Stone Cold Steve Austin’s unmissable new show and Kumail Nanjiani returns to Harmontown

Stone Cold Steve Austin’s unmissable new show and Kumail Nanjiani returns to Harmontown

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NEW TO US

Hey Teens!
When Jon Wiener and Eric Gosselin aren’t working as producers for reality shows like Cupcake Wars and Redneck Rehab, they are hosting a delightful podcast dedicated to reminiscing about their own awkward and formative years with a guest. Those include everyone from porn stars to popular Twitterers to TV writers, in addition to the familiar L.A. podcast guests like Jordan Morris and Rob Huebel.

The show revolves around recounting the foibles and pratfalls of life in high school and early college. (Naturally, many of the guests recall tales of gravitating toward the drama club in high school.) The show is both funny and endearing, with its best segment coming toward the end as Wiener and Gosselin pose questions from the advice columns of teen magazines to the guests. The questions comprise approximately a million variations on how a girl can figure out if a boy likes her, and two 30-something guys trying to translate the cadence of teenage girls never ceases to entertain. [MS]


OUTLIER 

The Steve Austin Show
Steve Austin’s podcast is an addictive, candid oral history of pro wrestling. The former WWF champion welcomes some of his fellow icons and walks them through their favorite stories, with occasional civilian guests like Podcast One pal Adam Carolla, stuntman Paul Lazenby, and Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth. Austin made a name for himself as one of the first avatars of redneck chic during the ’90s “Attitude” era of the World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment, when he was known for drinking beer, kicking ass, and talking shit. As a host, Austin gives the impression that very little of his best-known character was an act, though he’s as nimble a conversationalist as he was a grappler. Episodes arrive every Tuesday and Thursday, and Austin does more research for a single edition than Carolla has in any given calendar year.

In the squared circle and out, wrestling is a culture that values storytelling. Any wrestler who’s half a name is a raconteur with a wealth of great anecdotes. Austin’s guest list is light on active talent, which only enhances its credibility; World Wrestling Entertainment, which now owns the World Championship Wrestling/National Wrestling Alliance legacy, puts a sanitized corporate spin on every single official documentary and book, endlessly trying to create the impression that the corporation’s storylines have all unfolded as flawlessly executed master plans. Retired and unaffiliated, Austin keeps even the most talkative, habitually self-mythologizing guests on track. He defuses Kevin Nash’s initial non-answers about controversial episodes like The Kliq’s Madison Square Garden curtain call. Speaking to Scott Hall, he plumbs phenomenal angles like the WCW’s New World Order, penetrating the well-covered official version and coaxing out little details from backstage incidents to merchandise deals. Once hall-of-famers like Kurt Angle and Terry Funk get rolling, a 90-minute chat is just a warmup. And in Ric Flair’s case, two repeat appearances barely begin covering his life and times, from the recent past to the fading pre-cable era. Austin’s podcast belongs in a library. [DXF]


THE BEST

Comedy Bang! Bang! #244: An Ode To New York!: Andy Samberg, Eddie Pepitone
At this point in the CBB mythology, it’s impossible to describe an appearance by Andy Samberg without using some variant of the word “bro,” and that’s partly thanks to the effortless, familial rapport Scott Aukerman has cultivated with him over four episodes. In fact, Samberg starts out this installment so low key, it affords Aukerman the opportunity to indulge his most absurdist hosting tendencies—even without an unexpected visit from his weed dealer. Instead, after a discussion about Samberg’s transition from live TV on Saturdays to previously recorded TV airing on Tuesdays and before a remix of the Hollywood Facts theme, the pair are joined by professional panic-inducer Eddie Floatley, who has never played a single game (making for an interesting round of Would You Rather?) and who may or may not actually just be Eddie Pepitone. Don’t Christian Bale on this one. [TK]

