The best podcasts for the week of May 3-9 

The best podcasts for the week of May 3-9 

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.

Editor’s note: Due to writer vacations, we won’t have recaps for Stuff You Missed In History Class or Stuff You Should Know.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“I want to take a minute to congratulate Australia on having a lot of our shitty restaurants.” 
“A lot of times in other countries, you hear about the Americanization of said country. Here’s the thing: You have to say ‘yes’ before I can put my dick in you. Say no, guys! Say no!” —Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt, Walking The Room

“I think what we’re looking for in pornography […] is genuity, something real, some sort of real reaction. Because we’re all too aware that a girl can fake an orgasm […], but if you ass-to-mouth it, that look in their eye is real.”—Pete Holmes, You Made It Weird

“I’m Bobcat Goldthwait. Gimme a reach-around.” —Bobcat Goldthwait imagining what a Twitter imposter said, Comedy Bang Bang

“I love all albinos. I feel a kindred spirit with them. I am not one technically.” —Rachael Harris, WTF With Marc Maron

“There is not going to be a zombie apocalypse, because zombies are not real.” — Moshe Kasher, Stop Podcasting Yourself

“This feels like a ‘scared straight’ program for people addicted to spas.” —Lizz Winstead, recalling an exotic bathing experience, The Moth

NEW (TO US)

Good Food
Dedicated to restaurant reviews, cooking tips, the politics of food consumption, and all things culinary, chef Evan Kleiman’s Good Food is a terrestrial radio show based out of NPR’s KCRW in Los Angeles. Each episode opens in a farmers’ market, where chefs and farmers offer advice on which foods are currently in season—including obscure ones like squash blossoms—and how to prepare them. Add in some food history and discussion of issues like sustainable agriculture and food-industry corruption, and politically aware foodies will likely be enlightened/outraged. Good Food’s format—Kleiman’s quiet tone and the jazz interludes between segments will be familiar to NPR listeners—lends an authority to the show that’s bolstered by thorough research, interviews with experts, and a variety of links to relevant information on its website. 

The episode “Morels; Wild Fennel; The Future Of Food Writing” is typically comprehensive, beginning with tips on cooking fava beans before moving on to a history of Kansas City barbecue, along with discussion of morel mushrooms, foraging for wild fennel (considered a weed in the L.A. area), starting a food blog, and the relationship of bourbon with the Kentucky Derby. It’s a daunting amount of information, but it’s efficiently presented without feeling overwhelming. [AJ] 


OUTLIERS

The Dream Show With Jane Teresa Anderson
Each week, professional dream analyst Jane Teresa Anderson performs on-the-spot analyses of listeners’ dreams to help them identify problems in their lives. More psychic than psychologist, Anderson frequently references chakra, yin-yang and other New Age concepts, but effectively provides catharsis or inspiration to people feeling lost or troubled. In Episode 125, listener Alicia shares a dream about winning prizes and planting seeds, which Anderson interprets to mean that Alicia has balanced her life and begun to settle in her home. Alicia confirms that she recently started working from her house and felt more in touch with her home base than ever before. However, because Alicia provides enough information for Anderson to make logical conclusions without necessarily having to read the dream, the conversation ultimately comes off as a cold read. [AJ]


THE BEST

The Bugle #193: Happy Deathiversary!
John Oliver carries the weight this week, with nonstop zingers and a highly amusing tale of dancing with George Clinton on The Daily Show. Meanwhile, Andy Zaltzman is off his game, making obscure, often nonsensical references and essentially repeating Oliver. Zaltzman recovers a bit by the show’s end with an Osama bin Laden impression and a “linguistic version of the movie Speed” that rivals the actual movie Speed. Oliver is genuinely fantastic throughout, reinforcing the notion that The Bugle team’s dynamic is strong enough that one member can still carry the ball if the other is having an off week. [AJ] 

