Week of Jan. 12-18 

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“I always thought my cause wouldn’t be pro-gay—it would be like, ‘Leave everybody the fuck alone.’” —Todd Glass, WTF With Marc Maron 

“Way to keep yourself relevant through other people...” “...the Marc Maron school.” —David Cross and Wayne Federman, Doug Loves Movies

“He’s one of the most naturalistic small, pig-like men in the business.” —Nick Offerman on Paul Giamatti (James Adomian), Comedy Bang Bang

“It was like a cry for attention more than a movie.” —Brian Taylor on his Crank films, How Did This Get Made?

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is The Pod F. Tompkast. Good-bye, first-time listeners!” —Paul F. Tompkins, after he opens an episode with a three-and-a-half-minute riff on nicknames and Charles Dickens, The Pod F. Tompkast

“She had what Prince called ‘pussy control.’” —Greg Proops on Joan Of Arc, The Smartest Man In The World

“‘He’s fine, he’s good, he’s good, he’s dead.’ That’s what I want. ‘Roses, roses, roses, skulls.’” —Greg Behrendt on the mercifully non-detailed text updates he wants his family to receive when he is dying, Walking The Room

“Children are like roaches. They can check in, they can’t check out, unless the parents sign some sort of waiver… I’d write a script about that.” —Jimmy Pardo on youth rehab mentor/intern Dan Katz, Never Not Funny

NEW (TO US)

My Brother, My Brother And Me
In Maximum Fun advice podcast My Brother, My Brother And Me, brothers Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy help listeners make their way through the world—and maybe get a leg up on it. Episodes lead with the disclaimer: “The McElroy brothers are not experts, and their advice should never be followed… Also, this show isn’t for kids,” the first half of which is inaccurate. Justin and Griffin are former editors at video game news site Joystiq, and Travis is the cast’s (self-declared) sexpert. The brothers crack each other up, and listeners may find it contagious if they can stomach the onslaught of irony. The hosts are incapable of passing up a fart pun, but just as likely to lapse into a British accent to dramatize a point. They gleefully co-opt pop lingo past and present, as in a prediction that 2012 will be totally “hyphy.” 

In episode #86, Justin conveys the show in a nutshell: “You say ‘I’m not getting it; I’m not going full bore.’ And we say, ‘Listen, amp it.’” After a salvo of joke solutions, the trio serves useful input on evergreen topics, such as requesting a redo on an unsatisfactory haircut, finagling your way into a job you’re not qualified for, and confronting a boss who’s coming on to you. The meatiest discussion explores the complex topic of talking on the phone while using the toilet. Even if they aren’t etiquette experts, the McElroys reach solid solutions via a process of elimination. Dear Abby is frequently hilarious, but these guys are funny on purpose—and their answers are better. [DXF]

In Our Time
BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time is a bit like a one-man college run by host/polymath Melvyn Bragg: The episode list, like a listing of courses, is almost overwhelmingly wide-ranging in topic and scope, with individual episodes being much more concise in their focus on specific topics. The collegiate tone is also affected by Bragg’s guests, typically three professors from U.K. universities with expert knowledge of the topic but limited radio experience. The show refrains from being strictly pedagogical, however, and Bragg is never afraid of cutting guests’ speaking time short if they begin to steer the discussion off of the topic at hand—a necessity considering the show attempts to cram subjects such as quantum gravity and free will into 42 minutes each week.

The discussion is also unapologetically dry, and Bragg allots minimal time to contemplation. So, in some cases, prior knowledge can go a long way: Familiarity with the ideas associated with the philosophers mentioned in a rather dense and almost inevitably digressive episode about the analytic/continental philosophy divide is immensely helpful, as is some chemistry knowledge when listening to another that covers macromolecules and their applications. Similarly, listeners may be hard-pressed to fully appreciate Bragg’s recent discussion of the historical and literary significance of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe without having read the book. For this reason, it’s advisable to pick and choose episodes of In Our Time based on topics of interest—or you may end up lost/bored out of your skull. [CG]


