Week of Feb. 16-22 

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QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“Is the Internet worth it?” —Paul F. Tompkins, Stop Podcasting Yourself

“Her body is being flown back on Tyler Perry’s private jet to Newark—a very black sentence.” —Julie Klausner on Whitney Houston, How Was Your Week?

“Some guy just wrote ‘cunts’ with a question mark. That’s his question.”
“I love him. We’re gonna go ahead and endorse that.” —Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt answering listener-submitted questions, Walking The Room

“I approach humility with a spirit of humbleness, because I believe, firmly, that bankruptcy stands for ‘Borrowed And Never Known Repaid Under Pressure Today.’” —Gary Busey (James Adomian), Comedy Bang Bang

NEW (TO US)

The Marc And Tom Show
Marc Maron has been threatening to do a show with fellow radio cult hero Tom Scharpling for a while now, and he finally succeeds on the first (and perhaps only) installment of The Marc And Tom Show, a leisurely hourlong ramble through the minds of two of comedy’s most distinctive talents. The one-off benefits from modest expectations and takes a while to get going, but the two settle into a nicely relaxed groove by the time Maron and Scharpling lay into the sacred cow that is Tom Waits—Scharpling by decrying him as something of a professional hobo (“Has there ever been a hobo that wanted to stay a hobo?” Scharpling asks) and Maron with a meanly accurate impersonation of Waits’ music (essentially some rattling percussion sounds and pained, sub-verbal moaning). Whether the hosts are discussing the “career dysmorphia” of artists like Lou Reed, who would rather embarrass themselves than fade away, or their own careers, this functions more as an enjoyable chit-chat between two middle-aged cranks who enjoy each other’s company than as a historic meeting of the minds. But it’s a lot of fun all the same. [NR]

This Week With Larry Miller 
Veteran comedian Larry Miller is a familiar face to comedy fans—he’s been a stand-up for more than 30 years—and as an actor, and his sharp comic sensibility seemingly makes him a good fit for the podcasting world. Each episode of This Week With Larry Miller—part of Adam Carolla’s Ace network—centers on a theme that usually comes from Miller’s life or listener email. That sets up a rambling journey through his mind, with Miller taking half a dozen tangents before addressing the topic at hand. He punches up the stories with charm and an Old World sense of propriety, which leads to a poignant closing thought at the end of episodes, but can also sound out of step with the times.

To wit: Miller devotes “They Make ’Em Tough in Texas” to Valentine’s Day, starting with clichéd observations about men being too dumb to please women who find the holiday important. But Miller saves it with an endearing, relatable story about buying his wife a watch that she hated. His story about a waifish young woman out-drinking and out-eating him in first class has hints of chauvinism, but it’s more just Miller’s comic perspective—which, more than three decades in, remains formidable. [AJ]


OUTLIERS

Bookrageous
Bookrageous features a group of book bloggers (Josh, Rebecca, Jenn, Gabrielle, and David) who use themed episodes to enthusiastically talk about the best books and bookstores a particular genre has to offer. These discussions tend to get bogged down in exposition, but the hosts mix honest, civil discussion about a book’s strengths and weaknesses with a super-fan’s energy and excitement. Episode 33 takes a look at “book tourism,” where readers visit bookstores and events while traveling. The discussion of resources for fans to discover these events is informative, but it doesn’t drum up the excited back-and-forth that the show usually features. What happens instead is each host takes a turn talking about hot spots and websites before simply moving on. [AJ]


THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU 
Tom Scharpling comes charging right of the gate like he chugged several bottles of Red Bull spiked with meth, all because this week’s Best Show is the annual call to donate to Scharpling’s beloved WFMU, or as the people on Twitter call it, #TomThon. It’s all about getting those pledge dollars, and Best Show fans know that this is a night unlike any other. Scharpling is the king of raking in the donations, and his amped-up attitude is probably part of the reason why. Gary the Squirrel interviews Julie Klausner, then confirms what seems obvious from the beginning: A.P. Mike was doing a little partying before and during this week’s episode. If this is normally the case, and the guy is boozing it up while behind the controls, Scharpling should get the guy on the mic more often. That said, if you didn’t listen to it live, you sorta missed the point. [JD]

The Bugle #183: Bugle Lady Special 
The suffering of women around the world informs another great episode of The Bugle, as Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver let the news do much of the comedic heavy lifting. They don’t have to go to their usual absurdist extremes when the news does it for them, but they make some funny, reasonable points about the new Egyptian government being more sexist than its predecessor and the current political climate in the U.S. It’s some of the funniest stuff being said on the topic, especially Zaltzman’s quick “tits on Mount Rushmore” quip. Any Bugle this well assembled and balanced—Native Americans take some hits here, too—definitely deserves a listen. [AJ]

