Mitch Hurwitz visits Harmontown and Christopher Lloyd drops by Nerdist

Mitch Hurwitz visits Harmontown and Christopher Lloyd drops by Nerdist

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

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“Mitch, have you got a Jim Belushi impression for us?”
“I’ve got a John Belushi impression that’s not very good… so yes.”
—Jeff Davis and Mitch Hurwitz, Harmontown

“You were not to fly or even consider leaving your home until Black Friday began, at which point you were supposed to reach into you pocket and delve into your child’s orthodontia or your future rent… You were supposed to dip deep into next month’s weed supply and go shopping for a bunch of people that are peripheral to your emotional life and that would be as happy if you showed up and didn’t wear a hat this year.” — Greg Proops, The Smartest Man In The World

“Sometimes I forget. I remember 90 percent of it, but the 10 percent I forget I don’t remember.” —Kyle Dunnigan on scheduling appointments in his phone, Professor Blastoff

“Car makers did not like to promote the seat belt, because they worried that a seat belt implied that cars were dangerous, which they were.” —Stephen Dubner, on the history of the seat belt, Freakonomics

“All [my] characters are so fabulous, if you don’t mind my saying so. I mean Judge Doom? Fuck!” —Christopher Lloyd, Nerdist

“Nerds are big business. ‘I’m a nerd. I like nerdy movies that are only the biggest movies ever made now. I’m just a weirdo little nerd. I only see these movies that make $1.8 billion at the box office. What a weird cult I’m a part of!’” —Gary The Squirrel (Tom Scharpling) on how to make it in showbiz, The Best Show On WFMU

“It better not be anything like circumcision.” —Chuck Bryant on his expectations of the castration episode, Stuff You Should Know

“I barely take my shoes off at my own house.” —Jason Sklar expressing his disapproval of the The Booty Lounge, a mobile Detroit strip club that rhetorically asks patrons if they’d like to walk around barefoot on the club’s supposedly soft carpeting, Sklarbro Country

“In 1969, you checked in to Special Ed, but you didn’t check out.” —Harvard Ph.D. graduate Steve Zimmer on his childhood ADD, The Moth    

“I think I actually got it now: Some fuckin’ nerds are doing some bullshit.” —Seth Morris summarizes a long explanation of Bitcoin, Never Not Funny

NEW TO US

Machine Court
This science-fiction-themed improv/sketch hybrid is at its best when at its weirdest. And it can get pretty weird. Unfortunately, the show seems to be struggling with how weird it’s comfortable allowing itself to get. The premise is not simple, but that’s part of Machine Court’s charm. Every episode, the cast of Seattle-based comedians leads a guest host through a simulated vision of a very ridiculous future and examines the potential ethical travails humanity would likely face given such surreal circumstances. In one episode, the guest role-plays the surgical removal of her morality via an iron rod shot through her skull, Phineas Gage-style. In another, the guest is dropped into a virtual-reality world—featuring such recreational apps as Sex Fighting and Longterm Airport Parking Attendant—that has gone to fallows. 

The Machine Court team of actors and writers excels at creating fantastically surreal and inventive worlds for their guests to navigate (one fart-laden children’s program parody notwithstanding). But then they go and populate these worlds with overly broad archetypes that seem more suited for murder-mystery dinner theater than the kind of sardonic satire they appear to be going for. Which is a shame, because when they’re not affecting silly accents and corny dialects, their skills at improv are remarkably sharp. To be fair, though, the podcast recently underwent a format change—switching from a serialized drama to a collection of stand-alone stories—after which each episode has been more consistently funny and sure-footed than the one before. So, it certainly seems likely that Machine Court will keep getting better, and it’s already pretty good. [DD]

OUTLIER

The Projection Booth
The Projection Booth is a podcast for the kind of cinephile who gets excited by the idea of four hours of commentary for a 90-minute movie. Its latest episode on Orson Welles’ butchered 1942 film The Magnificent Ambersons—filled with thoughtful analysis, heaps of background info, and an interview with the filmmaker’s daughter—took two years to compile is practically a necessity for any serious Welles aficionado. And for other episodes, hosts Mike White (not, not the Enlightened guy) and Rob St. Mary seemingly put an equal amount of work into tracking down an uncredited screenwriter for Brain DePalma’s Blow Out and an Upton Sinclair scholar to help discuss There Will Be Blood. For casual film fans, this attention to detail may be overzealous; The Projection Booth is definitely pharmaceutical-grade film geekery. For those that can handle it, it’s a great score. [DD]


THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU
After a few weeks of callers coming up small in their big moment on the expiring Best Show, the all-star team of Tom Scharpling, Julie Klausner, and Patton Oswalt take this episode by the scruff of the neck and deliver an all-timer. The guests bring out the best in Scharpling, who seems to be enjoying himself for the first time in a few weeks. An episode of Gary The Squirrel’s Comedians Are Nuts sends Oswalt and Klausner into hysterics in a contagiously hilarious segment as the puppet rails against the gross commodification of nerd culture and gives associate producer Mike Lisk the business. It’s a giddy moment of revelry for the show that’s occasionally felt weighed down by the ticking clock in recent weeks. Whatever the final two weeks hold, this installment is a reminder that the show is leaving with plenty left in the tank. [TC]

The Bugle #254: (Product From) Pigs Might Fly (Off The Shelves)
For a program like The Bugle, which skips a few episodes every now and then, missing key cultural events could be an issue—but it never seems to be. The show returns this week after nearly a month of silence with a lot of ground to cover. Toronto’s embattled mayor, Rob Ford, made headlines just as The Bugle backed into hiatus, but earns the focus of a segment here. To get things started, though, they dig into Ukraine (whose people tragically failed to invent the ukulele, notes Oliver) and the riots in Kiev, and move into a segment on the export of pig semen. Whatever else the two were planning to cover was replaced by the death of Nelson Mandela at the last minute, so the episode ends with a fitting Thank-Eulogy. [MK]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #259: Charlotte’s Website: David Alan Grier, Lauren Lapkus, Joe Wengert
In the hypothetical race for 2013 Earwolf Podcast MVP, Lauren Lapkus should take the honor in a walk. She’s a regular guest on Improv4Humans, but it feels like she’s had a breakthrough year on Comedy Bang! Bang! This week she appears as Regina Crimp, the fictional writer and performer of the original theme song to America’s Funniest Home Videos. Lapkus frequently breaks during the episode—she can’t seem to get through her character’s signature song—to the delight of everyone in the room. She gets a good assist from Joe Wengert’s Mr. G (who could carry his own episode), and first-time guest David Alan Grier is game for all the silliness. A solid episode all around. [KR]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #260: Tiny Cheeseburger Story: Mike Birbiglia, Brendon Small, Jon Grabus
The beauty of Comedy Bang! Bang! is that it doesn’t always need forward thrust to make an episode work. “Tiny Cheeseburger Story” goes nowhere fast, but is entertaining through and through. The front half finds Scott Aukerman having a loose conversation with Mike Birbiglia, one of comedy’s most affable guys, but most of the yuks come from Gino Lambardo (Jon Gabrus), Comedy Bang! Bang!’s new-ish intern hailing very audibly from Long Island. Everything Gabrus pipes in with lands, but steps a little too closely on Aukerman’s toes until Brendon Small shows up. Small does double time as both Victor Diamond and his manager Tiny (whose voice will ring familiar to any Home Movies fan) who are on to promote their ill-planned musical revue of Christmas carols. [MK]

Doug Loves Movies: Jonah Ray, Bobby Miyamoto, And Graham Elwood
The nice thing about the longer road episodes of Doug Loves Movies is that there’s usually enough time for the guests to actually talk about movies before heading into the games portion of the show. True, a fair amount of that movie discussion this time centers on the recent Vince Vaughn stinker Delivery Man, which newcomer Bobby Miyamoto dissects in detail, but it doesn’t derail the conversation, which is lively and relatively focused. Away-game regular Graham Elwood is in fine, punchy form at this Tempe show, busting out a few of the inspired fake movies he often throws out in lieu of an actual answer. (He seems to have the Leif Garrett-starring Boyscout written in full in his brain.) Not surprisingly, Elwood and Doug Benson seem to constitute the majority of the film-trivia knowledge onstage, and this episode often reads like a longer version of their occasional two-man mini episodes they, but it works well in this larger context. It’s not a flawless show, but it’s a solid listen. [GK] 