OUTLIERS

The History Of Rome
A podcast detailing the minutiae of Roman history may sound boring/sleep-inducing, but host Mike Duncan channels an overwhelming amount of information into fun, brief stories that don’t require an advanced academic degree to comprehend. Episode 165, “Reviving The Roman Name,” details the squabbles between the Romans and the Goths in the early fifth century, and Duncan shows his historical mettle when he dismisses some information as inaccurate based on other available research. Duncan’s not just reading from a textbook or article (a frequent criticism of Podmass regular Stuff You Should Know), and even though his jokes can fall flat, the way he paces the episodes helps keep them interesting. [AJ]


THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU
No matter what Tom Scharpling does or says, listeners have to admit that he puts 100 percent into every show. Heave-ho after heave-ho, kvetch after kvetch, Scharpling understands his radio show has a dedicated following. That’s never been more obvious than in this week’s episode, which Scharpling opens with a tribute to a longtime listener who died. It only lasts a few minutes, but it’s the most poignant and honest bit in recent memory. Then Scharpling delivers an episode that includes everything from debunking the idea that anybody chased a tire with a stick for fun to how NBC’s Brian Williams is a huge joke (opposed to the Brian Williams of the ’94 Denver Nuggets) to introducing Gary the Squirrel (roommate of Vance the Puppet). In the end, the only thing that comes close to the heartfelt opening is Philly Boy Roy’s rendition of Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights.” [JD]

Comedy Bang Bang #140: Ron Swanson Off: Nick Offerman, James Adomian
Like its predecessor, episode 140 has a can’t-miss setup—Ron Swanson! James Adomian as Paul Giamatti!—that takes a little while to get going. Before Adomian shows up, Scott Aukerman and guest Nick Offerman have an enjoyable, if fairly straightforward (relatively speaking, for Comedy Bang Bang) interview. Offerman shares some funny stories, like the two times he went to jail for ridiculous reasons, or the long, soul-sapping process of landing the role of Ron Swanson, even though it was written for him. (Also interesting: Offerman is a frequent crier.) Even Adomian gets off to a bit of a slow start, but his re-creation of his audition for the Ron Swanson role is awesome. With Adomian planning to return to L.A. from New York for pilot season, here’s hoping he’ll reclaim his “frequent guest” status. [KR]

Doug Loves Movies: Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Wayne Federman
There’s a good deal of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo-prompted rape humor in the early going of this episode, but if anyone can make that fly, it’s this trio of guests—particularly Patton Oswalt and David Cross, who turn an offhand comment about Cross’ Blackberry into a bit that culminates in Oswalt singing about “The Blackberry Buggerer from Birmingham.” (There’s your Podmass mention, Patton. Consider your cred maintained.) Combined with the Chipmunks smack-talk that ensues while waiting for Cross to arrive and the guests good-naturedly ragging on Doug Benson’s “Interruption” format, the pre-game discussion is the real highlight of this week’s episode, as Oswalt’s aptitude for both Build-A-Title and the Leonard Maltin Game make those segments a foregone conclusion. [GK]

Freakonomics Radio: What Do Hand-Washing and Financial Illiteracy Have In Common?
Host Stephen Dubner links the two subjects with the idea that, despite knowing better (to wash your hands and be financially literate), people do not always act in the best interest of themselves or others. The show begins with a discussion about medical advances, mainly the discovery in the mid-19th century that women were dying after giving birth because doctors didn’t wash their hands properly (a problem, say a couple of experts, that still persists today). The rest of the show is spent talking to two experts about financial literacy and how the issue could be solved. Aside from the tenuous connection between the two subjects, both are individually fascinating and make the episode worth a listen. [MM]

