Mel Brooks awes Marc Maron and How Was Your Week turns 100 in style

Mel Brooks awes Marc Maron and How Was Your Week turns 100 in style

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QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“The thing about Ruth Pointer is, she knows how to party. You know what she keeps in her shoulder pads? Seven grams of cocaine.” —Randy Sklar discussing the Pointer Sisters, The Fogelnest Files

“And you’re like, ‘When is the end?’ And it’s Ray Romano. That is the end of the line, is he’s in a meeting with the guy, and we still don’t know who the guy is.” —Julian McCullough on the entertainment industry’s mysterious power structure, You Made It Weird

“A baby will toss you into hell.” —Mel Brooks, WTF With Marc Maron

“Are you friendly with him?”
“No, nobody is.” —Marc Maron asking Mel Brooks about Woody Allen, WTF With Marc Maron

“We used to be together. We were together for four years. But there was something a little off.”
“I couldn’t put my finger on it.”
“I wouldn’t let him put his finger on it. Folks, I still got it. I thought all my punchlines were in my tits.” —Tig Notaro and Kyle Dunnigan on their platonic relationship, Professor Blastoff

“That’s what the experiment for me was: find out what exactly these people were like.”
“They laugh during the movie Philadelphia, I think.” —Jeffrey Ross and Ron Sexsmith discuss Ross roasting the Westboro Baptist Church, Comedy Bang! Bang!

“I’m not a marriage expert, clearly. But I would say murder is not a good foundation for marriage.” —Garry Marshall (Paul F. Tompkins), Comedy Bang! Bang!

NEW (TO US)

Put Your Hands Together
Even if Put Your Hands Together, the new replacement for the Comedy Bang Bang! live show, models itself directly off its predecessor, replacing the dearly departed show can’t be easy. The time slot, setup, and cast of performers are more or less the same, but still: It’s taking over for not only the most popular comedy showcase in Los Angeles, but one that spawned a beloved, format-changing podcast and its televised adaptation. As such, UCB Theater’s choice of host in Cameron Esposito, a relative newcomer and recent Los Angeles transplant, is certainly a bold and inspired one. But the former Chicagoan is just that, not to mention immensely likable, infectiously cheery, and well-connected among comedians, making the transition an easy one.

Put Your Hands Together, which takes a cue from former host Scott Aukerman in offering a podcast version of the show, has a basic premise like any other showcase: a series of openers, a feature, and a headliner all perform five-to-10 minute sets in front of a live audience (some of whom are leftover from Doug Loves Movies). The caliber of comedians in the four episodes to date is clearly what sets the new show apart; a majority of the performers should be familiar to Podmass readers and even casual comedy fans. Kyle Kinane and Steve Agee kick off and headline the première episode with some hilariously blue material, and later installments feature sets from Bobcat Goldthwait, James Adomian, and A.V. Club pal/Podmass contributor Dan Telfer, plus cameos from Aziz Ansari, Jimmy Pardo, and an impersonation from Bob Odenkirk. Esposito’s easy charm glues it all together, whether she’s sharing anecdotal tidbits about hanging out with Kinane’s mom, interviewing performers backstage (a boon to the podcast version), or quieting a noisy audience member by riffing on the idea of handing out microphones at random. Given its pedigree, Put Your Hands Together would probably succeed just by its very nature; having Esposito’s relentless positivity bouncing around the room each week—and having it all available in podcast form—is a welcome bonus. [SM] 


THE BEST

Comedy Bang! Bang! #199: Garry Unmarried: Gillian Jacobs, Paul F. Tompkins
Thanks to three recent appearances on the show, Gillian Jacobs has quickly become a Comedy Bang! Bang! all-star. Her anxiousness (the discomfort she displayed when Scott Aukerman brought up their Words With Friends games was awesome), her bizarre stories (her hollow-boned grandfather)—all of it worked, but it was last October’s “Friends Without Words” that took it to another level. In that episode, she convinced fellow guest Garry Marshall (Paul F. Tompkins) to murder his wife, then married him for his money, but “Garry Unmarried” shows that things didn’t go well. Jacobs and Tompkins have great chemistry, especially when she’s bitter and confrontational, which leads to too many good quips and tangents to list here (like Joanie Loves Tcotchke, a show where “Joanie was in love with a Hummel figurine, and only she could hear it talk,” says Marshall). Essential listening. [KR]

