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Week of July 7-July 13


“I’d like to see Kelly Clarkson work ‘big fat turd’ into a song.”
“I’d like to see Kelly Clarkson work a big fat turd. She’s got a nice turd-cutter, in my opinion.” —“Weird Al” Yankovic and Scott Aukerman, Comedy Bang Bang

“Chimps eat babies sometimes just for the fuck of it.” —Julie Klausner, How Was Your Week?

“You’ve heard of freaks? You’ve heard of geeks? You’re gonna have red cheeks—from embarrassment!”—Scott Aukerman taunting future Leonard Maltin Game adversary Samm Levine, Doug Loves Movies

“Chocolate Rain, Those Hitler Videos... Dumb Kid With An Axe... Dumb Kid With a Whip, Gorilla Versus Janitor, Middle School Cicada Invasion... Dumb Kid With Machine Gun, Bat Fight, Bat Fight Aftermath, Bat Fight Funeral, Horse Versus Gorilla, Tom Waits Rollercoaster Disaster...” —Jon Wurster as Ron Furst, listing his favorite memes, The Best Show On WFMU

“If I shot myself in the foot [to get out of the Army], I might hit myself in the head, because my foot is usually in my mouth.”
“That’s a tough shot, your head’s usually up your ass.” —Pat Francis and Jimmy Pardo, Never Not Funny

“We were all high as kites back then! Literally, we believed we were kites, flying, soaring high in the sky, discovering electricity attached to keys.” —Paul F. Tompkins as Andrew Lloyd Webber, Comedy Bang Bang

“It sucks [that] I’m having a heart attack, because I can’t enjoy this ambulance ride.” —Todd Glass, The Adam Carolla Show


Scott Free
Scott Thompson of The Kids In The Hall and his regular co-hosts, KITH writer Paul Bellini and producer Jeff Goodes, podcast at random intervals; they’ve recorded 14 over the course of as many months, sometimes releasing shows back-to-back, sometimes going silent for months. (iTunes carries the last seven episodes.) Maybe that’s because the participants only record when they’re in the mood, can get a guest (generally another Canadian comedian), and have alcohol handy. It certainly isn’t because they wait until they have a pertinent topic; the episodes are seemingly unstructured, unplanned chats, ranging from 20 to 45 minutes, and apparently stopping whenever they hit a natural endpoint. The conversations wander rapidly, energetically, and unevenly, not that this is a problem. Thompson’s interests are diverse—his blog entirely about fruit periodically comes up—and he has a lively, catty, dirty sense of humor that doesn’t come with an internal censor. He’ll occasionally acknowledge that a given gag is offensive, but that doesn’t hold him back; it just tends to make him cackle. His quieter, less-graphic co-hosts occasionally groan at his antics or wryly suggest that it’s time to wrap up an episode, but they don’t hold him back from, for instance, brashly proclaiming in episode 10, regarding Roger Ebert’s stance on race relations, that he’s finally forgiven Ebert for panning Brain Candy 15 years ago: “You better get cancer and lose your lower half of your face and say something profound about the N-word, and I will forgive you!”

The latest episode is longer than any other recent entry, and therefore more wide-ranging, but otherwise fairly typical. The guest is CBC/NPR contributor Jonathan Goldstein, though it takes Thompson a while to get around to introducing him; the podcast starts so abruptly that it seems like an accident, and quickly shifts gears from Thompson’s sock puppet Crusty (“I started jerking off into that sock.” “In the green room?” “No, later on that night. ’Cause I’d done so well, I think. You know, that gives you wood.”) to Philip Roth to Russian bathhouses. Eventually, the participants fulfill a running gag by trying mead, which sparks a conversation about fucking queen bees. (“For me, it would have to be a gang-bang… I’d have to have cock to look at.” Thompson says matter-of-factly.) Thompson also emphatically comes out against circumcision, which produces no end of hilarious/uncomfortable jokes: “If I blew a baby, I’d go to jail, right? But if I cut off part of its dick, I get money in an envelope? Can someone explain that to me?” But not everything is about genitals; there’s plenty of fast-moving conversation about podcasting, Goldstein’s book Ladies And Gentlemen, The Bible!, his NPR experience, the participants’ families, hunting and fishing, and why Mark Zuckerberg is kind of a creep who probably enjoys strangling animals. It’s all scurrilous and deeply random, but that’s how Scott Free goes: Virtually every moment is a surprise, a shock, or both.


