Edgar Wright stops by the garage, and The Tobolowsky Files returns

Edgar Wright stops by the garage, and The Tobolowsky Files returns

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

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“The balance is most likely to be too much ‘top-downery’ than too much ‘bottom-uppery.’” —House Of Lords member Matt Ridley, discussing politics on Freakonomics

“I wanted to point out to you, as well, that Google and Facebook and Twitter, and all the benign social media that you use every day of your life, is also part of the giant evil icky paradigm.” —Greg Proops, The Smartest Man In The World

“When December 17 becomes December 18, then the show is dead. It is dead and you will all cry and be sad for about two days. Then, you’ll realize that there’s 9 million other shows to listen to. None of them as good as this one, but you’ll make do... Or will you?” —Tom Scharpling talks about the impending passing of his radio program, The Best Show On WFMU

“This year, Thor is taking on his biggest opponent yet: Alzheimer’s.” —The McElroys plug the latest Thor movie, My Brother, My Brother And Me

“It’s so strange to me, learning about his experience—that he was relatively left alone while expressing pretty publicly this interest in the Soviet Union and communism during the peak of the Cold War. I thought if you even wore the color red, people would be like ‘Communist! Get ’im!’’” —Josh Clark on Lee Harvey Oswald’s anti-American beliefs, Stuff You Should Know

“That guy’s like G.G. Allin. He is a legend.” —Julie Klausner on Rob Ford,
How Was Your Week?

“I think about The Kids In The Hall, four straight guys and me. I think in many ways what we represented was healing between straight men and gay men. They had to forgive each other. Well, we had to forgive you. We have nothing to feel bad about.” —Scott Thompson, The Mental Illness Happy Hour

“Tampons, toilet paper, and condoms—those are the worst things. Even just buying toilet paper, it’s like announcing to the world, ‘I shit out of my bottom!’” —Scott Aukerman, Comedy Bang! Bang!

THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU
The kinder, gentler Tom Scharpling of the last year couldn’t stay forever. Even with all of the goodwill surrounding the show’s final episodes, the Scharpling on-air persona—who would periodically threaten to punch a combative caller’s teeth down his throat—returns this installment. An extended stretch of atrocious calls brings out the demons in the host, who wishes for one caller’s death and instantly hangs up on others. Once the fury passes, the episode takes on a different tone with a giddy, exceptional appearance by Jon Wurster as aging street tough The Gorch, an all-time great Scharpling and Wurster creation. Like recent check-ins from Timmy Von Trimble and Bryce Prefontaine, it’s a delightful entry that likely doubles as the iconic character’s WFMU farewell. The 13-year-old show is down to its final 12 hours. [TC]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #256: Raw Copera: Brendon Small, Cameron Esposito, James Adomian
Cameron Esposito hosts the stand-up show that has taken the place of the old Comedy Bang! Bang! show at UCB, so it only  makes sense that she’d be on the podcast—though it’s surprising that she’s just now making her debut and having to share the episode with the also-great Brendon Small of Metalocalypse. Small is less chatty than Esposito and eventual guest Jesse Ventura (James Adomian), so he fades into the background a bit as time goes on, but it’s an enjoyable episode altogether. More Cameron Esposito, please. [KR]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #257: Nuts As A Pile Of Nuts: Will Forte, Paul F. Tompkins
It’s rare to find someone who can make meandering so endearing. Scott Aukerman is good at rambling through any particular episode of Comedy Bang! Bang!, but Paul F. Tompkins is the master. Whenever Tompkins shows up as the ghost of Richard Harrow, the gravelly voiced, half-faced sniper from Boardwalk Empire, things almost derail under his ghostly nonsense. The episode “Murderer Heaven” is the best and most original example of this, but this week greatly expands the canon of insane things that happen when you die, like building ladders out of skeletons and only being afraid of the ghosts of poison ivy plants. Will Forte plays the straight man in an amusing lead-in, but really shines when he assumes the role of Dexter Morgan’s ghostly disembodied voice. The whole episode entertainingly rambles from front to back, and even though it gets bizarre, it’s always funny. [MK]

