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Week of Jan. 19-25 


“You can’t get this big by accident. It’s not osmosis; you gotta put some heart into it.” —Ralphie May, WTF With Marc Maron

“The Ritalin is really effective... my scores jump immediately.” —Steve Zimmer, on a girlfriend’s efforts to curb his out-of-control 3D Tetris playing, The Moth

“I got married in the year 2000… just because I like that Conan bit so much.”
“Some guy that overwrites a blog on the Internet will get mariieeedd." —Matt Belknap and Jimmy Pardo, Never Not Funny


The Jerky Boys Show
The Jerky Boys practically invented the viral clip, so it’s only natural the prank-call crew would resurface with a podcast, nearly two decades after its heyday. The Queens, New York, duo of Johnny Brennan and Kamal Ahmed rose to fame in the late ’80s and early ’90s—way before caller ID, and years before *69—by recording prank calls. The partnership split in 2000, but Brennan has soldiered on with the name while parlaying his talents into a voice-acting gig as Family Guy’s Mort Goldman. (He also has a writing credit on the Insane Clown Posse western Big Money Hustlas.) Now Brennan has launched The Jerky Boys Show, a podcast that revisits Jerky bits from different angles.

In Brennan’s weekly snack-sized casts, pre-recorded listener requests set up old favorites. Brennan, lapsing into vintage Jerky voices, tells behind-the-scenes stories about the calls, then plays them in their entirety, trotting out cringe-inducing exchanges between unsuspecting civilians and a rogue’s gallery of curmudgeonly New Yorker characters. (Former Jerky partner Ahmed remains MIA, and so do his characters, such as the dense Frank Kissel and ethnic caricatures like Tarbash the Egyptian Magician.)

Alternate weeks focus on classics and quality obscurities. In #3: The Super Across The Way/Nobbie’s Balloons, Brennan excavates the Jerky mythos, providing a bio of the real-life Brett Weir he mysteriously name-checks in the signature “Super Across The Way.” As with any commentary series, some fall short: #10: Frank Rizzo—Auto Mechanic/Sol Rosenberg—Sol’s Glasses begins with the fan-favorite calls from the title, though it doesn’t deliver any real insight. But when a super-fan poses a handful of questions about 1995’s The Jerky Boys movie, Brennan answers them all. [DXF]


Comics Are Great! 
Independent comic-book creator, teacher, and outspoken advocate for the comic-book industry Jerzy Drozd uses his podcast to address news and issues within that world and chat with guests from mainstream, independent, and web comics. Episode 44 features Stephanie Mannheim, Gale Williams, and Eli Neiburger sharing their favorite comics of all time with unmistakable enthusiasm, from Mannheim commenting on the depth of the ink work in Charles Burns’ Black Hole to Drozd gushing over the complex panel layering in Crisis On Infinite Earths. The discussion of those books highlights CAG’s range, especially when the conversation drifts to topics like superhero comics relying too much on word bubbles or the importance of letting images tell the story. CAG covers a lot of ground, so it should appeal to experts and casual fans. [AJ]


The Bugle #179: Playas Gon Play  
Now funded by listener donations, The Bugle is newly independent, and its first episode as on its own feels more relaxed and easygoing than the previous few. To wit: The episode opens with the best “John Oliver meets a celebrity” story ever, as he recounts almost spitting his hot dog onto Biz Markie. Andy Zaltzman scores an excellent Biz Markie/Otto Von Bismarck pun before introducing the Wifepedia game, where he had his Twitter followers ask his wife questions when Wikipedia went down last week to protest SOPA. The duo tops itself, though, when it suggests Queen Elizabeth II pay for a multi-million dollar yacht by wearing sponsor advertisements, perhaps like a NASCAR driver. Now that The Bugle is safe (hopefully—the #savethebugle hash at the top of its website is a little disconcerting), this episode makes a good case for it being, somehow, funnier than ever. [AJ]

