Week of Feb. 9-Feb. 15 

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“May I address all the punks of the world right now? Punks: You’ve had the better part of three decades to overthrow the world government. Give it up. It’s like trying to make burlesque a thing again. You can try all you want, it’s not going to happen. Stop ruining things, punks.” —Paul F. Tompkins, Doug Loves Movies

“NBC cured me of my addiction to The Tonight Show.” —Conan O’Brien, Nerdist

“And yet the goddamn thing tastes like melon! These sons of bitches!” —Michael Ian Black, marveling at the variety of Japanese Kit Kat Flavors, Mike And Tom Eat Snacks

“It is my sincere wish to have you murdered at a Phish show.” —Scott Aukerman to Harris Wittels, Comedy Bang Bang

“I never knew why I saw old people getting hosed down in backyards, and now I get it.” —Dave Anthony, accepting some family hygiene advice from Greg Behrendt, Walking The Room

“We are one minute in, and already Sarah Silverman would have been a better guest.” —Ben Schwartz, Doug Loves Movies

NEW (TO US)

Watch What Crappens
The cultural omnipresence of Bravo is a sign of the impending apocalypse for some, while it serves as proof that dreams can come true for others. Wherever your allegiance to the network lies, a podcast devoted solely to covering its endless cycles of reality shows is an excellent idea. Pop-culture bloggers Matt Whitfield (Yahoo!), Ronnie Karam (TVgasm), and Ben Mandelker (bsideblog) have been taking to the mic for weekly breakdowns since the podcast’s previous incarnation, Housewife Hoedown. As WWC, the focus has expanded to allow for Bravo’s non-Housewives programming, such as Top Chef and Tabatha’s Salon Takeover.

Karam is absent from episode three, “Here Comes Orange County!,” and his rapid-fire assaults on the Bravo-lebrities are sorely missed, but Whitfield and Mandelker hold things together nicely in his absence. There’s a sassy breakdown of the new season première of The Real Housewives Of Orange County, which they dub “The OGs from the OC.” They make some astute observations (new housewife Heather has “the face of a Cheshire cat meets Bethenny Frankel”) with some hard-line opinions, like Mandelker saying, “This is where style goes to die. Everyone thinks it’s New Jersey, but it’s Orange County.” As they move into the third part of The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills reunion, Whitfield gets a little trampled by Mandelker’s mile-a-minute delivery. While they shoehorn in a spirited discussion of Top Chef, the lack of any breaks makes it feel like a ton of chatter, even for a podcast. It might be tricky for non-obsessives to jump into WWC headfirst, but Andy Cohen die-hards will feel right at home. [JJ]


OUTLIERS

The Toastmasters Podcast
Toastmasters International aims to help members improve their public-speaking and leadership skills, and its companion podcast continues that mission as hosts Bo Bennett and Ryan Levesque interview members about their life stories. In the Toastmasters world, the key to success is self-confidence, and the podcast shares uplifting stories to inspire listeners. Episode 54 features Croix Sather, who ran 100 marathons and gave 100 speeches on 100 consecutive days last year. Bennett and Levesque take a backseat as Sather goes into detail about the challenges of the project. The story is much like Sather’s theme for his speeches, “Don’t give up on your dreams,” as he succeeded with his goal and now takes on a new one: a world record. [AJ]

THE BEST

The Bugle #182: Stockpiling Humanity 
There’s been a change in leadership in places that America has no concern for, but Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver cover it anyway. The Bugle is especially charming when the hosts treat the resignation of the English football manager as seriously as the forced dismissal of the president of the Maldives. Otherwise, the podcast hits the usual sweet spots this week, with Zaltzman working an excellent Dickensian pun, Oliver mining his dual citizenship for laughs, and one of The Bugle’s funniest moments ever following a story about British WWI soldiers using semen for camouflage. Most interesting is the unusual inclusion of producer Chris, who nicely balances Zaltzman and Oliver’s giddy banter. [AJ]

