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Chris Kluwe charms Nerdist for the second time with social activism

The best podcasts for the week of March 15-21

Podmass comments and suggestions for future coverage can be directed to podmass@avclub.com. 


“Let’s stick to one R, guys, okay? You can go nuts on the Ts. Two Ts. A good pneumonic is ‘titties - two Ts.’ That’s how I passed all my classes in high school and college.”—Chelsea Peretti on how to spell her last name, Comedy Bang Bang

“There’s also a Quran edition.”—Peter Conheim on It’s All In Your Head, a Negativland album packaged inside of a Bible, The Fogelnest Files

“Children’s game or basic foundation of society? I’m okay with the calculus here!”–Chris Kluwe on getting fired from the NFL after supporting same-sex marriage, Nerdist

“I learned a lesson from [your neighbor] Flo that I implement still in my life. It’s so cliché, but it just travels across every area in life...”
 “What, ‘a penny saved is a penny earned?’”—Tig Notaro and Kyle Dunnigan, Professor Blastoff

“It looks like a photo, basically… Is that what photorealistic means?”—Chuck Bryant reeling from the skill of the tattoo artists he found in his research, Stuff You Should Know 

“Remember how we’re always talking about how nature loves homeostasis?” 
“Oh man! Does it!”—Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant discussing how atoms get charged, Stuff You Should Know

“Then he told me, he was like, ‘Just get some cups. Brew some coffee. When you run out of cups, close the door and go get more cups.’”—Giulietta Carrelli, quoting advice on opening a coffee shop, This American Life

“Hopefully the amount you think about death in your life is in some way directly proportionate to how settled you’ll feel at the end of your life about dying, because if that’s the case I’m going to have the greatest time dying.”—Lena Dunham, WTF

“‘Make dentist appointment. Make doctor appointment. Make appointment! Make appointment!’ That’s how I talk to myself. ‘Do this! Do that! You are less than dirt.’” —Paul F. Tompkins on to-do lists, Never Not Funny

“And this is coming from a guy that married his cousin because she monitors the machines that keep him alive, so he knows a thing or two about love.” —Wolfman Hot Dog (Andy Daly), The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project

“You, I know, John, in your new office for your new show have a bouncy castle modeled on Alcatraz Prison to make you feel more American.” —Andy Zaltzman attempting to justify Jacob Zuma’s publicly funded home renovation, The Bugle


Math Mutation
This is primarily a podcast for people who love math. It is secondarily a podcast for people who can tolerate math, but would maybe like to expand their intellectual horizons. Not every one of the bite-sized episodes is for everyone. A listener who is riveted by one about the logic-based invented language Lojban might drown in equations during one about the impossibility of squaring a circle. And a serious numbers geek who wants to mainline an episode about infinity might be bored by another about lottery statistics. But no one ever has to suffer long; the next one is a click away. Presently, the show favors new arrivals. Episodes don’t seem to drop very often, so fans who manage to burn through the nearly 200 past installments might find themselves frustrated while waiting several weeks for five new minutes of material, regardless of how fascinating it might be. [DD]

Shut Up, Weirdo
It’s no accident that WFMU’s commuting audience has made Friday afternoons with Shut Up, Weirdo one of the most anticipated hours of the radio week. Frangry and Michele, whose first-name-only radio personas harken rightfully to the glam confidence of women like Cher and Retta, are bastions of femininity secluded in the middle of the New Jersey terrestrial dial. They command the airwaves just like they command the respect and adoration of their revolving cast of predominantly male devotees: effortlessly. Every week, Michele and Frangry get drunk and put an unassuming topic on the table. From there, courageous callers offer their opinions and anecdotes to the judgment of our heroines for the chance at winning a collectible Weirdo T-shirt. “Who’s the worst musician or band?” “What did you ruin?” “When and where did you lose your dignity?” It’s an average call-in show on the surface, but one where everyone is allowed to embarrass themselves and is rewarded in kind when they invariably do. Think of it like hitting up a party full of hot nerds with your two chattiest, giggliest best friends. You might not get a single word in all night, but it’s okay, because they’re much funnier than you are. [NJ]


