The best podcasts for the week of April 26-May 2

The best podcasts for the week of April 26-May 2

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“Do you get a nice monthly check from the government for dwelling on things?” —Doug Benson to Pete Holmes, Doug Loves Movies

“If I was to sleep with someone to get a job, it wouldn’t be on the fucking E! network.” —Chelsea Handler, WTF with Marc Maron

“There it is! That’s what it looks like! Look at it! In its natural habitat! Look at its face!” —Greg Behrendt welcoming Brian Posehn, Walking The Room

“Pinterest, for people who don’t know, is a social network for pictures of wedding cakes.” —Dave Shumka, Stop Podcasting Yourself

“Instead of them trying to de-salinize the ocean, they should just add pepper.”
“Shouldn’t this segment just be called ‘Harris’ Twitter Drafts’?” —Harris Wittels and El Chupacabra (Nick Kroll) in Harris’ Foam Corner, Comedy Bang Bang

“GOOD THINGS DO COME IN BEARS!!.... is how I climax.” —T.J. Miller, Doug Loves Movies

“I’ve always wanted to have a Greek sitcom called Olive Lucy.” —Zach Galifianakis, Comedy Bang Bang

“How can you be so volatile and only be in two fist fights?”
“Because people are terrified of me. When you’re this angry, and they see in your eyes that you would probably blow up the building, they sort of back off.” —Paul Gilmartin and Dave Anthony, Walking The Room

NEW (TO US)

Mohr Stories
Actor-comedian Jay Mohr is the most accomplished host in the SModcast Internet Radio stable, Kevin Smith’s collection of like-minded pals with the gift of gab. Mohr Stories is an outlet for Mohr’s inner super-fan, eager to talk shop and learn how some of his favorite movies were made. A perennial presence in the iTunes Top 10, the talk show concentrates on film professionals and comedians, including recent guests Aisha Tyler, Solitary Man director/Rounders screenwriter Brian Koppelman, and Hoarders host Matt Paxton. Seventy percent interview and 30 percent conversation, Mohr’s chats are dusted with anecdotes from his Hollywood résumé and delivered in a film-geek dialect that routinely lapses into Goodfellas quotes and a dead-on Buddy Hackett impression. Van Halen’s “Unchained” serves as the theme song, and the testosterone-fueled rock is emblematic of the podcast’s polarized reception. 

Career controversy and mid-level success have humbled Mohr, who is far removed from his signature role, Jerry Maguire’s slimeball sports agent Bob Sugar. That experience provides an early highlight of his podcast in episode five, “The Legend Of Tom Cruise,” a mesmerizing account of working on that film. The more recent “Mac And Me,” episode 42, is a meeting of the minds with filmmaker Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Rent, the first two Harry Potter installments). In an hour-long interview, Columbus takes Mohr behind the curtain with anecdotes about casting the Harry Potter stars, meeting with Christopher Walken for four hours, directing Joe Pesci, managing $100 million productions, and why he’s now working in television. Mohr puts the director at ease, coaxing out candid insights and quotes like, “You do movies like Harry Potter… and you get fat, you get lazy, you’re like, ‘I’ll take 160 days to shoot a guy on a broomstick.’” [DXF]


OUTLIERS

Modern Witch 
Modern Witch is a snappy title, but this podcast could really be called Life Advice And Music From Wiccans. Wiccans Devin Hunter and Rowan Pendragon use their philosophy to dole out life advice and recommend music—the latter spanning nearly all genres but always including some kind of witch theme. The advice, though practical and fairly mundane (like how to avoid distractions), is filtered through the language of Ecstatic Witchcraft and includes a lot of discussion of “energy” and “magick circles.” Season 3 Episode 13 goes even heavier on the music because Pendragon is absent, but they draw from his “New-Moon Playlist.” (Other themes in this week’s show: Morrissey Banishment Spell, Amanda Palmer Voodoo, according to the website.) It works pretty well, as advice on topics like how to live in the present could apply to pagans and non-pagans alike. [AJ]


THE BEST

The Bugle #192: Uncle Rupert: The Real Victim 
This week, Andy Zaltzman carries on several conversations with himself, reducing John Oliver to a (capable) hype man. Because no one seems able to stay on Zaltzman’s level, he makes a solid case for having his own podcast. Uncharacteristically for The Bugle, the episode comes off almost as three disparate segments combined—Oliver doing impressions, Zaltzman potentially going insane, and Producer Chris trying to get into the mix with random observations—but it’s all effective nonetheless. The middle stretch contains far more facts than jokes, but closing segments of Zaltzman playing dual roles in a re-enactment of Hitler’s Bunker, and Producer Chris’ recounting of failing to run the London Marathon, make up for any earlier lost laughter. [AJ]

