Week of June 2-8

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“The most reasonable name in this movie is Billy Zane, which sounds like Billy Insane.” —Elliott Kalan, The Flop House

The Sims: Carny Edition. Is that a thing? Let’s just go ahead and say that it is.”—Julie Klausner

“It has something to do with cogs.”—Julie Klausner, defining “steampunk.”

“Now you wanted to promote something, that’s why you called in? The Hangover Part 2: No Refunds. I saw it. Why did they call it ‘No Refunds?’ Oh, I see, the theater said that.”—Tom Scharpling to Zach Galifianakis, The Best Show On WFMU

“I cried openly cried during The Notebook, openly weeping, and I was the only person there in the theater without a date. And I had eight quarts of oil with me.”—Zach Galifianakis, The Best Show On WFMU

“Twenty years ago, we abandoned the metric system. Now we can’t get colors. There should be a $100 campaign: ‘Don’t be a fat shit… Don’t be a circle.’” —Dana Gould on the USDA’s new $2 million campaign to promote its food circle diagram, The Adam Carolla Show

“You want to know why we’re arguing? Because you’re arguing with me. We don’t have to argue. You could just do what I tell you to do.”—Adam Carolla, Adam And You

“When you open yourself up to a movie that isn’t setup-punchline-setup-punchline, it can reset your internal metabolism in a modern world where we’re all stretched so thin and run so ragged and being pinged by sex from Anthony Weiner at every moment. It’s nice to go and be confined in a theater and have a director say, ‘Look, live at this pace for a little bit and see how it feels.’” —Julia Turner, Culture Gabfest

NEW (TO US)

The Flop House
The Internet is studded with geeks mocking bad movies from the safety of their podcasts, but The Flop House might just be the best of the bunch. Hosted by newly minted Daily Show writer Dan McCoy, seasoned Daily Show scribe Elliott Kalan, and the equally funny Stuart Wellington, the hourlong podcast is a chummy, rambling disquisition on such fine filmic fare as Gooby, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and Wild Hogs. All three flopcasters are big enough film buffs to lay down the occasional reasoned, insightful critical smackdown, but the show’s biggest draws are the frequent, frequently hilarious rabbit holes that Dan and company find themselves drawn down. Whether it’s a word that happens to sound like another word, or an appearance by podcast mascot “The Flop House House Cat,” this gang never met a diversion it didn’t like. More than flashy guest spots (of which the show has had a couple), The Flop House banks on the awesome chemistry of its hosts, and their ability to effortlessly pivot a dry plot summary into a joke-off featuring, say, sexed-up Mark Twain book titles. 

In the latest episode, the floppers take dead aim at stealth Single White Female remake The Roommate, which is set in a college that’s as weirdly underpopulated as Mike Nichols’ Catch-22 adaptation. According to Kalan, “It’s like Saved By The Bell: The College Years in that there’s no one at the college except for the main characters… It creates a real, believable world is what I’m saying.” Also damning is Wellington’s analysis, which draws attention to the fact that the heroine only has two recognizable character traits: hat-wearing, and putting things in her mouth that other people hand her, no questions asked. When the discussion flags, there’s some time devoted to slobs-vs.-snobs comedies and the question of which side of the divide the dweebs from Revenge Of The Nerds fall on. An outsized mailbag segment follows, during which professor McCoy draws an important distinction between softcore Skinemax and the grand tradition of witless T&A comedies. All told, this isn’t one of the gang’s best film discussions, but by the middle of the podcast they’ve worked up a full head of steam and are chugging along under the combined power of rapid-fire jokes and unforced bonhomie. It’s what The Flop House does best. 


THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU
Tom Scharpling takes a break early on, which turns out to be because his sinuses are attempting to assassinate him; later, through some magical alchemy of decongestants and caffeine, he blazes into a call-in appearance from Zach Galifianakis. Their rapport goes back many years, and between friendly barbs, Galifianakis expresses genuine regret he won’t get to personally watch Scharpling hang up on obnoxious callers. They contuct a sad/hilarious deconstruction of movie-theater etiquette, and when pressed, Galifianakis reveals numerous details about the future of the Hangover series: He may skip the third and go straight to the fourth, time machines may be involved, and the entire enterprise may be a conspiracy by the government to euthanize the masses. (His character Alan will be brutally sacrificed as an “example” to show America “this is what happens.”) Perhaps the best anecdote comes near the end of his call, when we hear a story about his failed “irony spoofabouts” while visiting Vegas. There’s also a darkly amusing anecdote about the National Geographic Channel’s Breakout that ties into Jon Wurster’s call-in sketch.

