QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“I never valet park. Half these dudes don’t know how to drive an SUV, and the other half wanna drive it all over town, pretend they had the idea to airbrush the hood with a scene of a Wolfman attacking a Terminator.” —Paul F. Tompkins as Ice-T, The Pod F. Tompkast
“A seething burlap bag full of different types of reptiles.” —Julie Klausner describes Millionaire Matchmaker’s Patti Stanger
“So [The X Factor] is scream karaoke, right? Can we agree that this is just people yelling their feelings at me? It’s all melisma. It’s over-emoting. They’re filling the stage up with their soft, salty emotions. It’s like the emotional equivalent of a Gallagher show. I think it’s gross.” —Glen Weldon, Pop Culture Happy Hour
“I can deliver important-sounding words in order.”—Jon Hamm, WTF With Marc Maron
“Ladies & gentlemen, here’s what you don’t understand about writing: It is a misery.” —Paul F. Tompkins, The Pod F. Tompkast
NEW (TO US)
We Hate Movies
Something about bad movies makes for entertaining podcasts—see How Did This Get Made?, The Flop House, Bad Movie Podcast—but the New York-basted Private Cabin comedy collective goes beyond run-of-the-mill Nic Cage movies to focus on bombs that time forgot (with good reason). The episodes feature the usual plot synopsis with (hilarious) commentary, but the hosts are writers and film aficionados who exist outside of Hollywood, so they can go into detail why a movie was flawed without worrying about offending potential employers. We Hate Movies doesn’t feature a bunch of guys yelling incoherently about how terrible a movie is (the criticism frequently leveled against How Did This Get Made?), and the hosts have been known to recommend a movie they skewer if it was genuinely entertaining. WHM is one of the few bad-movie podcasts that tries to get to something deeper than just reactionary jabbering.
Episode 26 begins a month devoted to bad horror films with 1982’s Visiting Hours, from a decade that was jam-packed with crappy horror flicks. Other good episodes to check out: #24’s look at The Ewok Adventure is perfect for Star Wars fans/haters of Ewoks; and the special episode with Stephen Tobolowsky (the podcast’s first-ever interview) offers enlightening insight into what makes a movie turn bad.
Big Foot Tonight
True believers Chuck Prahl and Stacy Hostetler track the legendary Sasquatch mostly through interviews with people who either hunt Big Foot or claim to have sighted one. The hosts are a couple of regular guys who interact with some entertaining/bizarre guests, but treat them with the utmost respect. This is a podcast where, like the recent one with Bruce McDonald, two people can have a straight-faced discussion about human-Sasquatch inter-breeding. Unfortunately, Big Foot Tonight has subpar (but bearable) sound quality for a show on the BlogTalkRadio network, and there’s a random music break at the hour mark for some reason, but the wealth of information each episode provides is enjoyable.
The Adam Carolla Show
The week in Ace, in order of descending interest: Marc Maron and Carolla one-up each other’s anecdotes about goofing off in school and taking hallucinogenics. The Patron Saint of Podcasters’ famously disarming gift of gab elicits the rarest Ace show commodity: Carolla stories you haven’t already heard twice this month. Actor-comedian John Leguizamo gets a one-on-one interview, and Ace jumps right into a conversation about Leguizamo’s debilitating struggles with anxiety leading up to his one-man show Ghetto Klown. Ben Folds’ previous appearance was a highpoint for the year, but his return is Adam Carolla And The Temple Of Doom—which is say the wobbly sequel (yes, we know Temple was technically a prequel) isn’t great, but has its moments: Carolla uses the musician’s presence as an excuse to take exception to Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. At the mention of Springsteen, Ace and pianist Folds start improvising low-rent copies of “Thunder Road.” Comedian Kathleen Madigan deconstructs Oprah and talks about touring Afghanistan, but Ace Network aficionados will want to tune in for Lynette Carolla and Stefanie Wilder Taylor, hosts of the podcast formerly known as The Parent Experiment, soon to be relaunched as For Crying Out Loud. Comedian Gabriel Iglesias talks about meet-and-greet etiquette, life on the road, and his new gig hosting Comedy Central’s Stand-Up Revolution. If you’re a casual listener or just curious, this is a solid week for a podcast that’s generally hit-or-miss.
