Week of July 21-27

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

  • “[The devil’s] arms are too short to box with God, so he boxes with us.” —an evangelical preacher, as quoted by the hosts of Uhh Yeah Dude
  • “It was warm and it was wonderful, and if I was emotionally equipped to participate, which I am not, I would have joined you… I will not be passive-aggressively cyber-bullied into being a nice person.” —Glen Weldon on “Appreciation Day,” Pop Culture Happy Hour
  • “I’m so excited for it to end in a mushroom cloud of hair plugs and cum.” —Julie Klausner on Entourage, How Was Your Week 
  • “If you were distracted by the lens flares [in the latest Star Trek movie], you’re doing it wrong.”—Wil “Wesley Crusher” Wheaton, Nerdist.
  • “The network people don’t really know what’s funny. They know what’s pretty. They know nice and pleasant and quote-unquote likable. So they go for that, because that’s a sure thing to them. Even though it never is.” — Everybody Loves Raymond producer Phil Rosenthal on how network executives cast sitcoms, The Adam Carolla Show
  • “It’s true. From the knee down, I’m a Brancusi sculpture.” —Stephen Metcalf, responding to compliments on his calves and ankles, Culture Gabfest

THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU
An episode low on celebrity cameos (other than Jen Kirkman briefly calling in to laugh like Witchy Poo) might seem like an omen to some, but to those who have always pondered what the cult of callers are really all about on The Best Show, this is your chance to hear it percolate into mad laughter. Regular callers (and gratuitous gigglers) Laurie from Miami and Geneva the former protégé both make in-studio appearances, and their relentlessly positive vibes goad Tom Scharpling’s entertaining brutality toward callers into the red. Zach Caron of the tragically named band Mit Hamine calls in once again (Scharpling does him the favor of only insulting their name), and Laurie’s “Doddy” leads to highly amusing discussion of how obnoxiously wealthy Laurie’s family is and from where she gets her unsettling Mega Witchy Poo cackle. Zach Woliner, brother of emerging comedy raconteur Jason Woliner, calls in only to be completely humiliated both for his behavior at a friend’s Comic Con screening and his puppet’s creepy behavior toward women.

Comedy Bang Bang #115: “The Plug-in Drug” 
While plenty of people would be excited to hear host Scott Aukerman riff with the likes of David Wain, Ken Marino, and Paul Rudd on the 10-year anniversary of Wet Hot American Summer, this episode is a little slow to get started. There’s a lot of fun energy between Wain and Aukerman, but Marino seems a bit sleepy and Rudd seems to not be sure what these new-fangled podcasts are all about. Rudd teeters dangerously on the verge of acting too cool to play Aukerman’s ridiculous games, and when the freestyle rapping breaks out, Rudd literally threatens to completely bail mid-rhyme. But suddenly Rudd comes to life, realizing from Wain’s enthusiastically mediocre rapping that the whole point of the show is to be joyfully strange. What follows is an intense, Jew-themed rap that rhymes surprisingly often and makes absolutely no sense. Rudd still doesn’t understand how Aukerman’s other two games work, but the rap is a hell of a tent pole.

Culture Gabfest: The “Featuring Marc Maron” Edition 
On last week’s show, Julia Turner endorsed the WTF With Marc Maron podcast with the proviso that listeners may want to skip Maron’s opening rant to get to the interviews. Maron took issue with that statement, a minor Twitter kerfuffle ensued, and the end result was a great, super-sized interview with Maron on this week’s episode. Over the 45-minute segment, Maron discusses the show’s renegade origins (he used to slip into the Air America studios after hours, even though he’d been fired from the network for the third time), the differences between his live shows and his “garage sessions,” and the harrowing interviews he’s done recently with Dave Foley and Todd Hanson. The first two segments are also strong, heaping praise on both Errol Morris’ new documentary Tabloid and the new-to-the-U.S. music service Spotify. Even the sponsor segment for Bing sends the show down a compellingly weird tributary, as they do a search for the “calf” in Stephen Metcalf.

