Week of June 16-22

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“Cool it with the birds and the ukuleles.” —Julie Klausner advises girly hipster women, How Was Your Week

“Oh, good Lord… goddamn, what were they thinking?” —Firewall & Iceberg’s Alan Sepinwall on AMC’s The Killing

“Dairy Queen, their motto should be ‘Look, it’s cold.’ I heard some of the Blizzards actually come with diabetes medicine in them.” —Tom Scharpling, The Best Show On WFMU

“We have video of a grown man building ziplines for action figures in what appeared to be some kind of shantytown.” —Jesse Thorn describes one of the people involved in a Judge John Hodgman case

THE BEST

The Apple Sisters #4: Opposite Day
Cora Apple dominates this episode with her declaration that it’s Opposite Day, leading to some pleasingly confusing exchanges with her sisters about the meaning of their words. Candy and Seedy forever play the straight man to Cora’s sexy ditziness, but of course manages to work in some gross come-ons to God. There’s a funny, double-entendre-laden commercial with sponsor Bob McClure and his Hot And Spicy Pickle (“Thanks for licking and tickling my pickle!”), but the funniest part may be a quick bit where the ladies go into full anti-Jap mode—it is 1943 on The Apple Sisters, after all—revealing the nastiness that lurks beneath their chipper exterior: “We really killed that Jap!” says Cora perkily.

The Best Show On WFMU
Tom Scharpling has summer memories on his mind, and youthful hubris abounds. The host runs hot out of the gate, leading to one of the funnier hang-ups in Best Show history: A caller remarks that he remembers Push-Ups were branded by the Flintstones, and a trigger-happy Scharpling gomps him with accusations of tasteless product placement. Patrick from Chicago tells the sad tale of being 9 years old breaking both his hands at the top of the summer and his parents buying him a Sega videogame console to cheer him up. He could not play, of course, and mournfully sat on the couch as his parents played on his behalf. Julie from Cincinnati adds to her prison recipes from last week recalling “Hair Crack,” a disgusting hair gel made of melted Jolly Ranchers, hair conditioner, and “a little Kool-Aid.” Few callers disappoint; the only real low point in the show is Amadeus from Manhattan, who is obsessed with getting Scharpling to insult Paul McCartney. He gets a two-year ban for his trouble.

Comedy Bang Bang #109: The Andy Samberg Special: Andy Samberg, Adam Pally
Frequent listeners of Comedy Bang Bang know that host Scott Aukerman is a big fan of Andy Samberg’s comedy group The Lonely Island, so the host is more effusive in his praise of, and more interested in a straightforward interview with, his guest than usual. Samberg is a good fit for Comedy Bang Bang’s “yes and” ethos, and he needs to be when Adam Pally’s character—as Aukerman’s weed guy, Bro—gets off to a slow start. Maybe that’s the problem with a spaced-out character, but Pally gets more engaged (and funnier) as time goes on. The trio decides to order pizza, Aukerman insists Samberg call and say his name, but his fame is lost on the guy taking the order. As a quasi-prank call, it’s completely ineffective, but in that funny, anticlimactic way that suits Comedy Bang Bang’s style. Also, if you like plane breaks, this is the episode for you.

Culture Gabfest: “Summer Strut” Edition
Everything’s coming up Metcalf on this week’s Culture Gabfest. First, the host becomes guest on a segment that finds Stephen Metcalf talking about his heavily trafficked 5,000-word disquisition on Robert Nozick, the libertarian philosopher who wound up having second thoughts after seeing it in action during the Reagan years. Then Christopher Hitchens put into righteously caustic words the annoyance Metcalf had expressed about David Mamet’s right-wing convention. And finally, on a show full of amusingly tortured metaphors, Metcalf says this about the results of Julia Turner’s crowd-sourced mixlist of “summer strut” songs: “It’d be like if you held an Amish barn-raising and realized you’d built a multicultural center cum cathouse.” (Turner, not missing a beat: “Steve, that was going to be my metaphor.”) Elsewhere, the gang sorts through the thicket of haphazardly organized information that makes up the new documentary Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times, and struts along to a pleasing (and random) assortment of reader-endorsed summer music. 

Doug Loves Movies: Bill Simmons, Jon Hamm, and Adam Scott
Even with Mad Men in a holding pattern, Jon Hamm apparently has a ton of pent-up goofiness that requires expending. And because Saturday Night Live is on hiatus right now as well, Doug Loves Movies is the lucky recipient of the softer, smartass side of Don Draper. Hamm pairs with fellow DLM heavy-hitter Adam Scott to help welcome first-time guest Bill Simmons with a series of increasingly forced (yet hilarious) athletic metaphors, while Doug Benson tries to steer the conversation toward sports movies and away from dead children. (By the way, the name of one of last week’s shitheads was bleeped because an audience member tricked Benson into insulting a dead 2-year-old.) Hamm’s non-sequiturs stay mostly harmless/un-ghoulish, though—his thought of Little Richard on ice skates won’t leave your head for a while.