Doug Loves Movies: Howard Kremer, Kulap Vilaysack, Riki Lindhome, Kate Micucci
Doug Benson tends to produce strong episodes when he ventures outside DLM’s UCB home base, and this episode recorded at the Vancouver Comedy Festival continues the pattern. It’s a nice step up from its snoozy predecessor, with DLM regulars Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci—a.k.a. Garfunkel And Oates—as well as Who Charted? hosts Kulap Vilaysack and Howard Kremer. Kremer’s “sleepy Jewish grandpa” demeanor works particularly well for DLM, as the pre-game banter mixes goofing around and thoughtful Oscar discussion. Odd for someone who’s been on DLM so many times, Micucci hilariously insists on helping the other players during the games, which include an impressive round of “Build A Title.” [MS]

How Was Your Week? #50: “What About A Macaroni Salad?” Jenny Johnson, Max Silvestri
There was simply no way Julie Klausner was going to start this week’s episode in any other way than playing Whitney Houston at Super Bowl XXV. She also addresses the Westminster Dog Show, complaining about Martha Stewart’s dog and the Pekingese that won the show. After a lengthy introduction discussing that, her trip to L.A., Facebook, and, uh, Turner And Hooch, Klausner has a couple of great guests: comedian Max Silvestri and funny Twitter phenomenon/Grantland columnist Jenny Johnson. Add in a lot of unexpected talk about race, and it makes for a fun episode. [JD]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #48: Jesse Perez
Paul Gilmartin is no stranger to discussing some of life’s harshest topics, but on this episode of The Mental Illness Happy Hour, he elicits some of the most intense stories of the podcast’s run. A former East L.A. gang member, Jesse Perez leaves no stone unturned during his lengthy interview: death of family members, drug addiction, severe health issues, or shooting rival gang members. Perez speaks with ease about each topic, showing he has come to terms with them in one way or another. The episode is a bit long—as The Mental Happiness Happy Hour can often be—but it’s a journey worth taking. Perez comes off grateful for the positive things in his life, and apologetic for those he may have hurt. Perez and Gilmartin’s pre-existing relationship allows for them to inject comedic moments that keep the episode from wallowing in its weightiness. [DA]

Monday Morning Podcast
Detractors of Nia’s appearances on the Monday Morning Podcast will want to skip this week’s episode, as she’s on the microphone for nearly the entire thing. It mostly works, though, as her on-air interactions with Bill Burr are honest but never uncomfortable, and charming but never cutesy. Nia’s presence also keeps Burr’s treatment of Black History Month grounded, but not at the expense of humor. The conversation veers slightly into “bro” territory as the two advise a listener on how to establish dominance over a meddling neighbor, and the episode is a bit lengthy at nearly 90 minutes. (Four long advertisements don’t help.) However, listener emails are pretty solid, and there are enough good things going on to make listening worthwhile. [CG]

Nerdist #169: Wilco
Much like Nerdist #159, in which Chris Hardwick discussed Anthrax’s lengthy past with Scott Ian, this episode of Nerdist features Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Mira’s fill-in Wil Wheaton discussing Wilco’s career with band leader Jeff Tweedy. Over the course of the hourlong interview, Tweedy’s wit gels with the Nerdist crew’s, and the four effortlessly jump from topic to topic. It does get a little awkward when Hardwick and Co. gush about their love of Wilco, but Tweedy always takes it graciously. To their credit, the Nerdist hosts overcome their fanboy tendencies and never let their admiration for Tweedy consume the episode. Instead, they delve into well-documented facets of Wilco’s career—such as the ordeal surrounding Yankee Hotel Foxtrot—but they also get Tweedy to open up about a myriad of topics, including his childhood, his past addictions, and his current approach to songwriting. The episode ends with a sound-check recording of Wilco performing “Rising Red Lung.” It’s a treat for fans of Wilco, but it shows that Nerdist is often at its best when it reaches outside of the comedy realm. [DA]

RadioLab: #10.6: Escape!
As the series has gone on, RadioLab’s emphasis has shifted more from “cool science stuff” to “cool human-interest stories,” but that’s not a problem in episodes like “Escape!,” which has a few small science-y tales (including a lengthy bit about Isaac Newton gradually working his way toward the theory of gravity), but mostly focuses on people escaping unpleasant situations. The first segment, about a man who’s broken out of prison more times than anyone else alive, is good, but the real highlight here is the final segment about Joe Engressia Jr. The blind Engressia escaped his a hellish home life by cheating the phone system of the mid-20th century and learning how to call all over the country for free. With its sad-yet-wistful ending, it’s RadioLab at its best. [TV]

