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Best Show’s pledge drive kicks off strong and Professor Blastoff shares the love

To listen to these and other podcasts, visit Podmass Central, our podcast hub. 

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


“Andy, how can you see the crisis in Mali, the World Bank’s collapse, and use those things to throw a punch about The Love Guru?”
“They’re all part of the same continuum, John. They’re all basically avoidable atrocities.” —John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman, The Bugle

“An ax is not a ‘just in case’ weapon.” —Jerrod Carmichael, Sklarbro Country

“If your girlfriend shows her beaver on the Jumbotron at the Staples Center and you don’t mind, you may not be as into her as you think.” —Kyle Dunnigan as a Greg Behrendt-channeling Jeff Foxworthy, Professor Blastoff

“My play, it’s not about salesmen, it’s not about East Village bohemians, or star-crossed lovers. It’s about something a little bit more personal to me: It’s about a hybrid goose-man who escapes from the lab where he was created after falsely being accused of murder, and goes on the road with a rapping android named Oil Slick 2.0. If you ask me, that sounds about as good as Hamlet.” —Neil Campbell, Comedy Bang! Bang!


Untitled Kondabolu Brothers Podcast
Comedian and Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell writer Hari Kondabolu and his younger brother Ashok, also known as Dapwell of the recently defunct hip-hop group Das Racist, present the Untitled Kondabolu Brothers Project as a live show each month in New York (and have done so for quite some time), and now they present an adapted version every other week in the form of the Untitled Kondabolu Brothers Podcast. It’s no surprise that the brothers have a very natural rapport, and they’re both outspoken social critics in their respective projects, so their viewpoints complement each other as well. There are a few regular segments, but they serve primarily as springboards for wide-ranging discussions, which are typically kept close to a slim 40 minutes in length.

The most recent episode, #4, is easily the most cohesive so far, with well-timed callbacks and thematic links throughout. The Kondabolus ease up a bit on the slightly clunky segmentation of the first three episodes, allowing the conversation to naturally develop, and it feels more organic as a result. It’s also the funniest installment; there’s a sense of self-consciousness to the first couple of episodes that seems to have completely dissipated here, letting the two be their funny selves as they consider Morrissey’s vegetarianism and racism, as well as vegetarianism and racism in general. They also coin the multipurpose slur “grape-makers.” [CG]


The Best Show On WFMU
One of the rarer facets of the Best Show On WFMU is the growing sense of community among listeners, the extent of which seems unparalleled by any other podcast. Every Tuesday, as the show plays live on the radio, people from all corners of the globe gather in the chat room to discuss topics broached by host Tom Scharpling. Even more inspiring is when the community bands together behind a cause, be it raising $30,000 for Hurricane Sandy relief or simply keeping WFMU afloat during its annual pledge drive. Kicking off the 2013 pledge drive, Scharpling sounds better than ever on this week’s episode, graciously thanking every donor and offering up special prizes like his and AP Mike’s director’s commentary for the Werner Herzog film Stroszek. Coco from The Ettes gives a wonderful live performance, and comedian Julie Klausner and smart-aleck puppet Gary The Squirrel stop by momentarily, but Scharpling’s energy, goodwill, and determination stand out the most, inspiring even the most indignant listeners to break out their wallets in support. [AF]

