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March 24-30 

The best podcasts of the week

Since the iPod debuted in 2001, it has gone from portable music player to a medium in itself: Podcasts, like blogs, indelibly shaped the media landscape in less than a decade. The A.V. Club listens to a lot of them, and Podmass is our weekly round-up of the podcasts we follow. 


“When you play the Dancing With The Stars card and it’s three years later, that’s the last card to play other than a celebrity sex tape.” —Bill Simmons, The B.S. Report

The B.S. Report: 3/25: Jeff Ross
Jeffrey Ross returns to the podcast for a fantastic, informative and introspective interview. Starting off addressing the recent roast of Donald Trump, Ross shares some anecdotes from the night, including some details about Jersey Shore’s The Situation bombing onstage and several conspiracy theories surrounding the appearance. Ross also discusses roasts in general and some past roasts he’s particularly fond of. Far more interesting, though, are the behind-the-scenes peeks Ross gives listeners, including a great anecdote about Chris Rock making a cameo appearance at his own stand-up show and the effect it had on him. Ross and Simmons also discuss the possibilities of an Eddie Murphy stand-up comeback, Dave Chappelle’s career and his advice to Ross about choosing whether or not to keep doing roasts, and Ross’ friendship with deceased comic Greg Giraldo. It’s a fascinating interview that’s at times funny, at times very serious, but always entertaining and enlightening, especially when the guys discuss Michael Richards’ racist meltdown and Ross’ own view of whether white comics can pull of using racially charged language in their acts.

Extra Hot Great: #24: Your Gift Is A Colon Exam
After joining together in a chorus of wrong-headedness on the My Dinner With Andre episode of Community, David T. Cole, Tara Ariano, and Joe Reid look at trailers for upcoming movies and each come up with one they’re excited about seeing, one they should be excited about seeing but aren’t, and one that makes them wonder who the hell would ever want to see it. They also debut a new segment by Kim Reed called “The Most Awesome Thing I Saw On TV This Week,” in which she details a surreal, horrific late-period musical episode of Happy Days that features songs about the immigrant experience in America. But the highlight of the episode is Reid’s “I Am Not A Crackpot” segment, which offers the totally not-crackpot idea of installing headphone jacks in movie-theater seats, so those who want to cut off the low-level chatter of other audience members can burrow into their own glorious noise-cancelling cave. The hour concludes with a thoughtful consideration of “The Gift,” the finale of Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s fifth season, for The Canon, and a fun gametime segment called “Colon Exam” in which Cole presents Ariano and Reid with a subtitle for a sequel and asks for the title. (e.g. Q: “The Quickening” A: “Highlander”) Reid’s success against a normally dominant Ariano leads to a line that’s funny in and out of context: “Where have you been all my life, colon exam?” 

Hang Up And Listen: The Balls In Court Edition
With the Barry Bonds perjury trial going down, there’s lots of testicle talk on this week’s podcast, given the ball shrinkage that results from heavy steroid use. (Did you know that the instrument used to measure testicle size is called the “orchidometer”? Now you do. The defense contends that Bonds’ ex-girlfriend can’t testify adequately without one.) But first, hosts Josh Levin, Stefan Fatsis, and Mike Pesca ponder the unlikelihood of two low-seeded mid-majors, VCU and Butler, making the Final Four this year, and what that says about coaching, player experience, the ranking system, and parity in the game. They also discuss the U.S. national soccer team’s surprising 1-1 draw against Argentina, specifically the particular magic of Argentina’s Lionel Messi, the best player in the world, and 18-year-old American Juan Agudelo, who scored the only U.S. goal. Given the desire to find that elusive American soccer superstar, Agudelo’s goal has immediately given him a set of expectations that the gang finds unreasonable, especially considering the sad case of Freddy Adu. In the “afterball” segments, Levin shares amusing details from the notorious Pittsburgh Pirates “cocaine trials” of 1985, Pesca covers some notable stories from the Men’s Division II and Women’s NCAA Basketball tourneys, and Fatsis reports the enraging move by North Dakota legislators and power brokers to prevent North Dakota University from changing its “fighting Sioux” nickname to something less offensive. 