Hang Up And Listen: The Live From New York Edition
The HUAL crew took to New York’s City Winery for an extra-long live show this week, and it’s looser and funnier than usual, feeding off a strong interplay with the crowd. Discussions on the NFL playoffs and the perhaps overgenerous way we perceive coaches at various levels are solid as usual, but the real treat is a segment with New York Times/FiveThirtyEight stats wizard Nate Silver, who got his start creating statistical models for baseball before moving on to electoral politics. Silver talks about the vast differences between the two—baseball offers a wealth of reliable data on every facet of the game, whereas political data is far less stable—and some of his more playful experiments, like his March 2011 piece on gaming the salad bar. The three hosts play a game of crowd-pleasing one-upmanship on the “Afterball” segment: Mike Pesca rants about This Week In Baseball’s disappointing shift from “bloopers” to “oddities”; Stefan Fatsis, inspired by the ridiculous association made between Tim Tebow’s 316-yard passing day against the Steelers and Tebow’s favorite Biblical passage John 3:16, finds other links between the Bible and sports numbers; and Josh Levin explores the subculture of NFL long-snappers. There’s also a bonus 20-minute Q&A session. [ST]

How Did This Get Made? #28: Director’s Edition: Crank
It’s a pity that co-host June Diane Raphael isn’t around for this week’s episode with Brian Taylor, co-writer/director of the Crank films. Considering they’re two of the podcast’s favorite movies, Paul Scheer and Jason Mantzoukas are positively giddy as Taylor answers questions and shares behind-the-scenes anecdotes. Taylor has a refreshing, no-holds-barred attitude about writing and directing, but he’s also a smart businessman who knows that ultimately he needs to please his studio. He provides a fascinating glimpse into the workings of the action-film industry in describing his creative process (basically make everything as fucking crazy as possible) and revealing how he and co-creator Mark Neveldine creatively addressed their financial restrictions. Taylor is a dream guest for this podcast, and after this episode, Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance can’t come fast enough. [OS]

How Was Your Week? “Many Parts Of A Pine Tree”: Frank DeCaro, Kate Beaton
After last week’s short analysis of a typical Julie Klausner introduction, it feels fitting to reassess the way Klausner opens an episode. Perhaps a drinking game for every weird phrase she uses during the first 10 minutes or so? In this week’s opening, Klausner beats us to the punch by admitting that she drank a few (or “maybe four or five”) glasses of wine. She tosses off a hilarious monologue like a wise owl drunk on pinot noir, really asking the tough questions about True Life: I’m A Chubby Chaser and voicing her displeasure with World War I compared to WWII. Klausner drunkenly charms her way through interviews with cartoonist Kate Beacon and author Frank DeCaro, who apparently “opened the door for David Sedaris as the gay man as everyman.” Klausner proves once again that if you listen to an episode of her podcast, you will likely come away with a new bit of gay trivia. [JD]

The Moth: Jenny Allen: I Can’t Get It Out Of My Mind 
It’s courageous to talk about finding a dick pic in your teenage daughter’s email in any public context that doesn’t involve being an anonymous shadow-person on 60 Minutes. Jenny Allen’s tone in this Moth entry balances the natural fear of a parent with the natural privacy-obsessed annoyance of teens. Better still, Allen admits to her confusion about the whole episode and perhaps not dealing with it in the best way. Where most parents would have understandably reacted with disgust and vindictiveness, Allen’s willing to make herself a bit of a clown, but still comes off admirably in the process. [SG]

Nerdist #159: Scott Ian
Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian swings by for a lively chat with many highlights, including stories about comedy shows at the old Largo L.A. and some fun celebrity encounters with the likes of Sam Kinison and Robert Duvall. While there is some talk about Anthrax, Chris Hardwick eschews generic questions to get Ian to open up about how real metal bands viewed ’80s “hair metal” and his thoughts on “selling out” and signing with a major label. Given his past as a VH1 host (Rock Show) and a participant in the network’s I Love The __s programs, it’s no surprise that Ian is a funny and gregarious interview, a perfect match for Hardwick. The nearly 70-minute conversation flies by. [MG]

Never Not Funny: #1006 Conquest Of The Planet Of Dana Gould
Jimmy Pardo starts #1006 hot, dismissing opinions like he’s guest-hosting The Best Show and challenging the format of the opening pre-guest segment. Tempers, however silly, cool as Dana Gould genially riffs on Richard Pryor’s erratic film career, a fond story of meeting George Carlin, and his many problems with Tim Burton’s Planet Of The Apes. (“Only a genius could make a movie about intelligent talking apes on horseback with swords and make it boring. It’s like he walked through an orgy and didn’t get a handjob.”) Before Gould becomes too trigger-happy, Pardo focuses the conversation on his writing of The Simpsons’ 13th season finale, “Poppa’s Got A Brand New Badge”—staying reverent despite, somehow, never being a fan—and his informative experiences with home security. A lot of the referential humor is lost in the ether of conversation, but when Pardo grounds Gould in between goofing and revelatory storytelling, it sticks. [SM]

