Week of March 1-7

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“When they would do those Boston specials about how the Red Sox never won the World Series, it would be one guy after the next named Kevin who was a racist Irish douchebag. Your whole fan base is a bunch of guys named fuckin’ Doug who are assholes, so why would I root for you or want you to win? And then they go ‘Well, it was the curse of the Bambino.’ It was the curse of not having any black players until 1959.” —Greg Proops on his problems with Red Sox fans, Comedy Bang Bang

“I am torn between the beauty of the natural world, which you see all around us, and the idea that some dumb tornado could blow a telephone pole onto my sweet Camaro.” —Werner Herzog (Paul F. Tompkins), The Pod F. Tompkast

“The guy dresses like he’s in a Mike Ditka lookalike contest.” —Tom Scharpling on Rick Santorum, The Best Show On WFMU

“How was there not a character in Inglourious Basterds named Wolf Blitzer?” —Michael Ian Black, Mike And Tom Eat Snacks

“Waterskiing seems like the most unnatural of all sports.” —Graham Clark, Stop Podcasting Yourself

“I have a friend who stated that one of her fears was—this is a direct quote—the corners of wet places.” —Paul F. Tompkins, The Pod F. Tompkast

NEW (TO US)

Rewatchability
Rewatchability is a podcast that gives a second look to movies and TV shows that, for one reason or another, have gotten under the skin of the show’s four hosts, who all come from the Toronto indie music and film scenes. Some movies, like Die Hard and The Cable Guy, could be considered classics. Others, like Ghost Dad or Jumanji, are forgettable at best and cinematic trainwrecks at worst. The TV shows tend to encompass programs from the panelists’ childhoods, i.e. The Real Ghostbusters, the Nickelodeon staple Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, and the game show Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? 

The podcast even gets some life out of a dead horse like Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, offering fresh and fun commentary on an overwrought topic. Not so overwrought: Hard Target, John Woo’s unintentional comedy starring Jean Claude Van Damme, perhaps best known now for the animated .gif of Van Damme punching a snake. As the episode description notes, it’s basically The Most Dangerous Game, “but with kickboxing and way more mullets.” The question of whether it holds up 20 years later seems spurious, but the hosts have fun discussing it. [MS]

Keith And The Girl
As much attention that has been devoted to comedy podcasts lately, they’re not a new phenomenon. Case in point: Keith Malley and Chemda Khalili of Keith And The Girl celebrated their podcast’s seventh anniversary this week. The New York-based pair—who used to date—debuted its daily podcast back in the comedy-podcast dark ages of 2005 as a way to promote their respective careers, Malley as a standup and Khalili as a singer. The format is a chatty look at the news of the day and the hosts’ lives, and their status as exes brings an extra level of familiarity to the proceedings. They don’t always share the same perspective on the topics at hand, and their back-and-forth keeps the discussion lively. Like its West Coast podcast brethren, Keith And The Girl has the feel of a prototype standup routine, but unlike newer West Coast podcasts, it has more than 1,500 episodes of experience that makes for a tighter, smarter, and to some degree, less pretentious show. 

Episode 1546 covers everything newsworthy this week, from Malley checking out this year’s Oscar-winning films (and being underwhelmed) to the controversy surrounding Rush Limbaugh (with Khalili noting Limbaugh has always been this way, so why are advertisers just now pulling out?). Episode 1548 is the official anniversary episode and features guests John and Molly Knefel. [AJ]


OUTLIERS

Washed Up Emo
People who came up with emo in the late ’80s and ’90s, when the genre hadn’t strayed far from its punk/hardcore/post-hardcore roots, are endlessly frustrated by how “mallpunk” appropriated it for something fashionable and profitable—two things “washed up” emo bands from back in the day never were. Hosts Tom Mullen and Ray Harkins celebrate that era with interviews of the people who participated in it, like bands, label people, and journalists. Early episodes included modern emo-revivalists such as Bear Trap PR/Tiny Engines records co-founder Chuck Daley, as well as members of popular ’90s acts like The Promise Ring and Knapsack. After a month-long break, the podcast returns this week with its eighth episode, featuring Christie Front Drive guitarist/vocalist Eric Richter. The episode suffers some technical difficulties—mostly due to the interview being done over the phone—but the content makes up them. The hosts keep the episode flowing nicely as they have a deep knowledge—and reverence—of their guest, and they avoid becoming overly energetic fans. Richter’s anecdotes, mixed with his willingness to discuss anything at length, keep the interview conversational but informative. If the Washed Up Emo podcast can stay on a regular schedule, it could prove to be one of the best niche music podcasts out there. [DA]


THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU
After two weeks of #TomThon raising money for WFMU, there’s a proclamation of “Tom’s back,” signaling that Tom Scharpling is in chipper post-fundraising mode. How chipper? He’s unusually nice to Spike—the Regular Caller Ban is but a sweet memory—but it’s only because he contributed to WFMU’s coffers. Still, Scharpling’s abnormally patient with everyone this week, even Yuri, who complains about the lack of recognition his donation receives. Those who get the heave-ho get explanations from Scharpling, including one whose “energy” the host didn’t like. Even the Mit Hamine guy has a few seconds of pleasant conversation with the host before he’s booted. How long will the good vibes last? [JD]

Comedy Bang Bang #147: Raisin Norman Bates: Greg Proops, Paul F. Tompkins, James Adomian
With only one more week of filming left for the Comedy Bang Bang TV show—check out a 10-minute sneak preview after Portlandia Friday night—its reign of terror on the podcast will soon end, just as the podcast seemed to figure out a way to co-exist with the TV show. That is to say this week’s episode with Greg Proops, Paul F. Tompkins as Ice-T, and James Adomian as Jesse Ventura has plenty of the inspired lunacy that makes Comedy Bang Bang enjoyable and almost none of the strain of its recent predecessors. “Almost” because the well for Adomian’s Jesse Ventura character is starting to run dry. Tompkins can still pull off Ice-T because the character can still be surprising, as his insane TV show idea proves, but that’s not really the case with Ventura. Still, the Ventura/Ice-T combo produces some laughs, and “Would You Rather?” takes an interesting turn. Episode 147 is the first one in weeks that doesn’t qualify as “for diehard fans only.” [KR] 

Hang Up And Listen: The Cash For Killshots Edition
With Linsanity in the rearview, the HUAL crew sinks its teeth into a big story that plays more to its strengths: the scandalous “bounty” program run by former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, which offered cash rewards to players for injuring members of the opposing team. Bringing on former NFL safety Nick Ferguson, they discuss the murky questions of how prevalent such programs are in professional football and how much Williams’ system deviates from the norms of a violent game where players bring the pain every week. They also dig into a Sports Illustrated piece on dysfunction within the storied UCLA men’s basketball program and get into a good fight about Bill Simmons’ B.S. Report interview with Barack Obama. Mike Pesca praises Simmons’ ability to get a casual, fan-friendly interview out of the president, but Josh Levin and Stefan Fatsis hoped that both men would go deeper on sports issues like concussions. Surely all regret that Obama didn’t do the interview from the Subway Fresh Take Hotline. [ST]

How Was Your Week? #52: “Jolly Roger”: Lizz Winstead, Adam Wade
Davy Jones’ death has a serious effect on Julie Klausner, who admits that the passing of a Monkee means her childhood is officially dead. Her pre-interviews monologue touches on a lot, as usual, from bizarrely adding Billy Crystal into the Redhead Hall Of Fame (for his brief Oscar appearance as Tintin) to Patti Stanger being made of snakes and breathing chum. Adam Wade is introduced as a great storyteller, and the Moth StorySlam winner delivers, talking about his Italian neighbors in Hoboken and his relationship with them. Although not centered on pop culture, as is usually the case on HWYW, it’s a nice talk. Lizz Winstead can’t go too far discussing being a comedian writing a serious book about herself before bringing up her dog’s penis. Every time Klausner hosts an author, she does a great job of letting the interviewee open up and not give the usual spiel—it may seem weird to say, but How Was Your Week? could be one of the best book podcasts out there. [JD]

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #50: Steve Agee
Paul Gilmartin has a talent for drawing good stories out of comics who don’t seem particularly messed-up. So if you only know Steve Agee’s cheery face from The Sarah Silverman Program, his appearance this week comes off as remarkably tough and detailed. Agee’s panic attacks are the main thread here, but Gilmartin also has a feel for digging into the stranger details of Agee’s struggles, from walking out on the horrors of reality TV to encountering Silverman as a sort of therapy facilitator for other comics. Although Mental Illness Happy Hour guests are always pretty open, Agee’s calm with the subject matter is impressive. [SG]

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #51: Turrón De Doña Pepa
Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh usually begin wailing on their letter-writers right out of the gate, picking on their choice of phrases and greetings. This time, they’re initially charmed by a lady who sends them “a racist snack from Peru, and socks,” but this time they turn on her gradually throughout the episode. Exhibit A is the mystery of what exactly is racist about a chocolate-covered wafer called Turrón De Doña Pepa, which features a seemingly benign drawing of a black woman on the package: “I don’t see what’s inherently racist about this,” Black says, “other than the fact that she’s lazy, and probably not trustworthy.” This note of confusion forces the duo to improvise a little differently this time, making MATES’ oft-aimless chatter more fun than usual. [SG]

