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



“The show wouldn’t be the same without you. We all know what season four was like.”

“What do you mean? What on earth do you mean? Please tell Vulture and Defamer and TMZ what you mean by that. Please tell The A.V. Club what you mean. Say anything after the words ‘season four.’ Say anything. Say,  ‘Season four, I like Arby’s.’ See how they twist it, and you didn’t even create the show.” —Podcast audience member Lisa and Dan Harmon, getting exactly what he wants, Harmontown

“Just because someone says something doesn’t make it true. For example, I am a cat. I am a cat. I am a cat.”  —Stephen Dubner on marketing, Freakonomics

“Tequila is like acid in a glass.” —Greg Proops, The Smartest Man in the World

“Vince Vaughn seems like a fun movie star, right? The kind of movie star who would pick on you… There’s that breed of celebrities—Gerard Butler, Vince Vaughn, Bruce Willis, Russell Crowe—they’re the guys we apologize to. ‘Guys, I’m sorry you guys are famous. We all feel so bad about it.’”—Tom Scharpling, The Best Show On WFMU

“If Spock and Jesus had a baby, it would be Frank Zappa.” —Moon Zappa, WTF

“Good evening, I am The Proclaimers.” —Greg Proops, on how he introduces himself to British audiences, Nerdist

“I suspected, more realistically, that I had signed on to be some sort of international quasi-prostitute… but even that seemed like a wild and exotic transformation for a Jewish girl from the ’burbs of Jersey.” —Jillian Lauren, The Moth

“You got bulgogi-ed” —The Sklar brothers, brainstorming the premise of a Korean prank show, Sklarbro Country

“Aaaand there’s always the stories of people scattering ashes in the mansion.” —Holly Frey, describing Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, Stuff You Missed In History Class

“You like those cholo white socks on the middle of his ankle? And the shirt that says ‘I love to fart!’ And his pants, and his glasses, and his beard, and the few hairs on the side of his head?” —Amber Tamblyn on her husband’s [David Cross’] “style”, Comedy Bang! Bang!

“That would actually be a more fitting [Toronto Raptors mascot]. A dinosaur on crutches.” —The Sklar Brothers discussing the mascot’s recent Achilles injury, Sklarbro Country

“It’s like if The Who were gayer and somewhat proggier.” —Julie Klausner on Jethro Tull, How Was Your Week

“If you want to wet it up, dry it off first.” —Pete Holmes’ relationship advice to English Channel swimmer Lisa Bartin (Pamela Murphy), Comedy Bang! Bang!



Point Of Inquiry
For the past eight years, Point Of Inquiry has been one of the best “feeling intellectually superior while washing the dishes” podcasts available. It’s not so heady that listeners feel the need to rewind and catch up after getting distracted by a particularly stubborn bit of burnt egg, and by the time a 45-minute episode is over, the dishes are stacked in the cabinet and you’ve learned a couple of interesting things about astrophysics, anthropology, or skepticism. This more-conversational, less-self-satisfied alternative to Ted Talks is the official podcast of the Amherst, New York-based Center For Inquiry, which bills itself as “a think tank promoting science, reason, and secular values.” Its list of guests could double as a who’s who of big-name science and academic personalities that includes Lawrence Krauss, Mary Roach and Daniel Dennett.


Because the show is currently in transition—Lindsay Beyerstein and Josh Zepps were recently announced as the new co-hosts—the most recent updates in the feed are “classic” episodes led by former hosts, which serve as strong entry points for new listeners. Included in these re-releases are Chris Mooney’s 2011 conversation with Bill Nye concerning the fostering of a more science-literate America and Indre Viskontas’ 2012 interview with activist and inventor Temple Grandin about how her autism led to a career as an animal-behavior expert and consultant to the livestock industry. The best of the bunch, though, is POI’s original host (and current president of the James Randi Educational Foundation) D.J. Grothe talking to astrophysicist and Internet meme Neil deGrasse Tyson about pretty much everything from God to Carl Sagan. [DD]



