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Nerdist interviews Robb Stark, and Dan Harmon talks about having kids

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


“Just three Mowglis running around all wild.” —Kulap Vilaysack describing Matthew McConaughey’s kids, Who Charted?

“The whole point of family names is, rightly or wrongly, to bind us—sometimes unwillingly—to our families.” John Hodgman, Judge John Hodgman

“And I did this thing that I sometimes do when I see a pretty lady, which is I looked at her long enough to realize that she was pretty. And then I looked at the floor. And then I never looked up again. That’s my move.” —Mike Birbiglia, This American Life

“So, during the month of January you don’t drink, but do you smoke pot?”
“Ah, you’re such an idiot.” —Jeff Garlin and Doug Benson discuss Benson’s annual “Drynuary” sobriety

“My mom insists I was sitting on her lap watching
Stripes and I popped a boner.”
“Why does your mom tell you about that?”
“Well, she whispers it as she kisses my neck.” —Nick Kroll and Scott Aukerman, Comedy Bang! Bang!

Put Your Phone Down: That’s The Rolling Stones” —Jake Fogelnest and John Moe imagining a modern update to Ladies And Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones, The Fogelnest Files

“Apparently he suffered from some kind of PTSD and went off and fled into the jungle... well not the jungle. This is an island.” —Host Josh Clark vetting the insane Britons who may have been the historical Merlin, Stuff You Should Know

“Flying is actually the safest mode of transportation. The second-safest is dreaming. The third-safest is decomposing into rich earth and drifting away with the wind and rain. Welcome to Night Vale.” —Cecil Baldwin, Welcome To Night Vale

“A memo from the owner of the Ace Hardware on Fifth and Shay Street: They will no longer tolerate baristas lining up for day jobs in their parking lot. Every morning at dawn, dozens of baristas with newsboy caps, waxed mustaches, and knit ties tucked into buttoned sweater-vests continue to crowd the parking lot, foreheads beaded with desperation, and hoping to be picked up to operate unlicensed espresso machines.” —Cecil Baldwin, Welcome To Night Vale

“With no dialogue, we wouldn’t have gotten George Clooney’s semi-sexist comments.” —Adam Kempenaar on Gravity as a silent film, Filmspotting

“I hate smoking sections, unless we’re talking about the movie The Mask with Jim Carrey, because then the smoking section is my favorite part.” —Harris Wittels, Comedy Bang! Bang!


Book Fight!
Coming up on its second anniversary this spring, this book-discussion podcast has nearly 100 episodes in the bank, with new ones posting like clockwork every week, but newbies can pretty much jump in at any episode. Hosts Mike Ingram and Tom McAllister have plenty of bona fides—they’re both editors at Barrelhouse, graduates of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, fiction writers, and professors at Temple University—but mostly they’re two guys who love to read and don’t take themselves too seriously. Although the show’s “About us” boilerplate vows to keep spoilers to a minimum, that can be a hard promise to keep, and they walk a fine line—tumbling headfirst into spoiler territory every once in a while.

With the hosts having so much in common, at times the discussions can get myopic, and Book Fight! is often at its most rousing when the hosts’ opinions contrast or when a guest host springs a perspective completely foreign to the regulars. The podcast episodes have two alternating formats: book-discussion episodes and “Writers Ask” episodes, which are basic Q&A affairs, often with a special guest, that answer listener-submitted questions about writing, reading, and editing. Last year, Book Fight! introduced a new segment, “Mike And Tom Recommend,” where the hosts also endorse various pop-culture items. The episodes often include the hosts reading some choice reviews of the work in question from book-review social-networking website Goodreads, speculating about the lives and motivations of the writers, which is always a fun game.

