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)._  

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“You can’t just BitTorrent everything, including the popcorn you want.” —John Hodgman, John Judge Hodgman

“In America, we don’t have Reconciliation Day, because we don’t reconcile… If you come to America, you’re free to do two things: assimilate and shut the fuck up.” — Greg Proops, The Smartest Man In The World

“We are trying to please our listeners by giving them the option to participate.” —Stephen Dubner on trying to fundraise, Freakonomics

“If a diplodocus falls over, what’s the chance of getting a hundred-foot dinosaur to right itself?” —Slash, Nerdist

“I actually won a Mister Congeniality award in a high-school comedy contest.” 
“In a contest about being funny, you won ‘Nicest’?” —Nick Thune and DC Pierson, Doug Loves Movies

“I’m gonna look like a fucking sausage that’s broken through its casing.” —The MBMBAM brothers on trying to dress like Joseph Gordon-Levitt

“Here’s my assumption: all of [the $3 million dollar budget of ATM] went to filling the ATM so that it was realistically full of money.” —Elliott Kalan, The Flop House

“It’s kind of a shame that he passed away before he could really make his mark in sketch comedy.” —Scott Aukerman on Kurt Cobain, Comedy Bang! Bang!

“I don’t want to be the shitty part of something great.” —Patton Oswalt on being nervous to appear on Parks And Recreation, Never Not Funny

“[The paramedic] looks down at me and grabs me by the chin and he said, ‘This is going to hurt,’ and I said, ‘Okay.’ And he takes the scissors and he starts to cut my clothes off. And I remembered I had a really nice cashmere sweater on, and I said ‘Do you have to cut the sweater?’ And he stuck an adrenaline needle in my neck and looks back at his partner, and he goes, ‘Why do they always say that?’” —Ed Gavagan, The Moth

“This year, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to two guys for suggesting that an ‘invisible ocean of energy suffusing space is responsible for the mass and diversity of the universe.’ As soon as I read that, I went ‘I’m as smart as the guys who won a Nobel Prize.’ Then, I realized I don’t even know what ‘suffusing’ means.” —Paul Gilmartin, The Mental Illness Happy Hour



The Food Seen
It’s a bit surprising how rarely the topic of conversation in The Food Seen actually turns to food—at least directly. In the past five episodes, host Michael Harlan Turkell and his guests twice discuss how food is written about, twice how food is photographed, and once the interior design of the restaurants where people eat food. Sure, the preparation and actually eating is touched upon in the course of those conversations, but the subject is more side dish than entrée. A listener would have to go back nine episodes to get to one that’s specifically about cooking. This is not a criticism. A nice break from the usual things found in culinary podcasts—like monologues about ingredients or kitchen anecdotes—these discussions peek through an adjacent door into a world that the vast majority of eaters will never experience firsthand.


In one episode, Tara Oxley, design director for B.R. Guest Hospitality in New York, offers insight into creating the atmosphere of a restaurant that, though often unnoticed, is an integral part of a patron’s dining experience. In another, Nick Fauchald discusses his independent publishing company’s line of hand-bound (in cooking twine) cookbooks, each edition focusing on a specific ingredient. Both conversations allow the listener inside information about corners of the culinary world that are rarely tapped. The sound quality is passable, but not great, but Turkell’s obvious familiarity and genuine fascination with the subject matter allow the listener to become immersed nonetheless. [DD]



