David Sedaris describes his bath time, cicadas are explained, and Wompler returns

David Sedaris describes his bath time, cicadas are explained, and Wompler returns

Podmass comments can be directed to podmass@avclub.com. To listen many of these and other podcasts, visit Podcast Central, our podcast hub. 

Editor’s note: Some scheduling issues prevented us from doing a New (To Us) this week, but we’ll be back with it and an Outlier next week.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“Paper is something that people used to write on and stuff before they had an electric tablet that had all their friends in it and their personality contained inside of it.” —Greg Proops, The Smartest Man In The World

“No grandmothers are in the middle: Either you have a frail, skinny grandmother, or they just blimp out.” —Tom Scharpling on the two shapes of grandmas, The Best Show On WFMU

 “It’s a fucking nightmare!” —Pamela Adlon on having a 16-year-old daughter, WTF

A.V. Club commenters can go eat an asshole.”  —Kyle Kinane, Nerdist

THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU
When overexcited callers interrupt Tom Scharpling mid-improvisation, he sometimes angrily compares his deliberately paced comic process to painting. Callers stay out of the way this week as an energized Scharpling creates a masterpiece during an episode without a guest or Jon Wurster. The lack of a guest gives Scharpling the time to fully flesh out ideas and bits, including his response to a particularly depressing guitar-shop commercial, a Don Imus-like apology to the nation’s grandmothers, and an extended rant against cicadas. The host seems to be having fun and talks about trying to make fewer enemies. (The truce doesn’t extend to nemesis Chuck Woolery, who Scharpling likens to a wig-wearing version of the orangutan from Every Which Way But Loose). It’s an excellent episode for introducing new listeners to the rhythms and voice of a show that can occasionally be difficult to jump into. [TC]

The Bugle #235: The Long Arm Of The Lorry
For the last month or so, Andy Zaltzman has been in a bizarre overworked and under-rested state that’s been leading to some of the strangest segments in Bugle history. This week he takes something of a star turn with stress-fueled aplomb and marches through a handful of wonderful bits before remembering to introduce the podcast. John Oliver balances him out perfectly, and the two present a zippy episode on the downfalls of the betrodden Pakistani election (including a literal downfall of candidate Imran Khan, who fell off a forklift at a rally). The back half is rounded out by an unsettling account of a forthcoming commercialized overhaul of the British legal system to be enacted by a company of actual haulers. The team is really making their last string of episodes count before they revert to infrequent issues when Oliver fills in at The Daily Show this summer. [MK]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #220: Four PayDays And A Baby: Lennon Parham, Jessica St. Clair
The strange story of Earwolf intern Marissa Wompler (Jessica St. Clair) continues as she returns with Miss Listler (longtime writing partner Lennon Parham) for a typically charged episode of Comedy Bang! Bang! St. Clair’s character has been one of CBB’s best, and she and Scott Aukerman have a hilarious rapport that thrives on inappropriateness. Parham’s deadpan Listler is a perfect foil, her subdued delivery only enhancing her strange behavior and habits. Longtime listeners know what to expect here, and it’s always fun to hear about the latest developments in Marissa’s life. There’s a promise of a new Womptacular around Marissa’s birthday in August, so here’s hoping that happens. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: Ari Shaffir, Eugene Mirman, John Mulaney and Pat Kiernan
Doug Benson brings the podcast to New York City, where he assembles a particularly hilarious and harmonious panel. Since Benson isn’t in his usual UCB time slot, he has some extra time to play as many games as possible. Unfortunately, Build A Title ends before it even begins, due in part to the fact that the panel fails to grasp the rules of the game. However, Eugene Mirman’s confusion might be more entertaining than the actual game. Also, Pat Kiernan drops an F-bomb, which will delight any avid NY1 watchers as well as anyone who enjoys hearing a news anchorman curse. [MS]

The Flop House #126: Playing For Keeps
Probably the criticism most frequently leveled at the The Flop House is how willing its hosts are to descend into tangents of pure silliness that have absolutely nothing to do with the movie they have gathered to discuss, and that tendency rarely reveals itself as decidedly as it does this week. It’s also rarely as understandable as it is this week, when the hosts struggle to find anything of any substance to say about the insubstantial Gerard Butler “soccer dad” movie, Playing For Keeps—a film described by Elliott Kalan as “a comedy without laughs, a drama without drama, and a character study without characters.” Fortunately, extremely silly tangents—ones in which Carl Theodor Dreyer and C.H.U.D. are referenced in successive breaths—are where the Original Peaches shine, and they abound here. [CG]

