Week of Aug. 25-Aug. 31

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“It’s all that horrible Euro-pop gay club music that sounds like big candy bubbles coming out of a perfectly manicured asshole.” —Andy Richter, Who Charted?

“Podcasts! I’m coming off of two weeks without them, because three days into the vacation, my beloved husband of 13 years asked to borrow my iPod so he could go for a run, and he got his sweat all up in it, and it bricked. So a) this establishes that clearly he is history’s worst monster, and b) What’s worse than exercise? Nothing. Nothing! Now it destroys property. So that’s new. Good for that.” —Glen Weldon, Pop Culture Happy Hour

“That was my favorite Jack White side project, The Provocateurs.”
“How did you ever get hired at any job, let alone Parks And Recreation?” — Harris Wittels and Scott Aukerman, Comedy Bang Bang

“What are you doing here? You’re not a nerd.” —Rainn Wilson to Bryan Cranston, Nerdist

“I have to question the idea that ‘this is human’ and ‘this is the moment celebrities are just like us’ or whatever. I suppose that’s part of the identification and fascination, but given that this all happens on the continuum of scrutinizing women’s bodies really closely in this creepy, sexual way… There’s some kind of invasion of privacy there that feels like, ‘Where are the speculum paparazzi? When are they coming in?’” —Dana Stevens on tabloid coverage of celebrity pregnancies, Culture Gabfest

“We don’t use phones anymore in this day and age, yet she still phones things in.” —Julie Klausner on Chelsea Handler, How Was Your Week?

“It’s nice to be bawling your eyes out on a used futon for a good reason.”—Marc Maron, WTF With Marc Maron

NEW (TO US)

Making It 
If you’re looking for clues about the tone of this month-old podcast hosted by the taller, blonde half of Garfunkel And Oates, look no further than its chipper, TGIF-esque theme song. (“We’re gonna make it / if we try / we’re gonna make it / touch the sky” Riki Lindhome and her backup vocalists sing, clearly thinking of themselves as much as, say, a Chicago-bound Bronson Pinchot.) Making It shines some light on the indignities of climbing up the showbiz ladder, but for every audition horror story that Lindhome collects, there are two or three anecdotes that ought to give hope to any starry-eyed dreamer whose greatest aspirations in life involve an IMDB page and Screen Actors Guild membership.

While the show’s constant optimism and narrow focus automatically limit its potential audience (Making It certainly won’t make the workplace playlists of a lot of cubicle dwellers), Lindhome has so far done a great job at lending the show some variety via the backgrounds of her guests. Nearly every Making It guest has some history with Lindhome, yet they’ve represented a wide range of creative types making a go of it in entertainment: A sitcom star (Raising Hope’s Garret Dillahunt), a stand-up comedian (Anthony Jeselnik), a former child actor (Sara Paxton), and a writer-producer (Martin Gero), to name a few. As an interviewer, Lindhome tends to stick to a few stock questions, but her familiarity with her guests helps guide the conversation to more interesting places: Dillahunt’s time as a stage actor in New York, for instance, or Paxton’s frighteningly realistic experience playing a mermaid in Aquamarine. It’s all a bit insular, but as Lindhome has pointed out several times, there was no source for this kind of information when she was starting out, and Making It is entertaining, as far as public services go. As to its status as escapist listening: Sometimes it’s nice to stand tall on the wings of someone else’s dreams—no matter how modest they are. 


THERE’S A ’CAST FOR THAT
New this week for Podmass: a look at one of the thousands upon thousands of lesser-heard shows that lurk on the fringes of the podcasting world. 