Hang Up And Listen: The “NFL Unlocked” Edition  
The Tour de France is over and you know what that means: Doping scandals! Stripped titles! Finger-pointing! Actually, no. Though the Hang Up And Listen crew is far from prepared to say that doping isn’t still part of cycling, guest host Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal notes some encouraging signs, like crappier times at every stage. For listeners unschooled in the Tour, Gay’s expertise proves illuminating throughout the segment, which hails the reemergence of go-it-alone individualism in the race after years of team-assisted victories. Elsewhere, the gang goes over the end of the NFL lockout and the healthy long-term results of the negotiation process, and returns again to the thorny issue of paying college athletes. Of the Afterball segments, Josh Levin’s pitches for ESPN’s new 30 For 30-style documentary series on the SEC is the standout: Moral Victories: Vanderbilt’s Closest Losses; When The Cowbells Didn’t Ring: Mississippi State In The Rockey Felker Era; Institutional Control: The SEC’s Greatest Compliance Officers; etc. 

How Was Your Week #20: “Bev’s Bananas”: Maria Bamford
Maria Bamford is one of the few stand-up performers whose act translates just as well on radio or podcasts. Julie Klausner chats with Bamford and her variety of voices on the different varieties of heckling and what sucks about acting, and also administers James Lipton’s Proust questionnaire, which helps confirm that Bamford is a nice lady and not a pretentious actress-type. Elsewhere in the podcast, Klausner addresses the issues that have been on everybody’s mind, i.e. the glory of Rupert Murdoch’s wife and Jonah Hill’s weirdly sudden weight loss.

The Mental Illness Happy Hour: Lisa Arch
The Mental Illness Happy Hour host Paul Gilmartin frets at one point in his conversation with fellow Dinner And A Movie co-host Lisa Arch that he wrestled with having her on the show since she’s such an upbeat, happy, and positive person. Alas, like many women and an increasing number of men, Arch has spent her life battling body-image issues despite being extraordinarily attractive and possessing what many would consider an ideal figure. Arch developed early and attention from men and catty comments from women did nothing to disabuse her of the notion that she was fat and undesirable. A lot of listeners will be able to relate to Arch’s self-hatred and her long, arduous path toward accepting herself and the way she looks. This podcast serves as an important, unfortunately necessary reminder that even people who are considered extremely attractive are often plagued with anxieties and insecurities. 

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #27: Lorna Doone Shortbread Cookies 
Michael Ian Black gives co-host Tom Cavanagh a marvelous account this week of his fictitious rivalry with the actor Ian McShane. Black spins a straight-faced tale about heroically landing himself a role on Deadwood, only to come down with laryngitis and have McShane conspire to take him down. Our hosts eventually get around to reviewing Nabisco’s Lorna Doone Shortbread Cookies, which they deem lightweight compared to Walker Shortbread cookies—“It’s Shortbread 101,” as Black puts it, and “Walker’s is deep-cut shortbread.” This occasions much talk in oozy Scottish accents and the revelation that Black is going to make afternoon tea cool again.

The Moth: Kyp Malone: My Unhurried Legacy
TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone reflects on a certain “slow” quality he shares with his young daughter in a story that benefits from the leveling, humanizing effect that occurs when artists talk about their kids. Malone also reveals that his parents once had him tested for signs of mental retardation—“the jury’s still out,” he notes. Admirably, Malone is able to be honest about his kid’s flaws while also standing up for her. He thinks of her troubles in kindergarten as something that can help them understand each other, and not a cause for parental dread.