Doug Loves MoviesLeonard Maltin, Peter Segal, Paul F. Tompkins, Clare Kramer
At this point, Clare Kramer’s reign as Leonard Maltin Game champion seems unstoppable, and Doug Benson’s joke about the pregnant actress giving birth on the show seem more and more likely. The chat portion is enhanced by Paul F. Tompkins assuming his Werner Herzog character. Tompkins’ impression of the German film director reading a fortune cookie is particularly inspired. Although Benson allows the chatting to run a little long, he devotes the entire game portion to The Leonard Maltin Game, since this week assembles such a well-matched panel. [MS]

The Flop House #139: Star Wars: Episode II: Attack Of The Clones
The awfulness of the Star Wars prequels—and of Attack Of The Clones in particular—has already been documented on the Internet much more thoroughly than it ever needed to be. And yet, because the Flop House hosts have such a well-established modus operandi and camaraderie, their take still feels fresh. And though they are all well-versed with the Star Wars universe, they each have at least slightly different relationships with the original films and with the sequels, which enables them to give Attack Of The Clones a truly fair shake. It might suffer from comparison to the last episode’s Foodfight! madness, but so would every episode of the show. [CG]

The Fogelnest Files #64: Heavy Metal Parking Lot: Jeff Krulik
The great thing about Jake Fogelnest’s interest in the niche and the underground is that the artists and creators whose work he respects (or even obsesses over) are rarely out of reach. This week’s guest, documentarian Jeff Krulik, is a perfect example of that. Krulik is not only clearly excited to be on the podcast, but also noticeably grateful that Fogelnest has taken such an interest in his work. The piece in question, Heavy Metal Parking Lot, is a documentary Krulik made in 1986 by talking to young Judas Priest fans in the parking lot at one of the band’s shows. It has since become a cult classic and an important part of Fogelnest’s personal cultural development. Krulik isn’t a big name, but, as Fogelnest’s goal is to highlight the specificity of people’s stories, and this week’s episode does exactly that. [AB]

Freakonomics: What Do Skating Rinks, Ultimate Frisbee, And The World Have In Common?
Spontaneous order is “the idea that people can be quite good at organizing and policing themselves.” This week’s episode dissects the concept, and asks when, if ever, it’s applicable. This leads Stephen Dubner into a discussion of ultimate Frisbee, which, except at its most professional level, is self-refereed. Ultimate, at first glance, is a perfect example of spontaneous order: It’s a fully functioning game that relies on the players adhering to a code of conduct without outside adjudicators. But right now the sport is beginning to experiment with referees (and the professional league has them) in order to sort out strange loopholes the self-policing method has created. Ultimate suggests that spontaneous order is possible, but not always the most efficient method of organization. Dubner also interviews former senator (and former NBA player) Bill Bradley, to discuss spontaneous order in relationship to sports and politics. [NC]

Hang Up And Listen: The Death To Punting Edition
The HUAL interview with Arkansas high school football coach Kevin Kelley, who never punts, is fascinating: It reveals that higher-level coaches are so worried about keeping their jobs that they remain risk-averse. Professional sports have been slow to embrace the advanced statistical analysis available in the modern era. Baseball gradually gave over to Moneyball tactics, and in the aftermath of that revolution NBA franchises were even quicker to snap up analysts before much of the data could be tracked publicly for all the teams to see. But Kelley reveals that college and pro coaches worry so much about other coaches’ jobs that it serves as enough of a deterrent to keep punting alive. [KM]

Harmontown #80: Harmontown At Largo
Most of the time the loose, unrestricted time limit on Harmontown can be a great asset, allowing for many as many funny tangents as Dan Harmon and his guests can muster. But occasionally an enforced runtime actually helps, as it does this week with Harmon recording at Largo before previewing two episodes of the upcoming Adult Swim animated series Rick And Morty. Co-creator Justin Roiland hops onstage first to unfurl his ridiculous alien conspiracy theories, and is quickly joined by now-former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver (who guests in an episode) and series regular Sarah Chalke (Scrubs). The absence of D&D is a bit of a bummer, but an episode of Harmontown that clocks in at under 45 minutes is a thing of beauty. [KM]

How Was Your Week #142: Jill Soloway, Denny Tedesco: “Betty 1, 2, 3”
It’s been a while since Julie Klausner has featured two interview segments on one episode, and the return of the format this week pays dividends. In the opening chat, filmmaker Denny Tedesco talks about his documentary on the Wrecking Crew, the legendary group of ’60s session musicians that Tedesco’s father played with. He doesn’t come off as very engaged or enthusiastic, but Klausner’s interest in the group keeps the short interview interesting. The second half with Jill Soloway is much better, and focuses on Soloway’s career as a TV writer and her ideas about feminism. Soloway is a regular HWYW listener, and her familiarity with Klausner and the show makes for a candid, effortless conversation. [DF]