The Survival Podcast
Jack Spirko’s daily monologue isn’t just the rants of a paranoid redneck waiting for the apocalypse; the show discusses useful tips self-preservation in tough situations and day-to-day life. TSP can cover everything from how to use a gun to how to pickle cucumbers and all the miscellaneous things you never considered when you wrote out your zombie apocalypse plan on 4chan. The host has heavy libertarian leanings (obviously) but the clear, simple episode titles allow you to choose carefully, maybe skipping the one about carrying a gun every day for another on planting an autumn garden. Thankfully, Spirko does his research, breaking down complicated issues into plain English. Episode #731, Preserving The Harvest, is a perfect introductory episode, as it offers suggestions for preparing fresh vegetables and game for the winter. When the economy collapses, Spirko will be the only friend you have left, so get used to him now. 


THE BEST

Comedy Bang Bang #120: Farts And Procreation: Adam Scott, Harris Wittels, Chelsea Peretti
Early into episode 120, Chelsea Peretti says, “Seriously, the bit saturation in this room is crazy,” and that’s before fellow guests Adam Scott and Harris Wittels do a bone-dry bit where they’re lumber-store owners, or the end-of-episode scene involving a disco, a vegetarian robot, and a guy who shows up to dance 15 hours early. It’s a thoroughly bizarre, hilarious episode ostensibly devoted to Parks And Recreation—Scott stars on the show, Peretti and Wittels write for it—that immediately settles into giggling absurdity. The longest bit, where Wittels and Scott dive deep into two guys who run a lumber company, is played incredibly straight even as the details get increasingly ludicrous, though Wittels and host Scott Aukerman frequently lose their composure in fits of laughter. (Scott remains unflappable.) Peretti later debuts some (knowingly) one-joke characters from her upcoming “one-woman show,” which segues into the strange, funny scene at the disco. It’s perhaps the most absurd, meta episode of Comedy Bang Bang ever, and for fans of the guests and Comedy Bang Bang, it hardly gets better than this. 

Hang Up And Listen: The Cesc Change Edition
The arrogance and idiocy of international sports organizations—led by “blue-blazered sport-o-crats,” as Stefan Fatsis likes to call them—are catnip for the Hang Up And Listen crew. (In fact, their new T-shirt features Fatsis’ favorite catchphrase, “It Eez Not Possible.”) This week, the gang actually praises the International Association Of Athletics Federation for fairly applying the false-start rule that disqualified sprinting superstar Usain Bolt from the World Championships, but—wait for it—they also think it’s pretty much the stupidest rule ever. How does it benefit a sport to disqualify the one runner responsible for anyone paying attention to it? In other international blunder news, the HUAL gang tsk at the exploitative nature of the Little League World Series and bring on soccer expert Franklin Foer to grouse about the soccer-ownership rights that condemn players to indentured servitude. Then they wrap things up with a mixed response to ESPN The Magazine’s Michael Vick issue, which featured both great reporting by Seth Wickersham about Vick’s time in prison and an embarrassing think-piece by Touré entitled “What If Michael Vick Were White?”

How Was Your Week?#25: Best of HWYW Vol. 1
Clip shows usually come off as a lazy way to fill airtime, and Julie Klausner’s only been podcasting for 25 episodes, but her selections for this best-of episode—Joan Rivers, Neko Case, and Patton Oswalt are highlights—will please loyal fans and serve as an excellent introduction for new listeners. (Klausner reveals that Oswalt is likely to be the show's first repeat guest.) She also discusses some key current events, such as the state of Rosie O’Donnell’s neck in Curb Your Enthusiasm, her dislike of Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem, the scabby butts of the baboons at the zoo, and a list of her favorite anorexics.

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #23: Beth Littleford
In the latest installment of The Mental Illness Happy Hour, host Paul Gilmartin mentions that two previous guests requested their episodes never air, because it could potentially hurt people close to them. The default level of candor on The Mental Illness Happy Hour is so relentlessly high that their caution is understandable. Guest Beth Littleford, for example, talks to Gilmartin about formative traumas from her childhood she hasn’t processed adequately in her own life, yet is willing to share, albeit with a bit of trepidation. Littleford talks briefly about how The Daily Show’s early meanness made her uncomfortable, but the heart of the conversation is a long, involving, and boldly intimate discussion of her inappropriately sexual relationship with a father she adored and the complicated, contradictory feelings it engendered. Like so many installments of The Mental Illness Happy Hour, this podcast traffics extensively in shades of gray. It’s especially moving hearing Littleford’s empathy for the people in her life who have hurt her. Gilmartin has put out feelers for a guest with post-partum depression for a while, though Littleford would have been a great guest even if she hadn’t wrestled with the illness.

