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Everybody visits everybody as podcasters ring in the holidays

Hey, you like podcasts? Make sure you check out Reasonable Discussions, the A.V. Club podcast.

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

Programming note: Podmass will be taking the next two weeks off for the holidays; it will return on January 11.


“You need to be living alone with no women in your life to even consider putting up the smallest piece of Guinness paraphernalia in your home.” —Greg Proops, The Smartest Man In The World

“Let’s get our hands dirty with Yule.” —Travis McElroy, My Brother, My Brother And Me

“Don’t do heroin with your baby. There’s better people to do heroin with.” —Dave Anthony, Walking The Room

“Let me ask you a question: If I can touch a certain part of a man’s neck and immediately kill him, what’s to say a pigeon thrown with precision wouldn’t immediately shatter it?” —Miss Listler (Lennon Parnham) explains why she threw a carrier pigeon at a window, “The Christmas Womptacular”

“Finish strong. Whaddya got?”
“I can’t, I truly can’t.” —Scott Aukerman and Harris Wittels during Harris’ Foam Corner, Comedy Bang! Bang!


Earwolf Presents #19: “The Christmas Womptacular”
Since she debuted way back in July 2010, Marissa Wompler has become one of Comedy Bang! Bang!’s most popular characters, a bubbly teenage intern played with hyperactive zeal by Jessica St. Clair. Wompler has since appeared on six more episodes of the show, and her world has expanded—as these things tend to on Comedy Bang! Bang!—to include its own subset of characters, such as her stepdad, Seth, her on-again/off-again crush, Eric “Gutterballs” Gutterman, and her inappropriately intimate teacher, Miss Listler. With the exception of Miss Listler, whom Lennon Parham debuted this April in episode #154, no one else from Marissa’s life has been on mic, though there’s been a lot of talk about a Wompler spinoff, Womp Up The Jams.

It finally happens this week, with Earwolf Presents dropping “The Christmas Womptacular” and bringing in some all-stars to do it: Jason Mantzoukas as Gutterballs, Brian Huskey (Childrens Hospital, Onion News Network) as Seth, and Parham returning as Listler. Scott Aukerman is also on hand and thrust, oddly, into the role of defending Marissa when the others seem to gang up on her. She’s more angry than bubbly this time around, probably because she has such a difficult time keeping her guests under control, but the ridiculousness comes quickly and settles in for nearly 80 minutes. The secret weapon is Parham, whose deadpan non-sequiturs, bizarre backstory, and intrusive musical cues provide some laugh-out-loud moments. Huskey’s Seth is a good foil for both her and Marissa (his story about punching their dog kills), and Mantzoukas is surprisingly restrained as Gutterballs. Although it’s enjoyable from the start, the Womptacular really hits its stride in the final 20 or so minutes. Here’s hoping it leads to more Wompler-centered episodes in the future. Womp it up! [KR]


The Cory Doctorow Podcast
Cory Doctorow is best known as a novelist and co-editor of Boing Boing, but he’s also a leading voice in advocating for freedom of information and rights of users on the Internet. His podcast, hosted through his personal website Craphound, jumps into the latter two topics with relish. Doctorow usually starts off with a short list of his upcoming tour dates and speaking engagements before reading a recent column he’s written (usually for The Guardian) or an interview. Topics range from access to pharmaceutical companies’ trial information to what happens to your personal information on the Internet after you die. Doctorow’s writing is consistently thought-provoking and engaging, and he has an easy tone that stops the jargon-heavy aspects of his work from sounding totally nonsensical. It’s unfortunate that the podcast is usually readings of previously published essays, though; it’s clear that Doctorow could do so much more with the format. [NC]


