Week of Feb. 2-8 

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QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“They say, ‘Oh, you never met a dearer man.’ I always say, ‘What choice do they have?’ Who is going to put up with a surly, sardonic cable guy? They’ve got to be nice—everybody’s looking for a reason to knock them the fuck out.” —Gary Gulman, Never Not Funny

“Paul, your wife has said that the complementary dog to your manhood is a skinny, sedate, easily pushed-over, constantly scared dog that is used to chasing mechanical rabbits until it is no longer good enough, and then put down.”—John Hodgman, Judge John Hodgman

“I feel like that show is officially going to become a cunt-off once old Lizard Eyes joins the fray.” —Julie Klausner on Shirley MacLaine joining the cast of Downton Abbey, How Was Your Week?

“When you say ‘cunt,’ it’s a long row back to the Isle of Funny.” Marc Maron, WTF With Marc Maron 

“I’m sorry, I interrupted what you were saying about IMDB to talk about blow-jobs.” —Jenna Elfman, Nerdist

“The original tech was hold your baby… Then it was lock your baby in a room and spy on it.” —Jonathan Larroquette on advances in baby-monitoring, Uhh Yeah Dude 

NEW (TO US)

Blacking It Up
Traditional media don’t have too many places for black voices to comment on politics and culture, especially in the podcasting world, so the semi-daily podcast Blacking It Up tries to fill in some of the gap. Hosts Elon James White, Aaron Rand Freeman, and L. Joy Williams, along with occasional guests, bring a black perspective to current events and give some attention to lesser-known stories, such as French Elle’s commentary about Michelle Obama being the first African-American woman who understands fashion


Episode 211: War On Women focuses on the recent debate whether religious organizations can block women’s rights to contraception. It’s a nice example of the show’s skillful commentary; reproductive rights aren’t an inherently black issue, but the hosts address it well and joke about how white men dominate the discussion. (The only female host, Williams, suggests all men should stay out of the debate.) They also put a black spin on the discussion by drawing a parallel between Catholics’ call for a contraceptive-free lifestyle and the conservative call to return to a time when white men were solely in power. [AJ]


OUTLIERS

Animation Aficionados 
Ben and Mr. Neil review new cartoons and wax nostalgic about old ones in an informal and slightly disorganized roundtable that regularly features guests from other podcasts. The two hosts take an obsessive approach to animation, noting stuff like continuity errors in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mask colors. At the same time, they have appreciation for sleek animation from the likes of industry heavyweights like Toei and oddball moments like the Mario Dance. In Episode 64, the hosts rip the straight-to-DVD Batman: Year One to shreds, repeating (and repeating) their criticisms about rough edges in the animation and characters’ seemingly random entrances and exits. But they also recommend some worthwhile alternate versions of the story, making for a solid episode (except for an awkward part where they and guests from Tooncast admit to being aroused by an animated Catwoman striptease). [AJ]


THE BEST

Comedy Bang Bang #143: Grammy Spectacular: “Weird Al” Yankovic, Todd Glass, Amy Phillips
Weird Al has a long history with Comedy Bang Bang that stretches to the eighth episode, back in the Comedy Death-Ray days. This is his sixth appearance on the podcast, and there’s a reason he’s such a frequent guest (aside from Scott Aukerman obviously being a huge fan): Weird Al is always a delightful presence, and matching him up with the also excellent Todd Glass makes for enjoyable listening. For all the attention Glass has gotten lately for coming out, it’s worth focusing on his considerable skill as a comedian and raconteur, and episode 143 has him sharing some good anecdotes about starting as a comedian in Philly, as well as meeting Rodney Dangerfield and Don Rickles. Amy Phillips’ turn as Liza Minnelli starts out pretty strong, but, curiously, fades as the episode progresses. But the asides Aukerman, Glass, and Yankovic share while Minnelli babbles provide some of the episode’s highlights. [KR]