Doug Loves Movies: T.J. Miller, Ben Schwartz, Paul F. Tompkins, Santa Size Me Fake Trailer Contest Winners
This week’s episode stacks the UCB stage with Doug Loves Movies’ most reliable over-talker (T.J. Miller, edging out Jeff Garlin through audience consensus), Paul F. Tompkins (no shrinking violet himself), and Ben Schwartz, who seems eager to go head-to-head with Miller in a loudmouth-off. Then Doug Benson throws two extra guests on top of the garrulous pile-up: father-son duo Tom and Jeff, who picked the panel as their prize for winning the Santa Size Me YouTube trailer contest. It’s a recipe for chaos—especially once a talking Galactus doll enters the fray in the guise of an audience nametag—which can be either enjoyable or insufferable on DLM. Luckily, this week it’s the former, with an episode that miraculously hangs together on the strength of its guests’ zingers and a delightful, unexpected Leonard Maltin Game outcome. [GK]

Freakonomics Radio: How Biased Is Your Media?
This week’s episode looks into the longtime question: Are news outlets biased? Host Stephen Dubner talks to multiple researchers who have worked to provide more quantitative data on the matter. One study found that The New York Times and NPR were not as liberally minded as many conservatives think, placing them on the conservative-liberal spectrum somewhere near Joe Lieberman. It’s an interesting listen, though some conclusions are spotty. In one segment, Dubner and his guests discuss the idea that it’s not newspaper owners or reporters who dictate slant, but readers, so any bias is there to accommodate them. But the episode doesn’t discuss whether people gravitate toward media that caters to their political preferences. Even so, it’s a thought-provoking episode that’s worth a listen. [MM]

Hang Up And Listen: The Stop The Linsanity Edition
With Josh Levin out for the week, Stefan Fatsis takes over hosting duties and brings along a replacement panelist in L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated to discuss, among other things, the biggest story in sports right now: the unlikely ascendancy of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, an Asian-American with an economics degree from Harvard, a deep love of Jesus Christ, and the skills to light up Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers for 38 points. The HUAL crew finds little not to love about this story, not least its power to turn around what had become a lethargic post-lockout season. A second segment endorses Peter Berg’s vérité-style six-part documentary series on boxing trainer Freddie Roach, but the real treat here is the last segment on the Westminster Dog Show. For that, Fatsis welcomes another special guest in Josh Dean, who wrote a book about the peculiar and impressionable world of show dogs and the 1-percenters who spend low- to mid-six figures a year to train and advertise for a prize pup. Dean claims only 20 or so dogs have a chance in hell of winning Westminster every year, and the price of glory is as steep as the returns are slim. [ST]

How Was Your Week? #49: “Me And My Stupid Bat”: Kristen Johnston
Julie Klausner’s opening for this week’s episode is dizzying. How Was Your Week? listeners know to prepare for Klausner jumping from topic to topic (usually involving television shows), but this week she goes from Smash to Albert Nobbs (including tangents about clowns, clowning, and tassels) to Downton Abbey and basically every other show that came out this week. It lasts more than 25 minutes, and it’s a lot to digest. But the interview with Kristen Johnston, of 3rd Rock From The Sun fame, makes up for it. Johnston seems like she really wants to talk to Klausner, and the discussion that follows is great. [JD]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #47: Ru
Like other anonymous Mental Illness Happy Hour guests, Ru—a support-group friend of Paul Gilmartin—seems almost more capable and insightful at opening up than the comedians and other known quantities who come on the show. The interview’s bizarre highlight is Ru’s pursuit of Gene Simmons and Tommy Lee, but mostly it’s a prime instance of Gilmartin navigating subtler territory like toxic friendships and, especially, Ru’s unhealthy pursuit of male approval. [SG]

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #49: Japanese Kit Kat 
This week a listener sends Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh something truly odd: an assortment of Japanese Kit Kats, which it turns out come in flavors ranging from green tea to “intense roast soybean.” MATES could use more foods that a lot of people don’t even know exist, and better still, this degree of variety is Black and Cavanagh’s playground. They’ve riffed their way through multiple flavors of a given snack before, but arbitrarily pitting one ridiculous flavor against another truly elevates the duo’s silly chemistry. [SG]

