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Gillian Jacobs keeps gold-digging, and sci-fi on trial at Judge John Hodgman

The best podcasts for the week of Feb. 15-21

Podcast suggestions and comments can be directed to podmass@avclub.com.


“I didn’t realize that I’ve had DSL forever.”
“Like, Dick Sucking Lips? We all knew, Jeff.” —Jeff Davis and Kumail Nanjiani discuss net neutrality, Harmontown

“Why did I just cry about a toaster?” —Carrie, defendant, Judge John Hodgman

“When it was 4 o’clock and those stacks let go, you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s just dark now. And why do I feel so greasy?’” —Billy Gardell on growing up in industrial Pennsylvania, WTF

“I got into this pattern where I was checking my name every two seconds, and there were, like, 45 new mentions of me. All negative.”—A warlord uses Twitter, This American Life

“I know it’s Fellini and I know it’s genius, but remember: We’re selling sex and violence.” —Roger Corman’s advice to Allan Arkush for cutting the trailer for Amarcord, The Fogelnest Files

“Bland food—it’s like, bland life!” —Josh Clark on needing to season your food, Stuff You Should Know

“He’s like the Katamari of politics. He just keeps rolling and things keep rolling with him.” —Holly Frey on former Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis, Stuff You Missed In History Class

“It’s a big story, though, Michael Vick and Lil’ Bow Wow. They sent my kids home from school when this broke.” —Adam McKay, on the media’s overreaction to Vick’s peculiar hair-product venture and choice of business partner, Sklarbro Country 

“If you want a tip, here’s my tip to you: Go down to the bar, sidle up, get a beer and start complaining about the life you almost had because you look like a failure to me, Jabroni.” —Jesse Ventura (James Adomian) offering fitness advice, The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project

“Miyazaki has the ability to bring the potential of life to everything on the screen, and I think that’s why his films always bubble with possibility.” —Josh Larsen, Filmspotting

“All I know is it’s silly to chase fun when all you need is the ground underneath you to be solid. And I don’t expect to be one of those people that does cartwheels in yogurt commercials. I wanna be the cartoon character in that antidepressant ad who has, like, little lines under her eyes, and the divot in the middle of the pill is the pill’s mouth... have you seen this ad? It’s very good. It’s for Abilify, which is not a word.” —Julie Klausner, How Was Your Week?


See You Next Wednesday
A certain amount of geekery should probably be expected from a podcast named after a cinematic running gag, but do these guys over-deliver. Torontans Greg LeGros, Casey Lyons, and Dan Gorman have turned film commentary into a role-playing game. Each episode, the hosts—who seem to be good friends of the most entertainingly shit-talking variety—role a die for the privilege of getting to watch and critique a promising new release, such as Robocop or The Lego Movie. The one who ends up with the low number, however, is consigned to a film that looks considerably less promising. The hosts go on winning streaks and losing streaks, and it all gets a bit nerve-wracking, because it’s hard not to feel bad for a guy who’s forced to sit through 47 Ronin immediately after enduring A Madea Christmas. The loser gets some revenge, though, by forcing his luckier companions to listen to a certain album during the coming week. So, Korn does have its place in the world.

That’s not even the nerdiest part of the show, which arrives when the hosts exert great intellectual effort determining who would win that week’s Thunderdome-style cereal-mascot death match. So, if listeners have ever wondered if Sugar Bear’s claws are powerful enough to tear through Tony the Tiger’s flesh, or what would happen if Booberry slipped maliciously into the steampunk workings of Frankenberry’s head, this entertaining show has the answers. [DD]


Munchkin Land
The target player for Steve Jackson’s Munchkin card game is more broadly defined than the fan base of the more involved RPGs it spoofs, like Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering (both of which get their own dedicated Major Spoilers podcast). Quick gameplay, easy-to-master rules, and gently funny, whimsical character designs by John Kovalic make the game appealing to diehard nerds and casual players. Stephen Schleicher’s podcast, on the other hand, fits neatly into the fan-boy niche. Each week, he plays a round with site contributors and analyzes how different decks affect gameplay… sort of. A lot of airtime is actually spent thinking, and in the interest of time, banter is kept to a minimum. For everyone besides hardcore players, Munchkin works better as an entertaining trifle than a spectator sport. [DJ]


