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Sklarbro Country sweats to Richard Simmons and Best Show has a grump-off     

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“This baby cried nine hours straight, the entire flight … And the mom kept asking me, ‘Is this bothering you?’” —Graham Clark, Stop Podcasting Yourself

“Hi, I’m John’s son, you squeaky, titty blonde. Hell of a nice knowin’ ya.”—Seth Romatelli doing an impression of Jonathan Larroquette meeting his childhood crush Victoria Jackson, Uhh Yeah Dude

“Matt had a dream and a mixing board with a lot of dust on it, and he didn’t know what to do with it. So he said, ‘Let’s start a podcast,’ and I said, ‘What’s that?’ And he said, ‘Well you’re doing one, and this is AST Radio.’ I said, ‘Give this up. This thing’s going nowhere. No one cares about the inner workings of Doug Benson’s brain.’” —Jimmy Pardo, Never Not Funny

“I really hope when they review the podcast for the week, you’re one of the quotes: ‘Jimmy Stewart can suck a dick’—Steve Agee.” —Chris Hardwick, doing our job for us on Doug Loves Movies


Grantland’s Hollywood Prospectus
A few months after ESPN launched the site Grantland, run by popular columnist Bill Simmons (of The BS Report), it also launched a series of corresponding podcasts to supplement Grantland’s mix of sports and pop culture. Hollywood Prospectus is the only one that focuses solely on pop culture, and is tied to a corresponding blog on Grantland. The podcast is usually posted twice a week with a different set of hosts: on Tuesdays, Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan discuss pop culture, and on Fridays, Dave Jacoby and Juliet Litman break down reality television. The success of the latter ultimately depends on how much you like reality television, but regardless, Ryan and Greenwald’s pop-culture take has a leg up, taking on a wider array of pop-culture ephemera in a smart, thoughtful manner. On the July 31 episode, the pair hit on everything from Breaking Bad to the recent TCA tour. Greenwald and Ryan bounce off and follow each other well, whether they’re taking a scalpel to a Breaking Bad episode or exploring why hourlong dramas aren’t working as well on networks as on cable. The Jacoby/Litman casts are a bit more rollicking, thanks in part to the hosts, which reflects nicely on the surreal nature of the reality shows discussed. On the August 3 episode, the opening discussion about Real Housewives is fun and loose, and Emily Yoshida nicely punches up a discussion of Bachelor Pad. The concept of devoting an entire episode to reality television is a great idea—if only to keep it out of the way of the other episode. [MG]


Trucker Tom’s Podcast
With nearly 1,700 episodes logged, Trucker Tom’s Podcast offers an in-depth look into a trucker named Tom. As simple as the concept sounds, Tom routinely offers up lengthy interviews, motivational speeches, off-kilter philosophy, and musings that vary from mundane to quasi-inspirational, an all-encompassing mix that’s summed up nicely in the tagline: “From the highways of your mind.” With the podcast’s subject matter being so fundamentally diverse, it can be rather hit-or-miss. There are times when Tom’s stories are devoid of anything resembling a plot, but he finds ways to make this stream of consciousness work, even if it can be spotty. The most recent episode, “New Jersey” is a prime example of what it’s like when Trucker Tom relays stories from the road, with his tone often bordering on that of your weird uncle. In addition to the regular podcast, Tom’s website offers up pointers on philosophy and meditation, adding to the affirming vibes. Trucker Tom’s Podcast can be an awkward listen at times, but it’s certainly one of the more unusual podcasts out there. [DA]


The Best Show On WFMU
Between recurring Jon Wurster characters and long-running topics, the world of The Best Show is set up to reward regular listeners. Loyal fans get a gift this week with an entertaining appearance by Steve Albini that Tom Scharpling has jokingly discussed on the show for years. A potential Scharpling vs. Albini surly-off is largely one-sided as the recording engineer grouses about the “trivial” nature of every sport except baseball and threatens to hang up when he believes Scharpling is giving disingenuous praise. While Scharpling takes it easy on Albini, bad callers are gleefully played off by Bad Company again this week. It’s an amusing development on a show where the abrupt end of a call can be more entertaining than the call itself. [TC]

