Podmass_In [Podmass](https://www.avclub.com/c/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](mailto:podmass@avclub.com)._  

Podmass comments and suggestions for future coverage can be directed to podmass@avclub.com.


"I was saying nothing. But I was saying it slowly and dripping with false meaning."—James Adomian as the Sheriff of Nottingham,Comedy Bang Bang


Non-Stop is great if you imagine that’s the flight Liam Neeson took to save his daughter in Taken.” —Geoff Tate, Doug Loves Movies

“Anderson is in love with the machinery and the fakery of the old days.”—Michael Phillips on Wes Anderson, Filmspotting

“‘He told me that you were depressed about your dog dying, and he told me to go out with you.’” —Alan Spencer on a time that Andy Kaufman set him up with a girl without him knowing, The Fogelnest Files


“I have to say, your anti-Manilow bias is really showing here.” —Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics

“I think falling might be universally funnier than farting.” —Matt Besser, Improv4Humans

“With that came this wild weather front from the highlands behind me. These big, black, ominous clouds came rolling in tumbling real low and they just whipped across me. Behind it wasn’t even wind—it was like a vacuum, just horizontal, just coming out to sea—and you can feel the temperature drop, and it began to snow. And I’m standing there thinking, ‘Am I witnessing the end of our world?’ I mean, I truly pondered that.” —Carl Pillitteri on the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, The Moth


“Listen, if I can get my wife to dress as a man, I am in hog heaven. Have my cake and eat it, too.”—Rich Sommer on the upside of Halloween, Never Not Funny

“It’s a very small, little island with blueberries, rope swinging, and stuff Busta would enjoy.” —Kevin O’Brien on Busta Rhymes Island, as quoted by Sean Cole, 99 Percent Invisible

“We get an RV, we go camping, we make little meals, we can film ourselves, we can record podcasts, we can play music, we can hug each other, we can tell ghost stories around the fire.” “And where are we heading?” “Out West!” —Tig Notaro and David Huntsberger, Professor Blastoff


“Basically, like any place that you can have an AA meeting: a church, or a bowling alley.”—Randy Sklar and Jason Sklar to Rich Sommer on the few choices Minnesotans have for recreation during winter, Sklarbro County    

“The air is so dry that people will cough until they break their own ribs from coughing.” “The air was so dry and cold that even in  his boots, his toes started to crack until the bone was exposed.” —Hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey on the dangers of climbing Mount Everest, Stuff You Missed In History Class



You Are Not So Smart
Billing itself as "a celebration of self-delusion," this podcast takes utter glee in informing its listeners of just how much they don't know about what they think they know. In each episode, usually with the help of an expert guest, host David McRaney focuses on one of the many inadequacies of the human mind and how our faulty equipment causes us to see things wrong and/or act irrationally. Biology teacher Kevin Lyon helps him puncture the illusion of common sense in one episode, and neurologist Steven Novella (from The Skeptic Guide To The Universe podcast) assists him in explaining the silly logic behind conspiracy theories in another. Despite what one may assume, You Are Not So Smart admirably glides above any condescension or mockery that might seems so easy and opts instead to glance almost-fondly at these foibles that us the human mammals we are. [DD]



Seven Second Delay
Whether for world records, bar bets, or quiet glory, the initial appeal of Seven Second Delay is in its tagline: “radio stunts.” Since the early ’90s, legendary WFMU station manager Ken Freedman and ex-famous Monk creator Andy Breckman have been chewing gum on the airwaves while trying to etch their names into radio history—two of their most notable gambits have found the duo testing the weight limit on the station’s elevator and nearly getting The New York Times feature Metropolitan Diary shut down. Their attempts and routine failures at achieving 15 minutes of tepid fame make for great radio and an easy in.

But what fits Seven Second Delay snug into the hearts of the sad, lonely hippies who listen to WFMU is how rarely they attempt the truly grandiose, and how often they fail anyway. Classic episodes of this cult mainstay have less to do with sincerely trying to break an all time record for the most phone calls in an hour and more to do with trying bath salts live on stage at the UCB East. When Breckman visited Freedman’s house for dinner once, it was a huge hit—so the pair crashed listener Vincent’s house in response. Breckman spent an hour getting pummeled by Washington Square Park’s best speed chess players mere weeks after using one of his last connections to Hollywood to get a crowdsourced joke onto Jay Leno’s Tonight Show. And in Freedman’s most sophisticated ruse yet, he led listeners on a mission to convince Breckman that longtime enemy of the show, Don McLean, had passed away in a hot-air balloon crash.

