Week of Jan. 26-Feb. 1

Week of Jan. 26-Feb. 1

Hey, you like podcasts? Make sure you check out Reasonable Discussions, the A.V. Club podcast, which posts bi-weekly. Podmass comments can be directed to podmass@avclub.com.‪

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“How do you deal with the basic terror of being alive?”—Marc Maron, WTF With Maron  

“Winners don’t complain, you know? Losers bitch. Wait a minute, isn’t my whole podcast just about bitching? Oh, Jesus Christ. I’m such a fucking moron. I don’t even need anyone to debate me: I lose in a debate by myself.” —Bill Burr, Monday Morning Podcast

“In China, a room full of people this size just did something useful.” —Tom Lennon, following an exceptionally long Build-A-Title round, Doug Loves Movies

“I’m more of a guy’s woman.” —Jimmy Kimmel, WTF With Marc Maron

“Well, I mean, what a reductive look at Great Danes. One has only to look at Danish history to see that Marmaduke is not doing them any service.” —Greg Proops, Doug Loves Movies

“I always wanted to punch my grandma”—Paul Feig, WTF With Marc Maron

“I’m really afraid of spiders and my own feelings.” —Julie Klausner, How Was Your Week?

“True or false: Your bed is made out of your father’s unsold CDs.” —Tom Scharpling to a 13-year-old caller, The Best Show On WFMU

“I still have sensation [in my nipples, after a double mastectomy as part of cancer treatment]. On the right, not on the left. It’s not botched—I saw my doctor yesterday, and he said that things are going very, very well, and that what’s happening on the left side is actually normal. What’s happening on the right side is abnormal—it’s because it’s healing so well. It wants a clamp. It’s begging for some teeth. ‘Twist me, twist me, twist meeee!’ Well, anyone who’s seen my nipples would understand that.” —Scott Thompson, Scott Free

NEW (TO US)

You Had To Be There 
The worlds of comedy and podcasting tend to be dominated by dudes, so that makes You Had To Be There—hosted by comedians Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer—especially enjoyable. In each episode, the duo talks to one or more guests (usually a comedian or musician), who often comment on (embarrassing) stories from the hosts’ lives. The confessional nature makes it feel a little like WTF With Marc Maron, especially when Schaefer discusses her divorce or Glaser her battle with anorexia, but You Had To Be There covers a lot of topics while maintaining a quick pace. 

Episode 48 with Sean Patton features a particularly dramatic and hilarious exchange of horror stories between Schaefer and Glaser about how their exes performed jokes about them onstage, like Schaefer’s ejaculatory orgasms and Glaser’s one moment of bad breath during a kiss. Patton could have taken a backseat in this episode, but here he plays devil’s advocate, effectively reminding them that dating a comedian comes with certain risks. Patton’s sexual innuendos, such as a girl who “got into a Cinnabon [she] couldn’t handle,” provide laugh-out-loud moments that keep the spirit of the episode light. The podcast is currently being adapted into a pilot for MTV, so it may be making the jump to a new medium soon. [AJ]


OUTLIERS

The London School Of Economics Podcast
Essentially a free college course in various fields that listeners can audit, The London School Of Economics Podcast is a live recording of lectures hosted by professors or government representatives regarding historical, political, and economic issues in the world. And yes, it’s as dry as that sounds. “Bottom-Up Politics” uses the new book Bottom-Up Politics: An Agency-Centred Approach To Globalization to discuss the growing influence of mass movements such as the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street. The panelists suggest that all the historical analogues to various uprisings (1848, 1968, 1980, 1989) used by the media are inaccurate, noting that current movements seek basic democratic reforms, not complete governmental restructuring. Unfortunately the panelists have trouble finishing sentences and mispronounce words, but the show is otherwise informative. [AJ]


THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU
Is it fair to say that it’s a little hypocritical that Tom Scharpling will let Kurt Vile call up the show and ramble on about whatever he wants, but will then turn around and make fun of Mit Hamine whenever they call? Is it some weird form of guerilla marketing where you call up Scharpling, let him make fun of you, and then in a year you’ll be popular? It doesn’t make sense, the whole “Scharpling vs. a band that has fewer than 150 fans on Facebook” thing, but that’s really the only complaint this week. With the caller who pleads with Scharpling to hang up on him, the father-to-be asking for name advice, and some choice hang-ups, nearly everything about this show is good. Also, what’s with people calling up The Best Show to talk football? When did this become a thing? [JD]

The Bugle #180: The Truth About Lies 
In the most British episode of The Bugle ever, Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver focus almost exclusively on English news, except for a brief analysis of Newt Gingrich’s ridiculous moon-base idea. All of the talk about Britain being full of liars and the scandal over Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Stephen Hester’s large bonus is some of the funniest stuff The Bugle has ever done, along with a hilarious bit about Canadian defense-spending on stress balls. (Those balls could have prevented World War II!) Those succeed, but the Gingrich bit feels derivative and falls flat, proving The Bugle works best with absurdity or taking advantage of the hosts’ unique, British perspective instead of jumping on The Onion/Daily Show bandwagon. [AJ]

Doug Loves Movies: Paul F. Tompkins, Garry Marshall, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber
Doug Loves Movies extends the gag of last November’s great Cake Boss/El Chupacabra/Don Dimelo episode for this week’s outing, with podcast MVP Paul F. Tompkins pitting three of his signature characters against one another. By the very nature of the three-character exercise, the pre-game back-and-forth is more stilted than usual, and the Build-A-Title and Leonard Maltin games are really just for show, but Tompkins’ virtuosic improvisation and Doug Benson’s obvious delight at his antics—and inability to properly address his guests—more than make up for it. If it were the only DLM this week, this episode could come off a little too gimmicky to be wholly satisfying, but paired with the week’s other super-sized episode, it makes for one half of a great week for the podcast. [GK]

Doug Loves Movies: Chris Hardwick, Tom Lennon, Greg Proops, Samm Levine
Samm Levine’s role as DLM’s resident supervillain has gone from annoyance to running gag, with his co-competitors gleefully ganging up on the prodigious Leonard Maltin Game participant. Even Doug Benson gets in on the act this week, blatantly prompting Tom Lennon through his Build-A-Title showdown with Lil Wolverine and joyously celebrating when Levine makes an error. But with dependable loudmouths like Lennon, Chris Hardwick, and especially Greg Proops sharing the dais, Levine barely gets a word in edgewise during this expansive, digressive, wildly entertaining episode. In the hands of Proops and Lennon in particular, many gags that shouldn’t work—like an ongoing riff on punny “no homo” variants—turn into gold, and Hardwick’s sound-problem-necessitated a cappella renditions of the opening and closing themes are downright charming. This Sketchfest-recorded episode runs about twice as long as a normal DLM, but it never overstays its welcome. [GK]

Freakonomics Radio: Save Me From Myself
This week’s episode covers a familiar idea: commitment devices. Although the name may be foreign, commitment devices are basically self-imposed restrictions for the near or distant futures, such as an expensive gym membership, diet, or, in more extreme cases, stomach surgery. Stephen Dubner examines a few commitment devices, starting with one in which a man put himself on a list that would restrict him from entering casinos (and result in criminal trespass charges if he was caught), a decision he ultimately regretted. The second story, one in which another man goes on a strict diet and accidentally slips up, is the least interesting of the episode. Skip ahead to the final third of the show, when Dubner looks into mandatory sentencing for reported spousal abuse, which has much larger societal consequences, including a surprising drop in the murders of husbands who abuse. [MM]

Hang Up And Listen: The Rhodes To Nowhere Edition
Episodes like this week’s Hang Up And Listen are a reminder that the hosts are journalists first, sports talkers second, so rather than engage in mere punditry over the complicated story of Yale quarterback Patrick Witt—a Rhodes scholarship candidate faced with an accusation of sexual assault—they’re more interested in how different narratives are created and where the truth may lie. The second segment deals smartly with the Witt case, stemming from a controversial and anonymously sourced New York Times story that undermined the more heroic claim that Witt chose to scotch his Rhodes interview in order to play in the Harvard-Yale game. The gang pokes holes—or in Stefan Fatsis’ case, defends—the Times story, and the result is a thorny discussion about journalism, athletics, and the way rape charges are handled on college campuses. Elsewhere, Sports Illustrated reporter S.L. Price comes on to discuss Novak Djokovic’s epic victory over Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final, and all three hosts praise HBO’s Joe Namath documentary Namath: Beaver Falls To Broadway while noting that the Jets great amassed some ugly stats