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #32: Cold Pizza
It’s not that Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh aren’t enthusiastic about snacks; it’s just that the snack-talk so often becomes a springboard for bantering about anything and everything else. But this week’s review of cold pizza has them unusually well-focused on the food at hand: They’ve secured both the “local neighborhood pizza” and Domino’s in left-overnight form, and actually stay rather deep in cold-pizza talk. In fact, it verges amusingly on real food-critic bad poetry when Cavanagh observes “the woodenness of the crust” and Black says that cold pizza’s appeal “sneaks up on you like a goddamn leopard.” The two even bring in a supposed “man on the street,” reasoning that this is “man-on-the-street food.” Speaking of which, the whole episode’s worth it just for the pair’s needlessly detailed explanation of why people fold up their pizza slices.

The Moth Bokara Legendre: Mummy Was A Wild Game Hunter
Bokara Legendre battles her mother’s legacy in a wry Moth story recorded in 2001. Legendre’s delivery has an authentic WASP-y mischief to it, appropriate for the daughter of a big-game hunter who owned a plantation in South Carolina and met her husband on a shooting trip. Legendre affectionately recalls her mother’s adventurous spirit—anecdotes include the time her mother accidentally ended up in a World War II prison camp—but the story gets funnier as she reveals how at-odds she is with all that. Legendre seems to believe her mother was taunting her from beyond the grave as she recalls gathering her friends at the family compound and giving a new-age-y speech, only to realize she was surrounded by taxidermied animal heads and skins.

Nerdist #119: Bryan Cranston
This week’s episode offers a full-fledged nerdgasm—host Chris Hardwick is even more effusive in his praise than usual—thanks to a double whammy. First, there’s guest Bryan Cranston, star of the best show on television, Breaking Bad. Then Rainn Wilson makes an unexpected drop-in with real-life superhero Phoenix Jones—the two were shopping a show about Jones in the building—culminating in a lot of “Your show is the greatest” from all sides. (There’s a funny bit where Wilson and Cranston try to outdo each other on the line “I’m the one who knocks” from this season.) Critics knock Hardwick for his over-enthusiasm, but #119 is more like a less terrible Inside The Actors Studio, with Cranston going deep into his work methods and reflecting on his career. It’s essential listening for Cranston fans, and the real-life superhero tangent midway deserves its own episode.

Never Not Funny: #913 Andy Kindler
There’s a lot of talk of numbers this week, sprung from Jimmy Pardo quantifying his effort level in the opening minutes and his introduction of comedian Andy Kindler as a numerologist. The two, along with producer Matt Belknap, return to it often for some funny material, though it’s a bit riff-by-numbers. Kindler, a comedy buff known for his annual “State Of the Industry” address, references “moleeds” and Charles Fleischer’s all-encompassing mathematical formula for life—much to the confusion of Pardo and Belknap, and likely the listener—and the two discuss Kindler’s history with comedy and the reasoning behind his high standards. Much of the episode plays as a crash course in comedy, touching on the evolution of a stand-up’s career and calling out typical offenders like Leno, Entourage, Dennis Miller, and TV shows based on formulaic social conflicts, like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Three’s Company. Kindler’s ranting pace is rushed and frenetic (even by NNF standards), making for an episode that’s endlessly funny and engaging, even if it merely skims the surface of each topic.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Apes Spoilers, Insomnia Cures, And Owl Noises
Who knew the Pop Culture Happy Hour crew (again minus Trey Graham and plus producer Mike Katzif, who brings the light quippage more readily than the podcast’s other recurring stand-ins) were all insomniacs? This week features a lengthy, dissatisfied review of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, which largely amounts to an impatient reiteration of PCHH’s frequent Simpsons-quoting refrain, “When are they gonna get to the fireworks factory?” Also, a little griping about “too much ape emo.” But the surprisingly lively second segment deals with the specific kinds of music, writing, TV, podcasts, and even iPhone apps the participants turn to when they can’t sleep. A tip for DVD designers: Insomniacs resent the repeated music loops that play over DVD menus, taking over viewers’ dreams when they finally nod off on their couches. Also, apparently 3:30 a.m. EST is a great time to check in on Twitter, because all the West Coast comics are getting home drunk, wired, and chatty. Especially Kyle Kinane.

