Ice T’s Final Level joins the ’masses, talks Manslaughter and Maya Angelou

Ice T’s Final Level joins the ’masses, talks Manslaughter and Maya Angelou

The best podcasts for the week of June 7-13

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

Quotes of the week 

“Listen to this. It’s like a limp dick flying in the breeze. Just like a purple, limp dick.”—Sappity Tappity (Jon Daly) on a Jackson Browne song, Comedy Bang! Bang!

“We accidentally made news, but there really is no news.”
“I accidentally made news the other day too. It happens.”
“How’d that happen?”
“Oh, I hit a kid driving my bike.”—Phil Lord and intern Gino Lambardo (Jon Gabrus) on Clone High, Comedy Bang! Bang!

“I saw Edge Of Tomorrow. It’s set in the future, so Groundhog Day would have already been out. So at some point, [Tom Cruise] should have been like ‘It’s like fuckin’ Groundhog Day. I keep having to do the same thing again.”—Geoff Tate script doctoring Edge Of Tomorrow, Doug Loves Movies 

“Guess what—your dad is probably a fan [of Body Count] AND YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.”—Mick Benzo on Father’s Day gifts, Final Level

“If you learned one thing today, it’s that you can’t abandon your wife and child.”—Jake Fogelnest, The Fogelnest Files

“I think the assumption was that I was being an artist or I was being difficult or I was trying to do something arcane. And I wasn’t, I was just trying to pack it full of jokes.”—Mitch Hurwitz on Arrested Development, Nerdist

“This gentleman had taken his dong out, and he was spraying us like a sprinkler system.”—Jessica St. Clair on her most vivid Springsteen concert memory, Never Not Funny

“If we didn’t have them in captivity, we wouldn’t know anything about them and would not be in a situation to pursue conservation efforts.”—Host Holly Frey describing the difficult issue of protecting giant pandas, Stuff You Missed In History Class

“We were the number one junior college baseball team… which is like having the biggest dick in the third grade: it’s pretty cool, but it doesn’t mean anything.”—Billy Wayne Davis on his tenure as a collegiate baseball player, WTF

“I’m under no illusion that this is about me.”
“This is about who I am when you’re here.”—Dave Stone and Pete Holmes on the You Made It Weird philosophy, You Made It Weird

New (To Us)

Hollywood Handbook
Given that it’s on the Earwolf network, it should probably come as no surprise that this podcast, which bills itself as “an insider’s guide to achieving your showbiz dreams,” isn’t exactly on the up and up. You don’t have to get very far into Hayes Davenport and Sean Clements’ smug insider banter to realize that they’re not the two cocky “A-List it-boys” they claim to be. Instead, they are two extremely quick-witted and razor sharp improvisors who appear to be having a brilliantly fun time defanging the dim-witted, $200 T-shirt-wearing, would-be-deal-maker denizens of Los Angeles that parade past them on a daily basis. In a recent episode—while attempting to justify Davenport’s supposed decision to get his “muscles smallened” to play Sammy Sosa in a not-actually-upcoming biopic—the two men extol the virtues of the fakeness that permeates the entertainment industry, because “it means you’re trying to do something... you’re not just settling for the thing that you just showed up with.” That this rationalization is almost convincing is credit to the commitment paid to the grotesques Davenport and Clements are playing.

Each episode features a celebrity “close friend,” who swings by to trade glamorous industry tales and braggadociously offer advice to the plebes in the audience. Workaholics‘ Anders Holm schools listeners on the right and wrong ways to pitch a project (though the answer always seems to coincide with whatever cast the most scorn on other people’s ignorance), and writer-director David Wain dishes on a salacious blind-item from his own life, featuring an “unnamed” star of The Legend Of Bagger Vance and Independence Day, two penises, and some doughnuts. As fun as these guest appearances are, they’re not entirely necessary. Even if it were just the two faux-blustering co-hosts for a full hour, this would be well worth a listen. [DD]

