Vince Gilligan opens up on Nerdist, Dominic Monaghan joins Doug Loves Movies, and Bill Hader stops by the garage 

Vince Gilligan opens up on Nerdist, Dominic Monaghan joins Doug Loves Movies, and Bill Hader stops by the garage 

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

“I have my own Google: It’s called books.” —Greg Proops, The Smartest Man In The World

“Yes, we all murder each other all the time. It’s never not satisfying.” —Paul F. Tompkins, as the ghost of Richard Harrow, answering the viewer question “Do you get to murder anyone in Murder Heaven?”, Comedy Bang! Bang!

“Diarrhea in a pool is the most invasive species.” —Tig Notaro, Professor Blastoff

NEW TO US

Tell ’Em Steve-Dave!
On a recent episode of Tell ’Em Steve-Dave!, Brian Quinn—one of the show’s three main members and star of TruTV’s Impractical Jokers—complained that they don’t get any respect in the podcast community, specifically citing a lack of mention on Podmass. Lovable grump (and routinely the best part of the show) Walt Flanagan explained that he thinks the show is better as an underground hit, with the fans of TESD part of a special tight-knit club. About two minutes later, Flanagan calls the show’s listeners furious masturbators who live in their mom’s basement. After Quinn asks why they’re insulting the audience after showering them with praises, Walt explains to them, “[You’re] still in that special club, but there’s a reason you’re in that club! There’s a reason you’re listening to some fucking third-rate podcast!”

 That self-deprecating sense of humor (to themselves and the audience) is a big part of what makes Tell ’Em Steve-Dave! such an entertaining listen. Led by longtime pals Quinn, Flanagan, and Bryan Johnson (the latter two of Comic Book Men on AMC), they record in the back of a New Jersey comic-book store run by Flanagan, and it runs on t Kevin Smith’s Smodcast network . Occasionally featuring prepared comedy pieces, it’s mostly made up of the boys chatting about the news, busting each other’s balls, or talking with the large supporting cast of friends who have appeared throughout the show’s 150-plus episodes. TESD’s mildly half-assed charm comes from them doing pretty much whatever they want. (Their most popular episodes form the “Making Hay” series, where the trio investigates the depressing underbelly of a cheap Jersey flea market.) It’s ultimately three regular guys just hanging out, though way more alluring than that sounds. [BB]


OUTLIER 

OK Radio
Nature Theatre Of Oklahoma, a New York-based performance art troupe, borrows its name from the all-welcoming collective in Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel Amerika. On its surface, the same probably couldn’t be said for NTO founders and hosts Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper’s podcast, which features niche-aimed long-form discussions with scholars and artists like Viewpoints pioneer Anne Bogart, Yale dramaturgy professor Tom Sellar, and the occasional mainstream guest like Reggie Watts. As esoteric and uncompromising as some of the discussions get (i.e. Bogart comparing her role in the rehearsal process to “pregnancy paper” for actors to pee on), listeners with an interest in the experimental arts world might find OK Radio to be a quintessential platform for serious discussions with serious artists whose advice could be applied across many disciplines. On the other hand, it’s a must for students. [DJ] 


THE BEST

The Best Show on WFMU
Much of the lasting brilliance of The Best Show lies in Tom Scharpling’s refusal to allow even excellent bits, like his classic 2009 Gathering Of The Juggalos meditation with Paul F. Tompkins, to grow stale. The host has a history of killing topics before they overwhelm the program or, in the case of 2013’s obsession with Grateful Dead’s Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, continually expanding the bit until it morphs into something new and exponentially more bizarre. In this solid installment, Scharpling continues his maniacal expansion of a soundscape that started with McKernan’s stomach-churning cover of “Good Lovin’” before incorporating Suicide, Chuck Woolery, Andrew Dice Clay, and Spring Breakers. The McKernan fixation also makes for a delightful call with comedian/Deadhead Andy Kindler, who performs his own version of the singer’s improvised creepiness. While poking fun at Juggalos has a short shelf life, the glory of Pigpen’s “four-day creep” lives on. [TC]