Comedy Bang Bang #107: Maybe It’s Maybelline: John Mulaney, Nick Kroll
Comedian and Saturday Night Live writer John Mulaney has a long history with fellow comic Nick Kroll—the two attended college together and do The Oh, Hello Show for Funny Or Die—so it’s not surprising that together they would make for a funny episode of CBB. Host Scott Aukerman acts mostly as ringleader as the two cycle through characters—Oh Hello’s George St. Geegland and Gil Faizon, Fabrice Fabrice, Marv Albert, SNL announcer Don Pardo—though the funniest moments come when the pair assume their Oh, Hello characters. St. Geegland announces he’s racist and misremembering the movie Lucas as Lupus offer a couple standout moments. Aukerman may not have laughed this much on his own show since it started.

Culture Gabfest: “The Bite Is A Gift” Edition
Dan Kois’ New York Times Magazine confessional about his growing reluctance to “eat [his] cultural vegetables” has been getting beaten up for a week, including a tag-team body slam from the Times’ own staff film critics, A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis. None of the Gabfesters can bring themselves to pile on—co-host Dana Stevens often has Kois as a guest on her Spoiler Special podcast, but she likely wouldn’t be inclined anyway—but Julia Turner issues a smart statement in defense of slow, challenging art films and the way they can “reset your internal metabolism.” A second segment on MTV’s new Teen Wolf series finds the crew gamely attempting to a consider a piece of low culture, but it’s the last segment, on the utility of the college experience, that benefits the most from their expertise and insight. Jumping off from Louis Menand’s New Yorker article “Debating The Value Of College In America,” the Gabfesters dig into the practical and financial realities of higher education; they can only scratch the surface, but they scratch hard. 

Extra Hot Great: #34: The X-Mans
In a feisty session, the Extra Hot Great crew urinates on several beloved cultural touchstones: David T. Cole and Tara Ariano can’t share Joe Reid’s enthusiasm over the new X-Men movie, X-Men: First Class, though they pepper their criticisms with the caveat that they more or less liked the film, however flawed. But it’s the “I Am Not A Crackpot” segment where the sacred cows are slaughtered, with Ariano and Reid taking down grown-up enthusiasms over The Muppets and Pee-wee Herman, respectively. An outrage, right? Put away the pitchforks: Ariano reasonably objects to Muppets ventures made after Jim Henson’s death and Reid reasonably objects to Pee-wee ventures after the canonical Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Perhaps the real outrage should be saved for their overall ho-hummery over the Veronica Mars episode “A Trip To The Dentist,” which a reader submits for canon consideration, but the contrarian spirit gives the episode some energy. An appreciation of the “Super Cheerful TV Bad Guy” archetype—think The Mayor on Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Hank Scorpio on The Simpsons—is less controversial fun. 

Hang Up And Listen: The Tennis’ Earl Campbell Edition
After a two-week break, host Josh Levin returns to the show in time for Mike Pesca’s ensnarement in a big-time sports media controversy: At the press conference following the Dallas Mavericks’ astonishing comeback against the Miami Heat, Pesca was so perplexed by Lebron James and Dwayne Wade’s denial of an on-court celebration that he felt inclined to alert them to the reality of it. This got a really thoughtful answer out of Wade, but Pesca got some razzing for it. Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim comes on for a lively discussion of the French Open, particularly the rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, which Nadal has dominated, but mainly because most of their matches have taken place on clay. The last segment unpacks the controversy surrounding Buster Posey’s season-ending injury, sustained after Scott Cousins plowed over him at home plate. Levin and Pesca back a common-sense solution: Treat home plate like any other base, and these collisions are far less likely to happen. Otherwise, as Omar from The Wire might say, “It’s all in the game.” 

