula. But that’s on me because I haven’t tried. I’m going to dictate one right now. Subject line: When was the last time you saw inside your own soul? Then people are like, “Huh? I was just looking for a spatula. I gotta read this!””—Paul F. Tompkins on the ridiculousness of writing banal product reviews on Amazon, Spontaneanation.