Freakonomics: Can You Be Too Smart for Your Own Good? And Other FREAK-quently Asked Questions
It’s Q&A time for Freakonomics, with Dubner and Levitt fielding questions from listeners. The show is, unsurprisingly, all over the map, from circadian rhythms to whether gay marriage will improve the economy. Levitt nicely outs himself as “not a doctor,” and jokes about “domain transfers” (where people good at one thing assume that they are just as good at something else), admitting that this episode is just a couple of smart guys spit-balling, and shouldn’t be taken as gospel. Even still, these two smart guys spit-balling is a lot of fun, since Dubner and Levitt have an awesome rapport. Levitt also gets the best moment of the episode, where he distinguishes between economic issues (job growth, productivity) and moral ones (abortion, gay marriage). [NC]

Hang Up And Listen: The Falling Into The Truth Edition
The NBA playoffs drag on for so long that weekly discussions of the molasses-speed progress get tired quickly. Thankfully, the HUAL panel has plenty more to talk about, from Phil Jackson’s newest book and supposed slights against Kobe Bryant to the team owners blocking the Sacramento Kings from moving to Seattle. But the most interesting segment focuses on, of all things, the America’s Cup, which has turned from elitist snob sailing competition into a wildly dangerous attempt by Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison to raise the profile of the competition by using incredibly fast boats on San Francisco Bay, a decision that has led to multiple accidents and one crew death. If the show can turn a snoozefest like sailing into a compelling discussion, it’s absolutely worth a listen. [KM] 

How Was Your Week #115 “Madame, No.”: David Sedaris
The most surprising thing about David Sedaris’ appearance comes early on when he tells Julie Klausner that How Was Your Week is regular bath-time listening for him. Sedaris is just as excited to be in Klausner’s kitchen as she is to have him, leading to a delightful and wide-ranging chat that covers several of the podcast’s regular topics (cats, relationships, SyFy’s Face Off). The best chunk comes at the end when Sedaris and Klausner talk about their late friend, David Rakoff, who died last year after a long battle with cancer. There have been many tributes to Rakoff after his death—including a great HWYW minisode—but listening to Klausner and Sedaris reminisce over the legacy Rakoff left behind—as a writer and, more importantly, a friend—speaks to how profoundly he continues to be missed. [DF]

Improv4Humans #81: Finger Fuckers: Joel Spence, Stephanie Allynne, Ben Siemon
This week’s episode should be considered required listening for folks who were significantly put off by last week’s incredibly off-putting episode. After Matt Besser bravely debated against an egghead from Twitter, even he aired concern that he might have been bullying the guy. Thankfully, this week Besser brings in Randy Cohen, who wrote The New York Times Magazine’s The Ethicist column for more than a decade, for a discussion on how exactly not to bully someone. The skits before and after the segment are negligible, but Cohen is a great guest, willing to be frank with Besser about his meaner streaks. It’s also a huge relief to have a debate segment that doesn’t see Besser repeatedly screaming his thoughts over the other guy. Hopefully Improv4Humans can find a moderator like Cohen suggests, or just move past the segment entirely. [MK]

The JV Club #62: Christy Stratton Mann
How great of a podcast guest is Christy Stratton Mann? She came back to Janet Varney’s house on the day of this episode’s release, re-recorded the first half because of audio problems, and still made the conversation feel fresh and spontaneous. A writer on MTV’s teen drama Awkward., Mann constantly brings up adolescent memories for story material, and she offers a wealth of insight into her formative years as she talks about them with Varney for a second time. A teen that went from popularity in middle school to obscurity in high school, Mann was fiercely dedicated to reclaiming her former status, and Varney applauds teenage Mann’s unrelenting enthusiasm even as she kept getting torn down. Whether it meant trying out for the cheerleading team and getting rejected three times before finally making it or being abandoned at a Dire Straits concert by the love of her youth, Mann always rose above the obstacles. It makes for excellent stories to tell twice, and luckily the hardest material to replicate like the Fortune Teller and M.A.S.H. segments were salvageable from the original episode. [OS]