More than anything, the misfit us-against-them camaraderie that the hosts foster in each other and their congregation is emblematic of the famously progressive radio produced by the station they call home. It’s never been enough to sustain interest in a bi-weekly live show, but that’s part of the appeal. Impossibly, it’s appointment radio in the podcast age, an hour every Wednesday night from 6 to 7 p.m. Eastern for a super-minority audience to rejoice in a scene that would be dying if not for the lot of them. [NJ]




The Cracked Podcast #25: The Science Of Choosing Someone To Sex
Cracked editor-in-chief, Jack O’Brien, is joined by writers Soren Bowie and Kristi Harrison to discuss some of the more obscure and seemingly ridiculous scientific and evolutionary theories that explain sexual attraction. O’Brien sets the tone for an interesting and irreverent episode with a deadpan recitation of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex” in the introduction after outing the fact that Harrison is desperately trying to cloister her children from the speakerphone to shield them from the topic. Harrison’s comfort seems appropriate given that at one point she discusses some theories on why women evolved protruding breasts. One theory involves a clearly uncomfortable Harrison explaining that breasts were evolution’s way of creating a butt on the front of the body. [MS]

Comedy Bang Bang #275: LIVE from SXSW 2014: Jonah Ray, Adam Cayton-Holland & James Adomian
A live episode from SXSW featuring just Scott Aukerman and his two guests—The Nerdist's Jonah Ray and Denver-based comedy team The Grawlix's Adam Cayton-Holland—could have been a perfectly acceptable show. The three men bounce bits and references back and forth with ease of professional ping pong players. But once James Adomian emerges like a force of nature from the Austin crowd, with his foul-smelling Sheriff Of Nottingham wig and his unctuous, innuendo-laced, Alan Rickman-esque accent, you remember how good this show gets when its in its full chaotic swing. It seems difficult to imagine that any longtime listener will be able to hear the theme music to "Would You Rather" without stifling a "Seize him!" or two under their breath after this. This episode illustrates just how much energy a strong comedian can draw from a willing a audience. [DD]


Doug Loves Movies: Rory Scovel, Geoff Tate, And Kumail Nanjiani
Doug Benson’s strategy of inviting Leonard Maltin Game winners back the following week seems to be working out well in terms of putting together consistently good shows. Fans know that they can expect at least one panelist to know how to play the game well, and the winners tend to be guests that the fans like. In this case, fan-favorite Kumail Nanjiani returns to a particularly well curated panel featuring comedians Rory Scovel and Geoff Tate. Apparently, Daniel Van Kirk’s Mark Wahlberg impression is going to be a regular feature of the show, as he pops up again. The impression is still effective, especially when the character takes shots at Donnie Wahlberg. [MS]


Filmspotting #481: Grand Budapest Hotel / Top 5 Wes Anderson Scenes
If ever there was a filmmaker whose works could benefit from the meticulous jewelers lens-like meticulous scrutiny of film criticism podcast, it was Wes Anderson. On the occasion of the release of his eight full-length film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Josh Larsen and guest-host Michael Phillips each choose their five favorite moments from nearly twenty years of Anderson’s purposefully unrealistic cinematic worlds. It should come as no surprise that big memorable scenes from Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums are well represented on both lists. But there's also a smattering of smaller, throwaway moments—like a figurine adjustment from Bottle Rocket—thrown in for good measure. And Larsen nearly scandalizes Phillips when he reveals that a moment from The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou resides in his number one spot. [DD]

