The best podcasts for the week of June 7-13

The best podcasts for the week of June 7-13

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.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“It sounds like I’m joking but I think the new Munsters reboot is gonna be awesome.” —David Cross, WTF With Marc Maron

“Every sex scene on HBO is reverse cowgirl, because it’s all flawed male protagonists, and you don’t want to look at them, and all hot girls with giant titties. So they’re like, ‘Let’s get this framed where boobs are, like, up and facing camera and a little bush and bouncing up and down, and down in the corner, Steve Buscemi.” —Andy Samberg describes his theory on HBO sex scenes, Comedy Bang! Bang!

“A guy ate another guy’s face. The Mayans were right. The counter to that is that feeling when you connect with somebody on a really deep level… and you still have your face.” —Paul Gilmartin, The Mental Illness Happy Hour

“Have you ever looked up AIDS on Web M.D.? You’re like, ‘Oh fuck. I have AIDS.’” —Deanna Russo, The J.V. Club

“On our planet, we have baseball, but it’s called leukemia.” —An alien winning over a talk-show audience, Thrilling Adventure Hour’s collaboration with Superego

“You have a the most tenuous grasp on this character.”
“I wear it like a thin veil.” —Scott Aukerman and Adam Pally (sort of in character as Bro), Comedy Bang! Bang!

NEW TO US

Sex Nerd Sandra
People can be nerds about just about anything, including sex, and Sandra Daugherty more than lives up to her moniker and podcast home on the Nerdist network. Whether she’s using principles of physics to describe a neck-strain-avoiding blowjob technique or outlining to comedian co-host Dave Ross the difference between male orgasm and ejaculation, Daugherty has a firm grasp on the ins and outs of most aspects of human sexuality. For those she doesn’t—or just wants another opinion to bounce off of—she brings in expert guests, many of them sex educators/advocates like herself, to discuss at length a single sex-related topic, from BDSM and talking dirty (with help from Marc Maron) to anatomy and, gulp, cancer. The resulting roundtable discussions are pleasantly laid back, with Ross’ jokey asides and male perspective providing a nice counterpoint to the enthusiastic expertise of Daugherty and her guests, though the topic in question does a lot to set the tone of each episode.

For example, this week’s #45: Dating And… Chivalry!? suffers somewhat from its tame subject matter, as well as its live setting. Daugherty is clearly less comfortable in front of an audience than she is in the studio, though thankfully no less frank. Unfortunately, guest Erin Tillman, a.k.a. The Dating Advice Girl, doesn’t bring much beyond common sense to the discussion, though the three get into an interesting discussion of chivalry’s place in modern-day dating. But not all subjects that look tame on paper are inherently uninteresting: The recent #43: The Birds ’N’ Bees: Teens provides a discussion with two school sex educators that even those without adolescents of their own should find fascinating, and even charming—particularly when they read some of the anonymous questions they get from students. [GK]


OUTLIERS

Improvised Star Trek
With the rise in popularity of nerd culture and nerd-centric comedy, it was perhaps inevitable that a fully improvised Star Trek parody podcast would pop up. Every week on Improvised Star Trek, a group of Chicago performers improvise a 20-minute story of misadventure on the USS Sisyphus based on listener suggestions. But nearly as impressive as the improvisation itself is the excellent post-production work, which more deeply engages the listener through sound effects, music, and various audio flourishes. All of the performers are clearly big fans of Star Trek, and listeners who are fans will inevitably get the most out of the podcast, as they’ll be more likely to catch the extra specific references and playfully satirical elements. Each episode is standalone, though it can be difficult to keep track of all the characters at first. Episode 44 is a strong one, with a compelling story—the ship has broken into pieces and must be reassembled so it can be properly dry-docked—and plenty of laughs, making it a great entry point into the show. [CG]


THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU
The Best Show On WFMU celebrates its 500th episode this week with a retrospective of classic events in the show’s history. Ted Leo, Julie Klausner, Sam Seder, John Hodgman, and Jason Woliner all call in to commend host Tom Scharpling for his hard work and discuss some of their favorite moments, but the highlight is an hourlong call from Jon Wurster as Charles from Newbridge, a factory worker from the future. He breaks down a series of disturbing events to come, including Mitt Romney’s two-term presidency and Ted Leo’s induction in to the band Rush. Tom’s future is also discussed at length, revealing his rise to fame and an eventual drug-infused meltdown. With the show hitting such a nice stride over the past few weeks, we can only hope the next 500 episodes of the Best Show are this good. [AF]

The Bugle #197: Singing In The Reign 
There’s even more vitriol spewed at the English royalty this week as John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman continue their coverage of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Despite this being the second episode in a row that The Bugle has discussed the Diamond Jubilee, it’s as fresh and somehow even more bizarre and biting than episode 196. Even better than jokes about British drinking water being laced with the Queen’s breast milk is a story from Oliver about the swear words he’s heard from children. This is among the best of Oliver’s opening tales, and proves that the only person who can get kids to say the darndest things better than Bill Cosby is John Oliver. It’s a shame that the Diamond Jubilee celebrations won’t continue and The Bugle will have to return to the regular inane bullshit that the world conjures every week. [AJ]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #162: Best Bro Hang: Andy Samberg, Adam Pally
Scott Aukerman attempts to re-create episode 109, with guest Andy Samberg and Adam Pally reappearing as Aukerman’s pot dealer, Bro. Well, Pally’s ostensibly in character; by about the halfway point, episode 162 sounds more like Aukerman, Samberg, and Pally just hanging out—hence the “Best Bro Hang” episode title—and less like CBB’s traditional “guest gets interrupted by funny weirdo” format. Their easy rapport makes it work, as they consistently crack each other up, particularly when they do impressions of Woody Allen guest-starring on Entourage. It’s a slight episode for sure, but enjoyable for CBB geeks. [KR]

Hang Up And Listen: The LeBron Vs. The Durantula Edition
As a particularly exciting NBA Playoffs season heads into a blockbuster final pitting LeBron James and Dwayne Wade’s Miami Heat against Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder, the HUAL crew are properly giddy with anticipation. But the prospect of more tired media narratives about James and the Heat make them collectively groan: The continued demonization of James over “The Decision” has resulted in commentary with no basis in statistical fact, and the Thunder has been exalted for building a team the right way, despite the shameful misdeeds of its front office. The other two segments are a great study in contrast, as men’s tennis reaches a new high in the battle between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the French Open, and boxing scrapes bottom with an awful split decision in the Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley fight that even Bradley, the winner, vowed to rewatch later to see if he deserved the victory. [ST]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #64: Dr. Jessica Zucker #2: Boundaries And Emotional Intimacy
This week’s episode may be quite long and, like many recent Mental Illness installments, heavy on some deep-seated problems host Paul Gilmartin has been dealing with lately. That said, it’s an admirable effort to keep building what he started during his first interview with psychotherapist Dr. Jessica Zucker. She keeps her professional wits about her while, as on her first appearance, managing to roll gamely with Gilmartin’s jokes, resulting in the halting, productively awkward feeling of a drawn-out late-night conversation. [SG]

Nerdist #216: The Sklar Brothers
Brotherly comedic duo and hosts of Sklarbro Country Randy and Jason Sklar join Chris Hardwick and Matt Mira for an episode that starts with light sports talk before Hardwick refocuses the episode in a more Nerdist-friendly manner. The Sklar Brothers talk at length about their work as comedians, but also about how their new History Channel show United Stats Of America came together. This is all before a brief digression about Tiger Woods transforms into a lengthy discussion about the pressures of public perception in regards to the way celebrities act in their personal lives. It’s not a standard Nerdist, but it proves to be highly effective all the same. [DA]