Firewall & Iceberg
Dan Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall drop two podcasts for a busy TV week, starting with the conceptual episode #79: “Game Of Thrones & The Killing Finales And More.” They discuss, at length, the difference between good TV and bad TV in lengthy post-season breakdowns of HBO’s Game Of Thrones and AMC’s brand-damaging, controversial The Killing. They hail Game as a model season finale. On the other hand, Fienberg says The Killing violates “the social contract between the showrunner and the viewer.” A dialogue follows about whether a show’s artistic decisions should be beholden to its genre, and how much its content should be reflected in its promotional campaign. Also covered: The backward-speaking-dwarf episode in the Twin Peaks re-watch and ABC’s new Combat Hospital (says Sepinwall, “Grey’s Anatomy meets M.A.S.H.—competent but dull”). Episode #80, “Suits, Wilfred, Louie, Burn Notice & True Blood,” has more news and reviews, with the hosts’ takes on five more new or returning shows. FX has two sublime, surreal comedy-tinged dramas: Elijah Wood’s Wilfred (they like) and Louis C.K.’s Louie (season 2 is even darker and stranger, and they love it). USA’s lawyer-pals drama Suits is “douchey,” while Burn Notice remains so-so. The pair gave up on HBO’s “excruciating” True Blood a while back, and the show hasn’t given them reason to return.

Hang Up And Listen: The Pumping Rory McIlroy’s Tires Edition
With host Josh Levin again missing in action—no doubt pitching contrarian stories alongside other Slate employees at its annual retreat—Stefan Fatsis and Mike Pesca bring in special guests for all three segments. In the wake of young Rory McIlroy’s dominant performance at the U.S. Open, Fatsis, Pesca, and golf blogger Stephanie Wei examine his (possibly premature) ascension to the Tiger Woods throne, and NBA blogger Scott Schroeder talks about the upcoming draft, with particular insights in the lessons learned from American prospect Jeremy Tyler’s misadventures in Israeli professional ball. But the most compelling segment comes last, as Bob Carrothers, a university professor who studies fan violence in sports, gives perspective on the Vancouver riot after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup: why it happened, how it happened, and what can be learned from the ugly history of fan uprising. 

How Was Your Week: #15 “What’s This? It’s the Style”: Ira Glass & Anaheed Alani
If you’ve ever wondered what Ira Glass sounds like when he’s off the clock at This American Life, listen to him and his sassy wife, writer and editor Anaheed Alani, on this week’s HWWY. Julie Klausner moderates a round of The Newlywed Game with the couple, who spend a surprising amount of time adorably bickering. Would you also have suspected that Glass would be the owner of a pitbull that, stereotypically enough, bites everyone?  Come for the interview, stay for Klausner’s tales of unadvisedly replying to hate mail and Alani's inaccurate yet enjoyable impression of Norm MacDonald doing Adam Carolla. 

Judge John Hodgman #29: Justice Is Out There
This week’s court battle starts with an impromptu off-key singing session, then it aims for the secret, clone-staffed bee farm in all of our hearts with a couple’s battle over X-Files action figures. A husband and wife have received Mulder and Scully action figures as gifts, but can’t agree on whether to play with them or leave them in their packaging. (Judge Hodgman asks if they happen to have an Assistant Director Skinner figure, but no dice.) It seems the couple’s history is inextricably entangled with dorky collectibles: “We’ve broken many of Randi’s lawn gnomes,” husband Chris notes.

Nerdist #100: Simon Pegg
A proposed drinking game to celebrate Nerdist’s centennial episode: Take a shot every time Chris Hardwick references “nerd culture” in this chat with nerd-do-well Simon Pegg. (It’ll be a short game.) Fortunately, Pegg—unlike guests like last week’s Zooey Deschanel—has a personality and background that’s able to sustain such a line of questioning, happily pontificating on the differences between British and American television, Star Trek, DVD and online region codes, and of course, his work with director Edgar Wright on Spaced, Shaun Of The Dead, and Hot Fuzz. As an added bonus, former Nerdist guest Joel McHale drops by unexpectedly to enter into a mutual admiration society with Pegg and gleefully taunt Hardwick. It’s a perfect Nerdist storm, and though it occasionally gets a little cluttered with five people in the room, Pegg remains an engaging focal point throughout.