The Best Show On WFMU
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when things got weird on The Best Show. It could be argued that a show with its roots in the reverse crank-call trolling of Rock, Rot And Rule started out pretty weird, but not “21-minute sound collage with the erotic poetry of Garrison Keillor backed by ‘Marquee Moon’” weird. Keillor’s ode to necking and bucket seats is a new addition to the collection of songs and audio clips offering a disorienting and nightmarish peek into the mind of Tom Scharpling. Beyond the excellent and increasingly musical sound collage, Gary the Squirrel returns for a fun finale of Breaking Nuts, the squirrel puppet’s Breaking Bad recap show. Whenever the episode turns into the kind of place fit for radio puppetry and a weekly barrage of audio insanity, the transformation feels natural and welcome. [TC]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #250: Podcast Silence: Pete Holmes, Jon Gabrus, Pamela Murphy
Pete Holmes is at his Pete Holmes-iest in his Comedy Bang! Bang! debut, constantly laughing uproariously and gleefully interjecting riffs and comments throughout the episode. It seems wrong to get annoyed by someone who’s so clearly enjoying himself, but listeners who aren’t familiar with Holmes’ style—and maybe even some who are—may find him exhausting after 90 minutes. Fortunately, the episode gets a big assist from Jon Garbrus’ intern, Gino Lambardo, who scores some of the biggest laughs and best commentary. With an episode this crowded, Pamela Murphy’s lovelorn English Channel swimmer Lisa Bartin doesn’t have a lot of space. The character feels a little one-note, but she prompts some funny discussion. [KR]


The Flop House #137: The Purge
Cheapo horror film The Purge is by all accounts truly terrible, yet it made a veritable boatload of money at the box office. So it is gratifying to hear the Flop House hosts meticulously rip it to shreds, which they do with more focus than usual. There are still countless tangents throughout, as usual; add to that the fact that, for no apparent reason, it’s one of the perviest episodes they’ve ever done, and you’ve got a memorable episode of The Flop House. Shocktober 2013, we hardly knew ye. [CG]


The Fogelnest Files #60: Coordinator Of Falconry: Adam McKay
Despite mostly being known as a behind-the-scenes presence nowadays, Adam McKay once studied with improv legend Del Close and performed on the Second City Mainstage. That history comes to the fore in his conversation with Jake Fogelnest this week as the two discuss his path to success, and it’s a welcome reminder; in fact, McKay is one of the most able improvisers ever featured on the show. He picks up what Fogelnest puts down with such casual readiness that it’s a wonder he barely acts anymore. The show is pretty light on clips this week (though the Second City Gump sketch is very funny), so the riffs are definitely the draw this time around, especially since McKay doesn’t offer a ton of insight or insider information that hasn’t already been divulged in other interviews with SNL alums. That said, the story behind the episode title is worth the price of admission by itself. [AB]

Freakonomics:Why Bad Environmentalism Is Such An Easy Sell
Want to donate money for an environmental cause? Not so fast, says the Freakonomics team. While most environmental activism comes from good intentions, Harvard’s Edward Glaeser argues that the messaging of environmental causes is usually counterproductive, and sometimes downright wrongheaded. As another guest notes, “With how sophisticated environmental conversations have become, too often, still, we just go back to single attributes and forget to go back to the whole context of how things are produced.” From recycling to electric cars, the marketing messages can sometimes obscure the actual good such initiatives do. Glaeser doesn’t argue that recycling and other environmental initiatives are bad, per se, but that they aren’t understood by the general public, who mostly employ overly simplistic rules (e.g. “Always recycle”). [NC]


Hang Up And Listen: The Spending The Right Way Edition
The World Series is underway, and Arian Foster is partnering with a ridiculous startup—but these stories are far less interesting than what’s going on with the football team at Grambling State University. Bringing in Alvin Collins Jr., the HUAL panel discusses the rapid coaching changes, player protests, and budgetary issues affecting the program. (Gene Denby recently dissected the situation at NPR’s Code Switch blog.) They also raise the interesting question of the NCAA standing by while student-athletes aren’t being given the proper resources to compete at a Division I level. If the governing body that doles out penalties and prevents athletes from making money from their abilities can’t help maintain a minimum level of accommodation at its member schools, then purporting to be a nonprofit organization that provides operating services to college athletics is even more of a sham. [KM]