Judge John Hodgman: A Danderous Precedent
This week’s case is a husband-wife dispute: “Should allergy-prone Mike get allergy shots so his family can indulge their love of fuzzy-wuzzy pets?” It’s an open-and-shut case: The Honorable Judge Hodgman concludes, early in the hearing, “Your wife wants to kill you.” Still—following a sidebar about toxoplasmosis—he fulfills his due diligence, examining every insurmountable, health-compromising, emergency-room-trip-inducing detail. Facing death, the husband remains open-minded, and it raises a moving question all parents face: Is your family’s happiness worth your health and maybe your life? If dander isn’t an issue in your household, tune in for Hodgman’s tips on mouse infestation. [DXF]

Nerdist #358: Tony Hale 
Although guest Tony Hale is likely making his rounds of press appearances for the resurrection of Arrested Development and his part on HBO’s Veep, this interview doesn’t come across as just another stop on a press junket. Sure, there’s plenty of talk about Arrested Development, but Hale is refreshingly candid about a lot of the anxieties and insecurities surrounding his first big break, and show business in general. Hale seems remarkably at ease with Chris Hardwick and Matt Mira, which becomes evident when he shares a story about discovering a secret passageway in his house while he was living on a German army base as a child. [MS]

Never Not Funny #1219: Seeking Thrills With Fred Stoller
Comedian Fred Stoller first started making the podcast rounds a year or so ago behind his Kindle single, My Seinfeld Year, and the format didn’t seem to suit him. Stoller’s style can best be described as neurotically needy, which is enhanced by his high-pitched voice that naturally sounds a little whiny. That can make Stoller’s comedy a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, but his first appearance on Never Not Funny finds some middle ground on that spectrum. Promoting his new book about being a perennial TV guest star, Maybe We’ll Have You Back, Stoller has some funny stories (as well as some dirt) about life on television’s fringes and the humiliations of a book tour. Stoller’s been involved in comedy for a long time, so he has a deep well of anecdotes, which makes him a great fit for Never Not Funny. [KR]

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Sklarbro Country #147: This Is How Not To Do It: Seth Morris, Chris Cox
Seth Morris is a guy who’s immediately recognizable to comedy fans when they are shown a picture, but it’s hard to connect his name to the face. That doesn’t bother him though, since he’s done steady improv, acting, and writing work for years, and whenever he shows up, he’s reliably hilarious. The Sklars get him talking about the absolute worst youth basketball coach imaginable—violent, vindictive, arrogant, and unable to check his jealousy around kids—and a round of quick hits that includes an NFL player trying to get a ridiculously expensive engagement ring back from an ex-fiancée. [KM]

Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #52: Tony Hale, Jason Nash, Dan Van Kirk
The cast of Arrested Development is out in full force promoting the Memorial Day weekend première of the new Netflix season, and Tony Hale gets in on the game with the Sklars this week. He shares some interesting tidbits about the new season—and the hysterical deleted scene of him transferring smoke from Jessica Walter’s cigarette to a window—as well as stories about Veep, which has also been picked up for another season. Dan Van Kirk brings several unbelievable news stories from Florida to the table, which is always good for a few riffing tangents. [KM]

The Smartest Man In The World: Oranges
The Smartest Man In The World spans the globe this week. The episode’s recurring—but not unifying—through-line is a trip to see the Rolling Stones in Anaheim, which leads to Proops’ meditations on the band and the evolving demographics of the infamously white-bread Orange County, capped with the host’s confession of a tacit collaboration with a posited International Brotherhood of Racist Cab Drivers. (The So. Cal jokes might be too inside for the rest of the world, but they seem to land with the local crowd.) Proops spins a theme from story to story, discussing the power of doing it the old way, namely writing things down and letting them sink into your brain, rather than pushing a button and storing them on a portable device. The end monologue riffs on current kangaroo-related events in Australia. Like the rest of the episode, it’s peppered with Generation-X musical references. And what it lacks in linearity, it makes up for in density. [DXF]