The Bugle #204: What The Feck?
Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver are slowly moving into their post-Olympics come-down, which manifests itself in their discussion of Stephan Feck’s horribly failed dive. Oliver, who professes to look like Feck, gets worked up to hilarious heights as he defends the diver against critics. The pair then talk about how great the Olympics have been for their country and how happy the country has been over hosting the games, but not without a bit of their usual sharp wit—including a dig about Great Britain’s equestrian team beating the American team, which included the horse belonging to Mitt Romney’s wife. There’s also a lot of lighthearted but genuine awe expressed over the accomplishments of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. But while the guys have had some great moments talking about the Olympics—and this episode is no different—it’ll be nice to hear them get back to satirizing non-Olympics news next week (as prefaced by their wickedly sharp bit about the Pussy Riot trial in Russia). [MG]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #171: Scrog Secretions: Megan Mullally, Stephanie Hunt, Nick Kroll
Alternate episode title suggestion: “The Nick Kroll Variety Hour.” The comedian first appears as David (pronounced “Da-veed”) Eros, a sexy “energy expert,” then later quickly switches among David, El Chupacabra, the Baby, Goat, Old Man Juarez, and, at one point, Jeff Goldblum. (Chupa remains king of them all.) Scott Aukerman spends the first segment chatting with guests Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt (of Friday Night Lights/Crucifictorious fame), and their group, Nancy And Beth, performs songs throughout the episode. Once Kroll arrives, though, he’s the center of attention, taking the episode down funny, strange paths. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: T.J. Miller, Brendon Walsh and Tim Stack guest
It’s been a while since T.J. Miller has appeared on DLM without his partner in digression, Pete Holmes, but he has no problem dominating this episode all by himself. Performing for a hometown crowd in Denver (yeah) seems to put Miller in a particularly impish mood. A round of usual non-starter game How Much Did This Shit Make gets a nice goosing thanks to Doug Benson’s great idea to center it on Yogi Bear (which Miller starred in), kicking off a full docket of games that’s predictably meandering, but hits on some inspired detours. Listeners’ tolerance for Miller will inform their enjoyment of this episode—Brendon Walsh and audience winner Tim Stack are amiable, but mostly fade into the background—but for fans, it’s a nice reminder of how fun he can be when he’s not battling Holmes for attention. [GK]

Doug Loves Movies: Chris Hardwick, Dax Shepard, Steve Agee and Jess Rowland guest
There’s an odd chemistry between this episode’s panel members that sparks more often than it fizzles. Dax Shepard and Chris Hardwick seem to be operating on a much higher frequency than the low-key Steve Agee and newcomer Jess Rowland—both of whom appear in Hit & Run, directed by Shepard—but the mismatched energy works, especially once everyone homes in on the curiosities of Rowland’s childhood in Sweden. For his part, Rowland rises to the occasion with good humor, singing the Pippi Longstocking theme in Swedish for everyone’s amusement and turning in an admirable performance during his first forays into Build-A-Title and the Leonard Maltin Game (though Shepard does throw him under the bus in hilarious fashion during the latter). The games portion of this episode is particularly fun—and notably devoid of ABCDeez Nuts and How Much Did This Shit Make—but even with a couple of weird dead-air moments, the 85-minute episode never drags. [GK]

Hang Up And Listen: The Drama Queens And Superteams Edition
No one fucks around on the Internet better than Josh Levin, who has a habit of sending his browser down odd little sporting tributaries and making a left-field “Afterball” segment out of it. This week, Levin taps into the reservoir of athlete-endorsed barbecue sauces, from Terrell Davis’ “Mile-High Salute” sauce to Joe Horn’s “Bayou 87” sauce, which makes a selling point out of his infamous cell-phone end-zone celebration. (Co-host Mike Pesca wonders whether all the athlete sauces are, in fact, drawn from the same tangy reservoir.) Elsewhere, the gang gets into the last week of Olympics coverage by discussing Usain Bolt’s strangely infectious braggadocio and considers the impact of the blockbuster NBA trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers and created a superteam to rival the Miami Heat. [ST]

