Jim Jefferies talks pinball, the cake council convenes, and A History Of Oil explained

Jim Jefferies talks pinball, the cake council convenes, and A History Of Oil explained

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QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“People pee into jugs all around the world; don’t think that Portland has the artisanal grip on that particular trend.” —John Hodgman, on Judge John Hodgman

“I hate your comedy, and it makes me laugh. There’s a truth to that.” —Pete Holmes to Owen Benjamin, on You Made It Weird

“It all comes down to marketing doesn’t it? 
‘Would you like to eat a moth?’ 
‘No thanks.’ 
‘Would you like to eat a hand-fried fluttercrisp?’
‘Oh yes, that sounds lovely.’”
—Andy Zaltzman on eating bugs, The Bugle

“You gotta know what you’re getting into when you’re making a human/donkey baby.” —Cake Boss (Paul F. Tompkins), Comedy Bang! Bang!

“I’ve been fired by the best places in the world.”
“And Entertainment Weekly.” —Joel Stein and Jimmy Pardo, Never Not Funny

“Pie’s a man’s dessert. You know why? It’s just a sandwich with fruit in it.” —Joel Stein, Never Not Funny

OUTLIER

A History Of Oil
Like any lucrative industry, the oil trade is filled with ruthlessness and fueled by a staggering depth of human greed, and it turns out this has been the case since its very earliest days. This is the story that host Peter Doran tells in riveting, 15-minute snippets on A History Of Oil. Doran is a strong speaker and an even stronger writer, with a knack for painting a vivid picture and for explaining intricate political situations with ease, and a penchant for using clever cliffhangers. On the spectrum of vocal delivery style, Doran falls somewhere near NPR host and educational programming narrator—extremely efficient and yet completely engaging. He conveys a strong interest in the story he is telling, as well as a sense that he committed to this undertaking for no reason other than to educate his listeners (albeit in an entertaining manner). And for these reasons, it’s considerably disappointing that no new episodes have been posted in nearly a year, bringing the narrative to a halt with a rousing episode about Mohammad Mosaddegh’s role on the international stage in the early 1950’s. Here’s hoping something prods Doran to resume telling the story in the near future. [CG]


THE BEST

The Bugle #236: Tennis Racquet Marries Guinea Pig
With John Oliver’s Daily Show hosting duties rapidly approaching, it’s easy to be concerned for The Bugle’s production schedule. It’s not quite the End Times, but top-notch episodes like this week’s make the thought of having semi-weekly episodes all but unbearable. As has now become de rigueur, Andy Zaltzman introduces John with more than aplomb in another alliterative masterpiece, and continues this momentum all the way on to an uproarious Monty Python-esque one-man performance. In addition to tearing the homophobic Lord Norman Tebbit a new one, Andy delivers an amazing rundown of the entire British royal system and how bonkers it is. The episode evens out as John and Andy tackle a multitude of gay issues across a few sections. The show ends strongly by taking note of mankind’s likeliness of eating bugs to solve world hunger, and astronauts’ need to 3-D print pizza in space. [MK]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #221: The Cake Council: Andy Richter, Paul F. Tompkins
Frequent guest Andy Richter returns with Paul F. Tompkins in tow, as usual, as Cake Boss. And as usual, it’s fun, as the two delve into the continuing saga of Buddy Valastro, from his non-canonical appearance to his Cake Council-mandated cakebattical. It’s a breezy listen, and a Richter/Tompkins episode is generally required listening. [KR]

Doug Loves Moves: Paul F. Tompkins, Nick Thune, And Samm “The Ma’am” Levine
Paul F. Tompkins and Samm Levine are second only to Marc Maron and Kumail Nanjiani when it comes to extended displays of passive-aggressiveness on Doug Loves Movies. Whenever the two Leonard Maltin Game virtuosos go head-to-head, there’s bound to be plenty of backhanded gloating from Levine met with withering responses from Tompkins, and this week’s episode is no exception, despite Levine’s claim that he’s trying to keep a cooler head than usual. At times, things verge on downright mean, particularly when Doug Benson joins in the pile-on, but as usual, Levine seems to revel in the attention, and the hilariously unflappable Nick Thune provides a nice counterpoint to the enmity. Unsurprisingly, the Leonard Maltin Game is full of big bids and cunning strategy, making for an exciting, if occasionally uncomfortable, installment. [GK]