The Best Show On WFMU
The unintended but prevailing theme of what is destined to be one of The Best Show’s hall of fame episodes is time-travel. Tom Scharpling comes out firing with a discussion of the Chapter 11 filing of regional restaurant chain Friendly’s, arguing it has been bankrupting the American diet for decades. Callers chime in with their Friendly’s memories, and one young woman recounts her saddest meal ever at her neighborhood location. Jon Wurster calls in for what will undoubtedly be a future Best Show Gem as Trip Whiting of the band Time Trampoline. He’s excited to announce his group’s reunion and eager to deny rumors that his haunted house, Whiting Manor, killed people. As great as that is, the call of the year may be from Puppet Wally Wackiman, with the fate of banned callers on the line. “Wally” addresses his detractors and has a complete “feltdown” on the air before Tom contemplates resetting the ban. This show will long be remembered, like a Friendly’s Fribble or Fishamajig, and recounted fondly by hardcore Best Show listeners.
Culture Gabfest: The Ken Burns Flinch Edition
Make fun of the Ken Burns style all you want—perhaps by slowly zooming in on a photo of him while letting fly with some boring platitude—but the Gabfesters are powerless to resist Burns’ new PBS documentary Prohibition, which they find full of fascinating insights and a cinematic window into how people lived in the early part of the 20th century. A terrific New Yorker piece on IKEA inspires a funny and insightful discussion on the hosts’ own relationship to IKEA products and the ennui that sets in when you’ve outgrown them and they’re still in your house. Then Slate founding editor Michael Kinsley comes on for a feisty exchange about his recent Bloomberg editorial declaring Chris Christie too fat to be president. While agreeing that Christie’s weight would be an issue in his (now theoretical) candidacy, Dana Stevens steps up to challenge him on the point that it should disqualify him.
Doug Loves Movies: Leonard Maltin, Jimmy Pardo and Samm Levine guest
After a series of on-the-road and in-studio episodes featuring a haphazard assortment of second-tier guests, Doug Loves Movies is back at the UCB theater with an all-star cast, including the podcast’s patron saint, Len—sorry, Leonard—Maltin. An unusually taciturn Samm Levine seems humbled from his ego-trouncing at the hands of Paul F. Tompkins and Scott Aukerman during the Tournament Of Championships back in July, though he remains as savant-like as ever during the actual game. Jimmy Pardo provides a string of characteristically aloof asides, though Maltin, who seems to have embraced both his namesake game and his DLM-based notoriety, gets in several solid rejoinders as well. It’s not the most rollicking episode ever—everyone is mostly on-topic and well-behaved, and even the bleeped-out rant by Pardo turned out to be a put-on for the podcast audience—but it’s a fun and easy listen front to back that’s a lot more engaging than the two meandering, unfocused “Rental Car” mini-episodes with Graham Elwood that also posted this week.
Firewall & Iceberg, #97: American Horror Story, The League, Breaking Bad & More
The haunted-house drama American Horror Story is FX’s newest edgy-sexy buzz show, and this week’s Firewall & Iceberg demolishes it, gleefully taking a wrecking ball to its plot, acting, visual style, and co-creator Ryan Murphy (of Glee fame and Nip/Tuck infamy). It’s too bad Dan Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall don’t have nearly as much fun discussing the programs they did enjoy (including the HBO Martin Scorsese documentary George Harrison: Living In The Material World). The entertainment news of the week is the possible return of Arrested Development, but the hosts aren’t excited about it, and they explain why you shouldn’t be, either. And listener mail leads to the episode’s thorny TV issue: When does a single plot point become so implausible it ruins a show’s entire premise? (Exhibit A: Showtime’s Homeland.)
Hang Up And Listen: The Beast Mode Edition
One of the primary pleasures of Hang Up And Listen is how thoroughly the hosts lay waste to conventional wisdom and the broadcasting punditocracy that spouts it, one cliché at a time. In the hard-nosed world of the NFL, conventional wisdom dictates that a strong running game is the key to success, but the pass-happy offenses in this season’s first few weeks get some support from the numbers, which show that the top passing offenses have a much bigger presence in the postseason than teams that run the ball well. In the wake of outgoing Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona’s remarks blaming the team’s epic flameout on bad team chemistry, the HUAL crew scoffs, noting many far more tangible reasons for the collapse. The third and best segment brings on National Post hockey columnist Bruce Arthur to talk about the recent deaths of three NHL “enforcers” and the dim possibility that fighting will get banned from the game.
