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Meet The Best Show’s replacement and Ice-T joins the podcasting fray

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

Editor’s Note: We’re discontinuing weekly reviews of Monday Morning Podcast, The Smartest Man In The World, The Todd Glass Show, My Brother, My Brother And Me. We plan to check in with them throughout the year, just not every week. In the coming weeks we’ll add 99% Invisible, Bonnie And Maude, Book Fight!, The Cracked Podcast, Filmspotting, and Hardcore History once it starts up again.


“You’re strolling through YouTube and you see a video you’ve never seen before, and the comments—”
“Just 80 percent say ‘Tiny calves.’” —David Huntsberger and Kyle Dunnigan on Dunnigan’s YouTube videos, Professor Blastoff

“I take my golf pure.” —Steven Levitt, when asked if he would smoke pot and golf, Freakonomics

“If you have a certain kind of diseased mind, there is a pleasure that you can take from grammar... Grammar functions both as a set of rules and also as a kind of folklore… Something that is as fun and beautiful and interesting and intricate as grammar becomes mere hipsterism.” —John Hodgman, Judge John Hodgman

“Why are you putting the lock on the door? Why are you closing the shades?!” —Matt Berninger expressing his discomfort with Pete Holmes’ self-professed fandom of The National, You Made It Weird

“Laughing at stuff makes you feel like you have ownership over an otherwise completely uncontrollable world.” —Chris Hardwick on tragedy, Nerdist

“It’s not like an Italian wedding soup?”“No, what would that be?”
“It’s a minestrone with a stack of $100 bills in it.” —Cocoa Marx (Horatio Sanz) and Scott Aukerman talk soup, Comedy Bang! Bang!

Go Get The Ring...that’s what Greg Behrendt’s dad calls Lord Of The Rings.” —Jonah Ray, Who Charted?

“Zero people have ever been fired from Stuff You Missed In History Class.” —Tracy V. Wilson, Stuff You Missed In History Class

”He said, you know what? I’m going to have a little thrill right now and grab on to this train. And he did! He successfully grabbed onto this train… He was having the time of his life just dangling there.” —Josh Clark beginning a story that will clearly end in losing a limb, Stuff You Should Know

“The artist respects the silence that serves as the foundation for creativity.” —Doug, the angry trumpet guy, Improv4Humans

“When you’re taking a shower, act like a woman, man: Check your testicles.” —Mick Benzo offers health advice for men, Ice-T: Final Level

“We all know Alabama fans take their football seriously. They poison trees. Think about the guy who teabagged somebody and took a picture of it and got arrested. This is a team that’s used to winning. Maybe they don’t know how to lose gracefully. They don’t know how to eat shit when they’re losing. As Michigan fans, we’ve learned how to eat a ton of crow.” —Jason and Randy Sklar, Sklarbro Country

“I played football, but I was also on the gymnastics team. Immediately when you tell people gymnastics, they say, ‘These guys are soft.’ I’m like, ‘Motherfucker, do an iron cross. Let me catch you hanging off some rings, motherfucker.’” —Ice-T, Ice-T: Final Level

“I don’t know if murder would eliminate that. I know there are people who have killed their parents, and I don’t know if that helps even. Can you imagine killing your parents and still wanting their approval?” —Cathy Ladman, on the inescapable desire for parental approval, The Mental Illness Happy Hour  


The Goddamn Dave Hill Show
Following Tom Scharpling’s incomparable 13-year hold on Tuesday-night radio would have been a tall order even without the Internet being inundated with think-pieces for the two and a half months leading up to The Goddamn Dave Hill Show’s premiere. Scharlping’s successor in the 9 p.m. to midnight time slot is the titular Dave Hill, a comedian, UCB alum, author, and This American Life contributor whose live show, The Dave Hill Explosion, morphed into Dave Hill’s Podcasting Incident on the Maximum Fun network. Hill is a tested talent, selected by the station for his crossover appeal with Scharpling’s crowd and his own unique sensibilities and fan base.

When Hill’s first three hours came to a close last Tuesday, a multitude of surface-level similarities existed between his and Scharpling’s shows. There’s an opening rock ’n’ roll set that lasts about 20 minutes, and then a few listener calls peppered Hill’s soliloquies, and extended conversations with notable friends like Pantera’s Phil Anselmo and Dick Cavett. Like his predecessor, Hill has a deep love for Led Zeppelin, collaborates on-air with H. Jon Benjamin, and expresses and explicit desire to get a band back together (Big Dipper in Scharpling’s case, Dokken in Hill’s). But Hill isn’t trying to repeat The Best Show, and when he reads erotic short stories, lets Cavett rant unopposed about black-and-white television, and facilitates a gorgeous in-studio performance by Guided By Voices guitarist Doug Gillard, listeners can hear him setting his own course.

