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Nerdist discovers you’re thinking more about Mad Men than Matthew Weiner is

In Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends 10–15 of the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at podmass@avclub.com.

The B.S. Report With Bill Simmons
Nathan Fielder

Nathan Fielder is poised to be one of his generation’s greatest comics. His endlessly inventive show Nathan For You finds Fielder visiting small companies, where he offers less-than-sage advice. But what makes the show so genius is Fielder’s on-air persona, a ludicrous, yet low-energy version of himself. His droll sensibilities lend themselves perfectly to his segments, but it’s a bit of a surprise to see how close that character cuts to his actual self, as seen in this week’s B.S. Report. Bill Simmons is a huge fan of Fielder’s, calling Nathan For You his favorite comedy on TV. His enthusiasm shines through, but Fielder seems uninterested, and responds with clipped answers. Later, he admits to generally zoning out most of the time. But once they start talking about the Steve Bartman episode of 30 For 30, Fielder stirs. So Simmons adapts, and their conversation shifts away from Nathan For You. Fielder is at his most charming when talking about the bizarrely earnest comedy of Adam Sandler’s Jack And Jill, and later about his fascination with magic and psychics. The latter topic leads to an admission of a time spent posing as Ronald Shoub, an online psychic. And yes, there is footage of Shoub. [MK]

Comedy Bang! Bang!
Project Funway

Young angst-rock fans attending an upcoming Alkaline Trio concert in L.A. are in for a weird surprise, given the show opener will be Analyze Phish co-star Harris Wittels, Earwolf regular Paul Rust, and comedian Michael Cassady. Their mock-rock band, Don’t Stop Or We’ll Die, is about as far removed from the indie-punk sensibility as possible, which should bring an extra layer of irony and head-scratching to the set. For the first time in a few years, the band drops by Comedy Bang! Bang! for an entire episode to promote their new album, Gorgeous. Mostly, though, it’s an opportunity for Scott Aukerman to volley nonsensical riffs off of the trio between songs, and everyone is at the top of their game. The quirky, in-joke driven rhythm on Comedy Bang! Bang! works best when everyone is onboard, and that’s the case this week. Rust provides a new list of no-no’s (his uncontrollable giggles in the background always add so much), “Jay Leno” bursts in to fill in any lulls, and everyone tries to make sense of Riddle Me This. [DJ]

How Did This Get Made?
The 1st Annual Howdies Pt. 1

Traditional award seasons be damned, it’s time for the Howdies at Earwolf Studios. How Did This Get Made? decided to put on its first-ever award show, and this week we’re treated to the first super-sized episode of two. Instead of playing it straight as a best-of, Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, and June Diane Raphael assembled a whole host of ridiculous categories, like “Weirdest Thing Jason Has Been Turned On By” and “Best Celebrity Interviews.” Each clip roundup is followed by a charmingly half-hearted deliberation over which deserves the win. In one case, Scheer tries to move on to the next superlatives, forgetting to even announce the winner. For newer listeners, this episode is a wonderful portal to earlier episodes, especially ones for movies that wouldn’t jump right out, like cult favorites The Room or Birdemic. As a best-of episode, the Howdies is the perfect opportunity to harp on the show’s lovable eccentricities, like Mantzoukas’ endlessly perverse jokes, and Raphael’s uproariously off-base theories. Thanks to a legion of fans, who assembled many of the clips, the Howdies stands to be one of Earwolf’s finest traditions in years to come. [MK]

The K Ohle
Pet-O-Philia with Kristen Schaal

It was only a matter of time before Kristen Schaal, Kurt Braunohler’s longtime comedy partner and Hot Tub co-host, showed up on The K Ohle, and considering the duo’s breakout bit saw Schaal playing the role of a horse, it makes sense that she is the guest for this week’s installment of Pet-o-phlia. Braunohler and Schaal have a dynamic formed after years of working together, which makes them a delight to listen to; when Braunohler continually jokes that Schaal hates all animals, it’s both effortless and hilarious. While the requisite pet-centric topics are all covered, the conversation also lands on more general topics; in one of the most vulnerable non-pet related moments, Schaal talks to Braunohler about struggling to connect with her stand-up recently. The section not only delves into issues women comics face, but also offers interesting insights into both Schaal and Braunohler’s creative processes and frustrations. This being Pet-o-philia, it doesn’t take long for the conversation to return to pets as things close with a rundown of animal news—a game about topics for podcasts hosted by animals— which offers perfect examples of the silly, dumb fun that Braunohler and Schaal are known for. [DF]