The Bugle #226: Salvo For Mali
The front half of this week’s Bugle starts strong as ever with another one of John Oliver’s amusing celebrity anecdotes, this time about being zinged by fabled spaceman Buzz Aldrin. More than usual, the joke behind the episode number gets stretched to hilarious extremes, as the hosts dub 226 the number of rewrites Spielberg did for Schindler’s List, where he was forced to scrap the dinosaur and alien sequences each and every time. The two build strong segments from the increasingly hopeless situation in Mali, a country in Africa, which Andy Zaltzman qualifies as “the wonderful land where humanity originated, and where humanity has frequently attempted to destroy itself.” The second half meanders a bit as the usually funny papal-themed jokes show signs of wear, but overall, the edition makes for a hearty listen. [MK]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #204: The Pepper Men: Zach Galifianakis, Jon Daly, Neil Campbell
Jon Daly has appeared on Comedy Bang! Bang! numerous times, but never as himself, not for an entire episode at least. But he’s still sort of a character with Zach Galifianakis, as the two spend most of the episode discussing their devotion to the Red Hot Chili Peppers—they’re “Pepper Men”—and the many projects it has spawned (a daily podcast, side albums, midwifery). It involves a lot of funny singing/rapping from Daly, including the requisite impressions of Anthony “Kieds” Kiedis. Galifianakis is funny as usual, and the revelation that he drives with headphones on will shock no one. Neil Campbell isn’t around for long, but he makes the most of it with a description of his ludicrous play, Quackers Featherbeaks’ Coo-Coo Caper. Solid all around. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: Chris Hardwick, Paul F. Tompkins and Andy Wood
Chris Hardwick makes time in his busy schedule to return and defend his title as last week’s Leonard Maltin Game winner. Because Hardwick is a formidable opponent, Doug Benson makes sure he’s well-matched by also inviting Paul F. Tompkins and Leonard Maltin Game savant Andy Wood. Naturally, the panel flexes its movie-knowledge muscle during the game by attempting to name several movies in negative names. Outside of the games portion, there’s also some fun post-Oscars chat, which involves some dueling Mark Wahlberg impressions during a takedown of Ted’s appearance. [MS]

Freakonomics: When Is A Negative Positive?
People can’t improve without feedback, but positive and negative feedback have their own respective benefits. Positive feedback makes people more committed to a job or project, but once someone buys into that project, positive feedback starts to lose its effectiveness. So, in order to make sure someone is actually improving, negative feedback is needed. Stephen Dubner takes his proof from a recent study, which showed that novices in a field need a lot of positive feedback to improve, whereas experts start to tune it out. This all leads to the best part of the episode, where Dubner provides negative feedback to Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal on his verbal ticks and his pronunciation of foreign names. Ryssdal’s embarrassment, a rare occurrence for the suave radio host, is a nice bit of chaos in the usually well-ordered podcast. [NC]

Hang Up And Listen: The Worm In North Korea Edition
The basketball diplomacy of Dennis Rodman’s Vice-sponsored trip to North Korea has brought out tongue-cluckers everywhere, from Gawker’s harsh pictorial to John Kerry’s jibe that “as a diplomat, [Rodman] is a great basketball player.” But the HUAL crew is so amused by the frivolousness of the trip and the hysterical reaction to it that they can barely stifle their laughter—which is precisely the right response. The other two segments are more substantive: One brings on basketball stats guru Dean Oliver to talk about how analytics has changed the professional game and another discusses a new Dutch auction-style ticketing system called “purple pricing” that’s been instituted by Northwestern economics professor Jeff Ely, who defends it vigorously. [ST]

How Was Your Week #104: “Battlefield Girth”: DC Pierson, Alex Timbers
Julie Klausner begins the episode by sharing the bad news that she alluded to last week: She and her longtime boyfriend Jack Fagan have broken up. Klausner is understandably upset as she openly and honestly discusses the situation and her struggles, admitting that she at times just wants to throw one big pity party for herself. Her monologue steers clear of this, as Klausner finds as much humor in the circumstances as she can (“Oh, Julie can still make jokes in her state!”), leading to some genuinely funny moments. Things reach a high point in a long, meandering story about a low point that saw Klausner breaking down in her hallway after locking herself out of her apartment. It’s not only well-told, it has an energy that helps Klausner segue nicely to strong interviews with author and comedian DC Pierson and theater director Alex Timbers. [DF]

Improv4Humans #69: Fill My Butt With Air!: Tim Meadows, Horatio Sanz, Sean Conroy
One of Improv4Humans’ constant strengths is its devotion to keeping scenes believable no matter how absurdly they escalate. This generally means not breaking character during a bit, which makes Horatio Sanz, who’s well known for cracking up during his SNL tenure, a questionable guest, especially during an episode sporting a video component. However, there’s a jovial energy visible in the room between Matt Besser and fellow guests Tim Meadows and Sean Conroy. The first half starts slow with scenes that fail to take off anywhere interesting, but the show gets rolling after an inspired town-hall meeting to catch a coupon-stealing, no good Confederate-Flag-cat-tattooing menace. A caller’s story of a harrowing monkey attack leads to not only the funniest scene, but also the episode’s most inspired, as they spin a throwaway detail into an entirely unexpected setup. [MK]