A particularly fun episode was the discussion of Judy Blume’s Forever, an early episode where the guys brought in Katherine Hill (fellow Barrelhouse editor and author of last year’s The Violet Hour) as a guest co-host. Although reading the groundbreaking YA novel as an adult highlights the book’s weaknesses, the trio endorses the novel’s functional family dynamics and sex-positive message for its target audience, even though those helped get it banned too. The discussion of whether one of the characters required time alone due to his disappointment or imminent masturbation was also priceless. (It was masturbation, of course.) Other great episodes for the drop-in curious are the discussions of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love or Percival Everett’s satirical yet devastating novel Erasure. And the latest episodes cover a discussion of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, with endorsements that include an emotionally punishing RPG titled The Novelist  and the FX series Justified. Overall, Book Fight! tends to be an enjoyable chat with two dudes who get passionate about the craft, call out authors on their bullshit, shout-out great lit when they read it, and consume a lot of pop culture. Book club with these guys isn’t the tedious chore it can be when sitting around the living room of someone you don’t even like, drinking bad wine. Sometimes they fight. [ABa]

Bonnie And Maude
Named after two of film’s most memorable ladies, Bonnie And Maude is a monthly discussion of film from a feminist perspective, hosted by Kseniya Yarosh (I Love Bad Movies) and Eleanor Kagan (The Hoot!). Rather than look at one film in depth, Yarosh and Kagan usually tease out a theme or similar moment among a few works to ask larger questions about how movies frame (or fail to frame) sexuality, gender, and autonomy. Luckily, the discussion is neither particularly strident nor academic. (While the show comes from a feminist angle, it doesn’t delve into movements like gender theory and queer theory.) Yarosh and Kagan are movie-lovers first, and their back and forth is filled with geeky jokes and a clear fondness for the subject matter and each other. Most episodes have a guest, and on occasion they discuss TV series as well as film.

Bonnie And Maude’s thematic linking of movies is quite clever, like one of their recent podcasts discussing Gravity, Alien, and Barbarella. While noting that all three movies are about “women in space” (a pretty specific topic in its own right), they go deeper, comparing scenes from the films where the lead characters strip down to their underwear. The talk is refreshingly frank, attending to both the issues of “the male gaze” in the films’ constructions to the undeniable sexiness of Jane Fonda’s striptease. Occasionally, Yarosh and Kagan’s positions don’t feel entirely well-constructed, as in an episode on The Birds where they presume that Alfred Hitchcock was a sexual predator, as claimed by Tippi Hedren (something other Hitchcock stars like Kim Novak and Eva Marie Saint have disputed). By extrapolating Hedren’s account to Hitchcock’s entire career, Yarosh and Kagan do a disservice to their own discussion of The Birds. Even with that misfire, Bonnie And Maude is well worth waiting for each month.[NC]


Comedy Bang! Bang! #264: Creating A Krolliverse: Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate
Nick Kroll and Kroll Show co-star Jenny Slate bring themselves, their dueling Liz characters, and a few other Kroll standards to a crowded Comedy Bang! Bang! It’s not as crazy as last January’s Me Gusta Characters!, but it’s a funny episode with plenty of silliness before the characters even show up, like when Scott Aukerman explains his bathroom peculiarities and his idea for mixed-gender bathrooms. Note: If you’re ever in a bathroom with Aukerman, he’d like you to leave. [KR]

Comedy, Bang! Bang! #265: Live From RIOT LA: Paul F. Tompkins, Lauren Lapkus, Harris Wittels 
Recorded at the RIOT LA comedy festival, this week’s Comedy Bang! Bang! bonus episode is a fine live installment. It starts off strong as Scott Aukerman catches up with Traci Rearden (the beloved high school junior played by Lauren Lapkus). The two dig into their ruinous prom date where Aukerman refused to acknowledge the recent death of Rearden’s grandma. Soon, Harris Wittels drops in for another round of his half-to-mostly-not jokes, which stink in the best way possible. Once Wittels takes off, Paul F. Tompkins leads the charge through the back half as J.W. Stillwater, a masked vigilante and Bearcat scanner enthusiast hailing from the Florida backwaters. This is Tompkins’ first new character in nearly five months, and Stillwater does not disappoint. This episode cannot be missed. [MK]