Sklarbro Country #82: Turn The (Ellen) Page: Chris Fairbanks, James Adomian, Dan Van Kirk|
It’s been a while since the Sklar brothers last used their very limited legal knowledge (they were accepted to, but did not attend, law school) to “sklarbitrate” a dispute, but the case of a Canadian lawyer suing a pair of blind paralympian runners for running into her enrages them enough to render a harsh and poetically fitting judgment on the woman. Nudity proves a recurring motif, whether the Sklars are riffing on the surprisingly involved naked rampage of a former college basketball player or guest Chris Fairbanks is recalling a friend’s savvy deployment of nudity to psych out a potential attacker. Speaking of attackers, James Adomian’s Tim Gunn drops by to very amusingly discuss his love of MMA and how his own status as an extreme fighter has thrown a wrench in his sex life. But the funniest moment in this episode is also the briefest and weirdest: a fake voicemail message from Mark Wahlberg (Dan Van Kirk) concerning yoga pants that’s hilarious in ways that are hard to explain—maybe it’s just inherently funny to hear Wahlberg say “yoga pants” in his unique cadence. [NR]

Stuff You Should Know: How Zero Works
This episode is not (just) for mathletes. Instead, Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant find their perfect topic in zero: Just explaining what it is can be a philosophy game you didn’t see coming. Zero is not just “nothing”; it is the basis for all those giant numbers with zeroes in them. It is both nothing and our most powerful building block, the bedrock all quantities of things sit upon. At first, when discovered in fifth-century India, it was associated with “the void” and evil, making 0 the first 666. People were actually scared of this weird number to the point that the main villain from Ghostbusters was supposed to be the physical embodiment of historic zero. It’s barely even a number—you know how you can’t divide by zero? That’s because the concept of dividing something by zero is, well, not even really a concept. If an episode that gives props to ancient Eastern mathematicians as well as comedian Steven Wright, it’s doing something right. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Autopsies Work
Episode 400 marks the special occasion with the particularly gruesome topic of autopsies, so the squeamish may want to skip it—it only takes five minutes before Bryant and co-host Josh Clark are discussing all the flaps of severed dermis that flop comically over the human face during an autopsy. But if listeners with a strong stomach are treated to some fascinating moments, such as the six types of death and what is mostly just a Law & Order-style mystery broken into its basic parts. There’s also a pretty fascinating window into the lifestyles of coroners. Clark and Bryant’s lighthearted enthusiasm keeps the episode from ever veering into morbidity, despite a brief tangent about Faces Of Death. [DT]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #59: Beyond Belief, “Romanian Holiday”
A Paul F. Tompkins-less “Beyond Belief” adventure finds boozehound medium Sadie Doyle (Paget Brewster) and her light-in-the-loafers companion Carter Caldwell (the always welcome John Ennis) stumbling upon a gypsy village beset by strange and mundane curses. Gillian Jacobs knocks it out of the park with her ridiculous gypsy accent, and Nick Kroll and Scott Aukerman round out the cast as fellow gypsies. The dialogue crackles, especially when the stars go off on mini tangents, like Brewster, Ennis, and Jacobs discussing leprechauns. [KR]

Walking The Room #91: Holdotangs And Porno Party Tricks
This week’s Walking The Room opens with the co-hosts proudly dismissing their introductory metaphors (“We give up!”) and ends with some honest answers to fan questions, so the episode is bookended with atypical candor. Harsh reality seeps its way into the middle segments, with Dave Anthony detailing a rescue attempt of his lost/kidnapped son, and Greg Behrendt sharing his startlingly open attitude toward discussing crushes with his wife and a recent theft of his iPod. Of course, each of those stories is crowned with twisting, lurid punchlines, so little humor is lost when their hypothetical riffing and giddy antagonism are compressed into shorter bits on rat farms, holdotangs (hoarding hobotangs), and speed-dating porn stars. [SM]