Outlier

The Attitude Era Podcast
In professional wrestling, the Attitude Era was a period between 1996 and 2002 marked by edgy, adult content that ran mostly parallel to the lifespan of iconic antihero Stone Cold Steve Austin. And because this stretch also coincided with the ultimate boom in wrestling’s popularity, fans view it with the purest of rose-colored glasses. The hosts of The Attitude Era Podcast are three friendly Brits who have somehow found their show alongside inside-industry podcasts as they sit down to review every Attitude Era WWF pay per view—and some very special episodes of Raw—starting with WrestleMania XIV. The freeform style of the program is a welcome respite from one-note think pieces on gossip rags and presents a fair analysis of this mythical time. With the WWE Network rolling out across the globe, those looking for buddies to travel back in time with could do a lot worse. [NJ]

The best

Comedy Bang! Bang! #292: DJs Are Sleaze Js: Jenny Slate, Merrill Garbus, Jon Daly
It’s not uncommon for an episode of Comedy Bang! Bang! to run off the rails, although in most instances, it’s intentional. This one is kind of an inadvertent mess, but in some Comedy Bang! Bang! circles, that makes it even better. Jenny Slate giddily pimps her new movie throughout while Tune-Yards’ Merrill Garbus pimps her new album (to a lesser extent), although Garbus sometimes plays it a little too straight and sounds like a fish trying to be funny out of water. The ladies’ mutual admiration society takes a noticeable backseat, however, once drunken tree Sappity Tappity (Jon Daly sounding exactly like Paul F. Tompkins’ Andrew Lloyd Webber) makes his presence known, he steamrolls the proceedings to the point that even Scott Aukerman is annoyed. Still, there’s plenty of impromptu singing (a little too much Dave Matthews, though) and mostly funny tangents; enough to justify at least a listen. [TK]    

Comedy Bang! Bang! #293: Monster Muscles: Phil Lord, Chris Miller, Jon Gabrus, Eugene Cordero
Gino Lambardo is quickly becoming one of the more versatile characters in the Comedy Bang! Bang! pen. A lovable idiot played brilliantly by Jon Gabrus, Lombardo is the program’s new-ish intern. His schtick has grown wildly since he surfaced, and now that he’s settled in and comfortable talking over Scott Aukerman, Gabrus keeps unfolding weirder and weirder ticks. As this week’s co-host, he provides the perfect amount of interjections to Scott’s chat with Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the directing team behind 22 Jump Street, its predecessor, and Clone High. Lord and Miller more than keep up, but unfortunately they fade to the background when R.J. Rise (Eugene Cordero), Scott’s personal trainer stops by to instruct Scott to think of his muscles as monsters. Rise’s bit is hilarious and odd, but a little at odds with the tone of the first half; in another world, Rise would have had a whole episode to himself. [MK]

Doug Loves Movies: Geoff Tate, Scott Aukerman, Tony Thaxton
It’s either serendipity or good planning by Doug Benson in Geoff Tate’s favor that one of the Leonard Maltin Game categories this week centers on episodes of Cheers. Fans of hyper-specific pop culture-breakdowns will be happy to hear Tate’s plug about entering the fray with a Cheers-based show, Afternoon, Everybody. They’ll also be mortified—with good reason—to hear Scott Aukerman’s announcement that U Talkin’ U2 To Me? will be having a “season finale” of sorts, since neither he nor Adam Scott can keep up with the admittedly silly current pace of the show. Luckily, Benson is in a pushy mood, and he squeezes a commitment out of Aukerman to bring it back track-by-track pending any new albums. As the booking would suggest, the rest of this short Upright Citizen Brigade show is filled with amicable, riff-tastic game rounds and some in-depth discussion. Daniel Van Kirk’s predictably hilarious drop-in as Mark Wahlberg makes it just about perfect. [DJ] 