How Was Your Week? #30 “Upstairs Coke”: Susie Essman, Gabe Delahaye
Because she plays a screeching, f-bomb-dropping harpy on Curb Your Enthusiasm, it’s a little odd hearing actor/comedian Susie Essman as she really is: genial and normal, as she and Julie Klausner discuss stuff like daughters and dogs. They also talk Curb, of course, with Essman explaining how her character’s outrageous wardrobe gets crafted for each episode. Klausner also speaks with comedian and Videogum editor Gabe Delahaye about, among other topics, famous people he would and would not befriend. Klausner also mentions some bizarre video of John Lithgow singing while children assault him—if anyone has a link, please share.
The Mental Illness Happy Hour: #28: Theresa Strasser
One of the joys of listening to The Mental Illness Happy Hour lies in realizing that even people who seem spectacularly healthy and functional wrestle with mental illness. That’s the case with guest Theresa Strasser, a smart, engaging, and funny former sidekick on The Adam Carolla Show who opens up to Paul Gilmartin about the joys and aggravations of working in an all-male environment, postpartum depression, weeping publicly, and contemplating suicide. The Mental Illness Happy Hour often goes dark and grim—see “Mental Illness” in the show’s name—but this episode goes especially dark as Strasser and Gilmartin discuss their battles with suicidal despair and the way parents traumatize and warp children, no matter how good their intentions. Like the best installments of The Mental Illness Happy Hour, this episode delves deep into incredibly dark, disturbing subject matter while remaining entertaining and eminently listenable.
Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #36: Edamame
That dorky horn sound MATES always uses to punctuate snack names finally serves a comic purpose this week, as co-host Tom Cavanagh repeatedly yells “Edamame!” while playing the sound over and over again. Then Michael Ian Black cuts in to say, “Why that isn’t a Public Enemy song, I will never know.” What follows is a charming discussion of probably the least-sugary and least-processed snack MATES has yet tackled. As a bonus, Cavanagh and Black put yet another entry in their bizarre and kinda-brilliant series of fake showbiz-friend stories, this time gossiping about what it’s like to have dinner with Alex Trebek.
The Moth: Jim Krenn: Church Latin
Jim Krenn’s story about growing up in Pittsburgh’s Strip District starts too rambling and loose at first, at least measured against The Moth’s tight standards. Not that it lacks good details—like a nun all the kids at his church called “Sister Mary Charles Bronson”—it just takes a while getting there. But once he’s finally into the meat of the story, serving as an altar boy for the first time at age 9, the payoff is more than worth it. As he remembers his young self trying to recite a Latin prayer he didn’t know at all, Krenn conjures up a caliber of growing-up-Catholic mischief that’s almost reminiscent of George Carlin’s old bits on the subject.
Nerdist #130: Penn & Teller
Although it’s billed as an appearance by the comedy-magic duo, Penn Jillette alone was the guest for this Nerdist installment—Chris Hardwick thought it funny to label the episode “Penn & Teller” because Teller ostensibly wouldn’t talk if he were in studio. But Teller would have only dragged down this episode, which careens all over the road with never a dull swerve. Topics include Jillette’s extensive song-poem collection, the job of Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins as moon-landing chauffeur, Jillette’s lone bowling experience, and hilarious stories of parties at Jillette’s house involving a little person, a chimpanzee, large men with knives, and a pool filled with cornstarch. Jillette makes for a fascinating guest, not only for his fantastic storytelling ability, but also for his extensive knowledge on a myriad of topics—and what he doesn’t know, he is great at bullshitting like he does.
