Thom Yorke stops by the garage, Joss Whedon on Nerdist, and Star Wars minute-by-minute 

Thom Yorke stops by the garage, Joss Whedon on Nerdist, and Star Wars minute-by-minute 

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

Podmass comments and suggestions for future coverage can be directed to podmass@avclub.com

Note: Certain podcasts released on Friday may be added on Monday morning. 

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“Who’s the NSA agent assigned to podcasts? I just like the idea of an NSA agent listening to Nerdist, like, ‘Why are they talking about Walking Dead? I don’t get it.’” — Greg Proops, The Smartest Man In The World

“Is it true that, when a royal uses the commode, they are obliged to do an upper decker?” —Bob Odenkirk to royal watcher Byron Denniston (Andy Daly)

“What if obese people couldn’t get married?” —Judy Gold, blasting Chris Christie’s opposition to gay marriage, WTF

“I get the same nine people I get updates from.”
“I like when you see that a stranger’s father is dead. That’s fun when that pops up in Facebook, someone you’ve never met.” 
“Paul, have you showed interest in death in the past?” —Jimmy Pardo, Paul F. Tompkins, Matt Belknapdiscuss Facebook, Never Not Funny

“You could ask people for suggestions—you could get a thousand different suggestions—and he would still say, ‘No, let’s go with Carlos Danger.’ That is the stupidest name in the history of words.” -John Oliver on Anthony Weiner’s unfortunate alias, The Bugle

NEW TO US

Topics
Michael Ian Black has already proven himself as a comedy podcaster with the erratically released Mike And Tom Eat Snacks, which takes faux-seriously something of ostensibly little consequence. And now, with Topics, he turns his attention toward the big, important issues in life—like the subjectivity of memory, space, and the human condition—and treats them with the same faux-seriousness that makes MATES great. With his longtime comedy partner Michael Showalter along for the ride, the two ask looming questions and answer them in the form of endless strings of banal platitudes, obvious statements, and general condescension, all delivered with a wry pomposity. 

The first, introductory episode finds the Michaels explaining that the main purpose of the show is to answer these questions, with humor being a more peripheral concern. But even halfway through episode two, in which they muse about whether God exists, Showalter is already breaking—and for good reason—as Black attests to the superiority of the culture of “The East” due to their use of acupuncture and “the food they eat.” Along the way Showalter explains the novel concept of “keeping up with the Joneses,” which they both agree is the modus operandi of our materialistic American culture. It’s a terrific start for a promising new podcast: an incredibly funny, pitch-perfect parody of pretentious self-seriousness and faux-profundity. [CG]


OUTLIER 

The Star Wars Minute
The Star Wars Minute dissects George Lucas’ cultural juggernaut one minute at a time, with each episode focusing solely on 60 seconds of the film. They’re up to episode 40 now, and have already managed to clock around 8 hours of podcasting without getting to Han Solo’s introduction. Hosts Alex Robinson and Pete The Retailer are unabashed lovers of Star Wars, but they’ve also done their homework, bringing in readings from Lucas’ earlier drafts of the film to show how concepts like “the force” became more nuanced as the scripting process went on, and including a guest host every week to provide new insight. In some ways these guys are performing exegesis on Star Wars, giving it the careful line reading that a biblical scholar might do to Genesis. Thankfully, Robinson and Pete don’t treat the film like it’s a holy, unimpeachable piece of art. There’s a good amount of snark (especially for the prequels, unsurprisingly) and questions about George Lucas’ judgment and storytelling abilities. That being said, this podcast is probably only for people who have more than a passing interest in Star Wars. Even with the extra information and jokey atmosphere, the podcast’s scope is so myopic those unfamiliar with the Star Wars universe will get hopelessly lost. [NC]


