We visit Harmontown and binge on Doug Loves Movies in this week’s podcast roundup 

We visit Harmontown and binge on Doug Loves Movies in this week’s podcast roundup 

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QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“Fame, both small and large, is a strange donkey. It seems to not be without some kind of tangible use, but it also has the capacity to kick you in the balls and shit on your face.” —John Oliver, The Bugle

“He’s an unemployed videogame reviewer living with his mom, and he won’t do porn because he wants people to take him seriously.” —Dave Anthony on Jonah Falcon, who’s “cursed” with the world’s biggest penis, Walking The Room

“I think we were all just a little disappointed, because we expect this kind of behavior from Eugene Levy. Fred Willard seems a little bit more wholesome than Eugene Levy, in my mind.”

“If somebody tells me this happens to Eugene Levy, my first reaction is, ‘Again?’”—Griffin and Justin McElroy on the Fred Willard incident, My Brother, My Brother And Me

“Seems this Pharaoh had quite an un-gentlemanly yen for Bast, a cat-headed goddess.”

“Well, perhaps they shared common interests, such as an enjoyment of lasagna or an aversion to Mondays!” —Paul F. Tompkins and Paget Brewster, as Frank and Sadie Doyle, exploring a cursed pyramid on The Thrilling Adventure Hour

NEW TO US

Harmontown
What do you do when you’re the ousted creator of a TV show that’s a borderline failure by conventional metrics but beloved by Internet citizens? You go where your fans are. Dan Harmon has turned his weekly black-box forums at Nerdist’s NerdMelt Theater into a podcast, giving hungry followers a chance to plug directly into his meta mind. The displaced showrunner now finds himself desperate for direction, living the hero-journey myth that served as a framework for every episode of his show. At the first episode’s onset, Harmon describes himself as, “Sam Rothstein in late Act Two of Casino… I am third-act Lenny Bruce… That’s what the show’s about.”

Harmontown often feels like a writers’-room session gone off-topic. In the first episode, he doesn’t dish on Community, though fans may find it interesting that Harmon actually says “duh-doy!” in conversation. Instead, the prolific Harmon and co-host Jeff B. Davis (Whose Line Is It Anyway?) deconstruct Jesus Christ Superstar, mock Prometheus sight-unseen, and trade scatological stories that—like Community plots—grow so complicated they require diagrams.  In the second episode, Harmon expertly goofs on Inception and Good Will Hunting, praises Robocop, answers listener questions, and remorsefully admits to difficult behavior that led to his removal from Community. The podcast is for fans only, but for that undervalued group, it’s essential listening. [DXF]


OUTLIERS

Necessary & Sufficient
The premise of Necessary & Sufficient is rather unusual: Each week, host Evan Forman mails two index cards featuring tangentially related words to his guest in an envelope that is opened on-air, and the two then have a discussion based around those words. At first glance—and at times even under closer inspection—it seems like a less assured version of a podcast from the HowStuffWorks family of podcasts, but viewing it as such would be mostly missing the point. Rather than setting out specifically to explain something, the show is rather blatantly aimless, and it gives great weight to interesting ruminations and connections made between concepts and situations as opposed to straight facts. The best guests are those who go along with and contribute to Forman’s musings; a perfect example is 99% Invisible host and on-air pro Roman Mars in Episode 12: Matter & Weight. Both Forman and Mars get increasingly confused about the subject at hand and Mars ends up talking quite a bit about himself and how his brain works, which, frankly, makes for more interesting podcasting than physics would. [CG]


DROPPING IN

Girl On Guy With Aisha Tyler #57: RuPaul Charles
Aisha Tyler celebrates the one-year anniversary of her podcast with her second “girl on gay” show, a spectacular discussion with drag-queen extraordinaire and all-around interesting person RuPaul. A lot of time is obviously given over to RuPaul’s drag career, but it’s all presented within the context of his well-developed personal philosophy. (“Ego loves identity. Drag mocks identity. Therefore ego hates drag.”) He’s an incredibly well-spoken, insightful guest, and Tyler is good about presenting him with thoughtful questions and follow-ups and then letting him talk. At 105 minutes it’s a bit of a project to listen to (and the show unfortunately still hasn’t managed to fix its sound issues, so there’s an audible squeal throughout), but even those who have little to no interest in drag or gay culture should be able to find something interesting and enlightening in this discussion. [GK] 