Fogelnest Files #21: He’s A Friend: The Sklar Brothers
From the few shows’ worth of evidence so far, it seems like Jake Fogelnest invariably stays lighter and more whimsical when his guests don’t share his adamant and sometimes off-putting sense of nostalgia. This week’s episode may be the best one yet, because Randy and Jason Sklar’s signature back-and-forth keeps the conversation mobile; they don’t let Fogelnest dwell on any subject long enough to gripe about it. The brothers’ masterful instincts in terms of when to call back a joke also make Fogelnest’s sometimes-manic pace feel brisk rather than overwhelming. Meanwhile, the host’s consistently excellent clip selection keeps the riffing anchored around a few very fertile sources, most notably the video for Huey Lewis And The News’ “Heart And Soul” and the trailer for the 1988 comedy Twins. [AB]

Freakonomics: Would You Let A Coin Toss Decide Your Future?
The Freakonomics team is starting in on its next big project, and this time we’re all invited to be their guinea pigs. Levitt and Dubner want to learn if there are any systematic rules to making big life changes (should we always stick with the status quo? Always buck the trend? A little bit of both?), and have developed a website to help them do so. It’s pretty easy: If you have a big life choice to make (to get married, to quit your job, etc.), go to Freakonomics Experiments, answer a short questionnaire, and the site will flip a coin for you. It may sound a bit ridiculous, but Levitt is pretty persuasive in his description of how the coin toss works. It’s a truly randomized coin, based on some algorithm they’ve found. And having someone else flip the coin for you actually reduces your regret for having made a particular decision. [NC]

Hang Up And Listen: The Twirling A Hat On A Stick Edition
Super Bowl Sunday offered all sorts of drama this year, including a spectacular (if ultimately rebuffed) second-half comeback by the San Francisco 49ers and a 34-minute power outage that delayed the game and exposed the flaws in CBS’ coverage, which offered zero news information and an abundance of inane commentary from the ill-prepared broadcasters. But the real fun in this episode is a discussion of favorite, least-favorite, and just plain odd schoolyard games, from popular standards like Foursquare, Dodgeball, and “Kill The Carrier” (a.k.a. “Smear The Queer”) to more eccentric offerings like “Butts Up” and a sad game where kids throw a ball into a bucket with holes in it. It’s a great nostalgia trip, at least for those who are not still haunted by childhood traumas. [ST]

How Was Your Week #100: “One Hundred”: Tom Scharpling, Jesse Thorn
As How Was Your Week turns 100, Julie Klausner follows what has now become a podcasting tradition and sits down to be interviewed by two people who have helped shape the show. Tom Scharpling is one of Klausner’s idols, and she credits him as her No. 1 comedic influence in putting her show together. Scharpling holds Klausner in similar esteem, and their conversation features many sweet and genuine moments. This gives way to a more serious-minded interview with Jesse Thorn that comes to focus on the podcast as creative outlet for Klausner and the satisfaction she derives from putting it together each week. Thorn’s questions about Klaunser’s creative process cover topics that Klausner regularly asks HWYW guests about, making the interview fit in nicely with Klausner’s body of work. Overall, the episode is celebratory but never saccharine, and is a fitting retrospective for a podcast that will only continue to grow. [DF]

Improv4Humans #65: Computer Strength: Charlie Sanders, John Gemberling, Colton Dunn
Rude personalities, both in and out of character, abound in this week’s extra-long episode. The opening hour flies by with three especially strong scenes, each peppered with awful characters mistreating each other. The wildest of the hour spins a pedestrian story of competing against middle-schoolers in high-school track into a scene of overly enthusiastic athletes—“Go Big Blue!!”—facing off against babies in events like the “Toddler Back Float” and the post-match free swim. After the hour mark, the rest of the episode can be readily skipped, as Matt Besser phones in a fan who disagreed with the show’s recent gun control-themed episode in light of Sandy Hook. Instead of having a reasonable discussion, Besser huffs and bullies the caller for his choice to criticize the show. It isn’t one of the program’s finer moments, but can be forgiven. [MK]

