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How Was Your Week celebrates Halloween in style and Zach Galifianakis makes it weird  

Hey, you like podcasts? Make sure you check out Reasonable Discussions, the A.V. Club podcast. Podmass comments can be directed to podmass@avclub.com.

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“So what was so important? I’m here. It sounded urgent.”
“What we do is chitchat and have fun. Nothing’s important here.” —Paul Reiser and Jimmy Pardo, Never Not Funny

“That sound you might be able to hear is the sound of my balls crawling up into my stomach at the prospect of Willard [Mitt] Romney in the White House, one of the smallest houses he’s ever lived in.” —John Oliver, The Bugle

“TV guys are evil and smart, and radio guys are evil and dumb.” —Adam Carolla, Mohr Stories

“If you just want to look at stuff on your phone for 83 minutes and have a movie playing in the background, I mean, it’ll do, I guess.”—Stuart Wellington’s assessment of The Devil Inside, The Flop House

“I always worry when you fall asleep.”
“’Cause you practically died nine times lately.” —Dave Hill and Tig Notaro, Dave Hill’s Podcasting Incident


Dave Hill’s Podcasting Incident
“Dave doesn’t have topics—you just sit around and have slow, boring delivery and then send it out to the airwaves,” explains Tig Notaro in episode 50 of Dave Hill’s Podcasting Incident, and she’s not really joking. The comedian/musician/writer’s podcast is about as free-form as it gets, at least during the conversation segment “with a notable person of note.” Episodes begin with some chatter from Hill, some listener questions, then a segment from his “secretary,” Shaina Feinberg. Following that is a long, casual discussion that attempts to be nothing more than that.

His lengthy chat with longtime friend Tig Notaro plays like a secretly recorded conversation, with listeners acting as law-enforcement agents sifting through hours of mundane chatter to find the one moment where someone mentions whacking a guy. Much of that comes from the way the conversation is recorded; from the sound of it, Hill only uses a basic digital recorder with an internal mic, so it sounds like people talking on a speakerphone. There’s also a tinny digital tone that can be a little abrasive. No one’s close to the recorder (including Notaro’s writing partner, Kyle Dunnigan, who joins later), and the discussion is so low-key that it’s practically somnambulant. On the other hand, given all the attention Notaro has received lately, it’s kind of nice to hear her relaxed with an old friend and not having to dwell on the insanely terrible year she’s had. When it comes up while she and Hill talk, it’s not suffused with the life-or-death seriousness that Notaro is undoubtedly sick of; as she mentioned on Live, she was hungering for people just to talk to her like normal, and Hill obliges. The episode concludes with a song Hill recorded and a track recommended by Ian Ball of Gomez.

Notaro is famously low-energy, but episode 46 with Brett Gelman is similarly mellow. He and Hill have a good rapport as they discuss religion and the Jews they know, but it moves at a slow pace. At least it’s shorter than the Notaro episode, but both could stand to be considerably shorter. Hill is a funny guy with a shaggy charm, but Dave Hill’s Podcasting Incident could stand to be less shaggy. With some better equipment, a little more direction, and a shorter runtime, it could be required listening. [KR]


The Watkins Family Hour
Siblings Sara and Sean Watkins have been hosting a monthly residency at L.A.’s Largo for nine years, drawing a diverse array of musical and comedic talent for a loose, lively show anchored by Sara on fiddle and Sean on guitar. The show’s transition to a podcast format has not been especially smooth—episodes are released sporadically, and sound issues abound—but its loose, living-room jam-session vibe comes through nonetheless. Hopefully the podcast’s recent merge into the Nerdist network will improve both its regularity and fidelity, but being that there’s nothing especially timely about The Watkins Family Hour, new listeners can dive into the (small) archive in the meantime. Episode 1 features Grant Lee Phillips, Garfunkel And Oates’ Kate Micucci, and the Watkins’ former Nickel Creek bandmate Chris Thile, and the camaraderie, good humor, and musicianship on display is a delight. And even though Episode 3, titled “Bear With Us,” was recorded on an iPhone following a power outage, the presence of Fiona Apple, John C. Riley, and Nick Kroll all doing bear-themed material is strong enough to make up for the fact that it sounds like it was recorded inside a giant tin can. (And really, where else are you going to hear Fiona Apple sing “He’s A Bear” to the tune of “He’s A Tramp,” then be carried off stage by a man in a bear suit?) The most recent episode was recorded in June and features the legendary Van Dyke Parks, plus Dawes and David Garza, and hopefully serves as an omen of more good things to come. [GK]