Nerdist #167: Conan O’Brien
In one of the best episodes of Nerdist ever, one of the brightest minds in comedy offers a lengthy, thorough, and fascinating interview. While it hits on the touchstones of Conan O’Brien’s career—SNL, The Simpsons, his late-night shows—what makes the episode captivating is the discussion of how he approaches comedy, what he finds funny, and his own neuroses. He of course addresses the Tonight Show fiasco, though O’Brien seems curiously detached—probably because he’s numb to it at this point—never referring to Jay Leno or Jeff Zucker by name and admitting to the show’s dimmed stature. While O’Brien has covered similar ground before, particularly in the recent documentary Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, the length and uninterrupted nature of the podcast creates a more cohesive picture of O’Brien, his career, and even his anxieties. At 90 minutes, the episode borders on exhausting, but no moment feels superfluous. O’Brien is thoughtful, funny, and honest; like with other great Nerdist episodes, the hosts stay out of the way, relating their own experiences to O’Brien’s while furthering the conversation. [MG]

Sklarbro Country #81: Antony Jeselnik, James Adomian
When the brilliant comedian and roast specialist Anthony Jeselnik comes to a podcast, it’s never clear which Anthony Jeselnik will appear: the viciously witty, vaguely sociopathic putdown artist, or the amiable real-life Jeselnik? On another stellar installment of Sklarbro Country, the latter shows up to kibitz with the Brothers Sklar about sports, life, and his status as the new king of roasts. Jeselnik shares an affectionate roast-style joke he wrote about the Sklar Brothers for an online awards show (“What’s the hardest part about telling the Sklar Brothers apart? Finding a reason to”), but otherwise cuts a genial presence as he shares funny anecdotes about Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino bombing during the Comedy Central roast of Donald Trump and being warned away from writing rape jokes when sharing a dais with Mike Tyson during the roast of Charlie Sheen. Old favorite James Adomian drops by later as a ragingly, amusingly xenophobic Pat Buchanan to decry what he describes as the omnisexual, values-corroding pagan ritual that Madonna performed during the white heterosexual male High Holiday that is Super Bowl Sunday. Good stuff. [NR]

The Smartest Man In The World #145: Papers
Greg Proops jokes in this episode (recorded in January) about performing a crazy amount of shows at San Francisco’s Sketchfest, but fear not: He has energy enough to get 20-odd minutes out of the definition of the word “despot,” then almost inexplicably veer into riffs on Dick Cheney and Space Ghost Coast To Coast. Speaking of, it turns out Proops talking for five seconds in Zorak and Space Ghost voices can make a lot of other stuff worth it. Plus, the afternoon crowd here gives Proops a good, rowdy response, and he gets to run the word “matinee” through the Proops cute-mispronunciation machine. [SG]

Sound Opinions: #324 First Love Songs
Maybe the strongest connection that people have with music relates to songs that remind them of their first love. Everyone has their own “first love” story, and the joy of this Sound Opinions episode lies in how unique yet universal these stories are. Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis pick their favorite love songs, of course, but the best part is hearing the critics and listeners describe the personal feelings they have tied up in their choices. Most memorable of all, surprisingly, is lovable crank DeRogatis, who shows an unexpected soft side talking about a long-ago childhood kiss that took place while hearing The Police’s “Walking On The Moon.” [SH]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Who Was The Real Lone Ranger?
The Lone Ranger was not only based on an actual lawman, but one of the first ever black lawmen in America. Bass Reeves, born a slave, may have served in the Civil War along with a Native American tribe, and by the time he was officially emancipated, he was a farm owner who assisted in hunting down outlaws. Enter Judge Parker, who hired 200 new U.S. Marshals, including black men like Reeves, because of the trust they engendered with local tribes. Reeves’ vast knowledge of customs and languages overshadowed his functional illiteracy (and are what inspired the “Tonto” character), and his missions became legend. More than a guy in a dopey black mask, he was a polished dresser who used disguises and ingenuity—he once walked 20 miles on foot to camouflage himself as an outlaw—to catch the bad guys, whom he sometimes handcuffed in their sleep. According to IMDB, Gore Verbinski has cast charming anthropomorphic starch bottle Armie Hammer as the ranger in a 2013 movie, but it’s nice that SYMIHC is honoring Black History Month by telling the real story. [DT]

