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The best podcasts for the week of June 14-20 

Hey, you like podcasts? Make sure you check out Reasonable Discussions, the A.V. Club podcast. Podmass comments can be directed to podmass@avclub.com.

To listen to these and other podcasts, visit Podcast Central, our podcast hub. 


“Imagine Footloose with swearing instead of dancing.” — Charlie Demers, Stop Podcasting Yourself

“It’s just that those mod trousers never came in a size 52 waist. I felt excluded.” —Rotund rock critic Jim DeRogatis explaining his aversion to The Jam, Sound Opinions

“Personally, I never know whether to put one stamp or two or three [on a letter or package], and I feel like I’ve lost maybe… $4,000 in my life because I always want to overestimate and put more stamps than are needed. I don’t ever want to get the letter back from the post office—that’s just a symbol of great shame and failure.” —Josh Levin, adding color to the Stamps.com sponsor read, Hang Up And Listen

“Did you know computers can play music? It’s fantastic!”—Jason Nash’s Bruce Jenner on the marvels of modern technology, Sklarbro Country

“Men needed to go to hurt themselves in the mouth.”—Marc Maron on his heroic quest to conquer a spicy barbecue place in Nashville, WTF With Marc Maron 

“I think Finn saw someone wearing penis shoes, because he won’t stop saying it.” —A text from Dave Anthony’s wife, stuck in traffic waiting on a pride parade, Walking The Room

“My [teeth] looked like a fence built by a drunk person.” —Griffin McElroy describing his pre-braces “grill”, My Brother, My Brother And Me


Ten Minute Podcast
As its title suggests, Ten Minute Podcast delivers exactly 10 minutes of funny (plus about 30 seconds of fairly amusing commercials) twice a week. Each episode features the three hosts—Will Sasso, Chris D’Elia, and Bryan Callen—talking about whatever they feel like, plus a healthy dose of them busting each other’s balls. But the real comedy comes from the sometimes-intense faux animosity the three friends have for one another. There’s something about pushing people’s buttons until they snap that’s extremely funny, and these three have captured that magic perfectly. The 10-minute time limit decreases the risk of the jokes running out of steam or the fake bickering escalating beyond the point of humor; what’s left is a delightful sampling of hilarity perfect for filling in the short gaps of time during a workout or commute that other podcasts might leave behind.  

Dear TMP Pt. 5 is the fifth and last episode to feature questions from the audience via Twitter. The questions are fairly simple and not that interesting on their own, but the hosts’ responses prove their ability to make the mundane seem hilarious. This episode also features a pretty concentrated dose of the vulgar humor common to most of TMP, with lines like, “We are programmed to suck them tits.” While the hosts don’t come to blows as they did in the Cuddling Movie Night episode, there are still some great jabs, including several that surprisingly come from Sasso, who’s usually the tamest member of the crew. [AJ]


Active Time Babble  
 1up.com contributor Kat Bailey is a big fan of role-playing videogames, and she talks about the latest and greatest in the genre with a rotating cast of 1up staff in this biweekly show. Unlike a lot of videogame podcasts, Active Time Babble is focused and on-topic, featuring a host and guests who are very knowledgeable on the subject. Sometimes this can lead to discussions that nitpick the most minor of details, but diehard RPG fans will appreciate the in-depth coverage, and will likely also enjoy having something to argue about. Episode 34 is the first new episode in a year, and it covers everything from the forthcoming Japanese RPGs that have impressed Bailey to a detailed discussion of the pros and cons of the recently released Diablo III. This is one of the strongest episodes of the series to date, tackling the relevant discussions about RPGs in a thoughtful and intriguing way. If the show continues to build on the strength of this episode, it will definitely become a must-listen for all RPG aficionados. [AJ]


The Best Show On WFMU
After a jubilant victory lap for its 500th episode, The Best Show firmly reestablishes its surly bona fides this week. It’s a fitting mood swing for the show, which regularly thrives under the eternally aggrieved leadership of Tom Scharpling. In the 501st episode, Scharpling excoriates Adam Carolla’s misogynistic take on comedy, Soundgarden, and callers who don’t allow the host to finish a thought. It can be difficult to tell when Scharpling is genuinely angry over a perceived slight or difference of opinion, but this week’s indignation sounds like the real thing. The show takes a break from the animosity to bask in Scharpling’s love for Bad Company and his newfound respect for playing the spoons. It’s a brief interlude in an episode that serves as a testy separation from last week’s bit of warm nostalgia. [TC]