Hill is a gracious host who shows an eager willingness to embrace the dedicated audience that Scharpling brought to WFMU while easing it into his lovable and affable—if occasionally tawdry—aesthetic. The Goddamn Dave Hill Show may not win over every Friend of Tom, but “Friends of Dave” has a nice ring to it, too. [NJ]


Ice-T: Final Level
In the premiere episode of his podcast, Ice-T boasts that he’s the first rapper to start a podcast, which is apparently true—at least he’s the first his stature to join the overwhelmingly white world of podcasting. Seeing as how Ice-T, 53, enjoyed his highest musical profile about 20 years ago—with his landmark album, O.G. Original Gangster, and the controversy around his hard-rock band, Body Count—at least one generation probably knows him exclusively as a cast member of Law & Order: SVU or star of a dopey reality show with his wife. But T has unassailable hip-hop bona fides, and he’s always been an outspoken, funny character, which means he should make for an engaging presence on a podcast.

He’s joined by longtime manager Mick Benzo, who acts more as hype man than co-host, frequently repeating and complimenting Ice-T. For a twice-monthly chat podcast, Final Level is surprisingly structured, with segments devoted to news (Nelson Mandela was the ultimate gangster), movies (on The Counselor: “That shit is dope”), games (Final Level, also T’s Twitter handle, is a gaming reference), and behind-the-scenes insights about SVU (why Chris Meloni left, etc.). Each lasts a few minutes and is separated by a commercial and comically dramatic music. It being the first show, the rapport between T and Benzo is still developing, and right now Benzo isn’t offering much. But Ice-T makes up for it with a continual stream of colorfully worded insights. On his love of Brad Pitt: “If your man don’t like Brad Pitt, he’s just a bitch.” There are lots of bitches on Final Level: “If you’re a man and you got a friend, and as soon as he starts opening his mouth with some gossip, say, ‘You sound like a bitch,’” T says at one point. He has advice on talking about gaming with women—basically, don’t: “If you walk up to a girl and say, ‘Yo baby, my kill/death ratio…,’ you just fucked up. You might as well put on some Crocs if you trying to have some pussy repellant.” He also preemptively dismisses negative comments about Final Level: “If you sat through a whole hour of this, and then you got nothing to say but negative shit, then you gotta be the dumbest motherfucker on Earth. You could’ve clicked this shit off a minute in.” There’s a lot of that kind of thing in Final Level, which makes it a pretty enjoyable listen—it could develop into required listening with some time. [KR]


Comedy Bang! Bang! #263: Hollywild: Ben Schwartz, Horatio Sanz
Comedy Bang! Bang! begins 2014 with a lay-up: fan favorite Ben Schwartz and Horatio Sanz, currently enjoying a hot streak, as Marx Brothers grandson Cocoa Marx. Schwartz’s last CBB appearance was one of the best episodes of the year—thanks partly to Paul F. Tompkins as Werner Herzog—and just like that episode, this one has a lot of goofy singing from Scott Aukerman and Schwartz. It’s a fun, loose episode with plenty of big laughs that come from the trio’s easy rapport. The end. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: Harland Williams, Samm Levine Graham Elwood
The Orlando, Florida, crowd in this edition of Doug Loves Movies is one of the most receptive and enthusiastic crowds in the show’s history. Either the audience members are die-hard fans, or they are super-excited over the stellar panel Doug Benson brings to town. Either way, the crowd’s energy feeds into the show from the get-go. One of the best bits in the chat portion comes from an audience member erroneously shouting out “Hulu” as one of the show’s sponsors. Graham Elwood also gets some prime gloating in at Samm Levine’s expense because Elwood trounced Lil’ Wolverine in the Leonard Maltin Game Tournament Of Championships. [MS]

Hang Up And Listen: The “I Know, I Borrowed Your Face” Edition
The week of the final BCS Championship Game and the start of the NFL playoffs means an all-football episode of HUAL. Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe joins the panel to discuss his Deadspin column alleging his special teams coach voiced loud anti-gay opinions, and the panel discusses the ethics of enjoying the tension of close playoff games when so many notable players are getting hurt all over the field. Football will only be here for a few more precious weeks, so this overflowing discussion is a great preamble to the inevitable coverage of Dan Le Batard giving away his Baseball Hall Of Fame ballot next week. [KM]