The Pod F. Tompkast #13: We Have Returned
After a three-month hiatus, the Tompkast returns, slightly retooled with promises of new segments to come. The changes are mostly minor—a new intro, a shorter “live dates” segment—but most notable here is the appearance of John Hodgman, who’s transported to the studio by the Sleepy Voice Of The Internet (whose credit has gone from “Anna” to nothing—her main gig must forbid such extracurricular activities as the Tompkast). Hodgman acts as a co-host following a funny segment from the Largo show with Community’s Gillian Jacobs, and he and Tompkins have an easy repartee. The Jen Kirkman segment seemed a likely candidate for the changes Tompkins hinted at during episode 12, but she returns to share a deeply gross story about a touchy acting instructor from college. While it’s amusing, Tompkins’ reactions to it provide the funniest moments. As usual, he’s utterly delighted by Kirkman, but his chortling bafflement at what transpires enhances the whole thing. Another change on the horizon: The “closing chapters” of “The Great Undiscovered Project,” with this one featuring Tompkins’ new character, German filmmaker Werner Herzog. He, Ice-T, and Garry Marshall have a meeting—so no, you can’t go wrong here.
Pop Culture Happy Hour: Don’t Sneeze On Us During The X Factor, Please
Regular PCHH participant Glen Weldon outdoes himself with the funny, curmudgeonly quips this week, as the usual foursome discusses Simon Cowell’s new talent competition, The X Factor: Weldon decries the whole enterprise as show-offy and self-absorbed: “I grew up in the 17th century, in the Plymouth colony, where my parents, Goody and Proctor Weldon, would always say to me, ‘Don’t make a fuss about yourself, it’s unseemly.’ This show is about making a fuss.” But while he gets the sharpest barbs in, there’s plenty of hilarious bile to go around, about “Welshy McRarebit” and much more. The giggle-level drops during a game inspired by Linda Holmes’ recent injury, where she asks the participants to identify what body part various pop-culture figures damaged in various films and shows, but the acerbity level rises again during a discussion of things the hosts have “said good day to”: For instance, Weldon singles out procedural TV shows that focus more on how the protagonists feel than on actual procedure. There seems to be a theme here: People openly displaying their emotions always prompt him to angrily, reluctantly, hilariously display his.
RadioLab investigates the idea that life happens in circular motion in a thoroughly entertaining hour that begins with an awesomely irritating comedic performance by Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler. (Sound Of Young America host Jesse Thorn introduces the segment as the series continues assembling what feels like a National Public Radio dream team.) Other topics broached in the hour make the whole thing seem like fodder for some aspiring TV writer’s best House spec script ever—particularly the story of a woman who suffered a brain trauma and got stuck in a 90-minute conversation loop—but there are also lovely discussions of what happens to the carcass of a whale when it sinks to the bottom of the ocean (and how this suggests certain things about the circularity of life and death) and considerations of various loops encountered in the world of mathematics. The hour concludes with a moving story of a woman caught in a loop between her body and brain and how she sought out a way to end that loop and take control of her own life, though she can only do so for a few moments every day. All in all, it’s another terrific RadioLab, digging deep into a topic that wouldn’t necessarily come to mind as one tailor-made for radio.
Sklarbro Country #62: What The Heck?: Marc Maron
When Paul Gilmartin guested on Sklarbro Country, the generally breezy, rapid-fire podcast took on a more emotional, open tone out of deference to Gilmartin and his essential podcast The Mental Illness Happy Hour. With Marc Maron as guest, it goes even further. Randy and Jason Sklar do away with just about every feature of the podcast, from reader mail to quick hits to a closing call from Jason Nash or Chris Cox in favor of one solid hour of open, honest conversation about comedy and life with Maron, whose ties to the world of sports are tangential at best. As with the Gilmartin episode, this podcast allows listeners to hear another, more personal side of the Sklars. The results aren’t anywhere near as funny as a typical episode of Sklarbro Country—it’s almost jarring hearing the brothers speak conversationally at a normal speed—but they are entertaining, albeit in more of a cerebral, philosophical fashion than usual. It’s an intriguing change of pace, and Maron proves a predictably deep and compelling guest, but it will also be nice to have the dependable old fixtures return next week.
The Smartest Man In The World: Arms
Greg Proops’ loosey-goosey approach works well in this outing, as he transitions from topic to topic almost seamlessly while dispensing, yes, a wealth of knowledge that makes him seem like the smartest man in the world (particularly his biographical run-down of Queen Zenobia). His rant on Banned Books Week—listing some specific examples of libraries that have banned books and why they were banned—is both compelling and hilarious, while Occupy Wall Street (including Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore) gives Proops the perfect target for his acerbic humor. His tangents don’t stray too far off-course this episode, strengthening and adding context to his rants rather than undermining them.
