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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“Do you use Proactiv or something?”
“No, what’s that?”
“It’s this thing Katy Perry puts on her face so as not to look like a gargoyle.” —Martin Starr, Ethel Branscome (Lennon Parham), and Scott Aukerman, Comedy Bang! Bang!

“I did have a tendency to believe that superstition, ‘Oh okay, you’ve had three things, now you’re all set. This is the worst thing and nothing will happen.’ And then getting diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts… was not expecting that. So getting that news, I just can’t explain.” —Tig Notaro, Professor Blastoff

“My only concern is that, when these Olympics are over, you are headed, Andy, for a spectacularly large come-down. After the closing ceremony, you’re going to be like Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting, lying in the corner of a room, shivering, and hallucinating a hammer-throwing baby crawling across the ceiling.”—John Oliver on Andy Zaltzman’s Olympic fever, The Bugle

“Is that Danzig or a strong woman?” —Jonah Ray, Nerdist

“If it was 20 years ago, I would never listen to your podcast, but two months ago it did help me dramatically, because I did trust the white man.” —Nadereh Faneian, telling Paul Gilmartin about her personal growth from Iranian revolutionary to angry feminist to Mental Illness Happy Hour guest

“So, I was dumped by my life coach.” —Caitlin Brodnick, The Moth

“If you’re listening to this, kill yourself, because it’s over.” —Ryan Stout, WTF With Marc Maron

“It’s like watching a lawn chair talk to a mailbox.” —Tom Scharpling on Ryan Seacrest interviewing Michael Phelps, The Best Show On WFMU



Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend
Dick Cavett is fond of quoting Jack Paar’s comment about how the ideal talk-show appearance should be a genuine conversation rather than a scripted and controlled Q&A. Cavett embodied that advice on his television talk show, and the cream of the current crop of podcasters share Paar and Cavett’s commitment to advancing the lost art of conversation. Among them is Alison Rosen, the newsgirl on the wildly popular podcast The Adam Carolla Show and the host of her own Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend on Carolla’s podcasting network.


Pete Holmes was the first guest on Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend and Rosen has appeared as a guest on You Made It Weird, which is fitting, since the podcasts have a lot in common. Rosen and Holmes both combine big personalities with genuine curiosity about both their guests and the world around them. On Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend, Rosen exposes her neuroses, anxieties, and insecurities in a way that never overshadows her guests. The latest episode features Greg Proops, a popular presence in podcasting as both a host and a guest, but Rosen gleans some new insights from the familiar face and effete voice. Proops is loose and lively as he discusses how he’s able to not just function but thrive while being essentially high all the time, shares the rare stoner anecdotes of genuine interest to people other than those involved, and examines the ego-threatening perils of reading comments on the Internet. In the best Cavett/Paar tradition, this is a true meeting of complementary minds. [NR]



Radio Free Nintendo
Nintendo World Report’s podcast Radio Free Nintendo has been running for just about six years now, using the reliable panel-discussion format to cover gaming news, and its 300th episode is something special in ways both good and bad. On the positive side, it offers an in-depth history of the Wii console, which fueled Nintendo’s latest resurgence and the recent fervor for motion-sense gaming that spawned the PlayStation Move and Kinect. 300 also serves as a one-episode introduction to the entire run of the podcast, with guests dating back to the early years of the site. The biggest drawback to diving in with the 300th episode? It’s over five hours long, pushing the patience of even the most forgiving listeners as the hosts entertain lengthy digressions on the history of Nintendo World Report and the site’s behind-the-scenes reactions to every bit of console-development news. Nintendo devotees may enjoy listening to an in-depth discussion of a single console, but too often RFN drags on through several hours when a concise 45 minutes would suffice. [KM]



Professor Blastoff #64: Tig’s Cancer Diagnosis/Autism
It’s tough to review a pilot of anything, because starting points don’t always reflect what something will become. Podmass checked out Professor Blastoff when it launched in April of last year, when it debuted as Earwolf’s most high-concept/convoluted podcast: A Nobel laureate named R.L. Blastoff created a time machine in the ’40s, but became trapped in the space-time continuum. Hosts Tig Notaro, David Huntsberger, and Kyle Dunnigan stumbled across his lab, where they found a radio he uses to send thoughts to himself should he ever become unstuck in time. At the start of each episode, they use a transmission from him as a suggestion for an episode topic. Got that? It’s all very logical. The show is really three friends with excellent chemistry discussing big topics, from quantum physics to romantic relationships to the concept of reconciliation, often with the help of a guest. (Taylor Dayne, the subject of one of Notaro’s best bits, was on that last one.)