The Andy Daly Podcast Pilot Project #3: Get Fit Now With Bill Carter
We first met 91-year-old personal trainer to the stars (seeking stars) Bill Carter (Daly) more than three years ago on Comedy Bang! Bang!, and back then he had only attempted suicide 19 times. In the interim, he squeezed in seven more tries and recorded a podcast pilot—an interactive, environment-based workout that requires, among other things: comfortable clothes and a mother wolf with at least two 10-pound pups. In Get Fit Now, the third pilot ostensibly auditioned for Earwolf by Daly and Matt Gourley, Carter answers fitness questions from Twitter, premieres the greatest workout song since “Eye Of The Tiger” and reveals his controversial role in WWII alongside friends Victor the giant (Billy Merritt), Rochelle the elf (Miriam Tolan) and Jesse Ventura (James Adomian). While the results aren’t quite as cohesive or quotable as the first two pilots from Dalton Wilcox and Chip Gardner, listening to Getting Fit is still a darkly entertaining way to work up a sweat. [TK]

Book Fight! #54: Ian Fleming, Dr. No
This week’s discussion of Ian Fleming’s sixth James Bond novel (but the first one with a film adaptation) is a fairly standard yet enjoyable book talk for the early segment of the show. It offers fun facts, useful fiction tips, and acknowledgment of the book’s faults. (In this case, the dicey racial politics can make Dr. No a no-go.) Listeners learn that Chinese Jamaicans were apparently called “Chi-gros” (Chinese Negros); massaging the area of a woman’s palm known as the “Mount of Venus”—not the “Mound of Venus,” which is a totally different area—is considered a surefire method of seduction; and use of dialects is almost always a bad idea. But the episode really picks up in the second half with the debut of a new segment, Mike’s Fan Fiction Corner. In a fit of research on Bond/Q slashfic, Ingram falls victim to a Wiki Wormhole, and the hosts have an utterly bizarre conversation about Alpha/Beta/Omega wolf sex and the knotting phenomenon with canine penises. [ABa]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #272: Sex Party Season: Gillian Jacobs, Paul F. Tompkins
Some of Comedy Bang! Bang!’s best moments are the ones that seem to take everyone by surprise. This week, Paul F. Tompkins returns as Garry Marshall for a visit with Gillian Jacobs, but when he slips out to bring in another one of his successful director friends, it’s not Werner Herzog—who would be hilarious opposite a gold-digging Jacobs—but the previously unheard Len Wiseman, director of the Underworld films. It doesn’t seem like Scott Aukerman or Gillian Jacobs knew it was coming, but allows for a Marshall-Wiseman-Jacobs love triangle (or sex party?) to form, getting more mileage out of the Marshall-Jacobs storyline. [KR]

Filmspotting #478: The Lego Movie / The Wind Rises / Top 5 Miyazaki Characters
Discussion turns toward the adult themes that permeate the traditionally simple and child-friendly form of animation in the films featured in this week’s episode. First, Adam Kempenaar and Josh Larsen recount their experiences watching Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s surprising critical darling The Lego Movie, with both fathers admitting that they likely appreciated the film, with its sly subversive barbs and sophisticated cultural references, more than their kids did. During the subsequent talk of Japanese animation auteur Hayao Miyazaki’s cinematic coda The Wind Rises and the existential musings on innovation and artistic beauty—as well as the best characters to be found in his mesmerizing filmography—here’s little indication that they’re even discussing what some people would label “cartoons.” [DD]

The Fogelnest Files #78: Blow Up The High School: Allan Arkush
Jake Fogelnest hosts another cult filmmaker he admires this week, and Allan Arkush makes for an interesting subject—but not for the reasons Fogelnest seems to think. Fogelnest is a self-professed fan of Rock ‘N’ Roll High School, a movie starring the Ramones and directed by Arkush, and while fans may enjoy Arkush’s few behind-the-scenes insights, his account of his early career is more interesting. From the unbelievable acts who played the new-defunct Fillmore East theater in New York where Arkush worked as an usher—including Miles Davis, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, and others—to studying under a young Scorsese at NYU to working for Roger Corman, Arkush is able to give a fascinating insider’s perspective on some greats. [ABe]