Doug Loves Movies Nick Offerman, Jon Hamm, and Paul F. Tompkins 
Doug Benson can barely keep the glee out of his voice when announcing this episode’s three guests, and with good reason. This is as good a combo as DLM guest panels get, with two veteran Leonard Maltin Game pros (Tournament Of Championships winner Jon Hamm and perennial favorite Paul F. Tompkins, in character as Werner Herzog, his most DLM-friendly persona) and a newcomer who takes to the game like a mustache takes to Ron Swanson’s upper lip. Nick Offerman’s taciturn demeanor belies a not-so-hidden enthusiasm for what’s happening onstage—his unmistakable giggle is audible in the background pretty much every time Herzog speaks, though he stays mostly in character on mic. It’s understandable: Tompkins is in fine form this week, as both a comedic foil to his co-panelists (who score plenty of laughs in their own rights) and as a player, making bold bids while remaining a gracious and collaborative competitor. It all makes for an exciting, laugh-filled episode that would be a good jumping-on point for new listeners. [GK]

Doug Loves Movies Geoff Tate, Karen Anderson and Graham Elwood
Doug Loves Movies listeners know at this point what to expect from an episode with Graham Elwood, the podcast’s most frequent guest by a mile, but what could have been a standard “Doug, Graham, and friends” road episode gets a nice boost from the two other panelists this week. Comedian Geoff Tate is a fan of the show who comes ready and excited to play, while Karen Anderson, Doug Benson’s partner in crime on Dining With Doug And Karen, is a lot cannier than her laid-back, slightly spacey demeanor lets on. Both of them keep pace with Elwood, who can be a bit of a spotlight-hog, making for a nicely balanced episode with a lot of unexpected laughs. It’s a long one that takes a while to get going, but once it gets into a groove, it flies. [GK]

Harmontown #72: Jib Jab Squeeb Squab
Harmontown rolls along just fine when it subs in guest D&D players, but now that regular panelist Kumail Nanjiani is back from a few weeks in Europe, the show gets back to its best groove. Nanjiani shares a bunch of stories from his time away—including flipping out after seeing Vince Gilligan at the Louvre in Paris—and the opening interview with John Roy and James Adomian runs so long that it pushes this week’s installment of D&D to a protracted conclusion. But it’s a fine return to form that promises continuing great things now that Nanjiani is back as the fount of quippy one-liners. [KM]

How Was Your Week #133: Lin-Manuel Miranda: “Chive Teef”
In a return to form after a couple of off-weeks, How Was Your Week has a strong opening monologue and interview with Broadway composer/actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, making for Julie Klausner’s most lively and engaging segments in recent memory. Miranda has a quick wit and eclectic sense of humor, and his lifelong love of Broadway musicals creates a good rapport with Klausner from the start. The highlight is a long section in which Miranda tells Klausner about the process of working with Neil Patrick Harris to write the much-lauded opening number from the 2013 Tony Awards; Klausner gets some good behind-the-scenes stories and genuine insights into Miranda’s writing process. [DF]

Improv4Humans #99 LIVE From Bumbershoot Pt. 1
For the most part, the running time for Improv4Humans always feels about right at 60 to 80 minutes. But once in a while, Matt Besser will assemble a four-person crew that jibes so well you wish they would keep going. This perfect live episode featuring Horatio Sanz, Tim Meadows, and Brian Huskey could have gone on for another hour or more. (Maybe it will—this is just part one.) “LIVE From Bumbershoot” is one of the best of the year, if not ever. The jubilant audience (as well as the heckler who was immediately booed out of the theater) plays a huge role in making it great, and a dumb Horatio Sanz joke about Nightmare On Elm Street might have been the show’s highlight. Folks, this is absolutely required listening. [MK]

Judge John Hodgman 12 Angry Birds
John Hodgman’s latest open-and-shut case hinges on another semantic dispute. Anna’s boyfriend, David, says she is addicted to video games, but the issue is the way he talks about it. Plaintiff Anna doesn’t like being called an addict, and she claims she can multitask without truly ignoring him. David doesn’t mind her dedication to the “harmless pleasures” of casual gaming (as opposed to waging all-night World Of Warcraft campaigns), but he alleges her relentless gaming is simply rude, and it has turned their interaction into a “grotesque replica” of conversation. Hodgman solves the first-world problem with time to spare for a second technology-related case, this one about playlists for long drives. [DXF]

