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Podmass comments and suggestions for future coverage can be directed to [email protected] QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“Why wouldn’t they have a number? Why don’t they have a percentage in mind or a number that they think is justified? Why don’t they have that? Why aren’t they willing to say that? Like, yeah, you all owe us $10. Why are they being cagey about that? Because it’s a shakedown.” —Marc Maron on patent trolls, This American Life.
“That’s right. I saw those guys doing it, and I was like, ‘Ah, it’s easy. You make a bunch of horrific jokes, every 15 minutes maybe there’s a genuine laugh, you call it a movie.’” —Garry Marshall (Paul F. Tompkins) describes the influence of Airplane! on his own films, Comedy Bang! Bang!
“What is your alien name?”Comedy Bang! Bang!
“Don’t touch anything in New York [City]. Bathe yourself in hand sanitizer, and wear a hazmat suit everywhere you go. And when you’re in a taxicab, put a little napkin down with a doily on it, like I do, before you sit down. And before you touch the handles of the taxicab, anything like that, before you even touch the money in your pocket, pray.” —Greg Proops, The Smartest Man In The World
“My uncle came back from Vietnam and joined a cult. I was really young, so all I heard was, ‘Your uncle has joined a cult that worships penises,’ and that’s the only explanation I got. Now that I’m older, I’m thinking, ‘not a bad cult.’”Walking The Room
NEW TO US
The Indoor KidsThe Indoor Kids lets two video-game fans talk about the games they are playing and the latest video-game news with their funny and/or well-informed friends.
Comedy couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon take a loose approach to discussing games with a roster of game-centric guests such as former G4 host Kevin Pereira and Gears Of War: Judgment writer Tom Bissell as well as some professional funny people who also have a love of shooting virtual villains such as Jake Fogelnest, Steve Agee, and Aisha Tyler. Generally, the topics discussed tend to arise out of organic conversation rather than a structured set of news and views segments with their own pre-recorded bumpers that section off or categorize each part of the show like a Whitman’s Sampler of podcast topics. It gives them more opportunities to improvise riffs and jabs on the games that they are playing, the news of the week, and one another.
Their recent sit-down with Pereira included a thorough review of Microsoft’s official Xbox One reveal introduced with the supercut video of the word “TV” being repeated as if the people who wrote that script were playing a drinking game backstage. Eventually, their talk led to a thought-provoking discussion about the potential for corporate malfeasance and privacy invasion against their customers if their Kinect technology turns into a real life HAL 2000 that can hear everything their customers are saying and gauge their reactions to certain ads or games. It also created some funny opportunities for Gordon to imagine how the new Xbox would interpret her mother’s thick Southern accent and caused Pereira and Nanjiani to ponder if it could recognize Internet search commands such as “Xbox: Goatse” (don’t Google it, seriously). The Indoor Kids’ focus is first and foremost on gaming and the video-game industry, but the hosts and guests’ natural humor flows directly out of those conversations, observations, and opinions, and they create a vibrant blend of gamer comedy and enlightenment. [DG]
Actually HappeningActually Happening, a “panel game podcast providing a dose of obscure trivia, historical nonsense and terrible puns,” is billed as “The history podcast that’s too hot for NPR!” but that’s a somewhat misleading description. The show does indeed earn its “explicit content” tag with a sprinkling of swear words in each episode, but it’s never edgy in any real sense; rather, it retains the inoffensive, pedantic, and, to a lesser degree, self-satisfied humor of the NPR programs that indulge in comedy at all, along with a strong political bent. At the same time, each episode of Actually Happening is packed with factual and interesting information—or at least enough to keep engaged listeners who aren’t won over by their brand of humor. This is demonstrated well in the most recent episode, in which a nearly unforgivable pun on the word “sack” early on is followed up later with a fascinating historical connection drawn between Superman and the Ku Klux Klan. [CG]
The Best Show On WFMUBest Show initially sounds absurd, but it becomes clear on closer inspection. Despite a kinder, gentler Best Show in recent months, regular listeners will recognize a bit of Downey’s comically abrasive style in Tom Scharpling’s on-air persona when the host is confronted with a bad call or perceived slight. This week’s entertaining interview with Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie co-director Seth Kramer gives Scharpling an opportunity to indulge his obsession with the late conservative huckster. The pair swap Downey anecdotes and seem to relish finding another person who is equally repulsed and amused by the talk-show host. The rest of the episode is uneven, but the Downey discussion will likely send many listeners to YouTube to explore clips of the anarchic, surreal television show. [TC]