Freakonomics: Why Marry? (Part 2)
This week is part two of a look into how marriage works today, and whether it’s worth it. Marriage rates are currently at an all-time low in the United States (but they’re higher than other developed countries), though people with more education and larger incomes are more likely to be married, as are first-generation immigrants. Ranging from the issues surrounding coupling for urban blacks to the voting patterns of single women, this episode reveals even more surprising (and some unsurprising) trends. Most staggering is the ever-growing population of single mothers, whose inextricable connection to poverty will be a major social problem in the next decade. The only downside to this episode is that the Freakonomics team doesn’t have much of an argument for why someone should, or should not, marry. [NC]

Hang Up And Listen: The Mixed Zone, Mixed Bag Edition
NBC is trying hard to craft American narratives for its primetime coverage of the Olympics in Sochi. The HUAL panel breaks down the Bode Miller post-race interview non-debacle from a refreshingly rational standpoint. It was an emotional moment, but NBC proceeded to craft an hour of primetime around that bronze-medal finish, after banishing Miller as a hothead who wouldn’t play ball with the media in previous Olympics. The panel also discusses the myriad problems involved in the IOC awarding the Olympics to dictators looking for cultural cachet, instead of nations that can feasibly host an international sporting event. [KM]

Harmontown #91: Net Neutrality/Butt Fun
There are two big topics on Harmontown this week on opposite ends of the show’s spectrum: a discussion of net neutrality with activist Eddie Gellar, and Missouri football player and NFL hopeful Michael Sam coming out. Amazingly, Dan Harmon handles both with aplomb, leading comptroller Jeff Davis and Kumail Nanjiani in a lively discussion of gay rights and the disheartening trend by the United States government toward ending net neutrality. Things break down a little when it’s time to get to D&D. Spencer Crittenden gets upset that he gets called onstage before the panel is ready to transition to the game, which sparks a sadly funny fight over show procedure that only lasts a few minutes. [KM]

How Was Your Week? #155: Morgan Murphy “Andrew and Sunshine”
Julie Klausner rides the sweet spot she hit last week into another excellent edition of moaning about Los Angeles and chatting with a fellow red-headed comedian. An impossibly fortuitous story about trying to determine whether she shares an apartment building with Katharine McPhee anchor’s Klausner’s monologue, which this time around stays as friendly and focused as the corresponding interview with Morgan Murphy. Murphy and Klausner’s camaraderie shines through as they discover their extremely specific shared influences in comedy—and, of course, they talk a bit about the Luna Lounge. [NJ]

Judge John Hodgman #148: Science Friction
This week’s sole, epic case is another Portlandia sketch waiting to happen: Carrie won’t watch science fiction because she’s afraid of robots and the future, but her sister Christine says she’s missing out and needs sci-fi to her life. Judge Hodgman, who has conflicts of interest, is at his most biased this week. He wastes no time referencing the Battlestar Galactica reboot, then one-ups it with the week’s expert witness: writer Jane Espenson, whose résumé includes Battlestar, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Husbands. Espenson and the court try in vain to explain how fiction works. Carrie, who didn’t even like WALL-E, says real life is stressful enough without global desolation and carnivorous aliens. Listeners can hear the ruling coming from a parsec away, and it’s up to them to decide whether the parties are guilty of xenophobia, robophobia, or simple elder-sibling bullying. (Sidebars include Ancient Aliens, Lost, and cryptozoology.) [DXF]

Never Not Funny #1404: Craig Bierko
Actor Craig Bierko has been around forever—he has a story about working on the NBC sitcom Empty Nest (look it up, kids)—so he has a deep well of experiences and associations to draw from for anecdotes, not all of which land. (His joking about stopping the show dead in its tracks is funny though.) Bierko’s a funny guy, and he and the NNF crew have plenty of interesting tangents in another solid episode. [KR]

Professor Blastoff #143: GMOs: John F. Montgomery
The Professor Blastoff crew return to form this week thanks to a guest who, put concisely by Kyle Dunnigan himself, “actually knows something” for once. UC Riverside Ph.D. candidate John F. Montgomery is forthcoming with his fascinatingly specific expertise on golf-course turf, measured in his educated opinion on genetically modified food, and giddy to join the trio of comedians whom he clearly admires. Despite explicit indications toward this episode being recorded long before Tig Notaro’s recent Grammy snub, the hosts are likewise fresh, friendly, and inquisitive in ways they’ve abandoned for weeks. It’s a shame Montgomery hadn’t poked his head out from behind the beakers in the Hatch before, and he’d certainly be welcome back any time. [NJ]