The Flop House #140: After Earth
The Flop House’s dissection of the M. Night Shyamalan-helmed vanity project After Earth is noticeably weaker than the two episodes that preceded it, but surely no one could fault them for being less inspired by the boring and uninspired After Earth. At the end of the day, it’s still an episode of The Flop House, and thus it still feels like spending an hour hanging out with your funniest friends while they talk about a really dumb movie. There is no other podcast willing to spend so much time talking about the Crypt Keeper’s brother, and that alone makes it worth a listen. [CG]

Freakonomics: The Most Dangerous Machine
Cars, as one guest says on this week’s Freakonomics, are “the most dangerous machine we interact with.” Worldwide, more than 1 million people die from car accidents per year, and more than 90 percent of crashes are due to driver error. Now, due to the ease and relatively cheap cost of car transportation, there are more people on the road, driving farther, than ever before. But the number of car-related fatalities as relating to miles driven has actually dropped dramatically (by two-thirds since 1975). Cars have, ironically enough, never been safer. Stephen Dubner explores the various road and car improvements that have lead to reduced fatalities, and looks ahead to experiments with driverless cars, making the episode a nice little history lesson on America’s favorite mode of transportation. [NC]

Hang Up And Listen: The Re-Learning How To Hit Each Other Edition
Auburn beat Alabama on one of the most exciting final plays in college football history, but the best part of the HUAL breakdown is parsing out the possibilities for how the BCS could still screw up the national championship game. The best segment of the week is a discussion of the new documentary about Lenny Cooke, a Hoop Dreams-esque story that shows how much-hyped players in high school could be significantly affected by players in the previous draft. That’s one thing that requiring basketball players to attend college (or play professionally abroad) for at least one year has helped correct. [KM]

Harmontown #82: Jim Belushi’s Basement (With Mitch Hurwitz)
In a major meeting of comedy-showrunner minds, Arrested Development’s Mitch Hurwitz joins the Harmontown panel this week. Even on Dan Harmon’s turf, the conversation about their approaches to comedy writing and running a writers’ room is surprisingly equal. And Hurwitz is the same kind of bold comedic risk-taker as Harmon, unafraid of the consequences of pushing the envelope. As if that conversation weren’t good enough, Kumail Nanjiani is also on the show, providing his usual array of memorable quips. D&D is fun, since Hurwitz needs to adjust to the game, but with barely a quiet moment in nearly two hours, “Jim Belushi’s Basement” is the all-around best episode of Harmontown in months. [KM]

Improv4Humans #110: Tony The Pony: Seth Morris, Jon Gabrus, Mary Holland
One of the reasons Improv4Humans manages to hit so many of its marks week in and week out is because of Matt Besser’s abilities as a storyteller. The improv is the main draw for fans, but Besser is as skilled at drawing out other people’s stories as he is telling them. This week’s anecdote-heavy episode is great, thanks to an extended conversation about giving improv troupes horrible names (and the hilarious scene that follows) as well as Besser’s tale of lying his way into a commercial shoot where horseback riding goes wrong. The story leads into a scene that has to be a frontrunner for the next best-of compilation. Mary Holland also spins a hilarious yarn about having bizarre night terrors that inspires a masterful scene about a killer birthday banner. [MK]

Judge John Hodgman: Six Feet Plunder
The week’s solitary case is a Yuletide issue with overtones of Halloween. Once upon a holiday season, a woman was strolling through some graveyards. (It’s a long story.) Brittany noticed hundreds of forgotten potted Christmas trees that had been left at gravesites, presumably in memoriam. She scooped up a carful, removed them, took some home, and replanted others, so that the evergreen tributes might live on. In 14 subsequent visits, she has appropriated dozens more. Reg—her classmate from watch-making school—alleges her secondhand pines are ill-gotten gain from numerous acts of grave robbing. All parties present cite guidelines, posted rules, nominal authorities, and cultural mores. A patient Hodgman hears them out, then issues a ruling on this arboreal “vigilantism” and several related issues, without turning her over to non-Internet authorities. [DXF]

