Christopher Kimball’s brilliant cooking show, and Book Fight! talks copyright

Christopher Kimball’s brilliant cooking show, and Book Fight! talks copyright

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

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“I look like Jesus… if he went through a bad breakup eight months ago." —T.J. Miller, talking about his beard, Doug Loves Movies

“You do what you want; worrying about what’s cool is for children.” —Judge John Hodgman, Judge John Hodgman

“You want to know why I work in radio? It’s to protect you from this face.” —Jad Abumrad, co-host of Radiolab, about his choice of job, Freakonomics

“There are some joys in life that don’t revolve around eating ice cream and jerking off, you know?”
“Name them.” —Marc Maron and Simon Amstell, WTF

“Spain made its way to this part of the world with the intent to conquer land and convert the people living there to Christianity, and last but not least on their agenda was finding a bunch of treasure.” —Holly Frey, describing Spanish settlers in the late 17th century, Stuff You Missed In History Class

“So, we’re going to do a brief list of some of his horrible acts. We could go on for hours… But we’re going to hit the… high points?”
“This is the part in the outline where I IM’d Holly and said, ‘I feel like he’s the inspiration for Joffrey Baratheon.” —Holly Frey and Tracy V. Wilson describing the sadism of Crown Prince Sado, Stuff You Missed In History Class

“I wore a backpack my whole set. I was a weird idiot.” —Randy Liedtke on the risky choices he made onstage during a competitive stand-up showcase

“My whole back had been split open (for scoliosis surgery)... and then that summer, we went to visit dad and he takes us to Washington, D.C., where I’m walking every day. See, he’s just a dick.” —Lindsay on her father’s asshole behavior,
The Mental Illness Happy Hour

“They have a giant pachinko billboard in the outfield, and that sounds racist, but it’s not.” —Jason and Randy Sklar, Sklarbro Country 


NEW TO US

America’s Test Kitchen Radio           
If Alton Brown is the Bill Nye of cooking show hosts, America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country host Christopher Kimball is more like the Neil deGrasse Tyson: fewer props and sound effects, a commercial-free platform, and an undiluted focus on translating professional-grade concepts to the curious masses. As the founder and editor of Cook’s Illustrated, the non-glossy magazine on which both public television shows are based, Kimball oversees a literal 2,500 square foot test kitchen where three dozen chefs poke and tweak standard recipes until they're essentially perfect; that isn't hyperbole—just try any of them. Over the years, the kitchen’s results and essays breaking down its processes have been published in books, on subscription sites, even within a video game—but with America’s Test Kitchen Radio, Kimball takes a step away from traditional how-to programs and expands into the realm of investigative food journalism. 

Each week, Kimball and culinary expert Bridget Lancaster field phone calls from listeners, give the history and best recipe of a dish, test equipment and ingredients with staffers (one of the big advantages to not accepting ad revenue is being able to slag on name brands without the silencing fear of pissing off sponsors), and highlight one issue or person in the food world in a spotlight segment. The advice, though advanced, is always practical. Lactose intolerant and looking for a good whipping-cream substitute? Too bad. There isn’t one, so take up dairy-scarce Middle Eastern cooking. Need a specific cut of meat, but don’t have a real butcher in town? Learn the vocabulary to describe it to the 19-year-old working behind the grocery-store meat counter. The very pragmatic Kimball also gets a rare opportunity during his news or interview feature segment to open up, as he does when discussing the disconcerting similarities between prison and school-cafeteria food or talking to both sides of a restaurant review. His passion and curiosity are contagious. After listening to a few episodes, it’s easy to feel like a culinary expert even before setting foot in the kitchen. [DJ]  


DROP-IN

My Brother, My Brother And Me
The brothers have had a solid 2014 so far (or, to translate that into the McElroyian calendar, “a solid 20-forward”), with a string of episodes that ironically seem to be getting back to the basics of the show rather than focusing on its future. Most notably, Travis, Justin, and Griffin seem to have gotten tired of the semi-recurring special segments “Farm Wisdom” and “Subway Hacks.” “Farm Wisdom” never really found its footing, but with any luck their shadow war on the sandwich giant will continue once the new year gets underway.  The opening bits have also gotten more consistent in recent weeks. The Grammys goof at the top of the most recent episode is pretty hilarious, as was last week’s foray into improv. In fact, in terms of bang for your buck, episode 184 is a fantastic starting point for those who have spent some time away from the brothers. [ABe]