How Was Your Week? Best of HWYW Vol. 2”: Patton Oswalt, John Mulaney, Mike Daisey & Ted Leo
Julie Klausner is still sick this week. After last week’s rundown of non-prescription (self) medications, she’s finally on antibiotics, but unwilling to make her guests sick, so she does an original intro and a bunch of previously unreleased footage from guests like Patton Oswalt and John Mulaney. There’s also some Ted Leo conversation, and at this point can we just say that the Klausner/Leo buddy thing is maybe the best showbiz friendship going right now? The two of them simply talking about what they looked like as kids (Klausner as an orangutan, Leo as Zippy the Pinhead) is especially organic and enjoyable. Also, it’s good to know that Rocky Dennis is in the Redhead Hall Of Fame. [JD]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #46: Mark Teich
Paul Gilmartin says this week that he’s glad to have a guest he can “play” with. He and comedian Mark Teich get some weird little riffs going, but mostly cover a pretty unusual mix of factors. Teich’s stories range from being diagnosed with a rare disease in childhood to becoming something of a pathological liar in adulthood. It makes for another pretty long Mental Illness installment, but Gilmartin uses it to take on Teich’s story with a great deal of nuance, displaying how much he can do with subject matter that isn’t terrifying or even especially lurid. [SG]

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #48: Dip Mix
This week’s MATES occasions much crinkling of packaging and clinking of dishes, as Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh mix up their own chip dip “on air.” Now, they’ve brought in self-made snacks before, and even had a fan make them guacamole, but it’s rare that the hosts throw something together as the audience listens. Luckily, a little hard work doesn’t make them any more focused on the food review at hand, and if anything just gives Black and Cavanagh more motivation to get distracted and tangential, especially as Black launches into a diatribe about “strategically” dipping. It’s not even one of their funniest installments, but it’s just over-involved enough to hold a certain weird fascination. [SG]

Monday Morning Podcast
Despite this week’s Monday Morning Podcast being recorded mere hours after his New England Patriots lost the Super Bowl, Bill Burr manages to keep most of the football talk within the first 20 minutes. Fortunately, the frustration of the loss is fresh enough to permeate the entire episode, and it yields plenty of laughs. Highlights include Burr’s totally uninterested responses to listener emails (“I don’t even know what you’re talking about, sir; my team lost the Super Bowl”), annoyance at botched joke deliveries (“Did you even hear the joke in my choppy, fucking my-team-just-lost-the-Super Bowl delivery?”) and a hilariously vulgar, unscripted advertisement for a flower-delivery service. Plugs for his upcoming live dates—including a stop at the “Comedy Fuckface Hut” in Charlotte, North Carolina—round out a very strong episode. [CG]

Never Not Funny: #1009 Tipping The Valet With Gary Gulman
Never Not Funny could be likened to Seinfeld—whose namesake is thoroughly mocked in this episode—in that it’s a show about nothing that touches on just about everything, and manages to be honest but not sentimental, broad but not hacky. So when guest Gary Gulman’s story of a comedian starting his eulogy of Patrice O’Neal with shameless self-promotion because “Patrice would have wanted it that way” leads to talk of the funeral of Jimmy Pardo’s brother-in-law Andrew Koenig, it’s still safe to assume it will all end in laughs. Yet it’s fairly new territory and sets a intriguing, recurring tone throughout the episode that flows through talks of childhood awkwardness, shivas, fears of public restrooms, hopeful future guests, speculations on judgment from podcast critics, and, while giddily bashing on Leno, an admission that Gulman has yet to spend his Tonight Show money. That a valet enters the studio looking for his money and Gulman simply walks out unannounced to use the bathroom only adds to the candor. While no one wants Pardo to be the next Maron or Paul Gilmartin, #1009 proves NNF can refreshingly dip its toes into the murk, so long as it doesn’t get too deep.
[SM]