Who Charted? #64: Rolling In The Deep: Dave Holmes
In many ways, Dave Holmes is the perfect podcast guest. He’s laidback, aggressively likable, and a consummate good sport when host Howard Kremer makes him spontaneously improvise various ridiculous premises. During the discussion of Adele, Kremer has Holmes break up with both co-host Kulap Vilaysack and engineer Dustin Martin. During a discussion of the movie chart, Kremer has Holmes play the announcer of rodeo composed of action stars riding insects. Holmes is also great because he’s not afraid to name names: He’s forthcoming about an awkward run-in with Dan Savage in a male go-go bar, and he mentions Daniel Craig seemed “a little stoned” the one time Holmes met him. Kremer is particularly on point this episode, though his confession that he doesn’t eat curry because it smells like “pussy gone awry” could put listeners off the dish for a while. [MS]

You Made It Weird #24: Steve Agee|
You Made It Weird works best when Pete Holmes’ guests playfully insult him, but episode 24 shows that an affable conversation between Holmes and one of his good friends can also make for strong podcasting. It probably helps that Holmes and guest Steve Agee have a quite a few things in common, such as large stature, struggles with anxiety and migraines, and strong religious backgrounds, among other things. Agee offers up some entertaining stories, including one about bombing on stage that put him off of comedy for a few years, and an explanation of the show’s “Keep It Crispy” catchphrase is a nice touch for regular listeners. The episode drags a little in a few spots, but it’s mostly quality stuff. [CG]


THE REST

Comedy Bang Bang #145: A Family Affair: David Wain, James Adomian
Regular Comedy Bang Bang listeners can be forgiven for presuming Scott Aukerman is setting up a bit when he announces early on that David Wain’s father and son are in the studio. Nope, in Comedy Bang Bang’s most baffling booking yet, Wain’s (charming) father and 4-year-old son are miked up. The first segment is probably the driest one CBB has ever done—Wain seems uncomfortably aware of it, though Aukerman embraces the mundanity. Thankfully, James Adomian’s spot-on Gary Busey livens things up later, but he can only do so much. Here’s hoping the Comedy Bang Bang TV show is done shooting soon. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: Alan Tudyk, Missi Pyle, Chris Williams, Anna David
Although Doug Benson’s idea to stage a reunion for the film Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story  isn’t necessarily a bad one, the panel definitely could’ve used a comic or DLM regular to liven it up. The only memorable moment from comes when Chris Williams talks about auditioning for the role of Krazee-Eyez Killa on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Also, author Anna David seems like a curious addition to the panel, especially since she doesn’t bring much to the discussion besides the seemingly absurd claim that Tom Sizemore is a lovely man. [MS]

Hang Up And Listen: The Wide World Of Slurs Edition
With Mike Pesca taking the week off, the HUAL crew is missing both his tangibles (insight, tomfoolery, ornately constructed trivia questions) and the Tebow-like intangibles he brings to team chemistry. His substitute, Jonathan Eig, does a capable job, but a segment on sports writing on the web angles too much toward a pitch job for Eig’s new Chicago-based site. Better are related segments on racism as it pertains to Asian-American Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin and the slurs spewed by Liverpool soccer star Luis Suarez. [ST]

The Moth: Aaron Wolfe & Diana Spechler: GrandSLAM Favorites
A “GrandSLAM Favorites” episode usually means two short, skillful stories from Moth pros, and this week’s is no exception, with Aaron Wolfe’s tale about surviving a night with other non-degenerates in Central Booking and Diana Spechler’s account of a relationship that’s sacrificed to the reality-television gods. Both stories are amusing and well-told, though their brevity and polish cuts into the spontaneous, unforced vibe that makes for the most memorable Moths. [GK]

Nerdist #170:Seth Meyers
An interview with SNL head writer Seth Meyers has loads of potential, but this episode sadly amounts to an hourlong career synopsis. Hardwick spends the majority of the episode having Meyers deconstruct the process of writing and performing on SNL, while also touching on Meyers’ performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last year. The two interact well, but it’s a surface-level interview at best. The added distraction of indie-rock darlings Sleigh Bells audibly sound-checking in the background keeps pulling the episode’s focus away from Meyers and toward something that’s unintentionally more interesting. [DA]

Never Not Funny: #1011 Throwing Voices With Bil Dwyer
As if by some Never Not Funny-related curse, last week’s criticism of too-reserved Michael Koman finds its counterpart in comedian Bil Dwyer. Rightfully, Pardo moderates the 30-plus minutes on Tom Cruise’s filmography with a steady hand, letting Dwyer test his theory on obscure (and downright confusing) references before ultimately checking him with an authentic “Bil, seriously, relax.” Patience dwindles further as Dwyer continually talks over Pardo and Matt Belknap, laughs at and through his own jokes, and tries his hand at tasteless, groan-inducing questions best saved for Pat Francis. (“Are they releasing Schindler’s List in 3-D? ’Cause I am headin’ out to that. Naked Jewish extras comin’ at ya!”) Late in the episode, Dwyer asks if fans rank the best episodes online. He needn’t worry. [SM]