How Was Your Week?: “What Someone’s Mom’s Idea of a Nightclub Is”: David Cross, Eliot Glazer
Under-the-weather Julie Klausner explains her anti-cold drug cocktail—which includes Robitussin, orange juice, some vodka, whiskey, and other non-prescription items—before a short discussion on We Need To Talk About Kevin gets her to admit she’s afraid of one day having a son who isn’t gay. It’s all very revealing, and probably thanks to the weird mix of uppers and downers, it’s an A+ Klausner opening. The second interview is interesting because Klausner lets somebody else take over to talk about television and movies the way she normally would at the start of a show—only it’s her former boss, David Cross. [JD]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #45: Ronnie Schiller
Here’s one for The Mental Illness Happy Hour’s terrifying-childhood hall of fame. Ronnie Schiller grew up amid arson, incest, a bipolar parent, and a gauntlet of other uncaring, somewhat conspiratorial adults. Though Schiller is as open and detailed with her story as any other Mental Illness guest, there’s a sense that Paul Gilmartin is working a little harder for her trust in the interview this week. Since Gilmartin tends to make these difficult conversations look easy, it’s refreshing to be reminded of the effort they require. This is one of the podcast’s longer recent episodes, nearing two hours, but the interview and an end-of-episode reader letter fill it out nicely. [SG]

Monday Morning Podcast
Bill Burr is arguably at his funniest when he gets frustrated, so this week’s episode gets off to a good start when his introduction almost immediately turns into a shouting match with his malfunctioning recording device. That level of anger returns only sporadically, but the level of humor more or less sustains throughout the entire episode. A hilarious story about a party at Burr’s new house precedes an equally funny one about botched attempts at parking his truck in the garage—and both of those occur before the 20-minute mark. He even manages to find the funny at the end of a rather solemn defense of his friend Eddie Brill. All of this adds to up to one of the best episodes in the show’s history. [CG]

The Moth: Ava Kay Jones: The Voodoo Priestess Of Football 
Here’s a Moth installment worth hearing for its sheer esoteric novelty factor. If your impression of New Orleans is that it’s a place where inexplicably weird shit is constantly happening, Ava Kay Jones will do nothing to change your mind. A voodoo priestess who incorporates elements of Catholicism, Jones became famous in 2001 for lending some ritual assistance to the New Orleans Saints. The charm of the story is that Jones seems to grasp how odd it must all seem, and that informs her jolly tone and smart timing. A woman who uses gin for religious purposes is bound to be strange, but certainly not humorless. [SG]

Nerdist #163: Bob Odenkirk
This week’s episode takes a few minutes to gain momentum, but once it does, it shapes up as one of Nerdist’s best. Bob Odenkirk is a fascinating interview, full of anecdotes that are as enlightening about his career as they are entertaining. It also helps that Odenkirk is a great storyteller, running through his career at Saturday Night Live, The Ben Stiller Show, and beyond, sharing what he’s learned with startling honesty. (There’s little on his time at Mr. Show, but the rest, including a brief peek behind his approach to playing Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad, makes up for it.) It’s particularly interesting to hear him describe the process behind creating and collaborating on sketch comedy. To their credit, the hosts stay out of Odenkirk’s way, letting him expound on his career and asking the right questions to tease more out of him. [MG]

Never Not Funny #1008: Geeking Out With Kevin Pereira
Due to a time constraint on the part of guest Kevin Pereira, episode #1008 compresses the typically 100-minute show into a tighter 75, still leaving enough room to wander, but with a sense of urgency that befits its pace. Pereira’s affable presence flourishes out of the gate, with his faux-tech snobbery toward the interns leading to some modest insight on his rise from computer-science geek to G4 production assistant to host of Attack Of The Show. Of course, there are some stops along the way: Jimmy Pardo repeatedly vents about a hack comedian that killed at a recent show of his, but never gives his name; at least 15 minutes are devoted to the rules and nuances of Words With Friends; and perhaps the funniest riff comes from Pereira’s insistence of the B-movie allure of the Smurfs porn parody. (“I didn’t think whistles could have accents.”) Stick around for the rare after-hours segment, in which Pardo promotes Dan Katz and Eliot Hochberg to microphones to answer listener-submitted “Stupid Questions,” and then immediately regrets it.

