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Sound Opinions scores with Prince’s Purple Rain

The best podcasts for the week of June 28-July 4

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

Quotes of the week

“‘Hi, nice to meet you and your sister. Here’s my penis.’  ‘Hey, it was a pleasure doing business with you here at the McDonald’s. By the way, of course, my penis.’”—Former American Apparel CEO Dov Charney (James Adomian) on introductions, Comedy Bang! Bang!

“They gave her an Oscar for doing possibly the best Beetlejuice impression I’ve ever seen on celluloid…”—Samm Levine on Charlize Theron in Monster, Doug Loves Movies 

“How come you never picked up any black people?”—Doug Benson startling former Cash Cab host Ben Bailey with a facetious hardball, Doug Loves Movies 

“Dan, have you ever had an orgasm while dizzy?”—Elliott Kalan on Dan McCoy’s possible use of a rotating bed, The Flop House

“It’s like when my mom found weed in my clothes pocket. I came home to do my laundry like a good early-20s guy, and my mom was going through my laundry and pulled out this baggie from one of my pockets and said, ‘What’s this?’ And I said, ‘That’s what you get for goin’ through laundry.’”—Dan Harmon, Harmontown

When Tigs Fly.”
Tig’ll Be The Day.”
Like A Tig In Mud.”
Tig’s One To Know One.”
It Takes Two Tigs To Tango.”
You Notaro What I’m Talking About.”
“I hate our hour together.”—Kyle Dunnigan and David Huntsberger brainstorming ideas for the title of Tig Notaro’s book, Professor Blastoff

“Don’t they know that kids are watching this?”—Randy Sklar quoting his youngest daughter, in tears, watching an elimination on So You Think You Can Dance, Sklarbro Country

“There’s nobody in Prince’s camp who can pull his chest hair and get away with it.”—Greg Kot, Sound Opinions

“It takes a special kind of cruelty to take someone at their most vulnerable and add wacky sound effects to their suffering.”—Stephanie Foo, This American Life

“People were heckling. Not in a prison-y way. Just like you were at Caroline’s or something.”—Dave Hill on performing stand-up at Sing Sing, You Made It Weird

New (to us) 

Who Stole What? 
The old adage goes: “Good artists copy, great artists steal,” but at what cost? The Shields Brothers—Tristan and Rory, musicians and veterans of NBC’s series The Voice—narrate the podcast Who Stole What? a series dedicated to nailing contemporary and past thieves for their crimes of artistic hijacking. The podcast listens more like an extended discussion between the two brothers, clocking in as short as a two-minute conversation about Daft Punk to a dissection of Jessie J potentially stealing Will Loomis’s song “Bright Red Chords,” featuring an interview with Loomis himself.

The podcast is an effective medium for pairing riffs and beats side by side for comparison, and is sure to settle many a bar argument on Saturday night over some picklebacks. Some of the brothers’ topics are well-documented, such as Led Zeppelin lifting the riffs that constitute many of their hits, but the weirder topics are more compelling. The guys take down brands who steal artists’ work for advertisements (Pizza Hut is a main offender), while “Pop Stars Who Passed On Big Hits” features stories like Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Swass” being refurbished into The Pussycat Dolls’ mega-hit “Don’t Cha.” The podcast dabbles in film and video-game artistic crimes too—“Pulp Fiction Or Pulp Friction: Quentin Tarantino, Genius Or Thief?” attacks Samuel L. Jackson’s famed Ezekiel speech scene, but the guys tout this more as an homage instead of a crime.

