Tenacious D rocks WTF and Yvette Nicole Brown completes The J.V. Club’s Community trifecta

Tenacious D rocks WTF and Yvette Nicole Brown completes The J.V. Club’s Community trifecta

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QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“People who read comments after a news story, and then they get into a fight: It’s like yelling at a cloud. It means nothing.” —Dana Gould, The Dana Gould Hour

“Hey, batter batter, lose focus, because I am yelling at you! … Are you playing baseball, or ‘stupid man on a field’? … I bet your blood’s not even tasty! … The only thing that you’re worse at than baseball is retorting to insults! … I loved you in A League Of Their Own.” —Two aliens heckling a macho baseball star, Thrilling Adventure Hour and SuperEgo’s ongoing collaboration.

“The only thing he did with ease was fall down, which he did with increasing regularity. It was nature’s way of saying, ‘Watch more television.’ His blindness was nature’s way of saying, ‘Oh sorry, you’re screwed.’ Whenever people say they love nature, I suspect they haven’t lived with her.” —Stephen Tobolowsky on watching his father walk to his car, The Tobolowsky Files

“I don’t love any story where someone’s cock is in peril.” —Greg Behrendt, Walking The Room

NEW (TO US)

This Feels Terrible
Adapted from her live show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles, Erin McGathy’s This Feels Terrible is a show all about love and relationships, and more specifically about the awful, painful sides of love and relationships. Each week sees comedian and writer McGathy talking to fellow comedic performers about their past relationships, horrifically embarrassing childhood experiences, and the overall evolution of their respective personalities, along with whatever mildly related tangents come up along the way. McGathy provides a safe, judgment-free space for her guests, and while her razor-sharp wit occasionally rears its head, she does an admirable job of keeping things emotionally honest and genuine.

This Feels Terrible got off to a terrific start with its première episode featuring McGathy’s boyfriend and Community creator Dan Harmon as a guest. The two of them are incredibly funny and engaging personalities on their own, and those features are magnified when they convene for a hilarious and often uncomfortably intimate discussion of their respective pasts and current relationship. Another very strong entry is episode 7, featuring Dave Holmes. In his excellent appearance on You Made It Weird, Holmes touched lightly on his experiences being a homosexual and attending Catholic schools, but here he offers a more protracted—and thereby more fascinating—look at those points in his life, threaded with an ample amount of humor, resulting in a great episode through and through. [CG]


OUTLIERS

Naked Astronomy
With the recent cultural interest in the Mars rover landing, it’s a heady time for the folks behind the Naked Astronomy podcast, one of several shows by Cambridge University’s Naked Scientists that airs regularly on the BBC. Hosts Ben Valsler and Dominic Ford are very knowledgeable and direct a solid interview, like the one they have with Fred Taylor of Oxford University at the beginning of the most recent episode, “Martian Matters,” which explores the renewed interest in Mars. The two hosts are great at boiling down complex scientific matters for a general audience without dumbing things down too much. However, as smart as the show is, it can also be exceedingly dry. Of course, it is a science show produced by the BBC, so that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. But Naked Astronomy’s content is solid, moving through several stories in a conversational style that will pull in listeners in on the strength of the content. For those with a healthy interest in science and astronomy, it’s absolutely worth a listen. [MG]


THE BEST

The Dana Gould Hour #10: Pobodies Nerfect
The Dana Gould Hour is defined by boundless curiosity. As a comedian and a podcaster, Gould is interested in just about everything, especially where showbiz history is concerned. On his consistently delightful podcast, Gould surrounds himself with like-minded souls who share both his keen wit and infectious curiosity. On the latest episode, Blaine Capatch and Rob Cohen join Gould for a free-ranging and often hilarious conversation about fetishes, strip clubs, Rip Taylor, and gay truckers who may secretly be hard-charging, hard-sell heterosexual car salesman, in addition to an unusually perceptive “Political Talk With Two Guys From Boston.” It’s a measure of Gould’s generosity that the working-class “Political Talk” bit is never condescending in its depiction of the proletariat psyche; Gould allows the characters he and Mr. Show’s John Ennis so affectionately inhabit to share his lively intelligence, albeit of a slightly earthier, more plain-spoken variety. [NR]