THE BEST

The Bugle #201: Dirty Bankers
Hosts John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman pick up where last week’s discussion on the Libor scandal left off, turning their attention to a new controversy. This time, it’s HSBC, which has been accused of laundering money for Mexican drug cartels, Iran, and Syria. While the content may seem dry, it’s elevated by Oliver and Zaltzman attempting to top each other with hilarious hyperbole as they take the mega-bank to task. The pair then wades into the recent announcement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that mermaids don’t exist, an announcement it was forced to make in response to a show on Animal Planet. As with the bank scandal, the pair’s over-the-top humor is a perfect fit for the topic, leading to some fun conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton and mermaids as an immigration issue. A fake Olympic-themed “from the archives” bit at the end is bit limp, but it hardly matters given how sharp the rest of the episode is. [MG]

Comedy Bang! Bang! #168: Breaking Bread: Bob Odenkirk, Matt Besser
This week, comedy nerds will be stunned to learn of an aborted Mr. Show podcast called Mr. Blow, which guest Bob Odenkirk conceived of as a way to hang out with his pals from the show. Sadly, it didn’t turn out well, and all the public will ever hear of it are three prerecorded sketches that play throughout episode 168. The first is classic Mr. Show—a musical based on a house, which actually dates back to when the show was in production. The others are less memorable, but serve as a cruel tease of what might have been. Odenkirk, as always, remains a welcome guest on Comedy Bang! Bang!, but ace improviser Matt Besser falters as Pope Benedict XVI. Listeners will hear the labored child-molestation jokes coming a mile away, which is a bummer because some of his past few characters (the “Happy Birthday To You” guy) have missed the mark, too. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: Tom Lennon, Rob Huebel, and Kumail Nanjiani 
The last of the whopping five DLMs to plop this week (including one minisode) is also the strongest. Thanks to a bottle of wine provided by Tom Lennon, the whole panel is loose and extremely chatty, seemingly aspiring to reach Miller/Holmes/Garlin levels of derailment. They never quite get there, though, holding themselves together well enough to participate in a round of a new, imaginatively titled box-office-gross-based game called How Much Did This Shit Make and two rounds of The Leonard Maltin Game, one of which Kumail Nanjiani pretty much ruins, though the drubbing he receives from everyone else for his pre-guess is more entertaining than a proper round. The pre-game discussion is filled with jabs about What To Expect When You’re Expecting and some Dark Knight Rises “spoilers” courtesy of Lennon, who reveals how his doctor character helped rehabilitate Bruce Wayne off-screen. [GK]

The Flop House #106: Immortals
Tarsem Singh’s ancient Greek fantasy epic Immortals doesn’t seem like a good movie by any means, but it also doesn’t seem like the utterly abysmal or insane kind that makes the mere discussion of it entertaining. Thus the analysis of the Flop House hosts is fine but rather uninspired, and they all seem slightly bored—which makes the great mailbag segment that follows all the bigger a delight. It’s profoundly silly and features a prolonged riff on Alf as an answer to a question about Ted being a sequel to Gooby. The real highlight, however, is a listener-submitted spec script for a wacky buddy-cop film featuring hosts Stuart Wellington and Dan McCoy, as played by the ghost of Rodney Dangerfield and Barack Obama (with voice overdubbed by Sean Connery doing his “famous” Darth Maul impression). [CG]

Hang Up And Listen: The Near-Death Penalty Edition
HUAL isn’t the type of show to generate memes—though Mike Pesca’s basketball-themed Oklahoma! deserved to go viral, if not get produced on Broadway—but Stefan Fatsis’ international sport-o-crat character (“It eez not possible”) has inspired a T-shirt, and it gets some quality play in the lead-up to the London Olympics. The head of the IOC, in a classic sport-o-crat move, has rejected calls for the Olympics to formally acknowledge the 40th anniversary of the massacre at the Munich games, offering a number of rationalizations that the HUAL crew mockingly rejects. In a big week for sports, the gang also gets into a fascinating discussion of the penalties levied against Penn State in the wake of the Freeh Report on Jerry Sandusky and whether the NCAA will continue to take such strong, unilateral disciplinary actions again. (Short answer: No.) There’s also talk of Adam Scott—no, not that Adam Scott—choking away the British Open, which was bland by golf-meltdown standards. [ST]

