Chris Gethard gets real with Pete Holmes, Jane Espenson stops by The J.V. Club, and Michael McKean in the garage

Chris Gethard gets real with Pete Holmes, Jane Espenson stops by The J.V. Club, and Michael McKean in the garage

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

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“Butter The Children, Foster The People, and Portugal. The Man need to go on tour together.” —The Sklar brothers, discussing symbiotic band name tours, Sklarbro Country

“Eyy... Batman, forever!” —Sylvester Stallone (Horatio Sanz) auditioning for the role of Batman, Improv4Humans

NEW TO US

The Paul Mecurio Show
Comedian and Daily Show writer Paul Mecurio has no delusions about the originality of his podcast’s premise—if it even has one in the first place. Often it’s simply another comedian-on-comedian gabfest featuring shoptalk and tales from the good ol’ days. But what sets The Paul Mecurio Show apart from so many other, similar podcasts is the guests he’s managed to land within the first 30 episodes of the show, off-the-wall bookings like Paul McCartney and Bob Costas and relatively big comedy “gets” like Stephen Colbert and Jay Leno among them. Mecurio isn’t breaking any new ground in the realm of interviewing, but he’s a perfectly serviceable host and his knowledge of the craft of comedy seems to make his guests comfortable.

As has been previously noted, the Stephen Colbert episode is phenomenal. Colbert touches on some heavy topics related to his family, discusses his own career from start to finish, speaks openly about his religious beliefs and what it means for his comedy, and gives a blow-by-blow of the recent Daft Punk controversy—all while continuing to be as a sharp, funny, and likable as ever and keeping the episode under an hour in length. The quality of the show, by and large, hinges upon the guest, but when Mecurio lines up the right guest at the right time, the show really soars. [CG]


THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU
The Best Show has a couple episodes each year that connect all of the bits of recent weirdness into a single batshit installment. The episode feels almost contemplative in how it collects moments that highlight the show’s proclivity for the bizarre. How did the show get to the point where an excitable puppet squirrel performs a radio interview with Bob Odenkirk? Whether Odenkirk’s Breaking Nuts appearance and an insane 21-minute sound collage are Tom Scharpling’s Godardian comments on the medium he’s working in or the simple escalation of ongoing silliness, the moments are surreal and fun. The rest of this episode isn’t up to snuff, but Gary The Squirrel’s queries on Breaking Bad’s craft services and the addition of Chris Hardwick to the mushrooming sound collage are enough to warrant a recommendation for this strange installment. [TC]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #241: The Stallone Brothers: Paul Scheer, Nick Kroll
It doesn’t seem like Nick Kroll and Paul Scheer planned to do Sylvester Stallone and Frank Stallone characters when they came in to Comedy Bang! Bang!, but early in this episode, they turn into the brothers, and that’s where they more or less stay. Kroll’s Sly is dead-on and hilariously homophobic, while Scheer plays Frank as an enthusiastic naïf who worships his big brother, no matter how terribly he’s treated. Things naturally take a dark turn, to great effect. If it was as spontaneous as it seems, it’s one of the great off-the-cuff episodes of CBB. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: Harry Dean Stanton, Paul F. Tompkins and Jen Kirkman guest
Doug Benson tweaked the format a bit and eliminated The Leonard Maltin Game for panelist Harry Dean Stanton. Given that the legendary actor barely seems aware of where he is or what he’s doing at UCB Theatre, cutting out any game with complicated rules is a good call. Most of the fun from the episode comes from Paul F. Tompkins and Jen Kirkman trying to engage the elderly actor with hilariously taciturn results. It turns out that he barely remembers most of the movies he’s worked on and is indifferent to most of the ones he can recall. His greatest reaction comes when Kirkman asks him about the Andie/Blaine/Duckie love triangle from Pretty In Pink. [MS]

The Flop House #133: Bullet To The Head
Hearing the Flop House hosts riff for more than a few seconds on the phrases “butt privates” and “private butts” on this week’s episode makes one wonder if the profound stupidity of the movies they watch rubs off on them. Indeed, this week’s episode—Walter Hill and Sly Stallone joint Bullet To The Head—just might feature the dumbest humor in the show’s history, but what separates it from the drivel they subject themselves to is a great joy in indulging the silliest and most juvenile parts of their collective humor, which just might be the thesis of the whole show. If so, episode 133 makes for a damn convincing dissertation. [CG]