THE BEST

The Bugle #242: Woman Gives Birth!
“Woman Gives Birth” is the episode every avid Bugler has been waiting for since the world caught wind of Kate Middleton’s pregnancy. With the birth of the hotly anticipated royal baby, John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman deliver one of the finest issues of The Bugle in recent memory. The two are fancifully snarky and immediately dig deep into the inherent ridiculousness of a media circus surrounding a baby fated to be king in 60 years’ time. The episode runs slight at a half hour, with the back 10 devoted to reader emails, but the comedy is golden throughout. Famous Internet exhibitionist Anthony Weiner a.k.a. Carlos Danger also gets a bit of a shout-out in an inspired preamble to the royal nonsense. For those fed up with the week-old baby celebrity, this is required listening. [MK]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #233: Royal Watching: Bob Odenkirk, Andy Daly
Having back-to-back episodes with Andy Daly is unprecedented, but a delightful surprise in a week where Comedy Bang! Bang! brought out the big guns: Daly, Bob Odenkirk, even Bob Ducca. It begins with episode 233, where Odenkirk and David Cross announce dates for their upcoming tour, before Daly shows up as “royal watcher”/Kate Middleton-stalker Byron Denniston. Odenkirk has a great time passive-aggressively mocking the English and the royals (and using “smurf” as a verb), which invites all sorts of comic bluster from Daly. As expected, it takes some dark turns—Denniston is just a step away from saying “something for daddy” while describing the princess—but shockingly, Daly’s character never announces an intent to commit suicide. It’s exceedingly enjoyable and one of the most consistently funny episodes of the year. [KR]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #234: Changing The Bandage: Bill Hader, Seth Morris
It’s been more than a year since Bob Ducca, Scott Aukerman’s ex-stepfather, has made an appearance, but “Changing The Bandage” rights that wrong in so many grotesque ways. Seth Morris is in rare form as Ducca, and as always brings a handful of deeply sad and hilarious laundry lists to the table. Aukerman has a ball interacting with him, but his first guest, Bill Hader, fades into the background on Ducca’s arrival. It’s a shame too because Hader had an enjoyably silly interview going before Ducca showed up and ruined everything with his hilarity, but worse things have happened. Improbably, the group’s lack of cohesion actually transmutes stiffness into a glorious fiasco of a game of Would You Rather? Hader has trouble understanding the game and Ducca is titillated by the disgusting scenarios, which leads to a giddy ending of an already strong episode. [MK]

Doug Loves Movies: Tom Lennon, Brie Larson, Steven Yeun, And James Ponsoldt 
Despite the presence of a toxic-sounding Ed Hardy-branded wine brought by Tom Lennon and a Leonard Maltin Game newcomer, The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun, this episode chugs along nicely, with minimal distractions. (Well, except for the bleeps necessitated by Yeun accidentally reading the shithead listed on his nametag too early.) Lennon is a delight as always, and the aforementioned wine turns into a running gag throughout the episode. Actress Brie Larson is always a somewhat unusual presence on the comedian-dominated show—sort of half space-cadet, half grad-student—but she’s reliably fun on this episode, and former Leonard Maltin Game winner/director of The Spectacular Now James Ponsoldt thankfully gets to talk a little this time, to make up for his last appearance alongside Pete Holmes. It’s an engaging yet well-behaved panel tuned for maximum DLM efficiency—so efficient, in fact, that they make it through the games portion of the episode with time to spare. Thankfully, that leaves time for drinking that terrible Ed Hardy wine. [GK]

The Fogelnest Files #47: Car Car Binks: Sean O’Connor
Sean O’Connor is probably the goofiest guest Fogelnest has had in quite a while. He spends much of the episode giggling or parroting what Fogelnest is saying, and comes across more like a sidekick than an interviewee. Far from making things uncomfortable, however, his nonsensical wit proves to be a delight. In particular, his sketch ideas (including the titular Car Car Binks) bring a brand of surreal humor to the podcast that, while jarring at first, creates some moments so far out that even the host doesn’t really know what to do with them. It’s definitely a more laid back episode, but in the best possible way. [AB]