Comedy Bang Bang #141: Ladies Night: Tig Notaro, Ronna And Beverly
It’s an incestuous Comedy Bang Bang this week, with comedian Tig Notaro (of the Earwolf podcast Professor Blastoff) and Ronna And Beverly, the comedy duo of Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo, who just happen to have a podcast debuting this week in Earwolf Presents. (They’ve had their own since May of 2011, but this is their debut with the podcasting network.) The incest isn’t a problem, though: Notaro’s hilarious presence is always welcome, and Ronna and Beverly—whom Chaffin and Denbo play as fiftysomething Jewish ladies/relationship experts—draw laughs by grilling Scott Aukerman on his relationship with wife Kulap Vilaysack (also of another Earwolf podcast, Who Charted?) to the point of making the usually unflappable host a little flustered. Stick around for the rare Jukebox Jury appearance, with an even rarer event: a song that plays the whole way through (probably because it sounds exactly like Garfunkel And Oates). [KR] 

Doug Loves Movies: Pat Wilson, Josh Freese, Brendon Walsh, Graham Elwood
Recorded on the Weezer Cruise, this episode of Doug Loves Movies has a different, fun energy that’s a welcome departure from the UCB Theater in LA and the time constraints it causes. Doug Benson doesn’t have to rush, so guests Pat Wilson and Josh Freese of Weezer, comedian/actor Brendon Walsh, and Benson’s frequent road partner Graham Elwood are free to goof around. So is the audience, judging by the beach ball that apparently bounces around during the recording. Elwood has a tendency to dominate the conversation when he appears on DLM, but it’s not annoying here. He’s sharp and acerbic, and he’s especially good at Build-A-Title, which can be really entertaining when the panel manages to build a long one. All in all, this episode makes a compelling argument for Doug Loves Movies to get booked on more rock cruises. [MS]

Hang Up And Listen: The Famous Last Words Edition
After Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yarder that would have sent his team’s playoff game into overtime, the usual sports-talk cretins made noise about how kickers shouldn’t be considered part of the team. In the aftermath, HUAL co-host Stefan Fatsis—who wrote about NFL placekicking in his book A Few Seconds Of Panic, for which he served, George Plimpton-style, as a kicker for the Denver Broncos—heroically stood up for Cundiff on the Slate/Deadspin roundtable, and he extends his defense here. But the real highlight of this week’s episode is a conversation with Washington Post reporter Sally Jenkins, who was the last reporter to interview Joe Paterno before he died last weekend. Jenkins’ measured sympathy for Paterno seems a bit strained, but it’s refreshing to hear some middle ground between those condemning the coach for abetting a child rapist and those who have turned a blind eye in lionizing him. Only the last segment, on the death of Canadian freestyle skiing pioneer Sarah Burke, seems boilerplate. [ST]

How Was Your Week? #46: “Consequences”: Chris Gethard, Katie Notopoulos
How boring were the Golden Globes this year? So boring that Julie Klausner basically overlooks them to talk about Paula Deen, Deen’s diabetes, how people are reacting to Deen’s diabetes, how Deen is a “circus elephant in a wig,” and Deen’s gigantic family. Klausner also touches on Mark Wahlberg’s weird 9/11 comment, Katherine Heigl, and about a dozen other things, but the interviews are also solid this week. Chris Gethard, fresh from an appearance on The Best Show, continues making the podcast rounds to discuss his book, A Bad Idea I’m About To Do. Gethard’s interview is funny as usual, but Klausner’s talk with “online curiosity collector” Katie Notopoulos takes top honors. It’s a funny little discussion of the vast freak show that is the Internet. [JD]