The brothers’ tone on Who Stole What? is goofy, with the two sometimes talking over each other. At times the discussion swerves abruptly, getting into musical preferences instead of delving deeper into these stories. But the Shields bring up valid points, including how everyone stole from the inimitable Chuck Berry and that younger generations are often incorrectly taught the reinterpretations instead of originals. But here, it mostly resonates that stolen art—while wrong, especially if uncredited—somehow becomes some of our most beloved popular-culture mainstays. [PM]


The Smartest Man In The World
Unlike many other podcasts that are recorded live, each new episode of The Smartest Man In The World finds Greg Proops performing before a new audience, in a new theater, in a new city. This is a feature, not a bug, as Proops—who rose to prominence due to his multitudinous appearances on the seminal improv comedy program Whose Line Is It Anyway?—is an extemporaneous force of nature who feeds off his circumstances and surroundings to produce a rapid-fire barrage of humorous recollections, one-liners, and cultural references. This show is a singular product of its host’s mind, and it’s host’s mind is a messy place. But an enthrallingly messy place, full of strong opinions about the malicious corporate forces that underpin the noble quadrennial ceremony that is the FIFA World Cup and whimsical observations about the frustratingly Gilliamesque nightmare that is a British train station. If a solid theme is a must for you, then this might not be the show for you. But if you can appreciate some controlled chaos from a performance veteran, nearly 300 episodes in, TSMITW remains one of the more idiosyncratic podcasts online. [DD]

The best

Comedy Bang! Bang! #297: Canadian Apparel: Nathan Fielder, Joe Wengert, James Adomian
Like a rolling snowball of coalescing absurdity, this episode starts out relatively small and harmless. It’s Scott Aukerman and Nathan Fielder of Nathan For You affably reunited and having a ridiculously laid-back conversation about Fielder’s ridiculously laid-back Comedy Central show. Since Fielder is potentially the straightest straight man alive, it affords Aukerman the opportunity to follow his most insane tangents and to see if Fielder really does know more than 500 words. In act two, self-proclaimed “real man” Brad Hammerstone (Joe Wengert) makes an enigmatic debut that’s sneakily funny on first listen and downright genius on the second. But the proceedings come to a messy climax at the hands (and feet) of recently axed American Apparel CEO Dov Charney (James Adomian) who frenetically steamrolls the show with startling corporate revelations and “ambient sexuality.” Still, Fielder and Aukerman (a dream team) along with Hammerstone adeptly follow his questionable lead to perfection. [TK]

Doug Loves Movies: Samm Levine, Geoff Tate, Cameron Buchholtz
In Doug Benson’s calendar, every June 28 is booked for the next 20 years thanks to Cameron Buchholtz, a mutual promoter, and then-Oklahoma governor Brad Henry who assigned him the honorary Doug Benson Day five years ago. To celebrate, Doug assembles an experienced, or least game, panel (sans Graham Elwood this year) at the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center in Oklahoma City. The fact that everyone knows what they’re doing gives the added bonus of Benson being able to dust off Build-A-Title, a game so much more entertaining than ABCD’s Nuts but too much of a challenge to play, and often difficult to explain to guests on the road. Per usual, Geoff Tate contributes a lot of playful wry shut-downs, which makes him a fun pairing with Cameron Buchholtz’s goofy sensibility and Samm Levine’s unsolicited cinema factoids. During The Leonard Maltin Game, just about every question is the sort of outlier Levine would take extra pride in answering, if not for the bigger challenge of now always getting boxed out. [DJ]

Doug Loves Movies: Nikki Glaser, Mike Birbiglia, Ben Bailey, Todd Sklar 
Charming host and purveyor of lies Ben Bailey cuts loose on an especially fun New York episode at the Gramercy Theatre in which the former Cash Cab star reveals some behind-the-scenes goodies sans the Discovery Channel language restrictions. Apparently, not all contestants were eager to have their rides filmed due to government work, extramarital affairs, and witness protection. Also, Doug Benson was apparently approached to host a spin-off in L.A.? Beyond the absurdity of having a stoned cab driver, as Benson points out, wouldn’t an average game in Los Angeles traffic take an entire episode? Not-one-of-the-twins Todd Sklar is mostly quiet but pleasant, and Nikki Glaser and Mike Birbiglia contribute a series of good riffs. Most of the games end up with dud scores, but the episode has a great energy and is chock-full of good recommendations, movies and otherwise. [DJ]