The Apple Sisters #7: Vegas
To celebrate their lucky seventh podcast, the sisters head to Las Vegas under the invitation of a mobster with the surprising name Sexy Beagle (Daniel Franzese). An especially fun episode, “Vegas” finds the ladies’ usual double entendres and thinly veiled racism outmatched by a couple of great songs, “Showgirl Breakfast Buffet” and the genuinely show-stopping “Killer Daddy.” With last week’s funny “Independence Day” episode, The Apple Sisters are on a hot streak.

The B.S. Report
While ESPN’s ESPY awards remain the most pointless awards show in a string of pointless award shows, they at least had the sense to hire a good host: SNL’s Seth Meyers, who’s also a recurring BS Report guest. The ESPYS are, thankfully, shoved aside in favor of talking about Meyers’ job hosting the White House Correspondents’ Dinner earlier this year and how his thunder was stolen 24 hours later by Osama Bin Laden’s death. Meyers, as always, is an engaging conversationalist, especially when he and Simmons crack wise about Meyers’ roasting Trump and running into Palin at the after-party. He’s also a good guest in that he playfully rolls with topics he seemingly disagrees with, like when Simmons suggests SNL trim the intro and eliminate the second musical performance. While some may not agree with Simmons’ comparison of the NBA lockout to the most recent writers’ strike, the ensuing conversation about generating ad revenue for online content is interesting. Considering his pop-culture interests, Simmons should have more of those kinds of discussions.

Best Show Gems: Hammerhead Talks About The Newbridge Hardcore Scene
Mired in debt, working bizarre dead-end jobs, and longing for glory days that might never have existed, Best Show villains are often more pathetic than pure evil. Hammerhead initially seems like the former, reveling in his days as the Newbridge hardcore scene king and taunting Tom Scharpling about the time he wore an R.E.M. shirt to a punk show and had to be publicly reprimanded. Things take a more sinister turn after Hammerhead reveals that the reason the scene cratered was because he sued the bands and venues into nonexistence. This is an especially twist-filled episode, and it ends on one of the weirder Best Show running gags: Callers who fall asleep after taking the drug “blue” always manage to redial the show for a few send-off snores. 

The Best Show On WFMU
Tom Scharpling seems to cackle into the yawning abyss of failure, reveling in lame calls, which eventually lead to amusing premises such as Pawn Stars and the Voltron of Folk. A tone of haughtiness remains, even when callers check in from listener parties with impressive numbers. “You’re a snooze. Everybody laugh at that guy,” Scharpling demands in response to one tongue-tied listener-partier. It’s hard to imagine what Scharpling is so cocky about, then we hear a Jon Wurster call destined for the ages. His character, Ron Furst (of furstsfirst.com), starts with a breezy nerd-lilt to his voice as he describes memes. But with the mention of a Gary Busey foot-accident, the call descends into a labyrinth of pop-culture madness. Impossible YouTube videos veer into bizarre cover songs, then shot-by-shot remakes of films made in zeppelins and watched by wealthy illuminati. Furst is elaborately disturbed, and each entry in each list has an alarmingly intricate back-story. The character is a feat of self-destructive nerd alchemy, and meets an end worthy of Emerald Nightmare. At nearly three hours, The Best Show’s podcast can be a long commitment for new listeners, but this might be the must-listen you were waiting for.

Comedy Bang Bang #112: Since You’ve Been Gone: “Weird Al” Yankovic, Paul F. Tompkins
“Weird Al” Yankovic—sorry, “Weird Alister,” according to the overly formal Andrew Lloyd Webber (Paul F. Tompkins)—has been making the podcast circuit lately to support his new album, but he’s a regular guest on Comedy Bang Bang. He and Tompkins (as Garry Marshall) were just on the show five months ago, actually. Not that it’s a complaint, because the Yankovic-Tompkins-Aukerman setup always delivers. The pomposity of the Andrew Lloyd Webber character especially suits Tompkins, who has a gift for the needlessly ornamental language he employs as Webber. When he, Yankovic, and Aukerman get into a discussion about making parodies—“parodicals,” as Webber calls them—of Webber songs, it leads to some funny moments, particularly when they re-imagine “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” as a song from a musical about a trucker and conjoined fry cooks. 