Sound Opinions #390: Peter Hook Of New Order
A New Order reunion without Peter Hook is a sham of a reunion. Even the most recent New Order album, Lost Sirens, was culled from other tracks during the final album sessions with Hook involved. The bassist and founding member of Joy Division/New Order may be a firebrand, but better a passionate man than a laconic one when it comes to the fascinating legacy of those bands. In support of his new book, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, he talks with Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis about the joy in Joy Division, how perhaps he and his bandmates should have seen the signs of Ian Curtis’ decline, and the status of New Order’s “ugly divorce.” [KM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Russia’s Vladimir The Great
Hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey have quite a lot of research to plow through, but the legacy of the grand prince of Kiev speaks for itself. Ruling Russia from 980 to 1015, Prince Vladimir came into power as a pagan with thousands of concubines. Expressing dissatisfaction with his spirituality, he auditioned major religions until finally settling on Christianity. His final choice of Christianity is amusing in retrospect, because it was strongly influenced by military operations and his strategic marriage to a Christian Byzantine empress. But the moment of Vladimir’s ideological reversal had a domino effect. Frey and Wilson also explore less famous aspects of the barbarian-turned-scholar, such as his push for outreach programs, art, and education. It’s one of the densest episodes in a while, but well worth 22 minutes of a listener’s time. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Cicadas Work
This week hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant find themselves charmed by those alien-esque monstrosities known as cicadas, and the episode takes on a timely twist due to the Eastern seaboard’s current bombardment by the bugs. Clark and Bryant appreciate that some might be put off by their looks, but it’s the facts that should win listeners over. Completely harmless (but for their 94-decibel screech) none of the many species in the world are capable of bites or stings. Instead they live a fairly simple life, growing slowly in the dirt for years to spend only a few days breeding and becoming bird food. In fact, so many insects are in a birth cycle that they create phenomena known as predator satiation. Birds become so fat on newborn cicadas that they fly away and let the bulk of the brood go, and at this point it’s easy to sympathize with the ugly little things. [DT]

This American Life #495: Hot In My Backyard
This American Life strives to take a fair and balanced look at the issue of climate control, not so much with the intent of proving whether or not it exists (the producers take it as fact that it does, so this is probably not an episode for any who disagree), but to examine the various frustrating detours the discussions can take. This is best encapsulated by Republicans who agree that something must be done about the issue yet refuse to acknowledge this publicly lest they upset constituents who don’t like hearing that driving their kids to soccer practice in SUVs is wrong. [CZ]

The Todd Glass Show #103: James Adomian And Tom Martin, Part 2
This episode of The Todd Glass Show starts with a bit of an extended opening, featuring a return appearance from the long absent Daniel Kinno. The fact that the opening is being recorded backstage at a stand-up gig doesn’t stop Todd Glass from having fun with sound effects and musical cues. After some fun with Kinno, the podcast showcases the second part of a marathon session with James Adomian. Given the number of goofy characters and voices Adomian showcased in the last episode, Part 1 was clearly a warm-up for the various voices, characters and bits he employs in the second half. Also, Adomian takes any opportunity to break into song, so naturally, he fits right into the Todd Glass Show cast of characters. [MS]

Uhh Yeah Dude: #372
It’s a sad truth of Uhh Yeah Dude that often the worse Seth Romatelli’s week has been, the better the episode will be. Case in point: Traumatized by the cancellation of his beloved Cops, a potential shortage of sweet corn, and the apparently growing number of dogs wearing sneakers, Romatelli bellyaches his way through episode 372, giving Jonathan Larroquette plenty of opportunities to play the straight man. The dynamic pays off big when it’s revealed that Romatelli’s technophobia extends to timepieces. In addition to going without a cell phone or a Facebook account, he also doesn’t sport a watch or a clock in his car. His solution—to arrive everywhere an hour and a half early—sets the pair to arguing, and the episode is all the better for the friction. [CW]

WTF #389: Sam Simon
Marc Maron states up front that he’s talking to Sam Simon after finding out about his terminal cancer diagnosis. But Simon retired at 35 and worked on whatever he wanted for the past two decades, and he’s got the stories to show for it. He talks about his days on Taxi and Cheers before discussing the early seasons of The Simpsons, and how he ran the writers’ room as a showrunner. More currently, Maron gets Simon talking about his consulting work on Charlie Sheen’s Anger Management, and how preposterous a 10/90 sitcom deal looks to a guy who spent the majority of his career in television. It’s not a wallowing conversation, more an honest look at sitcom history and the state of the medium from a guy who has no reason to hold back. [KM]