Scott Free: #15: Looking For Love
Kids In The Hall vet Scott Thompson returns to his irregular podcast for the first time since November, without a guest, but with a theme: His quest for romance. First he and his co-hosts discuss his recent cancer treatment—as a side effect of treatment, he developed small breasts (he compares them to Elle Fanning’s) and had to have a double mastectomy. This leads him to gripe about the reverse sexism of “the cancer business,” which didn’t even show any men in the mastectomy pamphlet. As usual, Thompson and company have no filters: They talk about which of them incorporate their nipples into their sex lives, Kathy Griffin’s liposuction, and Thompson’s painful experiment in rubbing his alcohol-based testosterone medication on his penis. But the main topic is that Thompson is ready for a real relationship. His friends debate how to sell him and what he needs to do to find love—he wonders if he’s having too much sex—then challenge their female listeners to hook Thompson up with a good dude who meets his specific sexual tastes. “It’s time for the girls to step up to the plate,” Thompson snaps. “Girls, give it up! You’re not going to have sex with him! It’s not gonna happen!” Maybe if that’s what he wants, he should spend less time openly bitching about the sexism of breast cancer and having clueless Glenlivet-fueled podcast conversations with his friends about how women don’t need chemistry or attraction to find love, because they’re totally from another planet. [TR]

Sklarbro Country #79: Sloppy Lady Junk: Tom Scharpling, Chris Cox
The news that PETA is angling to buy O.J. Simpson’s old house for a “Meat Is Murder” museum brings out the best in Jason and Randy Sklar, who have a ball thinking up a tagline for a potential commercial: “If the plate’s full of meat, you should not eat!” to be delivered by Seinfeld’s Phil Morris in his best Johnnie Cochran voice. They also rattle off possible attractions like a Juice Bar, a chance to see the sock drawer of a double murderer, and Al Cowlings very slowly driving patrons to and from the parking lot. The laughs continue with guest and beloved Best Show host Tom Scharpling, who’s also a veteran sports writer—he recently wrote a much-talked about piece on Lebron James for The Classical that he discusses in detail with the brothers. Chris Cox turns up as Charlie Sheen to discuss his “Christ-like” resurrection and talk smack about fellow Brat Packer Rob Lowe. If that weren’t enough for one show, the brothers unpack a ton of fascinating information about Sorrell Booke, the Ivy League-educated spy and the unlikely renaissance man who played Boss Hogg on Dukes Of Hazzard. [NR]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #202: Kaitlin Fontana 
“Overheard”—the reliably amusing regular Stop Podcasting Yourself feature in which hosts and listeners report gauche or inadvertently hilarious behavior—reaches a new level this week. “Authoress” and improv comedian Kaitlin Fontana helps act out an incident a British listener submitted, and it plays like Monty Python’s parrot sketch. The hits keep coming as “Drunk Dials”—voicemails from intoxicated listeners—expands into “Drunk Email.” Fontana barely mentions her book, Fresh At Twenty: The Oral History Of Mint Records (the seminal-in-Canada label that brought the world The New Pornographers, Neko Case, and The Sadies), but if she’s astute enough to point out that host Graham Clark is probably the only person in the world whose week includes absinthe and Real Steel, it’s a safe bet she got some good stuff. [DXF]