Comedy Bang Bang #113: Skanking Hayride: Bobby Moynihan, Seth Morris
Since February 2010, if Seth Morris has been on Comedy Bang Bang it’s been as the great Bob Ducca, but for the first time since Ducca debuted way back in episode 39, Morris appears on Comedy Bang Bang as someone else: Ozzie Patinkin, dog-bakery proprietor, 9/11 conspiracy theorist, and supporter of canine guerillas. Maybe it’s because Ducca has his own daily podcast now, but it’s nice to hear him do something different, even if it is a character he apparently debuted in the early days of the Comedy Death-Ray podcast. His bizarre antics as Patinkin make Scott Aukerman laugh so hard he has to keep stepping away from his mic—he even lets Patinkin explain his 9/11 conspiracy theory after pushing him away from the topic earlier in the show. (Patinkin: 9/11 was carried out by Jewish cats.) Morris is a heavyweight in the UCB-LA world, and his improvisational skills here show why. Also on hand: Bobby Moynihan of Saturday Night Live, whose description of his hardcore SNL fandom growing up makes his ascension to a cast member especially sweet.

Culture Gabfest: “Totally Gruesome” Edition
If horror fans weren’t already sold on Jason Zinoman’s Shock Value, a new book about the flowering of the genre in the late ’60s and ’70s, his appearance on the Gabfest this week should seal the deal. Interviewed about the book and a four-part series of Slate articles about “How to fix horror,” Zinoman breaks down recent horror history with enthusiasm and scholarship, and he doesn’t turn up his nose at “gore” or other instances of the genre at its most unsettling. Another Slate writer, Bill Wyman, comes on for an equally compelling segment about how Hollywood is poised to be “Napster-ized” in much the same way that decimated the music industry. And finally, the three hosts have a frisky discussion about the debate raging over the effectiveness of antidepressants, with Stephen Metcalf mostly siding with the skeptics, Dana Stevens mostly siding with the proponents, and Julia Turner questioning the motivations of both sides. 

Doug Loves Movies: Edgar Wright, Samm Levine, and Jordan Brady
As sad as it is that the final round of the Leonard Maltin Game Tournament Of Championships won’t feature a three-way death-match among the titans of the game—Paul F. Tompkins, Scott Aukerman, and Edgar Wright—at least the semifinals ended in engrossingly suspenseful manner, as far as movie trivia goes, that is. In an underdog victory worthy of a future LMG round about sports films, Samm Levine manages to beat back the heavily favored Edgar Wright without naming a single film—all the while turning into the obvious “heel” of a spectacle nearly worthy of professional wrestling. Good news for listeners who feel like Levine’s getting too big for his britches: There’s always the chance, come finals time, that Aukerman and Tompkins will hand Li’l Wolverine his ass.

Hang Up And Listen: The Hope Solo Durant Edition
With the nation still reeling over the U.S.’s stunning last-minute victory over Brazil in the Women’s World Cup quarterfinal, the Hang Up gang chooses to discuss what would have been the focus had the U.S. lost: The egregiously terrible officiating that nearly cost the Americans the game. This leads the regular hosts, plus return guest Franklin Foer, into some potentially dicey territory—namely the fact that nearly all the refs in this World Cup are women, and some have not been up to the task—but it’s a nuanced segment on gender and experience, with an eye on what’s best for the game. In response to the death of a 39-year-old baseball fan who fell from the bleachers at a Texas Rangers game, the show brings in Robert Gorman, the author of Death At The Ballpark, for some perspective on the surprising frequency of baseball fatalities. The last segment considers the options of NBA players in the face of what could be a season-killing lockout, noting that All-Star point guard Deron Williams appears headed for Turkey. If others follow, how much might it damage a league that’s already claiming big losses for most of its teams? 