Improv4Humans #108: I Do Mother-F-N-Improv: Adam McKay, Mike Still
Improv4Humans ultimately depends on the quality of its guests, because a group that never jibes can drive an episode into the ground. Thankfully this week’s guests, Mike Still and Adam McKay, have a conversational flow with Besser that pulsates from the small-talk segments and feeds into some great scenes. Part of this can be attributed to McKay, whose penchant for improvisation adds a unique flair to the episode. In a few particularly entertaining bits, Besser revisits last week’s insane video and takes a ridiculous (and hilarious) stance defending an elderly bully. Also of note is McKay’s level-headed response to the decade-old beef with fellow SNL alum Jim Breuer. Improv4Humans would do well to follow this episode’s lead, and continue to expand the scope of conversations occurring on the show. [MK]

Judge John Hodgman: Resisting A Rest 
This week’s major case is, in likelihood, real, though it sounds suspiciously like an elaborate theater project, not a plausible domestic dispute: Tom is so obsessed with the Frisbee team sport Ultimate that he not only plays in a travel league, and not only gets hurt, but plays hurt, and wants to continue playing, because he’s entering his prime, man, and he needs to get back in the game. His fiancée, Juliet—assuming this isn’t a put-on—doesn’t share his passion. Over 45 minutes of deliberation, the judge and the defendant explore the changing face of Ultimate; it’s not just for hippies anymore. The docket-clearing conflicts are more universal: In a timely case, Hodgman rules on how sisters should coordinate gifts for their mother. And in a quick third hearing, a couple’s attempt to split a dessert takes an ugly turn. [DXF]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #142: Scott Thompson
A live Mental Illness Happy Hour episode, which requires guests to open deep emotional wounds in front of an audience, should be doomed from the start. This installment with Scott Thompson manages to find that elusive balance between performance and confessional conversation, making the episode feel like a real achievement for the program. Thompson initially sounds uneasy about the setup as he laughs nervously throughout the first few minutes of the recording, but quickly settles into a conversation that’s extremely vulnerable, contemplative and funny. The Kids In The Hall alumnus talks with a keen sense of self-awareness about harrowing moments in his life, including witnessing a mass shooting at his high school and his 2009 cancer diagnosis. It’s a fast-moving discussion that’s likely among the best uses of about 90 minutes this week. [TC]

My Brother, My Brother And Me #176: Wizard Beard Decade
The McElroys have another strong episode this week as they improvise some impressively imaginative bits. While the intro segment often serves as a throwaway warm-up piece, the brothers actually turn it into one of the strongest stretches of the podcast—probably because the topic (the new Thor movie) fits squarely into their nerdy collective wheelhouse. But this week’s intro catapults into absurdity, from positing that an emo/brony teenager looking for dating advice is actually a conceptual marketing ploy to an analysis of the prevalence of Maid In Manhattan DVDs. It’s another shorter episode due to scheduling conflicts, but those kinds of contingencies seem to work well for the trio, forcing it to pick up the pace and tighten up its back-and-forth. [AB]

Nerdist #440: Chris Elliott
Guest Chris Elliott is clearly on the press circuit for the new season of his Adult Swim show Eagleheart, but this episode focuses more generally on the entire spectrum of his influential career. Naturally there’s plenty of talk of his tenure as a writer and on-air personality on The Late Show With David Letterman. The most heartbreaking segment is the discussion of Elliott’s underappreciated 1994 cinematic masterpiece Cabin Boy. Elliott discusses how Tim Burton pulled out of the movie’s production to work on Ed Wood and how the movie’s poor critical and commercial performance nearly ended his career before getting cast on an ill-fated year of Saturday Night Live. [MS]