The Sound Of Young America: Jonathan Coulton and TMBG’s John Flansburgh
This week’s TSOYA celebrates hardworking, down-to-earth dad types in the entertainment industry. Jesse Thorn interviews singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton along with They Might Be Giants’ John Flansburgh, who produced Coulton’s new record, Artificial Heart. The conversation should be inspiring to anyone who worries about whether getting older and settling down dampens the creative process, as Coulton discusses how silly songs about giant squids turn out to be about him working out his issues, even if he doesn’t realize it at first. And yes, Portal’s “Still Alive,” which Coulton wrote, is also addressed. Also in TSOYA mini-installment, John Roderick of The Long Winters (who also contributed to Coulton’s new album) discusses how playing along to ZZ Top’s “Give Me All Your Lovin’” on a tennis racquet changed his life.
Sound Opinions #305: Bob Ezrin
A pivotal producer in ’70s rock, Bob Ezrin has worked on his share of classic albums (Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Lou Reed’s Berlin, Kiss’ Destroyer) and managed some of the biggest (and thorniest) personalities in rock history. He got his start working with Alice Cooper, whom he still considers a dear friend—and about whom he spends most of this episode talking—but he’s best remembered for the titanic, widescreen treatment he gave to some of the era’s darkest, most ambitious concept records. For a guy who has spent a lifetime locked in studios with batshit geniuses like Reed and Roger Waters, Ezrin is good-natured, fine raconteur. A highlight is Ezrin relating behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the making of Berlin, an infamously dour record that features cameos by Ezrin’s two young sons crying out for their mother during the song “Oh Jim.” Contrary to urban legend, Ezrin didn’t torture his kids to get them to cry so convincingly.
Stuff You Missed In History Class: Who Is D.B. Cooper?
Before the reality of terrorism, gentlemen thieves used to be a romantic concept. In 1971, there was a famous gentleman thief who hijacked a plane, stole a briefcase full of cash, and parachuted into the rainy night at 10,000 feet. It remains the only unsolved hijacking case in American history. Hosts Sarah Dowdey and Deblina Chakraborty resist painting a purely flattering portrait of the Dan Cooper, a.k.a., D.B. Cooper, and instead go over the most popular theories regarding his true identity and what compelled him to make the choices he did. And his choices are fascinating: Why would he request four parachutes for one person, then leave with two, one sewn shut? Yet the man clearly had an above-average knowledge of aviation and had spent a great deal of time planning his escape. He was also never found, leaving even more room for tantalizing clues, of which he left some. A large amount of his cash washed ashore eight years later, and 40 years later DNA tests isolated who the true suspect wasn’t. But the mystery remains open—and perfect for an episode of the podcast.
Stuff You Missed In History Class: John Dee: Her Majesty’s Secret Sorcerer
John Dee existed in a time when you could actually be arrested for “practicing mathematics,” meaning his exact ties to magic and necromancy might seem blurred to contemporary Harry Potter fans. But he indeed attempted revival spells on actual corpses and was constantly pushing the boundaries of legal science in the 1500s, somehow while ascending the royal court and becoming science advisor to both England’s Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. The big reveal, which is referenced in the episode’s title, is that John Dee actually founded what is known as British Intelligence. He spied for the British government, using scripts disguised as angel-evocation documents for symbol-laden messages to the government. His fascination with angel-summoning and conversing with the beyond actually became his obsession later in life, making him not only a scientific genius but a bona fide insane rich person. The story has a great many layers and it is taken in a gently dark direction to celebrate October, when the podcast traditionally celebrates all things spooky.