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #16: Danielle Koenig
Although it comes from a positive place, the impulse to romanticize the dead does them a disservice, which is why Danielle Koenig’s appearance on The Mental Illness Happy Hour is so satisfying. Her brother Andrew, best known as Kirk Cameron’s sidekick on Growing Pains, fought a long battle with depression that ended with his very public disappearance and suicide last year. Acknowledging that spending time with the severely depressed can be draining and exhausting, Koenig discusses how her own depression affected how she perceived her brother’s mental illness. She’s equally candid discussing her problems with eating disorders and her tragicomic romantic history prior to meeting her husband, comedian Jimmy Pardo. Like the best installments of The Mental Illness Happy Hour, this goes deep, but Gilmartin does a good job riding the fine line separating inquisitive from invasive. 

Never Not Funny #906: Pat Francis
Pat “Third Chair” Francis returns to Never Not Funny for his first appearance in season nine, setting the standard dynamic the Ghostbusters/It’s Always Sunny gangs perfected: brains, looks, and wild card (Jimmy Pardo, Matt Belknap, and Francis, respectively). There are a few initial missteps, as Pardo is perhaps too willing to “yes, and” when Francis diverts on smirking, half-baked tangents, which results in some dead ends and confounding banter. But Pardo ably avoids dead air with his staple angry shtick, and the conversation eventually gels on the formalities of marriage and Pardo’s recent hosting gig for Amoeba Records’ Smile Train benefit auction. A debate of the dubious portmanteaus of podcast names follows—The Pod F. Tompkast is perfect, while Smodcast means nothing (“It means something to me: unlistenable,” says Francis), leading to a discussion of the works of Kevin Smith. (“Easy, this guy’s violent! No? It’s not Violent Bob?” poses Pardo.) From there, they turn to thought-to-be-great films that don’t hold up—Fright Night and the 1989 Batman are suspects—and the faux-rift between Pardo and Francis comes to a head in the closing seconds, making for one of the best-ever Never Not Funny episode endings. (Also, points to a silhouetted Dan Katz committing to his garble-voiced Dateline character, Danbot. That’s a good piece of business.)

The Pod F. Tompkast #12
Paul F. Tompkins celebrated the first anniversary of his Tompkast with a live recording of an episode last month at L.A.’s Largo, home of his monthly variety show. Each segment is recreated live, from the introduction with the Sleepy Voice Of The Internet to the next installment of the Great Undiscovered Project to his monthly chat with Jen Kirkman. The Great Undiscovered Project segment is especially impressive, as Tompkins stages semi-live phone calls between his characters, but the silly variety-show segment is funnier on a conceptual level than in the ha-ha sense. At one hour and 45 minutes, it’s the longest Tompkast ever, but also the most fun; in a live setting, Tompkins feels freer to indulge in his specialty, extended riffing. Before he even introduces himself at the show’s beginning, he goes on a long, funny digression sparked by the word “knucklehead” that lasts five minutes and involves two rival characters. With Tompkins, improvisation almost never feels labored. This being the “season finale” of the first year of the Tompkast, Tompkins is taking a small break now, though he alludes to changing the format, including the (seemingly unlikely) possibility of increasing its frequency. But for the next few months, listeners should only expect the occasional Extrasode. 

Sklarbro Country #50: Aisha Tyler, Chris Cox, Pat Bertoletti
On this episode of Sklarbro Country, comedian Aisha Tyler (of Archer fame) comes off as every geek’s dream girl: gorgeous, funny, smart, ribald, and more G4 than Lifetime in her personality and predilections. Later this month, Tyler is launching a podcast about guy and geek culture called Girl On Guy With Aisha Tyler that’s liable to pick up subscribers from Sklarbro Country thanks to her charming anecdotes about beating out a Bonet to land a plum guest role on Friends, her early days in comedy, and being the only 6-foot-tall black woman in an all-white school. The brothers try out something new this week with their very first call-in guest, competitive eater/Sklarbro super-fan Pat Bertoletti, who took second place at this year’s Nathan’s hot dog-eating contest. The podcast closes strongly with Chris Cox as a gloriously gruff Sam Elliott, who plays some faux-commercials he recorded for various women’s products. If you’re a fan, you’re in luck: Next week’s podcast will be devoted entirely to Cox and his gallery of characters.  