The Bugle #244: Russian Into Battle
Real global disasters never provide the right kind of fodder for The Bugle’s skewed perspective, but social issues that seem bizarrely avoidable make for perfect episodes. The head-scratching case of Russia’s extreme stance against homosexuals has Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver in top form as they reflect the insane news, and make it somehow even weirder. They’re able to tackle it from a number of angles in an unusually focused issue, ranging from news of President Obama skipping a meeting with Putin, to Zaltzman delivering an unforgettable fantasy laden with political puns. To make matters better and worse, Zaltzman rings a bell at every pun, which becomes its own joke by the end of the run. [MK]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #236: Murder Heaven: Rob Corddry, Paul F. Tompkins
In what could be read as a metaphor for the episode in general, Scott Aukerman kills time at the beginning of this live recording session awaiting the arrival of his first guest, to whom he had apparently given bad directions. When Rob Corddry finally shows up about five minutes in to discuss the new season of Childrens Hospital and Hot Tub Time Machine 2, the show begin in earnest. But as is often the case with CBB, once the second guest steps in, it gets good. Paul F. Tompkins tries on a new character: the gravel-voiced, half-faced Former Richard Harrow, ghost of Boardwalk Empire’s sad WWI vet. The clear episode highlight sees Aukerman and Corddry attempt to puzzle through Harrow’s explanation of the convoluted system of heavens available to the deceased, including Murder Heaven, where everybody murders one another all the time. [DD]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #237: Filipino Blockbuster: Jonah Ray, Nick Thune, Eugene Cordero
Scott Aukerman is at his best with first-time guests, especially when the guests are open for anything. Nerdist co-host Jonah Ray makes his first appearance on the show, alongside jovial regular Nick Thune, for a chat that rapidly devolves into an overly self-aware bro-fest. “Filipino Blockbuster” is a slight b-b-b-bonus-s-s-s episode, but its relative brevity is no problem. Once Eugene Cordero (last heard as Jazz-Jazz the puerile barber) shows up, Ray and Thune interact perfectly with the Filipino owner of a Blockbuster-esque mall kiosk. Cordero’s principle joke runs dangerously parallel to Be Kind Rewind, but he makes it work and quickly elevates it to new extremes, which play out in a game of Would You Rather? for the books. [MK]

Doug Loves Movies: Dominic Monaghan, Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel
It’s no surprise that Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel, two-thirds of Human Giant, have an easy, hilarious chemistry on this episode; what is a little surprising, and delightful, is how well actor Dominic Monaghan fits into the dynamic. Monaghan jumps in with the comedians’ riffing, and gets in quite a few good observations/stories of his own, many of them having to do with his BBC America show Wild Things. Better yet, he understands the Leonard Maltin Game well enough to jump in with ease (those rule cards given to Doug Benson by a fan appear to be working), though with such movie-savvy (Scheer) and shameless (Huebel) opponents, he does get a bit overshadowed. But it’s a smooth, funny episode that flies by, and makes a good case for repeat appearances by Monaghan. [GK] 

Hang Up And Listen: The A-Rod Vs. Everyone Edition 
Clint Dempsey is coming back to play soccer in America with the Seattle Sounders, and the patronizing analysis of his move continues! Despite the progress made by the US Men’s National Team, sportswriters cannot stop acting like a bunch of entitled SEC fans whose school hasn’t won a conference title since the 1970s by demanding that a 30-year-old with kids should not take a lot of money to return to his home country and play a sport while he’s still in his prime; he should instead choose to remain in a foreign country with a struggling team just to play against better competition. HUAL delves into this discussion, but hardly anyone comes out looking like they actually give a damn about the person behind all the nationalistic hopes for World Cup success. [KM]

Improv4Humans #93: LIVE from DCM 15 Pt. 1
While callbacks have never been the backbone of Improv4Humans, this week’s live episode, taped at the Del Close Marathon in New York City, demonstrates their importance. For the marathon, Matt Besser does something special, inviting new improvisers up to join him every 20 minutes. The result is a manic show, occasionally hilarious, and at many points stilted. Besser does his best to keep “Live From DCL 15 Pt. 1” interesting throughout, but the episode really shines when the right crew comes out. In particular, cult improviser Chris Gethard (of The Chris Gethard Show) comes out swinging for his entire 20 minutes in the second segment, and Brian Huskey’s group toward the end delivers an absurd airport scene. The audience goes quiet during a few dead moments, but overall Besser delivers a solid slate of improv. Plus, there’s a second part to look for soon. [MK]