Judge John Hodgman: Bench Warrant
What should be an open-and-shut case becomes far more complex in this exceptionally sweet episode. Dimitri asks Judge Hodgman to compel his boyfriend Landon to sit on the same side of the booth with him at the diner they frequent for brunch. Hodgman makes his resistance to this idea clear, since two people of any orientation sitting next to each other in a booth with no one on the other side is plainly an awkward, neck-cricking affair. But as he delves deeper into this relationship, Hodgman discovers that Landon, a Southerner and a former Air Force cadet in the DADT era, has a natural resistance to PDA of any kind and Dimitri has taken it upon himself to challenge his boyfriend to put himself out there more. It doesn’t change Hodgman’s mind about booth-sharing—nor should it—but he offers some wise words about how couples can push each other outside of their comfort zones. [ST]

The JV Club #47: Erica Rhodes
Comedian Erica Rhodes is one of those guests that’s incredibly excited to be talking to Janet Varney and really embraces the concept of the show, bringing in old poetry and journals to provide a thorough examination of her adolescent years. Varney begins the episode by discussing the Peace First Fellowship prize for youth that was brought to her attention, which segues smoothly into a discussion of her guest’s childhood, which was dominated by a desire to be a professional dancer. As she paints a portrait of an intensely overachieving teen, Rhodes details how her relationship with A Prairie Home Companion began, reads hilarious journal entries, and has a wacky discussion about pickled eggs with the host. Rhodes is clearly having a great time, and her joy gives the episode great momentum, speeding to a MASH game that works out very well for Rhodes, who lives in a mansion in Victorian England as a psychiatrist who can fly. [OS]

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #76: Diced Peaches
In an episode that sees Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh returning to some semblance of normalcy, the snack enthusiasts take a seemingly mundane item and don’t rest until they’ve exhausted every comedic avenue they can. Black and Cavanagh bounce jokes off of each other for the duration of the episode, never letting a punchline slip or abandoning a premise too early. When it comes time for them to rate the snack, it feels like the episode has flown by, in part because Black and Cavanagh never waste a second. While the last few episodes of MATES have been solid, this one truly stands out, showing that when they’re focused and functioning as a unit, Mike and Tom make a rather perfect team. [DA]

Monday Morning Podcast
Bill Burr goes long with the Super Bowl talk this week, but almost all of it is on point. Despite seemingly everyone on the planet having made countless jokes about the event (and especially the power outage) on Twitter, he still manages to come up with a fresh and very funny take on the whole thing. A bit about psychotic, violent prison inmates is similarly strong, as is a quick aside about reptile brains. Burr’s also in a damn-near chipper mood, which is something of a rare treat. The listener emails are comparatively dull, but overall it’s another strong episode in an impressive streak for the Monday Morning Podcast. [CG]

Nerdist #317: Yvette Nicole Brown
It makes sense that Chris Hardwick would welcome Yvette Nicole Brown to the Nerdist as Community’s return date drews near. However, aside from the obvious questions about the show, Brown’s appearance on Nerdist is a quick-witted affair that’s filled with delightful banter for much of the episode. Brown’s enthusiasm and positivity is palpable and genuine, but as the interview begins drawing to a close, things get a bit heavy as the topic of religion becomes the focus. Brown is open about her faith and asks Hardwick and the Nerdist hosts about their beliefs in a non-judgmental, inviting manner. Brown is charming throughout the episode, but perhaps never more than when she takes part in an open philosophical discussion that’s free of combativeness and full of insight. [DA]

Professor Blastoff #90: Live At SF Sketchfest
Whether the live audience is in attendance for Professor Blastoff or to see America’s hottest comedian Tig Notaro—judging by the amount of applause, it’s evenly split—it’s safe to say this week’s live episode is a treat for listeners of all kinds. Freed from the bounds of a specific topic, the hosts set loose all their favorite character bits and running gags, feeding off the audience and each other while stopping only briefly to share a maybe-relevant anecdote before hopping onto the next riff. With much of the rest of the running time devoted to fielding (or mocking) crowd-sourced topic suggestions, all set to Kyle Dunnigan plunking away on a Casio, this fantastically madcap episode is effectively the opening and closing minutes of a regular installment—typically the funniest—stretched out to a tireless and welcome 110. [SM]