The Sound Of Young America: Simon Pegg 
Even if you’re not nearly as passionate about Star Wars, Star Trek, or zombies as Simon Pegg, it’s still a pleasure to listen to him delve, rationally and coolly, into each of their universes. The actor-writer with the debonair British accent makes being a nerd sound pretty appealing as he describes to Jesse Thorn how slowly moving zombies are much more sympathetic than their fast counterparts. Pegg also discusses the origin of the term “nerd,” how his British comedy series Spaced came to fruition, and why caring about low culture is just as valid as being passionate about high art. The interview is an enjoyable companion piece to his new memoir, Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy’s Journey To Becoming A Big Kid. 

Sound Opinions #293: Wax Trax! Records
Chicago-based music critics Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis pay tribute to one of the city’s most important record labels in this episode, talking with former Wax Trax! Records artists Paul Barker (Ministry) and Chris Connelly (Ministry, Revolting Cocks). The label was ground zero for the rise of industrial music in the ’80s, taking the aggression of punk and mixing it with European dance and experimental music. It was also home to an assortment of colorful misfits like Barker, Connelly, and Ministry’s Al Jourgensen. “There’s so little anti-social activity from rock ’n’ roll these days,” says Barker, whose old band embodied that behavior. “It’s just so boring.” Sound Opinions is at its best when delving deep into unheralded chapters of music history, and this episode is a fine example.

WTF With Marc Maron #191: Will Arnett, Keith Robinson, Marina Franklin, Judy Gold, Jon Benjamin, Jonathan Katz
This live episode of WTF is all about pre-existing relationships. Shockingly, they don’t revolve around Maron, or even involve him. First, Maron engineers a casual Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist reunion between the delightfully avuncular Jonathan Katz and his cartoon son, Jon Benjamin. Katz and Benjamin fall easily into their old rhythm, with Benjamin playing the incorrigible slacker smartass and Katz inhabiting the familiar role of the gentle father figure. The situation is different for two later guests, Marina Franklin and Keith Robinson. The pair had a disastrous romantic relationship, which they recall with amusing and embarrassing details. When it comes to embarrassment, however, nothing can quite compare to Robinson’s stories about his unfortunate stint as a failed pimp. It’s a lively mix of talents; where else but on a live WTF can you find Katz paternalistically admonishing a man to finally give up his long-cherished dreams of making it as a pimp? 

WTF With Marc Maron: #190 Todd Hanson
Back in March, Marc Maron interviewed Todd Hanson, a 20-year veteran writer for The Onion. In a dirty Brooklyn hotel room, the two discussed shitty jobs, broken hearts, triumphs in parody, and the joy of using darkness to achieve comedy. It's an amusing, standard-length interview. Then a solo Maron interjects. Through the strangest kind of sad serendipity, Maron had unwittingly conducted the interview in the very same hotel where Hanson had made a brutally serious suicide attempt only two years prior. It sounds almost too disturbing to be true. “Oh no, is Maron bringing sketches back to WTF like this?” But it appears that Hanson had been alluding to darkness in comedy for a reason, and when Maron got wind he apparently waited months to sit with Hanson and have him describe the attempt. Hanson's story is blurred by the massive amounts of depressants he took, stark in its determination, and terrifying. But as Maron notes, you can hear true optimism in his voice. Hanson's gratitude for tangible generosity despite a lack of religious belief make this the kind of story you're unlikely to hear again any time soon, and the episode is Maron's most humbling since he featured the late Mike DeStefano.

(Full disclosure: WTF is normally recapped by a staff member of The A.V. Club who knows Todd Hanson. This recap was done by a stranger and freelancer.)


The Adam Carolla Show 
The week in Ace, in order of descending interest: Hyper Jersey comedian Dov Davidoff is perfectly compatible with Carolla, and he joins in on Ace’s “more kids, more problems” explanation for solving society’s woes. (Manly news topics include Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit and the baseball-catch fatality.) After the crew debate INXS and weigh in on news items about Mila Kunis, Dr. Drew, and the News Of The World scandal, Carolla welcomes Dian Hanson, the author of racy coffee-table books including The Big Book Of Penis. Her deadpan delivery actually enhances discussions about her catalog and etiquette for using other people’s restrooms. Lou Pizarro of Operation Repo gives a meaty interview about the travails of the repossession biz, but it’s not as long as Ace’s rant about the works of the late Sherwood Schwartz, in which he slags Gen-X nostalgia favorites like The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island. Futurama voice actor Billy West flexes his skills in an extended goof on morning talk shows. Comedian Todd Glass is a classic fill-in host: likable when he recounts having a heart attack and getting in shape—but no threat whatsoever to outshine the star.