Improv4Humans #70: Freaky The Rasta Clown: Seth Morris, Brian Huskey, Paul Rust
As great as the live streaming video aspect of Improv4Humans has been, man, do guests need to be on time: Last episode, Sean Conroy was 10 minutes late (bad traffic), and this time Matt Besser has to wait 20 minutes for his second guest to arrive (bad traffic, again). It’s not that the show doesn’t work without four people, but not knowing when, if ever, the guests will show up adds an unnecessary tension to what is usually a lighthearted and funny show. When all the players do manage to assemble, this episode takes off with a hilarious scene about a Jimmy Dean sausage focus group populated by massively overweight Texans with varying complaints (too small, too big, and bad casing, respectively). The scenes continue to build, and the four play exceptionally well together. It’s just a shame it takes nearly a half hour to get fully rolling. [MK]

Judge John Hodgman: The Book Case
Jason intends to read every book in the stacks currently piled up in his living room and garage. His wife Julia thinks he’s a hoarder and needs to find a home for some of them. Judge Hodgman does some rough math: At a rate of about 30 pages a night, Jason will be in his mid-70s by the time he reads through his entire collection, which includes both classics by Herman Melville and old college textbooks. The judge’s past as a literary agent gives him a legitimate area of expertise here on what books are and are not essential, but beyond that, the episode is a lively discussion of the value of books and what exactly constitutes hoarding. [ST]

The J.V. Club #51: Michaela Watkins
Michaela Watkins (Saturday Night Live, Enlightened) is a big fan of The J.V. Club but doesn’t actually know Janet Varney, which lends their conversation the energy of two people learning about each other for the first time. The first thing Watkins says on the episode is that she was a “dirty sandbox girl” growing up, immediately jumping into the discussion of childhood and adolescence. Watkins mentions that her threshold for small talk has gotten thinner as an adult, and she gets right to the point as she talks about her days as “icky sticky Mickey,” going to the hospital to have a bean removed from her ear, and literally getting punched in the gut by her grade-school crush. The bean anecdote is especially fun, and it sets Watkins and Varney on a small pro-choice rant. Later, they feverishly bemoan the developments of the third season of Downton Abbey. Watkins’ time spent listening to the podcast has paid off, and she proves to be one of the strongest guests of this show’s first year. [OS]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #103: Emily Gordon
The strength of a Mental Illness Happy Hour episode often depends on the ability of Paul Gilmartin and his guest to connect emotionally. It’s a high bar to reach in an hourlong recorded conversation, but Gilmartin and Emily Gordon make a strong connection in an episode that stands with the Maria Bamford installment as the program’s best this year. The pair, who begin the conversation as strangers and seem to be completely unfamiliar with the other’s work, develop an almost instant affection and interest in each other’s struggles. Gordon, a podcaster and former therapist, turns the questions on Gilmartin several times during an absorbing discussion between kindred spirits. It’s an episode that would make an excellent starting point for new listeners, and exemplifies the unique potential of a show that demands so much from its guests and host. [TC]

The Moth: Richard Price: Hatpin Mary
At they very least, Richard Price has some enviable material here, about his grandmother attending wrestling matches and jabbing the contenders in their butts with a hatpin. But before he even gets to that, Price builds his Moth tale into a fond remembrance of his strange childhood outings with his grandmother, such as going to the movies with a suitcase of food. The best thing he pulls off, though, is to make his childhood memories sound both traumatically strange and warmly wondrous. [SG]

