Cameron Esposito is on a roll, Dan Savage drops by the garage, and a perfect pairing on Sklarbro Country

Cameron Esposito is on a roll, Dan Savage drops by the garage, and a perfect pairing on Sklarbro Country

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

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“Pink as… a pink girls’ dress—a dress that’s pink.” —Hallie Haglund describing a sunburned Stuart Wellington, The Flop House

“The president essentially needed to become a war-mongering version of the ShamWow guy on late-night infomercials.” -John Oliver on President Obama and Syria, The Bugle

NEW TO US

I Seem Fun: The Diary Of Jen Kirkman Podcast
It should be noted that this review was assigned and mostly written before Jen Kirkman invoked a Twitter campaign to have I Seem Fun reviewed here. That’s not to take anything away from the devoted fans who followed through with her plan—but Kirkman (whom you most likely recognize from Chelsea Lately or Drunk History) should be stoked to know her podcast was scheduled to be here entirely on merit. That, or she’ll be pissed at herself now for saying anything about it at all. Either way, listeners of I Seem Fun will likely find out next week. The Diary Of Jen Kirkman Podcast is about as accurate a title as you’ll find: The show is literally Kirkman lying alone in bed, streaming consciousness on everything from 9/11 to dental work and occasionally belting out gravelly renditions of disco songs.

But the thing that separates what that sounds like from what actually makes it funny is Kirkman’s inherent knack for cultivating conflict even talking into a microphone in a room by herself. Whether she’s dissecting a negative iTunes review from an angry Christian (part of her response: “Did I belittle people of faith or did I belittle Kirk Cameron? ’Cause, sir, there’s a difference.”) or seriously considering a class action suit against Robin Thicke for being gross, Kirkman is eternally embattled—often with imaginary listeners she imitates disagreeing with everything she says as soon as she says it. But she tempers her cynicism with sweetness and, more often than not, she’s right. Still, it all comes down to two things: Whether or not you connect with Kirkman, and how much impromptu singing you can handle. [TK]


THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU
Newbridge, New Jersey, the fictional city created by Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster, is a place littered with people possessed by an unearned hubris, disdain for Scharpling, and passion for cocaine. Wurster hits the Newbridge trifecta in this episode’s delightful two-part call as Alderman Shorter, an embattled elected official who charms Scharpling before revealing his inner creep. The call highlights Wurster’s timeless skill for playing characters who brazenly deny reality and lack even the most basic measure of self-awareness. In the third hour, Scharpling revisits his classic 2003 takedown of Gary Puckett And The Union Gap’s sleazeball anthems with a similar dissection of Johnny Maestro And The Brooklyn Bridge’s rendition of the deceptively controlling “The Worst That Could Happen.” It’s a bit that allows Scharpling to dip into his deep well of faux outrage, which is still fun even a decade later. [TC] 

The Flop House #134: Upside Down
Ever since the three current full-time hosts of The Flop House were established as such, there have been a handful of guest hosts that sit in when one of the Original Peaches is unavailable. Daily Show writer Hallie Haglund is indisputably one of the very best. She has the same goofy sense of humor that embodies the show, and with her and all three of the regular hosts at the microphones to take on Upside Down, there are more goofs per minute than anyone could reasonably expect. The trade-off, however, is that the four never really go deep down into any particularly memorably wormholes of silliness, and thus never reaches the heights of her appearance on the Rock Of Ages episode, but it’s a lot of fun nonetheless. [CG]

The Fogelnest Files #54: Mother Of Arms: Cameron Esposito
This week’s guest, Cameron Esposito, generated quite a bit of buzz when she ended up improvising with Jay Leno in the middle of her network debut on the Late Late Show last week. Thankfully she’s not just a topical grab for Fogelnest, and provides some real talk, both about the role of women and about the role of gay people in the current comedy scene. Esposito speaks openly in her act about coming to terms with her identity as a lesbian, and her talk with Fogelnest serves as a surprisingly fitting venue to discuss her problems with the politics of inclusion in the current entertainment landscape. (Her take on the feminism of Linda Hamilton’s arms in The Terminator is particularly astute.) The interview is great not just because the topics at hand warrant extended conversation, but also because Esposito herself is an especially articulate observer of the obstacles she’s personally come up against. The clips this time around are fine, but they’re overshadowed by Esposito’s moxie by far. [AB]