Radiolab: Speed
This week’s stories are all about speeds that are just on the edge of human consciousness, from an experiment with melted pitch that’s been going on for decades to trapping light in a cloud of atoms. Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich talk to experts who focus in on phenomena that our eyes can’t quite capture. “Speed” also examines the limits of human comprehension by mapping the time it takes for our neurons to fire and the speed of computer trading on Wall Street. Turns out our synapses are much slower than fiber optics (or even telegraph wires from 1850), and the high-speed trades in Manhattan are so complicated that people in finance don’t know what’s going on most of the time (which puts the 2010 stock market crash into some eerie perspective). [NC]

Sklarbro Country #132: Living The American Dream: Eugene Mirman, Jesse Thorn
Eugene Mirman is quietly having quite a moment, with his roles in Delocated and Bob’s Burgers, along with a new special, making him more visible than at any previous point in his career. But he also has an incredibly intriguing personal story, born in Russia to Jewish parents and immigrating to the U.S. at the age of 4. His stories of touring with Flight Of The Conchords and opening for musical acts like Andrew Bird and Modest Mouse are enlightening, and his experience of walking to a hotel with Michael Stipe at a small music festival in Mexico is hysterical. Though the Super Bowl is over, Jesse Thorn’s helpful handicapping of dips is a pleasantly humorous capstone to a great episode. [KM]

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Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #37: David Kohan, Dan Van Kirk
Since this week’s show was taped before the Super Bowl last Sunday, the Sklars offer a series of fabricated rundowns of the game with the help of guest David Kohan. Kohan, who co-created Will And Grace, is as huge a sports nut as the brothers, which means the conversation this week is less funny and more obsessed with the minutiae of the L.A. Lakers’ social hierarchy. Dan Van Kirk’s news briefs are as hilarious as usual, especially the last one, which involves the use of prostitution in nursing homes. There’s actually a need for hookers in retirement castles: 25 percent of the elderly are still sexually active, and that number is going to keep rising in the future. [NC]

Sound Opinions #375: The dB’s
Though now seemingly one-upped by the new My Bloody Valentine album, power-pop band The dB’s also recently returned with a new album after a lengthy hiatus. Falling Off The Sky is the first new record from the band in 25 years, but Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Will Rigby, and Gene Holder have all been working away as session musicians, solo artists, and producers. In their interview with Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot, the two hosts pick a bit too much at the fact that the band never took off commercially. But that’s a fine scab to pick, since it gives Holsapple and his bandmates the opportunity to share their paths since the band first broke up, and the fact that their lack of financial success didn’t faze them. Like true journeyman musicians, what was more important was grinding out a living doing what they love. [KM]

Stuff You Should Know: How Garbage-Powered Cars Could Work
Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant are excited to break into the topic of waste-to-energy, opening with some alarming statistics on how much waste human beings generate. (Chicagoans lead the pack with over 15 pounds of waste per person, per day.) The process, more commonly referred to as gasification, is far more practical than Back To The Future’s Mr. Fusion. Drying out and heating garbage as hot as it can get without igniting creates a useful energy source known as syngas. Clark and Bryant stay focused directly on the topic for a remarkable length of time, so lovers of their silly tangents will have to settle for straight, delightful science. Also worth noting: The excellent SYSK TV show has been airs on Saturdays at noon Eastern on the Science Channel, and the first episode is still free on iTunes. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Gold Works
Josh Clark starts the episode with an extended and amusing aside about the Mayans, then Aztecs, who believed gold to be teocuitlatl, or “excrement of the gods.” There’s actually quite of lot of history for Clark and co-host Chuck Bryant to dig through, but they deftly juggle culture and science without the discussion getting too dense to follow. The process of refining gold, which is difficult to find but easily recycled, has not changed much over the years. Thanks to gold’s both decorative and practical value, it becomes disturbingly clear why so many “cash for gold” storefronts have popped up along the recession-era landscape. Especially worth listening for are the stretches when Clark and Bryant pose questions based on their research. Like what exactly is the use of the U.S. storing all of its gold in two places, and is Die Hard 3 an imminent reality? [DT]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #103: Sparks Nevada, Marshal On Mars: Murder In His Place 
This episode has a little extra fun with an odd bit of Thrilling Adventure Hour’s mythology: the murdermen. In the space-western “Sparks Nevada, Marshal On Mars,” murdermen are simply murderous humans who murder people or turn them into other murdermen by biting them. And as opposed to a fresh zombie, a newly “murdermanned” human apparently maintains his personality, except for a newfound taste for murder. By turning several of the main characters into murdermen, this episode has a little silly fun with the series’ increasingly complicated and epic storyline. [SG]