Just as reviewing a pilot can be tricky, an episode of Professor Blastoff where Notaro shares life-changing news may not be optimal, either. The comedy world has been abuzz with concern the past week about Notaro’s recent breast-cancer diagnosis, which arrived on the heels of her apparently tour de force performance at Largo last weekend, and the first half-hour of episode 64 addresses what’s happening in her life. Notaro’s had a Job-like year, which has included pneumonia, which led to another illness that hospitalized her (and caused her to lose 30 pounds), the sudden death of her mother, a breakup with her longtime partner, and now a diagnosis of cancer in both of her breasts. It’s unreal, but Notaro pulls off an amazing mixture of bemused bafflement and vulnerability, and the first part of this episode is genuinely moving.

The second part sticks to Professor Blastoff’s usual routine. Repeat guest Steven Yates joins in a discussion about autism (he has an autistic son) that’s typically loose and conversational, with a lot of good-natured ribbing among the hosts. Sometimes, though, that gets in the way of Professor Blastoff being genuinely informative. Lippert talks over what sounds like a relevant 60 Minutes clip, and the trio’s tendency to interrupt one another (and their guest) can stop interesting exchanges or ideas before they get anywhere. Professor Blastoff still needs to be more informative than it is, but the charm of its hosts goes a long way. [KR]




The Best Show On WFMU
With several great scripted calls from Jon Wurster in the past few weeks, Tom Scharpling has had some difficulty raising the rest of the Best Show to the same quality, but this week’s episode finally sees him taking back the reins. His new Storage Wars-themed reality series Staten Island Garbage Rats seems to be picking up steam with the decision to enlist Leon Redbone to sing the title theme. Comedian Todd Barry also calls in to discuss his new album Super Crazy and awkwardly roasting Chevy Chase on national TV without having ever met him. Surprisingly though, the highlight of the show is hearing Tom’s incessant laughter after singing “Riders On The Storm” in the voice of Garrison Keillor. His commentary on the Olympics is definitely worth sticking around for as well, but overall, it’s just nice to hear Scharpling enjoying himself again. The Best Show sails much easier when the host is in good spirits. [TC]

The Bugle #203: No Medals For Syria
This week’s episode finds Andy Zaltzman in the full throes of Olympic fever after one week of the London games, and John Oliver takes great pleasure in teasing him. A discussion about the badminton scandal takes a surreal, hilarious turn as a sleep-deprived Zaltzman delves into a tangent about the makings of a shuttlecock, and he later goes off an amazing, extended rant about piping in loud dance music during Olympic events. For his part, Oliver sinks his satiric teeth into the class issues surrounding Ann Romney’s horse, which participated in Olympic equestrian events. The final third squeezes in a bit of current events (including a brilliant Oliver bit taking on the Chick-fil-A controversy), but most of the show is, once again, full of Olympics fun, a fact that doesn’t escape the notice of either host. [MG]


Comedy Bang! Bang! #170: New Scoop: Martin Starr, Lennon Parham, Neil Campbell
Martin Starr has traditionally been an elusive presence on podcasts like Doug Loves Movies, where he remains taciturn aside from a couple bone-dry quips. (See his DLM appearance at the end of May, which prompted us to note that his “determination to say as little as possible is captivating in its own weird way.”) Without a DLM-style panel on Comedy Bang! Bang!, he’s more engaged, though he still works in some silence to funny effect (like his “remix” of the Rihanna song Scott Aukerman sings). He lightens up more once Lennon Parham shows up as Ethel Branscome, a friend of Aukerman’s great aunt, and when Neil Campbell reads his gossip blind items. Aside from some weird sexual proclivities, Parham’s character doesn’t have a lot to her, but her deadpan banter with the other guests and Aukerman works well. [KR]


Doug Loves Movies: Sarah Silverman, Anthony Jeselnik, Chelsea Peretti
Unlike recent Doug Loves Movies guest Jeff Garlin—whose “Boring Tourette’s” is the subject of some early discussion this week—Anthony Jeselnik really shines on this episode by laying low and inserting the occasional barb into the exchanges between Doug Benson, Sarah Silverman, and Chelsea Peretti. Unlike frequent interrupters and all-around mic hogs T.J. Miller and Pete Holmes, Jeselnik doesn’t need to aggressively clamor for the spotlight in order to leave his mark on a panel podcast, instead relying on a few impeccably timed remarks that completely eviscerate the audience. [MS]

