Alton Brown joins the Nerdist network, Jimmy Fallon visits Fogelnest, and John Cale drops by the garage

Alton Brown joins the Nerdist network, Jimmy Fallon visits Fogelnest, and John Cale drops by the garage

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Note: Certain podcasts released on Friday may be added on Monday morning. 

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“[Insane Clown Posse] are a place for the disenfranchised. It’s kind of like this show, but for dummies.” —Tom Scharpling on the connection between Friends Of Tom and Juggalos, The Best Show on WFMU

“I have a swastika tattoo on my arm, but it’s just because I like right-hand turns.” — Kyle Dunnigan, Professor Blastoff

“I’m very excited about the new season. I have heard through a bird that has seen it, that they end it very well.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa—I want to hear more about this talking bird. ‘Caw! Cranston’s performance is better than last season. Caw-caw! The cancer comes back!’” —Dave Anthony and Chris Fairbanks, Walking The Room

NEW TO US

The Alton Browncast
Those who have heard Alton Brown’s appearances on Judge John Hodgman and Nerdist can attest that the unofficial Dean of the Food Network is a natural on podcasts: informative, witty, and possessing a talent for extemporaneous pontification honed by years of hosting Iron Chef America. And his long-running, Peabody-winning Food Network series, Good Eats, is proof positive of his ability to adapt cooking and food instruction into an entertaining new context. So the idea of a Brown-created and -hosted food-centric podcast—backed by Nerdist, no less—seems like a sure bet. And while The Alton Browncast is still working through some growing pains in its first few episodes, it’s poised to become a go-to listen for those who assume the mantle of “foodie.” 

The Alton Browncast’s biggest asset is also one of its biggest liabilities, as evidenced in the opening third of each episode where Brown provides a rundown of recent food news, with commentary. Brown’s depth of knowledge and strong opinions make this segment informative, and potentially interesting to those who spend a lot of time thinking about GMOs and trans fats; but Brown’s rapid-fire soapboxing can give it the feel of a college lecture at times. Brown is more palatable when he’s joined by other voices, as in the second interview segment or the third, call-in segment. Episode #1’s interview with a soft-spoken woman who makes cheese straws in her kitchen is very skippable, but subsequent interviews are much more enlightening: Brown’s chat with fellow Food Network icon Bobby Flay is extremely interesting, even if it’s more concerned with Flay’s horse-racing sideline than food, and his conversation with the founder of a high-end ice cream concern should appeal to anyone who’s made—or just enjoyed—ice cream. The closing call-in segment varies with the quality of the calls: The best are those that ask Brown for help working through a difficult recipe or food conundrum, while those seeking behind-the-scenes Food Network or Brown-related trivia tend to be waved aside with a snarky comment from Brown. Like any digest-format podcast, the quality of The Alton Browncast varies in relation to the strength of its parts, but both the host and the format ensure that listeners will walk away from every episode knowing at least one thing they didn’t know before. [GK]


THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU
The Best Show has built a fanbase that seems to be equal parts comedians, musicians and everyone else. It’s always interesting to hear one of those famous fans on the show for the first time, like Jon Daly’s uneven, but fun debut on this episode. Daly sounds thrilled to be on the show and repeatedly professes his love for the program, but he hits a couple snags as his podcast-trained mouth results in Tom Scharpling rushing to bleep some swear words from the live radio show. Jon Wurster calls as a down-on-his-luck rocker named Todd, who nearly matches Daly’s toilet talk with a hysterical “Start Me Up” ripoff featuring an uncharacteristically PG-13 refrain (“please me, bitch”). Former A.V. Club staffer Nathan Rabin joins the podcast for a brief segment to talk about his newest book. [TC]