The Bugle #217: Silvio’s Christmas Gift
The Bugle finishes the year in typically hilarious fashion as co-hosts John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman start to wonder where all the Christians in England have gone after census info revealed that their numbers have shrunk. Building on this, the two move on to the Pope joining Twitter, ridiculing the pontiff and religion in general. Their transition to other topics, like British media scandals and Silvio Berlusconi, fall a little flat because they’re so euro-centric. That said, the Berlusconi bit offers some great gags from Oliver, who loves tearing into Italy’s political shenanigans. Some of the running gags involving satirical Christmas presents are delightful and help tie the segments together, making for an appropriately fun end of the year. [MG]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #191: 2012 Holiday Spectacular: Harris Wittels, Matt Besser, Paul Rust, Paul F. Tompkins, Jon Daly, Nick Kroll
The annual Comedy Bang! Bang! holiday spectacular is always one of the year’s highlights, as Scott Aukerman packs in a bunch of the show’s regulars for a particularly loose, freewheeling episode punctuated by fits of laughter. Hearing these guys make each other laugh is one of the joys of the episode, and the laughter is occasionally uproarious as Harris Wittels lobs some truly terrible/awesome “jokes” for Harris’ Foam Corner, Paul Rust unloads a new batch of “new no-nos”/“new ho-ho-hos,” Ice-T (Paul F. Tompkins) arrives dressed as an obscure version of Santa, and Jon Daly revives Bill Cosby-Bukowski. There’s also Matt Besser doing a trio of Björk, Neil Young, and Billy Braggart, and Nick Kroll appears as Liz, one of the characters on his funny new Comedy Central sketch show, Kroll Show. At 104 minutes, it’s extra long, jam-packed, bit-dense, and especially enticing for CBB devotees. Drink it in, fans. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: Leonard Maltin, Rob Huebel and Anthony Jeselnik Guest
A Leonard Maltin appearance on Doug Loves Movies is always a treat. He’s consistently pleasant, affable, and insightful, and in this episode he weathers repeated references to Gerard Butler’s genitalia with grace and ease. However, this installment’s breakout star is clearly fan-favorite Anthony Jeselnik, who disperses some very well-timed and brutal barbs throughout the show. Whether Jeselnik is taunting an audience member, making fun of Rob Huebel’s career decisions, or skewering Doug Benson over his meandering storytelling, he is absolutely merciless. In fact, Jeselnik’s Comedy Central Roast appearances may seem a little tame compared to the swift but surgical verbal strikes he deploys in this episode. [MS]

Doug Loves Movies: 12 Guests Of Xmas III
Given the fact that Doug Benson often has trouble reigning in a panel of three or four guests, the third annual “12 Guests Of Xmas” episode of Doug Loves Movies is an ambitious effort, but kudos to Benson for pulling it off. Of course, it’s no accident that notorious cross-talker T.J. Miller is absent from an episode featuring 12 guests and clocking in at around an epic 3 hours.  However, the panel does include the likes of original Leonard Maltin game innovator Brian Posehn, Chris Hardwick, Jimmy Pardo, and Chelsea Peretti, among other fan favorites. Both the interview portions and the spectacular Leonard Maltin tournament make for a good companion to any long holiday commutes. [MS]

The Flop House #116: Rock Of Ages
With Stuart Wellington stuck at work, Hallie Haglund returns to The Flop House as guest co-host to form a triumvirate of Daily Show staffers. Wellington leaves large shoes to fill, but Haglund does a fine job, inadvertently driving home just how dull and vapid Rock Of Ages is by repeatedly becoming engrossed in the mundane activities of Dan McCoy’s cat when she can’t stay focused on the movie discussion at hand. She also shines as she joins Elliott Kalan to tag team a marathon mailbag songs, much to the sighs of McCoy. All three hosts’ riffing is on point, yet again showcasing the show’s knack for turning talk of bland movies into terrific comedy. [CG]