Filmspotting #497: Batman (89) / Top 5 Films of 1989
Adam Kempenaar and Josh Larsen travel back in time a quarter-century to relive the surprisingly strong cinematic year that was 1989. The begin the episode with a “Sacred Cow” segment, looking back on Tim Burton’s classic Batman, to see if it holds up against Christopher Nolan’s newer, grittier trilogy. And, to hear their takes, it would seem to, indeed. They even manage to discover to elements to the film (shades of Vertigo?) that went right over their teenage-fanboy heads back in the day. Later, they count down their favorite films of that year, after exempting Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing from competition, since they conclude that it would have too easily topped both their lists. What they settle on is interesting for what they choose to include (James Cameron’s The Abyss), as much as what they choose not to (Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron’s When Harry Met Sally). [DD]

The Flop House #155: Last Vegas
Coming on the heels of their dissection of Grudge Match, the Floppers continue their voyage through Robert De Niro’s recent string of old-man movies with this week’s viewing of Last Vegas. Though the film is mostly slow-paced, its many stupid moments and cameo appearances provide plenty of opportunities for riffing and a tangent about the terms of De Niro’s contract vis-à-vis crotch-waggling is a particularly great moment. The episode also features the debut of a new patent troll character (who sounds suspiciously like the Crypt Keeper) and a great bit about erotic casinos that sees the Peaches in full-on pervazoid mode. The listener-mail section is even better than usual; not only does it feature the most surprising song in some time, but a thoughtful letter inspires a great conversation about hype and the ways that expectations can ruin the movie-viewing experience. [DF]

Freakonomics: A Better Way To Eat
Takeru Kobayashi is the biggest competitive-eating star in the world. He holds the record for most hot dogs eaten in 10 minutes, managing to swallow 110 frankfurters in that small amount of time. This week’s episode interviews Kobi, as he’s known to fans, about his process and training for eating competitions. When Kobi entered the competitive-eating world, he developed various techniques to improve his hot-dog eating speed, revolutionizing this niche “sport.” Freakonomics notes that it is precisely Kobi’s commitment to treating competitive eating as a sport that lead to his dominance: By thinking of it as something with best practices and techniques, he was able to out-compete everyone else who simply tried to stuff as much food in their mouths as possible (like the Freakonomics staff, which tries and fails to eat two hot dog buns in under a minute). [NC]

Harmontown #105: Game Recognize Game
This episode was recorded before Yahoo! resurrected Community, so there’s none of that in this one. But if you’re looking for an earnest, pointed recounting of what Dan Harmon has been learning in couples therapy (and listening to a weird new sound his throat has been making), you’re in all kinds of luck. Harmon has been making an exceptional amount of sense these past few weeks, and it continues up to and almost through the point he says only college degrees separate doctors from serial killers. Kumail Nanjiani steps in and promptly can’t hide his disapproval for Jeff Davis’ incessant need to talk to strangers, which somehow eventually leads to Harmon telling the sordid tale of how he “discarded his maidenhood” inside his mom’s Pontiac Firebird. Things come to a close inside the D&D realm where not even a raging inferno can prevent our heroes from imploding on their own. [TK]  

Hollywood Handbook #39: Sean O’Connor, Our Close Friend
Hayes Davenport and Sean Clements begin this week’s episode by pointing out that their sponsors specifically asked that that they “not read an ad,” before spending about five minutes marveling at what a cool and edgy request that is. On the one hand, it’s a funny bit of “yes and” play. But, on the other, it’s an elegant little snapshot of what makes this show so much fun. The sponsor’s intention of letting listeners know that they’re too hip to waste their time with something so crass as an advertisement, is obviously itself an advertisement. And a disingenuous one at that. It also perfectly mirrors the faux-coolness of the two industry insiders the hosts are playing. Stand-up comedian Sean O’Connor joins them for the latter end of the show to discuss what it’s like to “win” Comedy Central’s @midnight and then witness the humiliation experienced by his vanquished foes. [DD]