Hang Up And Listen: The To Strip Or Not To Strip Edition
It’s a poorly guarded secret that, to many sports journalists, Lance Armstrong is an arrogant asshole. In the wake of Armstrong deciding to no longer contest doping charges against him, the Hang Up And Listen panel eviscerates the cyclist’s self-righteous attitude of the last decade, saving some leftover vitriol for the USADA, the organization questionably asserting the authority to strip Armstrong of his Tour de France titles. The panel is clearly uncomfortable with the task of picking apart the “universal non-acclaim” of Joe Posnanski’s recently released Joe Paterno biography, but they still feed like ravenous wolves on every part of the process that went wrong. Sandwiched between these two morally heavy topics is the monster Dodgers-Red Sox trade, which doesn’t really need extra analysis. [KM]

The J.V. Club #25: Yvette Nicole Brown
Janet Varney completes the trifecta of Community ladies with her interview of Yvette Nicole Brown, and like the previous Gillian Jacobs and Alison Brie episodes, it’s one of the show’s strongest installments. Brown’s varied experience as a performer (as a singer in the ’90s and now as an actress) results in a broad but engaging discussion of the entertainment industry, and reveals Brown’s remarkable optimism and self-confidence in the face a business that loves to tear people down. She tells Varney that from a young age, she and her friends decided that they would be proud outcasts, accepting that beauty isn’t everything and that personality and intelligence are most important. That’s brought Brown a long way, but not without her share of struggles, which she simply views as requisite roadblocks on the way to success. It’s an inspiring conversation for artists of all ages, balancing Brown’s more emotional personal history and spiritual outlook with delightful anecdotes about escaping Midwest weather, and ending with a reappearance of The J.V. Club Cootie Catcher. [OS]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #75: Todd Sawyer
The idea that publicly professed pain is better than the lonely hell of silent misery is the foundation of The Mental Illness Happy Hour, but comic Todd Sawyer talks in this episode about the difficulty of acknowledging his suffering to himself. While Sawyer speaks candidly about a childhood filled with serious physical abuse from his mother, he tells Paul Gilmartin that he rarely grants himself the same level of compassion he has given his tormentor. The comedian maintains a somewhat somber, matter-of-fact tone throughout an interesting conversation about the wide-ranging consequences of personal severity and the resulting rigidity with others. Gilmartin allows the discussion to flow naturally and offers a few theories that seem to legitimately help Sawyer. That support for guests is one of the admirable ways the podcast keeps from stumbling into simple voyeurism. [TC]

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #68: Icelandic Lakrits Candy
With an Icelandic chocolate bar/black licorice combination entering MATES headquarters, Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh quickly break out the foreign accents and character-based riffing. From there, the episode explores tangents ranging from the Gin Blossoms’ “Til I Hear It From You” to Jack Black imitations. Black and Cavanagh do a great job of bouncing back and fourth between topics without ever losing momentum, allowing jokes to end when they need to and never staying on one topic for too long. It’s episodes like this that show how strong MATES can be when the hosts let things flow and don’t stick too rigidly to any one specific format. [DA]

My Brother, My Brother And Me #117: If You Like Romneycoladas
Intentionally or not, the McElroy brothers occasionally dedicate almost entire episodes to questions about relationships and sex, and this week’s installment certainly falls into that category. After an opening bit about the Republican National Convention, essentially every single segment is either directly about those topics or inadvertently related back to them in some way. Luckily, the brothers take nothing too seriously this time around, so the episode never gets monotonous. Pieces of legitimate advice are few and far between, prompting Travis to exclaim, “We’ve helped literally no one,” as Justin, wearied by the preceding 45 minutes of silliness, despondently tries to wrap things up early. A brilliant advertisement for a sex-toy website and a long, filthy, incest-tinged response to one question are highlights, but the whole episode is a standout. [CG]

Nerdist #248: Joel Hodgson
As the creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Joel Hodgson makes for an ideal Nerdist guest. Although his demeanor is a bit more laid-back than that of the hosts, he offers up a great deal of insight into the genesis of MST3K, how the show gained its fan base, and the switchover to a different host. While all the MST3K tidbits are interesting, his brief anecdotes about sharing a warehouse space with Minneapolis punk bands like Hüsker Dü and The Replacements suggest that Hodgson has a wealth of experience that lends itself to more than just commentary on his creations. [DA]