Judge John Hodgman: The Cluck Stops Here
Count raising chickens as one of the areas of Judge Hodgman’s expertise. On this informative and vastly entertaining episode, Hodgman hears a complaint from John, who’s trying to stop his wife Lauren from building a coop and keeping chickens in their new third-of-an-acre suburban backyard. Much like a parent instilling in his children the responsibilities of owning a new dog, Hodgman wants Lauren to be completely aware of what she’s getting into: Crazy, dirty, high-maintenance birds who take the vicious “pecking order” thing seriously and will have to be murdered when they can no longer produce eggs. (If they don’t murder themselves, that is.) The great thing about the episode is that Lauren, who has a day job at the Philadelphia Zoo, doesn’t approach chicken ownership casually and Hodgman respects that without minimizing the horrors she’s likely experience. [ST]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #70: Listener Lily 
Paul Gilmartin’s episodes with unknown listeners and support-group friends have the challenge of being both anonymous and thoroughly open, something he handles well this week with his guest Lily. It’s certainly not Mental Illness Happy Hour’s first attempt to tackle a woman’s struggles with sexual assault and its long-reaching effects. Then again, Lily and Gilmartin reveal how much change people can go through in their late 20s and early 30s, ambitiously covering everything from working out the kinks in a relationship to having kids. The fact that Lily is a child psychologist adds another wrinkle, but the focus stays on her own struggles. [SG]

Monday Morning Podcast
Compared to last week’s abysmal installment of the Monday Morning Podcast, this one is gold, and standing on its own, it’s still pretty good. Bill Burr can’t pass up the opportunity to touch on the Penn State controversy and the Aurora shooting, but his takes on them are fresh and funny enough to set them apart from the flood of press coverage both of those stories have received. His recounting of a humiliating experience in an elevator in which he inexplicably condescended to an old woman in a wheelchair is a nice nugget of self-deprecation, and his flat-out dismissal of two listener emails is also amusing. The episode certainly lags at points, and overall it’s as uneven as ever, but there’s more good than bad. [CG]

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The Moth: Warren MacDonald: A Crushing Connection
Even in the world of The Moth, there are only so many trapped-under-a-boulder stories. Australian Warren MacDonald frames his in terms of a search for peace and some kind of union with nature, but keeps a grisly focus on what it’s like to be crushed under a ton of rock, at risk of drowning, and gnawed on by ants and crayfish. With that contrast at work, MacDonald keeps up a calm and reflective tone, making listeners respect his acceptance of the whole ordeal but also driving home its abruptness and enormity. [SG]

My Brother, My Brother And Me #113: Dolphin Jockey
The Fred Willard masturbation incident looms large over this week’s episode, starting with the McElroys’ impassioned defense of Willard at the beginning followed by several callbacks throughout. In between typically hilarious and absurd banter about Brendan Fraser’s annoyingly unending acting career, horses and horse-related bumper stickers, and popping and locking, there’s actually quite a lot of earnest, helpful advice about how to kindly bail on one’s friends in a situation, how to tip hotel maids, and the potential dangers of letting children actually indulge in their superhero fantasies. One segment about shaving tips goes on for a bit too long, but there are just enough jokes peppered in to keep it from ever getting uninteresting. The episode wraps up on a high note with one of the best Yahoo! Answers questions in quite some time. [CG]

Nerdist #232: Greg Proops
Veteran stand-up and host of The Smartest Man In The World Greg Proops joins Chris Hardwick for a one-on-one interview that sees Proops take charge of the conversation early and never give up control. This is not to say that Proops has an agenda; he just starts in on historical topics and runs with it. Hardwick appears to sit back and let him lead, and when he does interject, it’s never distracting. Proops and Hardwick work well together for episode's duration, never slowing down even as the podcast nears the 90-minute mark. [DA]