The Bugle #211: Electoral Labour
The bulk of this week’s episode of The Bugle, like so many episodes before it, is spent on the upcoming presidential election in the United States. Luckily, co-hosts John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman are up to it, as Oliver shows when he yells, “America is in electoral labor and is about to shit out another president!” Both the final presidential debate and the controversial voter ID laws get particular attention, and the episode is stronger for it. Brief bits on the world economy, a man in Brazil who attended his own funeral, and Beyoncé and Jay-Z keep things lively and moving swiftly, but most of the laughs come from the election bit. With only one episode left before the election, it’s hard to imagine The Bugle without its weekly insights into the madness that is the presidential campaign. [MG]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #183: Return To Suicide House: Brett Gelman, Jon Daly, Allan McLeod, James Adomian
“Comedy Fang Fang” Halloween episodes tend to favor diehard fans, as they’re Comedy Bang! Bang! at its loosest and, in this year’s case, most anarchic. Brett Gelman and Jon Daly return as Messmore and Beuford le Barron, the not-so-scary spirits who live in a Suicide House. Gelman and Daly are total pros, and Aukerman has a great rapport with them that leads to plenty of funny moments. The show really goes off the rails (for new listeners)/hits its stride (for fans) when Allan Mcleod and James Adomian show up later, and a ludicrous assortment of characters crowd their way into the show. There’s a hilarious version of “Monster Mash” sung to the tune of “Suicide Is Painless,” a head-spinning Rap Battle, and the world’s worst impression of Shaggy from Scooby Doo. It’s exhausting, but in a good way. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: Jimmy Pardo, Duncan Trussell And Matt Mira
This pre-Halloween installment of Doug Loves Movies starts out with the panel having some fun with guest Jimmy Pardo’s willful ignorance of the James Bond movie franchise. The gentle ribbing sets the tone for the chat portion, where Pardo, along with Duncan Trussell and Matt Mira, have an easygoing and fun exchange that avoids the type of spotlight-hogging that often occurs on DLM. Pardo also exhibits some willful ignorance about horror movies, but Trussell picks up the spooky slack by giving a stoner’s explanation of Aleister Crowley’s influence on culture. In keeping with the horror theme, a DLM listener suggested the creative Leonard Maltin theme of “Movies Where Someone Is Killed With A Pitchfork.” [MS]

The Flop House #113: The Devil Inside
The Devil Inside is one of the most talked-about, notoriously terrible movies of the year, with its overall ineptness and marketing tie-in ending, and yet the venerable Flop House hosts provide a fresh critical analysis, which they manage to keep pretty interesting. It’s also thoroughly funny, with Stuart Wellington having a particularly good showing. Even better, though, is the mailbag segment that follows, which features a letter alluding to Wellington being “ethnically Juggalo,” a much-groaned-about letter from Elliott Kalan’s brother, and nary a dull or unfunny moment. All in all, it’s a terrific way to cap off another successful Shocktober. [CG]

Hang Up And Listen: The Lab Geek Rats And Pocket Squares Edition
Hurricane Sandy occasions a shorter-than-usual edition of HUAL—and a very funny Stefan Fatsis imitation of a stormchasing broadcast journalist—but a segment with Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus alone makes it worthwhile. Pelton and his colleagues have been trying to apply the same statistical rigor to basketball as the sabermetricians who have revolutionized baseball. But it’s a trickier proposition than with baseball, where individual contributions can be more easily extracted from the team stats—an entire team doesn’t, say, throw a pitch or come together for a single at-bat—and factors like coaching schemes and overall chemistry can affect an individual player’s value. Nevertheless, Pelton and his crew have their models for how the new NBA season might play out, and it’s certainly more scientific than the usual sports-talk bloviation. [ST]