Uhh Yeah Dude #358
Jonathan Larroquette heroically battles the seductive, distracting glow of a muted TV during the recording of this week’s episode, but he’s not the only one to prove his mettle: Seth Romatelli’s fears of the natural world are concretized in the sinister “sleeper wave,” which can pounce at any time to drag the unwary into the sea. The theme of worst-case scenarios continues with the plight of the “sandwich generation,” who, because of an ailing economy, might be forced to support their children and their parents simultaneously. Scary topics to be sure, but #358 is relentlessly chipper, with a pace that’s practically breakneck by UYD standards. [CW]

Walking The Room #141: Meth Sign And Naked Bruni
Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt claim Walking The Room to be pointless, filthy, and unmarketable. While the first two may be true—though they’ve found hours of listenable joy in dwelling on that self-deprecating fact—this week’s episode in particular belies the host’s entrepreneurial spirit that might finally break them, if not Behrendt’s merchandising arm, Estoy Merchandise. For one, this week’s news item on a carnival worker (surname Bruni, natch) non-violently wrecking havoc on a family and their home is ready-made as a pitch for a TV show on strange, obscure news. And while Behrendt’s ho-hum briefing on the San Francisco Dog Show is chockfull of pot shots and non-sequiturs, the hosts come up with some legitimate-sounding ideas to modernize it, like a halftime show, actually paying the winners, and signing another appropriately named marketing magnate, Snoop Dogg. Though, Anthony should consider tamping down that temper, as he’s especially aggressive this week toward a relatively reserved Behrendt. [SM]

Who Charted? #114: Surfing Rainbows: Steve-O
It’s usually a good sign when a podcast guest begins every story with something to the effect of, “I probably shouldn’t be saying this…” That’s certainly the case with Steve-O, who isn’t generally known for being articulate, coherent, or sitting in one place for any extended length of time. Steve-O works through the ways his career choices conflict with his stance on animal rights and tells a touching story about a basketball game he happened upon while in a rehab center. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Steve-O interview without a few stories of how he endangers his life for a laugh or a cheap thrill, specifically the time he and Chris Pontius tempted fate with a great white shark. [MS]

WTF #357: Gary Gulman
Not many scholarship football players sidestep into stand-up comedy, but former Boston College tight end Gary Gulman is one of them. He’s a Boston-area guy, and as such knows a lot of the people Marc Maron came up with as a comedian in the area. In his conversation with Maron, one thing is readily apparent: Gulman belongs to that group of comics who worked their way up, but never quite “made it.” He got development deals until the industry abandoned that system, and has bounced around as a working comic ever since. Still, his determined attitude, seemingly devoid of the bitter jealousy that drove Maron, is compelling. [KM]

WTF #358: Mel Brooks
Even though Mel Brooks has not exactly led an unexamined life, Marc Maron steers their conversation well, taking the director/screenwriter/comedian/etc. back to the very beginning of his life, with Brooks sharing stories of learning how to play the drums as a boy and later going on to fight in World War II. Stories about Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein unfold, but Maron also asks about Brooks’ producing career and what it was like to work with Davids Lynch and Cronenberg. Brooks, sharp as ever, seems to let down his shticky guard a bit for Maron, talking frankly about the pain that comes with aging despite having lived a long, colorful, and prolific life. Caution: may make Gentiles resent their non-Semitic upbringing. [CZ]