The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project #7: Rockin’ And A Rollin’ with Wolfman Hot Dog
Unlike the other characters Andy Daly has embodied for the Podcast Pilot Project, ’60s water skiing legend Hot Dog isn’t openly sociopathic—but as Comedy Bang! Bang! fans know, there’s still darkness beneath the surface. After a revealing reading from his dream journal in which he spells out his singular desire to join Sha Na Na, he’s joined by fellow former skier Ahi (Matt Gourley affecting an infectious New Zealand accent) and Ahi’s cousin Penny (Julie Brister) for a glimpse at their unconventional relationship. But the party really starts to swing when former Sha Na Na member Slammin’ Oliver Rothwell (Sean Conroy) and groupie Veronica Melcher (Maria Bamford) strip some of the gloss from Hot Dog’s idea of life in the doo-wop scene. While the results are a little less manic than prior episodes, “Rockin’ And A Rollin’” is still classic Daly, but with an unexpected amount of heart. [TK]

Book Fight! Episode #56: Anthony Powell A Question Of Upbringing
This week’s book discussion features a special guest, musician and writer Wesley Stace (a.k.a. John Wesley Harding), who chose A Question Of Upbringing from Anthony Powell’s A Dance To The Music Of Time series. Hosts Tom McAllister and Mike Ingram don’t seem particularly taken with the book at first, but are eventually won over by Stace’s enthusiasm. The conversation picks up in the latter segments (the ones not about the book), and the episode works best when it’s simply an interview with Stace about his life “cobbling out” a career in the arts. The final round featuring pop culture recommendations spotlights the woefully mis-marketed 50/50 and Eula Biss’ excellent essay, “Notes From No Man’s Land,” which are both worth seeking out. [ABa]

The Bugle #263: Giant Chicken Coops Versus Terror
Few things propel Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver to hilarity more effectively than heads of state egregiously mismanaging public funds for their personal benefit, and this week’s riff on South African president Jacob Zuma’s $23 million home renovation is no exception. The duo also sets its sights on the situation in Crimea, though to its credit, switches up its reliably apt digs at Vladimir Putin with a focus on the United States’ lackluster sanctions against influential Russians instead. Oliver in particular shines this week with his decision on whether to give Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps a fuckeulogy, though Zaltzman certainly gives him a run for his money with his coverage of an Australian cricketer’s suspension for scratching a penis into the pitch. [ABe]

Filmspotting #482: Enemy / Top 5 Actor-Director Pairs / Muppets Most Wanted
Doubles and alter egos permeate this week’s episode, as Josh Larsen and Michael Phillips springboard from a cagey but spoiler-free discussion of the psychological thriller Enemy—which reunites Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve with Jake Gyllenhaal, in a dual role—through some brief musings on Kermit’s evil doppelgänger in the oddly dark Muppets Most Wanted, and finally into a look back at some of the greatest recurrent director-actor teams of all time. Because this topic was used before, with two other hosts, they were forced to dig a little more than they might have otherwise. While Phillips chose to keep his top five almost exclusively in film’s golden era—dubiously using one slot to honor Orson Welles’ successes directing Orson Welles—Larsen hopped around cinematic history a bit more, even making a case for the erratic teaming of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Interestingly, Cary Grant ended up on both lists, attached to two separate directors. [DD]

The Fogelnest Files #82: FEED ON MY CONTENT: Peter Conheim 
Peter Conheim is such a perfect fit for The Fogelnest Files that it’s a wonder Jake Fogelnest hasn’t had him on before. As a member of the experimental band Negativland, Conheim is at once countercultural, ornery, and a staple in a niche scene—three qualities that Fogelnest loves perhaps more than anyone. Listening to Conheim recount old war stories from the front lines of fighting corporate hypocrisy and commercialization is legitimately engaging through this week’s entire episode. For those unfamiliar with Negativland’s raison d’être, this week’s episode is a must. Even for those uninterested in Negativland outside of the Files, Conheim is a prime example of how that Mario Savio spirit is still alive and well in certain truly extreme corners of the arts. [ABe]

Hang Up And ListenThe Hoisted By Their Own Criteria Edition
Grousing about the NCAA Basketball Tournament is an annual tradition, which makes the first segment of Hang Up And Listen part of the cacophony before the madness. But the other two segments offer brief, insightful discussions. First, former NFL executive Andrew Brandt joins the show to parse out the financial issues plaguing the lucrative first week of free agency, and the issues facing players, agents, GMs, and fans in tamping down the insanity. Just in time for the season to start, the panel talks about MLS soccer. That conversation touches on the skewed perception of domestic-league fans and the slow progress to bring the best American players back to home soil in a league that remains competitive enough for the national team to succeed at a high level. [KM]