The Fogelnest Files #81: SLEDGE HAMMER!: Alan Spencer 
Writer and producer Alan Spencer spends most of his talk with Jake Fogelnest recounting his career in Hollywood, and while “how I got to the party” stories can often get tired after the first few minutes, Spencer’s is notable because it’s fascinating from start to finish. From getting his start by sneaking onto the set of Young Frankenstein to writing jokes in secret for Don Adams, Spencer is a compelling case of someone whose drive to make great work overshadowed his ego. He’s also incredibly articulate in describing his thought processes for projects like Sledge Hammer!. This week’s episode is required listening, especially for anyone who wants to know more about the heyday of the Mel Brooks crew. [ABe]


Freakonomics: “It’s Fun To Smoke Marijuana”
Mind reading isn’t possible, but humans do have an innate ability to accurately guess what other people are thinking and feeling. Compared to other primates, humans have much more refined social senses (a recent study showed that human toddlers are much better at answering questions about what others want than adult chimpanzees). One of the major barriers to humans’ ability to read other’s minds is our egocentrism (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but simply a fact of our being). Since we’re always aware of ourselves, we can’t remove our presence from how we guess others’ thoughts and emotions. Typically people think that their presence has more impact on another person than it actually does. We may be experts about ourselves, but that expertise actually negatively impacts our knowledge of other people. [NC]


Hang Up And Listen: The Everything Is In Jeopardy Edition
Jeopardy! “hacker” Arthur Chu may have lost last week, but that doesn’t make the Hang Up And Listen panel’s discussion with winning-streak record-holder Ken Jennings any less interesting. Chu’s tactics weren’t anything new, but they still managed to rankle the show’s ardent fan base in a way that inspired a lot of discussion. And in anticipation of Selection Sunday, Ken Pomeroy joins the show to talk about the Wichita State Shockers, which also inspired two Afterballs on undefeated college basketball teams. The third, from Mike Pesca, examines the golf industry’s fascinatingly huge financial stake in the continuation of daylight saving time. [KM]

Harmontown #94: Live From SXSW
Perhaps the rash of improvised raps from Dan Harmon on his podcast spilled over into Community in the most recent episode with Dean Pelton flying off the handle while wearing a peanut costume. Harmon continues his improvised faux-music career in an episode taped before the SXSW premiere of the Harmontown documentary film. It’s a spirited hour with recollections of the production from all the major players and director Neil Berkeley, with a bonus Q&A after the screening tacked onto the end. It’s mostly a lot of gratitude from fans who want to kneel and worship at the Temple Of Harmon, but there are also a lot of laughs packed into nearly two and a half hours of material. [KM]


Improv4Humans #124: Hal-A-Swarm: Andy Secunda, Mike Delaney, And Sean Conroy
Improv4Humans often pulls off its most interesting episodes when Matt Besser brings together improvisers who know each other well. This week, Besser assembled Sean Conroy, Andy Secunda, and Michael Delaney, who make up half of The Swarm, a well-known New York improv team. The three bring an interesting, story-based approach to the show. There aren’t as many big laughs or callbacks, but each scene exists in its own wonderfully bizarre universe. For instance, a video of a man getting pelted with spitballs informs a scene that starts off with basically that premise, but quickly blossoms into a crime tale spanning multiple continents and features a diabolical volcano lair. It takes a veteran group of improvisers to keep material that bizarre grounded, and luckily, that’s just who’s on this week, and boy are they on. [MK]


The MothCarl Pillitteri: Fog Of Disbelief
Among the wreckage caused in Japan by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant melted down, adding another devastating ecological and humanitarian blow to one of the nation’s greatest catastrophes. Carl Pillitteri, a field engineer on the scene at the time of the disaster, shares his experience, which devolves from quick thinking to panic to absolute hopelessness. In a broken voice, Pillitteri vividly describes the surreal scenes that understandably led him to question whether or not he was seeing the Rapture—the sliver of hope he leaves off with is an absolute must-listen. [DJ]

99 Percent Invisible #105: One Man Is An Island
Sean Cole’s discovery of Busta Rhymes Island during a Google search for Busta Rhymes tour dates sets the stage for this week’s inquiry into how places become named after people. Cole’s interview with Kevin O’Brien, the local Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, man who (unofficially) named Busta Rhymes Island leads to a more general discussion of public memorializing. As is often the case with 99 Percent Invisible, this proves to be an unexpectedly fascinating history, taking into account not only Lyndon Johnson’s renaming of Cape Canaveral, but also the naming of a square in Cambridge a year after the sudden death of Mark Sandman, the lead singer of the beloved band Morphine. [DF]