WTF #390: Pamela Adlon
Marc Maron loves a salty dame, and Pamela Adlon is the saltiest to stop by in a while. The King Of The Hill, Louie, and Californication actress ostensibly discusses her voiceover and acting career along with her interesting family life (her deceased father was a blacklisted screenwriter who wrote softcore porn), but she mostly bemoans the difficulties of being a single mother to three adolescent daughters, all of which is of great interest to Maron who is looking at parenthood through the barrel of a gun. Good luck, Marc! [CZ]

You Made It Weird: Rob Bell
You Made It Weird’s first episode with a non-comedian—and its most religion-heavy yet—proves to be one of the more refreshing installments of late. In fact, Rob Bell is clergy. The pastor and theological thinker is not only hip enough to suit YMIW’s casual tone and trade Radiohead or Godspeed You Black Emperor! references with Pete Holmes, but he’s also able to engage with Holmes’ own complex mix of spirituality and doubt. Just as the show’s comedy-heavy episodes have some applications and insight beyond comedy, this installment has plenty to offer people who normally wouldn’t care that much about religion. What comes across is not the charisma of a 21st-century religious leader, but the confidence of someone who can relate to a broad spectrum of experiences. [SG]


THE REST

The Fogelnest Files #36: I Didn’t Get The Memo!: Andy Kindler, Gary The Squirrel, Julie Klausner
The ball-busting that goes on between Gary The Squirrel, Andy Kindler, and Jake Fogelnest is entertaining for a few minutes, but the rapport gets old pretty quickly. The first quarter or so is worth a listen for fans of WFMU’s falsetto-voiced insult puppet; otherwise, this one’s very skippable. [AB]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #114: Listener Michael D.
Listener Michael D. talks about his family’s brutal cycle of abuse in an episode that sounds like a series of abbreviated stories rather than a conversation. [TC]

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #80: Astronaut Ice Cream
After another lengthy break, Mike and Tom return with an episode that even its delightful sci-fi premise can’t save. [DA]

Monday Morning Podcast
As usual, Bill Burr delivers at least a solid handful of good lines, but overall the episode is too long and too dull. [CG]

The Moth: Lauren Slater: Digging Out
Lauren Slater’s Moth entry is narratively rich, covering both her struggle with cancer and a disastrous land purchase, but the telling doesn’t tie it all together thematically. [SG]

My Brother, My Brother And Me #153: God Made A Bridge Troll
While there are a few choice gags in this week’s episode (most notably, the brothers’ plan for a self-help service wherein they simply leave notes saying “I know”), they’re spread too thinly across an otherwise unsuccessful show to make waiting for them worth it. [AB]

Nerdist #357: Kyle Kinane
Although it has the trappings of a great Nerdist episode, this one works in fits and starts before it abruptly ends, leaving the listener wanting more for all the wrong reasons. [DA]

Nerdist #359: Band Of Horses
Chris Hardwick has been quite open about his love of Band Of Horses as of late, so its not surprising this interview is as thorough as it is. But for those that don’t share the same appreciation, it can feel tedious and overly congratulatory. [DA]

Professor Blastoff #105: Emotional Intelligence (w/ Kjell Bjorgen)
Listeners not interested in surprisingly acerbic bickering and a constant struggle to define the topic should skip to the 45-minute mark of this two-hour live episode, when audience questions and a musical break highlight an improved second half. [SM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: India’s Karni Mata Rat Temple
Karni Mata, believed to be the incarnation of Durga, gets short shrift in this rushed and confusing episode that feels a bit too scripted. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Aerosol Cans Work
Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant admit that this topic might not be a home run, and unfortunately that prophecy comes true as they realize there are holes in their research. [DT]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #118: Sparks Nevada’s I’m From Earth Day Special
Thrilling Adventure Hour’s special installment of the Sparks Nevada story is full of playful stuff, including a riff on the concept of fanboys, yet it takes too long for the episode to lock into TAH’s key strength—establishing a cool storyline. [SG]

Walking The Room #151: Sweat And Boys
The hosts hit the mark late with a closing bit on bad parents, but the two seem out of sync in prior segments laden with abandoned riffs and blunt screeds. [SM]

Who Charted? #129: Professional Liar
Comic actor Brian Huskey doesn’t have much in the way of input on the charts, or anything else, for that matter. While he can certainly keep up his end of a pleasant conversation, he doesn’t exactly make this installment particularly memorable. [MS]

Filed Under: Comedy, Awkward.

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