Monday Morning Podcast
Bill Burr has seemed a bit burned out lately, but now that the taping of his next standup special is out of the way—and the material he toured with for more than a year discarded—his mind appears refreshed, and it shows. His riffing is more assured and better overall than it has been recently, and he doesn’t linger too long on any given topic, though the listener advice is pretty blasé. (To be fair, that might have more to do with the questions.) Even his response to some scathing hate mail accusing him of misogyny is shorter and funnier than expected. He makes a couple of decent points in his defense before closing with what might as well be his catchphrase at this point: “Go fuck yourself.” [CG]

The Pod F. Tompkast #16: Gillian Jacobs, Judy Greer, Jen Kirkman, Cake Boss, Werner Herzog
Last week, Steve Heisler wrote a For Our Consideration about comedy-podcast overload, suggesting that comedians either need to do something different or come up with more creative takes on the medium. Potential podcasters would do well to emulate The Pod F. Tompkast, because no other comedian maximizes the medium’s potential like Tompkins. Episode 16 offers more proof of that, with the Great Undiscovered Project sketch (Werner Herzog, Cake Boss, Arianna Huffington), another one recorded live at The Paul F. Tompkins Show (with Judy Greer), a funny call with Jen Kirkman about her grandmother dying, and an amusing in-studio chat with Gillian Jacobs (who has a preposterously frail grandfather). A lot of thought clearly goes into each episode, and the result is especially impressive considering most of it relies on Tompkins, aided by indispensible producer/accompanist Eban Schletter. Even if every segment isn’t stellar—the Great Undiscovered Project seems to be running out of gas—the whole package makes the Tompkast a beacon to the comedy-podcasting world. Follow its lead, comedians, and no one will complain about overload. [KR]

Sklarbro Country #84: Ally McVeal: Jon Glaser, Gar Ryness, Jason Nash
Quirky, conceptual comedy is the order of the day when the Sklar Brothers reunite with their old Cheap Seats head writer, frequent Conan O’Brien collaborator, and Delocated creator/star Jon Glaser. Topics of discussion include some of their favorite, weirdest bits from their work together on Cheap Seats, Delocated’s staggeringly odd premise and uncompromising execution, and, of course, the fruitful intersection of sports and comedy. Gar Ryness shows up as Ken Burns to add some bewildering, pretentious non-sequiturs involving American history and his old-timey oeuvre during the quirkiest and sleepiest “Quick Hits” to date. Finally, the always-dependable Jason Nash adopts the tragicomic form of champion-turned-chump Bruce Jenner to regale the hosts with his latest dispiriting failure (in this case, not making the cut on Dancing With The Stars). Glaser and Ryness’ performances make this one of the mellower installments of Sklarbro Country, but the hosts and Nash’s irrepressible enthusiasm more than make up for the other guests’ medium energy. [NR]

Sound Opinions: #327 Fred Armisen
Before he was the funniest guy in the current SNL ensemble, Fred Armisen was a member of the Chicago indie-music scene, playing drums in the art-punk band Trenchmouth. As Armisen discusses with Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis, music still plays a role in his comedy career, right up through his work with the hipster-skewering Portlandia, which satirizes the city where ’90s indie-rock dreams live on forever. Armisen sees musical connections everywhere, most insightfully with the rock-star posturing of dictators like Moammar Gadhafi, a man Armisen can’t quite bring himself to dislike. As funny as Armisen is disappearing into various characters, he’s even more appealing when speaking for himself—questionable opinions on dictators aside. [SH]

Stop Podcasting Yourself #207: Josie Long
This week’s Stop Podcasting Yourself is a prime example of a certain strain of podcast: Even without a unifying theme, the episode still conveys an exotic, intelligent conversation that’s worth a download and 95 minutes, even if you’re not a sucker for a woman with a thick Bri’ish accent. English comedian/podcast host Josie Long joins Graham Clark and Dave Shumka to tackle topics listeners (probably) don’t discuss every day, including creative ways to exploit fame and why niche bands and comedians become popular in foreign countries. When the trio talks shop about standup comedy, it leads to a running topic of why some types of jokes (from cheesy puns to unconventional, overlong digressions) go over well with certain audiences. The weekly “Overheard” segment presents snippets of stories about psychic teleportation, mistaken teen students, and self-absorbed 1-percenters. And if you’re into puns and pro wrestling, this week’s Hulk Hogan Report has the best—if not only—Ric Flair-related wordplay you’ll encounter this week. [DXF]