Nerdist #109: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Wil Wheaton Live at SDCC ’11
Even though the audience in this live episode (recorded at last weekend’s San Diego Comic Con) is assembled to see Dr. Who principles Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, the real draw here is “surprise guest” Wil Wheaton. Wheaton and Nerdist host Chris Hardwick’s friendship goes back to when they were teenagers, and their easy rapport—and Wheaton’s endearingly enthusiastic Who fandom—elevates this entry from for-Who-fans-only to all-audiences. (Well, all nerdy audiences: As Hardwick points out, “The guy from Star Trek talking about Star Trek with the guys from Dr. Who” is the stuff nerd-boners are made of.) Even Smith and Gillan seem excited by Wheaton’s presence, once they figure out he’s the leech guy from Stand By Me. As with most Nerdist episodes, there’s some juvenile humor—and a spectacularly ill-conceived Amy Winehouse joke—to get past, but the genuine enthusiasm and of all involved makes up for a too-long digression about “dick capes.”

Never Not Funny #908: Todd Glass
Episode #908 represents the full-length première of two growing bits on Never Not Funny. Taking much of the first/free 20 minutes, Jimmy Pardo reveals that he discovered the shortlist of his potential replacements—Charlie Sheen and ’70s White Sox third basemen Eric Soderholm, among others—by eavesdropping on Matt Belknap’s conversation with Hollywood execs while hiding in a closet in the entertainment.com building, a la Jay Leno. A rant on angry listeners follows, and as usual, this prompts Pardo’s similarly voiced impression of Andrew Dice Clay’s wife. Ever the genial guest, Todd Glass joins in for a three-man whirlwind of Clay vs. his nagging yet meekly obedient wife, earning some of the biggest laughs. Over the course of the episode, Glass proves a similar presence to Pardo, becoming easily riled over inarguably awful things—racist strangers, Twitter trolls, and people who give their pets real names like Steven—in an earnest, heartfelt way often missing from angry-shtick comedians. Bonus for listeners of Glass’s June 2010 appearance on Comedy Death Ray: Glass concludes the Subaru story he swears he told on NNF.

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Pop Culture Happy Hour: Poseurs, Plate-Spinners, And Six Bucks In Pennies
An irritating Frank Bruni column in the New York Times prompts this week’s main discussion on popular subjects where the PCHH crew feel ignorant enough to fake their way through things; they mostly haven’t felt the need, though, which gives the topic plenty of room to drift into entertaining corners. Glen Weldon discusses his years as a winery tour guide, and explains how to spot poseurs (he describes them as thinking “I want to be a super-special smartypants!”); A.V. Club founder Stephen Thompson talks about how he hasn’t seen The Wire, but not admitting that at gatherings is more about avoiding lectures than about looking smarter. Things get particularly hilarious when they reveal the pop-culture poseur lines they actually use. (“Okay, ask me if I have seen some classic film.” “Have you seen Last Year At Marienbad?” “Uh, not all the way through.”) A second segment has them playing a game where they try to discern between real and made-up reality-show episodes (alas, “Can’t Stop Quacking!” is fake), and a third focuses on the obscure, niche-y entertainment fields the PCHH participants would like to see achieving more success and broader recognition. This episode may teach listeners more about flea circuses and terrible reality TV than they ever wanted to know, but at least it all comes in an enthusiastic, giggly package.

Sklarbro Country #52: Myq Kaplan and Chris Cox
The Sklar brothers’ relentless positivity and unyielding niceness have won them few enemies in the comedy world. The same can be said of their friend Myq Kaplan, a linguist by education who enters the amiable fray with a series of endearingly awful puns riffing on the podcast’s title/the brothers’ names before chipping in with one-liners that are mostly clever and only occasionally groan-inducing. Kaplan discusses his experiences on Last Comic Standing—a skeleton in many a would-be hip comic’s pasts—and very graciously accepts comparisons to Woody Allen, the king of geeky, cerebral, one-liner-intensive Jewish comedians. Then Chris Cox, fresh off last week’s episode devoted solely to him, drops by as Michael Caine to discuss women’s soccer, the craft of acting, and most importantly, the fourth Jaws movie and its unique take on shark psychology. An unusually likable guest and another great turn by Cox make this an eminently solid installment of one of the most consistently excellent podcasts around. 