Nerdist #441: Oliver Stone
In his visit to Nerdist, Oliver Stone comes across a slightly eccentric history teacher—one who shares stories and conspiracy theories as if they were one and the same. This will undoubtedly be a polarizing episode, not so much because of Stone’s political views (which he is very open about), but because it essentially forgoes chatting about the entertainment industry to become a lesson on American history. (Stone is there to promote his documentary series Untold History Of The United States.) Chris Hardwick prompts Stone with a few questions here and there, but the writer/director dominates the conversation with stories about his time in the Vietnam War, his complaints against the Bush administration, and, of course, his theories on the Kennedy assassination. Stone is a gifted storyteller, and even those who don’t agree with his opinions may very well enjoy hearing him talk about them anyway. [CS]

Nerdist #442: Sasha Grey
Sasha Grey has taken an unusual path to fame, and she’ll probably be either totally unfamiliar or intimately familiar to Nerdist listeners. Grey is an actress and writer who got her start in pornography, but she doesn’t fit any stereotypes about former porn actresses. Instead, she is intellectual and articulate, with a mature perspective on the entertainment industry. Whether discussing her porn career or her European book tour, Grey is frank and opinionated, but charming. The conversation feels a tad unfocused at times—Grey is there to promote her erotic novel The Juliette Society—but overall it’s a fascinating episode that highlights a smart woman with a distinctive career path. [CS]

RadiolabAn Ice Cold Case
There have been a handful of stories about frozen men being found and thawed. Usually, these cavemen hilariously struggle to assimilate into modern culture, or gawk at space-age products like moon pies. This week’s Radiolab concerns itself with a real-life frozen man, but thawing him doesn’t bring him back to life. Discovered in 1991 in the Alps, a frozen body nicknamed Ötzi is the centerpiece of the story, and it’s one of the more fascinating the Radiolab team has pulled out in a while. At first, the hikers who found him assumed they stumbled into a mountaineering accident, but upon closer inspection, realized they found a dead man thousands of years old, and perfectly preserved to boot. “An Ice Cold Case” shines as it takes us through what happened to Ötzi, and provokes thought when it scientifically imagines his final hours. [MK]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Edward Jenner, Father Of Vaccines
Hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey use the ancient disease known as smallpox as a window into the life of vaccine creator Edward Jenner. Smallpox has existed since pre-history and killed more than 300 million people in the 20th century. The disease’s own fearful place in the cultures of the world is outlined for much of the podcast, making Jenner’s accomplishments all the more remarkable. Using research used during a Boston outbreak, Jenner helped evolve the seemingly medieval treatments by using cowpox treatments as a standard. Jenner makes for an interesting individual given his hobbies as a violinist and balloonist, but the genesis of his solution of using material from cow sores to inoculate humans is surprising and interesting. His experiments are a bit unsettling, but fascinating to hear. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Who Killed JFK?
Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination by delving surprisingly deeply into the theories of what exactly went down on that fateful day. Although Clark notes at the beginning that it is unlikely we will ever be a true answer that will satisfy the masses, the more plausible of the conspiracy theories are given their due. There is also a reassuring amount of credence given to the surface story—that we already know what happened and it is just strange enough to be true. We already know which direction shots came from, and who fired them. But Clark and Bryant walk listeners through the timeline, the “magic bullet,” and the backstory of Lee Harvey Oswald to a satisfying end. [DT]

The Tobolowsky Files #60: Another Second Chance
It’s been a sporadic year for Stephen Tobolowsky’s podcast, but whenever he finds the time to release a new set of stories, it’s worth taking an hour to listen. “Another Second Chance” peaks early with a story of Tobolowsky in second grade, proudly announcing he read an entire book in one night and being immediately reprimanded as a liar by his teacher. (“Teachers can make a difference in a student’s life.”) This sparks an episode all about education—from teachers, parents, and then becoming the teacher as a first-time parent. Tobolowsky’s loquacious approach delays the impact of succinct and witty observations at the end, but that doesn’t make his hyper-detailed recollections any less compelling. [KM]

The Todd Glass Show #129: James Adomian
James Adomian is the kind of guest that has the energy to last an entire three-hour episode of The Todd Glass Show and then immediately be able to go a second round. It wouldn’t be an Adomian appearance without impressions, particularly his well-placed Tom Leykis send-up and his impression of Leykis as a blowhard waiter.  Glass and Admonian have a lot of fun inserting their own commentary into existing songs, particularly “Bim Bam Baby” by Frank Sinatra and “Strokin’” by Clarence Carter. This leads to some surgically executed impromptu Sinatra impressions where Adomian riffs on the crooner’s overt chauvinism.  [MS]