This American Life #457: What I Did For Love
The Valentine’s Day episode of This American Life fares better than most of the schlock that invades broadcasts this time of year: “What I Did For Love” manages to find a few stories that aren’t romantic or saccharine, but instead look at the miscalculated things people do for love. The first two acts feature excellent stories that are well worth a listen for their ease and incredibility. Ira Glass interviews Kurt Braunohler about a decision to take a Rumspringa-style holiday from a past relationship, and Robbie Brown talks to a high-school student who falls in love with an undercover cop. From there, though, the episode nosedives; best to skip the short story about a duck who falls in love with a rock and the sarcastic tale about a woman who reads her boyfriend’s journal. [EW]

Thrilling Adventure Hour #58: Tales Of The United Solar System Alliance: “T-Minus”
Perhaps the real treat of Thrilling Adventure Hour this week is hearing James Urbaniak pull out, oh, 90 percent of his Rusty Venture voice. Much like the Venture Brothers protagonist, space hero Lt. Gene Peeples is fussy, condescending, and runs both a fancifully high-tech operation and an irritating family. Urbaniak’s contributions to TAH are many, but it’s undeniably fun to be reminded of that character in a different setting, and also to hear Colin Hanks come on for a guest spot, all of which helps to spice up a short episode tied to another segment’s plotline. [SG]

The Tobolowsky Files #54: The Long Road To Somewhere Else
If nothing else, Stephen Tobolowsky’s trilogy of episodes about the open-heart surgery he underwent in early 2011 should inspire listeners at to watch their diets and step up their exercise for a day or two, thanks to his offhanded mentions of a procedure that sounds both medieval and horrifying. (His description of why a patient’s shoulders usually hurt after the surgery is gut-churning.) But where the first chapter was wryly humorous and the second took a turn for the intense, the final installment is much more poignant and thoughtful, as Tobolowsky wraps up the stories of the various people he met in the hospital and ponders the long road between life and death and the many places we stop along the way. It could all be unbearably sentimental, but as always, he knows just when to perk things up with a joke or a perfectly pitched observation. This trilogy may not be the best the podcast has ever been, but it’s darn close. (Make sure to listen from the beginning for some expert ribbing from host Dave Chen about the failure of the sitcom Work It, on which Tobolowsky guest-starred.) [TV]

Uhh Yeah Dude: #310
You can usually tell the quality of an Uhh Yeah Dude episode by the duration and fury of the rants: If Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette blow through topics, riffing here and there, the show feels less like a conversation and more like a list. Episode 310, though, sees the two hosts working themselves into a protracted lather discussing doomsday scenarios (a favorite topic), the practical and philosophical implications of hugging one’s doctor, and the unsettling prospect of a grandpa Seth. Also discussed is Jonathan Lee Riches, whose lawsuits against such entities and non-entities as Jeff Gordon, the Garden of Eden, and the dwarf planet Pluto have won him a small fan base—which now includes the hosts of UYD. [CW]

Walking The Room #90: Sack Of Marbles And Slow Strokes 
Leave it to Greg Behrendt, in the way he plays at tormenting co-host Dave Anthony, to repeatedly make jokes involving The Strokes and strokes, and to return to more surreal, disgusting fiction about his genitals. (The first phrase in this week’s episode title refers to Behrendt’s recurring theme about having a freakish scrotum.) Still, sometimes it’s the lurid tales that put a Walking The Room up where it needs to be, and this week rewards the patient with updates on Anthony’s kid and Behrendt’s story of seeing a woman keel over during a Todd Barry set. [SG]

