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U2 is everywhere, including Podmass, but it’s a good thing here

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.

In Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends 10–15 of 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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Comedy Bang! Bang!
Tony Macaroni


Few episodes of Comedy Bang! Bang! reach anything resembling a meaningful conclusion. It takes truly dedicated character work, usually displayed by the likes of Andy Daly or Joe Wengert, to bring a bit full circle without sputtering out. There’s not much set up in the first segment, where Jimmy Pardo and Nick Kroll amusingly discuss the worst grilled cheesery in America and the passing of Pardo’s non-relative Don Pardo. The episode heats up when the Australian comedian Claudia O’Doherty shows up as a bizarrely modified version of herself. She’s there to promote her 12-chapter (and 12-page) book based on her mom’s scandalous relationship with a neighborhood Italian teenage boy. Scott Aukerman presses her expertly on her character’s inconsistencies, but the episode truly takes off when Kroll splits and the famously profane Australian actor R. Shrift mysteriously shows up. Shrift, played brilliantly in an off-the-cuff moment by Kroll, is outrageously funny, especially when snarling descriptions of his shows, like Man-chine (“Half man, half machine—ALL JUSTICE.”). A fellow Aussie, O’Doherty lends credibility to Kroll’s idiocy, and the two work together to bring the episode back to the start with a spectacular and unexpected callback that could only ever happen at Earwolf Studios. [MK]

Doug Loves Movies
Neal Brennan, Retta, Sean Cullen, Lorenza Izzo


Doug Benson relaxes his “No Open Door” policy for the better this week. It would have already been an all-star panel without any surprise guests, but Eli Roth pops onstage to give returning champ Lorenza Izzo a hand, and “Mark Wahlberg” (Daniel Van Kirk) sticks around after Doing Lines With Mark to help Retta during a game of Last Man Stanton in order to even things out. Retta, of course, is an audience favorite, and she seems genuinely delighted by the show, especially Doug’s “favorite Canadian guest” Sean Cullen’s improvised theme songs for Harry And The Hendersons and Cliffhanger. Here’s hoping she can convince Chris Pratt to drop by again. Frankly, this is one time Put Your Hands Together should have to apologize to Doug Loves Movies for cutting such a great episode short. Even though it’s only an hour, it’s a tight one that doesn’t sacrifice the games. Los Angeles audience members: Step up your game and show up. The rest of the country is getting jealous. [DJ]

Evolution Talk
Darwin On The HMS Beagle


It’s been years now since Zachary Moore’s excellent Evolution 101 podcast went to fallows, there never emerged a descent successor. Though the topic of natural selection and genetic mutation could, and does, literally fill library shelves, it really only gets touched upon on the multitudinous science-based podcasts available for download. Evolution Talk is quite new—only three episodes have dropped thus far—but it looks promising. At around 15 minutes a pop, the scripted, immaculately produced show is an easy one to double-click, as you know you’re not likely to feel slogged down by anything too complicated for too long a time. The host, Rick Coste, is a veteran podcaster, having lent his efforts to the similarly titled Philosophy Walk for several years now, and boasts a confident control of his voice, which along with its unobtrusive soundtrack, almost lends it a comforting whiff of public radio. In the latest episode, Coste summarizes Charles Darwin’s five-year stint as a gentleman companion and naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle, when he first made the discoveries that would eventually make his career. It’s both informative and narratively engaging. If Coste can guide listeners through scientific concepts as well as he leads us through history, this could become an excellent weekly listen. [DD]

The Flop House
God’s Not Dead


The most remarkable thing about the new episode of The Flop House is that it’s new, and that it’s an episode of The Flop House, but seeing as it’s maybe the most consistent comedy podcast around, that’s still saying quite a lot. The film at hand is the stupid, silly, bonkers “Christploitation” film God’s Not Dead, which the hosts give an admirably evenhanded treatment, but, even more so than usual, that really doesn’t matter all that much—only insofar as its stupidity and silliness heighten the goofiness of the Floppers’ humor. This is manifested throughout the entire episode, from the introduction to the outtakes at the end, but most memorably in the form of several throwaway goofs that don’t exactly go anywhere, really, but are all the more hilarious for precisely that reason—one involving Star Wars and sand getting in butts, one involving a character named Christopher Columbo, and one involving Cathy that’s basically just saying “Ack!” among them. God may or may not be dead, but The Flop House is as alive as ever. [CG]