This week’s extra-long episode features a very funny monologue (with speculation about Annette Bening’s sexuality, a reminder that people hate going out in the rain, and an extended digression on the Aladdin musical) and an interesting, though often frustrating, interview. Klausner chats with writer Emily Gould, who published her first novel, lost her job, and became the much-discussed subject of two profiles and one 11,000 word online screed in the course of a week. Gould has been a polarizing figure since her stint as the editor of Gawker, and it’s easy to see why. She has some interesting things to say about surviving in the New York publishing world and refusing to indulge in the self-deprecation expected of women who write about themselves, but she often comes off as oblivious and even snotty. Klausner remains mostly even-handed and balances insightful questions with her own, much more entertaining take on the same topics. [AH]

Never Not Funny #1422: Vance Gilbert
Clearly a very personal episode for NNF‘s host, this is more than a conversation with a musician and comedian for Jimmy Pardo, it’s an opportunity to talk to someone who has had a profound impact on his life and his marriage. In a moment of uncharacteristic emotion, Pardo gets admittedly misty while recounting how he and his wife Danielle Koenig bonded early in their relationship over a shared appreciation for Vance Gilbert’s soulful, character-rich folk songs to such a degree that they chose to dance to his “High Rise” at their wedding. Gilbert does perform a number of songs in the studio, and as pleasant as they are, they could just as easily have been left out, because he banters like a stand-up and has a bag full of stories. His comedic sensibilities likely account for how he ended up touring with, and learning stagecraft from, both George Carlin and Paul Reiser. [DD]

Professor Blastoff #162: Catching Up
Guestless episodes devoid of topic tend to get lost in the shuffle, plagued as this installment is by mostly rote updates on Tig Notaro’s many upcoming book, television, and film projects and the way that Kyle Dunnigan falls back on a lisp whenever he plays a character even remotely interested in “effeminate” pursuits like— for some reason—dieting or vacation. Thankfully, David Huntsberger is around to right the ship and steer his co-hosts through unexpectedly thoughtful and fresh tangents on worn-out topics of conversation like the value of clichés and the ethics of Kickstarter. When the completely freeform, lawless nature of a catch-up with Notaro and Dunnigan combines with Huntsberger’s untenable ability to find things meaningful, their audience is somehow left with a product that exemplifies Professor Blastoff, even as it’s technically breaking their winning format. [NJ]

Radiolab9-Volt Nirvana
This week’s shocking Radiolab episode belongs entirely to Sally Adee. As a journalist, Adee provides the show’s topic, as the crew piggybacks off her reporting on the supposed effects electric stimulation has on our ability to learn. The research is nascent, and Radiolab’s senior producer Soren Wheeler is wise to keep a critical-yet-intrigued eye on the topic, but Adee’s testimonials are exhilarating. The episode’s highlight comes after all is said and done about the topic, when Adee describes the glowing aftereffects of her experiment. The implications of her mental state are wisely left untouched—there needs to be a whole lot more science involved before her claims can be seen as representative—but they are thrilling nonetheless. Sandwiched in the middle of all this, Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad fill in the story’s background. Amusingly, Jad takes a crack at the technology and finds the effects thrilling. [MK]

Sklarbro Country: Blue Angels: Rick Overton, Jesse Thorn
Not only did the Florida show Randy and Jason Sklar have been pimping for the last few episodes apparently not sell like they were hoping, but it ended up being a heckler-tainted crummy performance to boot. Pile that on top of their temporarily funked interest in sports after the U.S. dropped out of the World Cup, and it’s clear why Rick Overton’s zen energy and positivity makes for such a great interview. After a couple of great takes—one on an airline’s mistake of tip-toeing out of corporate diplomacy and into soccer alliances on its Twitter account, one on a high school athlete already behaving like a violent, ego-inflated professional—Overton dives into his upbringing from a jazz musician, and draws a serious comparison to his life in comedy. Later, Jesse Thorn drops by for another faux-fantasy pick list. Thorn’s gentle-comedy bits on Sklarbro are amicable even if they’re not laugh-out-loud funny, but this round benefits from some technical difficulties that are actually pretty perfect. [DJ]  