The Pod F. Tompkast #14
At long last, the Tompkast has returned, three months after its last full episode. There’s no mention of why it took so long to come back, nor a promise that it will return to its regular monthly schedule, but the important thing is that we have it here now. Tompkins (and co-producer/musical accompanist Eban Schletter) falls back into an easy rhythm, barely starting the episode before going on a tangent about Charles Dickens and what to call Tompkast listeners, which segues into a longer riff on meeting someone who didn’t like the Tompkast in heaven. Tompkins jokes that he’s lost all first-time listeners, but that kind of thing is why fans tune in to the podcast. The other elements also do well, from an update on “The Great Undiscovered Project” (hint: Ice-T as vampire cyborg), a great clip from The Paul F. Tompkins Show featuring Paul Scheer, and a funny story from the newly single Jen Kirkman about her apartment’s alarm system. Only Tompkins would sign off then continue talking for more than six minutes, but The Paul F. Tompkast has yet to let us down. Keep talking, Paul. [KR]

RISK! #313: Shady
After its best-of episodes late last year, RISK! published a couple of so-so podcasts that few would regret missing. But with any luck, this week’s episode will be the beginning of a hot streak. The episode centers on stories that include, well, shady—and in a couple cases, crazy—people and their questionable behavior. All four stories are absolutely worth a listen, with subjects including a manic yoga teacher who convinces her date that she’s pregnant five minutes after they have sex, a woman abroad in Brazil who is robbed and then saved by an unexpected witness, and a university student in London whose best friend was a woman who had no other female friends. But  Mike Blejer’s story about the inappropriate relationship he began at age 12 with his 31-year-old au pair is not only the best story of the episode, it’s also the kind of story that RISK! strives for: a risky, difficult-to-tell story that most people would hesitate to tell friends, let alone a podcast audience. [MM]

Sklarbro Country #77: Will Punch Shark: Andy Daly, Jason Nash, James Adomian
Ridiculous human beings like Tim Tebow make it almost too easy for sports satirists like the Sklar Brothers. In the latest episode of Sklarbro Country, they offer a surprisingly persuasive theory that Tebow is secretly starring in a third sequel to Oh, God! entitled Oh, God! You Bronco, co-starring George Burns (whom they posit has ascended to actual godhood at this point). But the podcast really gets cooking with the arrival of guest Andy Daly, a quick wit and master improviser perhaps best known for his role as Kenny Powers’ rival in Eastbound & Down. Daly shares his meteoric ascent from essential Bennigan’s employee—when he tried to quit as a young man, his bosses literally wouldn’t let him leave—to hotshot improviser and fixture of television and film. Daly and the Sklars share infectious enthusiasm and equally irresistible laughs—their relentless positivity and good cheer would be borderline insufferable if they also weren’t so consistently funny. Speaking of consistently funny, the show ends with two of Sklarbro Country’s most proven laugh-getters: an even-more-emasculated-than-usual Bruce Jenner (Jason Nash) and a crazier-than-normal Gary Busey (James Adomian). [NR]

The Smartest Man In The World: Condors
Comedian Greg Proops kicks off this episode with a lengthy roundup of corrections from his previous episode, which foments some typically entertaining anecdotes. A discussion on H.G. Wells’ Time Machine leads to a tangent on Guy Pearce (who appeared in a film adaptation of the book) that results in Proops’ excellent Jeremy Irons impression. It also gives Proops a chance to compare Alan Moore to Frank Miller and perform an entertaining deconstruction of the Bible. There’s also an extended defense of Joan Of Arc, all making for a tangent-heavy but thoroughly enjoyable episode. [MG]

