Alice Levine, Jamie Morton, and James Cooper of My Dad Wrote A Porno (Photo: Facebook/My Dad Wrote A Porno)

In 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.


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The Faculty Of Horror
Man Seeking Woman: Audition

As is nearly always the case with this podcast, Andrea Subissati and Alexandra West are at their best when dealing with films they genuinely like. For the uninitiated, Faculty Of Horror provides a close analysis of the critical and philosophical ideas within horror movies, often with a feminist lens, digging into the ideologies and themes both explicit and implicit. This month’s look at Audition does right by Takashi Miike’s landmark shocker, in that the hosts spend as much (if not more) time breaking down the rom-com-aping first half of the movie as they do its gruesome climax. By addressing the ways Audition tweaks the conventions of the typical high-concept meet-cute, revealing the more insidious forms of social control at work in the idea of a man staging tryouts for his future love, this installment achieves the rare feat of actually saying something new about a movie that has already received a massive amount of critical debate. As always, it’s far more rewarding if you’ve seen the movie, but West and Subissati do a surprisingly efficient job of rendering accessible and coherent the film and its notorious twist.

[Alex McLevy]


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Fresh Batch
Season 13: Week 3

Michelle Collins has proven herself as the go-to Bachelor and Bachelorette expert via quippy observations on Twitter and as co-host of the rosé-filled after-shows of the various franchises, so it only makes sense that she now weighs in on the latest season with her very own podcast. And thank goodness she’s here to break down what was, in pure Bachelor fashion, one of the MOST DRAMATIC episodes ever. So much happened that it would be easy to miss details such as one contestant being accused of sexually eating a banana over another contestant while he was sleeping, or Rachel Lindsay finally saying goodbye to the dude she knew from summer camp—as his camp counselor. Collins holds nothing back while dishing to guest Katina Corrao about the episode’s nuances with her signature snark. It’ll be interesting to see how she handles the more difficult conversations about race that are teased to bubble up among the men next week, but she’s more than capable to handle every other gossipy detail of the show’s most historic season ever.

[Brianna Wellen]


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Join The Party
Wedding Party II

To start, dungeon master Eric Silver reminds listeners that “Wedding Party II” is a continuation of events from last episode, so folks who missed part one could get a little lost. As DM, Silver acts as primary storyteller, weaving the setting for Inara Harthorn (Amanda McLoughlin), Johnny B. Goodlight (Michael Fische), and Tr8C (pronounced “Tracy” and played by Brandon Grugle). Augmented with music, soundscapes, and voice effects, the podcast brings to life the fantasy world surrounding the trio’s quest: to protect the grooms of a big, literally magical wedding. While Silver tells the story, the heroes pipe up with their courses of action, rolling dice to gauge their success in everything from retrieving a loaf of bread to navigating social situations. If you’re new to D&D (or the podcast), things might be disorienting; however, previous episodes of Join The Party (along with alternate versions titled “Beginners Start/Continue Here!”) provide insight into how Dungeon & Dragons works. Don’t be surprised if, after listening to this fun show, you find yourself inspired to start your own D&D campaign.

[Jose Nateras]


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My Dad Wrote A Porno
Epsom Hall

When Jamie Morton first started reading his father’s erotic fiction out loud to his friends on the podcast My Dad Wrote A Porno, it almost seemed cruel. The book, Belinda Blinked, follows a sales representative for a business called Pots And Pans who finds herself using her feminine wiles across the world to secure clients. The chapters are filled with outrageous sex scenes described with such anatomically correct terms that the result is more hilarious than salacious. But poking fun at an old man’s hard work, his passion project, wouldn’t have made for a sustainable podcast—so it was lucky that Morton’s father (known by his pen name, Rocky Flintstone) basked in the exposure given to his novel and continued writing for the listening audience. Morton and his friends James Cooper and Alice Levine are now on the third book in the series, and by the second chapter it’s clear that Flintstone has not only imagined new sexual acts but truly found his voice as an entertainer and author without losing any of the charm of the podcast’s original gimmick. Don’t forget to look up the Belinda drinking game before listening.

[Brianna Wellen]


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Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers
Teen Wolf, 1985

This week’s Saturday Night Movie Sleepovers features a podcast team-up as Patrick Bromley of F This Movie joins J. Blake to discuss 1985’s Teen Wolf starring Michael J. Fox. What could have been a forgotten teen comedy potboiler became a surprise hit after the success of Fox’s other blockbuster, Back To The Future. Co-host J. Blake has a knack for looking at films folks of an older generation grew up on through a critical lens without letting nostalgia completely blind him. This is probably one of the more earnest discussions of teen comedy you’re likely to hear, including an in-depth analysis of a stylish shot utilizing a focus pull in which the DP earned his paycheck. It’s a memorable moment in an otherwise cheap-looking film, which recycled quite a few shots throughout. While the hosts are unable to find the origins of the name “Boof” (the love interest played by Susan Ursitti), the episode does pay service to some of the underappreciated character performances in Teen Wolf, including Jay Tarses as Coach Bobby Finstock and Jim McKrell as Vice Principal Rusty Thorne.