Mental Illness Happy Hour #11: Greg Behrendt
Paul Gilmartin has seemingly set the bar prohibitively high for candor and self-disclosure on the Mental Illness Happy Hour, but he soars right over it during an epic fear-off with guest Greg Behrendt, during which the two men spontaneously trade their greatest fears. It feels both cathartic and weirdly transgressive, almost as if we’re listening in on someone else’s internal monologue. The Mental Illness Happy Hour thrives on intimacy and security; it’s a safe, supportive place for Behrendt to discuss his mother’s alcoholism, his strange evolution from rugby jock to the comedy world’s most high-profile heterosexual male fashionista, and how the runaway success of He’s Just Not That Into You played havoc with his career and self-perception. Gilmartin and Behrendt bond over shared perceptions of their fathers as Don Draper, insecurities involving genitalia, and the wonder and glory of the fairer sex in a funny, revealing, and compelling conversation. This podcast serves as a refreshing reminder that even a successful and relatively well-adjusted comic and writer like Behrendt wrestles with many of the same insecurities and fears as everyone else; mental illness affects everyone, not just those who have it themselves. 

The Moth: Kimberly Reed: Life Flight
Kimberly Reed uses delayed reveals to good effect in her story about returning home for her father’s funeral, waiting a good two minutes into the story to expose the real reason she hadn’t been home or talked to her brother in years prior to the events in the story. (Without getting too spoiler-y: She is most decidedly not the same person she was when she left home.) She also sprinkles in funny, “did I mention” asides that lighten the mood just when things threaten to get too heavy, rendering a story that could have been solemn and somber—it does take place during a funeral, after all—into a slightly funny and very heartwarming family tale. 

Never Not Funny #901: Dave Anthony 
A given episode of Never Not Funny revolves around host Jimmy Pardo’s favorite topics, like aging rock stars, comedy inside talk, and raising or being a child. This redundancy keeps the 90-minute talk show surprisingly consistent, but it also gives first-time guests like comedian Dave Anthony familiar entry points from which to branch out. In that sense, #901 is fairly typical: Highlights include Anthony’s anecdote about a bikini brief-clad Huey Lewis being rebuked by an underage Macy’s employee, rants against contrived radio call-ins, and the crew’s shared glee when children enjoy their father’s music. But the Walking The Room co-host’s infectious laughter and well-timed vulgarities—particularly when his mockery of Jack FM callers (“More like Jerk FM!”) evolves into a bit on recruiting opening comedians for their ability to give an in-car handjob—make any potentially rote material massively fun.

Sklarbro Country #45: Pete Holmes, James Adomian
The calming shores of Sklarbro Country are invariably a friendly and peaceful place, but they positively glow with the presence of guest Pete Holmes. The delightful Holmes kibitzes with the twins about the sexual proclivities of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone (particularly Stallone’s famously detailed instructions on how to perform oral sex on him, an old show-business legend recycled here), Holmes’ sideline as the voice of the E-Trade baby, and overpowering Marc Maron during a recent live WTF taping with his relentless positivity and cheery attitude. Holmes’ booming laughter is infectious, as is his affection for the Sklars. (The Sklars may just run the nicest, most affable podcast in the comedy/indie rock biz.) Then James Adomiam stops by as Jesse “The Mind” Ventura to talk about the quasi-suspicious death of colleague Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Adomiam’s Ventura shtick should have worn out its welcome long ago; instead, it inexplicably seems to be getting funnier each time. To paraphrase Prince, there is joy in repetition, at least when it comes to Adomiam climbing inside the paranoid, cobweb-filled mind of the Body/Mind. 

Sound Opinions: Bob Dylan
Greg and Jim wrap up their three-part series on Bob Dylan with perhaps the best show of the whole bunch, in large part because it covers the not-as-picked-over latter half of his career. The guys talk with engineer and producer Mark Howard, who worked with Dylan on 1989’s Oh Mercy and 1997’s Time Out Of Mind. Howard is reverent of Dylan’s talent, but he’s also frank about the man’s eccentricities, discussing how the legendary singer-songwriter would frequently adopt “characters” when confronted by strangers—including an odd encounter with Billy Bob Thornton—and use him as a middle man with producer and frequent sparring partner Daniel Lanois. “Dan would always be pushing him to write ‘Lay Lady Lay’ or one of those big classics, and Dylan would be like, ‘Well, I don’t got that anymore,’” Howard relates at one point. 

The Sound Of Young America: Jon Ronson
Regular This American Life listeners are likely familiar with the work of Jon Ronson, whose sometimes-eerie radio stories on mental health are often enhanced by creepy musical choices and his hoarse, serious British accent. It’s nice to hear that Ronson, author of the new The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through The Madness Industry, is an affable guy who finds his subject matter as oddly fascinating as the rest of us do. He and Jesse Thorn discuss people who are convinced the CIA is following them, Ronson’s adventurous style of journalism, and the inevitable power-madness that comes from continuous administration of the test. 