Nerdist #234: Michael McDonald
While some may recognize Michael McDonald from his work on MADtv—namely as the Stewart character—the veteran comedic performer has a history that goes well beyond his time spent on the sketch-comedy show. McDonald’s history with the Groundlings offers up a wealth of interesting topics, but the majority of the episode functions like a glorified Hostful, just with an added voice and perspective thrown atop the regular Nerdist crew. [DA]

RISK! #337: Treacherous 
The treacherous activity in this episode ranges from the seriously dangerous (falling into an elevator shaft, being threatened with rape by a driving instructor) to the less perilous theme of sex panic. (Hints: Don’t have it with guys if you hate semen! Don’t have it with girls if you hate girls!) But while the stories presented by Ariana Seigel, Eric Martin, William Mullin, Julie Threlkeld, and Selena Coppock are inconsistent in terms of levels of danger, they’re uniformly entertaining. [CZ]

Sklarbro Country #104: Synthetic Urine
In the universe of Sklarbro Country, Bruce Jenner and Bryant Gumbel (both voiced hilariously by Jason Nash) are currently beefing over insulting comments Gumbel made about Jenner on the podcast. But the latest podcast finds Jenner so dispirited by life he can’t even muster the energy to zing his rival. A predictably hilarious call from Nash’s Jenner closes out a strong episode involving guest Blaine Capatch discussing hecklers, cats, and his time writing for the man born Ned Holness, whom the world would come to know and strongly dislike as Carlos Mencia. [NR]

Sklarbro Country: Sklarbro County 9
Who Charted? co-host Howard Kremer joins the Sklars and Dan Van Kirk for a consistently hilarious hour, fueled by three news stories that set up a generous number of punchlines. The gang starts by playing The Price Is Right with KJ1, a new cabernet wine label fronted by former NFL wide receiver and noted oenophile Keyshawn Johnson. Will this delicious nectar—touted for its hints of “tobacco and damp earth”—be priced as a $4.99 bottle of paint varnish or is Johnson shooting for the connoisseurs? The actual retail price is a little shocking, frankly. Another gem of a story begins with a man passed out in his car at a Taco Bell drive-thru who offered a taco as identification because he was so drunk—.227 blood-alcohol content, three times the legal limit. (“You guys know that .3 is just pouring vodka in the breathalyzer.”) And that’s not the half of it. [ST]

Sound Opinions #347: Dissects Ziggy Stardust
Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis risk both reading too much into David Bowie’s The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars without saying enough about it. Their extended discussion of the album takes a while to get past the context of glam-rock and Bowie’s experiments with androgyny, but eventually, DeRogatis hits upon a way to grow with the extraordinary and deeply ridiculous album. He saves this episode once by finding the album’s soul in the trippy gibberish of “Moonage Daydream.” He does it again during a review of Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, by offering (in that playfully arrogant way of his) to edit it into a great album. [SG]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Strangest Games: The 1900 Paris Olympics
The 1900 Paris Olympics were only the second games in modern history, and were such a disaster that some Olympics snobs call it a “sideshow”: It stretched from May to October, and sometimes athletes didn’t even know they were competing in the Olympics. Make sure to set aside whatever you’re doing, as this ridiculous and amusing topic is so dense there’s a lot to catch from minute one, and you don’t want to miss the origins of sports like “cudgel play” and “shin kicking.” Co-hosts Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey give plenty of backstory, and by the time the podcast gets to the chaos of competitors digging their own pits and the Dutch drafting a 7-12 year old boy into competition, it sounds too madcap to have happened at all. Thankfully, this is actual history. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Did A Cow Start The Chicago Fire?
About a quarter of the way into this episode we learn that the answer to the titular question is “no.” Turns out a likely hammered Tribune reporter admitted years later that he just liked the visual of a cow kicking over a lantern. But while there’s still no definitive proof of how it happened, one of the greatest urban fires in modern history almost certainly started in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn while she was in bed with a sore foot, and had to watch her entire livelihood burn to the ground along with a third of Chicago. Unfortunately, the hosts seem a bit unengaged with the topic at points: Listeners get to hear about co-host Josh Clark’s oyster preferences just when the detective story is getting good. But it does still get good, with lots of possible outcomes explored. [DT]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #80: Beyond Belief, “Sarcophagus Now”
This episode’s installment of Thrilling Adventure’s Beyond Belief segment hits an average level of plot wackiness—the protagonists awake a mummy and a crazy cat-goddess while seeking a birthday gift for a friend who’s a demon. But it’s possible the show’s never done a better job of writing for the segment’s main characters, swank alcoholics and supernatural explorers Frank and Sadie Doyle (Paul F. Tompkins and Paget Brewster). As they pick their way through cursed-pyramid clichés in the episode’s first half, writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker find their opportunities for choice one-liners and take them, making for an almost brutally funny episode. But it takes the right delivery to really work, from Tompkins scolding the ancient Egyptians for not feeding their snakes to Brewster’s ridiculous pronunciation of the word “lasagna.” [SG]