The Bugle #198: Warm Up And Melt Down
Following the joyous celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, The Bugle returns to the painful state of the world to mine for comedy gold. The world seems so pathetic in this episode that to do anything but laugh would mean resigning oneself to either insanity or deep depression. John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman, perhaps sensing their powerlessness, do an outstanding job of ignoring things like the failure of UNCED and a European economy that has metaphorically slammed its testicles in a George Foreman grill in favor of having a laugh. The episode’s standout moment comes when Oliver heckles a hologram of Abraham Lincoln, which is just the sort of thing that only The Bugle could conceive of and still manage to pull off.  [AJ]

Freakonomics Radio: Riding The Herd Mentality
This week’s episode examines how peer pressure and shame can push people to behave in a better way. It’s refreshing that host Stephen Dubner doesn’t use half-baked data, but instead looks at a few locales that addressed people behaving badly and how they fixed it. In Midland, Texas, for example, the city had to take measures to address a water shortage (during a drought) that was largely caused by one housing development’s residents who used too much water keeping their lawns green. The city set up a hotline where neighbors could tattle on one another for using too much water. [MM]

Hang Up And Listen: The All Greek To Me Edition
Josh Levin’s passionate sponsor read for Stamps.com may be the standout of this week’s solid episode: Every week, his contempt for the post office and its attendant hassles seems to grow more acute, and here he generously estimates the thousands of dollars misspent on too much postage, suggesting that most of his life has been spent mailing stuff. On the sporting front, the HUAL crew unpacks the thrilling NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder and chuckles at the humbled (read: bad) play of professional golfers at last weekend’s U.S. Open, which was ultimately won by a guy (Wade Simpson) who’d been sitting in the clubhouse for an hour while the other leaders flailed and shanked their way out of contention. The best segment deals with the appalling racism that’s tainted the Euro 2012, which the hosts generally see as the dark side to the nationalist fervor that gives international soccer its flavor. [ST]

How Did This Get Made? #39: Godzilla With Chris Gore 
Roland Emmerich’s Jurassic Park rip-off is the film that HDTGM’s summer-blockbuster series should have started with. The nonsensical big-budget revamp failed to turn the giant lizard into an international superstar, largely because Emmerich and Dean Devlin’s story is so damn stupid: A seven-story monster hiding in Manhattan? Baby Godzillas slipping on gumballs? The HDTGM crew is joined by G4’s Chris Gore to pick apart the ridiculousness, delivering some of the podcast’s biggest laughs in recent memory. And although it’s a tangent, Gore’s theory that the Mayans predicted the trailer for Emmerich’s 2012 when they prophesied the end of the world is mind-blowing. [OS]

Judge John Hodgman #63: Nature Vs. Nerd-ture
A theoretical case involving the summer-camp choices of theoretical children raises Judge Hodgman’s ire enough that he tries to get the married complainant and defendant to promise to have kids within a few years in order to justify the podcast. Yet Hodgman’s own children are not theoretical, and his feelings on the subject are surprisingly passionate and unsurprisingly wise. Alex and Kristina are both academics who expect to have nerdy kids, but disagree about whether to send the little ones to summer camps that will focus on their nerdery or more traditional camps with archery, canoeing, and arts and crafts. When the discussion shifts to sports camps and their association with normalcy, Hodgman questions the word “normal” while also noting how the ritualized combat of sports can teach children important lessons in how to deal with conflict. [ST]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #65: Mike Carano
It isn’t often that Mental Illness Happy Hour gives listeners the feeling that host Paul Gilmartin really has a live one on the line—that is, someone whose emotional troubles are clearly going on just this second. But this week, guest Mike Carano admits that, as he and Gilmartin talk, he’s left speakers on at home continuously playing a rumbling motorcycle sound as part of an audio feud with a neighbor. Carano—a photographer who’s also involved in podcasting and comedy videos—isn’t closed off at all, but he’s still struggling with just how to articulate his problems. Since many of Gilmartin’s guests seem to have that down pretty well, the sense of difficulty actually makes this episode more rewarding. [SG]