Nerdist #217: Ray Romano And Tom Caltabiano
Ray Romano and his longtime touring partner Tom Caltabiano appear on Nerdist to discuss Romano’s lengthy stand-up career, his highly successful sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, and the behind-the-scenes documentary he and Caltabiano worked on, 95 Miles To Go. Romano’s fairly reserved throughout, but he injects just enough humor and insight to avoid becoming dull. Caltabiano, on the other hand, drags the episode down a bit, often coming across as Romano’s PR person more than his friend/tourmate. Thankfully, he never completely derails the episode, mostly serving to highlight just how good of a storyteller Romano can be. [DA]

Sklarbro Country #98: Reggie Watts, Chris Cox
Things get incestuous in an unmistakably Earwolf fashion as Earwolf’s Sklarbro Country welcomes the sidekick/one-man band of IFC/Earwolf’s Comedy Bang! Bang! to the calming shores of Sklarbro Country. The brothers Sklar coax genial musician/comedian Reggie Watts into spontaneously composing an absurdist jock-jam anthem and sklarbitrate a racially charged dispute between Lil Wayne and the Oklahoma Thunder. But the podcast’s highlight is another hilarious call from Chris Cox’s Tiger Woods, who returns after an extended absence to discuss his feverish rivalry with his niece (who recently made her debut as an LPGA golfer) and do a very funny and exceedingly tasteless impersonation of his own insanely competitive mother. [NR]

Sklarbro Country: Sklarbro County 3
The third episode of “Sklarbro County” continues to inch away from the intended “mid-week snack” concept and toward a slightly tweaked second Sklarbro Country. But if the show continues to be this funny, the running time should be able to balloon as much as the Sklars and Dan Van Kirk see fit. The “County” allows for stories that go outside the sporting realm, and Van Kirk finds a doozy in the tale of a pot-smoking mother who peeled away from a public park with her 5-week-old baby, strapped into a car seat, still on top of the car. The baby was found safe and sound in an intersection, which has the gang agreeing that this is great advertising for the car seat. (Taglines: “Taking care of your baby… when you can’t” or “The only thing higher than you is our quality.”) Chris Cox also joins in for the full hour, and contributes an amazing story about waterskiing with basketball players Uwe Blab and Bill Wennington. [ST]

The Smartest Man In The World #162: Summers
Greg Proops’ flighty rants at an audience member—who, strictly speaking, doesn’t even seem to be heckling—threaten to dump this week’s episode in disfavor. Then again, it kind of works better the more he sticks with it. He also manages to charm in his peculiar way, often when the material goes pretty mundane. For example, the horribleness of an airport terminal and a tiered boarding process (“I have 24 chromosomes! When can I get on? Me go Vegas!”), life on the road with his Whose Line Is It Anyway pals, and even country music (cue Proops singing). [SG]

Stuff You Missed In History ClassWilliam Kid: A Pirate’s Rep For Me
Captain William Kidd is one of the most famous pirate figures in history, but it turns out that he may not have even been a pirate. The hosts seize on the opportunity to point out that Kidd is mostly known for hunting and destroying pirate vessels as a privateer, and that his trial as a pirate was hotly contested in his day. He did take the pirates’ loot, but he was also sharing it with his government and investors. The navy started to slap Kidd on the wrist every time he stepped out of line, and the shuffling of his crew led him to seek “men of desperate fortunes” to pick up the slack. As Kidd’s history dovetails into conjecture, his story becomes more reliant on current analysis of history, and the hosts prove especially good storytellers. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Fractals: Whoa
Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant fly confidently into the subject of mathematic visuals most attractive to hippies. Fractals are, in fact, a useful and controversial aspect of geometry that are only trippy in that they have literal infinite depth. In fact, Euclidean theories discussed in this episode would be impossible to describe in a simple recap. What’s most remarkable about this episode is how eagerly Clark and Bryant champ at the bit to discuss their places in nature, the most relatable aspect of fractals. The paradox that fractals prove objects in nature can be both infinite and finite breaks every perception of nature we have, and makes this episode about as exciting as any mathlete could hope. [DT]