You Made It Weird #122: Julian McCullough
Julian McCullough and Pete Holmes’ conversation here focuses mainly on charting the evolution of their comedy careers, but with a great deal of self-deprecation and self-awareness. One of the most charming threads that emerges is Holmes’ extended metaphor about how comedians are “toucans” in the food chain (“mostly beak,” that is). McCullough also has a great riff about constantly finding out that someone’s having meetings with more important people than he’s meeting with. This helps the more raw bits about McCullough’s past drug and drinking problems flow a little more smoothly. [SG]

You Made It Weird #123: Matt McCarthy
At times, this You Made It Weird installment feels like one of those podcasts where the hosts are having a great time that might not translate all that well for the listener. But the episode manages to leap that divide at many points in its three-hour span, especially when Pete Holmes and guest Matt McCarthy tackle questions like “What’s a good snuff film?” Just embrace the erratic flow. [SG]


THE REST

The Best Show On WFMU
By attempting to create his own script for the Entourage movie, Tom Scharpling lays down a great topic for this week’s episode. Unfortunately, the callers just can’t match his wit, making this one of the less memorable episodes in Best Show’s recent winning streak. [AF]

The Bugle #222: Halfrica
Due to technical difficulties, the first 20 minutes of Issue 222 were lost in an ether of corrupted files. Andy Zaltzman nervously recaps the lost material, transitioning into a truncated episode that never fully jibes. [MK]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #198: Aren’t You Glad: Jeffrey Ross, Ron Sexsmith, Amy Phillips, Neil Campbell
Celebrity impressions are exaggerations, and in the hands of Amy Phillips—a skilled impressionist who’s appeared on CBB as Gwyneth Paltrow, Liza Minnelli, and Jennifer Tilly—Sarah Silverman is constantly shrieking about bodily functions and vaginas. While it kills Scott Aukerman and Jeffrey Ross, it’s grating for an hour. Jeffrey Ross is funny, and singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith is droll, but Neil Campbell’s Cam Billmoth (an close anagram of Mitch Albom) barely registers. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: Burning Love
Although Jerry O’ Connell and Adam Scott make valiant efforts, not much can save this non-starter of an episode featuring too many members of the cast of the web series Burning Love. [MS]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #99: Jess
Jess seems remarkably strong for someone who suffered a lifetime’s worth of tragedy in her childhood, but the conversation suffers a bit as friend Paul Gilmartin tries to neatly categorize the messier parts of her story. [TC]

Mohr Stories #129: David Koechner
Anchorman’s Champ Kind revisits his true-life stand-up story, about his family’s experience with a surrogate mother, in a surprisingly serious conversation that he and Mohr punctuate with irreverent zingers. [DXF]

Mohr Stories #130: Chris Byrd
Those who aren’t hardcore boxing fans should still be able to follow Mohr’s long conversation with former WBO-IBF heavyweight champion Chris Byrd, who discusses Don King, unanswerable boxing debates, and what it’s like to fight Evander Holyfield. [DXF]

The Moth: Faye Lane: Fireworks From Above
Faye Lane’s story about being a flight attendant is touching in the end, but her delivery is too giggly and gaudy to suit the feel of The Moth. [SG]

My Brother, My Brother And Me #139: Minority Groundhog Report
Most of the goofs this week are mildly amusing, but the McElroy brothers can do much, much better. [CG]

Nerdist #318: SF Sketchfest 2013
With guest Pete Holmes in tow, this live episode starts strong before faltering around the midway point. It never effectively recovers, and aside from a few great moments in the “quemments” section, the second half is largely devoid of substance. [DA]

Never Not Funny #1205: Coming Down The Mountain With Jon Dore
Hypothetical death scenarios and Jon Dore’s dark sense of humor are oddly paired with favorite comedy movies and stories of awkward encounters in airports, making for an imbalanced episode that never hits its stride. [SM]

The Smartest Man in the World: Greg Proops Film Club: Gilda
It’s another episode of Greg Proops Film Club, which means only those who’ve recently seen this week’s movie, Charles’ Vidor’s Gilda, will get much out of this episode. [NC]

The Todd Glass Show #88: Live From Washington D.C.!
Unfortunately, Todd Glass and Daniel Kinno’s energy and enthusiasm don’t translate to a particularly cohesive or memorable live show. [MS]