Comedy Bang! Bang! #222: A Peanut In The Rain: Paul F. Tompkins, Gillian Jacobs, Mike HanfordComedy Bang! Bang!, but it takes a turn later in the episode. The Birthday Boys’ Mike Hanford joins as extreme skier Ducky Powell, but Tompkins is at his thorny best, gibing Scott Aukerman for his hosting shortcomings and getting some laughs out of Ducky’s thin raison d’être. (Did he come on just to sing?) A cliffhanger closes things out, so expect another Marshall-Jacobs appearance soon, especially since it’s been announced that Dan Harmon is returning to Community. [KR]
Doug Loves Movies: Dave Foley, Sean Cullen and J.P. Manoux guestDoug Loves Movies field trips, this means that Benson and guests can pack in some extra chat and a few more games than usual. The crowd is already thrilled to be there, but the audience is especially excited by the introduction of guest Dave Foley. Star Trek Into Darkness talk dominates the chat portion and devolves into some delightful jokes about poop and Zoe Saldana. Foley also tells an amazing story about a double date to a drive-in. After the lively banter session, the audience is treated to about an hour of games, including the recent fan favorite Lincoln or Bane? [MS]
The Flop House#127: Safe HavenPlaying For Keeps and Smiley, the Flop House hosts remain unusually focused in their analysis of Nicholas Sparks/Lasse Hallström joint Safe Haven, and the episode suffers slightly for it. Their breakdown is still funny and remains as incisive as ever, but it simply doesn’t ever reach the comedic heights of, say, an idea for a Battlestar Galactica/Columbo mash-up involving hunchbacks, or of a pitch for a food product called Bag Of Chili. What does reach those heights this week, however, is a piece of listener-submitted Flop House fan fiction featuring all of the show’s best tropes and recurring gags rolled up into one email, sending the episode out on a very strong note. [CG]
Freakonomics : Should Tipping Be Banned?
Hang Up And Listen: The Understandably Quiet EditionHUAL aren’t the ones that cover the latest goings-on in the playoffs of the NBA or NFL, but the segments that delve into an obscure part of the sports world. This week, it’s the issue of overcrowded Mount Everest expeditions with veteran climber Ed Viesturs. Sure, the NHL discussion is fruitful, and the panel gets to the heart of the real issue behind Roy Hibbert’s homophobic comment in a press conference, but the Everest conversation is something you won’t hear anywhere else. The proliferation of expedition and climbing tourism is beneficial in the sense that it offers the chance for more people to experience wondrous natural locations, but at the cost of taking away some of that untouched beauty, and Viesturs has a unique expertise on the subject. [KM]
Improv4Humans: #83: Driving Yellow Jackets: Andy Daly, Brian Huskey, Katie DippoldParks And Rec writer Katie Dippold, and Brian Huskey (a.k.a. The Onion News Network’s worthless pundit Duncan Birch) for a banner episode even better than last week’s glorious Amy Poehler-fest. The banter is ace and starts incredibly strong with a loose conversation about sports that leads to a scene that would feel right at home on Home Movie’s soccer field, only more insane. Rolling along, the episode’s scenes continue to build toward absurd heights, most noticeably in the introduction of Two Minute Tony, a hack comedian shot into sitcom stardom for his habit of going two minutes over his time limit. Best of all, Besser and Daly take a moment near the end to dramatically read a bitter and questionably sarcastic Twitter exchange between Michael Ian Black and Marc Maron. From front to back, this is as must-listen as Improv4Humans gets. [MK]
Judge John Hodgman : Uniform Code of Podcast Justice
The J.V. Club #64: Christina JasbergJulian Melson and Maria Bamford’s visits to the show. Jasberg and Melson both have a long and close relationship with the host, and Jasberg has had to deal with similar mental health issues as Bamford, albeit more severe ones. The daughter of a father with schizoaffective disorder, Jasberg had a tumultuous home life that pushed her to strive for perfection as an adolescent. Stress from home and school built up and began to affect her physical and mental health as she developed eating disorders and began to cut herself, all the while beginning to show symptoms of her father’s illness. It’s a harrowing episode about understanding the need for treatment and being open to accepting help that is lightened by the comic chemistry the two women have built over time. Their conversation exemplifies what this show does best: looking at a serious topic through a lens that is casual, welcoming, and consistently entertaining. [OS]