Comedy Bang Bang #156: Anniversary Party!: St. Vincent, Zach Galifianakis, Paul F. Tompkins, Harris Wittels, James Adomian, Nick Kroll, Brett Gelman, Jessica St. Clair
Comedy Bang Bang celebrates its third anniversary with an all-star cavalcade of guests hitting fan-favorite sweet spots: Harris Wittels’ Foam Corner delivers reliably limp jokes (including a fantastically stupid closer about Gotye); Jessica St. Clair returns as Marissa Wompler; Nick Kroll cycles through El Chupacabra, Baby, and a new character, musician Toph Shay of Horse, (pronounced “Horse Comma”); James Adomian appears as a hologram of Christopher Hitchens (which sounds an awful lot like his Alan Rickman); there’s a quick appearance by the Cake Boss in the cold open; Annie Clark of St. Vincent performs; and generally awesome people Zach Galifianakis and Brett Gelman are guests as well. Even when the jokes fall flat, it’s fun to hear everyone cracking each other up, like when Galifianakis loses it after Hitchens mentions his kids’ cereal, Christopher Hitchens’ Marshmallow Spectrally Projected Grahams. For CBB fans, this is tough to beat. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: T.J. Miller, Pete Holmes, Dan Gabriel, Graham Elwood
Pete Holmes proves to be the human embodiment of The Rake Effect this week, his loud-mouthed digressions—the result of oysters, white wine, and secondhand weed smoke—going from funny to obnoxious and back to funny again over the course of 90 tangent-filled minutes. That T.J. Miller and Graham Elwood, no wallflowers themselves, seem subdued by comparison speaks to Holmes’ atomic energy, and poor Dan Gabriel all but disappears in the crossfire. But the lopsided chemistry works, thanks in large part to Doug Benson’s reaction to Holmes, which vacillates between amused and annoyed, and Miller’s eardrum-bursting chemistry with Holmes. (“DENVER, YEEEAH!”) Throw in an ongoing “We Will Rock You” riff and a truly astonishing last-minute choke in the Leonard Maltin Game, and you have the makings of an exhausting but frequently laugh-out-loud DLM episode. (Editor’s note: Because Podmass contributor Dan Telfer appears on the live in Chicago episode, we won’t be reviewing it, but you should check it out anyway.) [GK]

Hang Up And Listen: The Kissing The Pitcher Edition
With Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose out with a torn ACL, most likely ending the postseason hopes of the NBA’s best team, conventional wisdom holds that the lockout-shortened season—with its lack of training camp and its many back-to-back games—was responsible for his and other injuries. In true Hang Up And Listen style, that conventional wisdom is shot down with the help of actual data, courtesy of Basketball Prospectus’ Kevin Pelton, revealing that this year was not much more injury-plagued than any other. The best segment, however, deals with budding Washington Nationals superstar/douchebag Bryce Harper, who once blew a kiss to an opposing pitcher after hitting a home run off him. Judging by his colorful quotes, Harper sounds like Tim Robbins in Bull Durham before he gets a lesson in how to talk to the press. [ST]

Judge John Hodgman: #58: Rashomom
On a show in which guests are occasionally chided for bringing non-conflicts to the court for the sole purpose of appearing on a podcast, the case in “Rashomom” (maybe the greatest of the show’s punny titles to date) sounds like the most egregious example. At issue: Denise remembers that she lived next door to a grey house as a child and her mother, Gloria, insists otherwise. But this conflict over a verifiable fact has layers to it that Judge Hodgman draws out beautifully, from the adorable quirk of other mother-daughter disputes being filed in “the grey house universe” to more profound revelations about how memory works. It helps that the guests—Denise, Gloria, and Denise’s daughter, Rebekah, who serves no purpose and gets appropriately mock-punished for it—are charming, and Hodgman’s decision ultimately honors the family dynamic. [ST]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #58: Dr. Jessica Zucker
Paul Gilmartin hasn’t previously interviewed an actual mental-health professional on The Mental Illness Happy Hour, and he’s never claimed to offer anything like expertise. Though it’s a departure from the show’s emphasis on personal stories, clinical psychologist Jessica Zucker’s appearance works out nicely because she’s game for Gilmartin’s informal tone and often manages to return his wisecracks in kind. The two manage to balance some very specific subjects (pornography, post-partum depression) with the show’s implied goal of offering something generally helpful, and Zucker gives her approval to Gilmartin’s open-ended approach. It ultimately becomes one of the harder episodes to get through, though, as Gilmartin opens up about a breakthrough he’s had about his mother. [SG]