Harmontown #76: Hug Me, Hug Me, Hug Me
The second CommuniCon took place last week, and some of the organizers attended the taping of Harmon’s podcast. But what they didn’t expect was Harmon going full-jackass and inviting two audience members onstage for a surprise attack in response to some Twitter observations that Harmon’s penchant for inflammatory statements on his podcast might make it harder to attract new Community fans. Harmon’s intentions are good: He’s trying to have a dialogue about how public figures have feelings, too. Unfortunately he’s tactless in guiding that conversation or appropriately preparing other participants for that conversation to take place, and it yields some uncomfortable backpedaling and flinging the word “genius” around like an apology. A longer-than-usual installment of D&D provides some highlights, but nothing can blot out the opening unsavory beatdown. [KM]

How Was Your Week #138: Julianne Moore: “Oooooh!“
In the preface to her interview with Julianne Moore, Julie Klausner pre-emptively apologizes for what she sees as her over-enthusiastic tone during the conversation. The apology turns out to be totally unwarranted. Moore and Klausner quickly form an easy rapport, and Moore is lovely and graceful during a wide-ranging chat that covers her career, her pet bird Silvio, and redheads. The ease of conversation never wavers, even in the spots where Klausner’s excitement does border on fawning, like when she is enthralled by the beeping of a hidden dishwasher in Moore’s kitchen. While these moments could be distracting, they lead to some of the more endearing exchanges of the interview. By the end, it’s clear that Klausner was right to give more Moore the title of Queen of the Redhead Hall of Fame, and put her atop the HWYW pantheon. [DF]


Improv4Humans #104: A Hotel Tell: Andy Daly, Josh Simpson, Jeff Hiller
It’s not often that a show can regain forward momentum lost early on in the program. The opening scene, based around the novel concept of “Harry Potter nerds” spirals downward almost immediately, and would signal a skip on any other podcast. However, any time Andy Daly pops into town, it’s essentially a guarantee that all will be well, and this week is no different. Through the dexterous storytelling of Daly and Matt Besser, “A Hotel Tell” is saved after its bum start. Joined by Josh Simpson and Jeff Hiller, who pull their weight just as well as any other guest, the four improvisers move through a litany of bizarre scenes, chiefly a woefully unprepared STD tester. Toward the end, Besser brings an unbelievable documentary to the forefront, and performs the herculean task of mining genuine comedy out of a despicable situation. [MK]


The Moth Jillian Lauren: The Prince & I
In order for live readings of self-abasing stories to be cathartic instead of cringeworthy, the presenter needs to sound like they’re in a better place—or at least able to suggest that a path towardd one is coming. Jillian Lauren, who’s worked as an actor, exotic dancer, and author, visited the harem of the Prince Of Brunei. Her story is riveting, even as she describes the experience in decidedly un-romantic terms: She allowed herself to become property, but also admits to being an unabashed thrill seeker. It makes for one of the more exciting and bittersweet episodes in recent memory. [DJ]



Nerdist #426: Greg Proops Returns Again
Return guest and comedian Greg Proops is the kind of guy who never seems to run out of stories, including a great anecdote about trying to interview a crotchety and difficult Gene Wilder in front of a live audience. Given that Proops is the host of his own wildly successful The Smartest Man In The World podcast, it’s no surprise that he’s an intelligent, lively, and talkative guest. He can also talk about the craft of comedy without making the conversation too inside-baseball for a general audience. One of the more fascinating aspects of that conversation occurs when he’s discussing how his stand-up evolved while performing for British audiences. [MS]

Nerdist #427: Nikki Glaser And Sara Schaefer
Chris Hardwick and Matt Mira sit down with comedians Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer to discuss their MTV show Nikki & Sara Live. Until the last 20 minutes—which veer into an interesting but off-topic chat about sex and fetishes—the conversation remains focused on comedy. Hardwick raises the “women in comedy” issue, giving Glaser and Schaefer a platform to talk about their experiences. The duo is honest and self-deprecating, which helps keep the conversation light, even as they discuss bombing onstage, getting sexist “compliments,” and prejudices against how female comedians look. [CS]