Matthew Weiner

The prevailing opinion, among people who enjoy obsessing over the intricacies of Mad Men, seems to be that the long-running AMC drama’s auteur, Matthew Weiner, is toying with the viewer. Every detail is so specific. Every gesture is so deliberate. Weiner has to be playing the long-game with emotions, and some seemingly innocuous costume choice two seasons ago was signaling a major plot point in a coming episode. However, to hear the showrunner tell it during this 90-minute conversation with Nerdist‘s Chris Hardwick, Weiner flies so by the seat of his pants during the writing process, he failed to realize that Don Draper’s marriage to Megan was falling apart until midway through this past crop of episodes, when his writers sat him down to give him the bad news. In this candid interview—or as candid as can be expected from a guy who refuses to let audiences know what year upcoming episodes will be set—Weiner discusses how surreal it is to see a journey that began with the writing of a spec pilot script 14 years ago drawing to a definitive close. And, in case anyone’s wondering, he gives zero hints about what to expect from the final eight episodes. [DD]

99% Invisible
Hacking IKEA

99% Invisible’s host Roman Mars knows it is not enough to simply reveal a subculture to his dedicated listeners, and so this episode makes for an especially colorful listen both for those merely curious about IKEA hacking and for those who have been reading up on it for years. The painting-by-the-numbers particleboard style of IKEA furniture means it’s remarkably fun to take parts from different sets and create unique pieces of furniture. IKEAhackers.net is an independently run community that has been around for eight years, and the hobby of buying and re-imagining has spread to every corner of the world that the Swedish furniture can be delivered to. The story of IKEAhackers.net and its founder Jules Yap makes for a surprisingly visual audio story as they build from scratch entire French country homes, sex toys, shoe lockers, and an improvised Murphy bed. The idea is that they’re not just hacking the materials, they’re hacking the company, the brand, and “mocking the modularity” of the concept. But just as interesting is the story of Yap’s legal scuffle with the none-to-thrilled-to-be-hacked IKEA. At first Yap was hit with a cease-and-desist, but after Internet rights hero Cory Doctorow rallied the Internet around the cause, it appears Yap will get flown to Sweden to meet with IKEA and come to a reasonable solution. [DT]

No Such Thing As A Fish
No Such Thing As A Magic Camel Filter

No Such Thing As A Fish hinges each episode on segments that kick off with a larger piece of research, but the main facts presented in this episode seem like dry “odd news” topics compared to the supplementary facts that spiral out of discussion. A key moment in understanding the huge frame of reference at play in a typical episode is co-host Anna Ptaszynski remarking not just on the oddness of Wikipedia, but the specific flaws in its “not to be confused with” traditions. The beauty of the show is that the hosts have quick-witted brains each loaded with years of archived research material for their British panel show Q.I. So when it comes to light that a man tried to mail himself and failed, it turns out many people have tried to mail themselves over the years, each story ending in either remarkable success or amusing disaster. An experiment designed to see whether apes could be interested in iPad apps concluded that orangutans are inquisitive and love iPads, but gorillas are suspicious creatures who despise computer tablets, because they feel threatened by both the expressions and continued existence of Angry Birds characters. It’s hilarious to hear about a gigantic, agitated gorilla demolishing an iPad against a boulder, but it also leads to a great discussion of why certain apes are so testy in the first place (rumor has it that orangutans hate being given certain nicknames). [DT]