Final Level #12: Manslaughter, Maya Angelou, Tracy Morgan, Jimmy Fallon
This week’s episode both foregoes—unfortunately—the delightfully mindboggling pairings of previous episodes (Todd Barry on sports, Jon Daly on furry culture, Reggie Watts on the ethics of musical holograms, to name a few) and—thankfully—passé bits on Miley Cyrus, twerking, and selfies. Instead, Ice gets into it with co-host Mick Benzo. This chat begets an illuminating history of hip-hop’s genesis through the interface of gangs, religion, and disco records. Benzo is an engaging orator and music fans will love his ground-level perspective. Renaissance man that he is, Ice doles out great insight and advice for both  hip-hop aspirants and video game developers during the call-in segment. This episode features less wild bits but ultimately a richer conversation between the hosts and some sincerely heartfelt moments. [JW]

The Fogelnest Files #93: Fake Polish: David Krumholtz
Listeners will almost certainly recognize this week’s guest by face if not by name. Now in his mid-30s, David Krumholtz has been acting since the age of 13, and is probably most recognizable for his work on the CBS drama Numbers and his recurring role in the Harold & Kumar movies. Despite his long filmography and overall successful career, Krumholtz speaks candidly to Jake Fogelnest about the jealousy and depression that accompanies his many disappointments. He also explains the sheer terror that was associated with the impending birth of his first child and how he fantasized about buying a plane ticket and starting a new life somewhere. As it turns out, the two guys happen to know each other from attending the Professional Children’s School in Manhattan together. An episode highlight centers around the prank that Krumholtz played on Fogelnest on his first day of school. [DD]

Freakonomics: Why America Doesn’t Love Soccer (Yet)
Freakonomics starts off rather cutely this week, with host Stephen Dubner interviewing his son (who turns out to be quite the blogger) on the World Cup. This episode is about soccer, of course, but particularly about America’s seeming aversion to the sport, and how that may be changing. Major League Soccer in North America has been steadily increasing overall attendance in its 18 years, but local TV broadcasts have been few and far between (and it attracts older or lower level players). In the U.S., soccer has traditionally been a suburban sport where players go through higher education before becoming professionals. In most of the world, it’s very much an urban game, and kids as young as thirteen are drafted into professional leagues. Interestingly, while the U.S. Men’s team is number 13 or 14 in the world, the Women’s team is number one, which seems to be because of America’s comparably progressive stance on women’s sports. [NC]

How Was Your Week #171: Jason Nash “Brillsplaining”
Even the lifeless, Julie Klausner-endorsed synopsis of this week’s installment with comparatively minor celebrity Jason Nash prepares the listener for a skippable episode, considering that Klausner’s recent successes have come from big gets. Whether because of these lowered expectations or because he’s fighting hard to break the cycle, Nash comes out swinging in an unexpectedly articulate and personal interview. He has a clear idea of how How Was Your Week operates and seems to actively play against brand, sometimes forcing the host out of the equation so that he can be sure he has the time and space to win people over to controversial viewpoints, like how he doesn’t want anything to do with Adam Scott or how valuable a tool Twitter is as a platform to meet black people. Skip the Tony’s-heavy opening monologue, though, which Klausner herself admits to being non-essential listening. [NJ]

Nerdist #532: Bryan Bishop
This time around, Chris Hardwick sits down for an intimate one-on-one discussion with Bryan Bishop, otherwise known as “Bald Bryan” from The Adam Carolla Show in addition to his achievements as a best-selling author. Most of the interview centers around Bishop’s battle with a brain tumor and surviving cancer. Bishop approaches the topic of his personal struggle with a lot of levity and humor. He seems very easygoing about surviving a disease that was projected to kill him within six months and even shares a few lighthearted anecdotes about receiving chemo in a strip club and crapping his pants. Hardwick also handles the topic well with a lot of empathy and sensitivity but without being cloying. [MS]