This American Life #466: Blackjack
The secret life of American casinos is never not fascinating, so blackjack turns out to be a rich subject matter for this week’s TAL. Stories include Glass and Co. trying to count cards in an Atlantic City casino, a surprising consideration of whether a casino is liable for letting (or even encouraging) a gambling addict play, and the tale of a group of rather fun-sounding Christians who set out to steal from casinos. Thanks to a cool, Oceans’s 11-inspired soundtrack, timeless subject matter, and a nice mix of human nature and science, it’s a TAL worth holding on to for a future long car trip or boring home project, as it’ll hold up well even years from now. [CZ]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #75/ Superego: War Of Two Worlds, Part 4
Maybe what Thrilling Adventure Hour and Superego’s collaborative alien-invasion series needed was a talk show and a canned “studio audience” laugh track. The partly written, partly improvised experiment finally connects this week. Paul F. Tompkins and Andy Richter guest as two incredibly smug hosts who end up interviewing the aliens, which gives a center to a previously confusing and messy approach. It also lets some real personalities build up, namely in the form of Tompkins and Richter being royal dicks, and in the form of an alien who announces his plans to eat the human race, then plugs his upcoming stand-up show. [SG]

The Todd Glass Show: Gary Gulman and Daniel Kinno
Listeners can tune into The Todd Glass Show for months, even years, without ever learning anything substantive about its guests. That’s because the show is less a conventional interview podcast than an improvisatory playhouse where guests are expected to leap into the fray with the host in an endless series of stream-of-consciousness bits that reappear week after week. Comedian Gary Gulman proves a game and enthusiastic repeat guest to the podcast, and most of the bits are at least mildly amusing, though a tired running gag involving fake Golden Girls trivia thankfully seems to have run its course. [NR]

Walking The Room #107: Jake Johannsen And The Chalice
Guests on Walking The Room tend to play the ego to Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt’s id, typically by necessity. As an elder statesman of comedy, Jake Johannsen has plenty of sensible, experiential insight to offer the closet, in the way of advice on Behrendt’s supposed career plateau, personal support of Anthony’s prickliness, and an overall confirmation that yes, the comedy world (and especially Twitter) is still a lonely, fucked-up place. More than that, though, Johannsen’s ability to parse out riffs on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Reno’s seedy underbelly into logical, but still unexpected, punchlines with a calm wit provides the perfect counterpoint to the closet’s sputtering mania. [SM]

Who Charted? #80: Proop Doggy Dogg
For this “summah”-themed episode, hosts Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack welcome Earwolf regular Greg Proops to the program. In addition to being a seasoned improviser and comedian, Proops is also something of a walking Quizzo team when it comes to obscure pop-culture knowledge. Frankly, Kremer and Vialysack almost don’t even need to be present. All someone needs to do is get Proops started and he can go on forever about ’60s surf-rock songs, old noir actresses, and Stanley Kubrick minutiae. It’s unsettling to hear someone talk so intelligently while sounding like a cartoon Jeff Spicoli, but fascinating nonetheless. However, the greatest service Proops provides during this episode is reminding the world of the old Gary Cole TV show Midnight Caller. [MM]

WTF With Marc Maron #286: Kurt Braunholer
Comedians who do the podcast circuit risk telling the same stories over and over, especially when those stories are as juicy as Kurt Braunohler’s account of breaking up with a monogamous girlfriend of 13 years after they decided to experiment with a month of no-strings-attached sex with other people to decide if they should get married or break up. That story dominated Braunohler’s recent appearance on You Made It Weird, but he has a whole new bunch of fascinating anecdotes to unfurl for his appearance on WTF, including accounts of his eccentric, outsized, and scattered family, breast-feeding at an inappropriately advanced age, and living in a wigwam. The result is a deep, engaging, and philosophical conversation that makes up in insights what it lacks in big laughs. [NR]