The Pod F. Tompkast #15
The Pod F. Tompkast is held to a higher standard than its comedy-podcast peers because it is released so infrequently (in a little under two years, it’s produced only 15 proper episodes), because Tompkins is such an effortlessly witty fellow, and because it’s generally a lot more produced, written, and scored than its peers. Yet many of the podcast’s most charming features aren’t written at all, from the stream-of-consciousness ramble that opens the show to its closing chat with pal Jen Kirkman. (It’s far too intimate and affectionate to be considered an interview.) It’s hard to listen to the podcast regularly and not fall in love with Kirkman, and that’s especially true of her segment here: a hilariously bittersweet recollection of a doomed crush she had on a Smiths-loving 21-year-old Baskin-Robbins employee who struck her naïve 15-year-old self as impossibly worldly and desirable. The piece has the succinctness and attention to detail of a superior short story. In a pleasing bit of synchronicity, Chris Hardwick’s agreeably profane, bleep-filled appearance also involves remembrances of long-lost lovers (or at least high-school girlfriends). Filling out the show: amusing installments of “The Great Undiscovered Project” and “Advice To The Probably Dead” that, while fun, lack the freshness and spontaneity of Kirkman and Hardwick’s lively appearances. [NR]

Sklarbro Country #80: Ms. Sklarbro Int’l: Keegan-Michael Key, Jason Nash, Chris Cox
Keegan-Michael Key, formerly of MADtv and now of Key & Peele, makes for an ideal visitor to Sklarbro Country: enthusiastic, informed, and armed with some hilarious anecdotes—like the time MADtv guest star Flavor Flav dropped his script in protest to a joke about Michael Jackson, then just stood there awkwardly without storming out of the room. Key isn’t just good for funny stories and inspired riffs; he’s also unexpectedly poignant while discussing his love for Detroit and sports’ ability to bring disparate people together for a common cause, a frequent theme on the podcast. Then fan-favorite Bryant Gumbel (Jason Nash), an aspiring stand-up comedian and unusually focused prank-show host, stops by to sneeringly describe the latest, Super Bowl-themed prank he played on his hapless sibling Greg. If all that weren’t enough to make this episode one for the ages, Charlie Sheen (a very funny, dead-on Chris Cox) narrates a digressive passage from Into Twin Air, the Sklar Brothers’ faux-literary debut. [NR]

Stuff You Missed In History ClassSir Stamford Raffles And The Conquest Of Java
Sir Stamford Raffles was a naturalist who founded Singapore, worked on behalf of the British government to win other territories, and fought against slavery. But Java was where his reputation was destroyed and his career became truly impressive. Coming from humble beginnings, Raffles had an ability to understand, appreciate, and absorb the intricacies of other cultures, which led him to a life as an explorer—and, honestly, a Western imperialist colonizer, but one of the more respectable ones. As usual, hosts Sarah Dowdey and Deblina Chakraborty provide sufficient context without false reverence for British imperialism, giving listeners a brief education on Java and what it meant to have rich white men trying to “fix” everything. Raffles may have represented some nasty people, but he wielded his power with as much awareness as an imperialist could have. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Jack Johnson And The Fight Of The Century
Sarah Dowdey and Deblina Chakraborty return to Black History Month, this time considering the segregation of late-19th-century and early-20th-century boxing. The podcast leans on its strength of being so dense you dare not let your ears blink, so yes, the topic is as specific as Jack Johnson and his peers. A child of slaves, Johnson invented a wrench patent and was as big a history buff as Dowdey and Chakraborty, and that intelligence earned him his place in the ring with a white man on the professional level. Black men and white men boxed all the time, but never for the championship, and the so-called “fight of the century” was fueled by terrifying racism. Johnson’s opponent was Jim Jeffries, a former champ who lost more than 100 pounds just to reclaim the title “for the white race.” Race riots followed the bout, and even those who aren’t boxing fans should listen to hear about one of the worst examples of post-Civil War racism. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: What’s The 10,000 Year Clock?
Josh Clark’s epic cold continues to dominate the show’s opening moments, though the hosts talk through the suffering as if it’s a new experience. Hopefully Clark will find the kind of strength and endurance needed for the 10,000 Year Clock or “Clock Of The Long Now.” Short version: Someone wanted to make a clock that would last 10,000 years. Long version: That is an incredibly difficult feat of engineering, and it has influenced climate-change science, ethics, and philosophy because a 10,000-year clock implies humanity will be around in 10,000 years. The clock’s power source alone could be a discussion unto itself, and while such minutia might sound infuriatingly mundane, it is all based in this idea of 10,000 years. Therefore every gear in this clock feels like a traveler in a very real time machine, and the changing gravity in each pendulum sounds like a grandiose cosmic puzzle. Clark and co-host Chuck Bryant live for topics with this much room for tangents, and despite various bacteria at play in their sinuses, their discussion thrives. [DT]