Nerdist #327: Nick Kroll Returns
With Nerdist passing the 300-episode mark, it makes sense that the podcast has been welcoming back so many of its previous guests. Thankfully, the guests the show’s chosen to bring back for return visits are thus far ones deserving of such re-consideration. This week, Nick Kroll discusses his Comedy Central show, Kroll Show, offering insight to the creative process while avoiding turning the conversation an episode-long plug. Hosts Chris Hardwick and Matt Mira are adept at bringing out the best in their guests, and Kroll’s return is no exception. They avoid the mundane, accenting all the best points of the podcast, even with it covering a fair amount of well-trod ground. [DA]


Professor Blastoff #94: Polyamory
In a welcome inverse of last week’s episode, guest Baron Vaughn joins the Professor Blastoff hosts in the hatch to talk openly and informatively about his experiences with polyamory, the broadly defined act of dating multiple consensual partners at once. The millennia-old practice still carries a stigma in America, so Vaughn attempts to dispel any preconceived notions of infidelity or promiscuity by detailing the many types of boundaries that can still be set on the relationship, and emphasizing that love isn’t necessarily exclusive. It’s tricky, but Vaughn manages to appear mature, practical, and not at all a horndog while talking about dating four different women. As is typically the case with societal-based topics, the hosts have loads of fun toying with hypotheticals, with the comedy highlights coming toward the end, when Dunnigan trots out his characters and introduces the Jeff Foxworthy/Greg Behrendt hybrid featured in the quotes section. After a strange few weeks, this episode gets the crew back on track. [SM]

Radiolab: The Man Behind The Maneuver
This week’s episode tells the story of Dr. Heimlich, the man behind the famous maneuver. In 1972, choking was the sixth most common cause of death, specifically among children, and most contraptions and maneuvers created to dislodge objects from people’s throats weren’t effective. Heimlich realized there was enough air in the lungs that if it was compressed, it would push against whatever was in the windpipe and get it out of the person’s body. After developing his famous maneuver, Heimlich became a bit of a national hero, and he started pimping the maneuver for things other than choking, like asthma attacks and drowning, although there’s no scientific evidence to suggest the maneuver makes sense in those situations. But even with all the lives saved, Heimlich’s name and research might not survive in the future: Recently, health studies have shown that slapping someone on the back is just as effective, and the Red Cross now suggests that as the optimal method. [NC]

Sklarbro Country #136: A Nighy For A Nye: Jon Glaser, David Huntsberger
The announcement that Jon Glaser’s oddball Adult Swim series Delocated would air a finale special this week came as a bit of a surprise, and it makes for some great interview fodder with the Sklar brothers. The sports-related stories are nice, but Glaser’s answers about his highly unusual comedy series, his SNL audition in the mid-’90s, and cultivating his hometown-team fandom in his son shows just how great of a podcast guest he can be. Plus, David Huntsberger calls in with the stellar Dick Vitale-on-drugs impression he started a few weeks ago on a Sklarbro County bonus episode. [KM]

Sklarbro Country: Sklarbro County #41: Jerrod Carmichael, Dan Van Kir
Typically the Sklar Brothers spend the first part of Sklarbro County interviewing their guests about their lives and work, but this week they jump right into Dan Van Kirk’s collected news stories. Luckily, actor and stand-up comedian Jerrod Carmichael is game to get down to business, joining the Sklars in dissecting a rash of burglaries at “The Easy Living Mobile Home Park,” an ax attack at a bar in Phoenix (which the brothers assume must be a gay bar, based on Van Kirk’s description), and a casino night at a college where condoms were used instead of poker chips. The best part of the episode is the end, where the brothers check in with Mark Wahlberg, who’s traveling down to SXSW to pimp his fitness water brand. [NC]