The Flop House #107: Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance
It’s hard not to have fun talking about Nicolas Cage’s awful movies, but the Flop House crew does an exceptionally good job of turning something dull into engaging and funny banter that’s rife with tangents. This week’s discussion of last year’s Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance focuses on just a handful of the filmmakers’ bizarre creative choices, the absurdity of the film in general, and how underwhelming it was despite low expectations. As usual, the mailbag segment is a real highlight, with funny letters and solid riffing on Saved By The Bell, Peter Jackson film titles, and a new catchphrase for Stuart Wellington. The silliness continues even through the guys’ earnest movie recommendations at the end, making it a strong episode through and through. [CG]


Hang Up And Listen: The Leave Lolo Alone Edition
A second glorious week of Olympics coverage has Sports Illustrated tennis expert (and frequent HUAL guest) Jon Wertheim subbing for Stefan Fatsis and talking about the resurgence of tennis at the Games. In the past, tennis has been a second-tier event, but between the Wimbledon stage and great stories in both men’s singles (where Britain’s Andy Murray triumphed on his home turf) and women’s singles (where Serena Williams made the rest of the field look like rec-league players), the sport got a lot of attention. There was also the sad and hilarious spectacle of four women’s badminton teams trying to throw their pool matches to get a better spot in the single-elimination round, which the gang agrees is mostly the fault of the tournament structure and not the individuals involved. Finally, Mike Pesca is the lone host to stand up for the New York Times’ attack piece on hurdler (and noted virgin) Lolo Jones, which he feels is more about hating the marketing game than the opportunistic player. [ST]


Judge John Hodgman: Night Food Court
In this case, Casey brings a complaint against her husband Matt, a graduate student who likes to go on late-night fast-food runs with his best friend about once a week. Casey claims that this habit is unhealthy and a drag on their budget, and it’s keeping Matt from getting things done around the house. Judge Hodgman picks apart most of these claims, but the real value of “Night Food Court” are his keen insights into the give-and-take that goes into a marriage. When two people share income and split responsibilities, there’s an ongoing discussion about who does what, how the money should be spent, and what both partners expect from each other. In other words, fast food isn’t the issue, though the Wendy’s corporation will not be happy with this episode. [ST]

The JV Club #22: Kulap Vilaysack
Janet Varney’s interview with actress and Who Charted? co-host Kulap Vilaysack falls on the complete opposite end of the emotional spectrum from most episodes of The JV Club. The daughter of Laotian refugees who firmly believed in beating their children as discipline, Vilaysack learned that the man who raised her was not her biological father when she was 14. Her turbulent adolescence leads to an intense conversation as the women talk about child psychology and urban Minnesota gang culture, and her childhood struggles bring Varney to tears. Varney jokes that there probably isn’t much overlap between her guest’s teenage experiences and those of her listeners, but Vilaysack’s story leads to serious, emotional discussion that shows just how extreme adolescence can be. [OS]



The Mental Illness Happy Hour #72: Exiled Iranian Freedom Fighter Nadereh Fanaiean
Take this one in a few separate chunks. Paul Gilmartin’s two-hour interview with Nadereh Fanaiean stretches from her time as a Marxist activist in Iran to her current, relatively happy life in the States. In between, there’s intrigue, torture, survivor’s guilt, nursing school, and Fanaiean’s long separation from her son. Tormented as her story is, Fanaiean turns out to be more game for humor and banter than most of Gilmartin’s comedian guests, which helps make the episode worth its intimidating length. [SG]


Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #65: Chicken In A Biskit
After a month-long absence that resulted in a spotty return, Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh finally get themselves back on track with an episode that highlights why their listeners stick around. It’s a tried and true formula at this point, but within that, it gives the two hosts plenty of room to go off on wild tangents involving unique characters, voices, and scenarios that somehow always work. The two of them turning the mundane composition of a cracker into an indictment of the pretentiousness of Ritz factory workers displays just how much fun MATES can be when it embraces the ridiculousness of its concept. [DA]

The Moth: Mike Dang And Caitlin Brodnick: StorySLAM Favorites
Sheepishness isn’t often a desirable quality in Moth storytellers, but it works for Mike Dang. His story is of the worth-getting-sued-over variety, as he recounts discovering that his creepy boss entertained violent fantasies about murdering him. His soft-spoken demeanor turns out to accentuate all the morbidity to shockingly funny effect. In this episode’s second short entry, Caitlin Brodnick is a bit more flighty and rapid-fire, but it’s appropriate for a screwball story about life-coaching and mentors. [SG]