Harmontown #95: Bill Mardigans
A week where Community attempted a sequel to one of its all-time best episodes requires a suitably dominant podcast roster set for Dungeons & Dragons. “Bill Mardigans” delivers in spades. The Harmontown dream team includes Kumail Nanjiani—who kills it as a supporting player in the upcoming Mike Judge series Silicon Valley—and Mitchell Hurwitz—who killed it a couple weeks ago as “Koogler” in Community’s parody of futuristic dystopian stories like Logan’s Run. The panel recaps SXSW, discusses Fred Phelps on his death bed, and plays one of the swiftest, funniest rounds of D&D in Harmontown history. An all-star cast delivers a must-listen episode, even with a runtime of nearly two hours. [KM]

How Was Your Week #159: Karina Longworth “Python Run”
Virtually nothing on the podcast landscape is as exciting as a fired up Julie Klausner stream of consciousness rant. This week, the host doubles down in her typically scathing monologue, firing pointed jabs at old nemesis Patti Stanger, the FX network, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and Podmass. It leads into an exceptional interview with her first author in four months –Karina Longworth, the historian behind Meryl Streep: Anatomy Of An Actor. Books have always brought out the best in Klausner, and hearing her sink her teeth into Streep’s career is a welcome relief from the recent string of idle chit-chat with tweeters and television writers. [NJ]

Nerdist #493: Jared Leto
This episode takes place right before Jared Leto won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, so he goes into the conversation with the grace and ease of a guy certain that he’s about to walk away with one of acting’s highest honors. His laid-back demeanor is especially impressive since he is coming straight from a plane ride that was forced into a harrowing emergency landing in Colorado. Aside from discussion of his role as the transgender character Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club,  Leto devotes a good chunk of the conversation to discussing his struggles within the music business, particularly when his label sued his band 30 Seconds To Mars for millions of dollars. [MS]

Nerdist #494: Chris Kluwe Returns
On his first visit to Nerdist, Chris Kluwe proved his nerd-cred by talking about his love of video games and pop culture. In his return, the former Minnesota Vikings punter also reveals he’s a passionate social activist. After a video-game-centric start, the majority of the conversation centers on Kluwe’s experiences—both good and bad—playing for the NFL. While his musings on NFL salaries are interesting, the heart of this episode revolves around Kluwe’s campaign for same-sex marriage and how he believes it led to his firing from the Vikings. Kluwe documented his experience in a Deadspin article in January, and Chris Hardwick is eager to delve even deeper into the conversation. It turns out Kluwe is a wonderfully articulate ally for the gay community, and he provides some insight into locker-room culture and why he feels openly gay football player Michael Sam will have no problem fitting in. He effortlessly dispels any notion that all football players are “dumb jocks,” and seems remarkably comfortable with his decision to prioritize human rights over his football career. Combining an enthusiasm for civil rights and a passion for pop culture, this is one of the most interesting Nerdist episodes to date. [CS]

Never Not Funny #1407 Paul F. Tompkins
Fans of Never Not Funny, or pretty much any other podcast out there, probably don’t need to be told that an episode featuring Paul F. Tompkins is worth a listen. As such, this one—with an impressive deal of speculation on the whereabouts of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (including the possibility that it surreptitiously landed “in a pile of planes”?), a peek down the strange rabbit hole of fantasy sports radio, and a thorough exegesis of the multimedia career of Buster Poindexter—is well worth the time. Plus, Tompkins relays an anecdote about Andy Richter being forced by his wife to go bumming around for cardboard boxes, so it pretty much hits every note. [DD]

99 Percent Invisible #106: The Fancy Shape
99 Percent Invisible is at its best when it delves deep into the origin and design of something listeners see or use almost every day. That’s the case with this week’s episode, which investigates the quatrefoil, that shamrock-looking shape that shows up so often on furniture, rugs, jewelry, shower curtains, and so on. It’s a fairly non-descript shape, but it adds and air of luxury and “fanciness” to whatever it’s slapped on. What’s remarkable is that it’s actually an old shape, dating back to original Islamic architecture, though its modern origins refer to the 19th century’s gothic revival movement. The use of the quatrefoil is, as the show points out, a good example of “iconographical drift,” or how images and shapes are constantly redefined depending on who’s using them, how they’re being used, or for what purpose.