Comedy Bang Bang #157: God Bless America: Bobcat Goldthwait, Paul F. Tompkins
Guests to Comedy Bang Bang are generally on board for the inspired foolishness that accompanies each episode, but regular listeners can quickly tell just how much someone gets what’s happening. In the case of esteemed comedian, director, and actor Bobcat Goldthwait, there’s never any doubt he’s a perfect teammate for Scott Aukerman and Paul F. Tompkins. Goldthwait is lively, humble, and full of funny stories, from his dad’s silly stunts to Jay Mohr marrying his ex to attending the Oscars with Robin Williams to violating orders not to zoom in on Chad Kroeger’s ample nose. When Tompkins shows up as Garry Marshall, Goldthwait is right there in the mix, enthusiastically “yes and”-ing the other two for an episode that’s a delight. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: Paul F. Tompkins, Cake Boss, Ice-T
Paul F. Tompkins pulled off a neat trick in January when he appeared on Doug Loves Movies as Garry Marshall and Andrew Lloyd Webber, reinforcing his reputation as an impressively dexterous performer in the process. As if to show that was no fluke, Tompkins returns this week as Ice-T and Cake Boss (Cake Boss!), again impressively switching among the personae during rousing editions of Build-A-Title and the Leonard Maltin Game (or, to use Ice-T’s name, the Leonard Mothball Game). Potentially great episodes of Doug Loves Movies can be sunk by an overly crowded panel fighting for airtime, but hearing Tompkins’ characters banter is a treat. [MS] 

Hang Up And Listen: The Brains And Brawn Edition
“And now for our third and probably most uplifting topic of the day, and that’s about Mariano Rivera tearing his ACL while shagging fly balls in the outfield.” So says Josh Levin about the latest episode of Hang Up And Listen, which indeed delves into issues so bleak that Rivera’s declaration that he will return to baseball after recovering from surgery, despite his advancing years, counts as a silver lining. But it was that kind of week in the sporting world, beginning with the suicide of beloved San Diego Chargers star Junior Seau, who shot himself in the chest to allow for examination of his concussion-addled brain. The HUAL crew has been beating the drum on head injuries in football and hockey for a while now, so it handles that issue well. But here, even an underdog Kentucky Derby winner inspires a bummer segment. [ST]

The Moth: Lizz Winstead: The 25 Cent Spa
By the time her story about a trip to Morocco is done, Lizz Winstead reflects on what a spoiled American she is for not appreciating a bathing facility known as a hamam. But the first two-thirds of the episode captures her mild terror at a foreign experience with fevered, brusque delivery. It could have been just another story about language barriers and embarrassing misunderstanding, but Winstead does well to focus on the details, namely the anxiety of being naked in front of strangers and noticing that “my anus is shiny like a new dime.” [SG]

Nerdist #201: Seth Green
In his hour-plus interview, Seth Green fits in effortlessly with the Nerdist hosts, thanks to his varied career and interests: As an actor, creator of Robot Chicken, and an avid toy collector, Green gives Chris Hardwick and Jonah Ray plenty of topics to start with, but other topics that develop as the episode progresses yield the most interesting stuff. Green speaks about the awkwardness of meeting George Lucas, seeing Topher Grace’s fan-cut of the Star Wars prequels, and making the tough decision between taking a part in Austin Powers or in Carrot Top’s Chairman Of The Board. The episode never stalls, due in part to the Nerdist hosts being very well prepared, but Green’s willingness to open up certainly keeps the momentum going. [DA]

Nerdist #203: John Lithgow
Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist is often a high-energy affair, but the soft-spoken John Lithgow tempers the podcast’s energy. The episode moves at a slower pace as Hardwick allows Lithgow to go on for long periods without interruption, ensuring the questions he asks flow smoothly into one another. Even with a less manic pace, the episode covers a wealth of topics, from Lithgow seeing a pre-fame Steve Martin to him starring in the cult classic The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension. It’s a rare episode of Nerdist where Hardwick lays back and breaks from his standard methodology, and it works. [DA]

The Pod F. Tompkast #17: Werner Herzog, Garry Marshall, John Hodgman, Jen Kirkman
After what felt like a very long month off, the Tompkast makes a triumphant return with a Herzog-heavy, so-dour-you-just-want-to-hug-him episode of The Great Undiscovered Project, a delightfully disturbing tale from Jen Kirkman (whose gradual evolution as a storyteller is noteworthy) about how Titanic made her want to go on a cruise, and a recorded live sketch with John Hodgman about sound-effects artists. As usual, of course, the best part of the episode is Paul F. Tompkins’ interstitial noodling, made extra-entertaining this week by pianist Eban Schletter taking on the newly invented persona of the “Jazzy Rascal.” The episode also includes helpfully pre-written iTunes reviews for Tompkast appreciators. [CZ]