The Moth: Caroline Kaplan: Moxie In Cannes
For those who can tolerate the low audio quality, this Moth finds Caroline Kaplan offering a solid tale about being young and hapless. It might not have much of a message, beyond the potential ups and downs of showing “moxie,” but as Kaplan recalls a disastrous first day at the Cannes Film Festival, she taps into one of The Moth’s best veins: making terrible mistakes, only to get good laughs out of them years later. More importantly, Kaplan’s frenzied delivery manages to challenge the confused, flakey person she was when she made those mistakes. [SG]

Nerdist #198: Live From Minneapolis With Tim Meadows
Where Nerdist #196: Live In Chicago failed by being a glorified hostful episode, the Minneapolis edition proves to be a much more engaging affair. The addition of Tim Meadows grounds the Nerdist hosts, forcing them to ask well-informed questions while remaining playful enough to keep the audience entertained. The anecdotes Meadows shares about his time on Saturday Night Live are humorous, but the episode takes a dark turn when he speaks of his relationship with the late Chris Farley. They don’t dwell on this for long, though, and the momentum builds back up when Doug Benson makes a cameo to riff on audience-selected topics. [DA]

Nerdist #200: Kevin Smith #2
Kevin Smith’s affinity for conversation makes him an ideal podcast guest, but his other affinity for self-promotion can be problematic. Thankfully that doesn’t happen on his return visit to Nerdist, with Smith discussing a variety of topics without overly involving himself. Sure, the conversation about his use of a Fleshlight is a bit over the top, but when he stays on track, the episode offers a detailed discussion about the changing face of media, content distribution, and the growing importance of podcasts. [DA]

Sklarbro Country #92: Tiny Andy Dufrane: Zach Galifianakis, Chris Cox, Dan Van Kirk
There’s only one sports/comedy podcast that would feature a guest (Zach Galifianakis) talking about Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves To Death and the hosts extensively quoting the last paragraph of The Great Gatsby: Sklarbro Country, which almost single-handedly aspires to close the seemingly impregnable gulf between jocks and brains. Zach Galifianakis’ oddball energy is a weird fit for the endlessly enthusiastic Sklarbro Country, but he’s nevertheless a funny and engaging guest who is unexpectedly poignant discussing his love of his family and the bond he shares with his comedy colleagues. The affection between Galifianakis and the Sklars is palpable, but the podcast would be worth listening to for its rollicking commentary on an Australian penguin theft gone awry. [NR]

Sound Opinions: #335: The Return Of The Rock Doctors, Jack White Review And Greg’s DIJ
Despite its potential cheesiness, Sound Opinions’ “Rock Doctors” segment— “prescribing” music recommendations to listeners in some kind of rut—finds Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis making excellent judgments this episode. DeRogatis talks one guest into using a Loudon Wainwright III song at her wedding reception, and Kot tries to turn a couple on to the excellent new Heartless Bastards record, Arrow. Plus, said couple turns out to share Kot and DeRogatis’ talent for genially slagging on each other’s musical tastes, which makes this one of Sound Opinions more well-rounded and agreeable episodes of late. [SG]

Stuff You Missed In History ClassHorace Wells And The Gas War
This episode’s title references dental anesthesia, so this episode will appeal greatly to fans of medical history and Steve Martin’s character in Little Shop Of Horrors. The hosts tease that Horace Wells may be the inspiration for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the episode provides many historical anecdotes about the weird effects nitrous oxide had on people. It turns out that mandrake, opium, and other 200-year-old sedatives make for darkly amusing stories, including one about a tongue amputation gone awry. As a pioneer of pain relief and a passionate advocate for preventative and children’s dentistry, Wells seemed destined for greatness, but this episode traces the sad end to an important man’s life. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Did Language Evolve?
Co-host Josh Clark introduces a rare audio gimmick near the top of this episode and plays a minefield sound effect, to imply that the murkier areas of linguistics history are contentious. Luckily Clark and co-host Chuck Bryant have brought the research of neurosurgeons along with their bells and whistles. Bryant is also well-versed on the topic, and both hosts are champions of communication—or verbalization, because even pigeons can technically communicate. The lack of historical evidence makes for some occasional rough spots; listeners will enjoy it all, but the hosts’ enthusiasm and lack of evidence give the impression that this isn’t an exact science. [DT]