Giant Bombcast


Video game podcast Giant Bombcast has gained more and more popularity over the years, and this episode they discuss the biggest video game of 2014, Destiny (from the creators of Halo). The new game mostly impresses the staff, who livestreamed their first sessions and pick the complex experience completely apart. They spare no sentiment for the grim, deadpan tone of the game which has far fewer moments of humor than its elder cousin without directly comparing the two. Though the game seems to contain a great deal of statistics and design for gamers who like to immerse themselves in such things, it does not seem to realize it’s incredibly simple. Players walk to a spot, push a button, and wait to see if they’re going to fight a boss or a bunch of lesser, non-bosses. Hearing the depth of the game described seems exciting until this shallow gameplay is explained in a discussion format, adding up to a review that has more layers to it than a simple text-based review might be able to provide. There is also ridiculously false speculation of the then-unannounced iPhone 6 and a thoroughly gross story about “bathtub chicken” to round the episode out. [DT]

How Did This Get Made?
Staying Alive: LIVE!


After lots of teasing and build-up, not only was the first annual Howdie Awards mostly just a compilation of supercuts comprised of nearly the entire series since 2010, but it was split between two parts, meaning no new episode for two weeks in a row. For regular listeners, that didn’t provide a lot of opportunity for laughs beyond reminding them of what they already enjoyed about the show, so it’s good to hear them come back strong with a live taping. This week, The Heat writer Katie Dippold joins the gang to break down the wholly unnecessary 1983 sequel to Saturday Night Fever, which was inexplicably co-written, produced, and directed by Sylvester Stallone. At this point, with episodes covering Cobra, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, and Over The Top, it’s fair to label Stallone as How Did This Get Made’s new Nicolas Cage. Jason Mantzoukas hits the nail on the head when he identifies flick as a rapeless Showgirls, and the dais takes turns diagnosing John Travolta’s revised contemporary jazz dancing character as a sociopath. It’s bad enough to be good, if only for seeing the weird, oily, flamboyant ’80s show-within-a-show the movie’s “plot” centers on. [DJ]

99% Invisible
Genesis Object


Roman Mars opens this episode with pompous fanfare, declaring the “genesis object” it features to be the first and therefore most important piece of design in human history. The goofy sarcasm employed here does well to brighten what could have been a rather stoic episode. The current oldest example of human innovation is the Acheulean hand-ax, an ancient tool found first in France. But it is not enough for it to be a tool (scientists have discovered older tools), what makes it special is the idea that it was a designed object that was crafted for multiple purposes. And design being the central concept of the podcast, this episode deconstructs the running themes of every episode before it. And really, the multi-tool concept is one of three running theories created by designer William Lidwell and discussed with University Of California, Berkeley anthropologist Terrence Deacon. The false pomp of the introduction comes back into play when Deacon tries to keep a good sense of humor without grinding his teeth while reviewing Lidwell’s “Sexy Hand-Ax” theory, which posits that these hand-axes were only created to show off the creator’s abilities. Deacon has a fascinating example of a rose-quartz hand-ax found in the bottom of a well, but its clear that he thinks the whole premise of design over function is a bit obnoxious. [DT]

No Such Thing As A Fish
No Such Thing As A Randy Rat In Polyester Pants


This episode of No Such Thing As A Fish is one of the filthier episodes in a while, thanks in no small part to research projects about rats wearing pants and Icelandic incest apps. The rats wore pants to test their ability to get erections (leading to lots of bowel movement talk) and Iceland needed the incest app due to the incredibly isolated gene pool in the country (which leads you-know-where). Host Andrew Hunter Murray also brings to the table an entertaining packet of stories from the British barracks during World War I. To keep morale up, troops were entertained with organized pillow fights and mule jousting which leads to a brief history of pillow combat and a surprising but appropriately serious tangent about soldier newsletters that were critical of war. As always, the episode bounces back and forth between surprisingly curious trivia the panel of hosts has brought and their riffs on these subjects, but this episode has a particularly strong arc of silliness. Host and head researcher for TV show Q.I., James Harkin, kicks off a series of space exploration facts by dropping an analogy about cooking pizza on Venus that spirals into the idea of sideways glass rain on other planets and the massive marriage proposal package offered by Pizza Hut. The episode starts off intriguing and, by the end, is sillier than ever. [DT]