Sklarbro Country #57: The Land Of Osbaldistan: Paul Gilmartin, Baron Vaughn
The podcast world is understandably incestuous; somebody has to fill all those guest slots, so why not a fellow podaster? It would be hard to find two more dissimilar podcasts than Sklarbro Country and The Mental Illness Happy Hour. The Mental Illness Happy Hour is all about candor, dysfunction, and self-disclosure. Sklarbro Country, in sharp contrast, breezes happily along the surface. So for The Mental Illness Happy Hour, it can be both strange and bracing to hear Gilmartin in a context where he can make as many jokes as he pleases without offending anyone or taking a guest out of the moment. Sklarbro Country is, in other words, a safe place for Gilmartin the funnyman, rather than the sensitive soul. Gilmartin makes the most of this opportunity, discussing how hockey channels his inner aggression, but it isn’t long until the brothers are peering below the surface and exploring Gilmartin’s inner demons. The guest establishes the tone; the brothers even indulge in a mini-fear-off (a fixture of The Mental Illness Happy Hour) that exposes their own insecurities. In the fear-off, Gilmartin concedes he’s worried that fans will be disappointed by this episode, but he has no reason to worry. This may be less funny than the average entry, but it’s also more intimate, emotional, and real. Baron Vaughn closes with a very funny new character who specializes in helping black athletes unleash their inner Caucasian when speaking to reporters and media types. 

The Sound Of Young America: Paul Scheer
For a comedian who often plays nasty characters and frequently stars on raunchy shows, Paul Scheer comes off as an enjoyably polite, earnest fellow in his TSOYA interview. Jordan Morris chats with Scheer about his gone-but-not-forgotten sketch comedy show, Human Giant, and FX sitcom, The League, segueing into Scheer’s newest TV project, the Adult Swim procedural parody NTSF:SD:SUV. Scheer also discusses his love of bad movies as explored through his podcast, How Did This Get Made?, clarifying that it’s an affectionate kind of appreciation, which is really the only way a guy who appeared in Piranha 3D can approach bad movies.

Sound Opinions #300: A Classic Album Dissection of Rust Never Sleeps
Sound Opinion hosts Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis are at their best when they’re enthusiastically recommending something (DeRo especially), and their classic-album dissections allow the two critics a chance to fanboy out about one of their favorites. For the show’s 300th episode, Kot and DeRo examine Neil Young’s mighty Rust Never Sleeps, with DeRo taking on the acoustic side, Kot the electric. As veteran journalists, they have more than enough of a knowledge base to provide a thoughtful, nicely contextual analysis of Young, his state of mind, and the music world of the late ’70s. Fans will likely learn something new, while newbies and the curious will get enough of a sampling to decide if they want to check out more of the album.

Uhh Yeah Dude #286
Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette manage to hit a lot of the right little side-notes during this week’s long, dark wandering through current affairs. That’s what makes the difference on UYD, even including the pair’s awkward riffs on talking into their microphones at the start: “Enunciation is the brother of fun... intonation is the stepsister of... celebration.” It’s even rather fun to hear the two torture themselves over the corniness of Beloit College’s annual “Mindset List,” which inventories the freshman class’ supposed pop-culture reference points. In one of their finest moments recently, the hosts invent the “sovereign spaceman” defense for people caught bringing drugs on airplanes.