Professor Blastoff #146 Anxiety: Doug Mellard
This week’s installment boils down to little more than comedians talking to each other about their neuroses, but the program’s unique voice and the hosts’ relatively exclusive commitment to it mean that it’s also a welcome addition to an overpopulated landscape. David Huntsberger gets a rare opportunity to shine in the anecdote department due to his prior relationship to the guest, and Kyle Dunnigan manages to shift successfully into Huntsberger’s usual role as the voice of reason—or the closest thing Professor Blastoff can get to one—by derailing the lengthy deposition of Doug Mellard’s youthful STD paranoia to share his own anxiety management techniques. This episode also marks the end of an era for the Blastoff crew, as longtime producer and fourth wheel Aaron Burrell bids farewell to Los Angeles to pursue other endeavors. It’s a bittersweet goodbye, but he couldn’t have left on a higher note. [NJ]


Sklarbro Country #190: Rat Arm On A Crocodile: Rich Sommer, Chris Cox
Mad MenRich Sommer facetiously refers to himself as a perfect guest for a sports-themed podcast, but his streak of affable appearances lately has further proven that he's actually a perfectly lovely visitor who can make himself at home just about anywhere. It doesn't hurt that even in this off-season between major league events, ridicule-worthy news clips have kept pace, and Sommer contributes to some great bits mocking stories like his Minnesota home state representative Pat Garofal’s racist NBA tweet last week, and L.A. KISS’ recently unveiled and predictably gaudy Arena Football League uniforms. He also uses the visit to talk up Minnesota’s lesser-commented on, but rich theatre scene, which leads to some fun one-upmanship about handling on-stage screwups. [DJ]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Getting To The Top Of The World, Pt. 1
The summit of Everest was not conquered until relatively recently, and hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey tackle the topic of scaling it with appropriate reverence. Altitude sickness is the least of the problems climbers face, who might not only lose their grasp on reality, but might also have their bodies start to literally fall apart. This first of two podcast episodes begins with the early attempts at scaling the summit, such as in 1920 when climbers from outside of Tibet were finally granted permission to scale it by the Dalai Lama. Wilson and Frey take plenty of time to put the listeners in that remote part of the world, and having the scene set makes for the best moments of the episode. The failed expeditions also build a great deal of tension toward the human victory that will come in Part 2. [DT]


This American Life #519: Dead Men Tell No Tales
No official account of last year’s shooting of Ibragim Todashev by FBI agents questioning him about his links to Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev has ever been released. The circumstances around Todashev’s death continue to be one of the more enduring mysteries surrounding the 2013 attack, and a masterful piece of journalism by Boston Magazine’s Susan Zalkind on this week’s program sets out to discover what really happened. Based on interviews with people that knew Todashev—including his young widow, who was deported for talking to the press—Zalkind’s reporting paints a vivid portrait of Todashev and the FBI’s investigation into him, and culminates with a rather plausible theory about what happened that night. [DF]


Who Charted? #171: What Happens In New Zealand
Girl Code’s Alice Wetterlund joins Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack for a lively dissection of current music and movies. She’s severely charming and funny, plus, she has the rare distinction of being the kind of guest who can still be funny while lapsing into voices and characters. The music chart inspires some entertaining cattiness on Wetterlund’s behalf over the fact that mega-babe John Legend is married to a supermodel. Like most Who Charted? guests, Wetterlund has a lot of fun with the movie chart, especially at Liam Neeson’s expense. It also provides Wetterlund and Kremer the opportunity to rail against the glut of cartoon movies flooding the theaters. [MS]

WTF #477: Kevin Macdonald / Kevin McDonald
The turn of events that led up to Marc Maron releasing an episode in which he talks to Touching The Void and Last King Of Scotland director Kevin Macdonald and Kids In The Hall member Kevin McDonald are like something out of a sitcom, which is fairly amusing in and of itself. It’s an added bonus, then, that both interviews are actually quite good in their own ways. Kevin Macdonald exudes a contagious passion for filmmaking , and his stories about working with Mick Jagger are fairly fascinating, while Kevin McDonald provides something like a tight, lively oral history of Kids In The Hall. Both are entertaining and neither outstays their welcome, so Maron might do well to split episodes more often. [CG]