Radiolab: Super Cool
An apocryphal story involving frozen horses and the beginnings of our universe kicks off a surprisingly strong episode of Radiolab. This program is at its best when it starts its stories small, and slowly builds an intriguing world around that concept. This week, a French equivalent of Carl Sagan is in focus for his retellings of a lake full of war horses flash-freezing. The story is romantic, and hearing Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich bicker about its authenticity shows off how funny Radiolab can be when the two hosts get into it. What follows is a layman’s interpretation of the story, which is quickly debunked in an entertainingly straightforward way. “Super Cool” manages to spin the totally not true story into a fascinating metaphor for the formation of the universe. At the top of the show, the audience is told that this episode will stick with them for a while, and it certainly makes good on that promise. [MK]

Sound Opinions #434: The Best Of SXSW 2014
One of the highlights of every year on Sound Opinions is the post-festival round-up from SXSW in Austin. This year, the death of three festival-goers marred another otherwise successful festival—and Jim DeRogatis breaks down the response from organizers in cogent, logical fashion. Although nothing on either host’s list can match the raw energy that made Savages such a revelation at the festival last year, more exposure for bands like Protomartyr, Temples, Wytches, and many more means that new records are likely to get full reviews throughout the year, and have a good shot of being featured on a year-end list. [KM]

Stuff You Should Know: Tattoos: Not Just For Dirtbags Anymore
The culture of tattoos is dense and scattered, but as they take on the topic, hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant use the more amusing aspects. Originally a mark of poverty in Western civilization, advanced techniques from Japan changed the upper class’ perception of them and created a trend that never ended. Though a “golden age” that arose between the World Wars had much to do with soldiers’ social events, like the disappearance of the Lindbergh baby inspiring people to stranger traditions, such as tattooing their babies so as not to lose them. To keep from getting boring, Clark and Bryant also make sure to touch on more amusing moments in tattoo history, such as the poor choice of getting a facial tattoo. And if listeners are looking for visuals of the more mind-blowing tattoos discussed on the podcast, SYSK has a gallery of their favorite 30 online. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Electricity Works
Taking on one of the broadest topics they’ve dared to tackle in their 600+ episode history, hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant have finally chosen to pick apart the subject of electric energy. With an opening description of the Big Bang and moving through the awkward early days of mankind defining it as a fluid, Clark and Bryant focus less on what’s important about electricity and more what will amuse listeners of their podcast. Goofy metaphors abound, such as the tendency of atoms to act like crazy teenagers. Things dip in the final third of the episode, as the hosts reluctantly barrel through a dry, joke-free section on how circuits work. But anyone who’s been wishing they could wrap their heads around this simple science shouldn’t miss this episode. [DT]

This American Life #520: No Place Like Home
While a story on the origins of the artisanal toast trend in San Francisco would seem perfectly suited for This American Life (or even a TAL parody piece), it might seem out of place on an episode that focuses on the ways people relate to the place they call home. Attempting to discover how this seemingly absurd movement came to be, reporter John Gravois ends up speaking to Giulietta Carrelli, the owner of Trouble Coffee And Coconut Club and the woman who first put fancy toast on the menu. As Carrelli opens up about her past, what started as a trend piece becomes a moving profile of a troubled woman whose quirky coffee shop helped her build a community and support network for herself. Two lead-in dispatches from Mexico hit on issues surrounding immigration and globalization, and are the kind of pieces that TAL does so well. [DF]

Who Charted? #172: Savor This Kulap While You Can
Although the guest is actress Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Kulap Vilaysack emerges as the episode’s star. This is partially due to the fact that she’s taking a leave of absence for a few weeks to move to a new house, travel to Laos, and work on a documentary project. Vilaysack seems particularly energized when engaging with Ellis and Howard Kremer. However, she really comes alive when she reveals that she’s traveling to Laos to meet with some long lost family members and talks about speaking to her birth father for the first time on the phone. It’s particularly touching when she plays the voicemail of the first time her biological dad tried to get her on the phone. [MS]