The Fogelnest Files #37: Bread And Butter: Rob Corddry, Kumail Nanjiani, Noah Garfinkel
This week’s show breaks Fogelnest’s unfortunate streak of lackluster live shows, due in large part to the fact that Kumail Nanjiani is on fire for most of it. (His reaction to the “Pizza Kids” video is one of the funniest bits ever featured on the podcast.) The clips are entertaining enough, but that’s never been the problem with these once-a-month specials. On the contrary, in previous instances, Fogelnest has leaned too heavily on the joke fodder and wound up with a series of awkward and sometimes uncomfortably stilted conversations between panelists who were unable to add much to already quirky videos. This week, however, the balance seems just right and the dynamic between the guests provides entertainment pretty much nonstop. The title gag gets a little old by the end, but it’s forgivable considering how much energy Corddry, Nanjiani, and Garfinkel bring to the table. [AB]

Freakonomics: Baby You Can Program My Car
This week’s episode is all about driverless cars. Ninety-three percent of all automobile accidents happen because of human error, so taking humans out of the equation should bring car crashes down by a huge amount. Stephen Dubner took a ride in Carnegie Mellon’s prototype for General Motors, which already works astounding well, but he notes that there are plenty of others looking to create these new self-driving machines. Dubner is extremely optimistic, and a little geeky, about it, calling driverless cars “a revolution waiting to happen” (that is, if Americans are willing to give up their spots behind the wheel). The only downside to this episode is that it’s so short, with not enough time devoted to how the cars work, or when they’ll appear on the road. [NC]

Hang Up And Listen: The Grappling With Sportocrats Edition
Recording before the Memorial Day weekend and losing the chance to recap the latest NBA playoff results is the best thing to happen on HUAL in a few months, giving the panel the chance to talk about more international topics. They bring in Irish soccer journalist Ken Early to discuss David Beckham and Alex Ferguson’s retirement announcements, and revisit the IOC’s moronic decision to try and oust wrestling from the Olympic program. Sure, basketball still sneaks in, both with the panel comparing Ferguson to Phil Jackson and a final topic of the WNBA’s shaky future, but it’s still a more wide-ranging discussion than the onslaught of minutia from the slow-moving NBA playoffs. [KM]

Improv4Humans #82: Apocalypse Crushes: Amy Poehler, Seth Morris, Joe Hartzler
When it comes time to introduce a friend to Matt Besser’s podcast, this week’s episode is absolutely the one to pass along. Not only does it have the makings of a great episode, but it manages to deliver spectacularly. Besser is joined by fellow Upright Citizens Brigade alumni Amy Poehler, who is raucous from start to finish, as well as Seth Morris (who Comedy Bang! Bang! enthusiasts will recognize as Bob Ducca, Scott Aukerman’s estranged ex-stepfather) and Funny Or Die’s Joe Hartzler. The front half is solid with a combination of good stories and interesting scenes, but the episode really takes off when the crew stumbles across a particularly cringe-worthy video of a guy proudly defending his right to be a gamer. The ensuing scene is a hilarious mirror to the situation, and like the best moments of Improv4Humans, opens up into its own insane world that gets funnier and funnier as they go on. [MK]

The J.V. Club #63: Sex Nerd Sandra
Janet Varney’s interview with Sex Nerd Sandra (a.k.a. Sandra Daugherty) is this show’s longest episode yet, covering a huge breadth of material as Varney gleans precious advice from her guest. Sandra’s podcast offers sex and relationship tips, and Varney takes advantage of that to provide her listeners with a wealth of knowledge about finding passion with another person, understanding the challenges of a relationship, and making romance last. There isn’t any separation between the discussion of Sandra’s past and present, and she folds in her adolescent experiences while talking about what she’s learned as an adult. It helps that she brings in some teenage memorabilia for Varney to use as a launchpad, including her tome of a high school yearbook that reveals just how diverse a student Sandra was. Whether you’re 16 and crushing on that cute boy in the front of the classroom or 60 and trying to figure out how to strengthen a decades-long marriage, this week’s episode of J.V. Club is a valuable resource. [OS]