Stuff You Missed In History ClassH.H. Holmes and the Mysteries of Murder Castle (Part 2)
You don’t want to miss the first half of the tale of Herman Mudgett/H.H. Holmes, one of the more charming serial killers and one of the first caught in modern history, which posted last week. The second part of the story details Holmes’ eventual capture and curious habits, such as the awkward way he would proposition beautiful women to work as his employees, take out life-insurance policies on them that named him sole heir, and concoct strange one-way vacations. Hosts Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey confess they are not huge serial-killer fans, so they plow through the rather upsetting details of Holmes’ murders, cringing while they descibe the gruesome way he stripped a female employee’s skeleton—then proceeded to shop it around town. But the journey they describe makes this episode a must-listen. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History Class: There’s Always A Seat For Queen Nzinga
Queen Nzinga of the Ndongo Kingdom (current-day Angola) cleaved enemies in twain with a sword well into her 60s, making her one of the most badass rulers the podcast has ever featured. Yet she remains a rather obscure figure, perhaps because her conversion to Christianity only lasted long enough to please her Western allies. To become queen, she overcame shaky precedents regarding inherited rule, women as leaders, and being the daughter of a slave (a deal-breaker in the 1600s). That she was able to juggle European alliances without being invaded was a feat in itself, but she also did it with axes and arrows strapped to her back to intimidate local rivals. The details are all pretty fascinating—even when her failings began to catch up with her, Nzinga made daring and unprecedented choices. If you haven’t heard of Nzinga, this episode is an excellent way to kick off Black History Month. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Human Trafficking Works
Don’t be put off by any perceived irony in the phrasing of this episode’s title. Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant treat this topic with the required gravity, confessing early on they have no desire to make light of modern slavery. Although clandestine sex slavery makes up a disturbing percentage of human trafficking, some of it resembles the old-fashioned kind, like children in Uzbekistan forced to harvest cotton used in L.L. Bean and Gymboree products. Often they are “owned” by wealthy people, who use them as “the help” and pay them ghastly wages and trap them with promises of blackmail. It would be nice if the hosts weren’t so eager to crack jokes about Liam Neeson films, but this is an important topic, and Clark and Bryant provide an intelligent discussion of it. [DT]

Superego #3:11
After taking a month off, Superego returns with a streamlined cast of guest stars, including Colin Hanks and Patton Oswalt, but Paul F. Tompkins does the bulk of the comedic heavy lifting. The opening case study, about a Holly Motion Picture Press Association press conference, is essentially an excuse to let Paul F. Tompkins play around with goofy, quasi-European accents. Later, Tompkins reprises his role as the delightfully bitchy salesgirl in the Buffums fragrance counter case-study. Tompkins seems to have the most fun with this role, and the sketch could easily go one for an entire episode. Given Tompkins’ show-stealing performances, it’s surprising that the core Superego members haven’t given him his own white lab coat and thrown his picture up on the front page of the website. [MS]

This American Life #456: Reap What You Sow
This week’s excellent episode of This American Life deals in the “unintended consequences” of people’s actions, both good and bad. The centerpiece of the show takes a 35-minute look at Alabama’s immigration bill HB56, which effectively turns regular law enforcement into immigration cops. The aim here is “self-deportation”: making life so difficult for illegal immigrants that they’ll voluntarily leave. The piece manages to find a genuine balance, even evoking sympathy for some of the bumbling fools that passed the bill. Bookending the act are two lighter, easily amusing stories of a benevolent snow-plow driver and a comedian who adopts an unpredictable rooster. [EW]

Uhh Yeah Dude: #308
In the long list of Uhh Yeah Dude pet topics, right next to the shame of being a hopelessly horny male, is the shame of just being human, in thrall to unconscious processes that lead you astray and that you can’t hope to understand. But Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Laroquette get in their best rants when they’re wrestling with their own doom. Far from being a bummer of an episode, #308 is full of plum topics, like 50 Cent generously offering to tweet his dick, the things men do “in the pursuit of live twins,” and the exciting prospect (forgone conclusion?) of friend Amir, “The Persian Warren Beatty,” becoming a super-celeb. [CW]