WTF With Marc Maron #252: Bill Lawrence
On another engaging installment of WTF With Marc Maron, television veteran Bill Lawrence comes off as a solid, professional craftsman rather than a visionary or genius like Louis C.K., whom the Cougar Town and Scrubs creator comes perilously close to calling a credit hog. Lawrence concedes that his initial skepticism of Louie was largely attributable to jealousy, and he’s similarly candid discussing his days as a shitty stand-up comedian and staff writer whose snarky attitude alienated his employers at shows like Boy Meets World. (In perhaps the podcast’s most embarrassing moment, Lawrence refers to Boy Meets World’s “emotional spine” with amusing sincerity and not a hint of self-consciousness.) Decades in the business have given him a more mature, nuanced perspective on his craft: He’s more reverent discussing his admiration for Michael J. Fox, with whom he collaborated on Spin City, as well as his fondness for Charlie Sheen, who was sober and on his best behavior when he took over for the ailing Fox. But Lawrence is bluntest and most engaging when discussing how Cougar Town started as a cynical joke before becoming a mature, well-liked show with an unfortunate name (that Maron impishly suggests should be re-titled Sad Fuck-Fest). [NR]

WTF With Marc Maron #253: Nick Lowe 
Maron interviews the classy-seeming rock/producing legend this week, and the conversation benefits from staying general: The nitty-gritty of album-making is sometimes best left to music podcasts. Maron and Lowe discuss the lessons Johnny Cash imparted about maintaining an image, what it’s like to open for Wilco, and the ups and downs of dating a younger woman. (Incidentally, Maron’s stories about his fights with his girlfriend are always a little uncomfortable, aren’t they?) There’s a fun section where Maron simply quizzes Lowe about his opinions of other rock legends; he seemingly wants to ask Lowe more about working with Elvis Costello, but still gets some good stuff. (There’s a funny anecdote about Lowe feeling the need to cut down Costello whenever he brags about hanging out with his famous pals.) Lowe also performs “The Beast In Me” and “Sensitive Man. [CZ]

You Made It Weird #23: Bill Burr
For a comedian with the personality of a goofy, eager-to-please puppy, Pete Holmes is refreshingly unafraid to “get into it” with his guests, as he likes to say. For his conversation with Bill Burr, that entails referencing Christian Finnegan’s line about how most comedians were either called fags in high school or called other people fags. Holmes suggests the confrontational, provocative Burr is the second kind of stand-up, but Burr understandably disputes that, along with plenty else Holmes says—while giving him shit for being a towering giant (Holmes is 6-foot-6) with the self-image of a meek little man. Holmes’ almost preternaturally nice and enthusiastic personality encourages and invites good-natured aggression, and Burr gives him more shit than most. He amusingly suggests Holmes transform himself into “bad guy Pete Holmes,” complete with a sinister, jet-black beard, and a 2-by-4 like “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. Early in the podcast, Burr impatiently insists he’s eager to talk about something other than stand-up comedy (which they do), but he’s nevertheless compelling talking his craft with a host who never tires of the subject. [NR]


THE REST

Comedy Bang Bang #144: Clones And Oliver Stones: Harris Wittels, Paul Rust, Michael Cassady
Deep in production for the new Comedy Bang Bang TV series for IFC, Scott Aukerman has a lot less time for the podcast these days. He can only record on Saturdays, and there’s even less planning in the way of guests. To wit: comic band Don’t Stop Or We’ll Die. Improvisers have a reputation for being exhausting to be around, and the manic riffing that starts the episode (and barely relents for 80 minutes) reinforces that stereotype. The energy starts high and remains there—it’s enjoyable, but for die-hard CBB fans only. [KR]