Pop Culture Happy Hour: A PSA About Not Dating That Ethan Hawke Guy
The title of this week’s show doesn’t come from any particular Ethan Hawke news, but from a discussion segment called I’m All Out Of Love, a reversal of the previous PCHH installment’s How Wrong I Was. This time, instead of discussing things they used to dislike and came around on, the usual foursome talks about fervent fandoms they’ve abandoned. (Linda Holmes’ contribution is Reality Bites, due to her realization that Ethan Hawke’s character—and the romanticization thereof—is infuriating and twee.) Other topics on the table include an Elizabeth Taylor appreciation focusing on “deep cuts,” and thoughts on why Rebecca Black’s “Friday” video is moderately likeable, rather than, as some Internet overreactors have apparently called it, the downfall of civilization. (“Yeah, back in my day there was never bad music. Back in the ’50s, nothing sucked!”) And then there’s the usual What’s Making Us Happy segment, which focuses at length on Australian bully-thrower Casey Heynes and why sometimes the punishment fits the crime. This week’s installment is a little more current-events focused than usual, so it may not age well, but it’s a solid, lively stepping-on point for new listeners, with many of these narrow topics spreading out into larger observations—particularly when Glen Weldon analyzes the end of his love affair with Guy Maddin films by talking about how people relate to creators in terms of a body of work, and how that affects their appreciation over time.

Savage Lovecast: #232
It’s always strangely satisfying to listen to Savage Lovecast and think to yourself, “Goodness, this caller is obnoxious,” only to hear Dan Savage agree with your assessment. This week’s call kicks off with an 18-year-old “self-identified lesbian” who enjoys orally swapping semen with her male fuck-buddy, amongst other things.  She brags about all the submissive things he does for her in the sack and mentions her own “perky tits,” and then complains, of all things, about the fella not buying condoms.  Dan’s responses to her rambling question are: “Blah blah blah blah blah” and “Actual lesbians aren’t gargling cum.” Yeah, get her, Dan! Other calls from the week come from guys with breakup issues, an Asian dude who wants the definitive answer on whether you can increase the size of your penis, the always-tedious technical questions of navigating an open marriage, and a vanilla but sad story of unrequited love. Note: If you have a question for Dan that you can rattle off in a minute or less, he’s accepting queries for a special upcoming rapid-fire episode.

WTF With Marc Maron: #161: Joe Rogan
Listeners expecting Gallagher-style verbal warfare or a Carlos Mencia-style exposé from the Joe Rogan episode of WTF With Marc Maron might be disappointed by the civility and graciousness of his exchange with Maron. To Maron, Rogan represents a bullying jock archetype, but there’s a dearth of bullying on display as Rogan reveals his secret for staying relatively sane while hosting Fear Factor for years (he estimates he was high roughly 90 percent of the time) and explains the complicated backstory behind the infamous YouTube video of him calling out Carlos Mencia onstage for stealing jokes. In his unofficial capacity as the comedy world’s arbiter of ethics and morality, Maron takes Rogan to task for simultaneously being both a social critic in the George Carlin/Bill Hicks vein and the longtime host of a tabloid show many consider representative of the triumph of the lowest common denominator, but a baseline of mutual respect underlies even the most heated exchange. Listeners might download the episode expecting a fight, but instead, they’ll be treated to understanding. 

The Adam Carolla Show
When Carolla spends the week avoiding all talk about his guests’ current projects, the show still has an odd function: Ace’s endless monologues and dialogues provide aspiring entertainers with an odd hybrid of support group, motivational literature, and DIY advice. This week, Terminator/The Divide star Michael Biehn makes a spirited contribution to Ace’s ongoing artists-versus-network/studio-executives thesis. Actress Illeanna Douglas, star of web series Easy To Assemble and best known for being brutalized in Scorsese’s Cape Fear, bonds with Ace while lamenting the audition process and the vagaries of trying to land a steady TV gig. Dan Dunn—Playboy.com columnist, professional drinker, and author of Living Loaded: Tales Of Sex, Salvation, And The Pursuit Of The Never-Ending Happy Hour—talks with Carolla about getting drunk on planes, stoned on the job, and gtting reviewed by writers who may not have read your book. In Pam Adlon and Gilbert Gottfried, Gottfried discusses his recent controversial, expensive Twitter jokes about Japan. Pam Adlon, the Louie/Californication regular who played Ace’s wife in his doomed sitcom pilot, visits for an in-depth recap of that familiar topic. And Andy Dick offers his perspective—but not exactly telling insights—on his old running buddy, Charlie Sheen, who once helped Dick get sober.