Stop Podcasting Yourself  #200: EVERY SEGMENT!
To commemorate their 200th episode, Graham Clark and Dave Shumka revisit every segment they’ve ever done, delivering two hours of the hosts and callers at their best. (No guest this week.) It’s a whirlwind of semi-random pop-culture references and anecdotes, and it’s a great place for new listeners to start. The bits—many of which have their own D.I.Y. theme song—include “Celebrity Odds” (a more polite, creative alternative to celebrity death pools), “Stuntcasting” (the hosts cast imaginary remakes of classic movies), quotes from Saved By The Bell, “Too Old For It” (Phineas & Ferb seems nice, but not age-appropriate), and less esoteric fare like “Hilarious Pranks,” “Childhood Injuries,” “Drunk Dial,” and “Fake Band Or Real Band?” This week’s phoned-in (literally) “Overhead” invokes a fart joke, leaving no part of the humor spectrum untouched. Compared to the meandering conversations of the past few weeks, this installment is more focused and funny. The tight agenda makes SPY’s mile-marker a prime example of listener-podcast synergy. [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History ClassW.C. Minor: Madness, Murder, And A Dictionary (Part 2)
This episode wraps up the story of the deranged founding writer of the Oxford English Dictionary, William Chester Minor. Part one focused on his unsettling childhood and wartime experience, and part two dwells on his sad descent into madness. Right around the time he committed a murder he couldn’t explain, Minor experienced delusions about Irish assassins and people molesting him in his sleep. That did not bode well for his court case and eventually landed him in an asylum. This is a mad-surgeon-turned-English-scholar we’re talking about, so hosts Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey let their glee for the details guide them through the particulars of Minor’s strange life. They paint the picture of a schizophrenic who, oddly enough, seemed to tame his demons to a manageable level in the 1800s, long before his problems had an effective medicinal treatment. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: Can You Vacation In Antarctica?
First of all, the short answer to the episode’s titular question is yes—but Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant don’t really address it head-on until the middle third of the episode. As Bryant battles a monstrous cold, he and Clark botch some penguin facts (sorry guys, there are some in southern South Africa and South America), but otherwise make a good case for giving an Antarctic vacation a whirl. Global warming makes this the best time ever to uncover an ancient cask of scotch or explore the wastelands of H.P. Lovecraft’s nightmares. The cold does slow Bryant down more than usual, but both hosts seem genuinely fascinated with the topic, and sometimes a thematic slow-down helps their short attention span. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: What’s The Deal With The Bermuda Triangle?
There’s nothing particularly creepy or groundbreaking in this solid episode, but as hosts Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark note, it’s a topic they’ve pondered covering for some time—and no, things don’t get all Unsolved Mysteries. Bryant and Clark dive into the infamous geological phenomenon with respect for the disasters that occurred there and the sort of glib glee regular listeners expect. Granted, the Bermuda Triangle is not even a “real” place: Considering the high traffic in the area, Coast Guard records show no disproportionate number of disappearances there, and cartographers have not seen enough evidence to warrant a formal acknowledgement of it. Yet things went missing there again and again, and the gigantic plot of water became a dumping ground for strange excuses. Whether these explanations deserve a fair shake could be up for debate, but the story of Plane 680 and the mystery of Bimini Road hint at what seduces the masses. [DT]

Thrilling Adventure Hour #54: Beyond Belief: A Dave At The Races
The “Beyond Belief” segment has the capacity to be among Thrilling Adventure Hour’s cleverest, located as it is between The Twilight Zone and Nick and Nora’s liquor cabinet. This week’s installment isn’t quite as hilarious as the one from episode 48 (during which Podmass took a Thanksgiving break), but nonetheless, it boasts a cast that includes Paul F. Tompkins, James Urbaniak, and Paget Brewster, who amplify writers Ben Acker and Ben Blacker’s ability to pry a good laugh out of just about every passing line. Not to mention their penchant for colliding the goofy tropes of different universes: This week, they deftly weave a story out of werewolves, horses, and Catcher In The Rye references. [SG]