This week NPR’s hit show focuses its storytelling powers on different “escape” themes, starting with an old-time radio broadcast called Escape! that sets a marvelous tone, offering listeners terrifying conundrums from which there can seemingly be no… Escape! The episode then begins a sequence of especially powerful subjects that are thematically different yet tied together by a common theme. The first story concerns a man nicknamed “Little Houdini,” a famous prison escape artist who has escaped more than anyone else ever, but those close to him say he is “doomed to repeat a cycle.” Then things turn from the personal to the scientific with the adventure of the Voyager spacecraft as it rushes to escape every kind of gravity in this solar system, the first manmade object to do so. The craft has operated more and more strangely the farther it’s gotten, giving it a human-like personality. It’s a great listen, but the final story is especially gripping and worthy of the best of NPR storytelling, that of a blind boy in an abusive home who learned to deconstruct the phone system’s operational tones to escape the prison of his life. Joe Engressia Jr. suddenly realized how to call anywhere in the world for free, and how to listen in on any conversation. It would seem villainous if not for his innocent nature. Regardless, his story is surprisingly touching. [DT]

Savage Lovecast
Joan Price & Jillian Keenan

The opening rant is quite often among the highlights of any Savage Lovecast episode, especially when host Dan Savage is particularly incensed by a timely injustice (which is why the pre-recorded episodes that run while he’s on vacation often fall a little flat). This week’s rant, though, is a highlight among highlights. Breaking away the show’s normal topics of LGBTQ rights and sex positivity, Savage embraces one of the larger, more general themes of the podcast: basic human decency. Recounting a weekend trip to a mountain lake, where many of the location’s white, middle-class revelers relaxed—completely unmolested by any authoritarian figures—with generous portions of Washington state’s now-legal weed, the host drew a stark contrast to the disturbing rhetoric that’s being tossed around in the media concerning any chemical substances in Ferguson, Missouri resident Michael Brown’s bloodstream at the time of his death. The eight-minute diatribe is one of the more sobering commentaries on Ferguson that you’ll hear amid the cacophony of opinions in the media today. Later in the show, Savage engages in a largely semantic, though still interesting, debate with sex writer Jillian Keenan over whether kink should be considered a sexual orientation. [DD]

The Skeptic’s Guide To The Universe

The Skeptic’s Guide To The Universe is a long-running podcast of “science, skepticism, and geekdom” that celebrates not just the pursuit of interesting skepticism but also the entertaining side of it. This week they welcome “guest rogue” Phil Plait—a.k.a. The Bad Astronomer—debunk the disappointing fake science showcased in Shark Week in a timely fashion, delve into the complex world of ancient rangeomorphs (ancient non-plant, non-animals whom eating “happened to”), and explain how to track new iPhone rumors. And as true skeptics, they welcome criticism of their own work, owning up to the flaws in previous subject, such as their discussion of the spread of the Ebola virus in the previous episode. It’s a large panel of voices, and newcomers to the podcast may be a little confused about which of the overlapping voices belong to whom. But their enthusiastic distaste for Shark Week is especially entertaining given that more than one of the hosts have worked with Discovery Network and wants to like it. They lose their tempers hilariously and even claim Discovery is “destroying their brand” while firing off about the deception of last year’s fake documentary about the hunt for the very extinct prehistoric shark known as Megalodon. [DT]

A COSMOS Conversation With Ann Druyan

StarTalk host Neil DeGrasse Tyson has long since secured his place as a spokesman for science. And yet hearing him spend an hour in conversation with Ann Druyan about her life and their work together still feels as if it lends him a new layer of credibility. Druyan helped to create the television program COSMOS in both of its incarnations, and from her easygoing rapport with Tyson, it is clear she enjoyed collaborating with him during the show’s second run. Druyan is not just a television producer either. Having been married to original COSMOS host Carl Sagan up until his death, she had also worked with her husband on the Voyager spacecraft. She made sure Voyager not only held the famed golden record, but she also included a phonograph, a needle, and an instruction manual. Fans of Tyson and all things COSMOS will be most charmed by the midway point when Tyson and Druyan detail the difficulties of getting COSMOS funded. The journey should be of interest to those who are merely tuning in to learn more about the entertainment industry, as Druyan and Tyson were far more interested in maintaining the show’s integrity than they were in making just another TV show. [DT]