Never Not Funny #1315: Rounding The Bases With Greg Proops
Comedy’s most erudite stand-up is always an engaging presence, and he’s in top form on Never Not Funny. There’s a fair amount of inside-baseball comedy talk, more so than usual, but it leads to some amusing impressions of comedians Proops and Jimmy Pardo know. Proops also has a funny story about offending author Michael Connelly, and in general it’s an enjoyable, breezy conversation, the kind of thing that is Never Not Funny’s forte. [KR]


Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #74: Matt Walsh, Scot Armstrong
A Sklarbro County episode is typically only as strong as the material Dan Van Kirk provides—when the news stories he picks feel like the same old dumbfuckery, the conversation suffers or feels strained. Luckily, this week he’s thinking outside of the “Florida man” framework and embracing the gross and the weird, including a man accused of public defecation who somehow winds up with the evidence on his shirt, and a restaurant in Los Angeles called the Magic Restroom Cafe with bodily fluid-themed entrees. The highlight, though, is the discussion of the Snuggle House, a truly disturbing-sounding institution in Madison, Wisconsin. Matt Walsh and Scot Armstrong, co-hosts of the very occasional Bear Down podcast, fit right in with the gang, especially with the winning Doug Buffone set at the end. [AB]

Sklarbro Country #170: Ed Helms, David Huntsberger
Jason and Randy Sklar get a lot of mileage out of the Toronto Raptors mascot’s incident earlier this month in a take that sets the tone for this week’s high energy, riff-heavy episode. Citing the performer’s perfect game attendance record of standing and watching less-than-perfect gameplay, the brothers commiserate over his Groundhog Day-like existence. Later, The Office star and perpetual nice guy Ed Helms makes a snark-free case for Sinbad’s standup and Jeff Foxworthy’s books. His good-natured persona is a nice complement to the Sklars, so it’s an all around delightful chat. [DJ]


Sound Opinions #412: The 2013 Halloween Show: Murder Songs
Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot get their theme episode in a week early as they jump through a myriad of genres to highlight a few of the countless songs involving murder. The best conversation concerns one of The Dixie Chicks’ early hits, a cover of “Goodbye Earl,” and the best listener contributions—songs by Warren Zevon and The Beatles—inspire some intriguing commentary from the hosts. It’s a dour topic, but even with a lot of dark material DeRo and Kot manage to a have some seasonal fun with their lists. [KM]


Stuff You Missed In History Class: Building Disney’s Haunted Mansion, Pt. 1
Of all the Halloween-themed episodes of SYMIHC thus far, none have captured the personal quirks of hosts Holly Frey and Tracy V. Wilson like these two episodes about Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. Both hosts are obsessed with the ride, leading to more digressions than the two have gone on since taking over hosting duties last year. This first part includes much of the story behind the general Disneyland construction (which cost more than $17 million in 1950s dollars), but takes off with when it gets to the developers’ pitch process of how to build a theme for a spooky Disney attraction. It took years for designers to settle on something that was not too morbid for children or too silly to be haunted. Mansion lead designer Rolly Crump is revealed to be particularly impish, as showcased through his rigging the special effects to terrorize the park’s nighttime maintenance staff. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Building Disney’s Haunted Mansion, Pt. 2
Hosts Holly Frey and Tracy V. Wilson pick up part two of this series on Disney’s Haunted Mansion right after Walt Disney had selected a “pristine” design for the attraction and the ride began to take shape. They introduce more of the quirkily named planners behind the mansion, such as X. Atencio. The ride suffered many years of dramatic delays, with ideas for the storyline of the ghosts never quite congealing. The mansion’s visionary, Rolly Crump, had especially bizarre designs, from a “melting candle man” to floating furniture, and the other planners were at a complete loss as to how to make them cohere. The delight Wilson and Frey take in describing the plan showcases a side of their personality they rarely show on the carefully scripted podcast, making it a perfect combination of storytelling and flights of fancy. [DT]