Stuff You Should Know: How Silly Putty Works
Few toys from the early 20th century have lasted through today, but Silly Putty is somehow still a thing. Despite its unique viscosity, it has no true purpose, so where did it come from? Why do we give it to children? It’s not entirely clear. History has multiple origin stories, but hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant give them all their due—and listeners get not only a complete history lesson, but a glimpse into the politics of marketing factory run-off chemicals to people. Especially entertaining are letters written about it in its early days, theorizing (humorously?) that the stress-relieving properties of the weird fleshy muck actually brought an end to the Korean War. The hosts hash out the science of Silly Putty until their brains melt, and sure enough, they don’t forget to mention the alien properties of its fictional successor, the Happy Fun Ball.
Uhh Yeah Dude #291
It should be noted when the companion text that pops up on your iPod screen with a podcast episode is amusing, so here goes: “Using local heirloom podcast ingredients, these small, funny batches of genuine flavor are stone ground and hand crafted by artisans.” As for this week’s actual episode, Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette muster up some pretty good Dr. Phil impressions and a little tribute to the adorable stuff Andy Rooney says or might say. (“What I don’t know is, whatever happened to the moon?”) Their finest little bit of news commentary might be a disturbed riff about a recalled set of dolls whose hair can strangle children, theoretically resulting in what our hosts call “the worst tea party ever.”
Walking The Room #71: The State Fairy And The Tooth
Greg Behrendt and Dave Anthony seem to be in a bit of a serious mode for much of this week’s episode. At the very least, there are long discussions about parenting, the ill effects of eating ice cream, and Anthony recently scoring a job on a Walking Dead companion show. But no matter, they also take on such issues as border security. (“I think we should shoot midgets back the other way.”) Plus, the talk about show-business people quitting jobs in a panic has its inspiring side, and the episode begins with the two brewing up a hysterically gross description of what happens after a zombie falls down a well.
Who Charted? #44: Toilet Full Of Scary: Rob Huebel
In the beginning of the episode, guest and Human Giant alum Rob Huebel provides insight into his comedic sensibilities when he recounts how his dad would hide behind a bowl of Halloween candy and scare kids who took more than one piece. Naturally, this leads to a young Huebel waiting up in a tree in his front yard, waiting to jump down and scare trick-or-treaters. Pleasant, funny, and engaging without sounding forced, Huebel is a great guest and has an easy rapport with Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack. During the music-charts discussion, Howard Kremer teases out the forthcoming Beavis And Butt-Head relaunch by revealing that a particularly terrible dance track will be featured on it, and the episode ends with another one of Kremer’s delightfully surreal Dragon Boy Suede tracks—which will hopefully become a tradition.
WTF With Marc Maron #214: Will Franken
Will Franken describes, or rather hypes, himself as a one-man Monty Python’s Flying Circus during his visit to the Cat Ranch. There’s no way anyone can live up to that bill, including the individual members of Monty Python. Perhaps not surprisingly, Franken spends much of this episode discussing how earlier notions of grandiosity, like his conviction that he’d one day be the subject of an A&E Biography, irrevocably damaged his marriage and hampered his career. Maron has an oft-stated hostility to comedians who do not reveal themselves onstage, who do not bleed for their craft, so he understandably is a little skeptical of Franken’s man-of-a-thousand-voices shtick, but they bond over messy divorces and their long, arduous journeys to find themselves and their comedic voice. For Franken, that meant silencing, or at least quieting, the cacophonous clatter of the wacky voices inside his head so that he could find his own.
WTF With Marc Maron #215: Jon Hamm
In the first chapter of WTF’s unofficial tribute to the dramas of AMC, Marc Maron suppresses his Mad Man superfandom long enough to not sound disappointed that Jon Hamm isn’t Don Draper. Of course, Draper’s kind of a dick (and so withholding that he’d be a horrible interview subject), so the ever-amiable Hamm makes a much better fit for WTF. He’s probably sick to death of telling Mad Men origin stories, but there’s no trace of that here, and the two also get into the details of Hamm’s slow-burn career and how Draper stands for the very American archetype of the “arrogantly insecure.” It’s a descriptor that gets a hearty laugh out of Maron—for reasons beyond his appreciation of Hamm’s onscreen work.
The Apple Sisters #18: Boat Queen Week 6 Of 6
The ladies conclude their Boat Queen adventure, such as it is, in typically loose form: Stranded on an island, they meet some whiskey-loving natives and ex-pat bartenders, which gives Kimmy Gatewood, Rebekka Johnson, and Sarah Lowe a chance to use their most over-the-top “drunk” voices. It’s goofy and slight, but on par for what preceded it.