Comedy Bang! Bang! #247: Half A Score: Tim Meadows, Horatio Sanz
With his funny performance on Improv4Humans, his appearances on the Comedy Bang! Bang! tour, and this hilarious CBB episode, Horatio Sanz has been on a hot streak lately. He’s had a good year on CBB in general, but his Chico Davis character may be his best yet. An L.A. rock scene survivor, Davis has an endless well of stories from the old days, from stealing Izzy Stradlin’s eight-balls to co-writing Velvet Revolver songs (long before the band even formed). Fellow SNL alum Tim Meadows fits in well, not even pausing when Scott Aukerman asks a weirdly personal question. It’s essential listening this week, and if Earwolf doesn’t make a “BEEF OVER” T-shirt, it’s missing an opportunity. [KR]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #248: Todd’s Life 2.0: Eric Andre, Lauren Lapkus
Even though Lauren Lapkus’ characters have only made one or two appearances each, they’re always memorable. “Todd’s Life 2.0” brings back Todd, Scott Aukerman’s oft-grounded nephew, played impeccably angsty by Lapkus. In an amusing turn of events, Todd finds himself with the physical body of Aukerman, whom he presumes to be about 30. Much of what makes this b-b-b-bonusss episode so riotous is Aukerman constantly flubbing Todd’s gender, because Lapkus makes little effort to disguise her feminine voice. Before Todd comes to run the show, Aukerman has an unusually entertaining chat with first-timer Eric Andre. The two chat openly about being in the fake talk-show game, and Andre turns out to be more than down to play along with Aukerman and Lapkus’ bits, and does more than his fair share of pushing the episode forward. [MK]


Doug Loves MoviesJimmy Pardo, Nick Thune, DC Pierson, David Huntsberger
Most Doug Loves Movies episodes that pass the 90-minute mark tend to have a few moments of drag or go-nowhere tangents; it’s just the nature of the show, which gets looser and more freewheeling when outside the confines of the UCB and its time limit. But this super-sized episode, recorded at the L.A. Podfest, remains sharp and engaging for its entirety. All of the guests are on-point throughout, particularly Jimmy Pardo and DC Pierson, and Doug Benson is at his best in host mode, keeping the show chugging along while also facilitating interesting conversation and running gags—including occasionally quizzing Pardo on every single track from Chicago 13, which Pardo answers, in song, throughout the show. It’s an incredibly silly gag, but it also provides a strange sense of cohesion to an episode that packs in a lot, in terms of both discussion and games. The George Clooney edition of Love Like Hate Hate-Like is packed with incident—and Mister Freeze puns—and a fun round of Build-A-Title tests the limits of Benson’s ever-fluctuating rules about what titles are acceptable; but the Leonard Maltin Game is the high point, with all four guests making gutsy bids, and occasionally making good on them. [GK]


Doug Loves MoviesMarc Maron, Adam Scott, Roy Abrahmson
After the notorious sniping with past guest Kumail Nanjiani, the list of people willing to appear on a panel with Marc Maron must be getting shorter. However, frequent guest Adam Scott doesn’t seem to have a problem playfully handing Maron his ass when he needs it, and Maron takes this in stride. After Doug Benson focuses a good portion of the chat having indie filmmaker Roy Abrahmson explain his guerrilla film tactics about shooting his movie Escape From Tomorrow inside Disneyland, Maron complains that not enough attention has been paid to him. It seems like he’s only half-kidding, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. [MS]

The Flop House #136: ATM
As is often the case on The Flop House, the film of choice this week—the low-budget horror film ATM, which evokes the true horror of using an ATM in the middle of night—is so over-the-top in terms of silliness that it seems to bring out a healthy dose of wackiness among the perpetually zany hosts. As a result, the episode finds Elliott Kalan presenting his surprisingly good Woody Allen impression for several minutes as he re-imagines Allen as the director of Every Which Way But Loose and Cannibal Holocaust, among other films, along with the trio offering up perhaps the only ever instance of the Big Dog clothing brand inducing laughter. It’s a stellar start to Shocktober 2013. [CG]


The Fogelnest Files #58: Mystical Sex: Andy Richter, Matt Besser, Matt Mira
The general improvement in live installments of The Fogelnest Files speaks both to the dumb luck of having a guest panel with better chemistry and to Fogelnest simply learning how to be a better host. Previous live episodes fell flat due to a combination of guests unaccustomed to improvisation, the awkward strain of Fogelnest trying too hard to make bits happen, and an over-reliance on how funny Fogelnest found his selection of clips. In contrast, this week’s show works largely because of his ability to step back and let Richter, Besser, and Mira do what they do best. Fogelnest interjects to introduce clips and ask questions, but it’s clear that he’s ceded some control, and the show feels more organic as a result. The three guests work well together, particularly Richter and Besser, who have some stories to share about the earlier days of the Chicago improv scene. There’s hardly a stinker among the video clips (in fact, “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men” is a pretty brilliant find), and for those familiar with James Adomian’s Huell Howser impression, it’s almost eerie to see an actual clip of California’s Gold. [AB]