The Sound Of Young America: Jeff Garlin
It’s not hard to figure out why Jeff Garlin is known as a comedian’s comedian. The writer, producer, and performer may be most famous for his role as Jeff Greene on Curb Your Enthusiasm, but other comics love him for his ability to be a great audience and his desire to share other people’s work with the world. Plus, could he have a cheerier, more avuncular voice? Jesse Thorn also talks to Garlin about his film I Want Somebody to Eat Cheese With, the upsides of staying and performing in Chicago, and eating disorders. (Garlin is arguably the most vocal and articulate high-profile man to discuss this topic.) TSOYA this week also includes an installment of the brief comedy update Jordan Ranks America. 

Sound Opinions: Bob Mould
Bob Mould has been notoriously secretive about his life for most of his career, so his recent memoir See A Little Light: The Trail Of Rage And Melody has been a godsend for fans dying for his take on the rise and fall of Hüsker Dü and the many twists and turns his solo career has taken. Similarly, this great interview focuses on the end of Hüsker Dü—specifically tensions during the recording and touring for the band’s final record, Warehouse: Songs And Stories—and Mould’s transition to his first solo album, the radically different singer-songwriter showcase Workbook. Mould comes across as wise and reasoned while looking back at this tumultuous period, speaking charitably of his former musical comrade (and subsequent sparring partner) Grant Hart. As for Hüsker Dü’s legacy, his feelings are unequivocal: “I think Hüsker Dü was the best band ever, at least in the ’80s,” he says. “I don’t think there was anybody that could touch us, on any night.” Hear, hear. 

This American Life #441: When Patents Attack!
Leave it to This American Life and Planet Money to turn the world of patent law into a vivid battleground—a story of corruption of the law and those who exploit it. Laura Sydell and Alex Blumberg look at software patents, which are often granted for run-of-the-mill ideas instead of groundbreaking inventions. Patents for common online behaviors—like pop-up windows, for example—are issued, and then bought up by corporations for the sole purpose of suing anyone using those technologies. The practice creates a culture of fear among startups that could be put out of business, and pushes larger companies to buy up patents to defend themselves. It’s a wild, outrageous story highlighting a practice that seems like it should be illegal, but was born specifically to exploit the legal system.

The Tobolowsky Files #49: A View From The Mountain 
Stephen Tobolowsky concludes what’s been a loose trilogy of episodes about the experiences surrounding the time he ended his relationship with long-time girlfriend Beth. The first examined the idea of change and metamorphosis, while the second looked at the ways people can casually hurt each other and how an escape route can present itself at the last possible moment. In this third episode, Tobolowsky takes the escape route presented to him, flying off to Norway to star as a mountain troll in a film version of Peer Gynt directed by his Norwegian director friend Stein. While there, he discovers how hard it is to buy alcohol in that country, how strange and joyful the midnight sun can be, and how much his friends care about him. As usual, the episode is two stories that rattle along through humorous moments before reaching unexpectedly poignant and bittersweet finales, but what makes this episode work so well is the very end, when Tobolowsky pulls out further than usual and shows how one morning with his friend showed the curvature of the rest of his life.

Uhh Yeah Dude #281 
The squirrelly randomness of UYD is at its best this week, kicking off with hosts Jonathan Larroquette and Seth Romatelli trying to make Hot Chelle Rae’s nauseating song “Tonight Tonight” their own. (This continues throughout the episode.) Plus, some topics are just made for the enduring “two dudes talking about random-ass news items” format, namely a promotional video contest for Miracle Whip. It’s also somehow hilarious when the two try to pin down whether certain celebrities, including Waylon Jennings and Wilford Brimley, are alive or dead. And if you’re wondering whether eating gelato counts as celebrating National Ice Cream Day, or whether people with big forks eat more than people with little forks, they tackle those questions and more. 