How Did This Get Made? #30: Director’s Edition: Cool As Ice: Vanilla Ice, Brian Huskey
Brian Huskey joins the HDTGM gang to discuss Vanilla Ice’s 1991 act of Hollywood hubris, featuring Rob Van Winkle himself for the last 15 minutes of an otherwise average episode. Described as a Tree Of Life/Pee-wee’s Playhouse hybrid with a dash of Do The Right Thing, the film is an incoherent mess of choreography and random narrative choices. Van Winkle has a sense of humor about it, but the movie did pave the way for his appearance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze. He also encourages taking drugs when watching the film, which sounds like good advice after the episode’s commentary. [OS]

Monday Morning Podcast
A hot streak ends with this week’s episode, in which Bill Burr touches on what should be sure-fire winners like Valentine’s Day and the Grammys, with middling results at best. A fleeting segment in which he speculates on the inner workings of chickens’ reproductive systems provides the biggest laughs, but just about everything else drags. [CG]

The Moth: Bonnie Levison: Love Shack
Bonnie Levison’s story is a feast of validation in the face of a bad divorce, and plenty well-executed as those things go. There’s even a couple of solid laughs, and the B-52s are involved, so the only fault, and a small one, is that the story somehow ends up feeling a little tame overall. [SG]

Never Not Funny #1010: Playing The Lip With Michael Koman
Partway through episode 1010, guest Michael Koman faults himself for being a non-contributor, but no apology is necessary. Never Not Funny’s history with writers is laced with timid guests who eventually find their voice in the scrum, while some of the “worst” episodes feature overzealous comedians. Koman’s participation leads to some highlights, like discussion about his former roommate Todd Glass, but also some obligatory stuff about his relationship with Pardo, Conan, and fiancée Ellie Kemper. It’s hard to fault a non-performer for holding back, especially such a clearly funny one, but it neuters some of the unabashed energy on which Never Not Funny feeds. [SM]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #204: Erica Sigurdson
Comedian/promoter/Mr. D writer Erica Sigurdson joins the Stop Podcasting Yourself crew for a wandering conversation that’s pleasant but optional unless you’re hungry for late, scattered Valentine-themed bonbons. Sigurdson recalls an accidental, woefully inappropriate V-Day gifts from her mom, the group lists the pros and cons of a entering a threesome with pro wrestler Ultimate Warrior, and a flat round of “Overheard” provides a new context for the phrase “get down with the brown.” [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History ClassThe Booth Conspiracy
Much of the first half of this episode might be old news for history buffs, as Sarah Dowdey and Deblina Chakraborty walk listeners through the Lincoln assassination. But they wisely build the narrative, noting that John Wilkes Booth was actually a minor celebrity who did not act alone. This makes the later half of the story—Booth’s escape and eventual death—even more interesting, but the bulk of it is still pretty well-trod. You probably didn’t miss this in history class. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Coral Reefs Work
Coral reefs might have the catchy nickname “The Rainforests of the Equatorial Sea,” but the topic is a dense one for SYSK. Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant walk listeners through the three types and different zones, which reveals interesting facts like how reefs can minimize tsunamis and loom underwater as gigantic living mountains. Even though both hosts are scuba divers, they do not seem particularly inspired here; a particularly dumb fat joke about two-thirds of the way through doesn’t help, and the episode never really gets on track. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Pickpockets: Artists Or Crooks?
Apart from co-host Josh Clark seeming swept up in the romance of old-timey pickpockets, and his rant about how victims in coffee shops getting “what they deserve,” this is an interesting episode about a relatively lost “art.” Yet Clark and Bryant don’t draw a clean line between pickpocketing as a current third-world tradition and as an antiquated Victorian practice. They throw around terminology from Oliver Twist like “your main pick is called a Fagan” so loosely that it’s not altogether convincing. [DT]

Who Charted? #63: P.F. Toddler: Paul F. Tompkins
It might be a good idea for hosts Kulap Vilaysack and Howard Kremer to put a two- or three-appearance limit on guests. If the format of the show is to learn more about the guests via the weekly music and movie charts, it stands to reason that most of the more interesting biographical tidbits about Paul F. Tompkins have been exhausted by his third appearance. That seems to be evident by how far Kremer and Vilaysack had to reach to come up with material for the biographical chart game. [MS]

More Podmass