All Songs Considered: Discoveries from SXSW 2011 
Bob Boilen and Stephen Thompson put an easily digestible cap on their SXSW coverage this week, breaking their favorite discoveries down to six songs. The amiable prickles and warm acoustic of Mount Kimbie seem to be the nicest thing here, and they make for a brief but humorous discussion of the term “post-dubstep.” The episode page features a few more tracks than the podcast itself, including a welcome dash of scalding bile from OFF!, “Upside Down.”

The B.S. Report
Simmons welcomes Matthew Berry for the annual fantasy baseball preview in a two-part appearance that’s strictly for fantasy fans, with the exception of the first five minutes of part one, in which the guys revisit their epic Beverly Hills 90210 podcast, including a discussion of Ian Ziering’s Dancing With The Stars performance. Later in the week, Simmons had a two-fer with buddy Jack-O, who gives an amusing rant against UConn basketball, and gambling expert Chad Millman, who talks about this year’s NCAA tournament. The week wraps up with, what else, more basketball talk, as Simmons discusses the NBA with Celtics play-by-play announcer Sean Grande and Frank Isola, the New York Knicks beat writer for the New York Daily News.

Culture Gabfest: #131: Thousands Ridicule Teen Singer Edition
The Gabfest crew leaves behind just a bit of its levity as it delves into a debate about the proposed “right to be forgotten” in the Internet age. In typical fashion, though, that happens after this trio of Slate staffers puzzle over Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” once again playing the amused elders in an over-stimulated teen’s world. Also, film critic Dana Stevens gives her end-of-episode endorsement to the awesome and short-lived Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Uses of the word “Borgesian” this week: at least three.

Doug Loves Movies: Nick Hexum, P-Nut, and Graham Elwood
If the myth of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle wasn’t entirely deflated by events like the 311 Caribbean Cruise, the members of 311 do a pretty good job of it on this week’s Doug Loves Movies. The rock-rap-reggae hybrid’s Nick Hexum and Aaron “P-Nut” Wills use most of their movie-musing time to recall watching Pixar movies with their kids; meanwhile, longtime Doug Benson colleague (and recent partner in emceeing the 311 cruise) Graham Elwood tells of an at-sea green room encounter that ended in musicians exchanging yoga pointers. Willis does work in a decent They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? reference, though, proving there’s still room for a little Sydney Pollack-directed grit in a modern rocker’s diet.

Firewall & Iceberg: #66
Hiftix.com’s Alan Sepinwall and Daniel Fienberg run down a handful of new spring TV shows, including Body Of Proof, Camelot, Chaos, Nurse Jackie, and United States Of Tara. (Tara and star Toni Collette get the best marks.) Feinberg says Showtime’s massively muddled “pseudo-history soap opera” The Borgias is the new Tudors, while AMC’s The Killing is, in the best ways, the new Rubicon, and amounts to “a good, rich urban-crime novel.”

How Was Your Week With Julie Klausner: #3: A Smiling Bruce Vilanch
If you’ve ever wanted to spend some real time listening to people break down why exactly Billy Bush is so off-putting, tune to How Was Your Week, where Julie Klausner has Billy Eichner on to discuss his least favorite celebrities, a somewhat surprising list that includes people like Nancy O’Dell and Chubby Checker.  Julie also chats with Twitter sensation Megan Amran and spills the dirt on her latest “Cat Whisperer” video, which was shot in the home of one of the stars of the cult classic The Room. (Hint: she is known for tearing people apart.) 

The Moth: Christian McBride: The Gig
This story from jazz bassist Christian McBride tenuously connects to the week’s stated theme of “Shot Through The Heart: Stories Of Beaus And Arrows” in that it details the serious (platonic) man-crush McBride had on legendary jazz trumpet player Freddie Hubbard when he was a young musician just starting out. McBride is lively and charismatic in his description of how Hubbard hazed the then-18-year-old bassist during a fill-in gig, but the story’s conclusion isn’t exactly surprising, especially if you’re familiar with its teller’s career.