Doug Loves Movies: Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Galifianakis, And Maybe A Third Guest
A Doug Loves Movies that runs out of Leonard Maltin Game well before the episode’s end could make for an excruciating, wheel-spinning disaster, but when Zach Galifianakis and Kumail Nanjiani are on the panel, said wheel-spinning becomes the main event. (The fact that the early LMG conclusion necessitates a quick, fun round of Last Man Stanton, a.k.a. The Seth Rogen game, is a nice bonus.) Galifianakis’ signature aloofness mixes well with Nanjiani’s eagerness, and for once, a drunk audience member adds to the proceedings rather than detracting from them. The identity of the panel’s third guest is a surprise that’s best left unspoiled, but it’s a good representation of the loose, spontaneous energy that characterizes DLM at its best. [GK]

Filmspotting #473 Live: 2013 Wrap Party From Mayne Stage
Adam Kempenaar and Josh Larsen begin the new year by looking back at the old one in this 2013 Wrap Party, and for a couple of guys who are used to bickering from the safety of their studio, they perform admirably for their live audience, running through picks for things like “Shot Of The Year” and “Best Performance In A Bad Movie.” Unfortunately—though not surprisingly, because this is a podcast about a visual medium—listeners are left out of the discussion of clips screened for those in attendance, such as when regular guest Michael Phillips chose to show a minute-long mostly dialogue-free clip from American Hustle as his favorite cinematic moment of the year. (Sounded like it might have been cool?) On the other hand, musician Abraham Levitan’s hastily written, delightful piano pop summaries of the evening come across just fine. [DD]

The Flop House #143: Battle Of The Year
Hallie Haglund’s previous appearances on The Flop House have been delightful, so it’s exciting that she has been tapped to fill in while Elliott Kalan takes a few weeks for paternity leave. Battle Of The Year, which stars Josh Holloway as the coach of a B-boy team that counts Chris Brown as a member, is the sort of stupid, poorly made movie that’s right up the Floppers’ alley and one that lends itself especially well to Haglund’s silly joking. The episode wraps up with a nice letter from new father Kalan, which will come as welcome relief the listeners worried that the podcast will not meet its song quota while he is away. [DF]

The Fogelnest Files #73: Baristas With Lorde Haircuts: John Moe
It was by no means an obvious choice for Jake Fogelnest to take the Files into the public-radio realm. Fogelnest, after all, has a deep appreciation for punk and the underground, and NPR is neither. That said, John Moe, the host of Minnesota Public Radio’s Wits, was a good choice for a guest, both because he has a healthy self-deprecation about his profession and because he shares an appreciation of comedians and musicians. Being a host himself, Moe proves to be an impressively charming guest, matching Fogelnest without missing a beat. The videos this time are also particularly noteworthy, especially the clip of the Ray Conniff incident. [ABe]

Hang Up And Listen: The Kneecapping On Ice Edition
As expected, the discussion of this year’s Baseball Hall Of Fame vote is informative but exhausting. It’s better that most of the show is taken up by discussing the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, which features a bunch of great games and produced the phenomenal matchups for the conference-championship games. But the best segment is on ESPN’s new documentary The Price Of Gold, about the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan scandal. The panel delves deep into what the documentary adds to the discussion of an infamous event in American sports history. [KM]

Harmontown #85: Gender Neutrality
A book sent to the Harmontown hosts sends them down the rabbit hole of discussing gender, landing in some vortex of discussing how to raise a child “gender neutral.” Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Indoor Kids co-host Emily Gordon, are trying to have kids, so he adds some insight to the intellectual discussion, and Harmon and his new fiancée, Erin McGathy, openly discuss child preferences and different ways to raise kids. Harmon’s thoughts on gender span things like the professional world to a hypothetical moon colony with 51 women and 49 men. It’s a bit of a kooky episode that spins out some strange theories that will probably freak out anyone who doesn’t plan to have kids, but it’s fascinating to see how one idea can grow into a 90-minute discussion. [KM]