FreakonomicsHow To Raise Money Without Killing A Kitten
It’s fundraising time at Freakonomics, and Stephen Dubner sets out to explore the best methods to garner funds for the podcast. Americans give about 2.2 percent of their personal income to charity, but there’s a lack of strong statistical evidence about how organizations fundraise, and why people give. According to John List, one of Steven Levitt’s colleagues at the University Of Chicago, most people give because it makes them feel better. So, appealing to people’s self-interest is actually a better way to fundraise than appealing to their altruism. More than anything, focusing on the donor’s own preferences and interest works best. This includes emphasizing what donors would lose if they don’t give. Each time List endorses a fundraising method, Dubner promptly tries it on the podcast, creating a weird social experiment where the listeners are aware of the ploys as they happen. Plus, there’s a cameo from Vincent Chase. [NC]

Hang Up And ListenThe River In Egypt Edition
This episode is a mandatory supplement to the Frontline documentary League Of Denial, featuring an interview with Steve Fainaru, one half of the reporting team behind the film. The HUAL panel grills Fainaru on every possible angle that the NFL will take with regard to discrediting the evidence uncovered, and then turns the conversation to the controversy surrounding ESPN backing out of a co-production at the very end of the process, in what essentially amounted to listening to the NFL’s demands as a television partner. Anyone at all interested in football and neurological health should listen to this episode. [KM]


Improv4Humans #102: Satan’s Face: Ron Funches, Mookie Blaiklock, Ben Siemon, Joel Spence
For the first time in many weeks, Improv4Humans put out an episode that wasn’t a through-and-through home run. The first half of “Satan’s Face” never finds its footing, with scenes that awkwardly sputter, though the cautionary tale of the Xbox One’s always-on Kinect camera made for a decent bit. But somehow, milk turned out to be this week’s savior. The episode makes a historic comeback when comedian Ron Funches starts talking about milk and professional wrestling. Funches is such an odd delight to Matt Besser that something palpably changes in the room, and it feels like they’re having fun again in their scenes. Before they can even get back to the improv, the five improvisers have a lighthearted and hilarious conversation spanning from the spectacle of wrestling to everyone but Besser’s cluelessness on the world of boxing. “Satan’s Face” doesn’t quite work front to back, but is definitely worth a listen. [MK]


Judge John Hodgman: Strictly Courtroom
This week’s episode is the social-legal equivalent of tapas: The little dishes are the treat. The primary case drags: Boyfriend Ricado and girlfriend Paola enjoy salsa dancing. He wants to refine their performance in nightclubs. She wants to practice at home before they take the show on the road. Then brevity manifests in two quick cases at the episode’s end: Hodgman rules on whether a boyfriend should be able to telepathically sense where his girlfriend puts the car keys, then he gives notes on a complaint from two screenwriting majors who are at odds over how much butter to order when they share popcorn. [DXF]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #136: Juan Medina
A great Mental Illness Happy Hour episode can provide a window into a variety of experiences without losing sight of the individual behind those experiences. Much of the credit should go to Paul Gilmartin, who refuses to turn his guests into anonymous case studies for a particular illness or misfortune, but allows guests like listener Juan Medina to tell his story the way he wants it told. Medina, an immigrant to the U.S. from Mexico, tells Gilmartin about moving to a new country as a child, dealing with racism, and living with a father whose fits of rage filled him with anxiety. The details about emigrating and adjusting to a new culture would make for an interesting discussion alone, but Medina paints a more complete picture of his life, which makes for a particularly compelling listen. Conversations with listeners can be a hit-or-miss proposition on MIHH, but this installment is among the podcast’s best this year. [TC]