Studio 360
Rufus Wainwright & The Art Of The Book Cover

The celebrity attraction of this episode is Rufus Wainright, who talks with WNYC host and author Kurt Andersen about his place in the legacy of his folk music legend parents, being a father himself, and he even plays some of his own music in the studio. This alone makes for an exceptional capsule of Wainwright’s career. An interview with fellow musician Abigail Watson is also a lovely glimpse into inspiration, and the story about book-jacket design translates well to radio. But the episode also delves into the value of art itself, describing both exciting current exhibitions but also the idea that museums may have gotten so crowded that they’re mostly about crowdedness now and the idea of art may slowly be crumbling. “Art Everywhere” is a new publicity movement promoting famous paintings with giant billboards, encouraging people to take Instagram selfies with photos, and undo the supposed elitism in art. New York art critic Peter Schjeldahl is not morally opposed to the movement, but he does think the premise is slippery, sentimental, and makes him “swallow hard.” Whether listeners are immediately drawn to one side of the discussion is irrelevant, as the interview does its job of taking a snapshot of the current perspectives on art and just how different they’ve changed since Schjeldahl started his career half a century ago. [DT]

The Accidental Outing Of Rwanda’s Most Powerful Troll

This week, TLDR host Alex Goldman dives into the world of journalists reporting on political topics in Rwanda during his interview with Steve Terrill. The Rwandan government employs a large number of people whose responsibility it is to seek out, antagonize, harass, and otherwise discredit critics on the Internet, and Richard Goldston was one such personality. After some light investigation, Terrill realized that Goldston’s real identity was Hassan Ntiyamira, a media analyst for the Rwandan government who accidentally outed himself when he posted a comment taunting Terrill to his employer’s (Rwandan president Paul Kagame) Twitter account instead of his Goldston one. Less than two weeks later, Terrill was banned from re-entering Rwanda, the country where most of his friends and his fiancé live. His visa application, which usually gets a response within 72 hours, has been “under review” for almost six months. [AB]

The Treatment
James Gunn: Guardians Of The Galaxy

One might think being tasked with bringing a $170 million installment of one of the most successful franchises in film history would necessitate a certain degree of personal investment. In fact, that’s precisely what James Gunn thought when he signed on to co-write and direct Guardians Of The Galaxy, as he explains in this interview with Elvis Mitchell for KCRW’s The Treatment. However, he says that he was surprised to find himself weaving large swaths of his emotional fabric into the quirky comic-book space opera, explaining that because he was forced to hold back on the harsh, hyper-realistic violence that marks his earlier films, he had to draw focus to some other corner of his aesthetic. And thus audiences were treated to a walking tree and a talking raccoon with deeper emotional lives than most of characters to hit the screen this year. He also touches upon how, after decades of muted tones signifying the gritty reality behind futuristic cinema, it was important it to him and his art department that they brought vibrant colors back to the sci-fi palette. [DD]

We see what you said there

“I don’t know a lot about lemurs, but I guess they would probably do a podcast about… what kind of sunglasses are in.”—Kristen Schaal, The K Ohle

“‘I have to thank you. Before that show came on, I worked here for 11 years and I never had a guy under 30 come in and buy a tie.’”—Matthew Weiner recalling a compliment from a men’s clothing salesman, Nerdist

“In 2005 we found a 4,000-year-old bowl of noodles in China. And I really quite like that we still found it in the bowl.”—Co-host Anna Ptaszynski beginning a conversational rabbit hole about foodstuff preserved in seal skin, No Such Thing As A Fish

“There’s a sort of sense of sure you want to express yourself, but you also want to out-do the doer. Out-IKEA IKEA.”—Jonathan Bean on why it’s so compelling to hack IKEA, 99% Invisible

“It is not a problem that Michael Brown may or may have been high or had traces of marijuana in his system. It is a problem that Michael Brown is dead.”—Dan Savage, Savage Lovecast

“I was protecting a legacy, a global legacy of COSMOS. If we had come out with a COSMOS that had to be trimmed to fit the sponsor or the network’s fears and insecurities, then that wouldn’t be COSMOS. We didn’t have to do that in the original, and we wouldn’t do it again.”—Ann Druyan, StarTalk

“What I find emotionally stirring are characters who we think are terrible people… No, who think they themselves are terrible people, and over the course of a story, discover that they’re better than who they think they are.”—James Gunn, The Treatment