Walking The Room #88: Arm Rest Battle And The Power Move 
This week’s Walking The Room moves giddily fast, at least for the first half or so. Greg Behrendt tells Dave Anthony of his love of Virgin Airlines, and the two discuss the possibilities of a fantastical WTR podcasting network, but paradoxically, the best moments derive from a drawn-out poop joke. Namely, the two peg Russell Brand as a “serial shit-leaver,” which leads to a wonderful atrocity of a Golden Girls joke. The second half is a bit too heavy on comedy-world talk, to which the hosts bring plenty of sense and frankness, but not their funniest riffs. [SG]

Who Charted? #61: Time Traveling Skrillex: Jason Mantzoukas
First, some news: Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack will soon begin recording a second Who Charted? every week, where the duo—no guest—discusses charts centered on what they’ve been enjoying that week. They’ve cultivated great chemistry, so it will be interesting to see how these additional episodes play out. After the announcement, fellow Earwolf personality Jason Mantzoukas shows up, and in many ways, he’s an ideal guest: opinionated, acerbic, open, and forthcoming. Conversation seems to come naturally for Mantzoukas as he sheds light on playing an unhinged character like Rafi on FX’s The League. He also draws on his extensive improv background to craft an amazing bit on a hypothetical “snaggletooth holocaust” scenario. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #248: Paul Feig
“Are you Jewish?” is anything but a yes-or-no question during Marc Maron’s funny, poignant, and uncomfortably honest interview with Freaks And Geeks creator and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig on WTF. As writer/director/author Feig explains, his father was born Jewish yet converted to Christian Science, yet Feig’s family was both culturally and at least partially genetically Jewish despite subscribing faithfully to Christian Science tenets, even when doing so endangered their health. Feig also talks about how he assembled his early comic sensibility piecemeal, from his youthful Groucho Marx worship—his fashion sense was strongly influenced by Marx’s low opinion of men who didn’t wear suits—to his reverence for All In The Family and Make Me Laugh. Feig’s particularly strange, detour-filled journey through show business includes stints as a teenage stand-up comic, an actor whose career perhaps peaked with a recurring role on Sabrina The Teenaged Witch, a would-be saxophonist, and an independent dramatic filmmaker before he hooked up with Judd Apatow for the beloved Freaks & Geeks, the show that would change his life even if it famously died a quick death. Maron and Feig have so much to discuss that Feig’s Tourette’s only comes up at the very end, leaving plenty of room for a repeat visit to the Cat Ranch. [NR]

You Made It Weird #17: Eugene Mirman
Pete Holmes has transformed himself into the James Brown of the comedy-podcasting world, releasing three episodes in the past week. Beloved weirdo Eugene Mirman hails from the same vicinity as Holmes, and he shares hilarious anecdotes about his amusingly traumatic childhood as a special-education oddball who did things like lip-sync a Bill Cosby record for a book report and run for student-body president with the slogan, “It’s not a change: It’s a mutation.” The Russian-born, Hampshire-educated stand-up comedian, actor, and writer is equally amusing when contemplating a new persona as an evil Yakov Smirnoff and sharing how he won over initially hostile rock crowds opening for The Shins with killer one-liners like, “I can’t believe I’m getting heckled by an audience that could get beaten up by Belle & Sebastian!” Holmes’ podcast deluge can be a little overwhelming, but thankfully he’s managed to maintain high standards. [NR]


THE REST

Comedy Bang Bang #142: Popcorn.com: Tim & Eric, James Adomian
We speculated back in July that Matt Besser’s Martin Riley could become the shortest-lived character in Comedy Bang Bang history, but James Adomian’s soap impresario Dr. Bronner should join Riley in the discard pile. They can’t all be winners, even from someone as reliable as Adomian. He tries extra-hard to wring laughs from his vaguely spiritual, Irish Spring-hating character, but they just don’t come. It’s a shame, because Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are as funny as ever: Their fierce devotion to Irish Spring (they’re Spring Dingers!), their morning-show routine as “Mike and The Dope,” and their ridiculous popcorn.com tie-in to Billion Dollar Movie are all great, but fans won’t miss anything if they stop listening when Dr. Bronner shows up. [KR]