Uhh Yeah Dude #332
Uhh Yeah Dude episodes have covered such a motley range of topics over the years that it’s a shock to the system when Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette wade into (relatively) unexplored waters, like this week’s videogames confab. The pair discuss ways to improve the Grand Theft Auto series (put babies in the cars) and are baffled by adult gamer culture, which is a slightly adorable response from such a pop-culture-savvy pair. Still riding high from last week’s live show, the hosts get in plenty of sharp observations on the dangers of bungee jumping—which nearly match the dangers of having a birthday, apparently—but deadpan readings of a combative interview with Applebee’s president Mike Archer and a selection from L. Ron Hubbard’s auditing-techniques lecture make the show. Soul-killing ad copy, vapid interviews, and a dollop of hogwash are all it takes to make a great UYD episode. [CW]

Walking The Room #113: Winkable Moments And Peg Leg
This week’s opening segment finds Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt at their most base, discussing the depressingly slow demise of their family pets’ health, with emphasis on fecal quality and quantity. In the second segment, Anthony details the insufferable irony of Jonah Falcon, a man whose penis, purportedly the largest in the world, brings him nothing but grief, and he and Behrendt offer theatrical solutions to his difficulty getting through airport security. Walking The Room thrives on contradictions, so it’s no surprise that the raunchier bits are delivered with whimsical immaturity, while Behrendt’s insistence on purring “boo bear” and Anthony’s troubled nursery rhymes are the truly disturbing moments. To close, the two debate attending a Peruvian clown festival, Berhendt shoots down Anthony’s increasingly frequent report on China, and the two speculate at what point the Gathering Of The Juggalos will sell out. [SM]

Who Charted #86: Dipped In Eros: Nick Kroll
Comedian Nick Kroll joins hosts Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack for this edition, and his laid-back demeanor makes every brilliant punchline and dry aside especially effective. Kroll doesn’t need to dominate the discussion; he has an amazing ability to punctuate every conversation and make it better. Kroll also has a lot of fun with the charts: The dance-music chart inspires a brilliant bit of improv where he and Kremer launch into a bit about shopping for clothes in a department store. Kroll also launches an impressive solo bit about Kelly Clarkson’s career and closes it out with an entertaining breakdown of the movie From Justin To Kelly. However, the episode really shines when Kroll and Kremer revert back to a seventh-grade mentality to discuss if they’d rather date Kylie Minogue or Jennifer Lopez. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #298: John Oliver
Self-described as “The British Fellow on That TV Show,” John Oliver doesn’t have a lot of hidden pain to talk about, so it’s a good thing he proves to be a worthy intellectual conversational partner for Marc Maron. Meeting in the garage for a bright and early 7:30 a.m. interview, they discuss childhood athletic failures, art and architecture in Vatican City, and Oliver’s time at Cambridge with Richard Ayoade, all the while trading barbs about differences between British and American culture. It’s occasionally enlightening for the little-known story of Oliver’s past, but mostly just an intriguing chat between two intelligent guys who can pick apart just about any subject they jump to without hitting a snag. [KM]