Firewall & Iceberg #83: Breaking Bad, Damages, Alphas & More
Dan Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall are best when they’re dealing in quality over quantity. The Hitfix.com critics are at their most animated this week, when they re-anoint a returning favorite (AMC’s Breaking Bad), soak in a promising pilot (SyFy’s superheroes-sans-costumes drama Alphas), and drub a polarizing niche favorite (Damages, now on DirecTV). Regular listeners, beware: The TV-vs.-movie actors debate has entered a third week, and its point has only grown murkier. If the hosts’ hectic schedules hold, tune in late in the week for bonus episodes dedicated to Emmy nominations and Friday Night Lights

How Was Your Week? #18: “Giant Pictures of Hamburgers”: Tom Scharpling
Julie Klausner doesn’t so much interview The Best Show On WFMU host Tom Scharpling as have a long conversation with him where the two try to make each other laugh over topics such as Big Momma’s House, the tragedy of Meat Loaf, and the problems of Harvey Keitel’s nudity. Klausner is likely to piss off the fat-acceptance community this week as she takes aim at Chris Christie, Kevin Federline, and Neil LaBute, whom she’s trying to get on Celebrity Fit Club. Then again, maybe the fat-acceptance community doesn’t want those guys as their poster children.

The Moth: Kevin McAuliffe & Julie Kraut: StorySLAM Favorites
Kevin McAuliffe and Julie Kraut both offer up short, humorous stories about friendships from their time abroad, McAuliffe as a student in France and Kraut as a volunteer in Africa. Both brief accounts—only five minutes apiece—feel more like extended setups and punchlines than stories, and they lack any real insight; but they’re fun little bites, witty anecdotes you’d hear at a party and laugh at, but then quickly forget.

The Nerdist #105: Eliza Dushku/Tahmoh Penikett
Poor Tahmoh Penikett: Despite being a Muay-Thai-fighting, super-hunky sci-fi badass, the Battlestar Galactica/Dollhouse actor is forced to give his half of this live discussion panel through a serious case of the sniffles, until someone finally gets the poor guy some tissues. Luckily he and Dollhouse co-star (and badass in her own right) Eliza Dushku are funny and engaging enough—and a solo Chris Hardwick subdued enough—to make this a fun listen even through the mucus. But considering Dollhouse is long gone, and this discussion was recorded at Chicago’s C2E2 convention back in March, this entry feels slightly less than relevant. 

The Nerdist #106: Neil Gaiman
You can practically hear Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Mira struggling to not jump in and fill the many, many, many protracted silences in Neil Gaiman’s responses. The famed author’s exceptionally deliberate, pause-filled manner of speaking gives the impression that the audio keeps cutting out, but kudos to the normally chatty hosts for letting him go at his own pace. Gaiman is a thoughtful interview subject (though his revelations about American Gods will be familiar to those who read our own recent interview with him), wittily pontificating on the nature of writing and the mystical allure of John Hodgman. However, a large—too large, if you’re not a fan—portion of this episode is given over to a discussion of Dr. Who, an episode of which Gaiman recently wrote. 

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Homebound Culture And Quitting To Win
One of the minor flaws with this week’s podcast is that the main topic—culture the participants indulge in while stuck at home, because they’re sick or injured or have a new baby, in the case of guest host Barrie Hardymon—is that it just isn’t that different from culture they indulge in at other times. As such, it comes across more as a rambling list of things they’ve watched or read rather than a look at why that culture might be different from what they want at other times. 

This American Life #440: Game Changer
This week’s episode takes a sweeping look at the natural-gas controversy in Pennsylvania with an Erin Brockovich-type tale of environmental pollutants and big industry vs. small towns. Producer Sarah Koenig does an excellent job exploring all sides of a complicated issue, but ultimately the story lacks any real hooks to keep up the pace for an hour.