Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Sedaris on Jimmy Kimmel Live in February

Things get weird with David Sedaris on Hollywood Handbook

Sedaris on Jimmy Kimmel Live in February
Photo: Randy Holmes (ABC)
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.

Aliens Like Us With Rhys Darby
What Are They?

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Aliens Like Us is a new podcast from Spotify all about extraterrestrials and the close encounters people have with them. Every week, host Rhys Darby (Flight Of The Conchords) is joined by Leon “Buttons” Kirkbeck and Ethan Edenburg to take a look at the latest UFO news. It’s a comedy podcast, but both Darby and Kirkbeck are full-on believers in the paranormal. They have good reason: Kirkbeck’s father had multiple encounters in his life and Darby himself once observed UFO activity in the Scottish skies while searching for the Loch Ness Monster. Edenburg acts as the Scully of the group, but it’s clear that skepticism is not the point; there’s even a segment where alleged UFO “experiencers” recall their abduction stories without commentary or pushback from the hosts. Last Podcast On The Left’s Henry Zebrowski also stops by to share his theories about Area 51 and discuss using alien technology to get revenge on casting agents. Though he’s clearly passionate about the subject, Darby’s laid-back style ensures that the podcast never devolves into manic comic one-upmanship or zealous conspiracy mongering. He is the perfect tour guide through the lighter side of the unknown. [Anthony D Herrera]


Believer
Charity

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Lara Campbell is a simple woman. She likes women, her dog, and making money by pretending to be a psychic with the help of her smartphone. But then she gets some disturbing phone calls from her ex-girlfriend Rose and a plea from Rose’s father telling Lara she’s the only one who can find her. Lara picks up her dog and drives down to Charity, Oregon for answers, but what should have been the end of her road trip is the beginning of a journey along an unsettling path with a creepy small town as its backdrop, conveyed and constructed by excellent sound design and voice acting. This first episode of Believer feels like the first 30 minutes of Get Out or Hereditary in pure audio form: There’s an unshakable sense that something is wrong and intends to stay that way. [Alma Roda-Gil]


Eater’s Digest
The Weird Job Of Covering What Candidates Eat

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We can learn a lot about a person through the lens of food, and in this election year, Eater has taken on the task of analyzing every Democratic candidate’s diet on the 2020 campaign trail, their respective spending, and even their choice of catering to get a fuller picture of our potential leaders’ lifestyle choices. On the latest Eater’s Digest, hosts Amanda Kludt and Daniel Geneen sit down with the photojournalist who seemingly reported on it all: Gary He. The entire episode is packed with fascinating details; He also gives listeners an intricate picture of what’s involved in photographing each candidate with their food, describing those unflattering snapshots of Pete Buttigieg eating a cinnamon bun like a chicken wing and the women who couldn’t eat a corn dog on camera. [Kevin Cortez]


His Royal Fakin’ Highness
Long Live The King

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Hamlet is a college student who loves to hang out at clubs and avoid the responsibilities of being a crown prince, until the day Ophelia shows up to tell him his father’s dead. Long live the king. His Royal Fakin’ Highness takes the tale of Hamlet and rips the tragedy from it. What would happen if Ophelia teamed up with Hamlet to secure his rightful place on the throne—or maybe not so much “teamed up” as “pretended to be engaged” without asking Hamlet first? Audiences love a fake engagement romantic comedy, and this story hits every good romantic trope without forgetting what else it’s here to do: make fun of Shakespeare. Plenty of sarcastic jabs and wordplay make light of the source material, but this podcast is not an endless parade of jokery. It breathes new life into characters we assume we already know and gives them a chance to extend beyond the story arcs fated for them 400 years ago. We see them navigate a complex tangle of royal duties and family tension while insisting the entire time that, no, they’re not in love, thank you. [Elena Fernández Collins]


Hollywood Handbook
David Sedaris, Our Storytelling Friend

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The Boys (Hayes Davenport and Sean Clements) usually kick off each episode with a story told over music, but this week they launch right into their conversation with prolific writer David Sedaris. The repartee is so natural between them that the trio manages to talk taxidermy for nearly seven whole minutes before the hosts even get around to introducing their guest; there’s plenty of energy in this episode, with seamless transitions between riffs that absurdly swerve from punchlines to earnest discussions on writing, Ivy League educations, and guilt. This ebb and flow means listeners are treated to a conversation on trained helper monkeys that turns unexpectedly to the breeding age of raccoons, and it’s best to just enjoy the ride. Even the advertisements between segments are entertaining. [Jose Nateras]


Marlon And Jake Read Dead People
Trashy Novels To Die For

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Man Booker Prize–winning author Marlon James and his editor Jake Morrissey host a podcast in which they trade unrestrained thoughts on the thousands of books that have passed beneath their eyes over the years. So pure are their takes that the pair must limit themselves to dead authors, lest they spawn a fallout rivaling the current raging romance writer turf war. This week, though, their judgment is mostly suspended as they gush about the literary guilty pleasures they would gladly take into the bathroom. James revels in the taboo antebellum eroticism of the Falconhurst series, which is about a fictional Alabama plantation that houses all manner of fornicators. Morrissey prefers the 1950s WASP-spray that is Peyton Place, written by the note-taking wife of a high school principal in a New Hampshire mill town. Both are quick to count the artistic and moral failings in these and other books; James shudders at the thought of an Auschwitz-themed romance series between prisoners and captors. But they are drawn to these books because the texts are so free with their sensations, which makes them a welcome departure from some staid, watercolor plots in highbrow literature. [Zach Brooke]


Never Not Funny
The 1000th

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Back in the mid-2000s, before everyone from late night hosts to financial investment firms had a podcast, there were only a handful of creators willing to take a risk on the untested medium. Among them were standing up comedian Jimmy Pardo and longtime comedy fan turned producer Matt Belknap. A thousand episodes later and they’re still here, serving up “dumb fun” and providing a space in the podcast landscape that is light on premise and heavy on laughs. To celebrate this tremendous milestone, Pardo, Belknap, and perennial punching bags Garon Cockrell and Eliot Hochberg planned to treat listeners to an episode without a guest only to be immediately interrupted by phone calls and recorded messages from past guests congratulating them on their achievement (or indulging in some pre-planned bit, as the case may be). Among the callers are Jon Hamm, Jen Kirkman, Scott Aukerman, Janet Varney, and Paul F. Tompkins, to name a few. The long list of heavy hitters heaping on praise is a testament to what a special comedy environment Pardo and the Never Not Funny team have fostered over the years. Longtime listeners can only hope the fun won’t end anytime soon. [Dan Neilan]

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