Nerdist #250: Alton Brown
Alton Brown, the charismatic host of the always informative and often quirky Food Network show Good Eats, joins Nerdist for an episode that’s never lacking in energy. Hosts Chris Hardwick and Matt Mira bounce topics off of their guest that range from Brown’s experience with aviation and Dr. Who fandom to simple cooking skills and his desire to break down food myths. The rapid-fire back-and-forth between the three makes the episode move quickly, keeping the anecdotes rolling and occasionally allowing Brown to show off a side of him that’s rarely seen in his television work. As the episode wraps up, Brown offers a simple burrito recipe to complement Nerdist's traditional “enjoy your burrito” send-off, making this installment enjoyable for foodies and nerds alike. [DA]

Never Not Funny #1110: Money In The Bank With Mike Sweeney
Jimmy Pardo opens with an update on his testicles—he has epididymitis, and is in constant pain, which may explain his lower-than-usual energy level. Pardo being Pardo, though, it’s hardly noticeable, and he’s often charged up when needling back and forth with quick-witted guest Mike Sweeney, a longtime writer for both of Conan O’Brien’s talk shows. Sweeney’s cutting remarks contrast well in the room, and lengthy riffs on a trip to Catalina and his dislike of “The Wreck Of The Edmond Fitzgerald” offer up some good combative material. It may not be the most outright funny episode lately, but Sweeney’s clever asides amidst the stories, as well as his sarcastic fascination with Dan Katz, are endlessly entertaining. [SM]

The Smartest Man In The World #173: Balaclavas
Greg Proops’ second recent dispatch from Edinburgh is another success, in large part because he doesn’t wail on many subjects long enough for listeners to tire of them. Like last week’s installment, this one gets started with Proops’ silly ravings about Edinburgh’s strange allure, especially “the blood and the sputum.” The Scottish apparently continue to eat it up, and it’s fun to hear Proops rip apart their critiques of Americans’ sense of humor. [SG]

Sklarbro Country #109: Imported Lady Energy: Julie Klausner, Jason Nash
Crazy stories are Sklarbro Country’s stock in trade, but they’ve seldom dealt with a sports-related anecdote wilder or more morbidly fascinating than the tale of a serial nuisance-lawsuit-filer named Gino Romano, who filed for a restraining order against Bruce Jenner and various Kardashians for harassing him and betraying their country for their “Al-Qaeda masters.” It’s so surreal and over-the-top that the legal document mapping out Romano’s hyperventilating argument plays more like zany social satire than an actual lawsuit. This all segues nicely into a closing call with Jason Nash’s always amusing, invariably emasculated Bruce Jenner, who denies some of the wild allegations laid out in the suit, but not all. [NR]

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Sound Opinions #352: The Best Days Of The Week Songs
Theme episodes are a tradition on Sound Opinions, and always a nice excuse for Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot to spin songs from a variety of genres. This episode has the critics picking a great song for each day of the week, and they manage to cover blues, jazz, and rap along with some more predictable classic-rock choices. (Does anyone truly want to hear Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” ever again? How about “Saturday’s Child” by The Monkees?) Later in the episode, they muster a defense of the critically maligned (but secretly totally okay) new Yeasayer album, which will hopefully inspire listeners to give it a chance. [SH]

Stuff You Should Know: What Happens To Abandoned Mines?
As fans of urban exploration, hosts Josh Clark (barely winning a battle with a cold) and Chuck Bryant would love to go jump down a hole and see what’s inside. But they don’t recommend exploring the abandoned mines referred to in this episode, of which there are thousands upon thousands that nobody even has a record of anymore. Drowning is the most common form of abandoned-mine-related death, but many also fall prey to carbon-monoxide asphyxiation, or have their ATVs disappear beneath the ground. The science is also fascinating, as the mess mining companies leave behind is straight out of a mad scientist’s lab. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How The Electoral College Works
The Electoral College is mentioned in most junior-high social-studies classes, but it’s a highly confusing process that even the hosts confess they’ve only just begun to understand. Designed to keep both the elites and the masses from actually deciding an election, the Electoral College has votes go to “electors,” who cast the actual vote. For those unaware, the popular vote means basically nothing: Rutherford B. Hayes swept the electoral vote despite losing the popular vote, and former president George W. Bush famously lost the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000 by an even wider margin. The system sounds more and more ridiculous the longer the episode goes on, but you’ll be glad you listened regardless. [DT]