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #61: Blair’s Death Rain Habanero Chips
After a few weeks off and a lackluster return, Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh return with one of MATES’ strongest episodes in recent memory. The first half is signature MATES, with plenty of inside jokes and launching points, but the duo isn’t afraid to explore new territory, either. Integrating a new, possibly recurring, joke about the Nerdist site helps push the episode forward, as does the dissection of how a regional snack company can make it to the national stage. It’s a solid episode that proves just how effective MATES can be when Black and Cavanagh are in sync. [DA]

Monday Morning Podcast
Bill Burr picks up where he left off last week with his rant about hair metal, though it’s angrier (and therefore funnier) this time around because it’s in response to listener backlash about the original rant. That anger and resulting humor carries over into some of his riffing about his recent travels, whether he’s getting creeped out in San Jose or dealing with obnoxious, obese, U.S.-bashing British passengers on his flight. A couple of listener emails—one from a young aspiring filmmaker facing roadblocks and self-doubt and the other from someone trying to deal with a corrupt cop—are refreshing, not only in terms of subject matter but also the atypical gravity of both situations: The former deals with pursuing one’s dreams vs. taking the easier, certain path, while the latter deals with the moral quandary of doing what’s best for oneself vs. doing what’s best for the greater good. [CG]

My Brother, My Brother And Me #109: Flapjack Nickelsack
In honor of Father’s Day, the McElroys start this week’s episode with some very funny stories about their father, including one about him spilling a tray of cold cuts and several about him injuring himself. This neatly sets the stage for a pair of advice inquiries—one about getting braces removed, the other about choosing to buy either a guitar or a bow and arrow—that stir up plenty of nostalgia among the brothers, and they share more terrific tales from their childhood in the process of answering them. All that underlying sentiment is washed away by absurdity when they begin riffing about things such as Patrick Swayze’s ghost and Winston Churchill being a walrus with a “dubstep speech impediment.” It never quite reaches the heights of last week’s bits about Dale Earnhardt and the fabled “Garfield monstrosity,” but it’s still hilarious throughout. [CG]

Nerdist #219: Billy Hardwick
In an episode celebrating Father’s Day, Chris Hardwick invites his father, former professional bowling champion Billy Hardwick, to the podcast for an interview that hefts itself toward two hours. Chris shows a strong deal of reverence for his father, as Billy speaks about his early life, his bowling career, and the struggles he faced becoming a father. Although the episode naturally focuses on Billy, it shows another side of Chris as well, one that is much more vulnerable and tempered. Although it’s one of Nerdist’s least humorous episodes, it may be one of its best. [DA]

Sklarbro Country #99: Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett, Jason Nash
Jason and Randy Sklar are students of comedy as much as they are sports buffs. On the latest Sklarbro Country, the brothers sit down with formative influences Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, whose work on Mystery Science Theater 3000 heavily informed the twins’ own show, Cheap Seats. When they’re not discussing MST3K’s evolution, Corbett and Murphy join their creative progeny in some quick hits, before a hilarious closing call with Jason Nash’s ferociously emasculated Bruce Jenner, who takes us behind the scenes of the video of the Kardashians dancing to Biggie’s “Hypnotize” and discusses the complications of having to procure dolphins to grill when Kanye comes over for dinner. [NR]


Sklarbro Country: Sklarbro County 4
Gar Ryness, better known as “The Batting Stance Guy” for his hilarious imitations of major-league hitters, is this week’s guest, and while he can’t show, say, Ken Griffey Jr.’s stance on the air, his descriptions are vivid enough. Of the stories dug up for comic fodder by Dan Van Kirk, nothing beats one in which a man dialed 911 from “The Grateful Deli” to report that his sandwich was being made incorrectly. Van Kirk does a full reading of the transcript, which lasted a surprising two-and-a-half minutes, presumably while people with actual emergencies were bleeding out on another line. Fake Bruce Jenner also leaves a voice message that puts his pitiful journey from Olympic champion to browbeaten Kardashian in song. [ST]

The Smartest Man In The World #163: Dents
Greg Proops knows how to mock himself, yet it isn’t often that The Smartest Man In The World treats listeners to full-on schadenfreude. That changes this week as he begins to tell a D.C. audience about a previous trip there, during which the rain ruined his fancy Prada (!) boots. Furthering Proops’ suffering, he has to endure a series of corrections about insanely specific, nerdy bits of trivia discussed on previous episodes, like mistakenly attributing a song to Fats Waller. Hearing him attempt a mid-stream-of-consciousness sponsorship spot for Spotify puts a nice little garnish on this dish of geeky suffering. [SG]