Freakonomics #104: Have A Very Homo Economicus Christmas
Stephen Dubner drops by Marketplace to discuss the worth of gift-giving. Economically, the entire process of getting presents for friends and loved ones is incredibly inefficient (people get what they don’t want, and undervalue what they are given), but instead of trying to convince the world to forego wrapped boxes under the Christmas tree, Dubner presents rules for holiday shopping. Most people place way too much importance on how their gift will go over, tying themselves into knots choosing particular presents. Dubner’s advice is “don’t overthink it, and don’t overspend,” and realize that one gift is not going to change anyone’s life. The back of the podcast is a holiday interview with Steven Leavitt, the co-writer of Freakonomics, which is a fun treat for fans. [NC]

How Was Your Week #93: Skin Flesh: Michael Ian Black, Will Hines
Julie Klausner welcomes two very funny people for two conversations that are unexpectedly serious and frank, and the result is a solid episode from start to finish. In the first half of the show, actor and comedian Will Hines joins Klausner for an illuminating discussion on creativity and inspiration, focusing on Stephen King, Joseph Campbell, Spy magazine, and ’70s horror movies. The conversation is simultaneously serious-minded and fun, and offers many insights into the ways that both Klausner and Hines go about their craft. Klausner’s interview with Michael Ian Black builds on this theme, as she focuses on his latest memoir, You’re Not Doing It Right. Klausner’s interest in and sensitivity toward Black’s family and professional struggles—which are at the center of his book—allow for Black’s self-deprecating humor to shine through. [DF]

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #73: Gingerbread Cookies
In the third episode where Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh are on the run from the evil Hostess corporation, they once again hit on all the key points that made their recent return so great. Black and Cavanagh let their riffs dictate the flow of the episode, making quick work of both their snack and their life on the lam. It’s a breezy episode that proves what viewers already know: that Mike and Tom are not only the top of the snack game, they’re the only ones worth going to. [DA]

The Moth: Catherine Smyka And Lisa Schuldt: StorySLAM Favorites
The Moth uses this episode to document the expansion of its quick-hit StorySLAM events, drawing selections from storytellers in Seattle and Milwaukee. While the StorySLAM episodes of the podcast tend to favor punchy, twisted tales, both selections this time are a little gentler. Catherine Smyka’s story about coming out to her grandmother is touching but takes a backseat to Milwaukee’s Lisa Schuldt, who recounts almost losing her dog to an icy pond, mastering the Moth art of drawing humor from tense and embarrassing situations. [SG]

My Brother, My Brother And Me #133: Candlenights The IIIrd
It’s the third Candlenights funtacular, the McElroys’ “non-denominational, non traditional” holiday show where the questions are holiday-themed and swearing is off limits. (Although the subject matter turns to S&M toys by the halfway mark.) The McElroys actually manage some pretty good advice this time out, arguing that Christmas is about direct connection between people, and physical gifts (as opposed to online credit or gift cards) are the best option. The extended riffing is also successful this week: There’s always a danger of the McElroy brothers’ digressions becoming a series of in-jokes, but this week’s dissection of how exactly Frosty the Snowman would react to his impending melting hits the sweet spot as it spirals out into absurdity. [NC]

Nerdist #298: Paul Gilmartin
Paul Gilmartin’s Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast focuses on the deepest, darkest parts of human existence, while much of Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist dedicates itself to being lighthearted and joyful. Here, Gilmartin joins Hardwick for an episode that finds an interesting middle ground. Hardwick still tends to laugh off some of the heavier subjects, but Gilmartin’s ability to continue, undaunted, bridges the gap between the heavy and the nerdy. While it’s interesting to hear Hardwick open up about his own issues, it’s Gilmartin’s ability to balance the harsh and the heartfelt that makes the interview so dynamic. The episode fluctuates greatly, but when the two podcasters reach a balance, it shows just how great the podcast medium can be. [DA]