Harmontown #84: Low Jack For Your Back Pack, Crackerjack!
The big life story this week for Dan Harmon is recounting his trip to Scotland, where he proposed to his girlfriend, Erin McGathy. Nothing will ever curb Harmon’s abrasive attitude, not even getting engaged. But it’s still delightful to hear that a year and a half after being let go by NBC, Harmon is back at Community and engaged. Even better news: Kumail Nanjiani and Mitch Hurwitz are back on the show at the same time, but Nanjiani’s time away had unintended consequences in D&D: His character’s penis was severed (“until such time as it can be reattached”), and to add insult to injury, he lost two charisma points. [KM]

How Was Your Week? #149: “Here’s A Sconce”: Aimee Mann
If Julie Klausner’s commitment to her own curiosities no matter the guest is the hallmark of How Was Your Week?, then her interview with Aimee Mann is a landmark installment of the podcast. Chummy in advance by way of shared circles, including the fact that Klausner’s “musicman” Ted Leo is bandmates with Mann, the ladies forgo press-junket tropes in favor of a breezy conversation devoid of many hard-hitting questions or revelations. Mann long ago shed her ultra-serious ’80s new-waver persona, and she shines here, aided by an especially inquisitive Klausner. [NJ]

Improv4Humans #115: Daniel The Miracle Beagle: Sean Clements, Dominic Dierkes, Joe Wengert
This week marks the beginning of what could be a new era for Improv4Humans. After tracking down the angry trumpet man and getting his side of the story, Doug Levison returns with a phone call ostensibly about a miracle pup. The story is nearly unintelligible, but Matt Besser savors every detail, and from it spins a great scene involving Michael Bloomberg being fleeced out his vast finances. Besser is joined by Workaholics writers Sean Clements and Dominic Dierkes, and Comedy Bang! Bang! favorite Joe Wengert, and the three more than pull their own weight. Top honors belong to Besser’s story of a crazy man attacking his neighborhood park, and the ensuing scene that hilariously nit-picks over the crazed man’s mud-caked clothing. Truly though, Doug was the best, and if his new proposed new segment is executed, he could easily become the next I4H institution. [MK]

Judge John Hodgman: The Department Of Corrections
Kira will not let grammatical errors pass without remark. Her husband, Tom, thinks correct grammar is important, but believes there’s a time and place for it. And he would like to be able to tell a story or sit through a dinner without enduring a cross-fire of lectures about language. The case’s expert witness is lexicographer Emily Brewster, an associate editor for Merriam-Webster, who testifies about modern grammar and usage, addressing adverbs of manner, sentence-ending prepositions, assorted hot-button words, and proper whom-age. Interrupted with grammar debates, the hearing unfolds at a glacial pace, revealing the history of a family whose good intentions ultimately leave the losing party crushed and disillusioned. In closing, the court clears the docket with a ruling on a semantic distinction. The week’s takeaway: Before you judge, ask, “What would Mister Rogers do?” [DXF]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #149: Cathy Ladman
Most of the conversations on The Mental Illness Happy Hour involve a guest’s hindsight version of events, which often presents a slightly more tidy, coherent version of excruciating experiences. That structure gets an interesting reversal on this excellent installment, as writer-comedian Cathy Ladman works through her current professional anxieties in real time with Paul Gilmartin. She seems to approach the discussion without any planned talking points or anecdotes, which makes for a wonderfully natural conversation. Each one of her stories sounds spontaneous, with many sentences beginning with her bracing herself before sharing her feelings of professional uncertainty after her early success as a stand-up and writer. Ladman also talks candidly about formative experiences with her parents and her long battle with anorexia. Beyond the conversation, a new series of “awfulsome” surveys exploring listeners’ equally horrific and hilarious experiences, is a welcome addition to the program. [TC]

Nerdist #461: Brody Stevens
Nerdist ventures into WTF territory this week as stand-up comedian Brody Stevens joins Matt Mira and Chris Hardwick for a conversation centering on depression and mental health. While Stevens may not yet be a household name, his open and humorous discussion of spending time in a psych ward and trying to wean himself off Klonopin is likely to strike a chord with others who have experienced mental illness or know someone who has. Also of interest—though on a different level—is Stevens’ expertise as a warm-up comedian. It’s fascinating to hear how warm-ups manage the mood of an audience and how much that little-discussed skill impacts a live talk show. [CS]