This American Life #473: Loopholes
This American Life has an uncanny ability to pivot seamlessly from a short introductory story to the main focus of an episode, and this week is no exception. The episode begins with some horrifying historical data from a few hundred years ago: Women who found themselves trapped in a miserable marriage would sometimes choose to kill a child instead of committing suicide, because murder allowed the women to confess and repent, thus offering a chance at heaven. The story illustrates that when humans are presented with rules—religious, financial, or otherwise—they’ll inevitably search for ways around them. The episode then moves sideways into the story of Joseph Caramadre, a financial advisor who found a loophole in life-insurance policies that made him and his clients very wealthy, but involved some morally dubious actions. The intricacies are difficult to explain, but This American Life spells everything out in spellbinding and simple fashion. [KM]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #85/SuperEgo: War Of Two Worlds, Part 7
The little things can sometimes be just about everything in comedy. Or at least they show their importance as Thrilling Adventure Hour and SuperEgo continue to prove the worth of their initially confusing collaborative series about an alien invasion. The two camps’ writing and improvising talents started to interlock a couple installments ago, and this week, the series once again focuses on a specific, spectacular moment: haughty alien invaders heckling a player at what might be the last baseball game ever before the world’s destruction. It takes just that simple outline and seven minutes to bring out some of the series’ most punchy and giddily liberating banter yet. [SG]

The Tobolowsky Files #58: Gone
Is there a more surprising candidate for the country’s best essayist than Stephen Tobolowsky? With his book The Dangerous Animals Club set for release next month, The Tobolowsky Files returns with another poignant, elliptical, and heartbreaking episode focused on Tobolowsky’s hometown of Dallas, and all that is no longer there. This includes: Mrs. Baird’s bread factory (demolished in January 2011), SMU’s Ownby Stadium (demolished in 1998 and replaced by Gerald Ford Stadium), the pennies his mother placed on the bookcases of his house for small prayers, his mother, and now, slowly, his father as well. But some things do reappear, and the bookend segments about Tobolowsky’s run-in with the Green Bay Packers as a child are simply astonishing. [KM]

The Todd Glass Show #61: Camping With Tommy Chong
This time around, Todd Glass opts for a change of scenery and takes his motley crew of comics to his backyard for a combination camping trip and slumber party. The change in venue injects a fun energy into the show and makes listeners feel like they’re eavesdropping on some engaging party banter. The highlight is Tommy Chong’s drop-in appearance, during which he shares some old showbiz stories about Redd Foxx and Bob Dylan. (He gets particularly candid when discussing the late Foxx’s proclivities toward cocaine.) Plus, Chong serves the valuable purpose of verifying the urban legend that Foxx got played off the stage with the Sanford And Son theme after refusing to play to a small crowd. Glass seems particularly delighted to learn that there’s some truth behind one of the podcast’s most beloved recurring bits. [MS]

Uhh Yeah Dude #336
Generally, the more Uhh Yeah Dude functions like a news-of-the-weird aggregator and the less commentary it delivers, the worse an episode is. Episode #336 cheerily ignores this dictum, providing punchy stories of 127 Hours reenactments and deadbeat wedding photographers with scarcely a breath between them. The “isn’t this crazy?” approach works in part because of Seth Romatelli’s delivery, but also because these topics have been culled from all the leftovers he and Jonathan Larroquette have accumulated over the years, yielding an impressive hit-to-miss ratio. It’s an unusual hour in more ways than one, but even when UYD is on autopilot, it’s an excellent ride. [CW]

Walking The Room #118: Pistol Dick And Dirty Santa
Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt get plenty of mileage out of tormenting each other and besting the other’s stories, but this week’s episode shows the heights the two can reach with a bit of clear-headed cooperation. Some near-perfect comedic timing lifts the titular story—and its many detours—to one of the sharpest and funniest segments in some time. For all the teamwork, though, it wouldn’t be Walking The Room without a gross-out penis lesson and Behrendt’s insistence on pre-apocalyptic bestiality. [SM]