Never Not Funny #1126: Banging A Gong With Scott Aukerman
Both Scott Aukerman’s profile and workload have increased significantly in the past year, but he finds time again to make his traditional late-season appearance on Never Not Funny, and he’s no less willing to play the amiable jokester of seasons past. Where the humor from past appearances was derived almost exclusively from dick jokes, though, Aukerman plays it mostly straight in the first half—possibly in deference to Jimmy Pardo’s epididymitis flare-up—instead reminiscing with Pardo on their early days together, including the late Comedy Death Ray show at the UCB Theater. But once the room gets to talking about Kiss, Aukerman turns on the silly, giddily dropping juvenile jokes and musical trivia, and fittingly wrapping up with the best elements the show has to offer. [SM]


Radiolab: Bliss
This episode takes a fascinating look into the feeling of bliss: what it is, how we come to experience it, and what it means to us. The centerpiece is the story of Charles Bliss (real name Karl Blitz), a concentration camp survivor who created a language based on symbols he hoped would remove the possibility to manipulate language, as Hitler and his Nazi party had. What happened to his proposed language is completely unexpected, and the emotion is palpable thanks to the story’s use of mixed audio, using both voiceover and tapes of Bliss. It’s a curious twist on the meaning of the word “bliss,” in this case, literally a man’s name. Other stories—like an adventurer exploring the South Pole and a man who studied the patterns of snowflakes—take their own approaches to the word and its meaning, creating a wonderful collage of how one word conveys so much in such a variety of ways. [MG]

Sklarbro Country #125: That’s So Schaal: Kristen Schaal, Kimmy Gatewood
Kristen Schaal (is a horse!) is on a huge roll at the moment, with her roles on 30 Rock, Bob’s Burgers, and Gravity Falls, and she continues to be a delightful podcast guest sitting in with the Sklars. Though she barely fits the “casual sports fan” description, she holds her own talking about failing as a tennis player and following the Broncos while growing up in Denver. Her stories about Flight Of The Conchords and her comedy partnership with Kurt Braunohler are also insightfully funny. [KM]

Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #30: Julius Sharpe, Rob Kutner, Dan Van Kirk
Late-night writer Julius Sharpe stops by for the first half of the Sklars’ weekly bonus episode, where they run through some ridiculously strange stories, such as a Chinese man divorcing his wife over an ugly baby and a 19-year-old who posted a YouTube video bragging about stealing a car and robbing a bank. Comedian Rob Kutner also discusses his book on the apocalypse, and the Sklars get in as many end-of-the-world jokes as they can before the Mayan date comes and goes without incident. [KM]

The Smartest Man In The World #187: Vampires
Greg Proops is in Ireland for “Vampires,” and devotes most of the podcast’s run to the dearth of Bram Stoker memorials in Dublin. The Dracula creator is one of Ireland’s most unsung writers, which gives Proops ample opportunity to riff on horror movies, Twilight, and the fact that nobody actually reads James Joyce, whose work is substantially more celebrated in his home country than Stoker’s. Proops’ take on Dracula, which involves a stuffed animal he purchased earlier in the day called “Kittens McTavish,” starts off straight-faced before diving into the absurd. The crowd is rowdier than usual, and some of the more courageous hecklers are dealt with both by Proops’ acerbic manner and a live reading of W.B. Yeats’ “A Drunken Man’s Praise of Sobriety.” [NC]