Sound Opinions #379: Sound Opinions World Tour: Sweden
In the first of a continuing series, Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot set out to catalog the pop and rock contributions of various countries around the world. First up is a discussion of Swedish music with DJ Stefan Wermelin, who takes the guys through the first days of American pop records in Sweden, the “Progg” movement of the ’60s, and then the first big international pop moment, ABBA’s arrival. Swedish producers like Max Martin are such huge fixtures in American pop music today that this mini-history lesson is important in showing just how quickly Swedish musicians put their stamp on popular American genres by embracing new technology faster than their American counterparts. And for those who still need an excuse to seek out Thom Yorke’s Atoms For Peace record, the review tacked onto the end of this episode provides yet another reason. [KM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Real Al Swearengen: Part 2
Deadwood character Al Swearengen finally starts to get interesting in part two of his SYMIHC tale. Hosts Holly Frey and Tracy V. Wilson have much more historical records to riff off of than they did in part one, and those familiar with the HBO series Deadwood who thought Ian McShane’s portrayal was not disturbing enough will be pleased with the real thing. Swearengen attempted to open his Gem Saloon while being sentenced to jail, wasting no time expanding it with a tiny theater for violent bare-knuckle boxing matches and cramped rooms for prostitution. Considering the number of Swearengen’s enemies who were beaten to death, Wilson draws an apt comparison to classic HBO antihero Tony Soprano. But what’s especially great to hear is the two new hosts getting a handle on the historically dense nature of the show, something they struggled with in their last episode. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How The Papacy Works
Thanks to the supposed power handed down from Jesus to Saint Peter and then to each successive pope, the man in charge of the Catholic Church has infallibility, meaning he can do no wrong. With great power comes a cool Ring Of The Fisherman and responsibilities not unlike those of the president of a small, arcane country. The papacy also has its own secretary of state, which serves as the second-in-command should the pope die. The tradition of tapping the head of a presumably deceased pope amuses the hosts for quite a while, as it involves a tiny special hammer. It’s details like this that allow Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant to have fun while picking apart this vast and historic topic. Things never get too dry, and the episode is enjoyable for Catholics and non-believers alike. [DT]

Superego: Episode 3:16
Given the fact that Superego episodes are released on an increasingly intermittent and unpredictable schedule, a new episode is certainly a treat. With the lag between episodes, recurring sketches stay fresh and fun, as is the case with the opening Cylon Jim and Cylon Phil segment. Another standout case study involves Thomas Lennon’s turn doing a radio ad for a Southern dinosaur museum called God’s Crazy Monsters. In fact, Lennon does such a fantastic job in all of his appearances, he’ll hopefully become a staple of many future episodes. Also, Jen Kirkman does a great job of putting up with Paul F. Tompkins’ ridiculousness in the Nurse Edith Burningman case study. [MS]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #107: Sparks Nevada, Marshal On Mars, Croach Returns
It must be a challenge for the Thrilling Adventure Hour writers to make the character Croach The Tracker any stranger, and yet they’ve managed to do so over the last few installments of the space-Western “Sparks Nevada: Marshal On Mars.” This episode doesn’t just introduce big changes into the plot, but actively messes with the good Marshal’s sense of reality, as his dead friend reappears and teleports him to Earth. Oh, and tries to rope him into a presidential-assassination plot. Masterfully, the episode somehow maintains TAH’s fast-paced, playful tone through all of this. [SG]

The Todd Glass Show #92: Family Show Part 2
In this second part of the family episode, Todd Glass and frequent guest Blake Wexler finally find the rhythm they were building up to in last week’s lackluster installment. In the second part of this marathon hangout session, Glass and Wexler spend some time workshopping a few of Wexler’s new characters, including recently introduced Lisping Angry Guy. However, Wexler seems to have the most fun with his spot-on Bill Burr impression, which he uses to fly into one of the rages listeners have come to expect from a Blake Wexler appearance. Part Two of this family episode also hosts an extended session with the robotic voice effect Glass uses for his egregiously off-the-mark Jerry Seinfeld impression. [MS]

You Made It Weird #131: Matt Mira
There’s no doubt that Pete Holmes and his guests give themselves a lot of space to roam on You Made It Weird, especially with episodes, like this one, that stretch to three hours. But Holmes and Matt Mira use that freedom well, balancing some more serious talk about managing their comedic egos with lovably odd lines like, “my first drink was white Zin” and, “I told the crowd recently that I have applause in my heart.” Some lengthy podcasts make it hard not to get impatient, but the flow Holmes and Mira establish here makes it easy to sink in for (most of) the duration. [SG]