The J.V. Club #23: Julian Melson
Janet Varney continues a streak of strong episodes as she sits down with her transgendered cousin Julian Melson, who was born a woman but has identified as a man since childhood. Like last week’s show, this installment benefits from a guest whose teenage experiences are dramatically different from the typical adolescent’s, yet Melson’s high-school identity crisis is something that anyone can relate to. His relationship with Varney as a child provides new insights into the host’s upbringing, creating a strong picture of what their family life was like. Melson isn’t an entertainer like most of Varney’s guests, so while the episode is light on laughs, it’s also incredibly emotional. As the conversation moves past adolescence to cover Melson’s drug-abuse issues as an adult and his transition from Julia to Julian, listeners are treated to an inspiring story about one person trying to find himself and ultimately succeeding. [OS]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #73: Listener Derrick Jackson 
Derrick Jackson seems a little hesitant to get into the Mental Illness Happy Hour groove. But when he does, he and host Paul Gilmartin turn out to have a lot in common, and the subject matter is among the toughest stuff discussed on the show of late. Gilmartin’s recent struggle to deal with his manipulative mother comes to bear as Jackson describes living with an erratic, sexualizing mother of his own. It could be a demoralizing drag of an episode, except that both men are able to share in the relief of finally standing up for themselves. [SG]

My Brother, My Brother And Me #115: Womenade
After a head-scratcher of a segment in last week’s all-around middling episode, the McElroy brothers pull back on the reins and, with a couple of possible exceptions, keep each chunk of this week’s installment short and tidy. As a result, they seem to hit their stride once again, with on-target riffing and plenty of goofiness, mispronunciations, and such throughout the episode. The mediocrity of last week’s episode inevitably adds a bit of rose-colored shading to #115, but, more than anything else, that speaks to the absurd, singular consistency of laughs that My Brother, My Brother And Me delivers week in and week out. [CG]

Nerdist #241: Thomas Jane
With a healthy résumé to discuss, Thomas Jane joins Nerdist for an episode that bounces from one career highlight to the next, all the while illuminating small parts of his background. His early fascination with comic books lends itself to some divergent points, as does his desire to see a film version of The Six Million Dollar Man. The episode flows nicely, and rarely ever slows down, allowing Jane to paint a picture of himself as a young comics fan, illustrating how working on The Punisher was a natural, if not exactly fitting, progression. [DA]

Nerdist #243: Aisha Tyler Returns
In her second Nerdist episode, Aisha Tyler goes one-on-one with Chris Hardwick about her love of—and history with—videogames. This sets up a solid foundation for Tyler to go into parts of her childhood and how she grew up, using her love of arcades as the backdrop. The episode is quick and punchy, leaving out unnecessary tangents and putting the focus on the Hardwick and Tyler’s natural back-and-forth. [DA]

Never Not Funny #1108: Four On The Floor With Adam Ferrara
Jimmy Pardo is running late, so episode 1108 kicks off with a just-got-here energy that barely relents over the course of 100 minutes. It’s a good room for Pardo this week, with Comedy Lightbox designer Patrick Roddy serving as Dan For A Day/go-to target, and the equally energetic Adam Ferrara maintaining the momentum. There’s a lot of singing—the theme from the old Spider-Man TV show, the Löwenbräu jingle—new slang for being drunk (“copper-faced”), a long discussion of when decades actually begin, and a lengthy riff on whether a fan wants to sleep with Pardo. It’s frequently hilarious, and it’s probably the best 100 minutes in podcasting this week. [KR]