You Made It Weird #56: Live from Indiana!
Pete Holmes pulled some big names for his first two live You Made It Weirds, and in this episode—recorded in Bloomington with Chris Thayer, Sean O’Connor, and Geoff Tate—he demonstrates that he doesn’t need the help of those names to carry a live show. His excitable nature is heightened here thanks to a highly receptive audience and slight inebriation, but if anything, that makes him a funnier and better host, even if he does occasionally get lost in the flurry of self-reflexive callbacks and riffing. Regular listeners will appreciate the coining of new “sharpshooter” spinoff phrases—“master chef” and “fly-fisherman” being the most memorable—and the tidbit that Holmes has no idea who Terri Schiavo was. With the exception of some playful jabs about Tate’s semi-recent divorce, things never get particularly weird, and there’s not much insight, but it’s a thoroughly solid 85 minutes of silly, frivolous fun. [CG]


THE REST

Doug Loves Movies: Scott Aukerman, Sean Cullen, Jake Johannsen And Tony Thaxton
It’s a great episode for fans of Sean Cullen, who does most of the talking, partly to make up for his taciturn son, whose near-silent appearance on the panel concludes the very short trend of hilarious, talkative offspring on DLM. [GK]

Freakonomics Radio: You Eat What You Are, Part 2 
This continuation of the show’s previous episode about the food industry doesn’t really offer much in the way of new information. [MM]

The J.V. Club #14: Deanna Russo  
Janet Varney’s “Burning Love” co-star Deanna Russo gives a candid but ultimately tame look into her teen years, including tales of clear braces, a summer of Lyme disease, and her parents’ divorce. [OS]

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #60: Shrimp Flavored Chips
Following a two-week absence, Mike and Tom return with their usual bag of tricks, but the duo feels a little too rusty to fully connect. [DA]

Monday Morning Podcast
The episode starts strong with an excellent rant about metal music, but gets less and less funny as it drags along. [CG]

The Moth: Martha Manning: What Can’t Be Fixed
Therapist Martha Manning intertwines the stories of a terminally ill patient and a hopelessly stalled car with a frenzy that tends to distract from the scary emotions. [SG]

Never Not Funny #1026: Carpooling With Pat Francis
The season 10 finale offers plenty of sporadic laughs, but suffers from Pat Francis’ insistence on grating antagonism. [SM]

Risk! #331: Live From L.A. 
This week’s start-to-finish broadcast of Risk’s monthly L.A. show features entertaining parts, but ultimately falls short. Skip ahead to Greg Fitzsimmons’ tale of growing up in the Bronx. [MM]

Sound Opinions #341: Electronic Dance Music, Review of Garbage
While level-headed enough, Sound Opinions’ survey of electronic dance music feels like slow going without a lot of new insight into the genre. [SG]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #221: Jy Harris
In a risqué episode, comedian Jy Harris recalls directing erotic videos and appearing on The Jerry Springer Show twice, under false pretenses. [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Death Of Poe
While a great story, the death of Poe should be familiar territory for anyone who’s graduated junior-high-school English. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Should We Have A Fat Tax?
"I think people buy those foods because they want to buy that junk and eat it," host Chuck Bryant remarks, summing up this hollow episode.

WTF With Marc Maron #287: Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, John Ennis, Josie Long, Neal Brennan
This live show is mostly for die-hard Mr. Show fans, as much of the Bob Odenkirk/David Cross discussion was already covered in Marc Maron’s earlier interview with David Cross. Here’s hoping that Maron and Neal Brennan’s issues will be eventually publicly aired in their full, in-studio interview. [CZ]

You Made It Weird #57: Kevin Heffernan
Broken Lizard fans will enjoy the behind-the-scenes anecdotes, but there simply isn’t enough substance to Pete Holmes’ chat with Kevin Heffernan to justify a nearly two-hour podcast. [NR] 

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