Judge John Hodgman: #49: The Master’s Disaster
Lately, Judge Hodgman has been trying to make the best out of weak, inconsequential cases, and this week, he finally has a dispute where he can really mess with people’s affairs. Jessie brings the case against her husband, Jason, who’s enrolled in an intensive 16-week master’s program that, on top of his full-time job, keeps him from doing his spousal duties, like taking out the trash and complimenting his wife on her hair. Hodgman explores all sorts of odd details about their lives, like Jessie churning her own butter (chimes in Bailiff Jesse Thorn: “You can just order butter from the milkman like everybody else does”) or Jason’s claims to Vitamin D deficiency, which prompts the judge to pepper him with questions about rickets. Jessie’s request to have a second husband (or platonic “lover”) to fill in for Jason while he’s off working and studying leads to a surprising judgment—and a trip to Denver’s Coyote Ugly. [ST]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #44: Mike Schmidt
You could argue that The Mental Illness Happy Hour sets the stakes too high on some episodes, making others too tame by comparison. But it’d be shorting the podcast to hold out for the most fucked up tales, and this week proves why. Paul Gilmartin notes that Mike Schmidt has publicly stated his problems (including a bad father and obesity) aren’t severe enough to make him a good Mental guest. But together, they do a good job of catching screwy thought processes and self-doubt in the small and mundane moments in which they undermine happiness. Most admirable, perhaps, is Schmidt’s willingness to address his career shortcomings with logic and a minimum of self-pity. [SG]

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #47: Pirate’s Booty
It’s always fun when Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh play it tough on a snack. This week they review and occasionally threaten Pirate’s Booty, verbally smacking around the makers of chip alternatives for including “snackrifice” in their back-of-bag copy. Even the praise is backhanded, especially as the two rate Pirate’s Booty “a cut above bland” and comment (forgivingly, really) on its “vomity cheese” smell. Where the duo faltered a bit last week, this week they’re back on their game of silly bullshit storytelling here with a bit about English not being Black’s first language. [SG]

Monday Morning Podcast
Bill Burr is a big football fan, and with his beloved Patriots in the Super Bowl, he devotes about 20 minutes of this week’s episode to sports talk. Even with Burr’s insight and humor—and his acknowledgement that only sports fans will care—those 20 minutes are a slog. The episode picks up quite a bit of steam after that, though, with a couple of entertaining heckler stories, one involving a shoe thrown at the stage, and both involving racial tension. Burr’s partner, Nia, joins him in discussion later, and the duo spends 45 minutes addressing a swath of unusually strong and interesting emails from advice-seeking listeners. It’s by no means a laugh riot, but it is breezy and pretty engaging overall—particularly after the 18-minute mark. [CG]

The Moth: Steve Zimmer And Kirby Adams: StorySLAM Favorites
The Moth’s two-fer StorySLAM Favorites episodes always find storytellers challenged to be a little punchier and a lot quicker. The affably dorky Steve Zimmer comes in with a story that’s actually devoid of some morally redeeming twist or surprise wallop of wisdom—which is refreshing and perhaps appropriate, as his entry is about video games. Kirby Adams starts at the hurried pace that promises tales of strange behavior, and indeed, she makes a good, crazy little character out of her childhood self discovering a love of running. Neither are the fullest or most touching Moth stories you’ll ever hear, but they perform comically and admirably within their constraints. [SG]

Nerdist #160: Graham Elwood 
Graham Elwood, host of the Comedy Film Nerds podcast, performed for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and made a documentary about it, Laffganistan. The stories he shares on Nerdist are often intense—like when his transport helicopter suddenly becomes involved in a firefight—and Hardwick gets Elwood to talk about the effect the trips had on him and his comedy. It’s an engrossing episode, particularly when Elwood discusses how his interactions with soldiers and particularly the topic of PTSD have changed his overall perspective. Although Elwood and the hosts use humor to leaven all the seriousness, it never undermines the gravity of his stories, and the interview is stronger for it. [MG]

Nerdist #161: Stephen Merchant
Stephen Merchant, comedian and co-creator of The Office and Extras, has an affable chat with the Nerdist crew that delves deep into deconstruction of comedy and the differences between writing for stand-up and writing for television. He also talks about some early concerns over The Office and Extras, which are interesting in light of the shows’ success. The tea break distracts a bit, and the short running time is disappointing, but Merchant’s rapport with the hosts makes the time fly. [MG]

RadioLab: Wake Up And Dream
In an utterly fascinating 20-minute short, RadioLab examines the idea of lucid dreaming, telling in brief the story of how it was proved that lucid dreaming is possible and how one man used those principles to defeat a recurring (and absolutely terrifying, from the sounds of it) nightmare, giving himself dream world superpowers in the process. The short captures the energy of the best episodes of the show and the feeling that all kinds of crazy things are possible when science is involved, and a nightmare proves to be a natural fit for the soundscapes of the show. [TV]