Judge John Hodgman: Court-O-Potty
This week on Judge John Hodgman, the dispute is novel, but the theme is universal. Meg and Tony share a one-bathroom house. Meg, a self-diagnosed victim of “potty PTSD [posttraumatic stress disorder],” contends: When the restroom is occupied, this frequently-urinating artist should be able to pee into an antique chamberpot conveniently located in her studio. Tony, a quick and efficient bowel-mover, thinks she should be able to hold it in and wait for the modern facilities. Hodgman identifies potential logistic complications and identifies a precedent in an old Irish folk song. A ruthless cross-examiner, the judge grills the woman on her alleged small bladder. In turn, she does an admirable job documenting and quantifying the degree of her frequent bathroom breaks. Crucial context: This home is in Portland, so the whole thing could be an elaborate cross-promotion for an episode of Portlandia. Without proof, we’ll have to accept the case as humorous on its own merits. [DXF]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #115: Ashly Burch
A mid-conversation power outage forces Paul Gilmartin and Ashly Burch to re-record their conversation for episode 115, but the technical issue doesn’t result in a lesser installment. Burch, an actor and voiceover artist, tells Gilmartin about coping with the loss of her partner David Fetzer, who died of an accidental overdose in December. The discussion starts as a complicated eulogy for Fetzer before transitioning into a reflection about the guilt, pain and agonizing hindsight that often comes with losing a loved one to addiction. Like many of the best Mental Illness Happy Hour episodes, it’s a conversation that will likely make those who have lived through similar tragedies feel less alone and provide others with helpful insight and empathy. [TC]

Nerdist #362: Jim Jefferies
The vast majority of Nerdist episodes have been going well beyond the hour mark as of late, but when the episodes warrant their length it’s a real treat. Jim Jefferies does a great job of filling the episode with a variety of stories that encompass the full scope of the work he’s put into his FX show Legit, as well as his growth and approach to stand-up over the years. One particularly engaging section is when Jefferies speaks to his passionate, vast knowledge of pinball, and just how important it is to distinguish this when he’s talking about getting an “eight ball.” The episode benefits from its heft, showing that when Nerdist hits the right notes it’s nice to let them play out. [DA]

Never Not Funny #1220: Writing It Down With Joel Stein
Joel Stein is different from Never Not Funny’s usual parade of comedy folks and actors: He’s a journalist, and one whose writing Jimmy Pardo wasn’t fond of, at least for a while. He’s out promoting his book, Man Made, and for a first-time guest who doesn’t travel in Pardo’s circles, he fits into the show with ease, joking with Pardo and Matt Belknap and not taking himself too seriously. While Stein is enjoyable, the episode hits its peak during some awesomely fumbling attempted phone calls with a listener in Canada. The whole segment drags on for what seems like an eternity, creating a hilarious awkwardness that sets Pardo off. Everything goes wrong, but for Never Not Funny, that’s just right. [KR]

[pagebreak]

Professor Blastoff #106: Military (w/ Andrew Shaver)
After weeks on the road and a mixed bag of episodes to show for it, the hosts didn’t exactly set themselves up for success with their topic this week. That’s largely due to their guest, a regular listener and Iraq veteran who approached the hosts for an episode on the military and his eight years of experience as an Infantryman and Sergeant. In addition to that comedy gold mine, the professor is absent and a joke-counting scoreboard encourages loads of labored puns, so the humor falls just short of a return to form. Still, Sgt. Andrew Shaver is arguably the best listener-guest to date, and stories involving IEDs, PTSD, and the future of Iraq interspersed with Nicholson impressions won’t likely appear on any other comedy podcasts this week. And by toeing the line between levity and solemnity with a guest whose views conflict with that of the populace, the hosts deliver a rare discussion on the military that’s apolitical, and surprisingly requisite. [SM]

Sklarbro Country #148: Brooklyn’s Tiny Junk Contest: Brian Baumgartner, Jason Nash
As Kevin Malone on The Office, Brian Baumgartner achieved something incredible: creating a complete character vastly different from his own personality, and playing it for so long that it’s stunning to hear him converse as himself. With the Sklar brothers, Baumgartner discusses his impressive golf game, and digs into stories of playing with Charles Barkley and the Sergio Garcia/Tiger Woods spat. Though one of the brothers keeps needling Baumgartner about what he’ll do now that The Office is over, it’s a raucous hour that gets at some less-publicized stories in the history of a modern television institution. [KM]

Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #53: Karen Kilgariff, Dan Van Kirk
Every so often, one of Dan Van Kirk’s news stories overtakes an entire episode of Sklarbro’s midweek episode to the point where everything else is an afterthought. This week, it’s the best riffing scenario possible with the tale of a Kentucky man who breaks into a grocery store and constructs a feast of six steaks, steals clothing, and huffs more than a few whippets. The Sklars and former Mr. Show cast member Karen Kilgariff mine that story for more jokes than anything else in the hour, and it’s impressive to hear all the different comedic voices jumping off in different directions. [KM]