Song Exploder #13: The Microphones – “I Want Wind To Blow”
Song Exploder continues its run of excellent episodes focused on very different sorts of music with this week’s episode, which focuses on Phil Elvrum, who recorded the aching ballad “I Want Wind To Blow” as The Microphones. Calvin Johnson, the founder of K Records, is on hand to provide a second perspective, but the real draw here is Elvrum, who, in keeping with the song’s low-fi aesthetic, has an appealingly mellow presence. Elvrum is a dream guest for the show: equally passionate and thoughtful, with a sharp perspective on both the technical and emotional aspects of the song. Since he put the entire song together himself—working in the studio alone and playing all the instruments himself—he has plenty to say about the recording process, but the episode’s best moments are when he speaks more personally, talking about his obsession with recording or his breakup with a an old girlfriend. [AH]

Sound Opinions #449: Purple Rain At 30
Prince’s genre-defining Purple Rain headlines Sound Opinions with a Classic Album Dissection in honor of its 30th birthday, with Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis inviting two of Prince’s most trusted confidantes, The Revolution’s Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, to espouse on their legacy. Coleman and Melvoin quickly astonish even rock historians DeRogatis and Kot with anecdotes that suggest the making of Purple Rain was an intensely collaborative process Prince gets most of the credit for, but there’s not a trace of bitterness in their voices. This leads to the highlight of the episode as Kot boldly attributes Coleman and Melvoin’s strength of character to Prince’s commercial success, lamenting that no one in Prince’s current entourage seems to keep him honest the way they did. Come for the revelations on a classic. Stay for DeRogatis’ impassioned defense of the critically divisive new record from Mastodon that closes out this installment. [NJ]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Caroline Herschel: Astronomy’s Cinderella
Astronomy episodes of SYMIHC are usually tales of eccentric men living strange, indulgent, and sometimes mad lives. But this week hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey reveal the life of Caroline Herschel, the first female astronomer in Western history to receive a salaried pay for her work. Prolific for much of the 1700s and 1800s thanks to her long life but humble due to her station in it, she first came into her professional awards by helping her brother William. Soon, however, her own work took on a life of its own. Wilson and Frey take care to paint a complete portrait of Herschel, noting that her marginalization started when she was a child was due to her outward appearance (her growth was stunted by a bout of typhus in her childhood) and her introverted personality. Yet Herschel went on to discover so many celestial objects that there are now comets and craters of the moon named after her. The only unfortunate part of recounting her story is that history kept better records of her brother, whom she outlived by many years. [DT] 

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Great London Smog
Though London fog is best known as an industrial byproduct and a line of coats, this episode of SYMIHC focuses on the Great Fog of 1952 which killed thousands of people. An unfortunate phenomenon had begun occurring that was known as acid fog, a variation of acid rain that clung to the ground in mist form. Normally it would evaporate when the sun rose in the morning and destroyed the most deadly chemicals. But one day in December this cloud of hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, and soot was so thick the sun could not penetrate it.  It was also so hard to see that public events were canceled and crime rates went up because of how hard it was to see. Yet the deadliness was so slow to unfold that much of the morbid fun of this episode is listening to how long it took for the horrifying event to make itself known to authorities. [DT]  