Walking The Room: Platypus Surprise Face And Porn Nest 
The greater part of this week’s episode consists of Greg Behrendt reminiscing about his worst auditions for commercials. He recalls one commercial director who apologized to him for a bad experience and in the same breath mentioned that he directed Corky Romano, for which he may or may not have also been apologizing. It makes for some warped, angry tales of entertainment-business shit-eating, especially the producer who screamed at him, “THAT’S NOT MY FUCKING GROOM!” Behrendt and Dave Anthony’s mutual cackling and wheezing reaches its peak later in the podcast, as they discuss their idea to build a “bro-tel.”

Who Charted?: It’s Pronounced RO-bits
When it comes to podcast guests, it’s hard to go wrong with Bob Odenkirk. In this interview, Odenkirk seems especially reflective and forthcoming, with the warm and endearing demeanor of a cool uncle, assuming that cool uncle also happens to be an innovative comedic genius. Odenkirk opens the podcast with a story about an odd confrontation he had with a “gangbanger” while he was out biking. From there, he seamlessly uses the music charts portion of the show to open up about his family, relaying stories about his young son’s puzzling fascination with world music and the fact that his children are just starting to discover what their Pop actually does for a living. The mood turns as the podcast enters the movie charts, when Odenkirk breaks into a brilliant bit of improv during the Transformers 3 clip. He keeps the momentum going by breaking out a crotchety old man character to provide commentary for the premise of Friends With Benefits. Hosts Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack are smart enough to sit back and let Odenkirk take center stage, probably because they’re laughing so hard that they can barely breathe, let alone talk.

WTF With Marc Maron #195: Demetri Martin 
In appearances on podcasts, Demetri Martin doesn’t come off as twee as he does in his stand-up and on his eponymous sketch show. How could he? In performance, Martin is the personification of twee. In conversation with Marc Maron on WTF, he’s something else entirely, a super-ambitious son of Greek immigrants who dropped out of law school to pursue his dream of becoming a stand-up comedian. Longtime WTF listeners won’t be surprised to discover that Maron insulted his guest in the past when he told him that he’d heard a lot about the handsome young man with the guitar and wasn’t “onboard.” Thankfully, the two seem to have worked past their issues, though Maron still feels the need to point out that Taking Woodstock, the film Martin made with Ang Lee, was awful. It would be an exaggeration to say Martin tosses Ang Lee and Taking Woodstock screenwriter-producer James Schamus under the bus, but he is refreshingly blunt in talking about the film’s shortcomings and addressing criticisms that he was a grim taskmaster on his TV show. Martin’s stand-up may be adorable and cerebral, but here he comes off pragmatic and even agreeably prickly.

WTF With Marc Maron #194: Rob Riggle 
Stand-up comedians tend to be a fucked-up breed, especially the tormented souls who venture into Marc Maron’s Cat Ranch for WTF to unburden their psyches. This week, however, Maron welcomed a much less dysfunctional breed of manly man into his garage in the form of Rob Riggle. The former Saturday Night Live player and Daily Show correspondent is famously a Lieutenant Colonel in the Marines who served in Afghanistan before making an unlikely transition into sketch comedy performer and actor. Riggle comes off as an extraordinarily nice man who’s incredibly grateful to make a living doing what he loves, and Maron’s affection for his guest is palpable. Not every WTF has be a pitch-black exploration of comic angst; sometimes it can just be an engaging conversation with a funny and likable veteran. 