The Bugle #243: The Gifts That Keep Giving
One of the best running jokes on The Bugle stems from John Oliver’s continued participation in the turgid Smurfs film series. Everything comes to a head this week as Smurfs 2 was released, and Oliver comes out swinging sarcastically in defense of his film. (“Let’s be clear, that 14 percent [on Rotten Tomatoes] means that only 86 percent of people leave disappointed.”) The rest of the issue builds with a bevy of quick hits on a wide range on topics, a welcome and sillier change since the past weeks’ singularly focused episodes. Also on display in “The Gifts That Keep Giving” are extended riffs on Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, who somehow will not be serving prison time, and Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwe leader known for rigging a few votes. From front to back, this issue hits every one of its talking points perfectly. [MK]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #235: Concert Buddies: Doug Benson, Paul F. Tompkins
Doug Benson and Scott Aukerman have known each other for almost 20 years, and their shared history fuels a lot of reminiscing, from their days going to shows together (hence the title of the episode) to wasting countless hours playing video games at Brian Posehn’s place. It’s enjoyable, but the episode doesn’t hit its stride until Paul F. Tompkins shows up as Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, with all the commensurate pomp and silliness that accompanies him. There’s a lot of discussion of his writing process, his work, and a round of Would You Rather? that offends the lord’s sensibilities. Sometimes the best moments of Comedy Bang! Bang! happen when Aukerman and guests just make each other laugh. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: Michael Moore, Graham Elwood and Patrick Moote
After past guest Pete Holmes’ impression of Michael Moore has attained near-legendary status on Doug Loves Movies, the fact that Doug Benson booked Moore on his Traverse City Film Festival edition seems like a major coup. However, the real star of this episode is Patrick Moote, the subject of the documentary Unhung Hero. Since Moote’s movie is about his unimpressive package, he dominates the chat portion with good-natured jokes about his painfully average package. Frequent Benson traveling companion Graham Elwood capitalizes on the ribald nature of the discussion by hilariously coining the term “baby cave” for the vagina. [MS]

The Flop House #131: Marmaduke
Way back in their classic Mirrors episode, the hosts of The Flop House caught wind of the impending production of Marmaduke and joked that the titular pooch should be portrayed by Jamie Kennedy in a dog costume (while all the humans in the film are CGI’d), and, frankly, that sounds much, much more enjoyable than the actual film that the Flopsters watched to appease their sadistic fans. Fortunately they are able to channel their talking-dog-induced anguish into laughs—a pretty astounding amount of laughs, in fact. Even for a podcast that is remarkably consistent in the first place, this week’s episode not only stands out, but is easily among their funniest episodes ever, rendering it required listening. [CG]

The Fogelnest Files #48: A Pound Of Spiced Ham: Jimmy Fallon
This week’s guest, Jimmy Fallon, is a testament to the apparently endless list of Jake Fogelnest’s surprising showbiz friends. Who would have known that the two were genuinely close while starting out—or, as Fallon puts it, that they grew up together? The show is a bit shorter, and the clips a bit sparser than usual, but Fogelnest selects some choice moments in late-night history. (The highlight is undoubtedly drunk Ed McMahon.) The conversation between the two is entertaining not because of the content, however, but because of how game Fallon appears to be for Fogelnest’s tendency toward impromptu and sometimes jarring tangents into improvised characters. Other guests sometimes act as though Fogelnest has caught them off-guard, but Fallon consistently matches Fogelnest’s energy. [AB]

Freakonomics: Do Baby Girls Cause Divorce?
Ever wonder if the gender of a first-born child has a substantive impact on the long-term success of a marriage? Turns out it does: Couples whose first child is a girl are statistically more likely to get divorces. But divorce isn’t the only issue; couples that have a girl out of wedlock are less likely to get married than couples that have a boy. Based on the evidence, men seem at fault for this discrepancy. According to surveys about child preferences, men overwhelmingly want sons, and the statistics suggest those preferences are put into practice. First-born girls also affect family size, since families with first-born sons are less likely to have more children than families with first-born girls. While interesting from a sociological standpoint, these studies also have an economic impact, because single-parent homes typically lead to fewer economically positive outcomes for children. Our preference for boys actually hurts our economy at large. [NC]

Hang Up And Listen: The 165-Year-Old Hall Of Famer Edition
First Bill Simmons got his own site, so Peter King of Sports Illustrated had to get his own spinoff, the new website Monday Morning Quarterback, where readers can go to get essentially the same “insider” football information, but under King’s own banner. The HUAL panel breaks down the swing toward awarding individual writers their own sites with semi-autonomous control, bringing in the Peter Gammons and Nate Silver developments, and questions the usefulness of the growing trend. The unimpressed Gold Cup segment is another lazily patronizing look down at U.S. Soccer, but the MLB Hall Of Fame discussion dredges up some rarely spoken history of the three old-timers inducted this year, seemingly as a rebuke to the eligible steroid-era players. [KM]