The Smartest Man In The World: Rays
More so than usual, Greg Proops sounds highly caffeinated on this week’s dense episode, in which art and politics dovetail. In the art segment, he delivers eulogies for the Doors’ Ray Manzarek, George Jones, Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman, and the Divinyls’ Christina Amphlett. They’re all brief, and none of them obvious. (Proops’ quick re-enactment of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” makes a good case for the Doors as the true pinnacle of psychedelic rock.) Between big-picture subjects, Proops punches another hole in the myth of Jason Collins as the first male, American, out, gay pro-athlete — which leads to a thoughtful history of the mutating nature of socially acceptable prejudice. Present in arts and politics, the week’s running theme is bitter meditation about corporate interests running the world and rewriting history. Proops is agitated by everybody in power, whether it’s Bush, Cheney, Obama, or anonymous corporations like BP. But the rant ends on a hopeful note, with the host picking his all-time all-star baseball team, full of players chosen not just to generate conflict, but spark personal growth. [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Boxer Rebellion
Hosts Holly Frey and Tracy V. Wilson chose the topic of the Boxer Rebellion because of its association with the video game Bioshock Infinite. During their research, however, they discovered the event was disturbingly more grisly than the game let on. In the shadow of the 20th century, Christianity had begun to seep into Chinese culture. Empress Dowager Cixi sanctioned domestic vigilantism in the form of the anti-Christian militias calling themselves The Boxers, who slaughtered Chinese Christians until the country became unstable. A foreign coalition intervened, but their own xenophobia of the “yellow menace” meant both Boxers and innocents were slaughtered. As Frey and Wilson note, it was a series of atrocities in which no side comes out the hero. It’s worth listening for the lesson. Also of note, the listener mail segment promises an exciting-sounding episode about female Native American warriors. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How PTSD Works
Mental illness always makes for a strong topic on SYSK, given the empathetic nature of hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant. They handle the particularly sensitive topic of PTSD with expert care, thanks to their interest in both the social and scientific aspects of the disorder. Only a small handful of prescription medications have been cleared to treat PTSD, and the most effective treatment involves a combination of anti-anxiety pills, therapy, and beta-blockers. As this is no perfect solution, Clark and Bryant pick apart the hard life of a returning soldier as well, noting the relevance of alcoholism and isolation. Though there are occasional awkward assumptions when discussing things like religion, anyone with a curiosity for a trauma victim’s well being should consider a listen. [DT]

Who Charted? #130: Naked Oil Boy Fights
This edition of Who Charted? adapts very well to the live broadcast format and it showcases Howard Kremer doing live performances of each chart’s theme. The episode features the Parks And Recreation writer, Humblebrag author, and Earwolf fan favorite Harris Wittels, who is a consistently great guest. Naturally, there is plenty of talk about Wittels’ much-maligned favorite band Phish, specifically Kremer’s aborted attempt to listen to the song “David Bowie.” The beginning of the show packs a punch when Kremer starts thinking out loud about his missed calling as an advertising creative and then ends up delineating his hilariously misguided plan to open lasagna restaurants that employ baseball umpires. [MS]

WTF #391: Billy Bragg
It’s a risky proposition when a WTF interview begins with a lengthy political discussion, but when the guest is longtime protest singer and activist Billy Bragg, the audience can expect some level of expertise. Bragg delves into his working-class upbringing that led to his music career, and covers his first forays into political activism as well as his current views on unions and worker’s rights. But the most compelling bits of the interview are when Bragg turns personal and talks about the death of his father when he was 18, and his relationship with his own son, and how much he wished the two had been able to meet. It’s a poignant moment for a man who writes brash, folky punk. [KM]

WTF #392: John Fogerty
Like the straightforward rock ’n’ roll he created with Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty’s entire presence on WTF has a very unassuming air to it. That’s due not only to what he says—for instance, being equally as starstruck when he met Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison in the ’60s as he was when he met Brad Paisley more recently—but also how he says it: Fogerty is soft-spoken and remains fairly calm throughout the interview. For that reason, the episode tiptoes dangerously close to becoming dull, especially as it inches closer and closer to the two-hour mark. At the same time, Fogerty shares some terrific stories about his successes and misfortunes throughout his long career, along with some very sweet but realistic thoughts on the nature of love. It’s not a groundbreaking episode, but it does have substance; it could simply stand to be broken up into smaller parts. [CG]