The J.V. Club #79: Gillian Vigman
Mothers are the major topic of conversation in Janet Varney’s delightful chat with actress Gillian Vigman (Step Brothers, The Hangover trilogy), in which the guest discusses her mom’s past as a Pan-Am stewardess with Alicia Silverstone’s mother and reminisces about how she used to get her back pimples removed via electrolysis. Vigman paints an evocative portrait of her adolescence, from the days she would be confused for a boy when she was team manager of her high school football team to the time she dated a mentally handicapped boy whose nickname was “Spooge.” Vigman’s willingness to talk about darker events like sleeping with one of her best friends while his girlfriend was away (and subsequently ruining their friendship) adds depth to the conversation, and helps bring adult problems into the mix. Vigman is relaxed but sharp and clever throughout the episode, and she does one hell of an English accent when she impersonates her and Silverstone’s British mothers. [OS]

The Moth The Moth Radio Hour: Party Crashers, Witch Hunts and Ninja Costumes
In any other setting, it takes about five years to build up enough rapport with a new friend before hearing the sort of personal stories told every week on The Moth, according to host Dan Kennedy. On any given night at a live StorySLAM performance, that translates to about fifty years of collective camaraderie with a group of strangers. You can really feel the love and support in this week’s episode, which breaks the usual 15-minute format and delivers the entire Radio Hour otherwise only listenable on 250 or so radio stations. To introduce the new 60-minute setup that will drop in periodically this fall, Jenifer Hixson and Kennedy break out the best of recent GrandSLAM entries and chime in between segments with banter about their connection to the program. This week’s particularly emotional collection, including an enlightening Q&A with a rabbinical student and an Equity stage manager’s off-kilter funeral arrangements, is an excellent entry point for new listeners. [DJ]

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My Brother, My Brother And Me #168: I Say Wopato
This week’s episode is a bit of a jarring listen, primarily because the brothers may come closer to achieving actual utility than they ever have before. They still use questions to catapult themselves into the free-associative geek realm, but it almost feels Seinfeldian this time around, discussing social Catch-22s with a focus on the seeming futility of it all. The discussions, however, are both worthwhile and relevant for their target demo: people somewhere on the border between adult responsibility and childhood whimsy. They actually try to pin down when it’s appropriate to refer to younger people as “kids” and engage in a brainstorming session about how to best approach physical contact with people you only sort of know. The latter turns to a proposal that we use D&D-style dice to determine who touches what. So, yes, it’s still the brothers, but it’s their more contemplative side. [AB]

Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #69: Josh Stamberg, Jason Nash
A guest’s success in the Sklarsphere is heavily dependent on how willing he or she is to play around. (After all, the brothers’ energy can be a challenge to match.) Luckily, Josh Stamberg jumps in with both feet for this round of what may as well be called “Florida Stories” by this point. There seems to be more discussion about perpetrators’ drug use than usual during this episode, which propels Dan Van Kirk to new heights of mockery. And while this week’s show maintains the Sklars’ typical zippiness, it also comes dangerously close to insensitivity, both in terms of the group’s flippancy with regard to people who may have serious drug addictions and in the show’s final segment: a defensive voicemail from Michael Douglas discussing what it’s like to play a gay character. It’s unclear exactly what the joke is (if it’s that Michael Douglas is closeted, it seems both tasteless and a little confusing), and it unfortunately leaves a bad taste in the mouth at the tail end of what is otherwise another fun romp through America’s backwater. [AB]

Sklarbro Country #165: He’s A Lesbian: Terrell Owens, Chris Cox
NFL legend and end-zone choreographer Terrell Owens is already a chatty guy, and when he meets the amiable, hyper-informed Sklars, the result is a pretense-free, absorbing episode. Topics of conversation include T.O.’s belief that homosexuality is a choice (addressed and then gracefully side stepped by the hosts), his beef with Bill Romanowski, the NFL’s concussion epidemic, and the possibility of working with Riley Cooper. After Owens’ engrossing chat, it’d be nice to see more athletes visit Sklarbro; when the podcast occasionally broaches more serious topics, it does so in a refreshing way that ditches the austerity of shows like Real Sports. [DJ]