Stuff You Missed In History ClassWho Wore The Pink Triangle?
The mystery of this episode’s premise is admittedly disturbing, but a perfect topic for the show. Many listeners will be surprised to learn how “out” and prolific German gay culture was before Hitler took power and enforced a political Pink List. Homosexuals were viewed as a direct threat to the Third Reich—an estimated 100,000 gay men were arrested—although lesbians less so for the rather terrifying reason that they “could still bear Aryan children.” Like many things about the Nazi regime, it’s rather stunning to hear how much hateful writing government officials published. This is a must-listen for those unfamiliar with the story. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Icebergs Work (Very Cool)
When a shelf of ice breaks away from a glacier or ice shelf, it’s a process called calving, and the density change alters the ice in unexpected ways. Fascinating details are sprinkled throughout this episode, such as the shape and content of glacier ice versus seawater, and Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant leap into this episode with a great deal of enthusiasm. The science is fun, but the stories are better. Much of the earth’s landscape has been carved by glaciers and icebergs, and there are entire ecosystems supported by the slowly melting freshwater that falls off the ice. They also aid in the transfer of carbon, a key part of climate we’re only beginning to understand. It’s a perfect quirky subtopic that the environmentalism-squeamish will still enjoy. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Whatever Happened To Acid Rain?
There’s a relieving moment at the top of the episode, when it’s revealed that society’s scientists actually undid some climate change and all but resolved acid rain. It does leave a cloud of suspicion over the rest of the episode, however, as the problem is almost certainly being downplayed. But this episode’s research was written by Sarah Dowdy, co-host of SYSK’s sister podcast Stuff You Missed In History Class, and her narrative is both dense and easy for the hosts to relate to listeners. This episode also introduces the idea of “acid fog,” which the hosts admit is every bit as corrosive and creepy as it sounds. One of the reasons this episode goes down so easy is that Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark have covered chemistry many times, so they can now correct each other when misusing the technical version of the word “basic.” [DT]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #76: Beyond Belief, “Djinn And Tonic” 
What can you do with a show that prides itself on mastering whimsy and nonsense? Throw in a couple of no-nonsense guys for comic contrast. During this performance of Thrilling Adventure’s booze-soaked series on the supernatural, J.K. Simmons guests as a genie who appears to leading-pair Paul F. Tompkins and Paget Brewster, who are too focused on drinking gin to make the most of their three wishes. It’s also the second recent Thrilling episode in which Simmons sings, which is strangely pleasing. Joe Mantegna appears later in the episode to ratchet up the tension in a way that only heightens its core of silliness. [SG]

Walking The Room #108: The Roth Dogs And ADHD
Tales about children tend to weigh down the loftier reaches of Walking The Room’s absurdist heights. Something about the precociousness of a child hinders the spiraling debauchery that makes the show so enjoyable, but this week provides an exception to that rule, as the episode’s many highs can be sourced back to a child’s unknowing depravity. Dave Anthony’s request for his Hobotang neighbor to curb his child provides fodder for a hygiene-touting, train-touring Teddy Roosevelt, while a mid-show text from Anthony’s wife—who found herself trapped in a pride parade with their son in tow—takes the duo on a filthy ride of genital-wardrobe salesmen and untimely erections. The two take each tangent to a fitfully foul place without completely crossing the line, and manage to cleanse the palate with Greg Behrendt’s story of his daughter’s meta relationship with her passive-aggressive imaginary friends, which is somehow the most disturbing of all. [SM]

WTF With Marc Maron #288: Donnell Rawlings
It’s entirely possible some cynical screenwriter is already pitching an “edgier Hitch” based on Donnell Rowlings’ rollicking and freewheeling visit to the Cat Ranch, in which Rawlings—of “Ashy Larry” fame—schools Marc Maron on urban slang and the ins and outs of the black comedy world. The Chappelle’s Show veteran is candid, hilarious, and ingratiatingly unfiltered as he discusses his dramatic relationship with his ex-con, ex-drug-dealing dad, changing perceptions of homosexuality in black culture, and the surprising reason the death of Chappelle’s Show was good for his pocketbook. One! [NR]