THE BEST

Book Fight! Bonus Episode: Copyright, Creative Commons, And Online Piracy
Another “Writers Ask” episode posted a few days earlier, but the real Book Fight! treat of the week comes in a bonus episode Mike and Tom posted in response to a direct request from a fan. The episode doesn’t function so much as a primer on the current intellectual-property legal climate, but instead offers a cogent, non-legalese perspective on the ways online piracy is evolving copyright best practices, how these issues are considered by consumers as well as creators, and what this might mean for working or aspiring writers. The hosts are able speak to the issue from both a publishing and a writing point of view, which is enlightening. The value judgment on the difference between indie publishing and self-publishing was a delightfully amusing nugget of shade-throwing as well: “If you get up and walk outside, do you call it ‘indie walking?’” [ABa]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #267: That Wasn’t It (I’m Back) [Hee Hee]: Jerrod Carmichael, Neil Campbell, Mookie Blaiklock
Because Jerrod Carmichael forgets to come in and misses about half an hour of the show, Scott Aukerman enlists friend Neil Campbell to fill out the episode until Carmichael arrives. Although Campbell’s always welcome, the episode is understandably spotty until Mookie Blaiklock revives his hell-bound Michael Jackson (and introduces his new catchphrase, “Soon Yi!”). Jackson’s a character who tends to take over an episode, and Carmichael isn’t pushy, so it more or less becomes The Blaiklock Show. But it’s quite funny, especially as they get Jackson to talk about appearing in Men In Black, which Blaiklock has forgotten. Aukerman closes out the episode by describing it as “shambolic,” but it’s a fun one regardless. [KR]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #268: What Does The Fonz Say?: Jimmy Pardo, Betsy Sodaro
Jimmy Pardo has honed his conversational banter to a point of perfection on Never Not Funny. After years of disseminating episodes in a subscription model, Pardo recently made the jump to the Earwolf network. In this week’s b-b-b-onus-s-s episode he joins Scott Aukerman to celebrate the switch, and the two pals muse on Pardo’s shaky transition into the comedy world, the golden age of airport security, and the early days of podcasting. The conversation is casually funny, but the episode hits its stride once Voda the Gypsy (Betsy Sodaro) enters the scene. Voda’s there to condemn Aukerman for buying a bag of apples she had her eye on. In an entertaining character arc, Voda proudly defends her filthy lifestyle, places a curse on Scott, but comes to regret it when the three hit it off particularly well. Aukerman elevates her to “Friend Of The Show” status, so hopefully she’ll be back soon. [MK]

Doug Loves Movies: T.J. Miller, Rory Scovel And Matt Braunger
This episode of Doug Loves Movies feels just a little brief. Maybe it’s because this time around Benson assembled a great panel that maintains a steady stream of laughs. There’s also the fact that it flows perfectly from the chat portion into the games, without lingering for too long in either section. However, the biggest reason this show works so well is because chronic interrupter and notorious spotlight hog T.J. Miller decided to play nicely with the other panelists. Plus, the episode ended early, so it gave the panel a chance to play an additional game and banter with each other without Benson trying to push the show forward due to a time crunch. [MS]

The Flop House #144: Temptation: Confessions Of A Marriage Counselor
Each of the Flop House hosts plays a specific, integral role in creating and sustaining the chemistry that makes the show so reliably great, so there’s only so much one can reasonably expect from even the best guest host—i.e. Hallie Haglund—when one of the Original Peaches is incapacitated. Thus, as a piece of the Flop House canon, this episode is a bit weak—there’s no real rhythm established for a good portion of the episode, giving it a slightly distracting, staccato feel, and the hosts’ thoughts on the film never quite cohere as well as they typically do. Nevertheless, as a standalone episode it is a fun and silly hour of comedy, and there’s a certain amount of joy to be had in simply hearing a group of people attempt to make sense of a certifiably bonkers Tyler Perry movie plot. [CG]

The Fogelnest Files #75: Half Of The Both: Ted Leo
Unlike other episodes featuring musicians in which Jake Fogelnest tries to get a fuller picture of a given scene or era, this week’s functions mainly as a primer on Ted Leo himself. That’s not a bad thing, both since his personal history in music isn’t obvious or predictable and because Leo has veered in and out of different subcultures at different times in his development. (Surprising no one, Fogelnest is particularly interested in his hardcore days.) And to Leo’s credit, while the occasion for his visit is his forthcoming album with Aimee Mann under the name The Both, he doesn’t really try to sell the collaboration or market it as anything extraordinary. To use his words, it’s not like he raps and plays the saw, so working with Mann isn’t such a crazy idea. The talk fizzles out at the end, but the closing number Leo plays is worth it. [ABe]