You Made It Weird: Owen Benjamin
At first, Pete Holmes’ visit with fellow comic Owen Benjamin doesn’t seem to promise much that’s compelling. But there are some glimmers of hope when Holmes tells Benjamin some things he doesn’t like about Benjamin’s comedy, and offers a gracious but honest assessment of Benjamin’s “bro”-style stand-up act. In a comedy world that’s a bit notorious for petty disputes and touchy egos, that alone makes this conversation refreshing. [SG]

You Made It Weird: Heidi Niedermeyer
Pete Holmes’ talk with Heidi Niedermeyer doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in particular for a good long time. Instead, it’s a slippery, perpetually distracted, frantic descent into comic jabber. There’s a good case to be made that the more weird voices and odd subject matter happen early in a YMIW episode, the better it will be. In that respect, this episode pays off nicely. Even as this conversation turns to more serious subjects like alcohol, Holmes and Niedermeyer maintain a giddy, filthy dynamic. [SG]


THE REST

The Best Show on WFMU
Fred from Honolulu cements his place as the show’s current best regular caller and Tom Scharpling’s commentary on the Grateful Dead’s Ron “Pigpen” McKernan is fantastic. Unfortunately, the rest of this episode doesn’t match the sustained brilliance of last week’s installment. [TC]

Doug Loves Movies: Matt Mira, Joe Pettis, and Graham Elwood
Despite being packed with solid gamesmanship and movie talk (well, Fast And Furious 6 talk, anyway), this Nashville-recorded episode starts to drag a bit after the first hour. Everyone on the panel is very enthusiastic—or in Joe Pettis’ case, giggly—and there are a lot of fun moments to the episode, but it never quite achieves must-listen status. [GK]

How Was Your Week #116: “The Human Condition On DirectTV”: Emily Bazelon, Abbi Crutchfield 
A relatively interesting interview with Emily Bazelon that focuses on her book on bullying is not enough to counteract a much slower and less interesting first half of this week’s episode. [DF]

Monday Morning Podcast
Bill Burr retreads at length upon the topics of hockey, Memorial Day, and casino environments, but with less humor than ever before. [CG]

The Moth: Siddhartha Mukherjee: The Letting Go 
Siddhartha Mukherjee’s Moth entry is rich in family history and meditations on how different cultures approach death, but ends up trying to stuff in too many scenes and digressions to be effective in the live-storytelling context. [SG]

My Brother, My Brother And Me #154: DDSM
In a situation similar to last week’s episode, the brothers are full of things to say, but with the exception of a digression about the Law Of Conservation Of Swag, none of it really coheres into a memorable gag. [AB]

Nerdist #360: Wayne Federman
Alternating between insightful discussions of comedy and utterly listless banter the episode is unique in that it’s hard to turn off, but it’s just as challenging to sit through. [DA]

Nerdist #361: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Chris Hardwick and company are clearly having a good time talking to Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, but the episode seems to consist of more laughing than actual conversation. [MS]

Sound Opinions #391: Wild Belle
Brother/sister duo Wild Belle joins Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot in the studio to talk about how they make a sibling band work and play a few songs, but unless you’re a big fan of the band, it’s not an essential performance. [KM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Heaven On Earth: The Brook Farm Community
Throughout this episode about this failed utopia, both hosts note that things sounded good on paper. The topic is vaguely interesting, but historical relevance is questionable. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Police Chases Work
Police chase statistics are surprisingly deadly, but the lack of actual laws or standards ends up making for a disjointed conversation. [DT]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #119: Spark’s Nevada, Marshal On Mars: Something Wicked This Way Is
The fun of this episode is hearing Paul F. Tompkins take over Marc Evan Jackson’s role of the title character, turning the Marshal from gruff and tough to high-pitched and effete, but the novelty wears off quickly. [SG]

The Todd Glass Show #104: Daniel Kinno Is Back!
Daniel Kinno has a bit of a slow start now that he’s back in The Todd Glass Show guest rotation. Hopefully, this anti-climactic appearance is leading up to some truly great spots in the future. [MS]

Uhh Yeah Dude: #373
A conflicted Jonathan Larroquette finally weighs in on the issue of e-cigarettes and Seth Romatelli again implores fans not to look up Steven Johnson Syndrome on this spirited but otherwise unremarkable episode. [CW]

Walking The Room #152: Kumail Nanjiani
Dave Anthony started his own solo podcast in response to WTR’s hiatus, but continues on even with Greg Behrendt back in the closet, likely—though not explicitly—a result of the overcrowded airspace. After this week’s verbose (albeit very funny) episode with Kumail Nanjiani, it’d be safe to expect a new Dollop in the near future, as three strong presences too often lend a “two steps forward, one step back” approach to any constructive material. [SM]