Sound Opinions #321: Short But Sweet Songs
It’s not a completely original idea to list the best songs under two minutes—cough, there’s a really good list here, cough—but Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis are nothing if not expert selectors of tracks from various points in rock history. Any excuse for them to make a playlist is welcome, and this episode is a particularly fun, breezy listen. All of the songs are pretty great—well, except for Janis Joplin’s nails-pulverizing-a-chalkboard “Mercedes Benz”—and some are even revelatory. (We had no idea “Woo-Hoo” from the Kill Bill soundtrack originated in the ’50s with The Rock-a-Teens.) [SH]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #201: Jon Dore
This week’s Stop Podcasting Yourself brings equal chuckles from hosts Graham Clark and Dave Shumka and guest Jon Dore, the Canadian Idol correspondent and comic. Dore opens with an memorable anecdote about blacking out during an intentional overdose of Klonopin, and the episode climaxes with a discussion of serious movies that could be wrecked by inserting one unbelievable moment, such as Schindler’s List, Jaws, and JFK. A long “Overheard” (and “Overseen”) segment takes listeners on a trip through time to a place called Radio Shack (an electronics retailer with an unquenchable thirst for American zip codes), followed by an eavesdropped reference to actor Edward James Olmos and, presumably, Battlestar Galactica. [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History ClassH.H. Holmes And The Mysteries Of Murder Castle (Part 1)
Fans of Erik Larson’s excellent book Devil In The White City know the story, but “Murder Castle” does the tale of H.H. Holmes justice too. New Hampshire born, Henry Howard Holmes grew up as well-beaten animal torturer Herman Mudgett. His childhood friend died a tragic death, but as hosts Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey note, that may very well have been the first victim of this completely charming and completely deranged serial killer. Mudgett goes quickly from medical student to corpse-stealing Dr. Frankenstein, and the story moves so quickly from his disturbing youth to his haunting of Chicago in part one that part two should be especially gripping and gruesome. As usual, Chakraborty and Dowdey’s whimsical enthusiasm makes the dark dealings fly by, making this essential listening. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Fridtjof Nansen And The Fram (Part 2)
The first half of Fridtjof Nansen’s adventure was all build up and no payoff, but thankfully part two focuses on action and the terrifying expanse of the unexplored arctic Nansen traversed. Pressing far beyond the point when many travelers descend into madness and cannibalism, Nansen and his crew felled many polar bears and changed their underpants as a Christmas present to themselves—basically putting weaker explorers to shame. When Nansen finished, he was forced to admit that resources and circumstance would not allow him to return for another polar adventure, but he became a scientist, savior of prisoners of war, and a renowned philanthropist with his newfound celebrity. It’s a bit sad that there are no contemporary figures comparable to this fascinating man. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Mexican Wrestling Works
Luchador is the wrestler, lucha libre is the wrestling, and the masks make it an important part of Mexican culture. If you unmask a luchador, you are dead—that luchador wears his mask to the grocery store, the auto shop, and Victoria’s Secret. For the most part, Mexican wrestling has the same elements as American wrestling, but its heroes and villains are deadly serious about the “drama,” with more pronounced themes of mythic oppression and classist rage. While these concepts may be hard for dismissive Americans to grasp, Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark present the history thoroughly, explaining the strange commitment with perfect logic. When huge guys are dull and tiny acrobats are the inspiring warriors, listeners will likely want to check out some clips of the matches online. Even when it gets silly, you have characters like “Ice Cream Jr.,” the acid-sprinkle throwing clown—top that, WWE. [DT]

Thrilling Adventure Hour #55: Captain Laserbeam! Even Bluebirds Get The Blues
This week’s vintage-superhero episode boasts Thrilling Adventure Hour’s usual attention to detail and a willingness to take affectionate parody to a strange place: It begins with Captain Laserbeam about to quite literally deliver Apex City’s 1 millionth citizen. Although the episode seems a little too heavy on banter among the Captain’s young, silly sidekicks, the tension between two mismatched supervillains—the masochistic Purple Puritan and the seductive Bluebird Of Misery—makes up for it. [SG]