Freakonomics What Ever Happened To The Carpal Tunnel Epidemic?
In the mid- to late ’90s, carpal tunnel was the scourge of white-collar workers everywhere. At the time, common wisdom blamed the keyboard for the massive “outbreak” of the syndrome: After years of bad typing habits, people across the U.S. had developed serious problems with their wrists. But that turns out not to be true; only office workers who are typing almost continually for eight hours a day are anywhere close to being susceptible to carpal tunnel. Even stranger, no one seems to suffer from the syndrome anymore. Confused at the rapid drop in cases, Stephen Dubner takes this episode to find out just what happened to carpal tunnel. While reported cases have dropped significantly from their peak, 1 to 2 percent of American workers have carpal tunnel (mostly those in construction and food-packing jobs). The real reason we no longer hear about it is journalists, who no longer fear the syndrome, stopped writing about it. [NC]

Hang Up And Listen The Secrets Of Football Night Edition
An in-depth interview with Sunday Night Football producer Fred Gaudelli offers an explanation of why the highly rated weekly primetime sports program is the best in the business But Deadspin has already covered this, so the centerpiece of this episode is the Afterballs segment, where each of the panelists take turns explaining the show’s constant final send-off line, “Remember Zelmo Beaty.” Anyone wondering why HUAL chose to close every episode with a reference to a long-forgotten basketball player should listen to this tribute to significant but poorly remembered athletes. [KM]

Improv4Humans #97.5 Bonus Cut: Intern Wars
There’s been something delightfully awkward missing from Improv4Humans since Eric The Paid Intern left the showto take a space-age job at a facial recognition company. His man-on-the-street interviews were always as uncomfortable as they were funny. Recently, Matt Besser has been trying to fill the intern-sized gap in the show, and narrowed it down to four contenders. In an unbelievable feat, Besser has all four frontrunners on the show together to battle it out for who has the best interviewing swagger. The scenes inspired by the stories are funny as usual, especially the first (which features a knockout cameo appearance by Besser’s Pope Benedict XVI), but nothing tops the tail end when former intern Eric calls in live from a dog park, and bumbles about soliciting interviews that end disastrously. [MK]

Improv4Humans #98 LIVE From DCM 15 Pt. 3
The last two episodes taped at the Del Close Marathon have been a bit of a wash. There were majorly funny scenes peppered throughout both episodes, but the constantly rotating casts made it hard for Besser to build any sense of forward momentum. This final DCM episode closes out the trilogy in rare form. Amy Poehler and Ian Roberts, fellow Upright Citizens Brigade superstars, join Besser for a fully engrossing hour. Thanks to its high-concept premise (people don’t like being tickled), the first scene kills. That sets the bar a little high, but the remainder is a pleasure. Toward the end, the three loosely pimp the improv manual they co-authored (along with Matt Walsh), and in an amazing turn of events, a Missouri improviser who learned from their book is invited onstage, and keeps pace with these comedy titans. [MK]

Judge John Hodgman There’s No Crime Like the Present
This week’s primary case is mesmerizing, like a car wreck or particularly egregious reality television. Husband Otto hasn’t bought wife Emily a Christmas present since 2009 because, he claims, his unusual work schedule leaves him too busy to shop for two presents a year—and if he were to purchase them online, she might learn about them. His early guilty plea doesn’t stop the deliberation, and by the time he’s done rationalizing his shortcomings, it becomes a marvel they aren’t in a real courtroom with her facing assault charges. And just in time for fall sports season, Hodgman hears a bonus case and delivers a ruling on a couple’s car-counting game. [DXF]