Freakonomics: Reasons Not To Be Ugly
According to researchers, being a more attractive quarterback in the NFL actually increases pay by a small margin. Using this fact as a springboard, the Freakonomics team dives into the economic benefits of being good-looking. Starting from birth, attractiveness leads to better outcomes in life, and studies show that kids in grade school who are good-looking are typically graded easier, have more friends, and receive other benefits. There are gender discrepancies as well: The pay difference between unattractive versus attractive men is greater than that for women. Also, being unattractive actually increases a person’s chances of committing crimes (usually of the theft or drug variety). Most of this is unsurprising and depressing. But, according to the expert interviewed, attempts to affect looks (makeup, plastic surgery, etc.) aren’t particularly effective, either. [NC]

Hang Up And Listen: The Tennis, Tykes, and Tragedy Edition
Grantland’s story on Dr. V and a mysterious golf putter has drummed up vitriolic reactions from around the Internet, but HUAL has the most sensible, cogent discussion of journalistic responsibility around. They call out Bill Simmons, parse out what author Caleb Hannan did right and wrong, and pose the right questions about what it means for the publication’s future tackling these kinds of topics. The now-belated discussions of the Australian Open final are also intelligent, but the other highlight is how much enjoyment the panel gets out of skewering every terrible adult role model in Esquire’s documentary series Friday Night Tykes. [KM]

Harmontown #87: Kiss Doesn’t Get The Joke
Mitch Hurwitz serving as guest comptroller is the first sign that Harmontown is in for a strong episode, rolling through hilarious thoughts about male anatomy even before standout guest Kumail Nanjiani shows up. Rob Schrab adds his crippling insecurity, but in a less distracting dose than his previous appearances. The panel is capable of both insanely silly tangents—like constantly ridiculing Schrab’s accomplishments directing for The Mindy Project—with intricately thought-out examinations of religious philosophy. This is the pinnacle of what Harmontown can achieve: smart and funny chitchat between well-spoken friends, capped off by some playful D&D. [KM]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #152: Lindsay
For more than 150 episodes, Paul Gilmartin has regularly told listeners that they are not alone in their battles with traumatic experiences and mental illnesses. It’s interesting to hear that mantra in action in this conversation with Lindsay, who says she began to better understand her feelings about her father’s inappropriate behavior after hearing Gilmartin talk about similar experiences with his mother. During the 90-minute exchange, they sound like they could finish each other’s sentences when discussing childhood health problems and the abuse suffered from parents who sexualized them. Gilmartin prefaces the discussion by saying he delayed the release of the episode for more than a year because of concerns that he interjected himself into the conversation too often, but his apprehension is unwarranted. It’s a back-and-forth conversation that seems to bring comfort and insight to both participants and likely some listeners. [TC]

Nerdist #472: Paul Williams Returns
Serendipitously timed with his Grammy win alongside Daft Punk—but recorded beforehand—Paul Williams’ return to Nerdist proves just as delightful as his first visit. His one-on-one with Chris Hardwick isn’t a formal interview or a joke-filled chat. Instead it’s a philosophical conversation between two like-minded people at different points in their careers. At 73 years old, Williams’ cheerful life philosophy centers on the ideas of “gratitude and trust.” He opens up about his songwriting process and his optimism when it comes to career setbacks. He also touches on his struggles with substance abuse and his subsequent stint in rehab, which then allowed him to connect to the redemption story of Ebenezer Scrooge and pen the songs for The Muppet Christmas Carol. To wrap up the episode, Williams and Hardwick perform a duet of “I’m Going To Go Back There Some Day” that will melt even the most cynical heart. [CS]

Nerdist #473: Broken Bells
Indie rock band Broken Bells is composed of Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) and James Mercer (The Shins), and their conversation with Chris Hardwick and Jonah Ray is the kind of breezy yet substantive chat Nerdist does well. Things start off slowly—probably because Broken Bells don’t seem to realize they’re being interviewed right away—but eventually the hosts and guests fall into an easy rhythm. The meat of the conversation revolves around the duo’s upcoming album, and Hardwick asks incisive questions about the writing and recording process, including what it feels like to release an album into the world. The episode will likely appeal to both Broken Bells fans and those who are new to the band—especially because of the Nerdist-exclusive performance of “Holding On For Life.” [CS]