THE REST

The Adam Corolla Show
The week in Ace, in order of descending interest: Satirist Rep. Richard Martin brings his fake-congressman act from Ask A Republican, and the crew muses on the Norway massacre and the death-watch that culminated in Amy Winehouse’s demise. Daily Show alum Beth Littleford dishes about the early Craig Kilborn era, then the douchebag-or-not report continues with intel on Dane Cook and Crazy, Stupid, Love co-stars Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, and Steve Carell. After more on the massacre—and another crew conversation about Steve Miller lyrics— Everybody Loves Raymond producer Phil Rosenthal returns to the show, opening the door for Carolla’s favorite rant topic: pinhead network executives. It’s not a repeat, but it feels like one. Boxer-turned-actor Brendan Wayne’s episode is the Ace show in a nutshell: For a minute, Wayne discusses the star-studded summer buzz move Cowboys & Aliens, but Carolla finds a way to spend far more time talking about boxing. A full 80 minutes of the 100-minute podcast is news, including the Rupert Murdoch pie attack, a George C. Scott-Adam Sandler video mashup, and Ace’s adventures at a classic car show. And when the show goes Live At The Ace Hotel, Carolla takes audience questions, and the collection of random anecdotes feels like an average episode. 

Best Show Gems: A Call From Roderick J. Martinez, Esq.
After Tom maligns The Band as “music for Canadian Civil War re-enactors to listen to on the way to the reenactment,” he gets a call from Robbie Robertson’s supremely shady attorney Roderick J. Martinez. The lawyer threatens to sue for slander, but then promptly offers to represent Tom in a countersuit in one of his signature “Back-At-Yas.” Frivolous lawsuits abound in this solid but not essential outing. 

The B.S. Report with Bill Simmons
It was a hardcore-fans-only week for listeners of The B.S. Report as Simmons welcomed a pair of guests with niche appeal. In the week’s first episode, ESPN baseball writer Keith Law joins Simmons to talk about MLB prospects and the impending trade deadline. It’s a fun discussion for hardcore baseball fans who are really interested in what Pittsburgh Pirates prospect might be dealt, but not as entertaining for anyone else. A similarly narrow audience is targeted in the second episode of the week, when Simmons talks to WWE champion CM Punk. Fans of pro wrestling will be delighted by the insider talk and analysis of storylines, but for those who have no interest in the “sport,” it’s best just to pass on this one.

Doug Loves Movies: T.J. Miller, Pete Holmes, and Brendon Walsh
With Samm Levine taking the Tournament Of Championships trophy back to his home turf at Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show, T.J. Miller returns to his rightful seat as the Doug Loves Movies regular who dares listeners to love him. Miller makes an especially apt comedic whipping-boy for Pete “The E*Trade Baby” Holmes, who makes up for missing the first 18 minutes of the episode by ribbing Miller into previously unheard levels of exasperation. 

Extra Hot Great #41: Supersoldier Swirl
Long-time listeners of Extra Hot Great will note that Tara Ariano gives the new Captain America a mild endorsement, which given her noted skepticism of the superhero genre should count as a hyperbolic, Peter Travers rave of the first order. After the unanimous endorsement of Cap, the EHG crew, plus special guest Jesse Murray, moves on to equally frivolous fare, including The Real Housewives Of New York and a pivotal episode of Melrose Place

Firewall & Iceberg #86: Road Trip Podcast, Take Two!
Live from their car, Hitfix.com critics Dan Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall evaluate the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con on their drive home, attempting a redo of the infamously botched car recording a year earlier. TV shows dominated the con, so the hosts are imminently qualified to grade the event. Big panels in small rooms left Fienberg simultaneously adrenalized and aggravated, and the two deliver warts-and-all recaps of the entertainment world’s hottest four days, including a Childish Gambino concert and panels about Chuck, Terra Nova, Wilfred, Dexter, and other favorites and future sensations. This episode skips the Twin Peaks rewatch, but wraps with a rapturous quarter-hour on Breaking Bad.

Radiolab: A 4-Track Mind 
Bob Milne makes a fascinating subject for the latest Radiolab short. He says he can play four symphonies simultaneously in his head, zero in on any one of the instruments playing, and even shift the key in his head. But can he? Really? Reporter Jessica Benko and neuroscientist Kerstin Betterman come up with an experiment to prove he can, and the results are fascinating. 

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