Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The magician hosts of Shezam! tackle the question: “What’s it like to be a woman in magic?”

Magician June McComb, 1952
Photo: Chris Ware (Getty Images)
PodmassPodmassIn 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.

A Taste Of The Past
The Embattled History Of Milk


Few foods straddle the middle of the Venn diagram between “wholesome, pastoral staple of the American diet” and “hotly contested ethical minefield” quite like a glass of milk. According to culinary historian and journalist Mark Kurlansky, many of the nutritional and moral questions surrounding human consumption of animal milk date back thousands of years. Linda Pelaccio’s excellent, educational Heritage Radio Network culinary show breaks its usual in-studio format this week for a live discussion between Kat Johnson and Kurlansky, author of the new book Milk!: A 10,000-Year Food Fracas (and whom readers might know from his 2002 book, Salt), at the Museum Of Food And Drink in New York. The moderated conversation is full of interesting tidbits, including why 1 percent and 2 percent milks were once outlawed, why religious fear of sex led to the creation of almond milk during the Middle Ages, and why Richard Nixon’s cottage cheese “recipe” ranks among his more heinous misdeeds. [Dan Jakes]

Good Christian Fun
Spotlight (With Film Crit Hulk)

At the start of each episode of Good Christian Fun, hosts Caroline Ely and Kevin T. Porter (Gilmore Guys) struggle to describe the concept of their podcast. It’s a loving but critical look at Christian pop culture—the movies, music, and TV shows made for Christians by Christians—in a format that’s geared toward both believers and non-believers. This particular episode is an interesting entry point for new listeners because it breaks the mold a bit. Rather than discuss a piece of Christian-made entertainment, Ely and Porter discuss a film about the dark side of Christian culture, 2015’s Spotlight. Their guest, internet personality Film Crit Hulk, brings a fascinating perspective not only as a film critic but also as someone who grew up Boston Catholic. Hulk speaks openly about the harsh realities of Boston Catholic culture and what it was like to live through the Boston Globe’s sexual abuse scandal reporting in real time. Although this episode shows off the silly side of Good Christian Fun (including the recurring segment “The Hunt For The Worst Christian Song Of All Time”), it also demonstrates the thoughtful, empathetic nature of the hard-to-describe series. [Caroline Siede]

Hey Riddle Riddle
Stuck In The Riddle With You


In their debut episode, hosts Adal Rifai (Hello From The Magic Tavern), Erin Keif, and John Patrick Coan (a.k.a. JPC) set up the intriguing premise of their new semi-interactive podcast. Each week they’ll attempt to solve riddles, puzzles, and lateral thinking problems that have either been submitted by listeners or unearthed from some obscure tome filled with terrible clues. You might think a format that invites you to “play along at home” would inherently result in moments where you’re screaming at your earbuds because you know the answer before they do, and occasionally it does, but the more you listen, the less important answering the brain teaser becomes. It’s way more fun to hear the three Chicago comedy pros banter and riff about the riddle’s premise, insist that all boys are named Kevin and all girls are named Suzy, and even role-play the more bizarre puzzles in an attempt to wrestle out a coherent conclusion. It certainly helps that riddles are just a jumping-off point because, as the hosts discover before the end of their first episode, most riddles are terrible. [Dan Neilan]

Household Name
TGI Fridays: The Tinder Of The 1960s 


Once, when the baby boomers were young, they flocked to TGI Friday’s to hook up. This was by design. Founder Alan Stillman even cops to launching the business as a way to meet women. The former flavor additive salesman was upset most taverns in the early ’60s were dive bars and sausage fests, so he opened a singles-focused bar and grill next to apartments for flight attendants on New York’s East Side, where the sexual revolution was in full swing. Before long the neighborhood was dubbed “the fertile crescent” by New York magazine and investors swooped in to fund franchise opportunities. The same thirsty atmosphere followed chain launches throughout the country for much of the ’70s, but eventually people learned to find sexual partners elsewhere, and the erotic allure of TGI Fridays began its long slide into Applebee’s and Red Robin territory. The entire wild-to-mild affair is brought to light in the debut episode of Business Insider’s new podcast on the history of brands. Host Dan Bobkoff scores interviews with the company’s early players, as well as one brassy old lady fondly reminiscing about once telling a drunk guy to fuck off. [Zach Brooke]