How Was Your Week # 86: “How Was Your Shriek Live”: Kristen Johnston, Scharpling & Wurster, Gabe Liedman, Gary Tha Squirrel
Julie Klausner invites an all-star list of guests to join her to celebrate Halloween, and gives listeners one of the best episodes of her show in a while. The show starts with a lively and hilarious overview of the more notable happenings since Klausner’s last live episode in July, which may sound familiar to fans, but is a nice entry point for new listeners. A bit with Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster would play perfectly on any episode of The Best Show On WFMU, as Klausner interviews Wurster’s oversexed Gene Simmons character before Scharpling drops in as Cheryl Morgan, the world’s No. 1 KISS fan. In a more straightforward but no less funny segment, Gabe Leidman gets into the Halloween spirit by sharing his top fears with Klausner, marking another highpoint in an episode filled with them. [DF]

The JV Club #34: Stephanie Escajeda
After last week’s fun, frothy episode, The JV Club returns to the traumatic adolescent experiences that have defined its best episodes, as Janet Varney welcomes comedian Stephanie Escajeda to the show. Despite having a rather charmed high-school experience, Escajeda was dealing with some serious shit at home, including a father who left her mother to marry his mistress and a brother (one of nine) who died from AIDS. The latter becomes a major point of discussion between the two women; Escajeda talks about her early acceptance of mortality, and the struggle of learning how to continue living when a loved one passes. It’s a tearjerker of an episode, but Escajeda’s comic background keeps the conversation entertaining throughout. The ladies end with a game of MASH that helps end the episode on an uplifting note, a nice dessert after an emotional main course. [OS]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #84: D.C. Pierson
The conversations on The Mental Illness Happy Hour occasionally seem too intimate to share with anyone with an Internet connection and about 100 minutes to spare. The podcast’s public airing of remarkably raw emotions presents one of the trickiest balancing acts in the medium. Paul Gilmartin’s ability to prod deeply without turning the show into misery-ogling is exemplified in this episode, as D.C. Pierson talks movingly with the host about his mother’s death. It doesn’t seem like Pierson has told the heart-wrenching story many times, and his voice sounds like it’s on the verge of cracking as he recalls every small detail around the event. The comedian’s admirable candidness reveals a level of humanity and decency that a typical interview would likely miss. It’s a captivating, lengthy discussion for the one-of-a-kind podcast that’s become a genuinely safe place for public people, and something resembling anti-escapist entertainment for listeners. [TC]

Monday Morning Podcast
Bill Burr is on back his game this week: He precisely pinpoints the humorous minutiae of the trailer for Flight; he draws out the inherent but subtle sadness of a TV show that features hillbillies hunting wild pigs; he highlights the silliness of a TED talk about personable robots; he’s self-deprecating when he talks about having just seen Stop Making Sense for the first time; and he’s relatively fair and honest when it comes to listener emails. All of these elements are pieces of what makes Burr such a strong standup, so when he applies them to his podcast, it’s almost inevitable that that episode as a whole is consistently funny. [CG]

The Moth: Kerry Weeks And Micaela Blei: StorySLAM Favorites
Both of this week’s short StorySLAM entries take rather adorable angles on the theme of theft. Kerry Weeks’ tales of being ripped off both as a child and as a grown-up landlord hinge cleverly on the idea that intelligence can make somebody more gullible. But the finer of this week’s pair is Micaela Blei, who recounts investigating Lego theft as an elementary-school teacher. Rather than seek a broader point, she burrows into some Oz-like intrigue amid different factions of kids, giddily implicating herself in the crime. [SG]