Palaeo After Dark
Treading Water; Let’s Talk About Hippos


Palaeo After Dark is a podcast of young scientists snarking about science over beer, and their diligent bibliography of each episode combined with their use of words and phrases like “whatevs” and “shut the fuck up” provide a perfect balance to their academic topics. Their logical minds usually unravel on the air, this episode in particular features an amusing scientific rant sparked by their last episode about how airplanes cannot evolve because of their inability to reproduce. “It’s going to be one of those podcasts, kids,” declares co-host Amanda Falk, who enjoys dropping an F-bomb every 30 seconds or so. Which is part of what makes this podcast so amusing. There are long awkward pauses as the three geology graduate students stew over the heavier bits of dialogue, but it is always broken by a maelstrom of buzzed laughter. The central topic of hippo biology is danced around quite a bit, and though there is a lively discussion of their ability to swim, they are also described as the perfect candidates for sausage making. When the episode finally gets to the science things get incredibly dense, but everyone is ready to rip it apart for the sake of comedy. [DT]

Point Of Inquiry
Caitlin Doughty Of “Ask A Mortician”


People have always had a morbid fascination with exotic, illicit forms of death. But if you’ve never seen Caitlin Doughty’s excellent YouTube series Ask A Mortician, then you might not be aware of how fascinating plain old run-of-the-mill death, and the industry around it, can be. Doughty—a licensed mortician and author of the new book Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From The Crematory—possesses a singular ability to explain the smallest details of the post-life experience in such a way that you can’t believe you ever found them distasteful or boring. Her explanation to Point Of Inquiry’s Lindsay Beyerstein about how and why we came to see preserving cadavers in formaldehyde as not just normal but necessary is remarkably compelling. The only real problem with this episode is that, at a half-hour, it never allows the two women to truly delve into any one topic, so the overall impression is more of a promotional interview and less of a genuine conversation. If you enjoy this, Doughty’s appearances on the Savage Love podcast are worth seeking out as well. [DD]

The Todd Barry Podcast
Jason Narducy


Todd Barry hosts his podcast with the same sleepy understatement that he does stand-up, though with fewer punchlines, naturally. On the latest episode, he wrangles Jason Narducy, the busiest man in rock, for a conversation about his musical history and life on the road. Narducy currently plays bass for Superchunk and Bob Mould, and also fronts his own band, Split Single, so he has plenty of stories—including a great one about visiting Bob Pollard’s house in Dayton, Ohio. In addition to chit-chat about soundchecks, long drives, and venue showers, the two friends clearly bond further over shared experiences at The A.V. Club: Split Single will make an upcoming appearance—the first artist to use a teleprompter—and Barry played drums with Mates Of State in our round room a few years back. They also share a fear of our comments, which Barry declares “the worst,” then corrects himself by saying, “It’s a tie with them and every other page. It’s always good when I stop reading them.” [JM]

U Talkin’ U2 To Me
Songs Of Innocence


Ryan Adams’ new record has received the semi-unfavorable criticism that, while certainly good, it’s uniform—the work of an artist resting on his laurels. In light of the call-back heavy (yet undeniably great) de facto season finale, one could surmise that the inevitable return of U Talkin’ U2 To Me would be rife with the expected bits conducted with a sense of obligation, mirroring that of Adams’ thematically uniform newest. Here, the Scotts recognize that no one really wants to hear a phoned-in, lifeless episode of When You Get There, Bro? and thus keep the callbacks to a surprising minimum. What listeners are gifted with instead is a magnificent return to form and a giant step forward, complete with exciting trivia for both Party Down and Judge Judy. The hosts can mine hilarious tangents out of anything, from the deceptiveness of Tim Cook’s name to fan mail to Harry Potter. One of the many reasons this episode triumphs is because it easily functions as an introduction to the podcast as whole. After having spent a whole summer hearing their friends rave, a newcomer could begin their journey with this latest and not feel lost or left out of the cultural conversation. The Scotts record late, but this episode finds an excellent balance of their personal delirium mixed with their comedic sharpness and great care for the titular band. The final verdict on Songs of Innocence’s place in the U2 discography is shocking and the announcement of the future of the podcast: glorious. This episode is full of life and energy and cannot be missed.