Superego #3:12
Another episode of Superego means another opportunity for Paul F. Tompkins to lose himself in a series of cartoonish and completely ridiculous accents and delightfully bitchy lady voices. He and Patton Oswalt are particularly well used in the Family Feud case study running throughout the episode, with Oswalt giving a surprisingly nuanced portrayal of Dawson’s escalating frustration and eventual rage in the face of an increasingly deranged cast of contestants. The only slow patch is the Campfire With Roy Cabras case-study featuring Greg Proops. Still, a less-than-memorable segment on Superego is still better than the clips from most other shows. Also, props go to Matt Gourley for his consistently believable impressions of women’s voices. [MS]

Stuff You Missed In History ClassMary Anning, Princess Of Paleontology
England’s Jurassic Coast was a bed of ancient fossils so dense that even before people knew what a dinosaur was they were discovering fossilized plants and animals from here and dreaming of their mysterious origins. Hosts Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey do an excellent job of front-loading the podcast with biographical information about Mary Anning that frames her later accomplishments: At the age of 1, she was the sole survivor of a freak lightning accident that killed several adults. She was introduced to fossil-hunting on cliffs as a small child and treated with extra care and guidance by her father—who died during one of their trips. In 1811, when she was 12, the discovery of a huge skull from an ichthyosaur changed her perspective and made her a legend. She gave the pterodactyl its name, fought non-believers her whole life, and her journey is as special as any of her discoveries. [DT]

Stuff You Missed In History ClassEvliya Çelebi: World Traveler and Companion to Mankind
Evliya Çelebi was basically the first travel writer, and for 40 years he wrote extensively about his trips across the world in the 1700s. Hosts Deblina Chakraborty and Sarah Dowdey are excited out of the gate, quickly chattering about the fun of travel and keeping a journal, and as Çelebi’s adventures unfold in grandiose fashion, it becomes apparent that this is one of the more epic lives in history. Çelebi began his life as a kind of jester or bard for the Ottoman Empire’s sultan, but by 30 he became obsessed with the travel stories of dervishes. Family pressures, a dream-like vision, and a love of recitation of scripts in the sultan’s palace led him from the tundra in the North to the desert in the South. His massive works were only recently published in their entirety, so if this all sounds like ancient history, it’s actually one of the most complete documents historians have, only just this moment being analyzed completely. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How Crying Works
Sadly, if you’re hoping hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant will berate each other until one breaks down, this is the standard analytical affair, though surprisingly little has been published about the benefits of crying. Clark and Bryant spend time walking the listener through where the research stops and what it all means—apparently we cry just to lubricate our eyes. The process of emotion-based crying is a fairly straightforward process, but whether there is any logic behind the impulse remains mysterious. Mystery + science = a home run for Clark and Bryant, who are deft enough to take actual incidents and apply the science to the consolation involved. Also, it sounds like the guys are screening a TV pilot for the Science Channel (the screening will feature favorites Eugene Mirman and John Hodgman) while in Austin for SXSW—best of luck taking the podcast medium to the small (but slightly larger than a computer screen) screen. [DT]

Stuff You Should Know: How SETI Works
This is apparently “Are We Alone Month” on the Science Channel, the home for a possible Stuff You Should Know TV program. To celebrate, Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant discuss the SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) institution, which came about during the extra-terrestrial movement at the end of the ’50s. The major mathematical equation it is founded upon, the Drake Equation, postulates that given the vast amount of stars and planets that exist in the universe we should be able to plug in some data and find an Earth-like planet where life has developed. It’s a fun equation to break apart in a discussion. And SETI’s funding is so limited that it doesn’t have a lot of big-budget projects, leaving our hosts to imagine fun paths the organization would take in a better-funded world. The challenges are rather immense, however, and while this is a great topic, there are moments where it feels like Clark and Bryant could have done a little more research. (There’s a lot of “ums” and “I’m not sures.”) Nonetheless, they describe the “water hole” frequency in the radio spectrum with genuine fascination. [DT]

The Thrilling Adventure Hour #61: Sparks Nevada, Marshal On Mars: Date With Destinos
This installment of The Thrilling Adventure Hour’s space-western makes a joke of how low its stakes are, as the titular hero goes on a date with a pesky writer: “When last we left our hero, Mars was in no immediate peril,” the narrator says. The show’s gift for rapid, self-referential banter comes out when the couple encounters an eavesdropping bartender in a discussion about their worst qualities. This episode has an extra helping of treats, though: When villains do show up, Mr. Show’s John Ennis is one of them, and helps to construct a whole wonderfully absurd little sub-plot. [SG]