Monday Morning Podcast
A change of recording location for Bill Burr generally means two things: The audio quality will be worse than usual, and he will sound excited to be wherever he is, giving the episode the closest thing to gusto that Burr is capable of having. While the audio is indeed poor, this week he’s in Italy and excited about it, making the episode fly by—a solid 65 minutes of entertaining stories and assorted ramblings from top to bottom. Plus, regular listeners should be sure to listen all the way to the end for a special treat: the sound of Burr making it through an entire ad copy without getting tripped up on a single word. [CG]

The Moth: Open Adoption, Tin Foil Dinosaurs, & The Imam
Dan Kennedy sounds like he’s being facetious when he summarizes this week’s full-hour show as one that makes you feel just about every emotion you can have while listening to a good story, but he’s not far off. Carly Johnstone kicks off one of the more diverse episodes in recent memory with a raw, agonizing account of her teenage pregnancy and the absolution she finds through having an open adoption. Steve Zimmer makes a compelling case for not underestimating kids who underperform, and Islamic NYU chaplain Khalid Latif relays his struggle to keep his identity in post-9/11 New York. The lack of any sort of real kicker in Sam S. Mullins’ story, about a simple moment of levity that offsets thoughts of suicide, plays to The Moth’s strength of finding profundity in otherwise unremarkable places. [DJ]

My Brother, My Brother And Me #178: Freedom To Burger Out
The title of this week’s episode refers to the brothers’ discussion about how much privilege one can claim as a drive-through patron. For that segment alone, it’s episode is worth it, since fast-food etiquette just feels like a quintessentially McElroyian topic. That said, it’s a strong episode otherwise as well. As the post-Thanksgiving turkey recap evinces, the opening bits have been a lot stronger lately. And it is to the brothers’ credit that they can talk about Rob Ford without rehashing everyone else’s jokes by tackling the much simpler topic of what exactly the average mayor actually does. “Farm Wisdom” continues to disappoint, but there’s definitely some potential with “Subway Hacks.” Let’s hope the new foray gains some traction. [AB]

Nerdist #446: Chris Jericho Returns
One of the perks of this episode is that the listener doesn’t need to be a fan of wrestling or overly familiar with returning guest Chris Jericho to enjoy it. The exceedingly likable Jericho isn’t one of those guests that needs to talk about himself or his career. Instead, he’s highly adaptable to any ebb and flow Chris Hardwick wants to take the conversation. Sure, Jericho has about a million anecdotes on his career as a wrestler and his celebrity friends, but he’s also happy to get in-depth on how the finale of the show Dexter failed him.  [MS]

Nerdist #447: Christopher Lloyd
Christopher Lloyd’s delightful visit to the Nerdist podcast manages to touch on almost all of his most famous projects—the only cult classic missing is Clue—without feeling rushed or forced. Chris Hardwick deserves a lot of credit for guiding the conversation with enthusiasm that doesn’t cross the line into fanaticism. It’s charming to hear Lloyd slowly warm up to the hosts as he share stories about getting into character on Taxi, finding Fester’s voice for The Addams Family, and acting alongside nothing in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The conversation lingers longest on Back To The Future, and while Lloyd’s stories may be familiar to the movie’s most ardent fans, it’s still fascinating to hear him talk about almost turning down the role of Doc Brown to do a play about Hans Christian Andersen. Throughout, Lloyd comes across as genuinely humble and grateful for his success—the kind of nerd icon who really does live up to expectations. [CS]

Never Not Funny #1321: Seth Morris
Seth Morris has become an object of comedy-nerd devotion over the past few years thanks in large part to his appearances on Comedy Bang! Bang! as Scott Aukerman’s ex-stepfather Bob Ducca (not to mention his work on Go On and Happy Endings), but it’s rare for him to appear out of character on a podcast. So this chat with Jimmy Pardo is a nice window into one of the sharpest comedy minds out there. There’s also a fun post-mortem on the painfully awkward Comedy Bang! Bang! episode Pardo and Morris did with Bill Callahan, and a promise of a new Bob Ducca podcast in the new year. To get there, listeners will need to power through Pardo’s vitriolic rant at the beginning directed toward some people who complained about the feed during Pardcast-a-thon. [KR]