War Rocket Ajax
The Known Unknown F/Sean Ryan


The popular comic books podcast is hosted by comic book writers Matt D. Wilson and Chris Sims, who like to go way off topic and get into the nerdery of gaming and pop culture as well. Early on, Sims refuses to spoil a 1980s pro-wrestling plotline because he imagines the pleasure a listener might take in looking the clips up online and watching it as if it were new. This appreciation for fellow obsessive types and a high-energy knack for conversation is what makes the podcast exceptional. This episode brings in guest Sean Ryan, writer for the surprise DC hit Suicide Squad, to discuss his book as well as some of the group’s favorite C-list villains. Of particular note is supervillain Snowflame, who is apparently made out of cocaine. The hosts also start the episode off with how absolutely overdosed they are on The Simpsons marathon, which anyone with a general appreciation of pop culture will find hilarious, and slowly begin segueing into Sean having to follow the work of Gail Simone on Secret Six and whether he should throw a middle initial in his name to make it pop more. The three writers clearly know each other, and the conversation makes for a great window into their professional lives. [DT]

The Weekly Planet
50 Best Batman Moments


It’s hard to pinpoint precisely when comic book movies became the dominant species of blockbuster action movie, but it was probably around the time that Iron Man and The Dark Knight multiplex neighbors and attractive, socially adroit people started proudly referring to themselves as nerds. Now that we’re entering an epoch of multiple cinematic/television superhero universes, a podcast like The Weekly Planet might be a good one to check in on from time to time. The chatter provided by Australian co-hosts Nick Mason and James (a.k.a. Mr. Sunday Movies) of ComicBookMovie.com might seem a bit light for hardcore enthusiasts. But for casual fans of Marvel and DC—people who don’t consider themselves true comic-book nerds and, aside from a graphic novel here and there, receive most of their superhero knowledge from the movies—this is an excellent window into an increasingly relevant world. For this, their 50th episode, they ostensibly discuss their 50 favorite moments from all incarnations of the Batman myth (film, TV, and comics), but it’s hard to tell if they actually get anywhere near 50. Mostly, it’s just a conversation between two very knowledgable friends tossing jokes around irreverently about something they love. [DD]

We see what you said there

“I haven’t seen a movie with a straw man this big since The Wizard Of Oz.”
“Burned. Toasted. The Wicker Man also works.” —Elliott Kalan and Dan McCoy on God’s Not Dead, The Flop House


“I think this is the greatest, grandest, like, most interesting story in the field of design. Wait for it, I need like the drum roll here. The first designed object is… the Acheulean hand ax.” —Designer William Lidwell, 99% Invisible

“Rats urinate all the time, everywhere, to attract women—female rats. They also wee on food to mark it edible. Females will wee on a male they particularly like. Male rats will do the same to females. Young rats will wee on older rats and no one knows why they do that. Dominant males regularly wee on their subordinates.” —James Harkin on the many reasons rats urinate, No Such Thing As A Fish


“Did you just say ‘corresponding velcro?’ I am gonna fucking steal the shit out of that for my class if you don’t mind because that owns.” —Amanda Falk on the optimum population terminology of hippos, Palaeo After Dark

“It’s probably akin to an old-timey film reel, as it flaps off the end, and you get kind of that white, fuzzy flapping at the end.” —Caitlin Doughty theorizes on the experience of death, Point Of Inquiry


“Hey, be overly sincere. We like it! Just because we’re postmodern ironic comedy guys doesn’t mean you have to be.” —Scott Aukerman on sincerity, U Talkin’ U2 To Me

“Batman kills a lot of people with mitigating circumstances where morally he can sort of get away with it.” —Nick Mason, The Weekly Planet


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