Nerdist #533: Mitch Hurwitz
Chris Hardwick talks with Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz for an interview in front of a live audience at the Wild West Comedy Festival in Nashville. The longer-than-normal episode is a goldmine for Arrested Development fans. Hurwitz is a natural in front of an audience, so even though the conversation jumps around quite a bit, it remains entertaining throughout. Listeners will need at least a passing familiarity with Arrested Development to enjoy this one, but fans will likely be delighted with insights into his Hurwitz’s creative process—both on the original Fox show and the Netflix revival. Hurwitz developed his comedic voice as a writer on Golden Girls and while Arrested Development is praised as a unique comedy, Hurwitz claims he was always happy to pander to his audience and write a very traditional story. After an interesting set of questions from the live audience, Hurwitz ends the podcast with some hilarious stories about David Cross. [CS]   

Never Not Funny #1419 Jessica St. Clair And Lennon Parham
It sometimes seems as though, regardless of the project or the podcast, Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham come as an unbreakable set. And though that’s not technically true, it’s doubtful that anyone would complain if it was. The stars of the USA’s Playing House are so effortlessly funny, and play so well off one another, that they come damn close to making Jimmy Pardo appear superfluous on his own show. Whether they’re explaining their strange friendship dynamic that apparently involves Parham trying in vain to cram vital information into her staunchly resistant friend’s head or St. Clair surprising her creative partner with a new detail about two lesbians named Deb in an otherwise well-worn golden shower anecdote, they spend the better part of their time driving the conversation. Though, to be fair, Pardo and St. Clair do spend a decent amount of time bonding over their shared love for Nashville.  [DD]

99 Percent Invisible #118: “Song Exploder”
Every so often, 99 Percent Invisible will pluck an episode of another podcast out of the ether and air it as their weekly episode. That’s what sort of happens on episode #118, which highlights Hrishikesh Hirway’s Song Exploder podcast. Song Exploder is relatively new (and reviewed here), but is based on a fascinating premise: having a musician or composer strip down one of their songs to its base components and themes. For this episode of 99PI, Hirway does that with both The Postal Service’s Jimmy “Dntel” Tamborello and Jeff Beal, composer of the House Of Cards theme song. Non-Cards viewers might glaze over at the intensive discussion of the theme’s musical interpretation of capitol buildings and calls to arms, but Hirway beautiful production and thoughtful editing make origin stories of even the most unfamiliar songs semi-interesting. [ME]

Radiolab: ≤ kg
In an unusually giddy episode, the Radiolab team looks at the unusually fascinating world of units of measurements. They take what could be a drag of a topic and playfully report on its excessively specific and incomprehensible standards of measurement. In a brilliant touch, the lengthy definitions of, say, an amp are quoted while being echoed by a disembodied, almost spectral soprano a few beats behind the interview. The episode hits its stride when the crew comes across the final unit of measurement not defined by obfuscated scientific jargon—the kilogram. By tracing back the history of the original kilogram to France, the story unfolds in fascinating ways all the way back to present day. Along the way, Robert Krulwich gets his feet wet with multiple on-site visits to stuffy museums where retired units of measurements are stored, and has a variety of entertainingly dry conversations with preservationists. Though a tad short, “≤ kg” is a clear winner. [MK]