Sklarbro Country #93: Maggot Stampede: Chelsea Peretti, Jason Nash
Despite being a podcast about the ostensibly male-dominated world of sports, Sklarbro Country is only slightly less woman-friendly than Lilith Fair. The Sklar Brothers have long been proponents of what they call “Lady Energy,” and the beloved and hilarious Chelsea Peretti possesses that in industrial amounts. Always fearless, Peretti leaps into the fray early to trade quips and observations with the brothers before going a little deeper. She talks about being inspired by Bill Burr famously winning over a notoriously nasty Philadelphia audience by viciously and brilliantly heckling his hecklers, and she also explains how she grew increasingly interested in sports and violent entertainment after she quit drinking. Jason Nash drops by later as a sneeringly haughty Bryant Gumbel to favor listeners with more material from his stand-up act and chronicle his ongoing humiliation of brother Greg. The podcast closes with a brief chat with John Mathot, who designed the show’s latest T-shirt. It easily could reek of self-indulgence, but it’s charming and sweet. [NR]

The Smartest Man In The World #156: Sazeracs
Yes, this week’s episode has a “poetry portion” and ramblings about U.S. drug policy and the French elections, but this show in Halifax, Nova Scotia, finds Greg Proops just enough out of his element to productively throw off the balance. It may be just another comedy-festival stop, but it’s good that he has to stretch a little more to get in some local-specific riffs (seafood, the social contributions of a local black police officer), and he even has some annoyingly talky audience members to lay into—which he happily does, repeatedly. It works even better when he’s willing to simply be silly, namely with a bit about how lobsters worship their human consumers. [SG]

Sound Opinions: #336: Sharon Van Etten, Review Of Santigold And Greg’s Desert Island Jukebox
Sharon Van Etten and band don’t lose much of their arrangements or finesse in a short performance in Sound Opinions’ studio, the centerpiece of a nicely balanced episode. Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis keep it on an admirably even keel this week: It’s not always fun to hear either of them gushing unreservedly about an album, but both hosts back up their mutual praise of Santigold’s new Master Of My Make Believe with the kind of critical persuasion that doesn’t feel completely tainted by hype. Even the news-oriented early section is handy this week, as the hosts interview a guest who studied the complex ways in which musicians earn money. [SG]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #216: Moshe Kasher
Comedian Moshe Kasher is Stop Podcasting Yourself’s liveliest guest in months, and he elevates the whole episode. The guests and hosts riff nonstop, but when they lock in on a topic, the commentary alternates between irreverent and serious. The alleged racial exclusion in HBO’s Girls sparks a long analysis of calibrated onscreen demographics in entertainment, which dovetails into a discussion of the phenomenon they describe as “hipster racism—white people lecturing other white people about what is and is not racist.” Quality “Overheards” wrap the show with uncut levity. [DXF]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #70: Sparks Nevada, Marshal On Mars: The Piano Has Been Thinking
It’s not every podcast that can be trusted with a double-length episode that’s also a musical, and in fact, Thrilling Adventure Hour co-writer Ben Blacker confesses on this episode’s homepage that even he doesn’t like musicals. Luckily, the show is unafraid to pull out all the stops, handling several plotlines in its space-Western series via the power of song. The finest moment is Marc Evan Jackson, as the titular law enforcer, and JK Simmons, as his criminal rival, singing a wistful duet about how they’re going to kill each other. Since The Thrilling Adventure Hour is ever mindful of excess, it actually helps that the characters repeatedly comment on how weird it is that they’re bursting out into song. [SG]

The Todd Glass Show #43: Henry Phillips, Rory Scovel and Daniel Kinno
The Todd Glass Show doesn’t have guests so much as playmates willing to hop into Glass’ comedy sandbox and follow the host down whatever goofy paths he takes. The latest episode of The Todd Glass Show features an ideal playmate for Glass, sidekick Daniel Kinno, semi-regular Rory Scovel, and singer-songwriter Henry Phillips. Phillips’ shaggy, sleepy country drawl and laconic charm complement Glass’ manic energy perfectly; they are a study in contrasts, and the episode a consistent delight. [NR]