You Made It Weird #68: Kulap Vilaysack
If You Made It Weird were a show about spirituality and mysticism, episode 68 would be a major achievement in terms of podcast structure, as just about every tendril of discussion is eventually related back to those topics. As it stands, though, it’s one of the most cohesive episodes of the show to date—as well as one of the best. Kulap Vilaysack, who typically comes off as hugely upbeat, opens up a lot, discussing her abusive childhood and generally unfortunate relationship with her parents, to whom she still doesn’t speak. It’s fascinating, heartbreaking at times, and very funny, as both she and Pete Holmes use humor to maintain some levity during the darkest points of her tale. Mysticism comes into play as one of Vilaysack’s coping methods throughout her life, and the episode as a whole makes a compelling case for its usefulness. [CG]

You Made It Weird #69: Tommy Johnagin
Things get seriously weird and voyeuristically sexual when guest Tommy Johnagin shares fascinating, This American Life-ready anecdotes about his ne’er-do-well father, a sketchy truck driver who didn’t drink or use drugs but did share tales of his many sexual conquests with his impressionable young son. Johnagin’s father comes off like a real-life version of Matthew McConaughey in Dazed & Confused, a sleazeball perpetually on the prowl, as well as a dispenser of some seriously questionable advice where his son’s sex life is concerned. [NR]


THE REST

The Best Show On WFMU
New caller Terry from Woodstock throws Scharpling off his game early in this week’s episode, the caller’s incessant giggling raising the question “Is this guy for real?” [AF]

Doug Loves Movies: Brian Posehn, Scott Aukerman And Kulap Vilaysack
This fun but all-too-brief mini-episode was filmed for Doug Benson’s next movie, so it only features the chat portion. [MS]

Doug Loves Movies: Jay Chandrasekhar, James Gunn ...and Neal Brennan?
First-timer Jay Chandrasekhar is an affable presence on the panel, as is Neal Brennan once he finally arrives, but James Gunn takes up most of the air in the room. [GK]

Doug Loves Movies: Matt Mira, Jonah Ray, And Jimmy Thomason 
Recorded live in Dallas, this 80-minute episode gives listeners the full assortment of games—a new one called How Much Did This Shit Make?, ABCDeez Nuts, Build-A-Title, and Len Maltin—but also a lot of fat, like an dull discussion about how Mira should get to the airport. [KR]

The J.V. Club #20: Dannah Phirman And Danielle Schneider 
Janet Varney is joined by comedians Dannah Phirman and Danielle Schneider to talk bullying, penis growths, and faking your period. It’s a funny discussion, although Janet Varney has some trouble keeping her guests on topic. [OS]

Never Not Funny #1105: Spinning Records With Jonah Ray
The episode begins promisingly, but frequently eases into the dry minutiae of podcasting, hyper-local comedy, and record stores, making for a latter half that’s engagingly informative, if not outright funny. [SM]

The Smartest Man In The World #168: Independents
Greg Proops treats a Philly crowd to his abrupt rendition of Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom” and a rant about the Constitution, and really, who has any right to be surprised? [SG]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #227: Caitlin Howden
Improv comic Caitlin Howden brings her A-game to this riffing session, and her “Overheard” about a morning-after pill purchase sounds more enjoyable than the evening that preceded the incident. [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The First Olympics, Revisited
This is yet another summer re-run of a classic SYMIHC, interesting indeed but completely unnecessary if you know other ways to find it. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How White-Collar Crime Works
While a fascinating topic, this episode is a mess. Too many aspects of crime are mentioned, with none getting any depth. You may as well just watch a season of Damages. [DT]

The Todd Glass Show #56: Rory Scovel and Daniel Kinno
This is a fun episode, but a lot of the humor depends on visual cues that listeners can’t see. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #299: Retta, Brent Weinbach, Ron Funches, Rory Scovel, Jim Earl, Eddie Pepitone
Parks And Recreation’s Retta and Eddie Pepitone are the headliners of this packed, borderline-overwhelming show, but Rory Scovel provides the most laughs with his riffs on losing stuff at the airport and hill people. [CZ]

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