Sklarbro Country #187: Black Panini: Adam McKay, Chris Cox
Two things make Randy Sklar incredibly charming this week: his earnest defense of the alluring power of Journey, and how beaming he sounds over his daughters’ new unwillingness to leave for school without first getting pumped up by Stone In Love” a few times on repeat. His positive energy and a great take on a dog-lobbing Spanish soccer hooligan sets the tone for a fast-paced and sharp episode, in which Anchorman director Adam McKay drops by for a second time and makes the case to become a recurring guest. Few current basketball topics go without mention, from Blake Griffin’s exponentially improved handling to what the hell happened to the Lakers. Just about every joke lands—even Chris Cox’s Matthew McConaughey bit gets some new material with True Detective. [DJ]

Sound Opinions #430: Deltron 3030
Dan The Automator, Del The Funky Homosapien, and Kid Koala, the members of genre-defying supergroup Deltron 3030, put out sophomore album Event 2—13 years after a self-titled debut—back in September. But what makes the group’s visit to the Sound Opinions studio so engrossing is the discussion of genre labels, how necessary they are for marketing purposes, but how useless and tired they all feel when trying to work within certain stylistic constraints. That kind of fluid freedom to explore alternative, hip-hop, and electronic music—along with incorporating overt science fiction and manga elements into musical storytelling—is what sets Deltron 3030 apart as a unique project. Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis also discuss Beck’s new record, Morning Phase, his first in eight years, featuring some string arrangements from Beck’s father, David Campbell. [KM]

Stuff You Should Know: How Salt Works
A broad scientific topic is perfect for hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, who dance around it from a variety of angles. Whether pausing briefly to defend the defenseless slug or commenting on whether Bryant is capable of listening to his own cravings, the narrative thread of the podcast never stays in one direction for long. No one is sure, for instance, why a certain amount of salt can kill you or another amount is necessary to stay alive. And just when Clark accuses Bryant of being a communist for his views on Big Macs, the conversation swerves back to the differences between Mediterranean sea salt and umami. It’s an episode that should appeal to both fans of science-driven and chatty episodes. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Maurice Duplessis, “Le Chef” Of Quebec, Pt.1
Although known to few in America and a surprising few outside of Quebec, Maurice Duplessis was a political juggernaut of the early 20th century. Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey use this first part of his story to cover his early political career, which included most of Duplessis’ successes. After effectively dismantling the Canadian Conservative Party and helping to create the Union Nationale party, he served as premier for 15 years, longer than any other in the 20th century. The man’s charisma is clear, as his nickname of “Le Chef” translates as “The Boss.” Part one ends with a hint of his coming failures, starting with a law he introduced that limited free speech. But Frey and Wilson do their best to set the table for part two, which they promise has scandals that will change the tone of his legacy. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Maurice Duplessis, “Le Chef” Of Quebec, Pt. 2
Although there is much to discuss in the dramatic latter half of Maurice Duplessis’ political career as well as his ties to religion and a bridge disaster, one massive scandal haunts the proceedings. Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey brilliantly pace the episode to avoid seeming politically biased or unforgiving, but soon enough they drop the bombshell that Duplessis approved letting healthy orphan children be classified as mentally disturbed so they could be institutionalized, in turn giving the Canadian government a larger kickback. Among the disturbing details: Even 60 years later, no one knows how many medical experiments were performed on the children. But Frey and Wilson never dip into populist anger, and paint the story with comforting levels of integrity. Duplessis likely knew nothing of the horrors, but his complacency in allowing them to occur casts a long shadow over his career. [DT]

This American Life #518: Except For That One Thing
B.J. Novak’s short story about a warlord on an ill-fated first date would not, at first glance, seem to be source material for a radio play, but strong performances by Alison Brie and TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe in this week’s opening piece sets the stage for another good episode of TAL. It’s followed in Act Three by a bit from Tig Notaro in which she recounts trying and failing to introduce the coolest kid in the sixth grade to The Rolling Stones that is as good as any three-minute chunk of comedy out there. The back half of the episode is a more serious-minded exploration of the ways that contingencies can totally change one’s circumstances, bringing things together nicely. [DF]