Walking The Room #66: TOFOP II And Two Classics
With his co-host Greg Behrendt not around to record a new Walking The Room, Dave Anthony sighs, saying, “Greg’s a douchebag” and assembles an episode of three bonus track-type items. The first is Anthony and Behrendt riffing with Australian pals Wil Anderson and Charlie Clausen of the TOFOP podcast; the next two are early Anthony-on-Behrendt segments. The foursome with Anderson and Clausen turns out to be every bit as bizarrely whimsical as any good WTR episode, especially as the whole bunch piles onto the subject of people killed by their own inventions. (At one point, they wonder if inventing mishaps might be a legal alternative to assisted suicide.) The two other segments feature Behrendt and Anthony discussing Juggalo culture and weird neighbors who steal oranges from others’ trees. It’s always a good thing for podcasters to vary the format a bit, and even as a “clip show,” this episode has its share of weird-ass surprises.

Who Charted? #39: Transvaginal Mesh: Andy Richter
In honor of guest Andy Richter’s Teutonic lineage, the music chart centers on the top five hits in Germany. This segues into Richter going off on a really informative tangent on how the artist Tom Of Finland essentially defined the leather-daddy culture. After taking in the Mike Candys And Evelyn track “One Night In Ibiza,” Richter surmises that the people who willingly party in Ibiza share the same douchebag gene with Burning Man attendees. Truer words have never been spoken. During the movie chart, host Howard Kremer and Richter end up on an inspired riff about Stephen Hawking prompting Richter to recall the time he criticized Carlos Mencia’s painfully unfunny TV show by saying “The Mind Of Mencia, isn’t that like saying ‘The Legs of Stephen Hawking?’” Throughout the rest of the movie chart, Kremer, Kulap Vilaysack, and Richter spend a lot of time meandering away from the topic of movies, and onto more pressing matters such as commercials for laxative-laced yogurts and class-action suits for botched vaginal surgeries. However, these tangents are where the podcast truly shines, especially when the guest has the gregarious demeanor of a cool and genuinely hilarious uncle.

WTF With Marc Maron #205: Jason Sudeikis
Within the current cast of Saturday Night Live, Jason Sudeikis is the go-to straight man; he’s handy with an impression, but most effective when he’s bumping up against the absurd tics of a Bill Hader or Kristen Wiig character. His conversation with Marc Maron reveals an equally even-keeled Sudeikis, a Midwestern guy with an “aw, shucks” demeanor who took a chance on improv comedy after a fateful night at the Kansas City location of ComedySportz. There’s definitely an edge to Sudeikis, however, and he gets in a few funny jabs at Maron (“I don’t want to seem so contrarian to your neuroses, because, good lord, it’s gotten you this far”) before a raw nerve is uncovered in the form of the tabloid coverage garnered by Sudeikis’ break-up with January Jones. Otherwise, the episode provides a brief portrait of a performer who earnestly recalls his tearful reaction to debuting on Saturday Night Live and sincerely takes Maron’s request to put a bug in Lorne Michael’s ear about appearing on WTF.


THE REST

The Adam Carolla Show
Carolla’s vacation ends this week, and so does his streak of pre-recorded shows, which were great last week, but are now eminently skippable. Greg Fitzsimmons, Carolla’s most frequent guest, interviews Ace in the car on the way to a show, talking about cars and the ways of manly men. Hunter (ask your parents) star Fred Dryer talks about playing in the NFL from 1969 through 1981, including losing Super Bowl XIV. A short show with Dr. Bruce constantly derails into anecdotes about Carolla’s kids, and the doc takes listener calls about bloody butt boils and the mechanics of contracting HIV. When Carolla returns from vacation, weeks of pent-up talk come out in a nearly two-hour episode that’s heavy on anecdotes from his trip to Hawaii; an incidental interview with actor Schuyler Fisk (Gus Van Sant’s Restless) concentrates on her life as a singer-songwriter. But if you’ve been hungry for the crew’s takes on current topics like MTV’s VMAs and the new cast of Dancing With The Stars, this episode is the week’s keeper. Stray Cats fans will enjoy Lemmy and Slim Jim of Headcat, who don’t get as much time as Ace’s continuing vacation stories. And if you’ve ever wondered whether Ace and his producers conduct research for his non-interviews, the intro’s reference to the loud rockabilly group as a “new band” suggests the answer is no.