Sklarbro Country #107: A Tale Of Two Richards: Richard Simmons, James Adomian, Dan Van Kirk
Jason and Randy Sklar have been teasing an episode with Richard Simmons since favoring listeners with a surreal account of a memorable plane flight they shared with him, Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, and RZA. Simmons does not disappoint during his maiden visit to the calming shores of Sklarbro Country: The Sweating To The Oldies pitchman dominates the podcast so completely it essentially becomes Simmons Country. The normal template is thrown out in favor of Simmons’ overly caffeinated, stream-of-consciousness ranting, as he alternates wildly between extremes like a bipolar, ADD-afflicted child off his medication. One moment he’s flamboyantly singing show tunes, the next he’s describing the loneliness of his melancholy existence as a public extrovert and private recluse. It’s a Sklarbro Country unlike any other, as well as a fascinating glimpse inside the psyche of one of pop culture’s most colorful and enduring characters. [NR]


Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County 12: Dan Van Kirk, Jason Nash
What started as a short and sweet interstitial discussion between proper episodes has now ballooned into a full-length podcast of its own, but with an excess of silly Olympic stories. And that’s not such a bad thing. Dan Van Kirk and Jason Nash join the Sklars to riff on that Australian rower who broke into someone’s home thinking it was his own, the Belgian cyclist who got sent home for getting too wasted, and the spectacular German discus thrower who Hulked his shirt off after winning gold. The final bit with a Bob Costas impression is only so-so, but this is a rare “County” episode that justifies its hemorrhaging runtime. [KM]

Sound Opinions #350: 1977: The Year Punk Broke
Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot begin a two-part survey of punk rock’s beginnings this week with help from U.K. music writer Jon Savage. While all three are prone to find a lot of significance in big, bold-stroke generalizations—like referring to a Buzzcocks release as “the start of indie rock”—they justify it with a respectable amount of historic roughage. The episode helps to resituate the UK and U.S. punk of the time, prying apart some of the nuances that separated bands, but also bringing some clarity about what connected them. [SG]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Bloody Benders
SYMIHC tends to get “spooky” in the fall, and it seems to be ramping up early with this tale of an 1870s family of serial killers known as the Bloody Benders. As hosts Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey describe them, Ma, Pa, and Junior were all beasts of one kind or another. But lovely daughter Kate was a traveling mystic, and her ability to charm the masses is what kept feeding the demons that lived in her family home. So while locals avoided this den of nasty recluses, out-of-towners were brought in by Kate. A 19th-century view of magic, the slow police work of the era, and a fun mix of scary elements make this a fascinating story to uncover. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Sharks Attacks Work
One of the fun things about Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is that most of the programming is designed for the masses and doesn’t really get into the specifics of what causes an attack; one study claims “90 percent or more are mistakes.” The fascinating overall theme of this episode is that sharks are not too thrilled to be biting us, and while the hosts do dive into the science, there are also fun, dramatic elements, like readings of Jaws. While a bit creepy, this episode is a surprising testimonial to an overhunted, fascinating animal. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: The Shark Diaries
This very different episode is surprisingly effective, and ends up being cooler than pretty much any TV component of Shark Week. Co-host Chuck Bryant put together a series of “podcast plays” detailing shark attacks, and after a lighthearted introduction, he steps aside and a series of new voices begin telling the stories. While some of the music is a bit cheesy and some of the voices are a little “nerd trying to sound like an actor,” they all add up to a podcast that’s an effective departure. Hearing muscle tissue described in the first-person as “shredded” is hard to misinterpret. Hopefully SYSK will include more dramatic readings, as it seems like the perfect genre to mash up with its current format. [DT]

This American Life #471: The Convert
This week’s The American Life provides a cringe-inducing yet fascinating look at how the War On Terror can go terribly wrong. Even as Muslims know they’re being infiltrated by undercover FBI informants (despite promises from the bureau stating otherwise), they accept a new “convert,” only finally reporting him—the way good Americans should—when he ham-fistedly tries talking up Osama bin Laden and the benefits of jihad. Turns out that even doing the right thing can go terribly wrong if the government is just out to get you. This episode would be funny if it weren’t so embarrassing. [CZ]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #83: Cactoid Jim, King Of The Martian Frontier: Mayors’ Retreat
Thrilling Adventure Hour’s other Mars-bound hero, Cactoid Jim, brings out the show’s resilient punchiness this week. This episode combines the ambitious, sci-fi absurdity of time travel with the more mundane absurdity of a retreat for Mars’ mayors, complete with ice-breaking get-to-know-you exercises. It gets a little twisty toward the end of the episode, but the writers tie it up neatly again with another admirable barrage of sharp one-liners. [SG]