Uhh Yeah Dude #320
Episode 320 of Uhh Yeah Dude finds Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette with new stories to tell and fire in their bellies: Larroquette because of a poisonous breakfast burrito he consumed after a trip to Guatemala, Romatelli because he’s entertaining dreams of breaking the Guinness record for longest podcast. (Frustratingly, #320 misses Keith And The Girl’s benchmark by a mere 73 hours.) Both hosts are in especially good form, with Romatelli gluing all the riffs about National Older Americans Month, Lime-a-ritas, and EZ Lube together with near-constant callbacks, and Larroquette delivering a dramatic retelling of the time he laid down the law for his busybody neighbor. Add to those elements a major upset in the game of Mind’s Eye, and #320 is a welcome reminder of just what listeners missed when UYD went silent the week before last. [CW]

Walking The Room: #101 Live With Brian Posehn & Paul Gilmartin
If the first episode of Walking The Room’s two-hour live show highlights one-half of Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt’s DNA—that of focused spirals of absurdity (Patton Oswalt) and celebrity gossip (Karen Kilgariff)—then this week’s respectively vulgar and morbidly intimate second half completes it. A quick update on Brian Posehn’s work in Anger Management—starring Charlie Sheen, though the two have never met—leads to the recurring phrase “glaze that frown” and a new donut shop slogan, bested by his swapping of “random prostitute forcibly entered my car” stories with Anthony. Although the second half loses some steam in its attempt to define what exactly Walking The Room is without using grotesque metaphors (which they inevitably do), Paul Gilmartin’s fear of having Anthony as a guest on Mental Illness Happy Hour elevates Anthony’s bile to a place only the combination of the podcasting world’s darkest comedians could concoct. [SM]

Who Charted? #74: Engorged Heart Clit: Rob Delaney
Most guests know Rob Delaney from the unadulterated filth on his delightfully dark Twitter feed. That’s why it’s a little disarming to hear him thoughtfully eulogize Levon Helm or give an informed summation of photographer Annie Leibovitz’s career. But his multifaceted nature also makes him a great guest, and it doesn’t preclude him from peppering the conversation with references to anal sex and his fetish for pregnant women. Delaney also shares some excellent personal anecdotes, including the one where a photographer dressed him up in her dead husband’s clothes while shooting his headshot. Naturally, there is a lot of Twitter talk, but Delaney somehow makes this engaging. All in all, this episode definitely deserves a second listen, because it’s easy to get distracted wondering how someone can compose such disturbing tweets yet sound so respectable and well spoken. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #274: Bob Zmuda 
Andy Kaufman would be an ideal guest on WTF if he weren’t, you know, dead. Bob Zmuda, Kaufman’s writer, pal, accomplice, co-conspirator, and fellow Tony Clifton impersonator, is the closest Marc Maron will come to sitting down with Kaufman at the Cat Ranch. In a marathon conversation, Zmuda proves a raconteur and bon vivant of the old school, as he discusses his legendary collaboration with Kaufman and also very bizarre stint as assistant to eccentric, acclaimed screenwriter Norman Wexler. There are a surprising number of commonalities between Wexler and Kaufman: They essentially lived their lives as elaborate performance-art pieces and drew no distinction between their personal lives and their challenging, uncompromising art. In discussing Kaufman, Zmuda is respectful and admiring without ever devolving into the hagiography that marred the maudlin biopic Man On The Moon. Zmuda is especially candid and revealing while discussing Kaufman’s voracious libido and sexual peccadilloes. This entertainingly exhaustive, freewheeling interview runs well over two hours but never drags: It’s comedy history at its most juicily entertaining. [NR]

WTF With Marc Maron #275: Chelsea Handler
Comedian and author Chelsea Handler is every bit the mouthy little sister that she professes to have been in her youth during her poolside chat with Marc Maron, and it’s clear that Maron is charmed during their rapid-fire, mutually shit-giving interview. Handler is one of those Maron interviewees who turns his questions back on him, but it’s not an evasion tactic: Perhaps it’s understandable that she is a bit caustic as she discusses which comics she’s slept with, what sleeping with 50 Cent was like, and the accusations that she’s famous because she slept with the head of the E! network. (She also doesn’t mind sharing her affinity for pills and her distaste for sitcoms in general, including her own.) Perhaps what’s most fun about Handler’s interview is how unabashedly she enjoys her wealth, from her extravagantly decorated house to her vacations with friends to her funding the college educations of her nine nieces and nephews. [CZ]