Nerdist #462: Jim Norton
Brash comedian Jim Norton certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but even non-fans should be able to enjoy this episode. Norton talks openly about his grief over the deaths of friends like Greg Giraldo and Patrice O’Neal, which leads to a rather revealing discussion of his own sobriety and past issues with substance abuse and sex addiction. However, one of the more surprising revelations involves Norton’s love of chess. Naturally, Chris Hardwick and Norton completely nerd out on all aspects of competitive chess. Some of the topics they touch on are Bobby Fischer’s raging anti-Semitism, the psychological warfare that takes place during a chess match, and the culture of homeless chess hustlers in New York’s Washington Square Park. [MS]

Nerdist #464: Nick Kroll
Nick Kroll makes a rare third appearance on Nerdist, but thankfully his obvious friendship with hosts Chris Hardwick and Jonah Ray keeps the conversation from feeling like a retread. From a central chat about Kroll’s appearance on Comedy Central’s James Franco roast, the trio branches out into an in-depth discussion of comedy. Kroll touches on the fear of getting pigeonholed as a character and the importance of self-criticism. In between he also shares stories of an awkward phone call with Franco and the uncomfortable reality of filming make-out scenes. It’s a comedy-centric episode, but Kroll’s discussion of his own insecurities make it an interesting listen even for more casual comedy fans. [CS]

Never Not Funny #1325: Scott Aukerman
The appearance of Never Not Funny acolyte Scott Aukerman is both key to this week’s episode and somehow less important than the news #1325 contains: After many vague references to possible changes on Never Not Funny, the news is finally out: The show is going free and joining Earwolf, a natural fit considering how long Aukerman and Pardo have known each other, and how much Pardo’s podcast influenced Aukerman’s. Subscribers still have the option to pay for video and a weekly bonus episode, but the show is otherwise free. Maybe Never Not Funny will finally get the attention it deserves, and this week’s episode has everyone in fine form. It’s more than two hours of breezy, funny conversation and the promise of big things on the horizon. [KR]

Professor Blastoff #137: Best Of 2013 Pt 1
More than a year after releasing an erstwhile “best of” sampler, Professor Blastoff embraces Earwolf tradition to release its first multi-part, fan-curated year-in-review collection. After a requisite half-hour catch-up, the hosts make way for the selections, and 2013’s highlights speed by without much interruption. It’s a much more accurate representation of where the program has gone since the last retrospective, casting off the hosts’ banter in favor of including a fairer sampling of guests and some of the long-running bits, like Tig Notaro’s baby voice and Kyle Dunnigan’s Night Guy, that have permeated the back half of the show’s year. The result is nostalgic yet forward-looking, a great entry point for new Blastronauts to hop on in the new year. [NJ]

Sklarbro Country #181: Collecting The Coats: Brett Gelman, Daniel Van Kirk
When Terrell Owens started to spew some nonsensical thoughts about homosexuality during his chat with the Sklars back in September, Randy and Jason seemed to sidestep the issue out of courtesy. Terror, on the other hand, is what kept Go On actor Brett Gelman quiet on set while filming T.O.’s cameo scene for the NBC sitcom, but the gloves come off during his sit down with the brothers. Gelman is full of targets this week, which range from Billy Crystal’s Jazz Man character to the entire community of Highland Park. Buoyed by Gelman’s hysterical observations the whole wide-ranging episode feels like a hangout. [DJ]  

Sound Opinions #424: Rodrigo Y Gabriela
Musical performances on Sound Opinions are rarely transcendent: Rodrigo Y Gabriela’s live set at Goose Island in Chicago is the exception. With a few undulating  tracks—including an untitled and yet-to-be recorded eight-minute epic—the duo is in rare company of bands to have live cuts on the radio show improving previously recorded songs. The interview covers the duo’s time playing in metal bands in Mexico City, busking on Grafton Street in Dublin, and getting discovered by Damien Rice. Rodrigo and Gabriela are both forthcoming in the interview, but the best parts are the songs, because it’s rare to hear this kind of influence in the stuff Sound Opinions usually covers. [KM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Listener Mail: FAQ Edition
SYMIHC could always use less script, and in this episode hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey decide to tell listeners more about the format and background of the show. Last October, the show had a record number of downloads, but 2013 also marked the departure of longtime hosts Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey, something they address here. (They are friends, and text each other regularly.) Wilson and Frey made a gamble on the good numbers and release a full 30-minute episode where they simply chat, and the payoff is worth it. By hearing about the hosts’ fact-checking process (no, they don’t just Google), they reveal their academic backgrounds and lend themselves a lot of credibility. They proudly compare themselves to hosts of an NPR program, and based on credentials and performance, that pride is well-deserved. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Your Limb Is Torn Off—Now What?
Host Josh Clark is sick again, but as fellow host Chuck Bryant promises, the man is dedicated to his craft, and both bring their enthusiasm to this dramatic episode about lost limbs. The hosts are smart enough to know that the story of the first man to successfully have a limb re-attached has dramatic suspense in it, and the humor they choose to add given the relatively happy ending shows how well Clark and Bryant deal with biological facts and darker themes. There is also a hilarious example presented using the film Death Proof, where the hosts debate whether the severed leg that flies through the air and lands in the street will be re-attachable for up to 12 hours. In addition to stories, the episode also includes a valuable, complete walkthrough on how to ice a lost finger without giving it frostbite. [DT]