The J.V. Club #73: Autumn Reeser
It’s always interesting when guests with children come on the show, and Last Resort’s Autumn Reeser’s pregnancy makes for a fascinating discussion as she contemplates how her past will influence the decisions she makes if her child is a girl. Reeser already has a son, but the possibility of a girl on the second round makes her more aware of how she can help her daughter overcome the challenges she faced as a teen, from bullying to choosing between smarts and popularity. It’s one of the show’s longer episodes, with Varney and her guest spending considerable time on their adult lives in the entertainment industry, but there’s a strong balance of past and present subject matter. Reeser paints an evocative image of her childhood in Southern California, and she provides a strong point of contrast to Varney’s upbringing in the Arizona desert. [OS]

My Brother, My Brother And Me 162: Mystery At The Petting Zoo
An opening routine in which the brothers speculate about the identity of the new Doctor (spoiler alert: it’s Peter Capaldi) sets the tone for one of the nerdier MBMBAMs in recent memory. The questions seem to have been chosen more judiciously than usual, since the hosts were able to choose from two weeks of submissions due to last week’s clip show. As a result, the running gags are solid, most notably a mispronunciation of “Celiac” that will most likely only be funny to those who haven’t completely lost touch with their 12-year-old selves. And the brothers have yet to shake their bashful amusement with the goods offered at extremerestraints.com despite months of sponsorship—a fact that provides an unusually high number of giggles this time around. [AB]

Professor Blastoff #116: Ecology (w/ Katie Pagnucco)
Professor Blastoff hosts tend not to plan much of anything, but this excellent episode is especially reliant on improv. Recording in a hotel (and sounding like it) in Montreal, the three set off a number of riffs that see callbacks of increasing payoff peppered throughout, a treat the hosts can’t always provide. Guest Katie Pagnucco, a Ph. D candidate studying ecology and invasive species, is a great booking: an eager, fast-talking expert, she’s also a member of an improv troupe, and it shows. When the hosts arrive at the topic, they’ve got a half-hour of crackling, semi-relevant material to pull from, and with the discussion focused on the sort of species they’d eradicate; or what’s cuter, a mouse-sized Ed Asner or an Ed Asner-sized mouse; or rounds of “We Built This City” to complement humans outgrowing the term “invasive,” it amounts to essential listening for fans of Professor Blastoff at its silliest. [SM]

Nerdist 393: Vince Gilligan
Sure, it’s a tie-in with Chris Hardwick’s hosting duties on the new Breaking Bad after-show Talking Bad, but Vince Gilligan is such a cordial guest that he’s perfect for Nerdist. Before digging into theories about Breaking Bad, Hardwick brings up Gilligan’s script for Wilder Napalm, the 1993 Dennis Quaid movie that Hardwick inexplicably adores. The opening goes against the grain of the hundreds of Breaking Bad interviews that presage the airing of its final eight episodes, and Gilligan sounds relieved for the chance to talk about something else in the run-up to the last eight episodes. Once the conversation inevitably turns to his show, Gilligan talks about casting comedians like Bob Odenkirk, Bill Burr, and Steven Quezada (who does stand-up in Albuquerque), how the series has changed since his original pitch to AMC, and how a network exec changed his thinking on music cues. It’s a fascinating 90 minutes that serves as a great primer for Sunday’s première. [KM]

[pagebreak]

Sklarbro Country #159: Stink Sacks: Toby Huss, Jesse Thorn
Toby Huss has a fascinating career as a character actor: He played Artie on Pete And Pete, voiced several characters on King Of The Hill, and appeared in a litany of films and TV series over the past 20 years. The Sklars know they can just nudge him down a path for a story, and then sit back and listen. In addition to the origin story of Artie, The Strongest Man In The World, Huss tells a lengthy, engrossing yarn about researching former Brooklyn Dodgers coach and manager Clyde Sukeforth for his role in the Jackie Robinson biopic 42. Huss is a talented voice actor and impersonator—he busts out an impeccable Frank Sinatra at multiple points—which continually stuns the Sklar brothers throughout the episode. And though many final-segment characters quickly wear thin, Jesse Thorn’s occasional faux fantasy league updates are always a delight. [KM]