Never Not Funny #1401: Joe Lo Truglio
The new, free Never Not Funny era kicks off with an amiable chat with Joe Lo Truglio of Brooklyn Nine Nine, The State, and numerous other projects. Jimmy Pardo couldn’t have asked for a more affable presence, as Lo Truglio sounds as friendly and down to earth as his guileless character on Brooklyn Nine Nine. One of the pleasures of that show’s success has been Lo Truglio’s part in it, after a good 15 years of being a television journeyman. As a repeat guest on Never Not Funny, he fits in perfectly, and his self-deprecating humor couldn’t be more charming. [KR]

Radiolab: Brown Box
Leave it to Radiolab to start an episode with paper towels and end up on drones. In this week’s standalone segment, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich dig into the surprisingly complex mystery of how they order paper towels online and get them delivered just three hours later. The bulk of the episode belongs to Mac McClelland, a reporter who took on an assignment working in an unnamed online retailer’s gigantic warehouse. McClelland candidly recalls her experience zipping through the haphazard aisles and rushing to fulfill orders against a literal ticking clock. The team pulls one hell of an interview out of her, then proceeds to consult with Brad Stone, author a book about Amazon.com, which inevitably leads to the drone conversation. For a broadcast a third of Radiolab’s regular length, “Brown Box” manages to stand alongside the best episodes, which is no small feat considering the program’s track record. [MK]

Sklarbro Country #184: You Upchurched It: Michael Showalter, Jason Nash
Most comedians that visit Sklarbro Country have at least a peripheral knowledge of sports news, and of those, the best guests come already ingrained with the strongest opinions about the smallest issues. When Michael Showalter boasts, “If you say ‘Name five people from the 1987 [any sports team of the three major sports,]’ I could probably do 10,” he apparently means business, and breezes through an attempt to call his bluff. In a lively and informed interview that feels like a bull session, Showalter spouts his feelings about topics like his disdain for the New England Patriots’ uniforms and Erin Andrews’ excellent nonplussed, deadpan handling of Richard Sherman’s sideline rant. It would be nice to see his open offer to come back as a frequent guest at least land him a recurring spot on County. [DJ]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Crown Prince Sado Of Korea
Though the story of Crown Prince Sado is told a bit haltingly at first, Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey reveal a grisly payoff two-thirds of the way through that more than explains their hesitations. Raised in the 1700s by a mentally disturbed king, Sado suffered from childhood illness and signs of extreme anxiety. By the time he was 14, he was married; by age 16, his young child had died. As the story builds in sadness and intensity, Frey and Wilson drop clues that things will end particularly badly between Sado and his father. By the point the story spirals into paranoia, mass murder, and royal betrayal, it has become impossible not to identify with the disturbed prince. Frey and Wilson draw an apt comparison to universally despised Game Of Thrones character Joffrey Baratheon, and though Sado was equally depraved, he proves more fascinating. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Pueblo Revolt
Wilson and Frey have a major task in front of them in that the Pueblo uprising against Spanish settlers in New Mexico is a rare case of history being written by the losers. Oppressed by the settlers for decades, the Pueblo people had their population decimated yet were able to rise up and drive the Spanish out of New Mexico in 1680. Wilson and Frey may only have the biased accounts of the Spanish to work with, but it plays to their strength of analyzing the facts and being evenhanded. Even with the aid of Spanish historians and the hosts’ willingness to play devil’s advocate, the story of the native people’s culture being cruelly destroyed is quite emotionally accessible, right down to the series of knotted cords and pictograms the Pueblos used to plan their rebellion. [DT]

Who Charted? #165: Doug Digs It!
It’s refreshing to hear Doug Benson in a podcast situation where he’s not constantly trying to rein in an unruly panel of guests or audience like he does on Doug Loves Movies. Naturally, the world’s most productive stoner has a lot to say during the movies chart, despite having not even seen the top five. The chart also gives Benson plenty of opportunity to talk about and do impressions of Liam Neeson. He shares some nuanced and well thought-out movie opinions that wouldn’t necessarily have a home in the Doug Loves Movies format. Also, during a particularly passionate and involved Star Wars rant by Benson, Kremer tries to start an urban legend about Harrison Ford taking a dump while in the trash compactor scene. [MS]

WTF #465: Simon Amstell
Most American listeners probably won’t recognize Simon Amstell in name, voice, or credits. Nevertheless during the course of his conversation with Marc Maron, it becomes clear very early on why Maron wanted Amstell to be a guest on his show—the two are very similar in their neuroticism, self-deprecation, and tendency to get stuck inside their own heads. What seemingly separates the two, though, and what also prevents the episode from being too much like an 85-minute all-out Maron-fest is that Amstell seems to have achieved a great deal of clarity about his depression and anxiety, through his ayahuasca use. While Maron seems to be closer to that point than ever before, it’s almost inspiring to have a concrete example of someone who has lived to see the other side of those issues. [CG]