Who Charted? #91: Song Doctors: Dave Hill
Author, comedian, and delightfully petulant manchild Dave Hill also happens to be a musician, making for a fun listen as he tries to make sense of the top five entries on the Country Songs chart. For the most part, the best compliment he can give a song is that it’s great for what it is, but he never wants to hear it again. It wouldn’t be an episode of Who Charted? if Howard Kremer didn’t find a way to mention his all-consuming Drake hate, and the fact that he manages to do so during a country-music discussion is impressive. Fortunately, Hill has no problem contributing to the podcast’s long tradition of hating on the Canadian rapper, much to Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack’s delight. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #307: Tenacious D
Considering the paths Jack Black and his Tenacious D bandmate Kyle Gass have taken since, it’s a bit of a shock to remember they got their start with The Actors’ Gang, Tim Robbins’ theater troupe in Los Angeles. With Marc Maron, the two judiciously cover most of their background and early career struggles before delving into the little-known squabbles behind the scenes of their fiercely earnest rock act. It’s a jam session as well as an interview, and The D play about two and a half songs from their latest album, Rise Of The Fenix, while Black cheekily calls out Maron for not being able to name a single one of their songs. In the opening segment, Maron calls up Mike Birbiglia to talk Sleepwalk With Me and trade complisults, managing to only briefly mention his own supporting role. [KM]

WTF With Marc Maron #308: Andy Daly
Supremely talented, humble, and eminently likeable, actor and performer Andy Daly is the type of guy everyone wants to see succeed. He’s also one of the most consistently great podcast guests on the circuit, and his visit to the Cat Ranch simply reaffirms all of that. The tale of his adolescence—oddly Max Fischer-esque in that he was “well-known but not well-liked” in high school and put much more effort into extracurricular activities than he ever did into academic performance—is hilarious, heartbreaking, and totally endearing, especially the way Marc Maron frames it. The rest of his story leading up to his first few show-business breaks is similarly tragicomic, resulting in an episode that’s engaging from start to finish. [CG]

You Made It Weird #79: Shane Mauss
Pete Holmes’ boundless curiosity about human and animal nature once again leads him and his eminently game and engaged guest, Shane Mauss, down some seriously strange roads. Holmes’ conversation with the up-and-coming comedian (and former crouton-factory employee) about anal sex and kinks leads to a wide-ranging discussion of sexual selection in nature, surviving an apocalypse, and the different ways men and women process and enjoy pornography. The sexual dovetails nicely with the scientific and the sociological in an episode that’s equal parts dirty and cerebral, educational and prurient. [NR]


THE REST

Comedy Bang! Bang! #173: Ride Like Hell: Paul F. Tompkins, Paul Scheer, Brent Weinbach
Paul Scheer scores some big laughs as a hyper-aggressive movie marketer hell-bent on shoving Premium Rush down the movie-going public’s collective gullet, but otherwise this is an overly cluttered, sometimes halting episode that only comes together in its final third. [NR]

Monday Morning Podcast
Despite the early promise of some refreshingly focused ranting about steroids, as well as a couple of interesting listener emails later on, this week’s episode is highly inconsistent. [CG]

The Moth: Mike Birbiglia: Sleepwalk With Me
Mike Birbiglia’s story about his unusual sleep disorder and the dramatic circumstances it’s landed him in—which he originally told at this Moth performance—is always enjoyable, but it’s appeared in so many venues and media at this point that you’ve probably already heard it a few times. [GK]

Nerdist #249: Steve Jones
Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones mumbles his way through an interview that only sees him elicit excitement when he talks about who he’s slept with. [DA]

Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #14: Dan Van Kirk
This episode sorely misses a guest to add an unexpected take on the story of an Olympian who tried to break the world record for The Beer Mile. Those looking for an extra dose of Sklar with a higher dose of laughs this week should try their Stand Down video. [KM]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #232: Emmett Hall
Conversation is choppy but linear as Sunday Service comedian and former My Little Pony animator Emmett Hall breaks down Brony culture, the hosts deconstruct The Dark Knight Rises, and a caller provides a dramatic “Overseen.” [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: 5 Historical Storms
This episode has some great, startling moments from the early days of weather-watching, but the stories don’t last long and little data is verified. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: How The Mayan Calendar Works, Revisited
This classic Mayan calendar episode might be worth forwarding to your annoying cousin, but it’s still a recent rerun. [DT]

You Made It Weird #78: Brent Weinbach
With all his eccentricities, Brent Weinbach could make for a brilliant You Made It Weird guest. Instead, he’s deliberately and intensely guarded for the entire episode, during which he also tries to deconstruct Pete Holmes’ deconstruction of his personality—all of which is just plain frustrating. [CG]

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