Monday Morning PodcastMonday Morning Podcast has slowly drifted in the past few weeks. He does this first by doing some riffing on a story about population issues in China, and second by calling out a listener who writes an exceptionally distasteful email, both of which are interesting, but far from funniest things he’s ever done. It’s an uneven episode and with its share of low points, but still very much a step in the right direction. [CG]
My Brother, My Brother And Me#155: Face 2 Face 6: MaxFunCon 2013Innerspace is a classic example of what’s great about MBMBAM humor. [AB]
Nerdist #364: Josh HommeNerdist crew catches Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme right before an album release, but thankfully, the episode avoids all of the clichés and talking points of the typical new-record press cycle. Homme has a really fun and easy-going personality that comes through while goofing off with Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Mira. It may also be the only podcast featuring some indepth analysis of Bill Murray, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s film oeuvre, and some off-color anecdotes about GG Allin. The exceedingly likable Homme also tells some tales of growing up in his bizarre, California desert hometown. [MS]
Professor Blastoff #107: Stress
Sklarbro Country#149: C’mon Big Man: Chris Tallman, Chris CoxRescue Dawn, the prison-break movie Werner Herzog shot based on his own documentary. The Sklars get great information out of Tallman about the shoot in Thailand, going out drinking with Christian Bale, and getting propositioned by an underage male prostitute. Chris Cox plays Tiger Woods in the episode-capping phone call as the Sklars continue to unpack the controversy over Sergio Garcia’s ignorant comments. Golf doesn’t usually yield this kind of material, but a press-conference mishap like Garcia’s doesn’t come around very often. [KM]
Sklarbro CountrySklarbro County #54: Joe Mande, James Adomian, Dan Van KirkParks And Recreation, is his Twitter beef with former NBA star Gilbert Arenas, which he discussed on his previous visit to the Sklar brothers’ podcast. But he’s got plenty more to talk about, including juggling his writing duties while performing as a stand-up. He and the Sklars riff on Dan Van Kirk’s news stories, including a 19-year-old Alabama model who faked a rape in an attempt to win back her ex-boyfriend, and two older men who have a disgusting roommate argument. The Jesse Ventura phone call at the end of the episode doesn’t yield many laughs, but Mande adds another witty voice to the show. [KM]
The Smartest Man in the World : Skies
Sound Opinions #392: Johnny Cash’s At Folsom PrisonAt Folsom Prison was released 45 years ago, and it endures as a classic of the genre today. Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot do a masterful job of digging deeper than the setpiece from Walk The Line in the return of their Classic Album Dissection segment. They break down the context of the album—Cash had been performing in prisons for years before finally convincing a label to release an album of songs performed there—its legacy, and the brilliant songs by Shel Silverstein that Cash covered at Folsom and his subsequent live album At San Quentin. [KM]
Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Phoenician AlphabetSYMIHC root the idea in the Phoenician alphabet and make the topic an easy one to digest. The story of the alphabet begins along the coast of modern day Syria and Palestine, where Phoenicia was a merchant civilization credited with ancient innovations including the invention of glass. Mostly written from left to right in its early days, it evolved into new languages and developed new spaces, dots, and slashes as the Mediterranean civilization traded with the area. Hosts Holly Frey and Tracy V. Wilson avoid the potential trap of being too technical by focusing on the unique voyages of ships and other eventful benchmarks of the language. It’s more of an engaging and enjoyable story than a skeptical listener might expect. [DT]
Stuff You Should Know: What Happened To The Lost Colony At Roanoke?SYSK usually leaves historical subjects to their sister show SYMIHC, but this week hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant examine the infamous lost colony at Roanoke with breezy and enjoyable results. It starts off like any other scary colonial tale; founded in 1585 by the wealthy Sir Walter Raleigh, the English settlement encountered extreme hardships under Governor John White. After seeking assistance from England, White returned after three years to find the colony had vanished. Clark and Bryant chide the flakiness of White, who all but abandoned his search after a short time and made little to no effort when following up on clues. Other than a blonde Native American child spotted in the Croatoan area, Roanoke remained a mystery for decades. Clark and Bryant stick to the script less than their SYMIHC cohorts would, and it helps historical accounts linger in the mind of the listener. [DT]