The Todd Glass Show #58: Live From Portland!
Listeners can pretty much accept that whenever Todd Glass does a live edition of his podcast, it’s going to be a dose of controlled chaos. Fortunately, the audience at the Helium comedy club in Portland, Oregon couldn’t be more onboard. Of course, that doesn’t stop Todd from messing with the one or two audience members who are unfamiliar with the show during his various forays into crowd work. Glass’ frequent sidekick Daniel Kinno really shines in the live setting, and the crowd eats up the latest round of his ongoing Golden Girls bit. However, his proudest moment involves a joke about Mitt Romney having the disingenuous, sleazy demeanor of a guy trying to fuck your mom. [MS]

Uhh Yeah Dude #334
Even more than the “hang out movie,” the “hang out podcast” offers the illusion of bumming around with a gang of funny friends whenever you want, without having to coordinate schedules, contend with subway delays, or even hold up your end of the conversation. Episode #334 of Uhh Yeah Dude is an exemplar of the form, leading with the show’s loose “Weekend Update”-style rundown of news items before digging into pioneering cultural-anthropology questions like, “Why does everyone insist on ‘blowing it up’ after a fist bump nowadays?” Jonathan Larroquette and Seth Romatelli may not have an answer for that one, but they do offer up their own particular greeting rituals (mostly composed of Christian side-hugs and lots of eye contact). Contributing to all the uni-directional bonding in this episode is the relative bounty of personal details on offer, including new tales of Jonathan’s old man, and a story designed to scare kids straight. It’s a good’un. [CW]

Walking The Room #116: Doug Benson
Doug Benson can certainly reminisce nicely with Greg Behrendt about some of their crazier nights on the stand-up circuit. The real challenge for a guest in Walking The Room’s closet, though, is how they fit into Behrendt and Dave Anthony’s comically tortured back-and-forth. Luckily, Behrendt and Anthony already have weird in-jokes about Doug Benson. As a guest, he kind of mellows out the unease that tends to make WTR fun, but enough of that comes back as the three riff weirdly on the career of Weekend At Bernie’s star Andrew McCarthy. [SG]

Who Charted? #89: Grown-Up Laughs: Chelsea Peretti
Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack welcome comedian and former Parks And Recreation writer Chelsea Peretti, along with her mom, making an uncredited appearance. Momma Peretti doesn’t actually get on mic, but her presence is felt throughout the episode, especially in the beginning, when she gives a full inventory of the contents of her purse, causing a guessing game where Kremer tries to name her lipstick shade. Admirably, Peretti doesn’t tone down any humor that might be deemed raunchy and inappropriate just because her mom is a few feet away. In fact, it’s hard not to picture her mom beaming proudly as Peretti barks her best DMX impression during the music-chart discussion. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #303: Brett Gelman
Brett Gelman has carved out a nice little career playing absolute nutjobs, from his uproarious faux-musical sketch “1000 Cats” to his role as lovable moron Brett Mobley on the surreal Walker, Texas Ranger spoof Eagleheart. But despite his prowess for playing both insufferably pretentious artists and complete boobs, he’s really quite down to earth in his conversation with Marc Maron. They trace through his days at Highland Park High School performing pretentious one-man shows, his time attending the North Carolina School Of The Arts with Jody Hill and Danny McBride, and the economic boost of his role in the “Little Bit Of Luck” ad campaign for the New York State Lottery. And as an bonus, Rob Corddry drops by for a brief chat about this season of Childrens Hospital. [KM]