Thrilling Adventure Hour #57: Sparks Nevada, Marshal On Mars: Do The Fight Thing
This week’s installment of Thrilling Adventure Hour’s space-Western series has a lot going on for an episode with a simple plot. There’s a war on between the “science aliens” and “technology aliens” and a couple of love triangles to sort out, yet the dialogue has to cover a lot of ground quickly. As usual, the details make things worthwhile even when the general arc of things is a little trying. Nathan Fillion guests as a hero named Cactoid Jim, but the best moment comes near the end, when a bartender (Joshua Malina) gives a romantic speech over a tinkling honky-tonk. [SG]

Uhh Yeah Dude #309
The shortest Uhh Yeah Dude in over a hundred episodes makes those seconds count in this live performance from Largo in L.A. After a perfunctory Craigslist reading to sate the audience, Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette flit from Ringo Starr’s 17th solo album to two-way baby monitors to the tenuous link between Adam Sandler and child molestation, never letting the dead air creep in, as it occasionally did during last month’s live show from the Neptune Theater. UYD is usually only as good as the news of the weird that fuels it, but this week’s lackluster topics are compensated by quality live gimmicks, like a reading of Larroquette’s teenage poetry with piano accompaniment courtesy of Will Wiesenfeld (a.k.a. Baths). [CW]

Who Charted? #62: Indie Cred: Jake Fogelnest
The mark of a good podcast is when all of the guests genuinely seem to have a good time. Considering co-host Kulap Vilaysack laughs so hard in this episode that she might need medical attention, it’s pretty clear that she, along with co-host Howard Kremer and guest Jake Fogelnest have a blast. Part of what makes Fogelnest a good guest are his outspoken opinions. For instance, he makes a compelling case for Lana Del Rey by proclaiming that her music is the soundtrack for rich, attractive people who are prone to having sex in the back of a limo. According to Fogelnest, her detractors can be defined as “poor uggos.” Aside from defending maligned pop stars, Fogelnest engages in a brilliant bit of improv with Kremer and Vilaysack when they stage their own impromptu re-enactment of the ridiculous Drew Barrymore whale movie Big Miracle. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #250: Frank Santorelli, Tony V, Jimmy Tingle, Mike Donovan, Kenny Rogerson
Returning to Boston, the primordial ooze from which his stand-up career sprang, brings out the feistiness in Marc Maron, who takes a long trip down memory lane with comedians he knew well before he cleaned up. It’s a celebration of bad behavior as seen through the distant rearview. Kenny Rogerson discusses his days as a coke-crazed, booze-swilling party maniac who almost single-handedly financed Colombia’s economy. Mike Donovan recalls losing out on a dodgy-sounding TV show role to a young Tom Hanks (that show would be Bosom Buddies). Political comedian and recent Harvard graduate Jimmy Tingle cuts a more genial but still amusing figure, while Tony V kills with an anecdote about his buddy Bobcat Goldthwait breaking the sad news to a Southern audience that no one would be coming out to play “Freebird” because Skynyrd was fucking dead. (The surviving members of the band happened to be in the audience). It’s a warm homecoming for Maron, albeit one chockablock with hookers, cocaine, and booze. [NR]

You Made It Weird #20: Joe Mande
Much of the pleasure of listening to You Made It Weird comes from the palpable joy Pete Holmes takes in his guests/friends/peers/favorite comedians. (They tend to be all four.) “You are a delight!” Holmes tells Joe Mande early in a conversation that takes an endless series of enjoyable detours through dream journals, disastrous early experimentation with drugs, some spectacularly silly wordplay, and Mande’s status as what Holmes charmingly calls a “Twitter rascal” and online shit-talker. Holmes is constitutionally unable to follow a straight conversational path with his guests. He often brings up a juicy topic for conversation, like Mande’s competitiveness with other comedians or love for black culture, only to get wrapped up in his own (generally insightful and always amiable) observations or affection for a random bit of silliness. Holmes gets sidetracked constantly in ADD tangents, but he and his guest almost always end up someplace worthwhile. [NR]