The Moth: Ed Gavagan
Turning a corner on his way to a business meeting, New York native Ed Gavagan became the target of a Latin Kings blood initiation. He lived to tell the story, which has since been featured on TED Talks and become something of a Moth classic, but the trauma left him with two new, polarized outlooks on the world. In his eloquent, brutally honest account of the aftermath’s toll on his psyche, Gavagan makes himself out to be both a victim and an anti-hero, and his uncertainty makes the episode all the more compelling. The most surprising and touching realization is how his gratitude for life and his city in the most hellish of circumstances is so overwhelming that even he doesn’t fully understand it. [DJ]



My Brother, My Brother And Me #171: The Sweetin Furnace
It’s not quite right to call the brothers’ hosting a shtick, since much of their charm comes from how earnest and self-effacing they are. But the balancing act of the show lies in the interplay between their self-professed naïveté and provincialism and the occasional admission that they’re actually pretty on top of things. It might be because this week’s show is so literally all over the place (it’s recorded during rehearsal at a theater, on an old PC, and “technically at work”), but the brothers seem to be playing much more than usual. What’s more, it’s refreshing to hear them yes-anding themselves to this extent. Their theory of how babies develop and are birthed is both imaginative and endearing, as is the attempt to compare their fashion prowess to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s. [AB]

Nerdist #417: Tom Hanks Returns
The Nerdist podcast seems to be the place where actors and musicians on a press junket come to complain about the questions they get asked by other reporters. Let’s hope the reporters who have talked to Tom Hanks in the past have some thick skin, because he really gives it to them. Of course, Hanks is still his charming self as he’s relaying stories about making members of the media either sound vapid or boring. One of the best stories comes from the time Hanks mentally checks out of an interview for Saving Private Ryan when he learns that it is being recorded to play on televisions hung on the walls of a restaurant. [MS]


Nerdist #419: Slash
The best Nerdist episodes allow guests to share their unusual hobbies and talk in-depth about their work, and Slash’s appearance on the podcast satisfies on both accounts. The former Guns N’ Roses guitarist nerds out over paleontology and horror movies, but also discusses his childhood, his musical influences, and the difficulties of keeping a band together. Chris Hardwick’s enthusiasm reveals Slash’s encyclopedic knowledge of dinosaurs, while Jonah Ray’s familiarity with the music industry steers the conversation toward specifics about the music scene in the ’70s and ’80s. Slash comes across as mature, thoughtful, and wonderfully unpretentious whether he’s talking about finding an identity as a guitarist or listing his favorite natural-history museums. [CS]


Never Not Funny #1313: Patton Oswalt
Patton Oswalt has been a fan of Jimmy Pardo’s for years—he’s known to explain why Pardo’s Pompous Clown is essential listening—and the two of them have a delightful rapport that makes this two-hour installment of NNF fly. The sight of a dog in a car prompts a pair of funny anecdotes describing how differently Oswalt and Pardo have handled similar situations. (Oswalt is polite; Pardo’s account involves the C-word, naturally.) Oswalt also provides some interesting behind-the-scenes info about his great filibuster on Parks And Recreation and some good showbiz history, so it’s worth all 120 minutes. [KR]

Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #72: Dan St. Germain
Dan St. Germain continues his recent podcast press blitz by tangoing with the Sklars and Daniel Van Kirk for this week’s County. It’s clear that the pace of his comedy is decidedly slower than the Sklars’ (whose isn’t?), so while his contributions to the conversation are not quite as frequent as some other guests’, he’s able to hold his own. Between last week and this week, Van Kirk has also been conscientious about picking stories that aren’t just someone presumably drunk or on drugs injuring themselves in an absurd way somewhere in Florida. The presumption is definitely still there with this week’s tales, but they also feel wackier than usual, from a yacht thief who thinks he’s being stalked by ninjas to a man who’s convinced that his neighbor is having mind-sex with his wife. [AB]