WTF #445: Edgar Wright
Marc Maron’s interview with Simon Pegg was so great that Edgar Wright’s appearance in the garage initially has a lot to live up to. It starts slow, but eventually gets rolling as Wright steamrolls through Maron’s difficulty understanding his accent and unfamiliarity with Wright’s filmography. Wright has an encyclopedic knowledge of his influences, and cataloging the early days of his career is a great overview of the wünderkind director’s start. The highlight is Wright discussing how Happy Days takes the sad, older “cool guy” character type that appears in American Graffiti and Dazed And Confused and twists it into crowd favorite The Fonz. Now all Maron needs is an hour with Nick Frost to complete his Cornetto interview trilogy. [KM]

You Made It Weird: David Wolfe
This week’s show is a change of pace insofar as David Wolfe, a raw vegan/nutritionist/health advocate, is not an entertainer. It’s not a change of pace because talking to Wolfe allows for Holmes to elaborate on one of his favorite topics: his diet. As such, this episode will undoubtedly polarize listeners. On the one hand, Wolfe is way more into the alternative, spiritual, juice-fueled lifestyle than even Holmes is. The conversation quickly spirals out from a discussion about healthy living to Wolfe’s theories about alchemy, alien abduction, and universal consciousness. He claims, among other things, to possess the technology to create gold from spring water. For anyone who doesn’t believe in Holmes’ health philosophy, this one will definitely be a struggle. For the “believers” in the audience, three hours is still probably too much. That said, he’s definitely a kick to listen to for a while, even if you don’t believe much (or even any) of what he’s talking about. [AB]


THE REST

Doug Loves Movies: Josh Sneed, Bob Biggerstaff, Geoff Tate
Doug Benson ventures out to Cincinnati, Ohio, to record one of the least memorable episodes of the show’s run.  [MS]

Monday Morning Podcast
It’s clear that Bill Burr was exhausted when he recorded this week’s episode because he struggles to find anything at all to talk about. [CG]

The Moth: Dana Goodyear: You Are What You Eat 
Do you want to know how much placenta glistens when you cook it? Dana Goodyear thinks you do. [DJ]

Never Not Funny
#1319: Jimmy Dore
Jimmy Pardo and fellow Chicagoan Jimmy Dore go way back, and they have an enjoyable conversation, but it’s non-essential this week. [KR]

Professor Blastoff #131: Animal IQ (w/ Janet Varney)
The episode starts strong but strays fast as the hatch devolves into personal pet stories and sing-alongs. [NJ]

Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #78: Mo Mandel, Jason Nash
It becomes apparent early on that Mo Mandel’s style of comedy is decidedly more controversial than the Sklars’, and while they’re amicable enough to gloss over, say, a flippant rape joke, there’s a bit of discomfort lingering throughout. Which is a shame, since there’s a lot of funny stuff here. [AB]

Sklarbro Country
#174: Jumping The Korean Baby Ghost: Nick Swardson, Chris Cox
Nick Swardson gives two impressions on a loop this week: The first is Michael Caine asking to be eaten out. The second is Swardson as a functional alcoholic. Neither is amusing. [DJ] 

The Smartest Man In The World: Fords 
Distorted audio makes it a challenge to get through this week’s Proopcast, but the unusual tone and target make it worth the effort. Rather than delivering dire admonitions, Proops keeps things light as he blasts Google, skewers Rob Ford, and defends unions. [DXF]

Sound Opinions #416: 2013 Turkey Shoot
Recounting the biggest disappointing records should be more fun, though Jim DeRogatis’ monologue about evolving taste when discussing My Bloody Valentine’s mbv is worth a listen. [KM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Babushka Lady
The identity of the Kennedy assassination witness known as the Babushka Lady remains shrouded in mystery, meaning there’s not much to be gained from hearing her story. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Chocolate Works
Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant have some fun things to say about chocolate, but it’s an especially laid-back episode light on surprising information. [DT]

Who Charted? #155: Take Out The B-I-R
Who Charted? works best when Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack can cultivate a conversation with one guest. Having three members of The Birthday Boys in studio doesn’t foster the most in-depth discussion.  [MS]

WTF #444: CM Punk
Professional wrestler CM Punk is gregarious enough in his conversation with Marc Maron, but ultimately his story will only be of interest to wrestling fans. [CG]

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