WTF #466: Marc Spitz
Marc Maron’s chat with Spin senior writer, playwright, and novelist Marc Spitz runs the gamut from complicated parental relationships to pervasive drug problems. Spitz and Maron share an obsession with gritty rock music, and a history of substance abuse that nearly spiraled completely out of control, and those links make for a compelling conversation. Maron takes his typical tack of bouncing around through early childhood, professional development, and recent career/life balance with Spitz, but there are enough entertaining and surprising stories—plus some funny, bantering asides—to keep the momentum going forward. [KM]

You Made It Weird #192: Randy Liedtke
At once wackier and mellower than Pete Holmes’ typical guest, Randy Liedtke makes for a surprisingly standout subject because he manages to be compelling without really engaging with Holmes’ usual shtick. As the two discuss, a lot of Liedtke’s material is prank-related, or as he puts it, lying for no reason. (Perhaps most notably, he posed as Pace Picante salsa on Twitter to mess with Kyle Kinane.) Maybe it’s due to the implications of that “world as canvas” attitude, but Liedtke isn’t really rocked by any of Holmes’ questions—which is to say, he doesn’t seem to take much seriously. It would go too far to suggest that he steals the show—he exerts a much subtler influence on the flow of the conversation—but for a lesser-known comedian, he’s definitely an interesting person to hear from. [ABe]


THE REST

Book Fight! Writers Ask: Who Moved My Cheese?
Book Fight!’s “Writers Ask” episodes can often be hit-or-miss; they tend to careen off on tangents that occasionally bear entertaining fruit. This one drags despite Mike Ingram and Tom McAllister’s best efforts. Random musings on the Department Of Defense’s social media plan and the rationale behind creating the Fat Boys/Chubby Checker collab “The Twist (Yo, Twist)” were charming diversions, though. [ABa]

The Bugle: Bonus Bugle: A Twitter Q&A
With John Oliver away allegedly choreographing “Twerkers Of The World: Unite,” Andy Zaltzman takes to Twitter for a rapid-fire and quasi-revealing Q&A session that’s as affably British as it is brief. [TK]

Doug Loves Movies: Greg Fitzsimmons, Brian Redban And Billy Bonnell
The chat portion features a few bummer fat-chick jokes, and the episode doesn’t really pick up from there. [MS]

Filmspotting #475: 2014 Movie Preview (Pt. 2) / Broken Circle Breakdown
Matching the fireworks of last week’s throw down over The Wolf Of Wall Street was never really in the cards. Even so, this week’s pensive discussion of shattered relationships and childhood cancer in the Belgian drama Broken Circle Breakdown, though thoughtful and interesting, seems unlikely to woo many new listeners. [DD]

Improv4Humans #118: Ukraine Obese: Mookie Blaiklock, Fran Gillespie, Joe Hartzler, Ryan Rosenberg
Though the titular scene is a knockout, the episode rushes from segment to segment and never quite finds its footing. [MK]

Judge John Hodgman #145: Moped Operandi
Accident-prone Amanda wants to buy a moped for short neighborhood trips in suburban Texas. Husband Pat, a motorcycle-wreck survivor, feels that picking the right brand, reading up on the subject, and taking a safety class won’t spare her from a cracked skull. Protracted civil discourse doesn’t always make for the most compelling listening. [DXF]

The Moth: Cops, Dumpster Diving and Mental Illness
Mark Luckach’s Job-like experience managing his wife’s severe bipolar disorder is gripping, but the rest of the hour is filled with day-to-day stories that aren’t all that extraordinary. [DJ]

Professor Blastoff #140: Consistency: Barry Katz
One of the most engaging guests in recent memory isn’t enough to salvage a flimsy topic. [NJ]

Sound Opinions #427: The Dismemberment Plan
Greg Kot relishes the chance to talk to the reunited Dismemberment Plan for an in-studio interview and performance, but it doesn’t dig far enough below the surface to appeal to listeners who aren’t already fans of the band. [KM]

Stuff You Should Know: What’s The Deal With The Debt Ceiling?
This episode offers some interesting insights about Greek economic theory and American GDP growth, but they’re buried in terminology, and the debt ceiling isn’t even defined by the hosts until 15 minutes in. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: What Are Crystal Skulls?
It’s entertaining to hear hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant explore the hubris of crysta-skull aficionados, but the stories of the illegitimate finds get a bit repetitive, and the possibility of real ancient crystal skulls is just barely glossed over at the end. [DT]

More Podmass