Sound Opinions #410: The Fall Record Review Roundup
Because Sound Opinions mostly reviews one record per week (or two on occasion), every now and again Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot devote an entire episode to catching up on records they haven’t had the chance to talk about. This time around they begin by lightly panning the second part of Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience. They praise The Weeknd’s proper full-length debut, Kiss Land. They lament Elvis Costello’s decline on his collaboration with The Roots on Wise Up Ghost. They discuss the continued existence of Franz Ferdinand. And finally, they unjustly and callously dismiss HAIM’s debut album, with DeRo laying the clunky, boneheaded claim that the trio of sisters is the worst band since Wilson Phillips. Disregarding that off-base assessment of one of the year’s best pop records, it’s a fun roundup of notable albums from the past few weeks. [KM]


Stuff You Missed In History Class: Alan L. Hart
Hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey take a break from the Halloween-themed episodes to uncover this fascinating writer and doctor who was also one of the first people in the United States to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Frey and Wilson spend the first half of the episode focusing on Alberta Lucille Hart’s struggle to have his surgery performed in the early 20th century and his later identity, which is compelling enough to cover an entire episode on its own. Yet Hart also fought corruption in the medical industry and made strides in radiology and tuberculosis treatment. His difficulty maintaining relationships with women before his transition gives the beginning of the story a romantic quality that make his later accomplishments seem all the more impressive. Wilson and Frey have also developed an excellent track record for open-mindedness and make Hart’s tale highly listenable. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Handwriting Analysis Works
It may seem as if Stuff You Should Know is all about forensics, but hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant can keep subtle forensic subtopics like handwriting analysis interesting and entertaining. After declaring cursive officially dead and the demise of all handwriting imminent, the hosts break down not only the cultural significance of signatures, but make it clear that this episode has nothing to do with the unscientific “hokum” known as graphology. Instead they focus on the disappearing science of the “principle of uniqueness,” the idea that everybody has their own handwriting. One particularly fascinating historical note the hosts hit involves the uncovering of fraudulent Hitler journals. The question of relevancy also forces the hosts to stop and wonder whether they are as effective at forging their parents’ signatures as when they were young ne’er-do-wells. [DT]


The Todd Glass Show #122: Rory Scovel
It’s been a while since fan favorite Rory Scovel has been on The Todd Glass Show, but he returns in top form. The show can easily last upward of three hours, and Scovel makes it essential listening. Scovel reprises some of his recurring bits where he makes fun of his wife Jordan, and this time around, she actually gets on mic to join in. Scovel also has some fun at Todd Glass’ expense when he does an impression of Glass over the show’s intro music. Plus, the episode uses music particularly well and Scovel is all too happy to improvise bits along with it. [MS]


Who Charted? #149: Oprah Voices: Christine Woods
Howard Kremer attempts to introduce the music chart by freestyle rapping, and it’s exactly the kind of train wreck listeners would hope it would be. Kremer takes the introduction and the music portion on some interesting tangents, while Kulap Vilaysack and Christine Woods happily indulge him. As a guest, Woods is fantastic. When asked a question about something that doesn’t interest her, like singing-competition shows, she redirects the conversation to Breaking Bad, which leads to a fascinating discussion about where Kremer would place Hank Schrader on the scale of good and evil. [MS]

WTF #430: Laura Dern
The fact that Marc Maron’s interview with actress Laura Dern sat on the shelf for a while means that the wounds of the cancellation of Enlightened are still fresh for the two of them, and it’s liable to reopen those wounds for any Enlightened fans who listen. Beyond that, though, Dern proves to be as effusive, thoughtful, and intense as fans might expect based on some of her performances. She also has some great stories to share, in particular about choosing to take her role in Blue Velvet over something more mainstream, and about being the daughter of Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd. The episode is a bit long, and Maron’s pre-interview ramblings are among his most skippable, but it is still strong overall. [CG]