My Brother, My Brother And Me #167: Monday Morning Duffy
After a few bum weeks, the brothers make a solid comeback with an episode that uses their collective geek knowledge and niche obsessions to optimal effect. A question from Yahoo! Answers about what would go well with a cape leads to a particularly entertaining conversation on eccentric fashion, in large part because it’s not so hard to imagine that if the McElroy brothers had gone down a different rabbit hole, it would be them wearing the weirdo clothes. Likewise, their attempt to come up with one- and two-word sayings yields some impromptu listing that’s incredibly stupid but worth bearing with for the payoff. Their almost inevitable turn toward the TGIF lineup yields a cruel but funny brainstorming session about Patrick Duffy’s life choices. [AB]

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Nerdist #405: Katey Sagal
It’s hard to listen to this episode and not be a little in love with veteran actress Katey Sagal. The exceedingly mellow and likable Sagal manages to be effortlessly relatable despite growing up in a show-business family and carving out her own considerable niche in the entertainment industry. Sagal sits down with Chris Hardwick and Matt Mira to discuss transitioning from a full-time professional musician to her career as an actress, her foray into voice acting as Leela on Futurama, and the dynamic between her and her husband, Sons Of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter. It’s particularly inspiring to hear Sagal talk about the challenges in getting cast in dramatic roles after playing an iconic comedic role like Married With Children’s Peg Bundy. [MS]

Nerdist #406: Tegan And Sara
Though it gets off to a slow start, when the Quin sisters take the reins on the discussion the episode picks up dramatically. Around the midway point the duo explains the process of creating and promoting its most recent album, Heartthrob, both acknowledging the record’s stylistic departure without apologizing for having altered the band’s classic formula. As it progresses, both Tegan and Sara seem increasingly comfortable with hosts Chris Hardwick and Jonah Ray, as they speak frankly about the struggles and continued stresses of their career. It never feels as if either is merely complaining. Instead, they release some of the pressure that’s built over the past 20 years in a way that’s both insightful and humorous, keeping the episode lighthearted enough for a general audience and compelling enough for fans of the band. [DA]

Radiolab Blame
The best Radiolab episodes are often the hardest ones to listen to. Their flightier topics and whimsical debates are entertaining enough, but solemn episodes like “Blame” are where Radiolab’s storytelling really shines. Told in three parts, the crew dives into—as advertised—the idea of blame, and how we approach it legally. The harrowing first segment deals with child pornography; the third touches on necrophilia. “Blame” is not easy listening, but it is absolutely worthwhile. The approach the producers take is interesting at every turn, and detail how a brain operation resulted in one man’s crippling pornography addiction, and questions if he was at fault. The second segment is the weakest of the three, and devolves into a freshman-level dorm-room debate. The final story is the most astounding of the three, told largely in heavy letters between a drug addict who robbed, killed, and sexually assaulted a woman and the woman’s father. It's about as thought-provoking as this show gets. [MK]