WTF With Marc Maron #180: Iris Bahr
For male guests on WTF, the dominant question is, “Are we good?” For attractive female guests, however, it’s often, “Did I try to fuck you during a moment of weakness?” The answers to both questions is almost invariably yes. That certainly holds true of Iris Bahr, a spitfire comic actress who introduced her signature character, Svetlana The Russian Prostitute, on Maron’s radio show back in the day and now is starring in her own web series based on the character. Maron and Bahr discuss the differences between domesticated American Jews and their wilder, freer, infinitely more virile Israeli cousins, and how unbelievably sexy Israelis are, especially when armed. Not surprisingly, the conversation has a distinctly flirty tone. Behr may not have the name recognition of most of Maron’s guests, but she proves a formidable verbal sparring partner all the same. 

WTF With Marc Maron #181: Brian Posehn 
Marc Maron opens the latest WTF by teasing the possibility of doing a show with Tom Scharpling. Could these two giants of the podcasting world join forces? It remains to be seen, but that scintillating nugget serves as a mere appetizer for a meaty conversation with towering funnyman Brian Posehn, best known for his work on Mr. Show and The Sarah Silverman Program. Posehn sheepishly recounts an early, misguided attempt to brand himself as “Piranha” and his struggle to find his voice as a stand-up comic. Maron and Posehn take a leisurely ramble through the vibrant San Francisco scene they both came up in and discuss how Fishbone’s dickishness helped determine Posehn’s career path. But perhaps the most revealing part of the interview involves Posehn giving up pot and his recent efforts to disassociate himself from the pot comedy that has defined much of his career. Posehn is refreshingly candid about not wanting to look like a hypocrite in front of his young son and not liking the person smoking pot had made him. Maron says that he and Posehn had never really had a substantive conversation before: They more than make up for lost time here. 


THE REST

The Adam Carolla Show
Anyone interested in the business of podcasting should make time for Adam and You, a call-in show featuring Ace’s account of assembling his podcasting empire. The ’cast is a tight hour of listener calls: A motivational speaker deconstructs Carolla’s communication style, and listeners pick his brain about the recent Albert Brooks appearance and Ace’s pet projects, including cars, comedians, and radio-controlled planes. Christopher Titus and Rob Riggle is a keeper: Riggle—a filmmaker and Marine—commiserates about keeping his conservative views under wraps while writing at The Daily Show. Titus is a glorified news guest, joining in on Adam’s musings about the gay flag and Sarah Palin’s account of Paul Revere’s ride. After the crew weighs in on Shaq’s retirement and Anthony Weiner’s wiener, Ace talks carpentry, penguins, and Jim Carrey with James Tupper of Grey’s Anatomy and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Dana Gould shoots the bull about extreme Halloween costumes, the mysteries of the hymen, tips for using anal beads, and the new USDA food diagram. Bearded comedian Kyle Kinane brings the testosterone for discussions of hi-def sports programming, 3D TV, and surround sound. And, yes, Ace is still pissed off at the Thor movie. 

The Apple Sisters #2: Spring Into Spring
The Apple Sisters don’t quite match the strong start they made last week, but the second episode of the podcast is still enjoyably silly, though more conceptually bizarre (a ghost cow, a discussion of ghosts’ lips, Intelligent Pet Tricks). Cora steals this episode with her manic shouting, which earns her the consternation of her sisters for not using her “radio voice.” 

The B.S. Report With Bill Simmons
Simmons’ lone podcast this week is with writer Jim Miller, co-author of the new ESPN oral history Those Guys Have All The Fun. Miller gives an interesting perspective on the creation of the book, particularly with regard to the editing process and what he would have liked to have done differently. Simmons expresses humorous regret at some of the things he said that have garnered him attention, particularly from anti-ESPN blogs, and at one point laments ever having submitted to interviews for the book at all. If there’s one issue with the interview, it’s that, like the book itself, the discussion doesn’t go that deep into some of the more controversial issues surrounding the network (specifically in terms of its objectivity in covering events like the LeBron James decision). This isn’t surprising given that the podcast is an ESPN product; but if ever there was an ESPN personality who could give the company guff, it’s Simmons. 