Nerdist #240: Will Ferrell
Usually when a Saturday Night Live veteran joins Nerdist, it results in Chris Hardwick incessantly asking them about their time on the show. While that does take place here, Will Ferrell’s ascent to film stardom allows Hardwick and his co-hosts room to move around a little more. It helps that Ferrell proves to be a quick, comedic interview, alternating between hilarious anecdotes and substantive storytelling. Even at nearly an hour and a half, the episode never drags, showing that when Nerdist allows the episode to flow naturally, it often yields its best results. [DA]


Sklarbro Country #106: Department Store Santa: Kevin Nealon, Chris Cox, Dan Van Kirk
Randy and Jason Sklar have some great riffs on NBC’s questionable decision to interview former professional wrestler turned professional crazy person/conversational Dadaist Iron Sheik in connection with the Olympics, but the episode’s highlights mostly come from guest Kevin Nealon. The Sklars are unabashed comedy geeks and Saturday Night Live buffs, and Nealon cuts an avuncular figure as he discusses his past as a department-store Santa, nearly getting cast in the Ted Danson role in Cheers, and specific Saturday Night Live sketches. An amusing phone call from Chris Cox’s Jerry Jones sees him trying to cover for a recent verbal gaffe by explaining the many non-sordid connotations of the phrase “glory hole.” [NR]

The Smartest Man In The World #170: Kayaks
As this episode begins, it seems Greg Proops is heading straight for his usual pitfalls, and yet it works out rather well for him. First, he indulges his habit of playing the cool old stoner uncle, and then starts doing onstage advertisements for a grilling product called the Mangrate. But the latter gets all screwed up and stretched out in a way that allows Proops to mock himself for doing ads on the show, and for his poor copy-editing. [SG]


Sound Opinions #349: Jack White And Greg’s Desert Island Jukebox
Jack White lends himself so easily to lionizing and mythmaking that Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis’ talk with him this week is unexpectedly refreshing. Cut up into many short segments, White’s Sound Opinions interview generally strikes a frank and easygoing tone, especially as White muses on authenticity and the blues. Plus, it’s admirable that Kot and DeRogatis dredge up the old “does Meg White’s drumming suck?” controversy, only to get some fresh perspective on it. [SG]


Stuff You Missed In History Class: A Medici Marriage: Marguerite-Louise d’Orleans
As notable princesses of history go, Marguerite-Louise d’Orleans is a bit more menacing than most. She was “born with an uncontrollable temperament” and a “fearless, toxic nastiness,” and historical accounts of her arranged engagement with the Medici family are a little dark but surprisingly hilarious. Upper-class women of her 1600s France were apparently poorly educated, and through a mix of being in love with another man and being born a spitfire, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany vocally despised her entire married family and constantly accused them of attempting to poison her. Hosts Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey stifle their snickers out of respect for the deceased and the frustrated, but this is a particularly fun tale of dramatic, royal misfortune. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Ramadan Works
We are in the midst of Islam’s Ramadan, an important month to the world’s second largest religion that much of the Christian world knows nothing about. Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant make an excellent case for the fascinating nature of both the ninth month of the religion’s calendar and the religion itself. They cover the lunar calendar and the importance of fasting and sincerity—and the concept of being kind to those less fortunate than you are is something everyone would do well to mention more when they mention Islam. While it would have been nice if the hosts had talked to an actual Muslim (their guessing about how Ramadan “might be like Christmas time” is a little cringe-inducing), their research is well done and their appreciation sincere. [DT]


The Thrilling Adventure Hour #82: Sparks Nevada, Marshal On Mars: One Night At O’Tooles
This particular stretch of Thrilling Adventure Hour’s Sparks Nevada series is getting long, sure: The titular Mars-based Earthling law enforcer is still out of his job, still moping around the planet having strange encounters, going back and forth over his romantic history, and so on. But while this episode may not add a whole lot of compelling plot points, it proves the durability of Croach the Tracker, Sparks’ ultra-earnest former sidekick. Mark Gagliardi turns out to be even better at voicing Croach when Croach has been drinking, and that by itself is enough to keep things interesting. [SG]


Walking The Room #115: Puffy V And The B&B
Bemusement at absurdity is a constant theme on Walking The Room, and rightfully so, as Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt excel at delving into the whys and what-ifs of a confusing situation. This week’s episode focuses, at least initially, on a mysterious, heartfelt note scrawled in crayon that was left on Behrendt’s car, and Anthony’s stay at a charming B&B run by a perverse matriarch. Things become uneven when the two start to come at the jokes from too many angles, causing the conversation to turn into dueling stand-up sets. Still, it’s more than funny enough to balance the mania, which settles into an existential monologue in the last segment when Behrendt ponders the relationship between his career and family. Evoking the Nick Offerman School Of Thought, the steady rant is profoundly insightful, if a tad indulgent, and proves Anthony’s claims of Behrendt being an emotional rollercoaster. [SM]