Who Charted? #162: Nephew Jonah
The episode starts off with a story of how getting served in a rap battle led to Howard Kremer getting his Samurai ponytail cut off. Apparently, having a ridiculous hairstyle gave Kremer’s opponent too much to work with. This whole anecdote takes place before Jonah Ray even gets on mic, so it’s clear that he has a lot to follow. Fortunately, he comes out swinging, bringing a slightly contentious energy toward his longtime friend Kremer. The group’s discussion of the Korean pop charts opens the door for Kremer to delineate an insane theory on the distance between Korea and Laos, and the music chart allows Kremer and Ray to gush about the famous men to whom they are sexually attracted. [MS]

WTF #459: Andy Samberg
Even if Andy Samberg didn’t self-identify as a member of a generation of hard-working and relatively well-adjusted SNL cast members going back to Will Ferrell, that fact would still be clear: The worst thing Samberg reveals in the entire interview is that he was starved for attention as a youngster, which comes as no surprise from a comedic performer. Samberg comes off as immensely likeable—so much, in fact, that even Maron manages to (mostly) rein in his casual resentment for Samberg’s clean-cut success. The conversation is breezy and light, to be sure, but it remains interesting. [CG]

You Made It Weird #189: Matt Berninger
Despite the usually somber persona he projects in The National, Matt Berninger proves to be a surprisingly jocular subject in his two and a half hour chat with Pete Holmes this week. While it seems at times that the two are simply checking off items on Holmes’ list of preferred topics (drugs, spirituality, monogamy), the conversation they have about Berninger’s marriage feels more practical and more mature than similar past discussions on the podcast—undoubtedly due in part to Berninger being a little older than Holmes’ usual guests. Although Berninger is appearing to promote his brother’s National documentary Mistaken For Strangers, his relationship with brother is as interesting as his marriage, and it gives Holmes an opportunity to talk about his own brother. Holmes and Berninger hit their stride early on, which is good for listeners who don’t have time for the entire episode. [AB]


The Bugle #256: Troubled Bridge Over Boiling Water
While there are some solid Chris Christie digs later on in the episode, John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman never reach the heights of outrage that make for The Bugle at its best. [AB]

Doug Loves Movies: Paul F. Tompkins, Jimmy Pardo, Sean Sakimae
Not even reliable guest and comedic juggernaut Paul F. Tompkins can get this non-starter of an episode off the ground. [MS]

The Fogelnest Files #72: Sex Carl: Damien Fahey, Megan Koester, Brock Wilbur
Despite a promising open featuring the titular “SEX CARL” bit, this week’s live show loses steam (and focus) quickly. [AB]

Freakonomics: Are We Ready To Legalize Drugs? And Other FREAK-Quently Asked Questions
From the panopticon to drug legalization, this week has Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt once again fielding a series of questions from listeners. While an enjoyable show, it never reaches the interesting depths of most episodes. [NC]

The Moth: Adam Fawer & Carlos Kotkin
Neither open-mic entry this week builds to anything substantial, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Adam Fawer’s confession about a blunt, jaw-dropping instance of marital discord is particularly funny. [DJ]  

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Explosive Career Of Antoine Levoisier
The father of modern chemistry (and physics and geology, and more) had an impressive scientific résumé, but as a non-eccentric wealthy man who succeeded in the mainstream, his story feel less of a delight than many of the podcast’s subjects. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Filibusters Work
Though host Josh Clark makes a funny allusion to Strom Thurmond peeing all over himself, filibusters are almost as exhausting to learn about as they are to watch. [DT]

WTF #460: Will Forte
The unlikely star of Nebraska suggests that there’s an ocean of material to talk about behind his early writing gigs, time on SNL, and now burgeoning film career, but the interview unfortunately never digs beneath Forte saying how delightful all of his colleagues have been to work with. [KM]