Hang Up And Listen: The MildlyInteresting.com Edition
This episode’s best observation is Josh Levin’s exasperated response to an obligatory discussion about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel leaving the Manning Passing Academy summer camp: “It’s a stupid question, and we’re going to give you some stupid answers.” This is exactly the kind of buzz saw through bullshit that makes HUAL so important, taking non-issues and dissecting them to figure out why anybody cares. The Phil Mickelson British Open segment is a drag, and a recap of this year’s Tour De France only highlights how much Americans don’t care about cycling post-Lance Armstrong, but the Manziel discussion is absolutely worth a listen. [KM]

How Was Your Week #125: Pichet Ong, Halle Kiefer: "Shitty Shoes"
Chef Pichet Ong first appeared on Episode #110, HWYW’s most recent live show, when he led a cooking demonstration with Julie Klausner and Ted Leo. Whereas the visual nature of his bit didn’t quite translate that time, Ong’s return this week is delightful as he shines in an intimate and funny conversation. Ong’s had a long career as a restaurateur, with many peaks and a few struggles. Ong’s responses to Klausner’s questions about his failed restaurants and the other difficulties he’s faced illuminate not only the tenacity that chefs must have to succeed in New York’s hyper-competitive culinary world, but also the perseverance required to build a career in a creative field. [DF]

Improv4Humans #91: Biohazard Acoustics: Seth Morris, Mookie Blaiklock, And Will McLaughlin
If Matt Besser was on a quest to record the funniest podcast ever, it wouldn’t be hard to blame him for stopping after “Biohazard Acoustics.” Luckily he is on no such quest and Improv4Humans will continue on, but Besser will be hard-pressed to top this week’s triumphant episode. In the span of an hour, Besser and his three guests, Seth Morris, Mookie Blaiklock, and Will McLaughlin, play extremely well together. On particular display is the bizarre assortment of YouTube videos for the crew to tear through, MST3K-style. Of those videos, the closing act is best, taking an unbelievable clip of an insane atheist loudly flailing about in an attempt to stage an impromptu counter-protest and escalating it into something beyond spellbinding. Mookie jumps straight into the atheist character and gives what very well could be the performance of his life. Folks, this is absolutely required listening. [MK]

The J.V. Club #71: Emma Bates
Actress Emma Bates (Much Ado About Nothing) lost her older brother a week before her 16th birthday, and this revelation sets the tone for The J.V. Club, which becomes a poignant meditation on grief. It’s clear that this is going to be one of J.V. Club’s serious episodes when Janet Varney and Bates begin discussing the George Zimmerman trial, using that as a transition into Bates’ childhood by discussing the Virginia native’s proximity to guns growing up. But before diving into the adolescent tragedy, Varney and Bates lighten things up by talking about their prom experiences, with Varney looking at Bates’ high school pictures and sharing her own story of obtaining a $40 vintage prom dress. Fun and casual but still exploring heavy subject matter, it’s a quintessential episode of the podcast. [OS]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #124: Amber Tozer
The Mental Illness Happy Hour may be the only podcast where a guest’s nervousness about the episode’s release is an encouraging sign. Paul Gilmartin correctly surmises that Amber Tozer’s apprehension about hearing her conversation reveals a complicated relationship with her parents, and his observation is an indicator of an interesting, revealing installment. The stand-up comic talks about her late father's alcoholism before delving into her deep appreciation and love for her workaholic mother. Tozer never settles for easy characterizations of people in her life, resulting in a fascinating, nuanced portrait of her mother. The discussion takes several turns that seem to be more confessional than Tozer planned, but she never sounds uncomfortable with the episode’s direction. On a different show, the moments of unexpected disclosure could feel voyeuristic or even exploitative, but on The Mental Illness Happy Hour, they’re earned and natural. [TC]