Improv4Humans #116: Live From RIOT LA 2014: Lauren Lapkus, Andy Daly, and Seth Morris
Live episodes of Improv4Humans tend to work the best when Matt Besser assembles a crew of improvisers happy to bounce off the audience. For this week’s stellar episode, recorded live at RIOT LA, Besser assembled a heavy-hitting cast of favorites: Lauren Lapkus, Andy Daly, and Seth Morris, who many know from their Comedy Bang! Bang! characters, are all game for crowd work, especially in a segment ridiculing the blimp’s inventor. Once the ball starts rolling, the four segue into history’s greatest blimp entrepreneur, The Backstreet Boys’ manager. Most of the scenes are kept short and crisp, to great effect. The episode finishes especially strong when Eric The Fluidly Titled Intern turns up. After last week’s no-show, Eric is back to justify his broken-ride-related promises, and as always, puts his awkwardness on full display. [MK]

Judge John Hodgman: Namer vs. Namer
Josh and Jackie aren’t facing the issue at hand yet, but they’re wise to get a jump on the thorny debate. The couple kept their surnames when they married, and now they need to decide which last name to give their children—if they ever have any, that is, because neither party sounds happy to be there. Plaintiff Josh believes they should fuse both surnames into a hybrid or invent a distinct new handle. Defendant Jackie is more comfortable with the idea of or adopting a hyphenated combination. With an adequate balance of sensitivity and impatience, Hodgman listens to a litany of concerns including customs, branding, and logistics. As Hodgman says, there’s not a perfect solution for the problem. But he has a good one. [DXF]

The Moth: Antidepressants, Anthony Hopkins and Iran
Despite some encouraging nudges from producers, host Rachel Dratch keeps herself in the background of this week’s live full-hour episode. Even when she’s in humble emcee mode, it’s always a delight when the SNL alum resurfaces, and she seems genuinely content keeping the spotlight on the storytellers’ vignettes about overcoming anxiety. TED editor Ben Lillie talks about the relationship between Lexapro and work during his Stanford days; bit-actor Josh Broder revisits his first Hollywood scene; and Mojdeh Rezaeipour discusses her visit to Iran during the 2009 “election” of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and its bloody aftermath. One of these things is not like the others, and Rezaeipour’s heart-wrenching story helps round out an otherwise hilarious episode. [DJ]

Nerdist #465: Richard Madden
Most episodes of Nerdist feel like a fun, casual conversation where the guest can pose questions to Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Mira as often as the hosts do the same to the guest. This isn’t one of those episodes. It’s less of a give and take, and more of a formal interview driven by a single host. However, even with the fairly rigid question-and-answer structure, it’s still interesting and fun. Game Of Thrones was obviously a formative experience for Richard Madden, who played Robb Stark on the show, and the Scottish actor is more than happy to discuss how the experience shaped him. It’s also endearing to hear him get excited about watching season four of the show as a mere civilian and not a cast member. [MS]

Never Not Funny #1326: Pete Holmes
Relatively speaking, Pete Holmes is pretty restrained in his appearance on Never Not Funny, at least compared to his last appearance on Comedy Bang! Bang! Sure, there’s the occasional hyperactive interjection, but for the most part, his energy level matches the room’s, making for another solid episode of Never Not Funny. There’s a fair amount of talk about Holmes’ post- Conan talk show, but also some surprising revelations about his soap-making habit (and where he likes to put said soap). [KR]      