This American Life #529: Human Spectacle
Reality television looms large over this week’s episode. The opening story on Truman Show Syndrome, a psychosis in which a person believes that their life has become a reality show, gives way to a more disquieting piece about a Japanese reality show contestant named Nasubi. Forced to live in an empty room and subsist entirely off of sweepstakes winnings, Nasubi’s story has more in common with a Takashi Miike film than a Real Housewives episode, alternating between merely disturbing and absolutely horrifying, with a good measure of absurdity thrown in as well. The remainder of the episode follows the theme nicely; the second act about Roger Baker’s experiments in chronicling the lives of regular people explores issues that resonate as much with reality-TV culture as with as psychology, while the final dispatch comes from Iraq and offers an on-the-ground perspective of the current crisis there that has largely been missing from many reports. [DF]

Welcome To Night Vale #50: Old Oak Doors Part B
The live broadcast from New York City immediately picks up speed in this second half. The studio door creaks open to reveal Cecil’s nemesis Steve Carlsberg, who suggests that Carlos might be conspiring against Night Vale. Desert Bluffs host/StrexCorp puppet Kevin makes an unwelcome appearance, intent on conjoining the two towns and making people “better and more productive.” Dana finally returns home, and urges Night Vale citizens to stay safe amid the onslaught of angels versus masked warriors. The still-missing Carlos leaves an endearing voicemail for Cecil, revealing both his love for him and his discovery of how to close the old oak doors around town. StrexCorp finally retreats! Dana is decreed the new mayor of Night Vale, much to the chagrin of the two other mayoral candidates. The weather segment features a sizzling R&B act and ends with some soothing words from our beloved host: “The universe is unraveling—it still is—but we won the day,” he beams. “Be proud of your place in the cosmos. It is small, yet it is fantastic and stupid and excellent.” Preach. [PM]

WTF #510: David Huntsberger
Merely as a podcast episode with two L.A.-based comedians that is not entirely comprised of talk about podcasting, other comedians, or the craft of stand-up, Marc Maron’s conversation with David Hunstberger is worth a listen simply for its novelty. It’s an added bonus, however, that they spend nearly the entire episode talking about something interesting—Huntsberger’s time in the world of rodeos, barrel-racing, and horse branding, roping, and shoeing, mostly—though his innate passion and undying enthusiasm for the hobby perhaps makes it more compelling than the subject matter in and of itself. Overall the episode is little more than a rough sketch of a world that most people forget even exists, but it’s hard not to enjoy sitting back, as Maron does, and taking it all in with a sense of fascination and curiosity. [CG]

WTF #511: Rosanne Cash
There are podcast episodes, and then there are treasures. This episode is unequivocally the latter. Herein we have what could ostensibly be a promotional interview for Ms. Cash’s new album—Maron throws out all possibilities for that in the interview’s opening seconds. Rather, we are treated to 72 minutes of life, death, parenting, “closure,” the Mississippi Delta, and everything in between. In spite of plenty of forego-able episodes, Maron has never lost his ability to be an incredible interviewer; this is another episode that hearkens back to his enlightening and enlivening early interviews. It’s also very funny at times. With an appropriately minimal amount of self-disclosure, Maron sculpts a forum for Cash to spin yarns about the power of parenting your own parents and the weight of watching your parents go. For fans of music, podcasts, interviews, and/or the human experience, this episode is not to be missed. [JW]

You Made It Weird #214: Dave Hill
The first half of this episode with comedian and musician Dave Hill is utterly fascinating. Really, one of the most interesting hour-long chunks in YMIW‘s catalog. Oddly enough, it doesn’t even appear to be a planned topic of conversation. However, an off-the-cuff comment from Hill ultimately unravels into a long and detailed recounting of how he, and a couple friends, somehow ended up performing stand-up for a roomful of rowdy, and potentially dangerous, inmates of Sing Sing Correctional Facility. Pete Holmes listens in stunned enthrallment as he tells how he won the crowd over with some blistering guitar solos, and eventually got comfortable enough to threaten to make hecklers his bitch (much to the prisoners’ glee). In the second half of the episode, Hill talks about what it’s like being a famous musician in Japan and how some very vivid dreams helped him get through the depression following a recent devastating loss. [DD]