WTF #479: Lena Dunham
The Girls think-piece circle jerk has more or less come and gone, but it speaks to how exhaustive and exhausting that whole trend was when it’s almost novel and downright refreshing to hear Lena Dunham herself talk about the topics that were so were endlessly written about by others—diversity on Girls, feminism, her body and her depiction of it, unlikeable characters, etc. She and Marc Maron seem to be very much on the same wavelength on most of what they discuss—the Woody Allen controversy and being in toxic and destructive relationships among them—despite the generation gap between them, and it’s simply delightful to hear them bounce off each other. It’s not as provocative as one might expect considering Dunham is involved, but it’s nonetheless a very interesting and enjoyable 90 minutes. [CG]

WTF #480: Duncan Trussell
The host of the Duncan Trussell Family Hour holds a special place in Marc Maron’s heart: Although the former Comedy Store booker doesn’t take all the praise for it, Maron credits Trussell with getting his name painted on the hallowed wall of the iconic comedy club. The wide-ranging interview covers Trussell’s “spiritual quest,” which allows Maron to discuss all of his philosophical bits without ever getting too specifically into one of the major organized religions. It’s a lively interview with a prominent podcaster who should probably get more attention. But the real highlight is Maron reading Charles Bukowski’s thunderous poem “The Shoelace.” [KM]


The Cracked Podcast #26: Insane Coincidences That Shaped History
The part of the episode that deals with coincidence in world events is really interesting, but the part about coincidences in the hosts’ own lives is less so. [MS]

Comedy Bang Bang #277: Comedy Bang Me! Chelsea Peretti, Paul Rust, Neil Campbell
Fan favorite Chelsea Peretti gets a rare opportunity to stretch out in the guest host role with Scott Aukerman before their guests–the returning incestuous record executive twins Benny and Barrett Bachelor, played by Paul Rust and Neil Campbell–swipe her legroom to play footsie and half-commit to bits. Aukerman and Peretti, at the very least, offer the listener an olive branch with the promise of Farts and Procreation 4 on the way out. [NJ]

Improv4Humans #125: Live From SXSW!: Adam Pally, Jon Gabrus, Shannon O'Neill, Tim Meadows
On any other day this crew of improvisers would have likely produced a standout episode, but this week at SXSW, the group never seemed fully on the same page. There are funny moments throughout, but not enough to salvage the episode. [MK]

Judge John Hodgman #152: Arraigning Cats And Dogs
Once again, brief docket-clearing items seem to have more conversational grist than the primary case, which presents a couple’s endless, amiable chit-chat about whether they should adopt a cat or a corgi. Later, in mere minutes, Hodgman tells a teenager how to measure what truly makes a person happy in life. [DXF]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #160: Joy
Listener Joy provides some practical advice for parents of mentally ill children, but the conversation detailing one devastating event after another can be wearying. [TC]

Nerdist #495: Will Arnett
While Will Arnett probably appreciates not having to talk about Arrested Development for the umpteenth time, his chat with Chris Hardwick and Matt Mira is too riff-heavy to satisfy listeners interested in learning more about his comedy career. [CS]

Professor Blastoff #147: Empathy: Leslie Spann
The few and far between highlights of this discussion peak at a running joke about Kyle Dunnigan and guest Leslie Spann taking horny goat weed supplements prior to the interview and off-topic lessons learned from Tig Notaro’s elderly acquaintances. [NJ]

Sklarbro Country #191: Love Will Conquer Balls: Dannah Feinglass Phirman, David Huntsberger
MADtv alum Dannah Feinglass Phirman is amicable enough chatting about kids with the Sklar brothers, but this week lacks the show’s usual momentum. [DJ]  

Stuff You Missed In History Class: 13 Reasons For The American Revolution
The breezy, Buzzfeed-esque idea of breaking the revolution into 13 ideas does not make this topic seem any less well-trod. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: China’s Foot Binding Tradition
This episode gets anatomically gruesome rather quickly, and without unique events to highlight the tradition of foot binding the grim details begin to run together. [DT]

You Made It Weird #199: Justin Willman
Pete Holmes’ attempts to draw abstract connections between comedy, magic, and life in his conversation with Justin Willman aren’t particularly convincing, and what’s worse, he monopolizes the time more than he usually does. [ABe]