Freakonomics: Who Are The Most Successful Immigrants In The World?
This week’s episode tries to answer why specific immigrant groups have done well economically in the United States and elsewhere. The search begins with the Lebanese diaspora, with one guest claiming that Lebanese have been one of the most successful groups of non-natives in developed countries. The Freakonomics team’s best theory is that Lebanon has a well-networked emigrant population (which rivals the number of people actually living in the country) with a focus on education, especially in medicine and engineering. Moving out from there, Stephen Dubner tracks other notable trends among immigrant communities (Nigerian-Americans are one of the most educated groups, for example). But there’s an important factor that should give someone pause if she’s trying to make a judgment about the Lebanese (or Nigerians) as a whole: all of these trends are based on self-selecting populations. The great majority of immigrants choose to immigrate. [NC]

Hang Up And Listen: The Too Many Panels Edition
Fox Sports 1 was supposed to be the best possible competitor to ESPN’s throne as the worldwide leader in sports. But out of the gate, the new network faltered at nearly every turn. Regis Philbin’s new show—which was supposed to reel in viewers based on a dubious gamble on the perpetually jovial host’s enduring popularity—couldn’t even amass enough viewers to hemorrhage down to less than a 1.0 rating. The HUAL panel picks up the pieces, going through the myriad panels that lacked chemistry in the network’s opening week. Add a fascinating discussion about ESPN cutting ties with Frontline’s football-concussion documentary, and the show is gearing up to full strength right before the biggest season on the sports calendar. [KM]

Improv4Humans #96: Jackie Robotson: Horatio San, Neil Campbell, Brian Huskey
The birth of Matt Besser’s baby girl might be one of the best things to happen to Improv4Humans all year. You can practically hear him beaming (or see it, if you caught the live stream of this episode) through it all. Comedians often worry about losing their edge after becoming a parent, but Besser has been holding on strong, and “Jackie Robotson” is one of the giddiest episodes in a while. The gathered improvisers gawk over the show’s new intern, trying to guess his age through a series of questions, and quickly launch into an hour of strong scenes. The titular scene is a delight, spinning off from a discussion on steroids, sports such a beautifully bad pun that it almost hurts how funny it is. Also on display: a fantastic take on Batman and a handful of celebrity goobers lining up to audition for villainous roles. This is Improv4Humans at its finest. [MK]

The J.V. Club #76: Jane Espenson
When Janet Varney brings strangers on her show, the insights tend to be deeper as she spends extensive time learning about her guest’s past. Jane Espenson has written for a diverse group of TV series including Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, and Once Upon A Time, and her conversation with Varney largely focuses on the pop-culture influences of her childhood. The discussion begins with the women bonding over their TV obsessions, with Jane talking about the M*A*S*H spec script she wrote at age 12 and Janet detailing her catalog of John Larroquette’s outfits on Night Court. It’s fascinating to hear how Espenson’s faith in fiction clouded her teenage judgment and gave her unrealistic expectations for romance, and it’s valuable knowledge for younger listeners to hear in an age of aggressive media consumption. On the flip side, she also praises that consumption and how it teaches plot structure and comic timing at a time when the brain is especially porous. There’s a lot to learn in this episode, and it’s especially valuable for anyone in need of book and TV recommendations. [OS]

Judge John Hodgman: Coast Mortem
Sunshine or rain? Dan and Jen live in Northern California. Dan misses experiencing different seasons and wants to move back to their native Massachusetts. Jen’s happy on the left coast. She’s an interior designer who specializes in placing artisan furniture, and she enjoys “the area’s enhanced social opportunities” and “entertainment experiences.” Does Dan really want nostalgia, or is he a masochistic Massachusettsian? Would they be better off in L.A.? The judge’s objectivity is questionable, but his surprising ruling is rational, researched, and reasonable. Then Hodgman and guest bailiff Monte Belmonte clear the docket with semantics-based disputes about allergies and foreign film. [DXF]