Uhh Yeah Dude: #306
The rhythms of Uhh Yeah Dude aren’t an obvious fit for live performance. Comedy crowds usually expect a steady 4/4 beat of punchlines—not the conversational, sometimes lurching 7/4 shuffle that Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette deliver. This extended live performance at Seattle’s Neptune Theater manages to increase the energy level for the gathered throng without sacrificing the duo’s laid-back appeal. Old standbys like Ask Amy and Craigslist Ads buttress some slower, more anecdotal material, but the real star of this episode is Larroquette, who seems especially energized by the setting and gets in some of the best riffs of the night while discussing sexy texts and the safety record of hot-air balloons. Still, that’s cold comfort when his losing streak at Mind’s Eye continues unabated. [CW]

Walking The Room #86: Junk Pics And Napalm Dixon
Not that Greg Behrendt and Dave Anthony ever shy away from the gross, but try not to be snacking on anything during this week’s Walking The Room. Consider the brutally specific text updates Behrendt has been receiving on terminally ill family friend, or the opening segment about getting a silverfish in your coffee. But hey, that’s the price of our hosts reducing each other to helpless laughter and wheezing. And they do have the ability to establish a coherent through-line, as evinced by Behrendt’s quest this week for a Johnny Marr signature guitar. [SG]

Who Charted? #59: A Real Asssscat!: Matt Besser
There are a few parallels between this week’s and last week’s episode. Much like previous guest Brett Gelman, UCB founding member Matt Besser also has a fairly new Earwolf podcast, Improv4Humans. Also, just like the Brett Gelman episode, host Howard Kremer has a remarkably intimate rapport with Besser, so much so that for much of the podcast, Kulap Vilaysack serves mostly as a human laugh track. Of course, it helps that Besser comes off as a person inherently comfortable in his own skin. He’s a guest that has no qualms discussing how he plans to smuggle weed out of California while traveling or telling the story of the time he discovered his dead neighbor. Also, Besser is one guest who can always be relied on for a good story about the harrowing audition process. All in all, it seems like Kremer and Vilaysack are building up a momentum that will hopefully lead to a promising year for the show. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #244: Steven Wright
As Marc Maron notes admiringly, Steven Wright is one of those fabulously original thinkers who seem to inhabit their own private planet in their own private universe. His singular voice and persona can make it hard to conceive of him as a normal guy: Even at his most casual and conversational, Wright retains a genius for deadpan surrealism. For example, during his visit to the Cat Ranch, Wright shares an anecdote involving a middle-aged male-to-female transsexual doctor performing an elaborate dance number while surrounded by 15-year-old girls, including Wright’s niece. Maron’s affection and respect for Wright is palpable: He laughs easily and often during the conversation, as does Wright as they discuss cherishing old friends, the joys and horrors of Los Angeles’ car culture, the many obscure and not-so-obscure friends and peers they have in common, and Wright’s famed early days performing at Ding Ho, the legendary comedy club/Chinese restaurant. Wright doesn’t bare his soul like some guests to WTF, but this episode nevertheless provides a warm, intimate, and quietly revealing glimpse into the mind of one of comedy’s most enigmatic and revered figures. [NR]

WTF With Marc Maron #245: Todd Glass
Marc Maron deviates a bit from his typical interview format, with noteworthy results. After a brief teaser promising something exciting on the episode, comedian Todd Glass comes on the show to announce for the first time, publicly, that he’s gay. What follows is a raw, honest, inspiring conversation where Glass delves into why it took him so long to come out and his worries about how he’d be perceived once he actually did so. Maron gets out of his guest’s way to let Glass reveal what finally inspired him to be honest, and what follows is a meditation on what it really means to be accepting and sensitive in a real-life, not necessarily in a touchy-feely manner. Glass says several times throughout the discussion that he’s rambling off the cuff and will probably second-guess his talking points, but he shouldn’t worry, because the conversation comes off as clear-headed, down-to-earth, and, in its own way, quite beautiful. [CZ]