The Apple Sisters #14: Boat Queen Week 2 Of 6
After last week’s strong debut of a six-part series, episode 14 feels a little like filler. The girls spend a long time in the mailroom, and it’s not until the end that the story inches forward with the introduction of the evil Captain A-Crab. (The “Old Plateful” song is fun, though.) 

The Best Show On WFMU
The ban on regular callers continues to yield a bumper crop of boring new ones, and could have had an obvious effect on Hatch’s ability to take over hosting duties from the absent Tom Scharpling. But Hatch and his lineup of co-hosts (including Podmass contributor Maggie Serota) pull it out, doing the best they can in spite of the huge odds. They also introduce the world to the hottest new party game of 2011: looking up and down Jose Canseco’s Twitter feed for advice.  

Culture Gabfest: Babyoncé Edition 
A thinner week than usual for discussion topics finds the Gabfesters talking about Hurricane Irene and the hype, anti-hype, and anti-anti-hype that followed, and Timothy Ferriss, the appalling self-help huckster behind bestsellers like The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Workweek. A segment on Beyoncé’s baby announcement, which became a cultural event during the MTV VMAs, finds them contorting admirably to spin gold out of dross. 

Doug Loves Movies Garfunkel And Oates and Matt Belknap
Doug Loves Movies enters a transitional phase this week, with Doug Benson trying out a new segment—Doug’s Oscars, the inaugural edition of which big-ups recent performances by Paul Giamatti, Rachael Harris, and Elle Fanning—and reintroducing Build-A-Title, the word game that finally justifies the existence of the Tate Donovan-Sandra Bullock vehicle Love Potion No. 9. The added segments don’t take away from DLM’s appealingly loose flow, but they don’t quite fit yet, either. Thankfully, Garfunkel And Oates (a.k.a. Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci) and Matt Belknap are game to roll with Benson’s shifting priorities. 

Judge John Hodgman: #34: De Plane
With Bailiff Jesse Thorn away on paternity leave—congratulations, Jesse!—Judge Hodgman welcomes special guest bailiff Jake Tapper, Senior White House Correspondent from ABC News. Though the episode is plagued by Skype-facilitated audio problems—Tapper, in Minnesota following the president’s bus tour, sounds like he’s broadcasting from one of the snow drifts in Fargo—and the mildest of mild disputes, Hodgman and Tapper still eke some laughs out of airplane etiquette and the dubiousness of MFA students going on “Spring Break.” 

This American Life #444: Gossip
This week’s show on gossip starts out with such promise: In the prologue, Sarah Koenig sits down with Julie Snyder to talk about how a recent piece of gossip from Snyder’s husband got her in serious trouble with her hairdresser. That first segment bounces along with all the excitement and surprise of genuine gossip, but the two acts that follow squander the premise. Gossip takes on a more nebulous, academic form, and it’s not as fun to listen to. Koenig looks at how gossip spreads news of AIDS in Malawi, and Rebecca Makkai reads a short story about a reality show, which, while excellent, isn’t really about gossip at all. 

WTF With Marc Maron #204: Doug Stanhope
Marc Maron is seldom less compelling than when he slips into little-brother mode. That’s the case when he has a second go-round with controversial former Man Show and Girls Gone Wild host Doug Stanhope and spends much of the podcast laughing effusively at Stanhope’s last-angry-man shenanigans. Stanhope fans will undoubtedly enjoy the podcast, but Maron lets his guest off far too easily and is entirely too impressed with Stanhope’s alternately invigorating and tiresome shtick. 

More Podmass