Sound Opinions #425: The Beatles With Mark Lewisohn Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn has embarked on an ambitious project: a multi-volume definitive biography of The Beatles called All These Years. He began in 2005, and the first volume, Tune In, was released back in October. (Lewisohn estimates taking until 2020 and 2028 to complete the trilogy, much like the timeframe of Robert Caro’s exhaustive biographies of former President Lyndon B. Johnson.) The tidbits of little-known information suggests that Lewisohn has embarked on a significant contribution to the preservation of music history. [KM]            

Stuff You Should Know: Was There A Real King Arthur?
Host Josh Clark admits he cannot answer the episode’s titular question: Was there a real King Arthur? Clark and co-host Chuck Bryant make sure to juggle some of the more preposterous legends without losing sight of the hunt for a true Arthur. Straddling both the fake and the historical creates fun digressions involving Monty Python and wizardry, and the final conclusion is enticingly vague. The closest thing to definitive evidence that Clark and Bryant can point to is a pair of skeletons buried together that might have been royal, might have been marked Arthur and Genevieve, and have long since crumbled to dust. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Pet Psychics Work
Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant make a habit of being fair to their listeners, many of whom may be sensitive. And before they can dig too deep into the debunking of pet psychics, Bryant confesses that his wife has recently seen a psychic to cope with the loss of a beloved pet. While the hosts adore science and rationality, one of their greatest strengths is empathy. As they walk through research that doesn’t speak well to the possibility of psychics or the afterlife, they spend even more time examining whether animals have higher brain function that supports emotion. Clark in particular has a few moments where he over-accommodates grieving listeners, including a personal aside where he admonishes the existence of zoos without further explanation. But anyone interested in connecting with animals should find this episode highly listenable. [DT]

This American Life #515: Good Guys
The first half of this week’s program features the kind of light and fun fare that This American Life does so well; a Mike Birbiglia story in Act Two about being stuck on a bus is everything listeners have come to expect from him. But the tone shifts in the second half as the episode becomes much more complicated. Act Four is a surprisingly candid interview with a young soldier suffering from PTSD about his wartime experiences. The piece highlights facets of military life and culture that are often overlooked, and it’s one of the most frightening, disturbing TAL segments in some time. It’s also one of the most important. [DF]

Welcome To Night Vale #39: The Woman From Italy
After the previous episode involved a mysterious orange grove appearing on land owned by John Peters—you know, the farmer?—Cecil reading an email from his boyfriend Carolos, and the best tongue-in-cheek version of a Stamps.com podcast commercial ever written, this week’s Night Vale was destined to be a small step down. The show has adhered to a strict structure of an event getting out of hand leading to the musical interlude at “The Weather,” followed by a quick solution. But this week sidesteps that format in favor of Cecil’s ho-hum announcements periodically interrupting by the spectral voice of the titular Italian stranger in town. It’s a typically entertaining episode aided by spooky interjections and Cecil’s announcement about “kitten” adoptions. Look out for those poisonous spine ridges. [KM]

Who Charted? #163: A Squirmy Squirmy
While Community’s Gillian Jacobs is a great guest because she’s intelligent, cultured, and likable, she’s also better adjusted than a lot of Who Charted? guests, which means she and Kulap Vilaysack tend to play straight man to Howard Kremer’s charming lunacy. Fortunately, Jacobs also brings a palpable energy and enthusiasm to the table, which keeps the pace of the conversation moving. In other developments, Kremer unveils a new musical introduction for the music chart—it’s as goofy as should be expected. [MS]

WTF #461: Ed Begley Jr.
Ed Begley Jr. is one of the prototypical “that guy” character actors, known more often by his face than his name, so it’s almost shocking in his conversation with Marc Maron to hear how many great projects he’s been a part of and great actors he’s worked with or otherwise encountered. Begley remains genuine and compelling throughout, but at certain points it begins to feel more like a bus tour of all the ’70s Hollywood sights than an interview with an actual person. However, it’s also undeniably entertaining and exciting in that way, and there’s still enough substance—Begley’s brazen and long-held alcoholism and the struggles he faced early in his career are of particular interest—to tether the whole thing down. [CG]