[Mike Vanderbilt]


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Song Talks With Richard Marx
Johnny Rzeznik

The Goo Goo Dolls have been together for almost 30 years and have had a steady stream of mid-tempo, AOR hits since 1995’s “Name.” In its first two decades as a trio, the band evolved from Westerbergian college punk to schmaltzy pop balladeers, for better or worse, depending on if your favorite album is 1990’s Hold Me Up or 1998’s Dizzy Up The Girl. Frontman and guitarist Johnny Rzeznik appeared on this week’s Song Talks With Richard Marx to discuss his career as a songwriter, delving into the craft and the commerce that goes along with it. The conversational tone of the show allows the normally private Rzeznik to reveal quite a bit about his rough upbringing in Buffalo, New York, as well as the lasting influence of Bob Mould on his use of alternate tunings and monster hooks. The two songwriters also discuss the ups and downs of writing with a partner, and contemplate the question of whether going through emotional struggles paves the way to more memorable tunes.

[Mike Vanderbilt]


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Spontaneanation
Labyrinth (with Kristian Bruun, Janet Varney, Shaun Diston, and Stephanie Courtney)

Sometimes the podcasting stars align for a special episode, with all the right ingredients coming together to assemble an instant classic—in this case, a Spontaneanation that will be regarded by many as one of the must-listen installments of the show. The hall-of-fame episode, “Labyrinth,” features cross-podcast fan favorite Kristian Bruun as a special guest, and with a solid group of improvisers comprising Janet Varney, Shaun Diston, and Stephanie Courtney, there’s never a dull moment all the way up to the end. Bruun is a likable and compelling storyteller as he describes his worst encounter with a stranger, a wild anecdote that exceeds the usual time dedicated to the interview portion of the show. It’s clear the improvisers are having a great time listening to his tale, and that same joyous energy is carried through the rest of the episode. The improv has a kinetic life that is so fun to listen to, quick and wasting no time with logic. It all culminates in a post-plugs moment that is so pure and hilarious, to spoil it here would be a disservice.

[Rebecca Bulnes]


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Sunday School Dropouts
1 Corinthians

In Sunday School Dropouts, Lauren O’Neal, an ex-Christian, and Niko Bakulich, a sort-of Jew, read the Bible “so you don’t have to.” Like many favored pop culture recap shows, O’Neal and Bakulich review and interpret the Bible with undeniable style, charm, and a chemistry integral to the show’s appeal. This week they take on Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, which, despite some of its more famous passages (“love is patient, love is kind”) also includes blatant misogyny, extreme beliefs regarding sex in general, and, weirdly, many views on reused meat. O’Neal and Bakulich refer to Paul with wonderful familiarity, and it’s entertaining to hear this character approached so casually: O’Neal even sings “honor God with your body” to the tune of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” (which she hates). Training their modern lens on the words of scripture, they seem almost personally offended by the many contradictions of 1 Corinthians, as if Paul has betrayed them in some way. But despite taking religious texts down a notch with their pedestrian perspective, the hosts maintain a genuine interest, instead of merely scoffing at them for comedy’s sake.

[Rebecca Bulnes]


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Tapped
File 3.248

The newest Feral Audio show from Mary Holland, Casey Feigh, and Luka Jones has a simple premise: Each episode is a series of “real” conversations recorded by the NSA, labeled as having no discernible threat to national security. Scenes framed by wire tapping is already a great atmospheric backdrop, but the show benefits from not leaning too heavily into the potential stakes of the government angle, instead presenting no real context and allowing the improv to carry itself. The improvisers in this episode—Scott Adsit, Ali Ghandour, and Tim Bagley joining core cast Holland, Feigh, and Jones—opt for real characters over jokes, and the patience in their improv is relatively uncommon for the podcasting format. In this episode we hear a friendship fall apart in the park, a guitar teacher’s desperate attempt to connect with a student, and a heated homeowners’ association meeting. Each vignette has an intimacy and emotional groundedness that underlines the fly-on-the-wall perspective the show is going for, and each character interaction feels real and knowable. It’s comedy that isn’t trying too hard, which is a welcome change of pace in the improv landscape.

[Rebecca Bulnes]


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The Ajumma Show
Dead Girl, Live Boy

In Korean culture, an ajumma is a married older woman, an aunt or elder in the family who is to be respected and is full of opinions. On The Ajumma Show, Korean-American comics Peter Kim and Eunji Kim (no relation) tackle current events, pop culture, and personal dilemmas, all from their often underrepresented point of view. While covering everything from the Kathy Griffin controversy to Katy Perry’s SNL performance to heteronormative culture infiltrating homosexual relationships—not to mention the episode’s namesake, the two things most likely to get Trump impeached—the pair are funny, knowledgeable, and have a great chemistry that just makes you want to be their friend. A Q&A segment not only directly reaches out to the audience, but allows the hosts to open up even more about their personal lives. The show jumps around, but it never once feels disconnected thanks to the infectious energy of Peter and Eunji. And just to show off an extra dose of Korean pride, each episode ends with “the week in kickass Koreans.” This week’s honorees: hip-hop artist and actor Awkwafina and Naver blogger Kang Shin-Ae.

[Brianna Wellen]

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