Monday Morning Podcast
The listener email segment on the Monday Morning Podcast is by no means a reliable source of laughs, and in fact oftentimes it’s just downright depressing. But then an installment like this week’s comes along and completely bucks expectations. The highlights are a listener inexplicably soliciting bird care advice, then Burr even more inexplicably providing that bird care advice in a serious manner, and an email about Serbia and Bulgaria that compels Burr to go down a rabbit hole of ignorance on Google. Even a letter seeking relationship advice and pertaining to a matter of “size” is much more amusing than one would expect. The episode starts out really, really slow—even by Burr’s standards—but when it all builds to the listener email segment, it somehow doesn’t seem so bad. [CG]

My Brother, My Brother And Me 160: The Ballad Of Dunkleman
The dynamic on display this time around provides the perfect atmosphere for newcomers to the podcast as well as those who have been waiting for an excuse to tune back in. It’s debatable whether this week’s show is the brothers’ best work, but it certainly shows them doing what they do best: ragging on each other and using their collective repository of shared personal memories and nerd knowledge to create a fun, low-stakes comedy hour. Their opening riff about Mexican dolphin death shows is particularly rewarding, as are the last few minutes in which they not only condone but encourage drug usage to a non-drinker looking for a way to feel included at parties. The in-between is hit-or-miss as always, though their discussion of the various ways to become blood brothers is worth a listen as long as you’re okay with descriptions of viscera... and dog periods. [AB]

Nerdist #385: Joss Whedon
Longtime listeners of The Nerdist podcast know what a big deal this episode is. Since the show’s beginning, Chris Hardwick has used any excuse to mention that he used to be guest Joss Whedon’s neighbor for a spell back in the ’90s. There’s talk of Whedon’s disappointment with how his script for the Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie was executed and tales of his first writing gigs, namely Toy Story. However, some of the most charming moments don’t come from Whedon recounting highlights from his brilliant career, but from when his daughter interrupts the conversation to negotiate the prospect of watching one more Futurama episode before bed. [MS]

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Nerdist #387: Live From SDCC 2013!
San Diego Comic-Con is the epicenter of nerd culture, so it’s fitting that this live episode of Nerdist features Doctor Who’s Matt Smith and a palpable amount of excitement. In the episode‘s intro, Chris Hardwick discusses Smith’s limited availability, and it’s hard to think that it wouldn’t benefit from a tighter construction, but the two-hour piece avoids becoming a chore. There are moments that dip in quality, yet it finds ways to make it inviting for listeners with only a cursory knowledge of Doctor Who. Putting the focus on audience questions could have been disastrous, but given the non-stop energy and shifting topics—including a fan’s mid-episode marriage proposal—by the end it’s one of the most madcap Nerdists, live or otherwise, and that makes it worth the time investment. [DA]

Never Not Funny #1302: Playing The Part With Paul F. Tompkins
“This has been, I think, the silliest that we have ever been,” says Paul F. Tompkins about 100 minutes into his super-sized 134-minute episode of Never Not Funny. “Oh it’s the dumbest,” responds Jimmy Pardo. “And I mean ‘dumb’ in the most complimentary [way].” There are long exchanges with characters Tompkins makes up on the spot (like Robert, who loves personal-pan pizzas), nonverbal gags (good for the video feed), and lots of guffawing (like when Paul F. Tompkins learns that an Internet-famous newscaster is now working as a bartender). Podmass readers know that Tompkins is a podcasting all-star, so he’s in his element with the Never Not Funny crew and the show’s loose, genial setup. It’s a long episode, but one of the rare ones that could’ve gone on even longer. [KR]

Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #61: Steve Agee, Dan Van Kirk
The news stories in the Sklarbro bonus episodes tend to focus on crazy things that happen in Florida, but when the show branches out to Massachusetts and San Francisco, it doesn’t feel like it’s picking on the Sunshine State. A Massachusetts man threatens a delivery guy, then barricades himself inside his parents’ house while brandishing a tomahawk and a crossbow. And in the most San Francisco story ever, an uber-hippie breaks up with his girlfriend and briefly becomes homeless before hiding in a tent in a backyard and assaulting a man his ex brings home. Finally, now that football season is ramping up, Dan Van Kirk’s Chicago Bears superfan Doug Buffone makes a triumphant return. [KM]