Sound Opinions #368: The 2012 Holiday Spectacular
Sound Opinions friend Andy Cirzan is one of those folks who takes an obsessive, crate-digging approach to Christmas music, and this episode is mostly occupied with his annual holiday playlist (available for download here). It’s a fun mix, with Cirzan focusing in on obscure Christmas-themed recordings from regional soul labels—so even those not in a Yuletide mood can enjoy the durable songcraft of late-’60s and early-’70s R&B. There are some amusingly novel moments, including a singer who wishes to get hit by a snowball “thrown by somebody who cares.” [SG]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Why Was Juana Called “La Loca”? Part 2
Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdy conclude their chronicle of the eventual first queen of Spain, Juana of Castille—also known as Juana the Mad—whose rule was disrupted by her father’s machinations. Spain was newly forged from of the kingdoms of Castille and Aragon, and it would seem that the easiest way to avert civil war would be to find a scapegoat, so in June of 1506, a treaty was written that acknowledged Juana as deranged and unfit to rule. Though her father, Ferdinand, regretted his mistake immediately, it was too late, and Juana held a slippery claim to the throne the rest of her life. The hosts wisely conclude that perhaps Juana was not mad at all, and this episode functions as a centuries-delayed exoneration. Juana’s efforts to retain her dignity and keep a chaotic new country in one piece make for a noteworthy episode. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Subterranean Cities
In this episode, Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey take listeners on a tour of underground civilizations. Perhaps best known as the location of Indiana Jones’ grail, the city of Petra was carved into the cliff faces of ancient Jordan as long ago as 312 B.C., and only 15 percent has been excavated thus far. When the hosts abruptly move on to the next city, there’s definitely a feeling that it would be interesting to hear an entire episode about Petra, but it’s worth it to learn of the bizarre, buried version of the original 1800s Seattle. As fascinating as these cities are, this may be as close as most get to exploring them: Many of these cities have their own dedicated police force ensuring no unprepared adventurers accidentally hurt themselves. [DT]

Walking The Room #134: Marc Maron
Followers of Dave Anthony or Marc Maron on Twitter should be well aware of the comedians’ ongoing battle to emotionally destroy each other with increasingly hilarious hostility. Anthony and Maron lose little of that playful animosity when they come face-to-face in the closet; if anything, it’s encouraged by neutral judge Greg Behrendt, who’s too positive to join in the scrum but more than willing to cheer on what he calls “emotional mumbly-peg.” The two eventually take a break for an actual friendly conversation, which progresses from drier topics like Maron’s career and life arc to more WTR-esque banter on the redeeming culture of the South and unfortunate doctor appointments. But that sense of combativeness never truly relents, staying strong and disarmingly funny right down to the bitter end. [SM]

Who Charted? #107: Rock Your Brody: Brody Stevens
In the past, comedian Brody Stevens hasn’t always been the most stellar Who Charted? guest, but this time around he’s responsible for some really compelling listening. Stevens kicks off the episode on a high note by singing a brilliant autobiographical parody of the Backstreet Boys track “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” Stevens is at his most entertaining when he’s getting deeply introspective, particularly when he goes down a lengthy rabbit hole trying to explain how he is “10 percent gay.” Plus, it’s always a delight when Howard Kremer’s grouchy and gravelly brother Lee pops his head into the studio. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #344: Jon Favreau
The influence Second City (where he got his start as an audience volunteer) had on Jon Favreau is evident as the actor and director exhibits a “pay it forward” attitude during his chat with Maron, meditating on all the people who made his career possible, all the legends he’s gotten to work with, and all the favors he’s been happy to pay back. Favreau and Maron take a nice, long journey from his D&D-playing childhood to his breakthrough in Rudy to the unlikely success of Swingers.  Favreau, a fan of the podcast (he does a passable Maron impression), is remarkably relatable and down to earth as he discusses the disappointment of Cowboys And Aliens and how much fun it is to see Elf make the holiday TV rotation. [CZ]

WTF With Marc Maron #343: Dylan Moran
Unexpectedly great episodes of WTF typically feature a very funny comedian ditching the topic of comedy entirely to dive down a philosophical rabbit hole with Marc Maron. That’s exactly what happens when Black Books star Dylan Moran heads to the garage, breaking down the religious history of Ireland over the past 50 years, his own personal philosophy, and how he and Maron view each other’s countries as foreigners and as performers. It’s one of the best episodes of the year for Maron, who draws out highly intellectual material from Moran while not bleeding over into self-indulgence. [KM]  