Sound Opinions #401: The Best Instrumentals
As an hour-long radio program, Sound Opinions struggles to demonstrate enough range whenever Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot make introductory or “Best Of” lists due to time constraints. But like the “World Tour” episodes that provide a good starting point for the music scene in a foreign country, this episode covers a worthy array of the best rock instrumentals. It’s a skewed list—DeRo could skip the requisite Wire entry every so often—leaning heavily on a particular generation of music and leaving out several high-profile instrumental acts. Still, as a jumping-off point for rock without traditional vocals, this episode amounts to a viable summary of highlights. [KM]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Hypatia Of Alexandria
Hypatia Of Alexandria is a particular favorite of hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey, though one might have to listen to the entire episode to fully appreciate why. Hypatia may have been the most prolific scientist of the third century. At first this sounds interesting enough, but when it comes to the facts the hosts say “it’s a little unclear” often enough to inspire a drinking game. Wilson and Frey eventually make clear that Hypatia’s absence from textbooks is a dramatic one. The decline of the Roman Empire has much to do with the destruction of her works, and regional religious conflict made her day-to-day life quite dangerous. Eventually she was hunted and brutally slaughtered by Christian zealots. That she made it to this podcast at all should inspire listeners to learn more about her. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Horseshoes Work
Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant start by bemoaning the tedium of horseshoes, but their surprisingly ancient topic makes for a worthy episode. By breaking down the scientific need for horseshoes to exist (it turns out horses aren’t really built for running) the horseshoe itself takes on an anthropological meaning. The technique of throwing a horseshoe takes advantage of how the shoe fits onto its original hooved host; by grabbing the toe and using no more than three fingers, a player attempts to achieve an arc while only flipping it over once. This way, the shoe’s toe can clang against the stake and spin around in its classic, iconic fashion. The hosts get more and more engaged in the topic as they realize how much physics and history they get to weave, and some gallows humor about the deadly nature of lawn darts keeps things from getting dull. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Does A Diving Bell Work?
Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant begin the episode by examining an old article about diving bells written by Bryant. Bryant admits the article is a bit stiff, and it takes a while to get past awkward descriptions of primitive engineering. As it dawns on the hosts how intense and bizarre it is to explore the sea in a tiny enclosed space, the energy of the show picks up. Johnny Depp’s use of a canoe in Pirates Of The Caribbean is thoroughly dismantled, and the story of a man who survived a capsized bell in a shipwreck for 60 hours is fascinating. The episode also ends on a particularly amusing note, wherein Bryant presents damning evidence that the entire idea to make a film called Sharknado may have been stolen from him. [DT]

Uhh Yeah Dude: #383
Seth Romatelli and mother Marcia recorded episode 383 back in 2012. Now, with Jonathan Larroquette away in Iceland, the family Romatelli has broken the glass encasing this adorable, brief, emergency-use-only episode. Marcia’s on her fourth outing, and she handles her topics like a pro, dropping charming asides about distractingly beautiful virtual assistants at the airport and providing capsule reviews of the 50 Shades Of Grey novels. There are fewer laughs than a typical episode, sure, but all the maternal warmth helps maintain the heat usually thrown off by that famed Larroquette-Romatelli chemistry. [CW]

WTF #412: Jim Norton, Michael Ian Black, Maria Bamford, Todd Barry, Janeane Garofalo, Dom Irrera
Live episodes of WTF tend to shift the focus of the show from insightful and intensely personal one-on-one interviews to just being plain funny. And that’s certainly true of this one, recorded in Austin, Texas, at the Moontower Comedy Festival in April. The episode gets off to a weak start, but the funny gradually accumulates as Todd Barry, Maria Bamford, Michael Ian Black, and Jim Norton all settle in naturally. Considering how stacked the guest lineup is, it’s hard not to be a little disappointed by the end result, but with such a strong finish it’s easy to overlook that and enjoy the episode for what it is. [CG]

WTF #413: Bill Hader
Bill Hader just moved to Los Angeles after departing Saturday Night Live, and now that he’s settled and past the marketing blitz for The To-Do List, he joins Marc Maron without the pressure of promotion. His stories of starting in L.A. as a production assistant are fascinating—especially driving William Zabka around—and Maron does his usual detailed passive-aggressive interrogation about the process that got Hader on SNL. Since that sketch show is the biggest part of Hader’s career, it forms the lion’s share of the conversation, and Hader is very forthcoming about all of his experiences. He conveys a wondrous attitude about his whole career, grateful for every opportunity without any of the ego that sometimes plagues that show’s breakout performers. [KM]