Nerdist: #73: Tim Ferris
Productivity/fitness self-help author and entrepreneur Tim Ferris is a little outside the usual Nerdist purview, though his appearance here is understandable considering Chris Hardwick’s recent foray into book-writing (the upcoming productivity manual The Nerdist Way) and the fact that all three hosts have embraced Ferris’ The 4-Hour Body to varying degrees. Those not particularly interested in self-help in general or weight loss in particular will probably find little to latch onto in the 90-minute podcast, which devotes much of its running time to Ferris’ theories on “hacking the human body.” Depending on how much credence you give his to philosophies, Ferris can come off as either a jovial guru or a hyperactive snake-oil salesman, but the Nerdist guys are clearly acolytes.  

Never Not Funny: #818: Laurie Kilmartin
Worlds collide on Never Not Funny this week, as comedian, Conan writer, and old friend Laurie Kilmartin plays big sister to Jimmy Pardo (who also warms crowds before Conan), and teams with Matt Belknap to call out a few of Pardo’s neuroses. (“You’ve just got rich, booked-comic problems,” says Kilmartin). It’s far from WTF territory though, as Kilmartin’s banter on Lasik-based horror movies and HuffPo’s ill-informed Best Comedian list shows she’s equally skilled at highlighting the best of Pardo, too.

Sklarbro Country: #35: Amy Poehler, James Adomian, The Henry Clay People
For the first time, identical twin brothers Jason and Randy Sklar welcome a musical guest to the podcast in the form of The Henry Clay People, who join James Adomian’s Jesse “The Mind” Ventura, who pops by to discuss the big lie that Judaism exists, and guest Amy Poehler, who waxes nostalgic about discovering that RZA had given the Upright Citizen’s Brigade the proverbial “mad props” in his rhymes. Poehler proves an enthusiastic pinch-quipster as the fellows discuss the absurdity of Drew Carey’s membership in the WWE Hall of Fame and posit other, equally worthy potential members to that distinguished, sweat-stained hall of athletic glory. 

This American Life: #430: Very Tough Love
Ira Glass delivers the story he’s been touting for a few weeks, investigating a drug court in Georgia that seems to behave differently from every other drug court in the country. It hands out severe punishment for seemingly minor offenses, and the ethics behind such extremes is hazy. The story’s incredible on several counts—including the breadth of power given to and executed by a single judge and the refusal from so many to speak out against her—but it doesn’t stand up among the show’s strongest because of slow pacing and difficult sourcing. Best to read a summary or check out the aftermath that’s bound to happen after this pretty direct takedown of a single judge.

The Sound Of Young America: Dan Charnas
Jesse Thorn’s interview with Dan Charnas might not of interest to all listeners, but those into the business, history, and evolution of hip-hop will want to tune in.  Thorn talks with Charnas, former hip-hop producer and author of The Big Payback: The History Of The Business Of Hip-Hop about the genre’s journey from outsider musical form to the mainstream, with stepping stones such as ad firm Burrell’s utilizing hip-hop in a Sprite commercial. Includes an unexpected anecdote from Thorn about his mother’s oral history of “Rapper’s Delight.”

Sound Opinions: #278: SXSW 2011
The downside of doing a podcast only once a week is that you end up occasionally lagging behind the news. Such is the case with this belated recap of SXSW 2011, which was posted a full week after the industry event wrapped. At least Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot avoid the usual pitfalls of SXSW coverage, focusing on the actual music instead of the cool, VIP-only parties that most people only get to hear about. The critics share some of their favorites from the festival; pay special attention to the titanic-sounding Canadian indie-rock duo PS I Love You. DeRogatis and Kot also offer mixed opinions on the new Strokes album, Angles; DeRogatis is unnecessarily harsh, while Kot sees a bright future for the band even if he deems the record a failure. (They’re both wrong; it’s actually quite good!)

WTF With Marc Maron: #160: Bobby Slayton
There aren’t many stand-up comics who can talk circles around Marc Maron, but Bobby Slayton, the raspy-voiced “pit bull of comedy” is one of them. Here, he treats Maron to a manic, very funny rant about why he’s content with his lot in life playing Las Vegas’ Hooters Casino and the backlash he got on Twitter for his admittedly cruel comments about Demi Lovato. It’s less a conversation than a monologue, but Maron doesn’t seem to mind.