Fogelnest Files #25: Legitimate Passion: Jon Glaser
Guest Jon Glaser does his part to try to keep this week’s show moving (his re-appropriation of “Suffragette City” as an ad jingle for Mattress City is pretty funny), but overall, the episode feels like another one of Fogelnest’s familiar forays into the past. [AB]

Mohr Stories #137: John DiMaggio
Mohr has a blast with old friend John DiMaggio, who gives scant details on his voice-actor gigs (Futurama’s Bender and Adventure Time’s Jake the Dog), but conducts an extended postmortem on his quotable former duo act, Red Johnny And The Round Guy. [DXF]

Mohr Stories #138: Barry Katz
In this edition of podcast-as-motivational-literature, Mohr’s manager talks about the common threads to success in sports, show business, and the rest of life. [DXF]

Monday Morning Podcast
There are streaks of funny scattered throughout—e.g., when Bill Burr is singing Mitch Miller songs—but the episode as a whole is rather boring. [CG]

My Brother, My Brother And Me #142: Tom Bosley Upskirts
The titular bit and a brief goof at the very end about an elaborate Oscars prank stand out in an otherwise middling episode. [CG]

Nerdist #328: Rich Moore
Rich Moore’s work on Wreck-It Ralph and several of The Simpsons early seasons makes him great guest, but the episode has far too many lulls to warrant a full listen. If it were a bit tighter it would be fantastic, but as it stands, it’s uneven and wandering. [DA]

Nerdist #329: DC Pierson
Although there are some great moments in this episode—mostly near the tail end—it isn’t immediately gripping, and by the time it gets to that point, the episode’s nearly over. [DA]

Never Not Funny #1208: Losing It With Bob Zany
An endearing respect for Jimmy Pardo and a few great pieces of business earn veteran stand-up Bob Zany some early goodwill, which he then squanders with as many clunkers and, perhaps more egregiously, unaware humblebrags. [SM]

The Smartest Man In The World: Greg Proops Film Club: Annie Hall
It’s another edition of The Greg Proops’ Film Club, one that only diehard fans of either Proops or Woody Allen will want to catch. [NC]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Real Al Swearengen: Part 1
The story of historically creepy barkeep Al Swearengen fails to take off in part one, despite the best efforts of new host Holly Frey and even newer host Tracy V. Wilson. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: What Makes A One-Hit Wonder?
Though this is a fun topic, the highlights of this episode can be found in host Chuck Bryant’s article on the subject and an exhaustive one-hit-wonder website archive host Josh Clark references. [DT]

This American Life #489: No Coincidence, No Story!
This is a necessary palate-cleanser after the Harper High School series, although the episode misses the mark when it comes to being one of those evergreen classics. Some funny and strange coincidence stories get lost among tales that beg for more information and some tedious navel-gazing about the nature of coincidence. [CZ]

Uhh Yeah Dude: #361
Seth Romatelli’s somewhat inexplicable Jerry Seinfeld rage usually marks an episode’s high point, but here it’s upstaged by affectless readings of awful, awful posts from the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Brag Board. A solid one-two punch in the middle of a weaker (though not weak) outing.

Who Charted? #118: Shit Fits:  Giancarlo Chersich
Cop/marketing executive/former music manager and all-around Renaissance man Giancarlo Chersich is an interesting guy, but this episode feels more like an excuse for Howard Kremer to catch up with an old friend than anything else. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #365: Darryl Lenox
Darryl Lenox has had a fascinating life, from having a father who worked as a pimp to lying about getting an agent in Los Angeles to being exposed for fraud as a scared young comic trying to make his way. But his interview with Marc Maron is so genial that it renders the material somewhat lifeless. [KM]

WTF With Marc Maron #366: John Darnielle 
Mountain Goats founder John Darnielle eagerly steps into the garage, approaching it like a therapist’s couch or a church confessional. We learn a lot about his demons due to drug use, physical abuse, and parent issues, but those unfamiliar with his work won’t learn much about him professionally (although the live songs are enjoyable.) [CZ]

You Made It Weird #130: Live From Vancouver
There’s plenty of good comic sparring buried in this live You Made It Weird, with help from the likes of Andy Kindler, but listeners have to get through an exchange of weird masturbation jokes first. [SG]