WTF #462: Patrick Stickles
Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles has a lot on his mind. Marc Maron makes a note before the episode begins that it was difficult for him to get a word in edgewise—which is rare—when talking to Stickles, and the singer proves a difficult guest to contain. He covers his childhood in New Jersey, his very specific music taste, and how his older siblings rebelling against his parents inspired his attitude toward growing up in the suburbs. But Stickles doesn’t steamroll Maron with minutiae: He’s a well-spoken guy who has a lot to say about his life philosophy. Fans of the band will want to hear Stickles waxing poetic at length, but even those unfamiliar with his music should give it a shot just to hear Maron contending with so many ideas flying at him. [KM]

You Made It Weird #190: Nate Bargatze
With Holmes’ star ever rising (his TBS talk show was recently renewed for another 13 weeks), it’s becoming interesting to hear him interview comedians who have not attained his level of fame. Nate Bargatze is certainly successful: He’s done the late-night circuit and, as he announces in the interview, he has a development deal going with NBC. But the disparity in their professional standings at this point provides for an atypical YMIW dynamic. Especially compared to last week, when Holmes went hardcore fanboy over Matt Berninger, this is considerably more grounded. After all, Bargatze and Holmes also go way back. It’s also an unusual episode because when the God issue comes up, they reveal that Bargatze is a Republican and a Christian. He’s clearly wary about talking about it too much, but it’s just enough to make listeners wish Holmes had pushed harder on the issue. [ABe]


99 Percent Invisible #99: The View From The 79th Floor
Produced by fellow podcast Radio Diaries, “The View From The 79th Floor” uses archival sounds to tell the story of a B-25 bomber that crashed into the Empire State Building in 1945. While the audio is compelling, the story ultimately both falls flat and feels like an odd fit for 99PI, which usually focuses on design. [ME]

Doug Loves Movies: Jeff Garlin, Paul Scheer, And Riki Lindhome
File this one under “A damn shame,” a DLM that would otherwise be a “Best” were it not for sound issues that render listening to the whole episode a chore. Those who can tolerate 80 minutes of fuzzy listening will be rewarded with a lively, Jeff Garlin-y treat, but it might come at the expense of their sanity. [GK]

How Was Your Week? #150: HWYW Gems Vol. 5: Brent Weinbach, Rachel Lichtman, and Freedy Johnston
A bit of a comedown from last week’s excellent installment, this outtakes episode features an uninspired monologue focused on Klausner’s transition to life in LA, a funny discussion of elderly folks’ favorite songs about San Francisco, and Freedy Johnston’s gorgeous cover of “The Look Of Love.” [AH]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #150: Ryan Sickler
Comedian Ryan Sickler is a first-rate storyteller, but his meeting with Paul Gilmartin never seems to fully develop into a two-way conversation. [TC      

Nerdist #466: Neal Brennan
This chat with writer, director, and stand-up Neal Brennan is a must-listen for fans of Dave Chappelle—Brennan collaborated with the comedian on Half Baked and Chappelle’s Show. Otherwise the episode is engaging but a bit too narrowly focused. [CS]

Professor Blastoff #138: Best Of 2013 Pt 2
Kyle Dunnigan’s opening riff on online dating is fun, but the show could’ve condensed this and last week’s episodes into one. [NJ]

Sklarbro Country #182: In The Lore Of Freaknik: Omar Dorsey, Chris Cox
The sports cred and commentary of Eastbound & Down’s Omar Dorsey notwithstanding, the conversation and stories this week feel perfunctory. [DJ]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Sinking Of The S.S. Arctic
Hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey get a lot of requests for maritime disasters, and though this entry explores the “women and children first” rule, it feels like more of a downer than a discovery. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Battle Of Hastings
This violent scar across British history shaped much of its future, but the many details about the Germanic tribes, long-gone Vikings, and Norman retreats end up feeling crammed into 30 minutes. [DT]