RISK! #318: Unintended
Focusing on the theme of unintended consequences, this week’s episode doesn’t have any bad stories, but most of them are boring, which goes against what RISK! claims to stand for. Skip ahead to the last one, where Bobcat Goldthwait talks about his appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show—just after the news of its cancellation—and the subsequent events. Goldthwait’s destructive antics on the show led to multiple talk-show invitations, including ones from Jay Leno and Regis and Kathie Lee, a result he never expected. [MM]

The Smartest Man In The World: Magnets
Recorded live in West Hollywood, this episode gets off to a slow start, and the rest of the episode isn’t helped by Greg Proops’ frequent references to the half-full room he’s playing. The topics, including the different types of comedy festivals, kind of fall flat, and the repeated references to the room practically dare people to stop listening. He does use the word “fuck” a lot, so maybe that counts for something? [JD]

Sound Opinions: 1967 Part Two: Monterey Pop & The Industry Grows Up
Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot resume their multi-part look at 1967, already one of the most over-analyzed years in rock history, with this discussion of the Monterey Pop Festival and its star-making performances by Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. For those unfamiliar with Hendrix or Joplin, it’s an enlightening tap on shoulder to check out two of the most iconic rock stars of the ’60s. For everybody else, it feels a bit over-familiar. [SH]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #205: Paul F. Tompkins
In town for a live show, podcasting all-star Paul F. Tompkins stops by the studio for an appearance that’s more a coffee-shop conversation than podcast. This week’s nuggets include brief chats about Netflix’s Steven Van Zandt vehicle Lillyhammer, recent Walking Dead developments, and Kickstarter as a first-world problem. After a report from a Bob Newhart standup show and a text-to-voice call, “Overheard” inspires an impromptu a cappella re-enactment of Prince’s “Batdance.” It’s a can’t-miss combo that manages to miss. [DXF]

This American Life, #458: Play The Part
This week’s episode hands over 40 minutes to a flat, over-long portrait of Louis Ortiz, a man who stumbles into a role impersonating Barack Obama simply because he looks so much like him. The piece kicks off with a fair amount of intrigue—Ortiz is a Puerto Rican guy from the Bronx who keeps calling Obama “that dude”—but suffers as the piece drags on. Bookending this week’s dull main feature are two bright, anecdotal acts worth the 18-minute listen: A reality TV producer takes a turn on camera, and a husband with Asperger’s takes notes on how to behave. [EW]

Uhh Yeah Dude #311
Jonathan Larroquette is a great storyteller, a scary-looking sweetie pie, and, as Uhh Yeah Dude listeners were recently reminded, a powerful-good poet. He also has a slight tendency to ramble. Combine an aimless rant about how President Obama didn’t “call the whites out” with a draggy first half about Sioux currency and National Grapefruit Month, and you get an episode that’s still strong by average podcast standards, but not up to UYD snuff. [CW]

WTF With Marc Maron #254: Bill Maher
For a guy who made his reputation on, and lost one of his most high-profile gigs for, shooting from the hip, the smugtastic Bill Maher is remarkably on-message for a frustratingly unrevealing WTF With Marc Maron. Maher is in “professional broadcaster” mode throughout an interview that hits all the expected notes (and includes more than one clumsy plug for Maher’s forthcoming standup special) with little in the way of soul-baring or introspection. [NR]

WTF With Marc Maron #255: Big Jay Oakerson
It’s a little hard to know what to make of Maron’s interview with comedian Big Jay Oakerson, who came into comedy by way of serving as a bouncer for bachelor-party strippers and working his way up through black clubs. His stories of being a white comic working in black clubs are interesting, but could also imply that black audiences are less sophisticated than white ones. Meanwhile, Oakerson is pleasant enough, but his bleak tales of the strippers/prostitutes he drove around are more depressing than hilarious or outrageous. [CZ]

You Made It Weird #25: Paul F. Tompkins
During his conversation with Pete Holmes, Paul F. Tompkins comes off as a mature adult dealing with a giggly, ADHD-addled child. Tompkins is more subdued than on podcasts where he improvises with blinding speed, but things pick up once the conversation turns to standup comedy, the “cancer” of jealousy, and differing concepts of faith. This is an engaging conversation, if not quite the homerun a Tompkins-Holmes pairing should be. [NR]

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