Sklarbro Country #203: Don’t Won’t Allow It: Adam McKay, Will Ferrell
One of the great things about the Sklarbro Country podcast is that some of the biggest names in entertainment and comedy will drop by for the most informal and casual of discussions with Randy and Jason Sklar. Take for example that Adam McKay stops by to discuss basketball with his buddies rather than promote his myriad projects. Will Ferrell is more laid-back and low-key in conversation with the Sklar brothers and McKay than the typically boisterous persona he employs in public appearances. One of the more revealing aspects of his guest spot is his confession about quitting Twitter within a week due to buckling under the pressure of having to constantly be funny. It’s always interesting to hear one of the more iconic figures in contemporary comedy confess to experiencing genuine self-doubt and vulnerability. [MS]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Ruth Harkness And The First Panda In The U.S.
What begins as an awkward episode about animal rights politics ends up being a thoughtful entry in Stuff You Missed In History Class that tells the story of Ruth Harkness and the pandas she captured, but also reveals more of its hosts than the format of the podcast usually allows. Holly Frey, in particular, starts the episode letting listeners know she has mixed feelings about the story of Ruth Harkness, who spent the 1930s and ’40s traveling to China to bring pandas to America. Frey’s objections seem strangely contemporary for an 80 year-old story. But as the tale of Harkness unfurls, the perspective becomes clear. Once a hard-living, wealthy Flapper girl, Harkness found herself a widow amid a capture, eventually deciding to waste a fortune spent on a cub only to return it to the wild. When the story is through, Frey reveals the complex concept of anthropomorphizing animals and what this culture has done to various species. Tracy Wilson also stays ably objective, keeping both threads of the episode intact. [DT]

You Made It Weird #211: Dave Stone
A large chunk of this week’s conversation with stand-up comedian Dave Stone deals with veganism, smoothies, and nutrition, which will probably make a decent-sized portion of the audience groan. Unless they actually listen to the episode, in which case they’ll find Stone to be one of the more down-to-earth, interesting conversationalists the show has seen in a while. The guy bought a van for the specific purpose of driving it to Los Angeles and living in it while he got on his feet as a stand-up. His story about brandishing a machete in his underwear to defend his mobile abode from midnight thieves is great, but his detailing of the mundane ins and outs of van life are possibly better. And, though he and Holmes do talk about their dietary habits a lot, their attention somehow keeps drifting back longingly to the junk food they both miss and don’t miss. [DD]

The rest

Book Fight! #62: Peter Sotos, Mine
This episode is a curious one. Hosts Tom McAllister and Mike Ingram read Peter Sotos’ Mine, a novel that examines the psychology of men who consume child pornography, but in their quest to avoid the book’s most graphic details, this becomes a general discussion about trigger warnings and best methods to consume, discuss, and teach transgressive literature. [ABa]

Bugle #272: WORLD CUP!
This week’s episode is for soccer fans only, but John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman’s giddy over-enthusiasm is a canny sendup of sports-obsessed cultures worldwide. [DXF]

The Cracked Podcast #36: Why The World Cup And Olympics Are War Zones
The Cracked crew try their hand at being timely and topical with an episode devoted to social chaos around events like the World Cup and the Olympics. This one doesn’t have the broad appeal of most of the other episodes, but its still worth a listen. [MS]

Doug Loves Movies: Ron Funches, Jonah Ray, Jared Thompson
One of the advantages Doug Benson’s road-show heavy podcast has over some of its all-studio-recorded peers is the ability to book unique guests outside the normal Nerdist or Earwolf circuit. This week, that includes Bloomington, Indiana Comedy Attic owner Jared Thompson. The episode induces more knowing-smiles than full laughs, but it’s a decent listen. [DJ] 

Filmspotting #494: The Immigrant / Top 5 Immigrant Movies
Josh Larsen and guest-host Michael Phillips spend an undue amount of time discussing James Gray’s The Immigrant, before trading back and forth their favorite films about immigrants. Phillips is dryly engaging as always, but the show hurts for the lack of youthful enthusiasm usually provided by regular frontman Adam Kempenaar. [DD]

Hang Up And ListenThe Boring Plus Time Equals Consistency Edition
The panel falls into an unflatteringly familiar position of arguing against “dumb” sports fans made of straw, while making their own inane pronouncements about the San Antonio Spurs. It’s an example of the kind of counter-narrative hawking that’s made self-appointed smart sports analysts as insufferably predictable as the hot takes they deride. [TC]

Improv4Humans #138: Old Boots: Billy Merritt, Sean Conroy, Brian Huskey, Joe Hartzler
Though it has the makings of a great episode of Improv4Humans with a great cast and a handful of great scenes, this week’s edition doesn’t quite come together. [MK]