Best Show Gems: A Call from Maurice Kern and Hot Rockin’ Ronny
Occasionally, Best Show Gems sync to real-world events, like Rabid B. Hatchetman’s appearance alongside this year’s Gathering Of The Juggalos. This medium-strength episode just might be tethered to Rick Perry’s precipitous drop in the polls. Fellow Texan (and Big Pharma honcho) Maurice Kern attempts to clean up his image by gifting at-risk kids “the power of imagination” (read: an empty, possibly irradiated box). Later, embittered DJ Hot Rockin’ Ronny appears to make fog-based death threats and promise underwear stealage.
The Bugle Leaders Special #1: Silvio Berlusconi
There is less John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman than you require this week, as this episode is essentially a Bugle greatest hits celebrating the duo’s perennial love for skeevy Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. For Bugle newcomers, this actually serves as a good introduction, as it highlights great moments like Zaltzman claiming that Berlusconi uses a detachable penis to solve international trade disputes. For longtime Bugle fans, it’s disappointingly short and a bit repetitive, considering that last week’s episode also focused on Berlusconi.
Comedy Bang Bang #125: Wine In The Whirlpool: Sarah Silverman, Nick Kroll, Dan Mangan
On paper, episode 125 looks like it can’t miss: Sarah Silverman is funny and has a long history with host Scott Aukerman, and Nick Kroll is a CBB all-star. So what gives? It’s a few things: Kroll’s Bobby Bottleservice character feels labored, and he takes up a lot of time here (though his role-playing with Aukerman is funny), both Kroll and Silverman are duds during “Would You Rather?,” and there’s even more music than usual, this time from Aukerman favorite Dan Mangan, a low-profile singer-songwriter who’s better known in his native Canada. Skippable.
Judge John Hodgman: #36: Beard Science
Guest bailiff Jake Tapper returns to the fold with a better Skype connection this time—he sounds like he’s on dry land, anyway—and the case, about facial hair growth, is right in Judge Hodgman’s wheelhouse. But the particulars of the “beard chicken” contest under dispute provide little grist for the comic mill.
Nerdist #129: Emma Caulfield
It’s never a good sign when listeners need to Google a guest’s name before listening to a podcast, though Buffy The Vampire Slayer fans will know Emma Caulfield as the show’s Anya. She discusses transitioning from a huge television role into producing and her other projects, like Bandwagon and the Teen Nick show Gigantic. This episode is labeled as a “bonus” on the Nerdist website, which might simply be a nice way of saying “not as interesting or memorable as the others.”
Never Not Funny #918: Wayne Federman
Shortly after Jimmy Pardo introduces guest Wayne Federman as someone “who brings a positive energy and isn’t shitting on everything,” a riff on pop music leads them into a long-winded debate on Madonna’s debut album, track-by-track. Unfortunately, Federman’s nice enough to let it play out. While his positivity keeps the episode engaging, it lacks any sort of conflict that could transcend the conversation above non-starter anecdotes and toothless opining. Sometimes it’s good to have a guest willing to call out your shit; after two lackluster episodes in a row, where’s Pat Francis?
Stuff You Should Know: How U.S. Marshals Work
U.S. Marshals apparently began nobly but devolved into “fat lazy retired cops” in the early 1900s—so why discuss them? Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant don’t even know what to make of U. S. Marshals until they can tie it back into Tommy Lee Jones’ character in The Fugitive, making for a boring episode that avoids gunfights until the end. Early on they joke that not only were U.S. Marshals hard to love back in the day, but they handily beat down Vietnam War protestors. The episode is completely inoffensive, but in a week of reports that peaceful Occupy Wall Street protestors are being beaten by police officers, maybe shelving this episode until the overall context shifted would’ve been a good idea.
Superego #3:8: Best of Season 3: Volume 1
This episode is nothing more than a sampling of some of the stronger, previously released Season 3 case studies with appearances by the likes of Paul F. Tompkins and John Hodgman urging listeners to donate to the podcast. Still, there’s nothing out there that even comes close to the kind of consistent quality the Superego team produces every month. That alone is worth a portion of your walking-around money.