Doug Loves Movies: Kevin Pollak, Ali Nejad, and Samm Levine
The conversation skews a little “inside baseball”—or inside poker, as the case may be—on this episode, an unavoidable development given the panel’s interest in the game. If you’ve ever wanted to hear an authoritative takedown of Rounders from people who know movies and poker, it’s worth a listen—but if you can’t be bothered with such minutia, skip it. (Of course, if you’re put out by people discussing a niche obsession like poker, you probably aren’t listening to many podcasts in the first place.)

Firewall & Iceberg #77: Twin Peaks, January Jones in X-Men, Switched At Birth & More
Hitftix.com critics Daniel Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall have a low-key week: Mad Men fans should tune in for their debate of January Jones’ acting chops. Their new show of the week is ABC Family’s Switched At Birth, in which two girls—one born to rich parents, one deaf, one half-Puerto Rican, one not—discover they’re in the wrong family. After viewer mail, Gen-X TV buffs will enjoy a half-hour dedicated to their inaugural rewatch of David Lynch’s bizarro murder mystery Twin Peaks.

How Was Your Week #13: “The Ballad of Buddy Longo”—Julieanne Smolinski & Mike Sacks
There’s nothing wrong with hero worship, but Julie Klausner typically spends so much time praising her comedic idols that it’s oddly refreshing to hear her discuss with humorist Mike Sacks their least-favorite comedy clichés. (Fair warning to those who cannot stand the idea of being challenged when it comes to their love of Pixar films or Calvin And Hobbes.) Klausner also talks celebrity crushes with humor writer Julieanne Smolinski. Plus, if you’ve been dying to hear an extremely negative review of Woody Allen’s new movie, then you’re in luck, as Klausner thinks the director should semi-retire into a life of scripting Dilbert comic strips.

The Nerdist No. 94: Julie Benz & No. 95: Jeri Ryan
The Nerdist doubles down on nerd-friendly actresses this week, but neither Julie Benz nor Jeri Ryan seem particularly interested in establishing their “nerd credentials” outside of their signature roles (Benz as Darla on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel and Rita on Dexter, Ryan as the Borg Seven Of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager), which forces the Nerdist crew to reach beyond their normal stable of topics—though both episodes give a fair amount of time over to lengthy discussions about Twitter. Benz is clearly in Professional Interview Mode throughout her episode, giving measured responses to questions about her then-on-the-bubble, now-cancelled show No Ordinary Family and being generically enthusiastic and positive about everyone she’s worked with and everything she’s been on. only during a discussion of animal rights—a pet cause—does she start to get a little fiery. Ryan is much more outgoing, joking around with Chris Hardwick and Matt Mira about autopsies, cooking, and, inevitably, cannibalism, and exhibiting a lighthearted, slightly self-deprecating attitude toward her Trek career. Both guests’ lives and interests are somewhat outside the usual Nerdist purview—Ryan was even in a, gasp, sorority—but both are game, and Ryan in particular brings some welcome new flavor to the podcast. 

Pop Culture Happy Hour: What Are Critics For, And What’s Culture Worth?
Glen Weldon is on vacation, leaving the PCHH foursome 25 percent reduced, yet somehow more than 25 percent deficient in the quips-and-hilarity department. They sub in NPR digital news editor Tanya Ballard Brown, but she doesn’t assert herself nearly enough until the subject of Idris Elba comes up. It’s a relatively serious week of kicking around the hoary old topic of the purpose of cultural critics and how much people are willing to pay for entertainment these days, but by far the most entertaining part is an enthusiastic digression on the ridiculousness of Titanic, the upcoming 3-D version, and whether Leonardo DiCaprio drowns any better in three dimensions: “It’ll be like ‘blub,’ and then it’ll be like, ‘Whoa, that little bubble just came right at me!’”

The Sound Of Young America: Scot Armstrong
Fans of cinematic frat-boy humor will likely enjoy Old School and The Hangover Part II scribe Scot Armstrong’s thoughts on what Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis bring to his scripts and how to reprise The Hangover. (He basically confesses that the writers knew from the beginning that they were going to have the team do the same thing.) Those who don’t care for Armstrong’s writing will likely not have their minds changed and continue wondering why they don’t like what everyone else apparently loves.

This American Life #437: Old Boys Network
This week’s episode takes a look at a couple of old boys’ networks, and the people who try to penetrate them. The stories told are so ridiculous they’re nearly farcical—the old boys so steeped in perceived power that they take unbelievable measures to maintain it. The episode’s enjoyable but not among the show’s best; an hour feels like a stretch when the middle act starts to drag.

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