Who Charted? #168: Survived The Whistling
Return guest Graham Elwood continues his streak of being a reliable, funny, and engaging guest, even when he’s talking about something as mundane as a Kickstarter campaign. In this case, it’s a Kickstarter campaign for a documentary about podcasts (which met its goal). When he’s not promoting his own project, Elwood has a lot of fun with the music chart, and as a film buff, he has a lot to contribute to the movie chart. However, Elwood’s most apt observation might be when he describes Howard Kremer as “the uncle at the barbecue that periodically chimes in with crazy shit.” [MS]

WTF #471: Billy Gardell
Comedian and Mike & Molly star Billy Gardell has been on a successful network sitcom for more than three years now, but he still seems a little surprised to be where he is. Indeed, his story of going from being a boozing road comic neck-deep in debt to a lead actor on a hit CBS show with a single phone call from Chuck Lorre is an almost archetypal Hollywood tale, and as such his conversation about it with Marc Maron has a nice arc. Gardell comes off as hardworking and immensely likeable, and even if the interview is straightforward and not terribly funny, it’s also never boring. The episode is really little more than an earnest and amusing conversation about the ups and downs of a career in comedy, but, for what it is, it is an exemplar par excellence. [CG]

WTF #472: Laurie Kilmartin
A monologue joke writer on Conan, Laurie Kilmartin is the type of WTF guest who initially seems like a flimsy interview, but quickly reveals surprising depth when Marc Maron starts asking the big questions. She talks about her dying father, touring relentlessly as a stand-up while never quite breaking through, and then finds a ton of common ground with Maron when talking about eating disorders. But the most insightful segment features her observations about the transition from stand-up performer to television writer on Colin Quinn’s Tough Crowd. Kilmartin isn’t a big name (and she’s clearly comfortable with that), but her story of trying ardently to make it and then finding a stable career path elsewhere isn’t common on Maron’s show. [KM]


Doug Loves Movies: Adam Devine, Pat Wilson, Scott Shriner, Jacob Sirof
It sounds like Doug Benson, the audience, and about half the panel are having a blast on the Weezer cruise, but unfortunately that doesn’t translate well to the podcast format. [MS]

Improv4Humans #121: LIVE From SF Sketchfest: Seth Morris, Chris Gethard, Owen Burke
Despite a stacked line-up, this live episode never settles into an enjoyable rhythm. There are a few too many unfocused bits between the hilarious peaks that Improv4Humans is known for. [MK]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #155: Andrew Donnelly
Comedian Andrew Donnelly shares some interesting insights into parenting and attention deficit disorder, but the conversation could be tighter with a few edits. [TC]

The Moth: Bulls, Bikes, Bullets, Brother
Most of this week’s stories are either podcast repeats or not particularly memorable, but the last segment about Andrew Solomon’s work with Cambodian refugees is worth hearing. [DJ]

Nerdist #480: Jennette McCurdy
The story of how this former iCarly actress got strong-armed into a country music career is the only interesting part of an otherwise unmemorable episode. [MS]

Nerdist #481: Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer
Skip this dull conversation with Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer and instead check out their new Comedy Central show Broad City; it’s a much better representation of their comic sensibilities. [CS]

Nerdist #482: Kit Harington
Chris Hardwick and Game Of Thrones star Kit Harington have a perfectly enjoyable chat, but unfortunately it never moves from small talk to something more substantial. [CS]

99 Percent Invisible #102: Icon For Access
This week, 99PI investigates the origins of the international symbol of access. While the investigation into how the symbol came to be is interesting, things get a bit more progressive when reporter Lauren Ober delves into the current movement to update the symbol, which activists think looks a little immobile. [ME]

Stuff You Should Know: How Amputation Works
Given that there was just an episode on losing limbs a couple of months ago, this episode seems a bit like medical overkill. [DT]

You Made It Weird #195: Ari Voukydis
Longtime UCB improviser Ari Voukydis seems like an admirably self-aware performer, but Pete Holmes circles the usual topics too much to make those bits worthwhile. [ABe]