Stuff You Should Know: How Coffins WorkSix Feet Under as a tonal guide, hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant dig up a wealth of fascinating coffin minutia. Known more politely as caskets in the American undertaking industry, they vary from pure metal to “technically still a coffin” shrouds. The industry comes off less empathetic than it would like under this amusing scrutiny: The costs of even the most basic coffin will hit a listener’s ear with a thud, the terminology used in a typical funeral home sounds all too entrepreneurial, and the history of burying bodies in the 19th century will likely inspire more than a few cremation plans. But Clark and Bryant are reliably whimsical in their discussion, and even present an appealing green burial alternative than Bryant seems keen to use for himself. [DT]
This American Life#496: When Patents Attack…Part Two!original investigation into the United States patent system and find answers to many of the questions they were left with two years ago. The result is an essential hour of radio that ranks among the best that TAL has produced, a compelling piece of in-depth reporting that shows just the extent to which patent trolls have built a business model around stifling innovation and extorting inventors while not producing or creating anything themselves. If the original piece highlighted the problems in a deeply flawed system, the full story revealed by years of additional reporting demonstrates that they system is badly broken and in desperate need of reform. [DF]
The Todd Glass Show #105: Andy DickThe Todd Glass Show, Glass spends almost about 45 minutes goofing off before the featured guest even arrives. This is fine because this time, Glass has a full band at his disposal and he’s clearly having fun with it, especially when he is parodying Paul Anka’s famous tantrum. The Anka-style meltdown happens several times and the bit gets more intense each time, much to the delight of the in-house audience. Eventually, professional train wreck Andy Dick shows up and he vacillates between his trademark hyperactive silliness and honest, heartfelt reflection over some of the darker patches of his life. [MS]
Walking The Room#153: Bukowski Girlfriends and Pinecone ManWalking The Room, from Dave Anthony’s excellent return to an overarching sense of continuity, but mostly it’s just chock-full of some potentially stage-worthy material. TIVO advertorials aside, the first segment contains some A-plus riffs, the best of which focuses Greg Behrendt’s hobotang/Bukowski-esque neighbors, Anthony’s uncle’s cult, bewilderment at The Rock’s arms, and an alternate version of the IDF. Plus, it’s always promising whenever Behrendt relieves Anthony of his storytelling load, allowing him to pop off a series of embittered one-liners and angry rants at sequel scribe Craig Mazin. One of the more surreal moments they’ve created comes with Behrendt’s reading of a series of nonsensical comments left on his Facebook page by a Bradley Cooper-stalking Brazilian woman (with the lyrics from Dave Anthony the rapper a distant second.) Lastly, Anthony shares his son’s inquisitive and shanky reaction to having his blood taken and tales of the ultimate joyride. [SM]
WTF#393: Phil HendrieNew Girl. Even while radio’s market share shrinks by the day, it’s a compelling treatise on how the medium found the bastions of drive time, sports, and conservative talk to continue limping forward. [KM]
You Made It Weird: David AngeloYMIW it can be a chance for Pete Holmes and a guest to move a discussion along (and riff a lot, of course). He does that just a little here with David Angelo, and it makes for an exploration of two fairly different comic personalities that somehow mesh well. And as usual, just having a good setup between Holmes and the slightly harsher Angelo somehow makes it more engaging when the two delve into more insider-y comedy-history stuff. [SG]
The Fogelnest Files #38: Please Don’t Grab a Ukulele: Julieanne Smolinski
The Mental Illness Happy Hour#116: Meghan ParkanskyMIHH listeners. [TC]
The Moth : Bliss Broyard: A Tale Of Two Dinners
Nerdist #365: Jesse Thorn
Never Not Funny#1221: Dropping Names With Dan CroninConan writer Dan Cronin is funny, and the crew has a breezy, amusing chat for nearly two hours, but it’s not essential listening this week. [KR]
Stuff You Missed In History Class: Who Was The Real Robin Hood?
The Thrilling Adventure Hour#120: The Cross-Time Adventures Of Colonel Tick-TockTAH’s time-travel serial is, perhaps understandably, a bit hard to follow as it skips through historical periods and an elaborately odd cast of characters. In this case, the chronological jumping-around really does burden an otherwise cleverly written installment. [SG]
Uhh Yeah Dude: #374
Who Charted? #131: Long-Haired Man-Thing
You Made It Weird: Bo BurnhamYMIW is capable of. [SG]
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