You Made It Weird: Kirk Fox
Who would have guessed that the head of the Pawnee Sewage Department would have so much strange wisdom to share—or that he would exhibit such steadfast Zen confidence in an interview? Maybe it’s because he’s on the show to promote The Test, his new conflict-resolution show, but Kirk Fox handily matches Pete Holmes’ characteristically über-positive register out of the gate. The results are strange: Stretches of the episode sound like two self-help gurus trying to synthesize a grand theory of self-improvement, only to be thwarted by Holmes’ inability to commit to Fox’s tonally ambiguous seriousness. That’s not to say that Fox is humorless—his insistence on cutting to a non-existent commercial break is hilarious. It’s just a little hard to tell when he’s sincere about what he’s saying as opposed to when he veers into delightful bullshit. [AB]


THE REST

Doug Loves Movies: Graham Elwood, Aaron Kleiber, and Vince Faust
This episode starts off with a promising, unexpected moment from guest panelist/DLM fan Vince Faust, but quickly loses itself in a morass of audio issues. Those who don't like their podcasts accompanied by an ever-present echo should stay away. [GK]

The Fogelnest Files #49: KARATE PROM: Judah Friedlander
This week’s chat between Jake Fogelnest and Judah Friedlander is informative, but pretty damn dry. It’s worth a listen for those unfamiliar with Friedlander’s career but otherwise skippable. [AB]

How Was Your Week #127: Tami Sagher: “Like Fuddruckers But Expensive”
An extra-long monologue manages to be only fitfully funny, and even a charming guest—comedian Tami Sagher—can’t salvage an interview that dwells for far too long on the benefits of dogs as pets and the full roster of people she met as a member of Chicago’s improv scene. [AH]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #126: Susan Hagen
A conversation with therapist Susan Hagen will likely split the Mental Illness Happy Hour audience between listeners who are intrigued by her methods and others who can’t get past her inner-child approach. Its appeal may be limited to a segment of existing MIHH enthusiasts. [TC]

Monday Morning Podcast
This week’s episode contains 75 minutes of relatively humorless and dull musings with a Max Tucker-esque listener email tacked on at the end, dividing it into two distinct parts: one that you can’t help but forget, and one that you only wish you could forget. [CG]

The Moth Malic White: The Pink Stallion
A trans man in Chicago relates his gender identity to his bike choice in this extra-brief episode. White’s storytelling is earnest, even if comes across a little twee. [DJ]

Nerdist #391: Michael C. Hall
This episode is essential listening for Dexter fans, but maybe not anyone else since Michael C. Hall doesn’t have much in the way of interests aside from acting. [MS]

Nerdist #392: Rogue Wave
Nerdist always benefits from having musicians on, and though Hardwick’s palpable excitement helps, it’s not enough to carry this middle-of-the-road episode. [DA]

Sklarbro Country Sklarbro County #63: Julie Klausner, James Adomian, Daniel Van Kirk
An episode with How Was Your Week host Julie Klausner has a few highlights, but isn’t as memorable as listeners would hope from a team-up of high-profile podcasters. [KM]

The Smartest Man In The World: Candlesticks
Thought-provoking, funny, and depressing, Proops’ stop in San Francisco recaps “a heinous month for humanity” by commenting on Wendy Davis, sexual harassment, George Zimmerman, and the selective application of Stand Your Ground laws —with digressions about the 1970s’ National League, the vestigial tribal allure of patriotism, and his all-Jeremy Irons-characters baseball dream team. [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Flannan Isles Disappearance
Though listeners are promised a maritime ghost story off the coast of Scotland, the episode deflates when the hosts repeatedly point out that the events of the tale are mundane. [DT]

The Todd Glass Show #113: Jimmy Pardo
This episode of The Todd Glass Show is exhausting given the fact that he rants for almost 40 minutes on the same rehashed topics before guest Jimmy Pardo even shows up. [MS]

Walking The Room #162: Snailin’ And Detroit Swimmin’
Though Dave Anthony’s commentary while Greg Behrendt yells at his dog and a discussion of a Canadian man swimming to Detroit ultimately brings the hosts back up to “solid mediocre earbleed,” it doesn’t save the episode from its spluttering first half spent arguing how the calendar works and Turbo’s logistical flaws. [SM]

Who Charted? #140: Scotty Boy, My Special Boy
Kulap Vilaysack chose guest host and comic actor Armen Weitzman because his eccentricity is similar to the absentee Howard Kremer’s. Unfortunately, Weitzman lacks Kremer’s charisma, charm and likability. [MS]