Sklarbro Country #47: Buddhist Retreat: Jordan Rubin, Chris Cox
Twitter users know Jordan Rubin (follow him at @jordanrubin ) as a genius dispenser of Steven Wright-worthy one-liners, so Rubin is one of the true masters of the exciting/tiresome Twitter medium. Of course the endlessly complimentary and enthusiastic Sklar Brothers give Rubin the proverbial mad props for his Twitter acumen and, in true Sklarbro Country form, lovingly nudge him to do some of their favorite jokes. The Brothers are so diplomatic and savvy that they even manage to make some trenchant and insightful criticisms of Anne Hathaway and James Franco’s work as Oscar hosts while simultaneously praising Rubin as the show’s head writer. Rubin shares some amusing anecdotes about writing for Crank Yankers before Chris Cox returns as fan favorite Jerry Jones. Jones tends to unveil clones whenever he visits Sklarbro Country, and here he introduces his latest exact double, the world’s very first Clonetrotter. It’s all very silly and very funny. 

Sound Opinions #290: Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire’s Will Butler and Richard Parry come off as likeable, down-to-Earth, and supremely levelheaded rock stars in this interview with Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis. Recorded a few months ago, when the band was in Chicago to play three sold-out nights at UIC Pavilion, the interview focuses on the aftermath of Arcade Fire’s surprising Album Of The Year win at the Grammys, a triumph the band members insist has done little to change the reality of their everyday lives. In spite of the band’s ever-growing fame, Butler and Parry seem to be taking it in stride, heeding the lessons of bands like The Clash and determined not to repeat the mistakes of their arena-filling predecessors. It’s a great interview made even better by live-in-the-studio performances of “Sprawl II” and “We Used To Wait.”

WTF With Marc Maron #185: Joel McHale, BJ Novak, Dwayne Perkins, Allan Havey, Jim Earl, Eddie Pepitone
Joel McHale and BJ Novak are the type of stand-up comics Marc Maron hates, or at least deeply resents: handsome, driven, wildly successful young man who have navigated a relatively smooth course through an industry designed to break you. (Maron admits that the first time he saw McHale’s name on a comedy-club marquee he fumed that McHale wasn’t even a real stand-up.) So perhaps it’s not surprising that Maron’s liveliest and most engaging conversation from this WTF live event occurs with Alan Havey, an old-school veteran of Comedy Central precursor The Comedy Channel who answers Maron’s prickliness and subtle digs in turn. As always, it’s entertaining watching Maron’s ego do combat with a colleague; Novak proves an interesting foil. He’s especially wry while explaining the link between his father’s kaleidoscope collection and background as the author of a book about marijuana. McHale receives one of the more passive-aggressive introductions Maron has ever delivered, but the two settle down for an amiable discussion of Community and the craft of acting. 


THE REST

The Adam Carolla Show
This week’s episodes are equally optional; they’re all conversations and no real interviews: Conservative pundit Evan Sayet arrives after listener calls about booty calls and baby-mama drama. Then they goof on Springsteen’s blue-collar motif, and Ace tees off on the “everybody gets a trophy” paradigm of commemorating accomplishment. Rob Schneider joins Carolla’s ongoing rant about traffic and bad drivers, though the meatiest dialogue concerns how much men want/need women in their life. Last Comic Standing winner Alonzo Bodden appears in an episode full of winding conversation that covers his surprise at the lack of gay-black unity, Clarence Clemons’ death, moronic drivers, baffling valet parking policies, and the kissing couple from the Vancouver hockey riot. Former Crank Yanker Jim Florentine talks about his old show after Adam plays a round of Mr. Brightside, in which he tries to make callers feel better about their problems. The show ends with an unsympathetic but reserved discussion of the death of Jackass’ Ryan Dunn. Blogger-turned-TV-writer Kelly Oxford provides the how-I-broke-into-the-biz story of the week, and dishes on working for the “genuinely normal” Jessica Alba. News bits include the crew’s take on Mormon Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy and Bam Margera’s response to Roger Ebert’s comments on Dunn.

The B.S. Report with Bill Simmons
Simmons opens the week by discussing the Reality TV Fantasy League draft for his new site, Grantland, with buddy Dave Jacoby. It's an intriguing, even entertaining contest, but among some funny moments discussing specific people, there's not a whole lot to take away from listening to details of someone else's fantasy draft, no matter the subject matter. In the first part of the second episode of the week, The New York TimesDan Barry talks sports bigamy, being contrarian, and his new book, Bottom Of The 33rd, about the longest game in baseball history. It’s an engaging conversation, especially the segment where Barry explains to Simmons the difference between passion over sports and passion over politics. In part two, Simmons calls up pal JackO for the first time in weeks to talk about a range of topics, including Yankees-Red Sox. Simmons’ buddies are a divisive topic among listeners, but this visit demonstrates how his friends sometimes provide the most entertaining segments: JackO’s a sharp guy and Simmons is at his most comfortable, and their long personal results in an easy, snappy rapport. The pair disagrees on enough topics that the conversation is entertaining as hell to listen to and, even as Simmons grows in stature, returns him to the origins: a fan talking sports and pop culture with buddies. Simmons wraps up the week by returning to the NBA with ESPN’s Chad Ford to talk the upcoming draft, how bad this year’s draft class is, and potential trades that could occur during the off-season.