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The Moth David Harris-Gershon & Peter Story: StorySLAM Favorites
Both StorySLAM shorts this week highlight quirky, unorthodox means of persuasion. Too much of an introvert for door-to-door canvassing, David Harris-Gershon turned to the Internet to raise vote pledges for Obama in 2008. He didn’t find much luck—as a man, at least. His story about seducing horny loners in Yahoo chat rooms is relayed a little more manically than it needs to be, but the outcome is a rewarding twist. Peter Story’s darker and ultimately more-entertaining contribution pits him and his fiancée in a dream-wedding contest against a seemingly impossible-to-beat couple. It takes a lot of wheedling to turn an audience against a firefighter with testicular cancer, but assuming he couldn’t underestimates the conviction of a man planning to marry a woman who subscribes to something called BrokeAssBride.com. [DJ]

Never Not Funny #1307: Roasting Chestnuts With Josh Comers
Conan writer and Write Now veteran Josh Comers makes his first appearance on the podcast as the team grapples with the Great Miley Cyrus Controversy of 2013. Nothing’s said that listeners haven’t heard a hundred times by this point, but it’s also not the focus of the episode. Comers talks about writing for the roast of James Franco, his bad experience at a Van Halen concert, and his expensive furniture—which brings out the best of his shit-giving rapport with Jimmy Pardo. [KR]

Sound Opinions #404: Music Of The Civil Rights Movement
Credit Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot with finding time in a year of shows dedicated to festivals, overlooked music, interviews with aging stars, and in-studio performances to dedicate a week to music inspired by the Civil Rights Movement in honor of the 50th anniversary of the March On Washington. Both hosts speak eloquently on the simmer of protest music from black church communities—often the only places where freedom of expression existed—to more public protests, and they weave in the contributions of folk artists like Bob Dylan and monumental achievements like Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Sound Opinions has stretched itself with its World Tour episodes, and this is another instance where the show feels like an educational tribute. [KM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Jane Addams, Part 2
In part two of Jane Addams’ story, hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey dig far deeper into the controversies and achievements of Addams’ life, and it makes for a much more compelling listen. Whereas part one dealt more with the timeline of Hull House, this episode explores Addams’ stance on teacher pay and world peace. In 1919 she negotiated with President Wilson to dissuade him from entering World War I. This leads to the episode’s most interesting thread: how Addams’ anti-war beliefs brought governmental suspicion upon her and why J. Edgar Hoover referred to her as “the most dangerous woman in America.” Frey and Wilson also highlight the LGBT legacy that Addams has become associated with, leading to one of the most personal and interesting unscripted discussions the show’s had during the Wilson/Frey era. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Broken Bones Work
Host Josh Clark starts this episode about broken bones by trying to convince host Chuck Bryant to dine on bone marrow with him. This sets an odd but amusing tone, and though this episode is both educational and entertaining, it is worth noting that the medical minutia discussed could be brutal to more sensitive ears. Yet, the more visceral details rise above the more drab statistics of roughhousing and osteoporosis. Some athletes can apparently train their muscles to such unusually powerful levels that they can snap their own bones during strenuous circumstances. This leads to a particularly fascinating tangent where Clark reveals that a person’s muscles are what throw them a great distance when they are hit with a large electric shock. Though the episode ends with a sad reflection on fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) it showcases how well the hosts can navigate a dark subject. [DT]

The Todd Glass Show #116: Blake Wexler
This edition of The Todd Glass Show is pretty stripped down and streamlined, with Glass basically interacting with good friend and frequent guest Blake Wexler. It’s essentially an intimate look at Glass enjoying the company of a good friend and fellow comedian, with the occasional bit or sound effect thrown in. Some of the best moments happen when Glass and Wexler analyze a bit from Brian Regan’s stand-up about a lady asking for water in a restaurant. From there, Glass and Wexler dissect what it is about the joke that makes them laugh and then use it as a springboard for their own bits. [MS]

WTF #418: Michael McKean
Among the hundreds of entertainers that Marc Maron has interviewed over the years, Michael McKean is undoubtedly among the most well adjusted and as such he makes for a genial and funny guest, even if he’s not the most gripping presence on the microphone. The interview itself is more or less an overview of McKean’s entire career, and luckily his career, even going back to his teens, has been varied and odd enough to sustain the episode. Maron unfortunately can’t help himself, yet again bringing up and then lingering on Lorne Michaels and Saturday Night Live, but all things considered it’s a minor hiccup within the confines of a long, pleasant, and mostly interesting conversation with a living comedy legend. [CG]