Walking The Room #87: Rob Delaney
Greg Behrendt and Dave Anthony welcome Rob Delaney with one of their best gross-out intro segments of late (stuffed unicorn, anyone?). Delaney provides a little balance to the usual madness that tends to arise between two people who are just used to riffing together and pushing each others’ buttons. But like the hosts, he’s a family man, and eventually bests them in terms of outlandish rambling about the wonders of childbirth and placentas. It even leads to a round of comical-stakes-raising on what each comic would do to protect his kids from harm. It should leave listeners feeling good, if also mildly terrified, for the next generation. [SG]

WTF With Marc Maron #247 Ralphie May 
Comedian Ralphie May could be most easily described as “the big guy from Last Comic Standing,” but Marc Maron’s interview with him reveals an interesting, thoughtful performer who’s much more than that. May has an interesting background, not just for his tutelage under Sam Kinison, but also due to his experiences as a defensive-driving instructor and sous chef at Emeril Lagasse’s acclaimed restaurant NOLA. Maron doesn’t bring up May’s size too much, it’s sad and revealing when they discuss it, from the way May feels it helps him connect with black comedians to how NBC said it made him a liability on Last Comic Standing. What may be most telling about May is how much pleasure he seems to derive from naming the people who have helped him along the way, but how, after telling a story about a horrible prank played on him by some other comics, he refuses to name who did it, even after Maron’s prompting. [CZ]

You Made It Weird #15: Nick Thune
There are moments on You Made It Weird that would be impossible to imagine on any other podcast because of Pete Holmes’ unique, oddly wholesome weirdness. During his chat with pal Nick Thune, for example, Holmes notes that both of them were once on track to become youth pastors. In a fascinating conversation, Thune discusses how finding God gave his life direction after landing in rehab as a teenager and how he worked for years at a Boys & Girls Club partially as a way to bring troubled young people to Jesus. Thune is also compelling discussing his complicated relationship with his wife, his equally complicated current relationship with Christianity, and his rapid ascent in standup. But the highlight of the conversation involves a surreal encounter with Ray Liotta in Thune’s therapist’s waiting room and a prank on their shared shrink. Thune and Holmes might have made fine youth pastors; for the sake of the podcasting and comedy world, thank God they chose an alternate path. [NR]

You Made It Weird #16: T.J Miller #2
T.J. Miller becomes You Made It Weird’s first repeat guest for a very specific purpose: to discuss the infamous night last week Dane Cook showed up unexpectedly at the Laugh Factory and his well-publicized reaction to it. In an engaging chat, Miller argues that what he objected to wasn’t so much Cook’s material—he and Holmes agree that comedians should feel free to say whatever they want onstage—as his abuse of an audience that didn’t pay to see him (though plenty were obviously excited to see such a big star show up unexpectedly). This podcast convincingly posits Miller as an audience advocate forced to confront the unholy mess Cook left in his wake. It’s unlike any other episode of You Made It Weird, but it’s nevertheless essential listening for comedy geeks. [NR]


Doug Loves Movies: T.J. Miller, Pete Holmes, Ti West
Back in December, Podmass suggested that Pete Holmes was competing with T.J. Miller to see who can derail an episode Doug Loves Movies better, and the meeting of these Titans Of Tangents goes exactly as you’d expect: Holmes and Miller battle for who can be louder and/or more grating, leaving filmmaker Ti West likely wondering why he bothered to show up. Still, the audience is remarkably patient as the guests obnoxiously plod through some disjointed bits before getting to the Build-A-Title and Leonard Maltin games. [MS]