Judge John Hodgman #164: O Brother, Where Parked Thou?
Australian brother and sister Stephanie (age 26) and Mitch (a smug musician, age 22) still live in their parents’ house, and they can’t decide who should get the good parking space. Hearing the first-world problem is a hoot for Hodgman, but the short docket-clearing case about cosplay has a higher snicker count. [DXF]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #177: Michael H.
Listener Michael H. seems to connect with Paul Gilmartin in this conversation, which focuses on Michael’s depression and troubled relationship with his mother. While there are moments of inspiration, the discussion stalls as the pair delve into the guest’s recent breakup.  [TC]

The Moth: The Rubber Stamp 
Author Mona Simpson delves into the thorny issue of financial aid for higher education by relaying her owns struggle as a young Syrian-American with a mentally ill mother. There’s a lot of value in the argument she attempts to make, but between the 15-minute running time and anemic storytelling, that value in podcast form gets diminished. [DJ] 

Nerdist #534: Myq Kaplan
Stand-up comedian Myq Kaplan sits down with Chris Hardwick and Jonah Ray to chat about his career, his thoughts on open relationships, and comedians simultaneously creating the same bits. Overall this is an enjoyable, joke-filled conversation, but it’s just not quite substantial enough to count as one of Nerdist’s best. [CS]

Professor Blastoff #159 Puppeteering: Colleen Smith
The show lands a world-class guest in Groundlings improv instructor and Jim Henson puppeteer Colleen Smith, and spends more time sticking out their guts and heating up food than they do mining her for her knowledge. [NJ]

Sound Opinions #446: Richard Thompson
After last week’s brief change of pace, the Sound Opinions team is back to straight interviews but not quite better for it, especially as pitching for money and a Jack White review eat up more of the feature’s time than usual. [NJ]

Stuff You Should Know: How The Placebo Effect Works
The placebo effect is an interesting phenomena, and there are both interesting practical uses for it and staunch detractors. Unfortunately, little is explained here of those who use it reluctantly, or any kind of gray area. Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant make the episode as interesting as ever, but it may be difficult for listeners to decide if they want their doctors to lie about whether they’re receiving sugar pills or not. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The S.S. Sultana
Maritime disaster stories are a popular feature on Stuff You Missed In History Class, and the S.S. Sultana’s sinking is the biggest maritime disaster in U.S. history. The disaster happened the day after John Wilkes Booth was captured and killed, so it fell out of focus in most newspapers and textbooks. Unfortunately, beyond the tragedy of the event, this is a fairly straightforward episode. The boat was legally certified to carry no more than 400 people but was carrying approximately 2,000 soldiers to save money. Beyond these sad facts, this episode is little more than a recitation of the hubris listeners could research or imagine themselves. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Sugar: It Powers The Earth
The history of sugar is fascinating—The Reformation closed many monasteries, for instance, who were responsible for the production of most of Europe’s honey and therefore almost all honey. But for each amusing aside about how much co-host Chuck Bryant likes sugar in his English breakfast tea, the history and science don’t add up to enough to make it seem as essential as the title of the episode suggests. [DT]

Who Charted? #184: Theatrical Viagra: John Roy
It’s always a bit of a bummer when Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack are in top hosting form and their charisma and chemistry are wasted on a dud of a guest. Comedian John Roy has an abrasive and frat-like energy that doesn’t really enhance the flow of the episode. [MS]

WTF #504: Giovanni Ribisi
Marc Maron and Giovanni Ribisi could probably have a great conversation together, but this isn’t it—some of Ribisi’s on-set anecdotes are interesting enough, but the two’s lengthy discussion of Scientology goes nowhere and the episode drags at several points throughout. [CG]

WTF #505: Billy Wayne Davis
Rising Southern star Billy Wayne Davis offers little in the way of candidness during his garage visit. Maron’s hackneyed waxing on the good ol’ days when the mechanic remembered your name and a generally straightforward and uninspired interview make this episode easily passable. [JW]


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