My Brother, My Brother And Me #126: Blast My Cache
This week’s episode is Halloween-themed, and the McElroy brothers dedicate quite a bit of time at the top to jokes that basically amount to, “People who believe in ghosts are so dumb.” It’s funny for a while, but it gets stale long before they stop talking about it, rendering the first 20 minutes pretty much skippable. What comes after that is much more on point: The titular bit is damn near instant-classic status, the Extreme Restraints ad is as hysterical as ever despite some visual gags, and a series of anticlimactic ghost stories near the end is funnier than it sounds. It’s an uneven episode, but the good stuff is plentiful and strong enough to overcome the bad. [CG]

Nerdist #276: Anthony Edwards
As a star of the long-running television drama E.R., and with various noteworthy film projects under his belt, Anthony Edwards has a diverse career that lays the groundwork for an interview that covers topics ranging from acting and filmmaking to long-distance running to attaining a pilot’s license. The interview takes place in Edwards’ home, and his comfort is apparent throughout. By allowing listeners to be flies on a wall as opposed to people who need to be entertained, the episode flows without interruption and freely addresses topics without pulling any punches. There aren’t any big revelations about Edwards here, but his positive outlook meshes well with Chris Hardwick’s, creating an episode that’s oddly inspiring without trying to be. [DA]


Never Not Funny #1119: Hot From Running With Paul Reiser
After Richard Lewis, Paul Reiser is arguably the biggest star to visit the Never Not Funny studios, and he shares a similarly reluctant and imposed-upon attitude toward his appearance on the show. Where Lewis’ abrasiveness may not have been an act, Reiser exudes warmth that doesn’t fit his aloofness, so it’s a testament to his talent that the joke stays funny for as long as it does. Thankfully, Reiser seems to sense that Jimmy Pardo wants more than a one-note persona and fuzzy memories, and opens up about his career, the camaraderie among comedians, and his conflicting desire for reclusion. The time after Pardo orders Reiser to “bring it” (around 39 minutes) up to the break is by far the best portion, but the entire episode is a joy and well worth the price, which is nothing, because this week is free. [SM]

Professor Blastoff #76: American History
With a less politicized topic than last week and an expert guest dedicated to the facts, the hosts have the freedom to examine the effects of major historical events in America with a critical eye. But first, it’s morning zoo time, a hilarious cacophony of sound effects and affected voices that ranks among the show’s best moments and leaves Tig Notaro (sorry, The Wig) breathless and pained from laughter. As David Huntsberger outlines the formation of America with equal focus on its successes, failures, and swept-under disgraces—particularly its affinity for war, theft, and oppression of civil rights—guest Sascha Cohen fills in the facts with an intelligent appreciation of nuance. While it’s hardly a dry conversation, Kyle Dunnigan’s cast of character impressions is a welcome comedic relief, making for an episode that’s hilarious and informative, often at the same time. [SM]

Sklarbro Country #118: Horse Burlesque: Sean Patton, Chris Cox
There are few comics who sound more interesting reminiscing about their old days performing at countless open mics than the Sklar brothers, and New Orleans comedian Sean Patton brings out that intriguing conversation during this episode. Even more interesting is the story of a high-school football mascot at a school with a miserable football team who goes to the coach and offers to play, dominates during a JV start, and then leads the varsity team to their first win in years with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter for a comeback victory. [KM]

Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #23: Matt Walsh, Dan Van Kirk
Matt Walsh already has his own podcast, the Chicago Bears-centric Bear Down, but judging by his hilarious appearance on the Sklar brothers’ bonus episode this week, that might not be enough to contain him. He’s a great guest, contributing consistently funny commentary on crazy Twitter threats at Erin Andrews and a burglar suing the 90-year-old man who shot him during the burglary. [KM]