Sound Opinions #407: Cheap Trick
In-studio performances on podcasts are, by and large, entirely skippable. Not so with this week’s edition of Sound Opinions, featuring an interview with Cheap Trick to celebrate the 35th anniversary of At Budokan. Sure, the details behind that album are informative, but the best reasons to listen this week are the awesome in-studio performances of “I Want You To Want Me,” “Lookout,” and “Surrender”—with bonus videos available to watch on the show’s YouTube page. This is the rare in-studio appearance that outshines the interview or review segments of the show, because let’s face it: Cheap Trick fucking rules. [KM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class Philo T. Farnsworth
Hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey use this episode to honor one of the greatest inventors of the modern era, “Father of Television” Philo T. Farnsworth. A prodigious child who used his ingenuity to wire his family home with electricity before he was in high school, Farnsworth first envisioned the concept for projected electric images as a teenager. Though eventually recognized for his work in some respects, he also had to fight for legal and financial compensation in a major patent suit. Wilson and Frey include some of Farnsworth’s science in his story, but they wisely focus on his personality and intelligence in order to make the episode a compelling human tale. Though the most inspiring aspect of the story is a schematic Farnsworth drew as a teen, preserved by his former teacher and assisting him in his legal battle with corporate behemoth RCA. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class Mendez v. Westminster
As hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey note, the most famous landmark case in school desegregation is certainly Brown v. The Board Of Education, but no less compelling is the case of Mendez v. Westminster. Set earlier in the 20th century against the backdrop of Orange County, California, the case settled the right for five Hispanic children to attend the same schools as white children. “Hispanic” was not a term that was popularized either, as Southern California was gripped with fear over immigrating Mexicans and tended to use that term to describe anyone of Latin American origin. The stories interweave with the Brown case as well as the Japanese-internment cases of the era. Wilson and Frey do not shy away from admitting the story makes their blood boil, and their passion for the topic makes the episode especially memorable. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know How IEDs Work
Though the ominous title of this SYSK episode may rankle some of their more reactionary listeners, hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant lean on the show’s format of wisdom and whimsy to deliver a worthy, educational listen. Those wondering how to make a bomb will be rightfully disappointed, as Clark and Bryant spend most of their discussion on the more philosophical reasoning behind IED creation and how modern civilization has adapted to protect itself from guerilla warfare. There are moments of lightness as well, such as Clark’s dislike for a goofy moment in the film Zero Dark Thirty. The episode becomes a little uncomfortable when the actual parts and structure of an IED are explained, but there is insufficient detail to do any harm, and the hosts make it clear that peaceful vigilance can be gained from this knowledge. [DT]

The Todd Glass Show #119: James Adomian
This is another episode where 30 or 40 minutes passes until the guest shows up, but in James Adomian’s case, it is definitely worth the wait. From the moment Adomian shows up, he injects the show with a lively energy via his various impressions, including Tom Leykis and food critic Merrill Shindler. There are points when Glass essentially cedes control of the episode to Adomian because he is laughing so hard that he can barely breathe, let alone talk. Also, Glass gets some mileage out of a new jingle centered around the Brian Regan bit about a waiter getting asked for a glass of water that Glass and guests have been deconstructing for the past few episodes. [MS]

Uhh Yeah Dude #388
Uhh Yeah Dude has perfected the art of simply restating a performer’s material, mostly sans commentary, and letting the weakness of the jokes speak for itself. Whether it’s a chunk of out-of-touch Jerry Seinfeld standup, some spastic Robin Williams riffs—or in this case, Arsenio Hall’s time-capsule comedy—Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette convey the depth of their dissatisfaction with lame material. They’re not angry, just disappointed. The pair is more positive when discussing Larroquette’s multi-million-dollar, bathroom-centric invention ideas, and their dreams only get bigger when MacArthur Foundation “genius” grants start dancing in their eyes. [CW]

WTF #424: Harris Wittels
Harris Wittels has stated in other forums that he was reluctant to do WTF because he has had a pretty easy life, and while that certainly does seem to be the case, he proves to be an excellent guest nonetheless. More than anything else, the episode just feels like Marc Maron and Wittels hanging out, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. It is very hard to go wrong with Wittels in front of a microphone, and he makes for a compelling presence despite the fact that he isn’t trying to crack jokes the whole time. Instead, it becomes an insightful, light, and funny chat between two comedy professionals of different generations that touches on music, drugs, and the ever-evolving world of comedy. [CG]