You Made It Weird #21: Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld
You Made It Weird works best when host Pete Holmes is being challenged by his guests or, more specifically, when his guests playfully give him shit. Holmes is such a joyful creature that being razzed by his contemporaries brings him incredible, infectious pleasure, as does wordplay of the most spectacularly silly kind. There’s plenty of both on the latest installment of You Made It Weird as Holmes welcomes Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld, a comedy duo best known for their work on College Humor and their own website jakeandamir.com. A clip from Holmes’ almost-viral College Humor clip “[Ray] Romano Sings” starts things off an appropriately goofy note, and while hearing Hurwitz, Blumenfeld, and Holmes talk extensively about failed T-shirt ideas they pitched to Busted Tees (like Holmes’ Amish-themed T-shirt “Don’t Drink Or Drive”) might seem as dry as the New Yorker cartoon discussion of a few episodes ago, it’s genuinely entertaining because the guests are funny in more than an abstract, literary way. But mostly the episode works because of Hurwitz and Blumenfeld’s great chemistry with each other and with the characteristically delighted Holmes. [NR]


THE REST

The Bugle #181: A Knight’s Fail   
This weak episode of The Bugle actually has a surprising amount of facts, but not a lot of laughs. The trend of John Oliver telling stories about meeting celebrities—Brad Pitt is handsome!—continues to bore. Oliver and Andy Zaltzman provide a good breakdown of the issues in Syria and the GOP presidential race, but neither topic induces much laughter. Zaltzman tries to save the show a couple times, but his smart Hitler quip gets stepped on by laughter, and a joke about Jesus as a politician falls flat. [AJ]

Doug Loves Movies: Scott Aukerman, Graham Elwood, Andy Wood
The banter portion of the episode features a good anecdote from Scott Aukerman about Doug Benson’s Christopher Lloyd shenanigans during a Universal Studios tour, but the rest of the chatter is pretty forgettable. The frustrating Build-A-Title game ends almost as quickly as it begins, and the process for picking nametags during the Leonard Maltin Game drags on forever, at least for listeners who can’t see what’s happening. [MS]

Hang Up And Listen: The Tumbling Indecisively To Glory Edition
The HUAL crew floods the zone with Super Bowl coverage this week, devoting all three segments to various aspects of the game, with thoughts on Eli Manning’s now-burnished Hall Of Fame credentials, Bill Belichick’s ballsy decision to allow the Giants to score a touchdown with a minute left in the game, and a dubious NFL ad touting the league’s commitment to safety. It’s all solid, compelling stuff, as usual, but “Afterball” bits on the demise of women’s professional soccer and the antiquated use of fax machines on “signing day” are a reminder that the podcast thrives on variety. [ST]

Judge John Hodgman: #50: Double Dog Dare
For two straight episodes, Judge Hodgman has enjoyed the opportunity of messing with people’s lives, but unlike last week’s stellar case, this week’s mild dispute is a little more ordinary. Marybeth and Paul live happily in Montana with their cat and toy schnauzer. Marybeth wants to add another dog to their household; Paul thinks their schedules would make it difficult, and the schnauzer’s already a handful. Judge Hodgman riffs brilliantly on Marybeth likening her husband to the greyhound—and dog-loving Bailiff Jesse Thorn is adorably invested in the verdict—but an absence of tension keeps this one from springing to life. [ST]

The Moth: Judy Gold: To Judaism And Back
Judy Gold goes neatly full-circle in her story, from rebelling against a strict Jewish upbringing to becoming “the ultimate Jewish mother.” There’s plenty of humor and incongruity on the way, yet on balance it’s just a little more subdued and straightforward than The Moth’s most striking entries of late. [SG]

Nerdist #164: Fred Stoller
This episode begins with a recounting of an apparent “feud” between comedian Fred Stoller and the Nerdist guys stemming from comments Stoller made on his recent appearance on WTF. The misunderstanding is quickly squashed, and the discussion delves into an interesting examination of the word “nerd” and how its definition has broadened over the years. Stoller’s perspective on his career, and comedy in the ’80s and ’90s, makes for a fun listen, but it’s skippable. [MG]