You Made It WeirdHoratio Sanz
Considering that Horatio Sanz is better known for his characters than he is for being himself, his interview with Pete Holmes feels surprisingly candid. While he makes a clear effort to steer away from the nitty-gritty of his romantic life (whenever Holmes tries to dig on the topic, Sanz awkwardly deflects), he discusses his alcoholism without shame or timidity. It’s probably to Sanz’s credit as an improviser that you can’t really tell which topics he’s thought deeply about and which ones he’s exploring in the moment. Either way, he proves to be an enthusiastic participant in Holmes’ ongoing effort to elaborate on his great spirituality/comedy/fulfillment credo. Sanz is clearly not close with Holmes and doesn’t seem accustomed to talking about himself, so it sounds as if he appreciates the platform. If the episode is a little more awkward or bumbling than usual, it Sanz’s charm makes up for it. [AB]


Harmontown #75: Selling Like Hot Snakes
Erin McGathy subs in as comptroller again as Rob Schrab returns to whine and complain more than necessary. While Mayor Harmon keeps insisting they’ll get to D&D early this week, some uninspiring tangents take up most of the episode. [KM]


How Was Your Week #136: “Layla”: Nicole Holofcener
Altough Julie Klausner is clearly a big fan of Nicole Holofcener’s films, their interview lacks the spontaneity and charm of Klausner’s best conversations. [DF]

Monday Morning Podcast
This week’s episode has many of the same elements as last week’s great installment, but in a paler, less funny, and less interesting form. [CG]

The Moth Micaela Blei & Diane Kastiel: StorySLAM Favorites
Amateur entries on The Moth tend to run a little precious, and this week’s StorySLAM pairing is no different. Blei gets some chuckles in an anecdote about meeting third grade students at their level, but Kastiel’s contribution feels more bitter than anything else. [DJ]


Nerdist #418: Zero Charisma
This episode plays out like a boring commercial for a film that Nerdist distributes. [MS]

Nerdist #420: Doug Benson
Doug Benson returns for a special weed-themed chat for Nerdist’s 420th episode, which may appeal to Benson fans but probably not anyone else. [CS]

Nerdist #421: Nick Offerman Returns
Nick Offerman’s manly yet sensitive persona keeps this episode entertaining, but his return to Nerdist fails to cover much new ground. [CS]


Professor Blastoff #125: Catching Up
The three hosts’ reunion provides some laughs and a few new details about Tig Notaro’s upcoming television projects, but is ultimately inessential listening. [NJ]

Sklarbro Country #168 Mitch Hurwitz, Chris Cox
Maybe it’s the brothers’ intro promising a “rifftastic” episode, but Hurwitz’s interview comes across more caffeinated than it needs to be. His energy is fun during Quick Hits, but it’s a little exhausting everywhere else. [DJ]

The Smartest Man In The World: Steeplejacks
The makings of a solid half-hour monologue lurk in this two-hour live show. The highlight is Greg Proops’ self-declared “boring preachy part,” which is actually a lively rant about a Canadian hot-button topics including oil companies and the term “Native Americans” Vs. “First Nations.” [DXF]


Stuff You Missed In History Class: Was There A Real Sweeney Todd?
Unfortunately this episode ends up being about the mundane lives of those who wrote tales of Sweeney Todd, rather than having much to do with a story of a demon barber (who likely didn’t exist). [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Did Archimedes Build A Death Ray?
Though a fun enough topic, there’s not enough ground that hasn’t already been covered by Stuff You Should Know’s sister podcast, Stuff You Missed In History Class. [DT]

This American Life #506: Secret Identity
While Jon Ronson’s story on the rare psychiatric condition delusional disorder is deeply fascinating and well worth a listen, the second and third acts do not rise to the same level. [DF]


WTF #431: Josh Homme
Much of the information the Queens Of The Stone Age front man reveals in this episode can be found in his Sound Opinions interview from August. Marc Maron exemplifies the limitations of his lack of preparation (unlike Jim DeRogatis) and extracts a ton of uniquely personal observations out of Homme. [KM]