How Was Your Week #126: Danny Zuker: “Cool Story, Dennis”
This week, Klausner has only one guest—Modern Family writer Danny Zuker—and the extra time pays off. Zuker talks about the exciting, but ultimately unsustainable, life writing for late night in the ’80s and early ’90s, a decidedly un-glamorous coke addiction, and his feud with Donald Trump. He also gets into the dynamics and decisions of the writers’ rooms he’s occupied, describing how poorly run Roseanne was, why Modern Family uses voiceovers, and why being a showrunner is sometimes more trouble than it’s worth. Zuker is funny and candid (hypothesizing on which show might beat out MF for the Emmy this year) enough to make what could be just a litany of insider references engaging regardless of a listener’s familiarity with the shows. [AH]

The J.V. Club #72: Etta Devine
Janet Varney’s conversation with college friend, actress, and producer Etta Devine is one of those episodes that takes a half hour to get to the adolescent discussion, but is completely captivating from beginning to end. Varney and Devine have a deep personal and professional relationship that results in an insightful discussion, and Devine’s highly educated upbringing makes for one of the show’s most informative episodes. The chat begins with the women talking about the podcast’s male fanbase before diving into the subject of Naomi Wolf’s Vagina, establishing a fairly academic tone for the rest of the episode. That’s not surprising considering Devine was reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History Of Time in the sixth grade, and that brainy kid has grown into a witty, eloquent adult who makes for a charming podcast guest. [OS]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #125: Randy Olea
There are several episodes of The Mental Illness Happy Hour that owe as much to Studs Terkel as Sigmund Freud. Since the beginning, the show has gone deep with people in the public eye and regular folks, all sharing their emotional issues. This week it’s the latter type of guest: Vietnam veteran Randy Olea talks about the addictions and anger that followed his time in combat. Olea is an excellent storyteller with the kind of gravelly voice that makes everything sound even more interesting, including details about stints working at a Hells Angels bar and Club Med. It’s an episode worth the two-hour run time, even for casual MIHH listeners who skip episodes without a recognizable guest. [TC]

The Moth: Sebastian Junger: War
At a microphone, best-selling author and documentarian Sebastian Junger is just as measured, urgent, and chilling as any of his books or films. This week, the notable war journalist delves into the magnetism of combat through a handful of stories about his 2010 film Restrepo, as well as anecdotes about his adrenaline-junkie colleagues who don’t think twice about walking all night with a broken foot. “There’s something about not getting killed to crank you up,” Junger admits, and his description of that high’s inevitable comedown is as sobering as it is heartbreaking. For that matter, so is the whole story. What Junger comes to understand in the end is poignant war commentary that merits a listen. [DJ]

My Brother, My Brother And Me 161: Bro’s Better, Bro’s Best: Ch. 1 - 13
The brothers take a trip down memory lane this week with a clip show featuring the best of their first 13 episodes, though the difference between then and now is not quite as pronounced as they frame it. (The most noticeable thing is that the sound quality is worse.) Which is to say, the only aspect of the show made clearer in retrospect is that the McElroys set their sights on a style early on and stuck with it. As a result, the bits they splice together make for a slightly above average—albeit very fractured—episode of MBMBAM (though the “Jeffrey” bit is particularly good). The other added bonus is only for the truly devoted, who will likely feel a twinge of nostalgia hearing the boys’ first broadcast. [AB]

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Professor Blastoff #115: Live from Atlanta/The South (w/ Aimee Schmidt)
Credit is due to David Huntsberger, and to some extent Kyle Dunnigan, for their persistent curiosity of the South in this week’s live episode, particularly because their familiarity doesn’t seem to extend beyond slavery and barbecue. But as guest and longtime Tig Notaro pal Aimee Schmidt states, the South is huge and diverse, leaving the male hosts humorously exasperated about the origins of Southern culture. As usual, Huntsberger doesn’t take the hint to move on from a topic, which allows Dunnigan and Tig Notaro ample room for public mockery that the hatch doesn’t provide. It’s the only flub in an otherwise jubilant episode that delivers on the now-standard silliness for live shows. It also gives Notaro and her oldest friend time to bond with the crowd over their love of the South while thoughtfully acknowledging its faults. [SM]