Extra Hot Great: #36: Green Lantern Covered In Candle Wax
Joe Reid didn’t see Green Lantern this week, but his negligence (or “good judgment,” to put it another way) leads the podcast’s funniest exchange, as David T. Cole and Tara Ariano pepper him with true-or-false questions about all the stupid things that happened in the movie. A new segment called “0% Full”—a reference to having nothing on the DVR, and thus being forced to watch other things on television—shows promise, but TLC’s My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding doesn’t require this much detailed unpacking. 

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #13: Mark Roberts 
“I will give you the show-business answer: He was always nice to me,” says Mark Roberts, Two And A Half Men head writer and Mike & Molly creator, of Charlie Sheen. That’s a sentiment unfortunately representative of Roberts’ appearance on The Mental Illness Happy Hour; despite a fair share of revealing and amusing moments, some relating to his Jekyll-and-Hyde response to too much sugar, Roberts is more guarded and less engaging than the show’s previous guests.

The Moth: Daisy Rosario: Child Of Trouble
Daisy Rosario is a writer, storyteller, comedian, and Moth instructor, so her story of meeting her half-brother for the first time at her estranged father’s funeral is well-structured and expertly delivered; but all the polish robs the potentially moving story of much of its emotional heft. The story’s still enjoyable, but you get the sense that Rosario has told it many times. 

Nerdist #99: Geekdad
This bonus Father’s Day episode featuring Wired’s “Geekdad,” Ken Denmead, isn’t exactly kid-friendly—it features a tangent about “steampunk vibrators,” among other things—nor is it exclusive to parents, though discussions of science education and tricking kids into playing Dungeons And Dragons are probably more interesting to those with mini-geeks of their own. 

Never Not Funny #903: Russ McGarry
Some of the strongest “joke” jokes of #903 come at the top of the episode—an improvised bit on the Mayan calendar featuring a daily Blossom quote was especially inspired—so for the listeners who purchase by episode, this week is probably skippable. It’s not necessarily a down week, but guest Russ McGarry, an old comedian friend of Jimmy Pardo’s, is more an old friend telling humorous stories about their touring days, and less a riffing comedian that often makes Never Not Funny worth the price.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Father’s Day, The Tony Awards, And Super 8
This week’s PCHH wanders more than usual: The segment on the Tonys hops through random observations about this year’s awards ceremony and what it says about the participants and the state of theater; the Super 8 review is brief but similarly discursive, touching on elements like how the film gets The Fat Kid right and The Girl wrong. The crew takes some time out for internal business, like the next book Stephen Thompson will take on as a major life project, and the replacement copy of The Hobbit Linda Holmes was sent, but still hasn’t read. The most directed segment is a Father’s Day conversation about what pop culture everyone inherited from their dads—a low-key list that gets lively over a discussion of how TV obsessives coped in pre-VCR times. (Audiotaping TV shows to revisit, sure. Polaroids of the screen, though? Really?)

The Sound Of Young America: Glenn O’Brien
Two clotheshorses throw down over the power suit, as Jesse Thorn (who also runs the blog Put This On) interviews GQ Style Guy Glen O’Brien about his new book, How To Be A Man.  O’Brien talks about the gradual disintegration of men’s style and why he favors dandyism, and also discusses his interesting past working with Andy Warhol’s Factory and at Interview magazine’s nascence. It seems like Thorn would like to get into sartorial talk a bit more, but O’Brien is a dry man of few words, in a way that only fashionable men of a certain generation can really pull off.

This American Life #438: Father’s Day 2011
This week’s sentimental episode rounds up stories about fathers, with the standout acts bookending the hour. Michael Ian Black revisits his father’s life and sudden death in an essay that smartly balances sadness with humor, while The Texas Observer’s Michael May interviews a couple of inmates who adopt an unconventional father-son relationship.

WTF With Marc Maron #184: Jill Soloway
Judging by her somewhat stilted appearance on WTF, Marc Maron is much less interested in guest Jill Soloway’s impressive career as an author (Tiny Ladies In Shiny Pants) and television scribe for Six Feet Under than he is in her friendship with his ex-wife Mishna Wolff. Maron is clearly champing at the bit to discuss his theory that Solloway’s ferocious feminism drove his ex-wife away from him, but he saves his paranoia and anxieties for a fascinatingly awkward ending that will interest WTF super-fans too emotionally invested in his troubled romantic history. 

 

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