Sklarbro Country #175.5: Sklarbro County 80: Greg Proops
Whether this week’s edition of County resonates depends on how individual listeners feel about Greg Proops, whose life-of-the-party, know-it-all persona is either charming or insufferable. But for Proops fans, this one is definitely a winner. For one thing, his uncanny recounting of the 1908 Major League playoffs is fascinating. (Who else can casually reel off that there was a turn-of-the-century pitcher named Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown who had lost part of his hand in a threshing accident?) And as a master improviser, Proops is able to roll with whatever Dan Van Kirk throws his way. The episode gets a bit self-indulgent when he goes off on a tangent about the British comedy scene, but the Sklars bring it right back at the end with a reliably hilarious call from Mark Wahlberg. [AB]

Sound Opinions #418: Songs About The Music Business
There’s something delightful about Sound Opinions rounding up its favorite songs about the business. For once, the conversation isn’t just attacking the corporate record industry, but is cognizant that the show is part of the industry, too, and a mildly self-effacing tone helps keep the episode light and fun. Greg Kot’s list is probably the better one, with Sex Pistols’ “E.M.I.” and Aimee Mann’s “Nothing Is Good Enough,” but Jim DeRogatis’ selection of Public Enemy’s “Caught, Can I Get A Witness?” is the best track on the episode. A quick round-up of the news about the GoldieBlox’s commercial that re-appropriated Beastie Boys’ “Girls” is also worth a listen. [KM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Boston Massacre
The Boston Massacre almost doesn’t fit the definition of a massacre at all, but that doesn’t stop it from being interesting. Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey seize on the awkward tension in 1770 Boston between British soldiers and citizens. One man shouting at a British officer quickly escalated into hundreds of men surrounding a small number of soldiers. Five men died, but many men struck each other with fists, snowballs, and muskets in a chaotic melee that inspired much of the American independence movement. Boston used the incident to pressure Britain into removing soldiers from the city, and the story of the soldiers’ trial is especially fascinating. Wilson and Frey have no patriotic agenda as they paint the picture of the British soldiers’ manslaughter convictions, and their peculiar punishment of being branded with Ms on their thumbs will probably leave its own mark on listeners memory. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Castration Works
Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant start this journey through the culture and biology of castration by reflecting on ancient Asian culture, where it was more common and thought to lengthen a man’s life. Clark and Bryant also have a lively debate about whether it makes more sense to want to sever your genitals than it does to want your arm amputated (both are real, recurring impulses). Make no mistake, though, things get lively and fun, and there are also some nightmarish tales of mutilation—for instance, a mention of something done to Korean children—that will make a lot of people want to bail early. But for anyone who ever wanted to understand how this dramatic change in the human body works, the episode pays off. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Maglev Trains Work
This episode is scientifically dense, but hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant are thrilled to describe the engineering marvels of high-speed trains and that enthusiasm is contagious. Using giant magnets, these trains avoid that classic pitfall known as friction and can achieve speeds of over 300 mph. But as Clark and Bryant note, magnets of this size are incredibly expensive and people with pacemakers will probably want to avoid riding on top of a giant one. Though not perfect, the attempts of German, American, and Japanese entrepreneurs to fund such trains make for amusing conversational fodder, and so does the recent news that Northeast Maglev has raised $50 million in funds to get a train from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore. The financial burden of building bullet trains might make them seem impossible, but hearing how small the world is becoming makes the listen worth it. [DT]

The Todd Glass Show #130: Rob Gleeson And Ian Karmel
Todd Glass breaks through to a whole new level on this week’s show with some truly inspired bits. Aided by guests Rob Gleeson and Ian Karmel, Glass embarks on a bit parodying old-time radio that transcends goofing off and evolves into art. Glass and his guests run the show at an unusually fast pace, and it’s definitely worth it to try and keep up, because the episode culminates in some extended insanity. Also, Glass is still getting mileage out of the Frank Sinatra tune “Bim Bam Baby,” and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. [MS]