You Made It Weird: Chris Gethard
It’s to Chris Gethard’s credit that in his interview with Pete Holmes, he manages both to confirm and to rebut the notion that he is a tragic figure in the comedy scene. On the one hand, he speaks openly and honestly about how the gang he came up with in New York has gone on to make it big in L.A. while his sphere of influence has remained limited to fans of the UCB Theatre and the in-the-know crowd. On the other, he speaks with undeniable confidence and conviction about the importance of staying in New York and his commitment to his craft. (For those unfamiliar with The Chris Gethard Show, it’s wacky and wonderful, but it’s also clear that its weirdness would only delight a niche audience.) And while it might just be the manifestation of his effort to stay positive, Gethard appears genuinely at peace with the idea that he could end up becoming the Ramones of comedy: respected, influential, but never achieving widespread commercial success. Either way, he provides a rarely heard perspective on YMIW: a comedian who doesn’t operate under the assumption that he’ll ever really “make it” and has learned to be okay with that. As if all of that weren’t enough, Gethard’s remarkably envy-free take on Holmes, his former student, being offered a show by the same people who have previously been his biggest champions is one of the show’s most sobering moments. Tears aren’t guaranteed, but would certainly be understandable: This one packs a wallop. [AB]


THE REST

The Fogelnest Files #52: Sup /B/: Christopher Poole
Jake Fogelnest continues his informal series of interviews with people who have helped make the Internet weird by having 4chan founder Christopher Poole as his guest. Although Poole is remarkably articulate and even-keeled for the founder of such a controversial forum, the conversation doesn’t add much to his previous discussions. Watch the YouTube clips for sure, but this one’s only worth a listen if you haven’t heard his previous interviews with similar figures. [AB]

Monday Morning Podcast
Bill Burr seems like he’s in just the right mood to be funny, and he’s frequently on the verge of stepping into some humor, but there are only a few real laughs in the episode and they come during the letters segment. [CG]

My Brother, My Brother And Me: #165: Johnny Billyseed
This week’s episode is decent, but particularly front-loaded with the more solid material. The first half hour or so is worth it, but the good riffs peter out shortly after—though the excellent Soulja Boy gag at the very end merits a note. [AB]

Nerdist #400: Maria Menounos
At times, Chris Hardwick seems more interested in talking to Extra correspondent Maria Menounos’ boyfriend off-mic than talking to her. [MS]

Nerdist #401: The National
Matt Berninger of The National invites the Nerdist hosts into his home for an episode that, while enjoyable in spurts, suffers from a few too many missteps. Though it offers insight into the band’s creative process, it’s moments such as Chris Hardwick playing The National’s Pandora station and asking Berninger if he agrees with the recommendations that keep it from being essential. [DA]

Professor Blastoff #119: Live From Brooklyn/Habits (w/ Charles Duhigg)
Among the run of live shows, this episode has one of Professor Blastoff’s most legitimate guest experts in Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Charles Duhigg, but at nearly two hours with a minimal amount of new material, it’s not essential listening. [SM]

Radiolab: Dawn Of Midi
No one likes hearing a friend struggle to explain why a band rules, but that’s just what the Radiolab folks do this week. The music is fine; the commentary, not so much. [MK]

Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #66: Sean O’Connor, Dan Van Kirk
Sean O’Connor, comedian and ESPYs monologue writer, brings the usual dose of Florida police blotter madness, but ultimately sprinkles too few big laughs over the course of an hour. [KM]

The Smartest Man In The World:Shuffles
In this U.K. edition of Proops’ cast, the host ponders whether the ancient world had it better than we do. Highlights include fresh insights on the Da Vinci-Michelangelo feud, plus modern topics including Marvin Gaye, Scottish pandas, and brogue-infused poetry. [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Jane Addams, Part 1
The legendary Jane Addams of Hull House is worthy of these two-parter episodes, but the first one offers a by-the-book recitation with little discussion. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Did 168 Conquistadors Take Down The Incan Empire?
There are some interesting moments in this episode, but the actual explanation of how the Incan Empire was conquered takes up very little of the running time. [DT]

Walking The Room #165: Joe Sib
Joe Sib’s life story may interest fans of Wax, but for everyone else, this week is nostalgic logistics in double-time. [SM]

WTF #419: Catherine O’Hara
It’s a double bill of Christopher Guest stars this week with Catherine O’Hara following Michael McKean. Though O’Hara is an unflappably upbeat guest, she doesn’t offer much in the way of enlightening stories. [KM]