You Made It Weird #44: Dana Gould
Dana Gould is one of comedy’s deepest, smartest, and most consistently funny figures, as well as an oft-overlooked alternative-comedy pioneer, former Simpsons writer, and podcaster (the essential Dana Gould Hour). The ingratiatingly ADD-addled, puppy-like Pete Holmes continually peppers Gould with references from episodes that pre-date Gould’s stint on The Simpsons, but the affable comedian takes it in stride while offering funny anecdotes from his time on the show. The Simpsons represents only part of Gould’s life and career, though: He’s just as entertaining discussing his marriage, fatherhood, professional frustrations, and, in a story he shared on The Dana Gould Hour but bears repeating, being touched by the graciousness and warmth of Charlton Heston after they appeared together on Politically Incorrect. Gould is a terrific podcaster, but he’s an equally strong guest. [NR]

You Made It Weird #45: Shelby Fero 
The podcasting world is awfully incestuous: The same people pop up over and over again, so the introduction of a fresh voice can be awfully refreshing. Case in point: 18-year-old Twitter phenomenon, stand-up comic and, um, college freshman Shelby Fero. Fero hasn’t made the podcasting rounds yet, so her story and her sensibility are still fresh and original. On her episode of You Made It Weird, a distinct reversal occurs: Holmes comes off like a girlish teenager while the preternaturally mature Fero has the perspective and maturity of a middle-aged man. Fero is funny and candid discussing the difficulties of juggling college and a thriving comedy career and enjoys terrific chemistry with Holmes. [NR]


THE REST

The Best Show On WFMU
With Tom Scharpling still dealing with back problems, The Best Show loses steam early and never recovers. Veteran callers provide the only real highlights. [AF]

How Did This Get Made? #35: Tiptoes with Dave Holmes 
The group discusses the trainwreck drama that has Gary Oldman playing a dwarf who is also Matthew McConaughey’s twin. The banter is strong, but would be better if June Diane Raphael didn’t have to make an early exit. [OS]

Monday Morning Podcast
Bill Burr likely sets a record for most utterances of “whore” in a single episode—and that’s really saying something. [CG]

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #57: Dakin Farm Farmhouse Mix
This episode of MATES sees its hosts hitting their stride, but then killing their momentum with unrewarding tangents. [DA]

Nerdist #199: Romany Malco 
Romany Malco’s lengthy career in entertainment takes a backseat as he uses this interview as a platform to preach about what he sees wrong with America. [DA]

Never Not Funny #1021: Running The Show With Hugh Fink
Jimmy Pardo coaxes SNL writers’ room stories from Hugh Fink—head writer for the new Jimmy Pardo Needs Jokes—but strains to go beyond “inside baseball” talk. [SM]

The Smartest Man In The World #155: Banks
Greg Proops hits Chicago for some high-speed (what other speed does he have?) baseball history, music history, and a surprising amount of abrupt singing—too much. [SG]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #215: Rachel Burns
Comedian Rachel Burns prompts a rapid-shuffle conversation that covers acupuncture, high-school lockers, and co-host Dave Shumka’s honeymoon. [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Who Was The Real Professor Moriarty? (Part II)
Adam Worth led a fascinating life as a master thief, but it’s presented so densely here that listeners would be better off with an audiobook. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Medical Marijuana Works
Both hosts giggle through the research at anything that sounds remotely silly, a shame because they present compelling moral arguments that might interest people. [DT]

This American Life #463: Mortal Vs. Venial
Though Ira Glass and producer Alex Blumberg both have a heavy hand in this week’s episode about sin, it never quite gets off the ground. [EW]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #69: War Of Two Worlds, Part 3: “Welcome To High Water”
The Thrilling Adventure Hour’s partially improvised serial collaboration with Superego continues to confuse, though this episode is admittedly the funniest of the disorienting experiment. [SG]

The Todd Glass Show #42: Brendon Walsh, Daniel Kinno
Episode 42 has its share of laughs, but it’s also weighed down by political talk that threatens to drown the show’s bubbly high spirits. [NR]

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