Never Not Funny: #1007 Shaving Cream Wrestling With Chris Fairbanks
A common device in comedy is simply restating someone else’s line in plainer terms, but with a slight lilt to underline its humor. Comedian Chris Fairbanks has a natural knack with this, rephrasing Jimmy Pardo to funny effect. Fairbanks finds enough water in this well to make the first half of #1007 work, but seems to disappear in his chair during the second half. His understated charm from the first half returns with a funny story about crashing a Scorpions concert with Brendan Walsh, earning him both a standing ovation and season 11 theme nomination. But if not for some A material from Pardo and Matt Belknap, Fairbanks’ overall lack of presence would be distracting, if not downright painful. [SM]

Sklarbro Country #78: Marine Comedy Bootcamp! Rob Riggle, Tony Sam
Comedians and comedy-world figures don’t come much more manly or rugged than Rob Riggle—who’s still in the Marine reserves—a bruiser of a stand-up, improviser, and comic actor best known for his work on The Daily Show. Riggle proves a likable and enthusiastic guest as well as a big sports fan, but this episode doesn’t quite meet the podcast’s usual greatness. Tony Sam’s strained closing bit as Tim Tebow’s pastor pales in comparison to the fine work of Sklarbro Country regulars Jason Nash, Chris Cox, and Jesse Thorn. [NR]

The Smartest Man In The World: Jets
It’s a nostalgia-heavy episode as host Greg Proops yet again reminisces about adolescent drug use, dragging down the first half of the episode as he launches into a long tale of working for a meth head manager at a cheap fast food joint called Chicken Delight. While entertaining, the story wanders off course too often. But Proops finds his stride in the second half, particularly in his celebration of Muhammad Ali. [MG]

Stuff You Should Know: Are Contrails Actually Chemtrails?
As the hosts note, this is a topic sister show Stuff They Don’t Want You To You Know usually handles. Contrails are condensation trails in the wake of a jet and “what the FAA wants you to believe” is happening. Chemtrails are intentionally toxic chemical trails left by “the government.” Apparently the show gets “a lot of emails” about this, but this seems a particularly impossible and illogical conspiracy, and while the theories are fun, the topic is completely hollow. Chemtrail emailers: You are bonkers. [DT]

This American Life #455: Continental Breakup
In May 2008, This American Life produced an hourlong show called “The Giant Pool of Money,” an excellent, thorough hour exploring the housing crisis. It was one of the most successful episodes in the show’s history, and since then, Ira Glass and company have tried several times to recreate the magic, including this week’s analysis of the European debt crisis, “Continental Breakup.” Glass soundalike Alex Blumberg of Planet Money guest hosts, promising a tale of “passion, drama, soaring hopes, [and] crushed dreams,” but the episode goes so broad in scope that it fails to deliver any of these things with any gravity. Instead, the hour crawls along at the pace you might expect of an examination of European debt. [EW]

Uhh Yeah Dude #307
After the high highs and instant feedback of last week’s live episode, Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette take it easy this week and wander down more than a couple rabbit holes. Jah muses on Bruce Springsteen lyrics, chance Axl Rose encounters, and tin-eared American Idol contestants, but the best moments see Romatelli going back to the well of male body-shame for a study on how men are hopelessly flustered just by hearing the name “Jessica.” [CW]

Who Charted? #60: Dale! Dale! Dale!: Erinn Hayes
Comic actress Erin Hayes(Wainy Days, Childrens Hospital) is a perfectly adequate guest, and maybe that’s the problem. Sure, she’s warm and charming, but the discussion of the movie and the country-music charts doesn’t result in any real insights into her character or particularly pointed observations. Unfortunately, listeners will likely forget this episode as soon as it ends. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #246: Fred Stoller
Ex-comedian Fred Stoller wrote and starred in a semi-autobiographical film called Fred & Vinnie about a grating, agoraphobic friend who lived vicariously through Stoller and his career as a bit player in television and movies. That’s odd, because there appears to be little in Stoller’s sad sack, Eeyore-like existence to emulate. In a conversation more depressing than funny, Stoller discusses quitting stand-up comedy, being out of step with the modern world and, strangely, his anger at the Nerdist gang for making nerdiness seem hip and cool. WTF often delves into the dark, depressing side of the comedy, but it generally does so in a more entertaining, revealing fashion. [NR]