Sklarbro Country #164: Olympic Orgies: Jay Onrait, Dan O’Toole, Chris Cox
Fox Sports 1 may have gotten off to the disastrous start—a bumbling abundance of panel discussion and the incredibly low-rated return of Regis Philbin—everyone but the head of Fox Sports saw coming, but one thing the new network did right was hiring Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole. Former co-anchors on Canadian network TSN’s flagship Sportscentre (because Canada), they’re the one-two anchor punch with the best chemistry since Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann made ESPN's flagship highlight show appointment viewing for sports fans. It’s the perfect get for comedians with a sports obsession like the Sklar brothers, and they make the most of the opportunity, bouncing back from several lackluster episodes. [KM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class Phineas Gage
The tale of Phineas Gage straddles the line between a folktale and medical marvel, yet hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey treat this story with a delightfully academic curiosity. While working as a railroad foreman on a construction site in 1848, a steel rod was blasted into his face and out the back of his head, causing massive burns and all but destroying his skull. But Gage not only survived, he remained awake for three days, subjecting his doctor to snarky comments about his condition. The episode’s first half is dedicated to Gage’s struggles to keep a job and the embarrassingly dated ways he was treated by his physician. But Gage donated his remains to science, and so the second half reveals his contributions to neuroscience. Modern technology has been able to use his case as a way of revolutionizing how victims with similar injuries are treated medically. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know Can You Die Of A Broken Heart?
While no medical study outright confirms whether someone can die of a broken heart, hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant do their best to treat the inconclusive studies with as little undue romanticism as possible. Some cases are easier to explain than others, as many widows and widowers lose the ability to care for themselves when their partner dies. And there are legitimately surprising medical studies about how the human brain processes psychological pain, and alarming statistics that reveal as much as a 50 percent chance that the remaining spouse will die within six months. Fortunately the episode is not all melancholy, thanks to Clark and Bryant’s ability to find a funny tangent. The condition of takotsubo cardiomyopathy is caused by emotional stress but is named after Japanese fishermen’s octopus pots, and Clark has some strong opinions about where one should buy octopus balls while visiting Japan. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know How Breast Implants Work
Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant manage to find laughs in unusual places in this extra-long episode of SYSK dedicated to breast implants. Though the hosts do their best to remain objective, everything about the origin of surgical implants seems dubious. From the Japanese prostitutes who died from infection while trying to use them to seduce American soldiers during World War II to the 1960s doctor who conceived of them while fondling a blood bag and perfected them by testing on a dog. But Clark and Bryant break from the medical trauma by riffing on Bryant’s pronunciation of the word “tattoo” and an obligatory Total Recall reference, meaning the humor here is absurd, but never at anybody’s expense. There is also a surprising amount of medical information, which keeps the discussion from feeling too indulgent. [DT]

This American Life #504: How I Got Into College
University Of Chicago economics professor Emir Kamenica simply caught a lucky break when a teacher took a special interest in him. Kamencia tells listeners how he ended up earning a Ph.D from Harvard after arriving in America as a refugee fleeing the civil war in Bosnia in the early ’90s. In a brilliant piece of reporting, Michael Lewis, in the tradition of the best This American Life pieces, turns what seems to be a straightforward story about a young immigrant and a dedicated teacher into something more profound: a delightful, thought-provoking, and occasionally tear-jerking examination of the way the stories we tell both shape and are shaped by our own worldviews. [DF]

The Todd Glass Show #118: Chris Fairbanks
This edition of The Todd Glass Show features comedian and illustrator Chris Fairbanks, probably best known for his appearances on the Jordan, Jesse, Go! podcast, but he’s also a great addition to Glass’ cast of characters. Fairbanks shows up in a playful mood, anxious to sing along with some jingles. Glass also teases Fairbanks about the girl he just started seeing, prompting an amazing bit that recurs throughout the episode. Plus, past guest Henry Phillips literally phones in a bit—a brilliant voice mail where Phillips asks to borrow Glass’ act to entertain a crowd of rednecks. Given Fairbanks’ laid-back likability and boyish charm, Glass should consider having him back more often. [MS]

WTF #422: Dan Savage
At one point in his interview with Marc Maron, Dan Savage reveals the secret to his longevity as an advice columnist: He never writes about his own love life. He does end up revealing a little bit about it to Maron, but more than anything else he talks about his childhood and upbringing, which is quite interesting—though, frankly, not as interesting (nor as heartbreaking) as what Savage has to say about the struggle of closeted gay people in unsupportive environments. There are no real revelations to be found—especially for those familiar with Savage’s work—but he and Maron have a fine rapport and both are fairly funny throughout. [CG]