You Made It Weird #14: Marc Maron
For the second straight podcast in a row, Pete Holmes serves as a good-natured verbal punching bag for a sharp-witted guest. First Nick Kroll subjected his buddy Holmes to good-natured razzing about his laugh, size, and ego. Now what Holmes refers to as his generation’s “angry comedy dad,” Marc Maron, offers some constructive criticism that could easily be mistaken for withering insults. Thankfully, Maron’s digs are as funny as they are pointed, and Holmes, who makes no secret of his bottomless need for praise, attention, and validation, seems flattered rather than insulted. Holmes and Maron have very different personae—Holmes likens himself to a retarded golden retriever, while Maron is synonymous with brutal, unvarnished truth-telling—but they share a profound interest in themselves, the way their minds work, and the craft of comedy. At times it’s not clear who exactly is interviewing whom—Maron has a way of dominating conversations whether or not he’s on his own show—but the funny, revealing, and consistently entertaining result combines the best elements of WTF and You Made It Weird, two of the most insightful comedy podcasts around. [NR]


THE REST

The Bugle #178: The Final Countdown 
The last Bugle for The Times is sadly average, as John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman spend a lot of time noting how the U.S. is obviously behind the killing of Iranian nuclear scientists. Zaltzman’s often regrettable “Congressman’s Penis” makes for a suitable finale, as it features a talking version of New Gingrich’s penis—which makes Oliver tear up just a little bit in a mix of pride and disgust. It’s not the best Bugle to go out on, but it’s a serviceable transition into a hopefully more absurd and hilarious future. (Stick around for Zaltzman explaining how to access The Bugle from Soundcloud going forward.) [AJ]

Judge John Hodgman: #48: The Wonderful, Terrible, Terrible Towel Trouble
There’s nothing funnier than John Hodgman on sports—the befuddlement, the fanciful speculation, the front-line reports from the ongoing war between nerds and jocks—and there’s a lot of promise in the case of a Pittsburgh Steelers fan asking Judge Hodgman for a ruling on the proper treatment of an official Steelers “Terrible Towel.” Yet once again, the parties involved have come with a hypothetical dispute instead of an actual one—the alleged towel misuse has not happened (yet)—and the lack of even minor stakes spoils the episode. [ST]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #43: Meghan Daum
Writer Meghan Daum provides some insight into the psychology of oboists, finding your way erratically into the writing world, and demanding parents. She and Paul Gilmartin keep with the podcast’s usual frankness and insight, but the installment feels a little light for being nearly two hours long. [SG]

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #46: Clementines 
Fans of citrus and small wooden crates rejoice: Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh waste little time this week getting to their discussion of the “winter fruit” known as clementines. Fans of comical mispronunciation and MATES’ “viewers/not viewers” bit can rejoice as well, as this episode contains about a year’s supply of each. [SG]

Nerdist #158: 9:30 Club: Live In DC
Like the last live episode, this one is, for the most part, a “hostful” one in front of a live audience. Hardwick has as a diminished presence as the live setting brings more active participation and plenty of funny lines from co-hosts Matt Mira and Jonah Ray. Videogame fans will want to listen all the way to the end for a special appearance by voiceover vets John Patrick Lowrie and his wife, Ellen McLain, who provide some great banter and even a musical performance. [MG]

Sound Opinions: #320: The Jayhawks 
The Jayhawks are one of many ’90s bands to reunite and put out new music recently. While 2010’s Mockingbird Time is a markedly lesser record than the band’s best releases—newbies should head straight to 1992’s masterful Hollywood Town Hall—Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis greet the Twin Cities band like it’s never been better. The reverent tone of the interview doesn’t quite jibe with the new songs, which are workmanlike at best. The Jayhawks are a fine alt-country band, but the new material doesn’t justify the amount of time this episode spends on it. [SH]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Fridjof Nansen And The Fram (Part 1)
A wealthy eccentric, Fridjof Nansen was a competitive skier, artist, zoologist, and hero to Norway. Hosts Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey tend to find these types of people charming, and why not? He was indeed a genius. But many of his achievements occurred later in life, meaning the first of a two-part episode lacks any real drive and ends with a cliffhanger that neither defines the man nor makes listeners want to travel further into the arctic with him. A polar-bear attack and a Nobel Prize await in part two, which will perhaps be the half of the story worth checking out. [DT]