Walking The Room: #102 Jesus Wink And Riot Box 
Back in the closet after a series of celebratory live episodes and successful shows in Australia, Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt promise a drastic change to Walking The Room following Anthony’s inverse introduction, one that embraces super-positive spirituality and huggable hamsters. An initially innocent riff on little-known facts about Jesus threatens to confirm their enlightenment—until Anthony suddenly remembers how much he hates Adam Carolla, unleashing a sputtering fury of a rant. Talk of their children’s most recent acts of terror and precociousness persists, but in weaving between fact and fiction, becomes more engaging and creates ample room for some hard-earned tangents. For the final segment commemorating the anniversary of the Los Angeles Riots, the duo finds the proper comedic balance between reverent bemusement and misanthropy. [SM]

WTF With Marc Maron #276 Wayne Coyne
The Wayne Coyne episode of WTF With Marc Maron gets off to an unpromising start with a rambling monologue about haircuts, but steadily improves with a short but sweet phone interview with Bobcat Goldthwait (about his new film, God Bless America) and then a substantive talk with Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne. The episode covers a lot of ground, using anxiety about flying as a springboard for a heavy, substantive conversation about death, fear, drugs, and art. Covering all of those topics in one anecdote is a story about Ke$ha refusing to sing a song Coyne wrote for her because she’s never taken LSD—a choice, he says, that came from her conviction that her mother took too much acid and never came down. Coyne emerges as a thoughtful, introspective guest and not the space cadet his trippy music might suggest. [NR]

WTF With Marc Maron #277 Rachael Harris
The Daily Show and For Your Consideration’s Rachael Harris is an ideal WTF interview subject: Not only is she more than willing to discuss the process it took to land her in the good graces of Jon Stewart and Christopher Guest, she’s even more chatty when it comes to Marc Maron’s favorite subjects: mental health, troubled relationships, and substance abuse. Harris’ stories about The Groundlings and The Hangover are enjoyable, but this episode seems less meant for comedy fans than for WTF listeners who enjoy hearing Maron get to the root of his guest’s issues: A friendly, chatty Harris readily surrenders her stories of her divorce, Mormon stepdad, and relationships with alcoholics while Maron eagerly gobbles them up. [CZ]

You Made It Weird #46: Harris Wittels
Even for a show that typically meanders, You Made It Weird is markedly discursive this week. It’s a bit frustrating at first, especially as Parks And Recreation writer Harris Wittels and Pete Holmes fly through topics like Wittels’ recent shift to acting full-time (he’s away from Parks And Rec while starring in Sarah Silverman’s pilot for NBC), and his and Holmes’ occasional sociopathic tendencies, but they get to the good stuff eventually. The show also gets especially weird when they relate over the lasting, serious effects their overbearing mothers had on their romantic lives. The rapport between the two is great, and Wittels is especially charming, which makes the 27-year-old’s multiple mentions of the house he bought in Los Feliz less annoying. Overall, it’s a supremely engaging episode. [CG]

You Made It Weird #47: Adam Carolla
Cantankerous superstar podcaster Adam Carolla straddles the line between being appreciative and grateful for the magnificent bounty life has given him and being an obnoxious braggart. Carolla doesn’t just talk about making a lot of money; he discusses the actual amount he got paid for various gigs. Thankfully his money talk is part of a larger discussion about his tragicomic relationship with an unsupportive family that never gave him the validation and approval he sought, no matter how successful he became. In the podcast’s most bitterly funny moment, Carolla recalls his mother rhetorically asking for a single reason she’d even consider getting cable at a time when he had two different shows on cable: Loveline and The Man Show. Carolla can be a blowhard and a loudmouth (that’s his shtick), but he’s effortlessly engaging all the same. [NR]


THE REST

Freakonomics Radio: Soul Possession
This episode kicks off a new season, but the discussion of whether souls can be bought or sold is a useless one. [MM]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #59: Phil Hendrie
Radio prankster Phil Hendrie and Paul Gilmartin discuss families and mothers in an episode that’s emotionally arduous, as Gilmartin works out traumas of his own. [SG]

Monday Morning Podcast
The only part worth a listen is the Overrated/Underrated feature, which falls in the last 10 minutes of the episode. [CG]

Nerdist #202: Airplane! (The Movie)
Recorded live at SF Sketchfest in January 2011, Hardwick’s interview with Airplane!’s cast and crew lacks both new information or humorous anecdotes. [DA]

Who Charted? #75: Full On Efron: Ian Edwards
Comedian Ian Edwards makes for a pleasant, if not particularly memorable Who Charted? guest. [MS]