Pop Culture Sh*tshow
Neopets & Scientology


Back in the days of dial-up internet when millennials of a certain age all frequented the same websites, an obsession with a new kind of virtual animal was born, thanks to Neopets. On the second episode of this brand-new podcast dissecting all things pop culture, hosts Becca Conary and Tessa Betz not only reminisce about their experiences with the colorful cyber creatures, but also share a shocking discovery about their website’s connections to Scientology. The conversation goes down a rabbit hole about the economies of both Neopets and Scientology and offers Easter eggs about the religion that might have been hidden in the game, with a brief aside revolving around Steve Harvey. Even though the episode covers a lot of ground and takes some sharp turns, Conary and Betz know what they’re talking about. They’re able to pull out insane facts at the drop of a hat without ever sounding too researched. They might not know everything, but they have the answers to the most important questions, imbuing the pop culture they discuss with just a little bit more gravitas. [Brianna Wellen]

It Has Begun


It isn’t often that someone sets out to do something with the end goal of becoming obsolete. Enter Shezam! hosts Kayla Drescher and Carisa Hendrix, two professional female magicians determined to address the question “What is it like to be a woman in magic?” so thoroughly that it need never be asked again. This is no small feat, and the two attack the challenge enthusiastically and with a wealth of firsthand information. Introductions are in order, though, and Drescher and Hendrix don’t disappoint as they share their impressive stories about getting started in the industry, which leads to commentary on women taking longer to self-identify as professionals in a given field despite their skill level. Putting a spotlight on the often overlooked magic community through a decidedly feminist lens, Shezam! is creating an amazing resource for magicians and magic enthusiasts alike. [Becca James]

The Bosscast
Ben Rameaka


Bruce Springsteen is one of those musicians who inspires a special kind of fanaticism. It’s not enough to simply enjoy his music a great deal; it demands to be woven into the fabric of one’s life. To be a fan of the E Street Band is to accept a certain worldview—to understand that life is tragic, streets are mean, and that cars are something more than simple vehicles. That seems to be the underlying principle of John Murray’s Bosscast, which comes hot out of the podcasting gate by debuting the first four episodes at once. The comedian and TV-writing vet (30 Rock, The Daily Show, Broad City) is a Springsteen obsessive who talks with other Springsteen obsessives in the industry to reminisce about what specific songs and albums meant at specific times in their lives and how the music has informed their work. In this episode, Murray and actor-improvisor Ben Rameaka discuss the charms of some of Bruce’s less Boss-like albums and how even the best among us have a “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)” somewhere in our repertoires. The Bosscast is the perfect instrument for jump-starting a dormant Springsteen appreciation. [Dennis DiClaudio]

The Movies That Made Me
Illeana Douglas


If Parker Posey was the “it” girl of ’90s independent cinema, Illeana Douglas was certainly the “that” girl. A character actress who’s shown up in everything from Gus Van Sant’s To Die For to NBC’s short-lived The Single Guy, Douglas has had a prolific career. On the latest episode of The Movies That Made Me, Douglas and co-host Josh Olson discuss their favorite audio commentaries, including those by John Carpenter and Steven Soderbergh (The Limey is a classic). It takes a minute to get to the meat of the show, but listening to the two of them, along with co-host Joe Dante, casually chat about these details is a pleasure. Douglas, of course, has some classic picks: James Dean’s sex appeal in East Of Eden and Charles Grodin’s pecan pie scene in The Heartbreak Kid. This podcast is sure to please hard-core cinephiles and average Janes and Joes who simply love movies. [Mike Vanderbilt]

Why Is This Happening? With Chris Hayes
School Segregation In 2018 With Nikole Hannah-Jones


MSNBC’s Chris Hayes has established himself as perhaps the most sensible cable news host of the Trump era, balancing the presidential insanity du jour with meatier stories on policy and culture. On Why Is This Happening? Hayes examines in more detail the stories that might make an appearance on his TV show and explores how America arrived at the headline on the lower-third chyron. Here, Hayes is joined by New York Times reporter and MacArthur “genius” grant recipient Nikole Hannah-Jones to explore why, decades after Brown V. Board Of Education, America’s schools have become segregated once more. Hannah-Jones brings a unique perspective, having experienced busing herself as a child. She covers the history of integration from that Supreme Court decision up until 1988 (the point at which integration began to reverse course), before jumping into our current Betsy DeVos-endorsed sludge pit. Most critically, Hayes and Hannah-Jones end with a blunt discussion of the role that self-described “liberal” white parents play—via real estate and choices with their own children’s educations—in creating a public school system that, for the majority of black children, is once again segregated. As Hannah-Jones puts it, those parents are creating “a private school on the public dime.” [Gabe Worgaftik]

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