How Did This Get Made? #29: Trespass
The How Did This Get Made? crew is joined by Rachael Harris to talk about the show’s third Nicolas Cage movie released in 2011: mega-flop home-invasion thriller Trespass, which holds the record for shortest theatrical run, costing $35 million to make and earning an abysmal $20,000 at the box office. No one is quite sure what happens in the movie, and the group discusses the illogical twists at length, but the film just doesn’t inspire the kind of heated, hilarious commentary of Smurfs or Fast Five. Harris falls back on the “Nicole Kidman is a vain bitch” joke, and the rest of the gang seems to be suffering from Nicolas Cage burnout—which doesn’t bode well for this month’s Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance. [OS]

The Smartest Man In The World: Needles
Greg Proops kicks off this episode in a more vitriolic mood than usual: It was taped immediately following the NFC Championship game in which his beloved San Francisco 49ers lost to the New York Giants. But an acerbic Proops is also a funny Proops, especially when he spars with the audience over their reaction to his jokes and sports anecdotes. The same can be said of his breakdown of Newt Gingrich’s latest surge in the GOP race for president. Proops also proves he’s most effective at his most passionate, as his stirring tributes to Etta James and Johnny Otis clearly come from a place of admiration. [MG]

Sound Opinions #322: Debbie Harry
Sound Opinions is at its weakest when the episode focuses on past-their-prime musicians telling stories that have been shared many, many times in other venues. Such is the case with this episode, in which Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis interview Blondie’s Debbie Harry. Anyone familiar with Blondie will know about the group’s dalliances with disco and hip-hop and all the anecdotes about its time in the ’70s New York punk scene, which Harry dutifully trots out once again. For Blondie neophytes, the group’s new album Panic Of Girls is hardly a convincing argument for contemporary relevance. [SH]

Stuff You Should Know: How Floods Work
Perhaps overwhelmed by the rushing waves of information on the topic, this episode seems a bit empty. The physics of a flood are reduced to “water wants to even itself out,” so those wanting to know more about how floods literally work will be disappointed. High points include the discussion of how even 6 inches of water in flood-like conditions are enough to sweep away a healthy person. Low points include tangents about neti pots full of brain amoebas and whether you can say “Super Bowl” in a podcast. [DT]

WTF With Marc Maron #249: Jimmy Kimmel
When Marc Maron and Jimmy Kimmel discuss the late night host’s old-timey route from up-and-coming radio DJ to television star, the conversation feels a little abbreviated and shallow compared to other WTF installments. (Those hoping to hear about Kimmel’s relationship with Sarah Silverman may be disappointed.) But it’s still interesting to hear Kimmel’s take on the late-night wars, what he thought of The Man Show after he and Adam Carolla left, as well as his defense of Ben Stein, even when Maron seems to be goading him into something else. [CZ]

You Made It Weird: Matt Diffee & Alex Gregory
One of the weirdest aspects of Pete Holmes’ career is that he contributes cartoons to The New Yorker. It doesn’t come up much on the podcast, but on a special edition of You Made It Weird—which those with no interest in New Yorker cartoons will want to make a special point of avoiding—Holmes talks about nothing but writing and drawing New Yorker cartoons with fellow New Yorker cartoonists Matt Diffee and Alex Gregory. There’s some engaging talk about the similarities between submitting cartoons to the New Yorker and stand-up—both entail developing some thick skin—and some unintentionally revealing lines, like when one of Holmes’ colleagues describes a cartoon he wrote as “not very funny, but very New Yorker.” But this is so inside-baseball that even New Yorker subscribers might find themselves opting for a podcast with a less obsessively narrow focus. [NR]

You Made It Weird: Chris D’Elia
Pete Holmes spends much of his discussion with Whitney male lead Chris D’Elia gushing about D’Elia’s hilarity and gift for the kind of physical comedy that’s hard to do justice to with words alone. Holmes delivers the hard sell on D’Elia’s Dane Cook-meets-Jim Carrey hilarity, but in contrast to his high-energy physical shtick, the D’Elia who shows up for the podcast is subdued, restrained, controlled, and not particularly funny or interesting. Holmes’ outsized enthusiasm for his guests is generally infectious; here, it can be a little puzzling. [NR]

More Podmass