Sound Opinions #361: Monster Songs For Halloween, Review Of Converge
An episode about monster-themed songs might portend a complete cornball-fest from Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis, but they’ve managed to make this one perverse and surprising. Amid surface-level choices like Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla,” and Donovan’s “Season Of The Witch,” they dredge up some compelling angles on Halloween playlist selections. There’s Burt Bacharach’s still unbelievably screwy “The Blob” and the creepily apt listener selection “Shankhill Butchers” by The Decemberists. At the end, the hosts astutely give Converge’s new album All We Love We Leave Behind a strong review—not failing, of course, to note the band’s connection to Salem, Massachusetts. [SG]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Case Of The Colorado Cannibal
As the American West’s only convicted cannibal, Alferd Packer—he supposedly changed his name to reflect a misspelled tattoo—should be an obvious villain, but some still debate his innocence even after the gruesome gold expedition he took in the winter of 1873. He certainly didn’t help his cause: He liked to ask his expedition partners how much cash they carried and tried to downplay some prison time he’d done for murder. His eventual trial supposedly had long-standing effects on murder laws, and he spent 18 years in prison after being found guilty. He died a free man, but his death certificate listed a particularly haunting cause. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Accused By A Ghost!
“Accused by a ghost, he had no legal remedy,” went a book about William Kent, the subject of this episode. That’s how it happened: What became known as the Cock Lane Ghost communicated through a series of knocks to accuse Kent of murdering his wife. Pistol-packed séances and a huge trial followed, and people still believed the story long after it was exposed as a fraud. It’s one of history’s more fascinating hoaxes and should appeal even to those who don’t like spooky stories. [DT]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #94: Behind The Scenes At TAH
Fans of Thrilling Adventure Hour’s usually compact episodes might be peeved to see a long one in their feed. But they might also be starved for insight into the show if they haven’t caught it live in LA. Writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker join actors Marc Evan Jackson and Mark Gagliardi for an affable chat about how the show came to be a radio-drama homage in the first place, J.K. Simmons’ singing talents, and how the “Sparks Nevada: Marshal On Mars” storyline has developed over time. Luckily, nobody’s too stiff in this interview, and the quick banter makes it more entertaining than just a round of navel-gazing. [SG]

Walking The Room #127: Carny Brother And Sexy Catheter
For a comedy podcast recorded in a closet by hosts as alternately sad, unsettled, and grotesque as Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt, it’s no surprise that moments of frank reality hit the hardest on Walking The Room. For Anthony, it’s learning the history of the man they call Hobotang, whose troubled childhood earns the sort of empathy that comes with a villain’s origin story. For Behrendt, it’s an update on therapy and its effectiveness, which reveals both the severity of his depression and his promising management of it. Riffs on a french fry restaurant and slutty Halloween costumes are certainly on par, if not funnier than usual, but segments that inform the show’s mythology with real-life pathos can’t help but dominate the highly compelling episode. [SM]

Who Charted? #100: 100th Episode LIVE from UCB-L.A. w/Steve Agee, Jason Woliner, Paul F. Tompkins
Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack ring in the milestone 100th episode with a live show at L.A.’s UCB Theater. It’s only fitting that Kremer and Vilaysack begin the show with Who Charted’s inaugural guest, Steve Agee. After relaying an anecdote about an unheard, disastrous attempt at the podcast’s first episode, Agee does his best to endure the music charts. The audience really eats up this grumpy and admittedly out-of-touch stoner’s attempts to make sense of popular music, and some of the best parts of the podcast entail imagining Agee’s facial expression as the audience cracks up to him reacting to songs by Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift. However, Agee is only one of three fantastic guests, including director Jason Woliner and the ever-present Paul F. Tompkins. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #328: Chad Daniels
What makes Chad Daniels a great WTF guest isn’t just Marc Maron’s incredulity at how Daniels can survive as a comic while choosing to live in his hometown with his professor wife. It’s that Daniels does so because he chose family life instead of aggressively trying to “make it” in Los Angeles or New York, and isn’t some bitter and jaded comic angry at the world. He’s just a really funny guy that found a way to work within the system without having to compromise his family. It also helps that he has killer stories from touring all over the country. [KM]

WTF With Marc Maron #329: Tim Heidecker
It seems like the most out-there comic artists tend to have more subtle personalities, and that rule applies to Tim And Eric’s Tim Heidecker. He and Marc Maron open with typical WTF stuff: mutual wariness, hometowns, music. The second half is more interesting, as Heidecker describes the aesthetic approach he shares with comedy partner Eric Wareheim and what it’s like to bring otherwise normal performers into their bizarre universe. What’s most surprising is Heidecker’s hurt response to the critics of Tim And Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, because anyone who watched the movie wouldn’t have thought the two made the movie attempting to please anyone but themselves and their fans. [CZ]