Sklarbro Country #158: Malicious Fecal Distribution: Michael Blieden, James Adomian
The Sklars’ podcast doesn’t need to throw jokes in all directions to work. Sometimes an understated interview with a longtime behind-the-scenes personality is a nice counterpoint to the usual celebrity guest. Former Late Night With Jimmy Fallon writer/segment director Michael Blieden talks about his IFC pilot International Plan, based on a post-divorce trip to Europe he took with a friend, and an unexpectedly fascinating documentary project about battery technology. Blieden’s openness about his divorce, his changing thoughts on having children, and his re-entering the dating scene don’t have the typical feel of coming from a stage act—it’s just a simple, honest, and refreshing discussion. [KM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Charley Parkhurst: One-Eyed Whip
The mundane title of this episode belies its most interesting aspect. Hosts Holly Frey and Tracy V. Wilson reveal a few minutes in that one-eyed stagecoach whip Charley Parkhurst was anatomically female. Born in 1812 as either Mary or Charlotte, Parkhurst spent most of his childhood in an orphanage suffering humble conditions that offered little in the way of gender identification. As soon as he reached adulthood, he assumed his male identity, became a foul-mouthed but highly sought-after stagecoach driver, and carried his secret until he died at 67. In the meantime he inadvertently became the first anatomical woman to vote in California. Unlike many biographers, Frey and Wilson don’t make any high-minded assumptions about Parkhurst, and instead focus on how he lived his life. Their objectivity with what could be a sensational subject makes the episode a worthy listen. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Antikythera Mechanism
In the best episode since new hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey took over, listeners learn that humanity created a computer more than 2,000 years ago. A series of bronze gears stuffed inside an enclosure the size of a shoebox, the antikythera mechanism was used to calculate the positions of celestial bodies. Although it was found in a shipwreck at the bottom of the ocean in 1900, it took more than 100 years to be understood, and it’s still being studied. Most startling is that mankind was using such advanced machines thousands of years ago—making the Netflix commercial at the end of the episode sound comically insignificant. [DT]

The Todd Glass Show #112: Graham Elwood Part 2
The second part of the Graham Elwood episode features some really thoughtful discussion on the glut of rape jokes and misogyny in comedy, especially from Elwood. In past episodes, Todd Glass’ rants on political and social issues have tended to be a little one-sided, with Glass going on an eloquent, but presumably red-faced rant about homophobia, child abuse, or any other topic that probably doesn’t inspire a dissenting opinion among his guests or his audience. More often than not, the guests can’t get much of a word in edgewise. However, Elwood makes some interesting and enlightened contributions to the debate on whether rape jokes have a place in comedy. [MS]

Walking The Room #161: Chris Fairbanks
A guest in the closet is just the shot in the arm the hosts needed, and right in time for their three-year anniversary show (or so Libsyn claims). Comedian Chris Fairbanks brings an odd energy—one that alternates between understated and unabashed, exemplified best by his enjoyably goofy voice—and understanding of the hosts’ wheelhouse, making for the sort of inspired, relentless riffing that has been absent in recent weeks. First up are details of Fairbanks’ falling out with Fuel TV (in which he describes the delightful “dad” voice he uses to speak to authority). From there, the conversation branches outward to dubious medical claims, justification for Lance Armstrong, overhearing neighbors mid-coitus, and the insanity of outdoor festivals. The three cover a lot of ground, belly-laughing throughout, but the high point comes when Fairbanks grasps onto Dave Anthony’s awkward wording in reference to Breaking Bad. It’s essential listening this week, and a full-on return to form. [SM]