Sound Opinions #399: Johnny Marr
Johnny Marr’s contributions to The Smiths’ catalog tend to overshadow the rest of his work, but his collaborations since that band’s 1987 disintegration form the bulk of his career. With Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot, he describes his youth palling around with a bunch of kids who brought disparate influences to their guitar playing, explaining his unique style. And though Morrissey went on to a prolific solo career, Marr only released his first proper solo record in February. DeRo and Kot are a bit starstruck by Marr in their studio, but they do get him talking about his various collaborations with a wide swath of different bands, and plunging into electronic music at a time when it was a complete 180 from his previous output. Marr is a guitar icon, and he manages to articulate his desire to eschew simple genre labels. [KM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Pluto: The Demoted Dwarf Planet
Though the relatively recent timeline of Pluto’s discovery works against it sounding like a complete story, hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey keep the premise afloat by giving the would-be discoverers of the dwarf planet their own compelling through-line. Pluto was discovered in 1930 after decades of research attempting to pin down a mysterious “Planet X” seen in the mathematical movements of other planetary objects. Percival Lowell, founder of the Lowell Observatory, died before he could realize his dream. But a young scientist named Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto using Lowell’s Observatory before he'd even graduated with his first college degree. Tombaugh’s hobby of building his own telescopes as a young man makes him sound worthy of the victory. The hosts gloss over a legal battle with Lowell’s widow, but at 26 minutes, there is a lot of story packed in. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Why Should You Never Scare A Vulture
While this episode does not bring charm to the creepy carrion bird known as a vulture, hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant prove it is a far more essential animal than one might think. The episode kicks off with a fairly gruesome tale of a French woman who fell to her death and was picked clean by vultures within 45 minutes. This might sound frightening, but Clark notes that sometimes we need nature to do this. Despite the myth that vultures eat rotting carrion, they prefer fresh meat, and as Clark dryly puts it, “provide a service” to their ecosystem. Some religions even base funeral rituals around letting vultures pick their bodies clean after death. Bryant notes that vulture species evolved in parallel on opposite sides of the planet in order to fill a functional niche on their continent, making it especially unfortunate that many species are becoming extinct. [DT]

The Todd Glass Show #111: Graham Elwood
Graham Elwood is, in every way, the ideal The Todd Glass Show guest. He loves to play along with all of Glass’ silly whims, and he doesn’t mind derailing one of Glass’ soapbox rants with a well-timed barb. That’s why it’s downright criminal that it took Elwood more than a year to return to the show. He is consistently funny and commanding throughout the show, especially when he’s doing an impromptu bit as an abusive motivational speaker. He also reprises Libby, his shrill, middle-aged buzz kill character. No other guests seem to understand the rhythm and cadence of The Todd Glass Show quite like Elwood. Hopefully, another year won’t pass before he returns. [MS]

Who Charted? #138: Cosplay Jaywalking
Guest Marc Maron is his usual intense self, but he’s also in a profoundly good mood. It might have something to do with the fact that IFC has ordered a second season of his show, Maron, or maybe that he recently got engaged. Maron expresses a healthy does of both excitement and fear over the fact that his future wife is demanding that he reproduce. Whatever the reason, his neurotically upbeat energy definitely drives the show, as evidenced in his insanely manic retelling of his experience in summer camp during the music chart.  [MS]