WTF With Marc Maron #330: TJ Miller, Moby, Aries Spears, Dave Hill, Jake Fogelnest, Mike Bobbitt, Jim Earl
Live episodes of WTF can be spotty, and at the beginning of this set recorded in Los Angeles, it looks like another long haul. But the show gets on a roll once Aries Spears steps up to talk about the first time he met Eddie Murphy and why Paul Mooney’s career is stuck in traction, and Moby sends the group careening into a hysterical discussion of a female dominatrix that Maron and a few of his other guests know. TJ Miller rounds out a surprisingly engaging live show, bringing his usual madcap self to a lively panel. [KM]

You Made It Weird #96: Zach Galifianakis
Zach Galifianakis usually maintains a somewhat aloof public persona, so it’s interesting to hear him let his guard down a bit in his conversation with Pete Holmes, recorded in his own home. Galifianakis doesn’t open up too much—and something was obviously edited out toward the end of the episode—but he does speak relatively candidly about his discomfort with being in the public eye and his views on the connection between the environment and spirituality. But mostly he just goofs around with Holmes, who keeps his interrupting and riffing to a (relative) minimum. [GK]


Doug Loves Movies: Motion City Soundtrack
This field trip to interview the members of the band Motion City Soundtrack is a nice idea, but the execution isn’t particularly engaging. [MS]

Mohr Stories #101: Bill Philipps
Psychic Bill Philipps claims to have channeled the spirit of Chris Farley, but skips details in favor of an impromptu séance. For non-believers, it’s good for a laugh. [DXF]

Mohr Stories #102: Adam Carolla
Adam Carolla’s appearance might as well be an Adam Carolla Show episode: Mohr can only coax out variations on Carolla’s retread rants, including Ace’s insights on tattoos, the Eagles, broadcast executives, etc. [DXF]

Nerdist #274: Darren Bousman
As the director of several sequels in the Saw franchise, Bousman’s expertise is horror, and although the episode starts with discussions of the genre, once it devolves into talk about what terrible B-movies everyone’s seen, it leaves the audience largely in the dark. [DA]

Nerdist #275 The Wachowskis And Tom Tykwer
Cloud Atlas’ directorial team joins Chris Hardwick for an interview that has great potential but never truly delivers. Hardwick asks good questions, and the guests answer them openly, but it never clicks and becomes truly entertaining. [DA]

The Smartest Man In The World #182: Greg Proops Film Club: Return of the Living Dead
It’s the Halloween edition of Greg Proops Film Club, which means the podcast is devoted almost entirely to discussing Return Of The Living Dead. Knowing the movie is a must to make this episode worthwhile. [NC]

Stuff You Should Know: SYSK’s Halloween Horror Fiction Winner!
A deviation from the podcast’s form does something fun for loyal listeners but unfortunately doesn’t pay off. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Exoskeletons: How’s It Coming?
Exoskeletons or “wearable robots” sound pretty cool, but as they barely exist in a functional way there’s not much to discuss. [DT]

The Todd Glass Show #71: Doug Stanhope and Daniel Kinno
Despite the fact that guest Doug Stanhope is clearly a fan of the podcast, this installment fails to hit that happy medium between silly and serious that the show usually occupies so well. [MS]

Uhh Yeah Dude: #345
Jonathan Larroquette and Seth Romatelli are equally enthused about George Clooney’s old caesar haircut and a study on cocaine use among virgin mice. But, as sometimes happens on UYD, the science gets a little sketchy, and the celeb analysis yields more insights and laughs anyway. [CW]

You Made It Weird #97: Live at JFL42
This live podcast from Toronto features plenty of funny guest banter, but not many of Pete Holmes’ bits with Jonah Ray, W. Kamau Bell, and others get adequate time to snowball into much-funnier territory. [SG]