You Made It Weird Dean Delray
Following a run of high-profile comedic talent including Eric Andre, Nick Swardson, and Chris Gethard, it’s a bit of a bummer—initially, at least—to see the name of a relative unknown like Dean Delray on a popular podcast like YMIW. One of the advantages of the medium, after all, is that it allows hosts to perform in-depth (though, admittedly, often winding or “free-form”) interviews with well-known subjects uncensored and for as long as time permits. But Delray may be worth listening to precisely because he’s so young in “comedy years” and a bit older in regular ones. The comparatively advanced age at which he began his stand-up career propelled him to haul serious ass when it came to getting his name out there, and his energy is impressive, to say the least. It does feel like he’s taken the fast track (as proven by his appearance not just here, but also on WTF) and, as a result, has a bit of an ego about his success thus far, but it’s hard to argue that it isn’t warranted. [AB]


THE REST

The Best Show on WFMU
Tom Scharpling’s sound collage continues its reign of demented brilliance, but the rest of this episode lacks the inspiration of recent installments. [TC] 

The Fogelnest Files #55: Dick Joke Phone: Jenny Johnson
Jenny Johnson is undoubtedly a talented humorist (and, as this week’s episode proves, a charming individual), but her comedy also relies heavily on being in written form. And while she has a pretty successful career thus far, it doesn’t seem to be enough to satisfactorily fill the length of an episode. [AB]

Hang Up And Listen The Johnny Hancock Is Just A Kid
An episode without Josh Levin or Mike Pesca limits the panel to three football-related topics that, while lively and informative, don’t push past previous discussions. [KM]

Improv4Humans #98.5 Bonus Cut: Best Of What’s Bothering You? Special
“Best of” episodes are often the best places to start with an unfamiliar podcast, but this compilation of Matt Besser’s What’s Bothering You? segments work better for listeners who are already fans of the show. [MK]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #133: Adrienne Selbert
Paul Gilmartin and friend Adrienne Selbert discuss sex and religion on a program that typically bungles both topics. The result is one of the most exasperating MIHH episodes to date. [TC]

Monday Morning Podcast
Most of the stories Bill Burr shares about his recent escapades in Texas with Paul Virzi are terrific, but everything else is skippable. [CG]

Nerdist #408: Alison Brie Returns!
All three Nerdist hosts sit down with the bubbly Alison Brie for a second time. Unfortunately, this interview never really finds a comfortable common ground between a straightforward interview and four buddies constantly doing bits. [MS]

Nerdist #410: Brad Neely
This episode covers a lot of ground rather quickly, and by far the most fascinating part comes early when Brad Neely and Jonah Ray discuss their work for Super Deluxe before it was folded into Adult Swim. Afterward, it loses any reason to stick around. [DA]

Professor Blastoff #122 Religious Science (w/ Stephanie Allynne)
Tig Notaro is left to push through Professor Blastoff's tour fatigue without her co-hosts this week, joined by guest Stephanie Allynne for a conversation that never heats up. [NJ]

The Smartest Man in the World Beignets
Live from New Orleans, Proops’ curseable local-weather trait of the week: humidity. Laudable regional cuisine: fritters, grits. Quotable local hero: William Faulkner. Recurring political theme: the war on women. Musical group he doesn’t like: The Doobie Brothers. Hot-button topic: British Petroleum oil and gas company. [DXF]

Stuff You Should Know How Dying Works
Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant have hyped their interest in literal death for a long time, but the resulting episode is marred by a nervous atmosphere. [DT]

Who Charted? #146: Keep It Clean
Burning Love’s June Diane Raphael is about as likable as they come, but even she can’t make a bunch of non-stories about the Creative Arts Emmys interesting. [MS]

WTF #425: Baratunde Thurston
How To Be Black author (and former Onion digital director) Baratunde Thurston keeps his guard up in a disappointingly scattered interview highlighted by stories from his young life spent balancing extracurricular rites of passage with academic pursuits at a prestigious Washington, D.C., Quaker school. [NJ]

Filed Under: Comedy

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