Stuff You Should Know: How Guide Dogs Work
This week hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant give the amazing abilities of guide dogs an entertaining introduction. Bryant’s precocious daughter and her compulsive desire to touch and distract guide dogs on the job is adorable. The littlest Bryant worries the dogs “look sad,” but it turns out that dogs are selected based on their empathetic personalities and take years of intense training. Dogs face different training based on their profession the same way a human would; dogs that accompany people with epilepsy follow a completely different set of commands, and most of the dogs who “apply” never make it past basic training. And as with most episodes with a vaguely humanitarian theme, the hosts share what practical reference they’ve found. While there aren’t a lot of outright humorous asides, the charm level is very high. [DT]


WTF #435: Jim Breuer
Yes, this is yet another episode where Marc Maron talks about auditioning for SNL. But this time he’s got Jim Breuer to fill in some big gaps on the other side of the story, and it gives Maron some much-needed peace of mind about how close he got to sitting at the Weekend Update anchor desk. Even more intriguing are Breuer’s memories of being on the outs once Adam McKay took over the writers’ room, and how he felt like a pariah compared to the mostly Harvard-educated sketch writers, with only Tracy Morgan to work with. It’s a fascinating reminder that people in comedy are often times petty and elitist—and that Saturday Night Live is often a collection of individuals looking out for future career prospects instead of a company of players working together. Breuer’s recollections of starting out in Los Angeles, working with Dave Chappelle, and getting fired from a show on the verge of its premiere are also compelling. [KM]


Comedy Bang Bang #251: The Bed Spoiler: Amber Tamblyn, Todd Glass
The much loved Todd Glass and Amber Tamblyn make for enjoyable guests, but the episode never takes off and the laughs are few and far between. [MK]


Doug Loves Movies: John DiMaggio, Patrick Moote, And Moshe Kasher
Few podcast experiences are more frustrating than when a new Doug Loves Movies guest doesn’t know how to play The Leonard Maltin Game and needs his hand held. [MS]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #138: Johnny O
There are flashes of inspiration in Paul Gilmartin’s conversation with his recovering addict friend, but there are too many distracting moments (including Johnny O’s cringe-inducing uses of the word “brothas” and several disorienting timeline jumps) to make this installment worth recommending. [TC]

Monday Morning Podcast
The strongest part of this week’s episode is the listener email segment, but it still isn’t quite good enough to keep the whole thing afloat. [CG]


Professor Blastoff #127: Luck (w/ Lara Schoenhals)
Loosely defined expert Lara Schoenhals of White Girl Problems is a non-factor in an episode focused mostly on the hosts berating producer Aaron Burrell. [NJ]

The Smartest Man In The World:Blackbirds
Live on tape from Canada, Proops recounts misadventures influenced by tequila and weed. Retro musical sidebars of the week: big-band king Duke Ellington and blue-eyed-soul singer Gino Vannelli. [DXF]

Stuff You Should Know: How Revisionist History Works
There’s a lot of fun to be had in this episode, but the theme will sound pretty redundant to anyone with common sense and a even a morsel of historical curiosity. [DT]


This American Life #508: Superpowers 2013
While a new final act doesn’t add much, this classic episode is definitely still worth a listen for newcomers or regulars who somehow missed out the first time around. [DF]

The Todd Glass Show #124: Tom Martin
Frequent guest Tom Martin handles Todd Glass’ constant preaching to the choir with grace and aplomb, but Glass’ soapbox rants are still fairly exhausting, even though he’s always right. [MS]

Who Charted? #151: Redeemed Or Unredeemed: Paul F. Tompkins
This episode with frequent guest Paul F. Tompkins is largely forgettable. However, Kulap Vilaysack issues a challenge to listeners to film their Howard Kremer impressions. That idea definitely has potential.  [MS]


WTF #434: Moon Zappa
Marc Maron’s interview with writer, actress, and Frank Zappa progeny Moon Zappa is one of his patchiest, never stringing together enough substantial material to merit a listen. [CG]

You Made It Weird: June Diane Raphael
June Diane Raphael requires very little probing from Holmes to open up about pretty much everything—including, during a particularly emotional portion, the death of her mother. She also may have the upper hand on the host when it comes to her level of sheer credulity (she’s a big astrology buff); as a result, the conversation ultimately feels anchorless and repetitive. [AB]