WTF With Marc Maron #304: Sebastian Maniscalco
Sebastian Maniscalco is a journeyman comedian who so far has had two potential “big breaks” that didn’t quite turn out as he had hoped—one as an opener for Andrew Dice Clay, the other as a performer in Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show—so he’s had to keep plugging away at corporate jobs and gigs like being the in-house comic at the Four Seasons. Listeners won’t get much of a feel for what Maniscalco’s style of comedy entails, but he comes off as such a hardworking, decent (and clean!) fellow that they’ll root for him to get his serious big break nonetheless. Plus: Maron gives a few behind-the-scenes looks at his appearance on Louie. [CZ]

You Made It Weird #73: Andy Haynes
A good rule of thumb for podcasts like You Made It Weird and WTF: The lesser-known the guests, the more compelling they’re likely to be. That’s certainly true of Andy Haynes, a pal and regular opener for Pete Holmes whose über-WASP, Abercrombie & Fitch exterior belies a fascinatingly fucked-up childhood and adolescence involving pre-teen drug and alcohol abuse and multiple arrests. Haynes even discusses how listening to YMIW—specifically guests who’ve talked about how smoking pot allowed them to feel much more successful and accomplished than they actually are—helped him stop smoking pot (regularly at least). Holmes isn’t just consistently entertaining; he’s changing lives! [NR]

You Made It Weird #75: John Mulaney
You Made It Weird can be like Rashomon in that it affords regular listeners an opportunity to view Pete Holmes’ life and past, particularly his ill-fated marriage, from the contrasting perspective of his many friends. The latest super-sized episode offers John Mulaney’s view on the crumbling of Holmes’ marriage. In true YMIW tradition, much of the first hour of the podcast is devoted to an engaging conversation about the host’s past, though it eventually gets around to exploring the life and career of Mulaney, who has some hilarious riffs, like an inspired bit about Donald Trump living a moony-eyed hobo’s conception of what a billionaire’s life must be like, with giant shimmering buildings with his name on it and a glorious mass of “fine gold hair.” Mulaney is comfortable enough with Holmes to regularly give him shit, which is always entertaining, especially from someone so effortlessly witty. [NR]


Doug Love Movies: Amy Schumer, Bert Kreischer and Ben Schwartz guest
While the presence of Amy Schumer and Ben Schwartz on the panel seems promising, this unusually crude episode never really gels. [GK]

Judge John Hodgman: Probable Cos-Play
The case of a husband who wishes to compel his wife to join him and their son in wearing costumes to a Star Wars convention would be open-and-shut even without Judge Hodgman’s admitted pro-wife bias, but the episode does reveal the terrifying depths of Hodgman’s Star Wars knowledge. [ST]

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #66: Ho-Hos
Although Ho-Hos have a great deal of potential as a snack choice, Mike and Tom’s jokes about Hostess declaring bankruptcy do little to make for an effective episode. [DA]

Monday Morning Podcast
Burr’s extended riffing on societal discrimination against sharks is somewhat inspired, but as a whole this week’s episode isn’t exactly memorable. [CG]

The Moth: Kambri Crews: A Blind Ear
Kambri Crews’ story about her deaf father trying to kill her deaf mother takes a massive amount of heart to get through, but it’s just too charged up and unnatural in the telling. [SG]

The Smartest Man In The World #171: Riots
Depending on listeners’ taste for Greg Proops’ rambly memories, this could be a fun, loose episode or just an unwieldy mess. [SG]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #230
Hardcore fans of the podcast—and Teen Mom—will chuckle through this guestless episode, which covers Graham Clark’s trip to London, European tipping customs, and hostel sex. [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Lizzie Borden And Her Axe (Update)
This is mostly a rerun of a great 2010 episode, with only a small update. It’s fun, but not essential if you’re caught up. [DT]

You Made It Weird #74: Hampton Yount
Silly and inappropriate humor is used well and often to defuse the recounting of troubling personal experiences on You Made It Weird, but comic Hampton Yount uses is it in that way so incessantly that there’s little room for poignant moments, despite the heavy subject matter. [CG]