The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project #6: Shut Up And Have Fun With Danny Mahoney
Thanks to Andy Daly’s vast spectrum of characters, each episode in this series can be a little divisive–even among die-hard fans. But the pilot from professional partier Danny Mahoney (Daly) and his crew of degenerate “Noo Yawkers” seems slightly more derivative and a little less essential than previous installments. [TK]


Book Fight!: Writers Ask: Elevator Pitches And Caviar Dreams

After 12 minutes of AWP conference talk, this Writers Ask episode was positioned to be a great one, with hosts Tom McAllister and Mike Ingram answering inquiries about predatory agents and/or conferences. But beyond a meandering anecdote, they don’t offer much advice on finding the good ones, just acknowledge that terrible ones exist. [ABa]

The Flop House #147: Devil’s Pass / Awards Floptacular
The Floppers are great as always as they discuss Devil’s Pass, but the return of the Awards Floptacular in the second half will mostly appeal to diehards and anyone who hasn’t already had their fill of Oscar commentary. [DF]


How Was Your Week #158: Katie Dippold “She’s a Car”
A long digression on the movie Mannequin, a grating character called “Hidey,” and a friendly but shallow conversation with guest Katie Dippold make for an occasionally entertaining but ultimately skippable episode. [AH]

Judge John Hodgman #151: Sic Semper Dramatis
For a cringe-inducing hour, Judge John Hodgman visits the polar opposite of the pop culture continuum to rule on Will’s case against his brother Andrew, who claims he “can’t stop” turning their nights out—and mornings out—into reality-TV-style episodes filled with loud drama, complete with dialogue cribbed from stars of the non-scripted screen. Docket-clearing cases include the ethics of people-watching. [DXF]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #158: Melissa Stetten
This conversation with model Melissa Stetten stalls as she sounds hesitant to delve deeply into any of her experiences or issues. [TC] 


Nerdist #490: William Katt
This interview with Carrie and Greatest American Hero actor William Katt gets off to a good start, but it quickly devolves into him just listing plays he was in and promoting future dates. [MS]

Nerdist #491: Curtis Armstrong 
This Revenge Of The Nerds-focused conversation is a must-listen for fans of that ’80s comedy—and Chris Hardwick makes an appropriately enthusiastic interviewer—but there’s probably little of interest here for anyone else. [CS]

Never Not Funny #1406: Rich Sommer
Even with the inclusion of the remarkably witty Rich Sommer (Mad Men’s Harry Crane), this rambling conversation never fully gels. Discussion of Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar speech, and why it so infuriates Sommer, is a high point, but that comes late in the episode. [DD]


Sound Opinions #433: Mike Watt Of The Minutemen
A repeat of a 2011 interview doesn’t make for compelling listening, but reviews of the new Pharrell and The War On Drugs records are still worth hearing. [KM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Getting To The Top Of The World, Pt. 2
Though listeners who enjoyed Part 1 will want to skim this episode, hosts Holly Frey and Tracy V. Wilson joke about how the climbers may have waxed rhapsodic about their accomplishments, hinting at how inflated the topic begins to feel. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Black Boxes Work
It turns out black boxes can actually be three different pieces of technology, making the idea of a black box a bit hard for the hosts to pin down or make into lively discussion. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Skateboarding Works
Though both hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant had experience with skateboarding in their youth, they seem disconnected with the sport history and riff less than usual. [DT]


WTF #478: Annabelle Gurwitch
Marc Maron’s conversation with actress and author Annabelle Gurwitch doesn’t bother to cover her life in the business, instead veering into a wide-ranging conversation about growing older. Aside from a starkly harrowing story about assisted suicide around an hour in, Maron consistently interrupts Gurwitch when she gets going on bits that branch off of her latest book. [KM]

You Made It Weird #198: Ben Schwartz
Ben Schwartz seems to have an effortless ability to be engaging, so while he’s a pleasure to listen to, his discussion with Pete Holmes about approaching people more famous than they are feels very unattractively self-indulgent. [ABe]