The rest

Book Fight! Summer Of Shorts #3: Beard And Skorts
This week, the short is JoAnn Beard’s “Werner,” (an essay or a short story depending on who you believe), but critical discussion of the work is quickly dispatched in favor of an argument about the characteristics of genre and the airing of a latent mistrust of skorts stemming from childhood dress-code injustices. [AB]

Hang Up And ListenThe Soft Rock and Salary Caps Edition
The 2014 FIFA World Cup has been a thriller, but the drama of the tournament has not translated to entertainment on Hang Up And Listen. There are countless places to get more interesting, informed analysis on the tournament than this HUAL installment, where the knee-jerk contrarianism sounds a bit dippy. [TC]

Improv4Humans: Best Of Improv4Humans Volume 5
The week’s compilation proves once again that Improv4Humans ranks up there with the best of the best. Few programs reach the hilarious heights that I4H regularly achieves, and “Volume 5” is the perfect place to get acquainted with the show. [MK]

Judge John Hodgman #167: Brocavore
This week’s episode is less fun than being lectured about your diet: Two dour brothers plan to grow all their food for a year, but one wants to buy chocolate and coffee. In a short closing item, the Judge rules on how a family should eat with a child who’s a picky eater: Send them all to bed without supper. [DXF]

The Moth: Deborah Feldman: I Need To Talk About Anne Frank
Many of The Moth’s family-centered stories focus on an author’s difficulty understanding their heritage. Deborah Feldman’s story about discovering her past through The Diary Of Anne Frank, and her subsequent journey to find out more, is fascinating, but lacks the framing that best suits short episodes. [DJ] 

Nerdist #541: Gary Cole
Gary Cole is an accomplished character actor with a stellar body of work, including cult classics like his turn as shifty, passive-aggressive boss Lumbergh from Office Space and his current role on the comedic juggernaut Veep. However, the resulting interview is a little bland and never quite finds its groove. [MS] 

Nerdist #542: Nick Thune
This is another Nerdist episode that feels more like a chat between friends that probably didn’t need to be recorded. The conversation touches on pranks, online catfishing, and music, but there’s little substantial to ground it all. Thankfully comedian Nick Thune brings a relaxed energy that at least makes the small talk pleasant. [CS]

99 Percent Invisible #121: Cold War Kids
Fallout shelters were everywhere in the early ’60s, but New Mexico’s Abo Elementary was built entirely underground to act as both a school and shelter. It’s closed now, but this week’s semi-interesting 99PI goes inside and looks at the structure’s blast doors, morgue, and decontamination showers. [ME]

Stuff You Should Know: How The Louvre Works
A centuries-old palace with a rich and complicated history of politics and plundering, the Louvre is one of the most fascinating buildings hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant could discuss. But it is just a building, and despite a past riddled with war and intrigue it has no real action or centralizing theme outside of being an art gallery. [DT]

 Stuff You Should Know: How Monopoly Works
Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant have done perhaps their most research yet for this episode, but as it is all for a commercial product the episode quickly begins to sound like a commercial. Though they both joke about this early on, and the game is worthy of the attention, the minutia of explaining each silver game piece’s history will wear thin on all but the most obsessed of board game fans. [DT]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #180: Jill Morley
This conversation with filmmaker Jill Morley sometimes sounds more like a promo for her documentary about women in boxing than a fully fleshed out MIHH conversation. There are moments of inspiration, but those moments are too brief. 

Who Charted? #187: Super Lithe With Mild Scoliosis: Danielle Schneider
This discussion with writer Danielle Schneider has a few interesting pockets, particularly when Schneider reminisces about reading an issue of Sassy magazine where a girl wrote in to complain about not having a vagina. However, despite Schneider’s bubbly personality, the episode doesn’t quite gel as a whole. [MS]