Who Charted? #139: Boring Kanye
Given that she and Howard Kremer are close friends who hang out often, comedian April Richardson does a stellar job filling in for Kulap Vilaysack, and the episode gives listeners an intimate view into their quirky friendship. UCB co-founder and Improv4Humans host Matt Besser joins Richardson and Kremer for a look at the popular music and blockbusters from “summahs” past. However, Besser mainly tries to wrap his head around Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” being such a big a hit in the ’90s. Kremer, Richardson, and Besser save the best part of the show for last, as Kremer introduces a section where he and Richardson field questions from Twitter, and Besser reveals what it was like to work as Kanye West’s improv coach. [MS]

WTF #410: John Cale
Much like last week’s interview with Thom Yorke, Marc Maron’s conversation with Velvet Underground member and all-around musical genius John Cale isn’t exactly groundbreaking; Cale’s career is too vast and varied to hit on everything in an hour, and some of the things Maron discusses are less interesting than others. Although Cale isn’t quite as warm a presence on the microphone as Yorke, his stories—particularly about playing early Velvet Underground songs on the streets of New York with Lou Reed to make a few bucks—easily trump Yorke’s, and once again the novelty of the interview comes into play to some degree. It also serves as a nice companion to Maron’s Iggy Pop interview, providing a second perspective to the story of recording The Stooges, which Cale produced. [CG]


THE REST

Improv4Humans #92: Dead Man’s Rock: Zack Pearlman, Adam Pally, John Gemberling, Mike Still
Perhaps last week’s episode set the bar a bit too high, because this week’s episode feels like a major letdown. While not awful by any means, the four improvisers drift in and out of scenes listlessly. [MK]

Monday Morning Podcast
Bill Burr’s 90-minute ramblings from his New Orleans hotel room prove almost uniformly dry, and, unlike last week, there are no great listener letters to elevate the episode. [CG]

Nerdist #388: George R.R. Martin
There’s a lot of talk about conventions, panels at conventions, and the sizes of the rooms at conventions. It’s as riveting as it sounds. [MS]

Nerdist #389: Ken Levine
This episode focuses heavily on the recent work of Bioshock mastermind Ken Levine and his creation of the universe inside the game. It works for a while, but gets a lot less interesting for anyone but diehard fans after about 40 minutes. [DA]

Never Not Funny #1303: Judy Gold
Ever wonder what a louder, much more abrasive, female version of Jimmy Pardo would sound like? Episode #1303 provides two long hours to experience it. [KR]

Radiolab: Blood
This week’s Radiolab confuses “interesting” with “entertaining” when it takes a close look at blood and its place in culture in graphic detail. Squeamish listeners, avoid this by any means. [MK]

Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #62: Jordan Rubin, Dan Van Kirk
Two things make “County” a must listen: a home-run guest or totally bonkers stories, and this week has neither. [KM]

The Smartest Man In The World: Furs
Back in the USA, Greg Proops talks bad ’80s music and worse summer movies, then dishes digressions about Satchel Paige (the quotable Negro League icon and first black man to pitch in a World Series) and America’s history of imprisoning black musicians and pardoning white executives. [DXF]

Sound Opinions #400: Buried Treasures
The “Buried Treasure” episodes typically highlight some of the best new music that hasn’t received much attention. But this installment includes most of the bands from this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival that played early in the afternoon each day, so it’s less unearthing and more re-endorsement. [KM]

Stuff You Should Know: How Fingerprinting Works
Although anthropological legacy of fingerprinting is worth hearing, it’s undermined a bit by the hosts’ constant repetition that they are legally unreliable. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How LARP Works
Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant don’t discuss research on LARPing so much as speculate what may or may not happen when nerds pick up a foam bats. [DT]

This American Life #501: The View From In Here
Although it has many powerful and funny moments, episode 501 feels like a bit of a missed opportunity to bring fresh insights into issues surrounding prison reform, immigration, and Arab-Israeli relations from people whose lives are complicated by them every day. [DF]

WTF #411: Don Barris
Every so often Marc Maron brings in a guest to rehash his insanely stressful days as a doorman at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles. Don Barris is game for several strolls down Coked-Up Memory Lane, adding another chapter to Maron’s personal history in Los Angeles. [KM]

You Made It Weird: Live From Montreal!
This week’s live show is a major dud, especially if you’ve already heard Holmes and Johnny Pemberton’s “We’re working today” bit. The only real highlight is how uncomfortable the rest of the panel seems around Bert Kreisler. [AB]

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