You Made It Weird #111: Mike Birbiglia
It’s hard to imagine a more ideal You Made It Weird guest than Mike Birbiglia: Like host Pete Holmes, he’s a master of incorporating a certain cuddly shyness into his comedy, and both can get introspective at length without becoming too heavy or grating. Naturally, the result is two-and-a-half-hour episode, whopping even by recent YMIW standards. But it manages to strike the balance Holmes is going for, between thoughtful interview and free-form comedian-on-comedian banter. It obviously meanders at times, but it’s a mostly very enjoyable meeting between two of the most refreshing comedic voices out there today. [SG]


The Best Show On WFMU
The notorious Four Loko party in 2010 and Storage Wars Christmas in 2011 prove to be tough acts to follow for this more subdued version of The Best Show’s annual all-star holiday celebration. [TC]

The Fogelnest Files #14: 90’s Rock Retrospective
While Jake Fogelnest’s reminiscence session with Australian musician Ben Lee yields a few entertaining moments, the two spend most of the episode spinning their wheels. It’s worth it for those unfamiliar with the early-’90s New York City rock scene, but otherwise feels like Fogelnest is on nostalgia autopilot. [AB]

The J.V. Club #41: Leslie Bibb
Janet Varney’s conversation with actress Leslie Bibb lingers for too long on small talk before getting to the discussion of Bibb’s turbulent adolescence. [OS]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #91: Laurie Kilmartin
Few episodes of The Mental Illness Happy Hour are breezy affairs, but this heartrending installment featuring Laurie Kilmartin bravely recalling experiences with an abusive coach is a particularly difficult listen. [TC]

Mohr Stories #114: Adam Carolla
In this de facto bonus episode of the Ace show, Carolla and Mohr riff on airbrush art, right-wing talk-show hosts, goat cheese, and the difficulty of sleeping on planes—speaking of which, zzzzzz. [DXF]

Mohr Stories #115: Otto Peterson
Ventriloquist Otto Peterson of the Otto & George act—a foul-mouthed ventriloquist whose dummy reenacts the JFK assassination—weighs in on The Sopranos and opens up about his cult status, Buddy Hackett, the odd business of having chemistry with an inanimate object, and his appearance on Mohr’s late sitcom Action. [DXF]

Monday Morning Podcast
With the exception of a couple one-liners scattered throughout and some heartfelt thoughts on Patrice O’Neal somewhere near the middle, there’s little of note in this week’s episode. [CG]

Nerdist #296: John Hodgman returns!
John Hodgman’s return episode isn’t bad as much as it’s meandering. Hodgman and Hardwick discuss the end of world and hypothetical post-apocalyptic situations, but it loses steam all too quickly. [DA]

Nerdist #297: CM Punk
Professional wrestler CM Punk proves to be an interesting guest, but the show falters due to the fact that it functions more as Punk and Hardwick getting to know each other than as an informative discussion. [DA]

Professor Blastoff #83: Mayans
Even the hosts admit this episode is a little disjointed, as Kyle Dunnigan’s literal phoning-in and a lackluster approach to the timely premise prevent the usual rapport from cohering. [SM]

Stuff You Should Know: How Do Condoms Work?
The hosts deserve some credit for research, but lame dick jokes and Chuck Bryant’s awkward lack of awareness on what to do with a condom’s reservoir make this episode skippable. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Lab-grown Meat: Order Up!
As fringe sciences go, lab-grown meat has disappointingly little research worth sharing. Of special note, though, is the announcement that the talented hosts are getting their own TV show on the Science Channel. [DT]

The Todd Glass Show #79:Tom Martin
This installment starts out on an upbeat and exuberant note, but then takes a chilling turn when an instance of child abuse on an episode of Good Times is analyzed. [MS]

You Made It Weird #110: Ian Karmel
Pete Holmes and Ian Karmel descend quickly into a morass of impenetrable riffing and never manage to emerge into something approaching an informative discussion. [GK]