You Made It Weird: Eric Andre
This week’s YMIW has the potential to be a polarizing episode. On one hand, Pete Holmes’ talk with Eric Andre is definitely one of the downright funniest interviews the host has conducted in quite a while. On the other, there doesn’t seem to be as much depth in the conversation as YMIW fans have come to expect, which might turn off folks who tune in for the emotional grit. Then again, the chat may just seem superficial because Holmes and Andre are so goddamn casual with one another. The two clearly have a history, and the energy between them is ripe for the riffing throughout the entirety of the episode—probably due in part to Andre’s misunderstanding of how long these things tend to go. (He has to leave early.) The result is a tight 90 minutes with some hilarious gags that sits tonally somewhere between a typical episode and a live show. [AB]


THE REST

The Bugle #246 - Selling The Drama (And War And Guns And The Planet
The two satirists tackle President Obama’s warmongering efforts, and though there are a handful of fun moments, it's a mixed bag of an episode. [MK]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #243: Maria Bamford, James Adomian
The only thing more annoying than another overpowering appearance by mega-misogynistic shock jock Tom Leykis (James Adomian) is that guest Maria Bamford finds it all so loudly hilarious. A meditative channeling of food critic Merrill Shindler (another Adomian character you probably don’t like) didn’t help, either. [TK]

Doug Loves Movies Graham Elwood, Preston & Steve, and Keith Moser
The always-excellent Graham Elwood can’t save this episode from the fact that Preston & Steve and Keith Moser really don’t bring much to the table. [MS]

Doug Loves Movies Kevin Pollack, Seth Herzog, Josh Pais, and Megan Neuringer
The painfully boring conversation between two dudes who run a Star Wars podcast and the seemingly endless journey through the prize bag make this episode is something of a non-starter. [MS]

How Was Your Week #132 Therese Mahler: "Julie Klausner On A Citi Bike Dot Com"
An over-long monologue clocks in at nearly 40 minutes, so listeners should skip ahead for Therese Mahler’s very entertaining and funny interview about working at New Jersey’s notoriously unsafe Action Park amusement park as a teenager. [DF]

The J.V. Club #78: Lauren Ashley Bishop
Actress Lauren Ashley Bishop is eager to dive into her adolescence, but at nearly two hours, the conversation starts to lose steam (particularly during the half-hour M*A*S*H segment). [OS]

Monday Morning Podcast
Bill Burr’s anticlimactic hiking story at the top sets the stage for a perfectly listenable but ultimately tepid episode. [CG]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #132: Tom Seiniger
Paul Gilmartin talks with a fellow survivor of an emotionally abusive mother, but the host sounds hesitant to interject with his own story in an installment that would benefit from more back-and-forth. [TC]

The Moth Lisa P. Jackson: Environmental Engineering
Former Administrator Of The Environmental Protection Agency Lisa P. Jackson draws parallels between her passion for public service and the lessons instilled in her by her postman father. A tangent about her mother in the Oval Office is heartwarming, but the rest comes across a bit indulgent. [DJ]

Nerdist #407: Jim Rash And Nat Faxon
Though there are brief, fleeting sections that make this episode worth listening to, its emphasis on the writing work of the show’s guests, though justified, ends up feeling far too mechanical. [DA]

Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #68: Ron Babcock, Dan Van Kirk
It’s a rare occurrence, but there’s not a single standout story or line in this entire hour. They can’t all be winners. [KM]

Sound Opinions #406: The Return Of The Rock Doctors
Unless you run a martial arts dojo and want piss-poor advice on soundtrack choices, this episode is skippable. Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot prove insufficient “doctors” for the sonic ailments of a guy looking to play more inspiring music for his classes. [KM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class Marie Taglioni
Though Marie Taglioni was an impressive dancer of the early 1800s, her story is less fascinating than it is a simple window into celebrities of that era. [DT]

Who Charted? #145: Jenny Slate
This episode of Who Charted? is essential listening if you’re interested in things like what the kids at Jenny Slate’s private high school had to wear at graduation. [MS]

WTF #423: Hunt Sales
The short jam session and interview with Metalocalypse creator Brendon Small offers more intriguing moments than an hour-long chat with Hunt Sales about his time drumming for Iggy Pop and David Bowie’s Tin Machine. [KM]

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