WTF #448: Lou Barlow
Typically when Marc Maron has a musician on WTF, they’re taking a look back on their career with at least a slight sort of disconnect—they’ve been through some shit and made it to see the other side. Even if they’re still putting out new material, they have a perspective on their career that comes from having been at it for so long. Lou Barlow (of Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh), however, doesn’t seem quite there yet. Based on his interview with Maron, anyway, it seems a lot of things in his career and his life are still up in the air, and he comes across on the mic as sensitive and vulnerable as he does on his records. It’s not the most comforting episode of WTF, but it’s undeniably vital and interesting. [CG]

WTF #449: Ken Marino
Marc Maron has interviewed almost every member of The State on his show, either in a one-on-one setting or on a live show, but Ken Marino somehow eluded the garage until now. He’s been in some incredibly influential and groundbreaking works, from Wet Hot American Summer to Party Down to his current roles on Childrens Hospital and writing Burning Love with his wife, Erica Oyama. But most of the intriguing bits of the interview concern Marino’s childhood on Long Island and early transition into acting—as well as a film Marino wrote about his upbringing, Diggers, starring Paul Rudd. Maron even manages to keep his respectfully seething anger in check when talking about Michael Ian Black’s role on Burning Love. [KM]


THE REST

Doug Loves Movies: Pete Holmes, T.J. Miller, Bert Kreischer, And Samm Levine
Try to capture lightning in a bottle enough times, and you’re eventually going to get burned, as Doug Loves Movies’ third attempt at the “Most Obnoxious Guest” conceit attests. The ever-squealing Bert Kreischer’s addition to the formula is what ends up curdling this episode. Most listeners will probably sympathize with the audibly seething Samm Levine during this rough hour. [GK]

The Fogelnest Files #66: The Legend Of Mack Tonight: Matt Braunger
It’s been a little while since Fogelnest has had a one-on-one with a comedian who has nothing much to plug. And while his conversation with Matt Braunger has some quality anecdotes, it’s inessential. [AB]

How Was Your Week #144: “P Pocket”: Jamala Johns
Listeners with even a passing interest in fashion will certainly find the interview with blogger Jamala Johns well worth a listen; everyone else should just tune in for Klausner’s opening monologue. [DF]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #144: Seth
Listener Seth’s total openness about his traumatic youth will undoubtedly help those with similar experiences, but others may find this conversation to be an especially emotionally draining exercise. [TC]

Professor Blastoff #133: Goals
This poorly recorded late-night storytelling session lacks an entry point for listeners. [NJ]

Sklarbro Country
#176: Vaginas From Afar: Brian Huskey, Jason Nash
Brian “He’s in those Sonic commercials, right?” Huskey discusses his eclectic career milestones and the perks of being a late bloomer in the comedy scene. He’s a warm guest, but tepid stories make this week skippable. [DJ]

The Smartest Man in the World: Vans
Greg Proops is lively this week, even when his topics aren’t constantly engaging, as he briefly riffs on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, U.S. Congressman Trey Radel, and abortion rights, but goes long on the yesteryear glory of Barbra Streisand and Jose Canseco. [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Zenobia And The Roman Empire
Zenobia has been covered on the podcast before, and though she is more fleshed out this time hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey spend a little too much time reciting research off the page. [DT]

Welcome To Night Vale #36: Missing
The story of missing teenage girl Tamika Flynn yields some interesting tidbits of information—there’s a bronze statue of Lee Marvin outside the Night Vale Post Office—but for the first time in a few months, it’s a bit of a dull broadcast for Cecil Baldwin, even as the escalating dilemma sees him kicked out of his usual studio. [KM]

Who Charted? #157: Mumble Pie
Musician guests tend to be hit-or-miss on Who Charted?, and unfortunately The National’s Matt Berninger falls into the latter category. [MS]

You Made It Weird #186: Jon Gabrus
Even considering Pete Holmes’ free-associative interview style, this week’s episode is too all over the place. Jon Gabrus is fun and charismatic, but the conversation as a whole is hard to follow. [AB]

Filed Under: Comedy

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