WTF With Marc Maron #302: Ryan Stout
Standup Ryan Stout and Marc Maron have a cerebral yet easygoing chat as they bond over growing up in the Southwest, having mixed feelings about mainstream comedic success, and their relationships with their audiences. Maron is also intrigued by Stout’s libertarianism, although Stout isn’t one of “those” libertarians, so it’s not a contentious discussion. The episode includes a check-in with previous guest Matt Graham, who seems to be doing okay, by and large, although he’s still working through the audience reaction to his tragicomicobnoxious past appearance on the show. Plus, Boomer the cat finally speaks! [CZ]


You Made It Weird #72: Live From Montreal
The conglomeration of comedians that came together for this live episode, recorded in Montreal during the Just For Laughs festival, is a strong one: Not only does each member of the panel have at least one memorable moment, but, for whatever reason, the group also jibes exceptionally well. As a result, it’s pretty damn hilarious from start to finish. The highlight in the “weird” department comes in the form of Pete Holmes reliving a pretty horrendous social faux pas of his, which is as cringe-worthy as it is funny. To top things off, Chelsea Peretti fulfills her duty as Holmes’ best/worst friend by getting in a few potshots at his expense—which, as usual, no one finds funnier than Holmes. At under 75 minutes, it’s the shortest episode in six months, and it never even comes close to overstaying its welcome. [CG]


Judge John Hodgman: The Golden State Debate
Judge Hodgman presides over a custody battle between two young people who want their friend to move out of White Plains and settle in either New York City or Los Angeles. But mostly, these Gen-Z’ers confuse and annoy. [ST]


Monday Morning Podcast
Bill Burr’s conversation with fellow “regular Joe” comedian Jim Florentine is mostly interesting, but also overlong and not nearly as funny as it should be. [CG]

My Brother, My Brother And Me #114: Roker Poker
The last half-hour or so of this week’s episode comprises an earnest discussion among the McElroys about “nerd shame” in which jokes are scarce. That’s not an inherently bad thing, but it’s also not exactly the most welcome departure when most of the “goofs” in the preceding 40 minutes are sub-par. [CG]

Nerdist #239: John K.
In the past, Chris Hardwick’s interviews with voice actors have been infinitely engaging, but here it fails to be anything more than him trying to get John K. to do his Ren & Stimpy voices. [DA]


Never Not Funny #1107: Calling It With Phil Hendrie
Host of The Phil Hendrie Show and Jimmy Pardo favorite Phil Hendrie holds court for much of this episode, and though Pardo’s riotous opening and Hendrie’s masterful vocal skill make for an engaging listen, the conversation becomes muddled when Hendrie’s free reign disregards context or direction. [SM]

Sklarbro Country: Sklarbro County 11: Matt Price
Guest Matt Price kicks off “the County” with a funny story about a three-question Q&A with Shaquille O’Neal at a Nestlé Crunch-sponsored basketball camp, but tales of Rex Ryan’s “secret sensei” and a set of lost keys to England’s Wembley Stadium fall a little flat. [ST]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #229: Lachlan Patterson
Stand-up Lachlan Patterson sets a subdued, cerebral tone for a conversation about houseguest etiquette, comedian merch, and The Dark Knight Rises, which carries over into tight “Overheards” and “Overseens” featuring political dog humor. [DXF]


Stuff You Missed In History Class: How The Titanic Worked
Listeners still ask for this 2008 episode, but the interesting details don’t make a repeat listen of this heavily traveled topic worthwhile. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Can We Build An Elevator To Space?
While fun, the ridiculousness of this episode keeps hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant from discussing much of reality outside of Snoop Lion (née Dogg). [DT]

The Todd Glass Show #57: Rory Scovel And Daniel Kinno
Considering this episode comes right on the heels of another Rory Scovel episode, it feels like more of an afterthought than an episode that stands on its own strength. [MS]


Who Charted? #88 Tooth Talk: Brandon Johnson
Although guest and comic actor Brandon Johnson is exceedingly likable, his appearance results in one of those episodes that’s forgotten the minute it ends. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron: #301 Bob Golub
Standup journeyman Bob Golub has more than his share of life experience to impart—including a stint as a boxer while incarcerated on drug charges and the story of how he ended up in Goodfellas—but he jumps around so much that it’s hard to follow any one thread. [KM]