Nerdist #165: Jenna Elfman
This loose and careening interview gets sidetracked early on by a discussion about blow-jobs before working its way back around to Jenna Elfman’s experience in stand-up and connecting with fans via Twitter. Elfman is open and candid, which is a good match for Chris Hardwick’s loose interview style, and it results in some revealing anecdotes about her perspective on the business, award shows, and how gender plays a role in careers. It’s fine, but not particularly engrossing. [MG]

RadioLab: Killer Empathy
RadioLab turns its eye to issues of empathy in science, particularly with those scientists who deal with animals (even insects), and the nature of violence in a strong short that, nonetheless, feels a bit centerless. Still, the story of a researcher who inadvertently found himself sympathizing for the weird little insects in his lab is a good one. [TV]

RISK! #316: Outta Place
This week’s show takes its stories from a recent live RISK! Host Kevin Allison says he saw a common element throughout the show—people in situations that put them out of their element—and decided to run with it. In theory that’s a good thing, but two of the stories center on people finding themselves in sticky situations because of drugs: Salvia and a stale pot brownie. Unfortunately, stories about drugs at this point are kind of stale themselves, so skip those and listen to the story by Kerri Kenney about an unexpected Burning Man trip. [MM]

Sound Opinions: #323 1967: The Album As Art
At its best, Sound Opinions highlights worthy, unsung talent and delves deeply into topics that haven’t been explored to death elsewhere. This episode, the first of a two-parter (!) on one of the most celebrated years in rock history, is not the show’s best. There’s no denying the worthiness of albums like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, but as a discussion topic, this is incredibly well-worn material for all but the youngest, least-informed music fans. [SH]

The Smartest Man In The World #144: Menageries
Greg Proops brings some childhood memories back to the California Academy Of Sciences in this live ramble, regaling the crowd with tales of crappy laser shows and getting stoned as a teenager. With Proops, the free-form range is part of the fun, though it’s not clear how he eventually gets all the way from being peed on at a zoo to a drawn-out, sincere celebration of Harry Belafonte’s political advocacy. [SG]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #203: Katie Crown
This week’s Stop Podcasting Yourself starts with the guest and hosts already in giggles, though the laughs don’t always translate to the listener’s experience. Comedian Katie Crown, one of L.A. Weekly’s “10 comics to watch in 2012,” leads a conversation that plays like a brainstorming session for a sketch-comedy show, with topics including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knockoffs and the wanton public consumption of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The “Overheard” segment falls flat, but delivers two solid infant-related laughs, including an exchange that yields the quote, “What do you mean, you can’t give a baby Red Bull?” [DXF]

Stuff You Should Know: How Magic Mushrooms Work
Though hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant have gentle, geeky timbres to their voices, the sound of them snickering as they ironically refer to each other as “man” is enough to strip the paint off a black-light poster. The precise history is presented as a bit scattershot as well, making it unclear whether research is inconclusive or whether Clark and Bryant are attempting to sound cool, man. But even when the history becomes clear, there’s not a lot of complete data on what mushrooms do or how the human brain works. The result is an interesting episode that’s slightly cooler than a D.A.R.E. meeting. [DT]

Walking The Room #89: Man Couch And Load Water
Dave Anthony and Greg Behrendt are certainly smart enough to dip into some reflective and serious talk, yet it’s hardly the best way to start off a Walking The Room episode. Still, in examining their own penchant for filth and how it might have gone too far at a recent live show, the two prove they can make even a little innocent football talk sound distinctively creepy. [SG]

WTF With Marc Maron #251 Matt Graham  
Featuring an interview that elicits more cringes than laughs or interesting anecdotes, Monday’s WTF finds Marc Maron chatting with Matt Graham, a semi-retired comedian who now works as a professional Scrabble and poker player. Mental health and substance abuse are familiar topics for WTF, but Maron’s discussion with Graham veers into darker-than-usual territory when they discuss Graham’s troubling attitudes toward women, his (possibly unhealthy) attachment to his cat, and a grisly suicide attempt. “I’m a bad recipe for a human being,” Graham says at one point.  Props to Maron for giving him a platform, but it’s difficult to actively recommend this. [CZ]

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