WTF With Marc Maron #289: Jack White
Jack White and Marc Maron have an engaging, fast-moving conversation on topics like the musician’s experience as an upholsterer, his love of antiques and the color red, being a dad, working with Loretta Lynn, and making the transition from Detroit to Nashville. Maron never seems to pass up an opportunity to talk gear with a musician, so there is a bit of studio talk, but the discussion never lingers too long on any particular topic. White obviously takes music seriously, yet for being a bit of an egghead, he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously, which makes him a likable interview subject. (The fact that he quotes a Mitchell & Webb sketch also helps his humor cred.) [CZ]

You Made It Weird #58: Ron Funches
Upbringing, comedy, relationships, hobbies and interests, spirituality—Pete Holmes and laid-back up-and-coming stand-up Ron Funches hit all the typical You Made It Weird conversation topics, and no one aspect of the episode really stands out. But the fact that the entire episode stays interesting and engaging speaks to how affable, smart, and thoughtful both Holmes and Funches are, and how well they play off each other. This rapport is perhaps informed in part by their similar experiences of marrying in their early 20s and getting divorced around 30. The episode really never takes off comedically, but there are much worse ways to spend 100 minutes. [CG]

You Made It Weird #59: Live From Chicago!
Live episodes bring out the best in You Made It Weird. Pete Holmes’ live podcast from Chicago’s mighty Hideout is no exception. The podcast gets off to a rip-roaring start with locals C.J Sullivan and Sean Flannery, who share anecdotes about their problem-drinking that are both hilarious and sad, if not downright intervention-worthy. Hannibal Buress subtly dominates the podcast with his deadpan appearance, prompting the rest of the panel to engage in hilarious impressions of him before sentient-hurricane T.J Miller (of Yogi Bear and “Denver!” fame) shows up and closes the podcast with a frenzy of inspired, insulting weirdness. [NR]


Comedy Bang! Bang! #163: Burning Love: Steve Agee, Ken Marino, Janet Varney, Deanna Russo
Despite the talent involved—including Ken Marino’s likeably dopey character from Burning Love, Mark Orlando—this episode never quite takes off. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: Neal Brennan, Seth Herzog And Megan Neuringer
This episode, which was recorded in Baltimore, could use a lot more Neal Brennan and a little less Seth Herzog. [MS]

The J.V. Club #15: Beth Dover And Erica Oyama
Janet Varney continues to promote Burning Love with this week’s guests, and while having three people in-studio creates a new dynamic, it prevents Varney from fully exploring her guests’ adolescences. [OS]

The Moth: Todd Bush: Blammbi
Todd Bush’s story about struggling to bond with his dad on deer hunts has its revelatory bold strokes, but he’s so detailed and self-aware that things get a bit too tangled. [SG]

Nerdist #220: Jorge Garcia
Although Jorge Garcia proves to be a friendly, jovial guest, the focus the Nerdist hosts place on Lost makes the episode feel dated and overly nostalgic. [DA]

Sound Opinions #342: Career Of Willie Nelson, K-Pop And A Real Life Desert Island Jukebox
Sound Opinions offers some helpful background on Willie Nelson’s long career, but it puts Nelson on a pedestal and doesn’t say much about the news peg—the release of Nelson’s new album, Heroes. [SG]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #222: Charlie Demers
After an hour of warm-up, Graham Clark and Dave Shumka mix Pop Rocks candy with soda, survive, and finish strong with “Overheards.” [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: John James Audobon: American Woodsman Part 1
John Audobon’s story is compelling, but it would have been nice to center this episode on just one of his accomplishments. [DT]

The Todd Glass Show #10: Todd And Daniel In Tahoe
Todd and frequent guest Daniel Kinno goof off in a hotel room for an hour and a half. [MS]

Uhh Yeah Dude #326
A homeless man’s word-salad conspiracy theory involving Elvis and Prince Charles leads to a dissection of Miss USA-contestant responses. It’s a pleasant hangout, but a rant about the lack of instant replay in baseball will have non-sports fans turning the podcast dial. [CW]

Who Charted? #81: Cheetos & Horseradish
It really wouldn’t kill Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack to edit the episodes down sometimes, especially in the case of guest Eric Andre getting repeatedly bleeped for mentioning of one of Kremer’s sexual conquests. [MS]