WTF #408: Thom Yorke
Though his preamble spent gushing about the immense wonders of vinyl portends bad things for the episode, Marc Maron is thankfully able to rein in his “music, maaan” posturing quite a bit for his interview with Radiohead and Atoms For Peace frontman Thom Yorke. Yorke is surprisingly jovial, though never exactly revealing, whether he’s talking about politics in England and America, the early years of Radiohead, or the founding of Atoms For Peace. It’s not one of the best interviews Maron has ever conducted—nor is it likely one of the best Yorke has ever given—but whenever it gets a bit trifling, one can simply step back and take at least some fleeting pleasure in marveling at the fact that Marc Maron is interviewing Thom fucking Yorke. [CG]

WTF #409: Judy Gold
Rarely does a comedian come on with absolutely no filter about the industry, willing to curse like a sailor and talk shit about other entertainers. Judy Gold is one of the few performers who not only matches Marc Maron’s anger and intensity, but also often dwarfs his diatribes in his own garage. That dynamic is refreshing, as Gold recounts her rather accidental start in comedy, losing out on multiple jobs to Sherri Shepherd (including a recurring character on Everybody Loves Raymond named Judy), and raising two children as a separated lesbian woman. She pulls no punches in ripping apart Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinions on Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage, and Maron simply guides her from comedy to politics to family in a boisterous conversation that never gets boring. [KM]

You Made It Weird: Brent Sullivan
This week’s episode of YMIW is definitely not one for the prudes. While sex and relationships are regular topics for Holmes, he and Brent Sullivan devote the lion’s share of the interview to a surprisingly graphic discussion of their habits and histories—including a prolonged comparison of how easy it is for each of them to get and maintain an erection while on a steady porn diet. It speaks to the merit both to Sullivan’s unflappability and Holmes’ almost childlike open-mindedness; however, that the conversation feels candid and mature rather than just unsavory. The episode slows down noticeably toward the latter third (i.e. the last 45 minutes or so) as they run out of aspects of their sex lives to talk about, but until that point, it’s a consistently compelling (and often bravely truthful) talk about the more shameful parts of a topic that most people would feel incredibly uncomfortable opening up about. [AB]


THE REST

Judge John Hodgman: Halal In The Family
Stephanie, a Muslim, won’t have pork in the house she shares with her boyfriend, but now she doesn’t want him to eat it elsewhere; as the chat with substitute Judge Jesse Thorn unfolds, you get the idea swine is the least of their problems. [DXF]

The Moth: Tara Clancy & Susan Kent: StorySLAM Favorites
StorySLAM episodes, which feature double presenters and an abbreviated run time, tend to feel more like satisfying morsels than fleshed out performances. This week is no exception, but both stories about women coming to terms with reality are affecting. [DJ]

Professor Blastoff: #114: Space Weather (w/ Alysha Reinhard)
As a topic, space weather has a lot of potential, but an inexplicable emphasis on the sun and on David Huntsberger’s aggressively convoluted story-questions leave more than just the phoned-in guest-expert confused. [SM]

Sklarbro Country #157: Dirty Talking Droopy Dog: Aisha Tyler, Chris Cox
Aisha Tyler has been on the show before, and the Sklars had a hiccup finding their quick hits for this episode, so while it’s still funny, it’s a bit of a retread. [KM]

The Smartest Man In The World: Lambchops
With no unifying thread, this week’s The Smartest Man In The World skips from digressions about ’70s culture to modern sports and race relations, ramping up to a reading and discussion of the Fourth Amendment—then a bad sound mix pushes background music to the front during the climactic monologue, rendering it unlistenable, even if you play with the balance settings. [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: We All Love Ice Cream
Ice cream’s poorly documented history makes it hard for the topic to stick. However, Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey succeed in having fun debating how gross early ice cream recipes sound. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Maps Work
The functionality of maps fails to excite either host Josh Clark or Chuck Bryant, though both hosts’ poor sense of direction leads to funny anecdotes. [DT]

Walking The Room #160: Ramadadan and Magazine Management
Dave Anthony’s tour and the George Zimmerman verdict keeps much of the episode in Florida, and aside from the smattering of irregular one-liners, rants against rednecks and racists makes for too familiar of territory to be essential listening. [SM]

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