Uhh Yeah Dude: #313
The perfect Uhh Yeah Dude episode is a smooth but sneakily potent cocktail that combines one part gerontophobia, two parts perplexing pop-culture, with a muddled anecdote or two to keep the whole thing tart. By that standard, episode 312 was perfectly prepared, and the glee with which Jonathan Larroquette and Seth Romatelli discuss Doomsday Bunkers, ecstasy-infused babies, and NBC’s comedy lineup is palpable. Even better, Romatelli digs into Jah’s misspent youth (as catalogued in the pages of the National Enquirer), finally identifying the 16-year cycle of drug arrests Larroquette’s doomed to repeat. The technical problems haven’t been completely buffed away yet, but the discussion is lively, the topics are meaty, and—most importantly—the elderly finally get put in their place. [CW]

Walking The Room #93: Spitting Out Homeless And The Wig
Greg Behrendt and Dave Anthony often bring up Behrendt’s talk-show past on Walking The Room, but seldom with the twisted gut laughs they earn this week. Better still, it all stems from Behrendt charting the crushing journey of a recent book proposal—and through it, he admirably retains his gift for prodding Anthony with pure weirdness, making it about more than WTR’s usual riffs on career despair. Even if you’re not on board for the whole story and rather insightful discussion, a certain back-and-forth about purses puts this episode among WTR’s recent bests. [SG]

Who Charted? #66: Get Up On This: Jensen Karp
By far the best guest of 2012, Jensen Karp may also be Who Charted?’s best guest ever. That makes sense, considering his interesting career path—as the Earwolf website says, his bio seems “too ridiculously cool to be true”—which includes a rap career, designing clothes for Pete Wentz’s Clandestine Industries, and writing for WWE. His stint as borderline-novelty rapper Hot Karl takes up a good chunk of the episode, prompting Karp to delightfully gush over N.W.A. and The Juice Crew. Plus, it’s a treat when Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack have a guest who is actually knowledgeable about the music they discuss. (Naturally, Kremer is overjoyed to debate the finer points of Drake and Kreayshawn.) With this episode, Kremer and Vilaysack have raised the bar, and it’s going to be hard to top. [MS]

WTF With Marc Maron #258: Paul Gilmartin
For better or worse, WTF With Marc Maron has become a smoother, more genial program since the resentment that previously fueled it was augmented, if not entirely replaced, by honest appreciation for the breakthrough success Marc Maron has recently enjoyed as a podcaster, comedian, and cult icon. So it’s strangely exciting to hear the old, weird vibes reappear in a sometimes cathartic, sometimes tense, and always honest conversation with Paul Gilmartin of The Mental Illness Happy Hour (Full disclosure: This reviewer was a guest on that program). This episode is a matryoshka doll of passive aggression and hyper-self-consciousness that begins with an “Are we cool?” phone call about the interview, then a follow-up call about the initial follow-up call (making it a conversation about a conversation about a conversation). Thankfully, the meat of the episode proves worth the elaborate preamble, as Gilmartin describes in wrenching detail his father’s emotional detachment and suicide attempt, his own struggle to find his voice professionally, and bottoming out as a suicidal alcoholic whose professional success masked agonizing emotional pain. The sensitive Gilmartin’s formidable defenses are hyper-attuned to slights, real and imaginary, but Maron and his soul-bearing guest ultimately have terrific, emotionally charged chemistry, in part because they’re fundamentally so alike. [NR]

You Made It Weird #28: Nate Craig
Pete Holmes openly cops to ripping off WTF With Marc Maron for the premise of You Made It Weird, and episode 28 comes off a lot like a good episode of WTF. Holmes and guest Nate Craig have a history reaching back to the early 2000s when they were both starting out as standups in Chicago, though they seemingly lack the turbulent personal past that Maron usually shares with his guests. But they discuss their failed relationships, childhoods, creative processes, and religious leanings with the honesty and vulnerability that have become WTF signatures. Holmes even channels Maron’s ability to wax poetic about emotional turmoil: “[This situation] is like a sauna, and sadness is the steam.” It never gets quite as dark as WTF (and, frankly, that seems impossible with the preternaturally positive Holmes), but it’s arguably just as good. [CG]


THE REST

The Bugle #185: Burning Rings Of Steel
The opening of this week’s show, in which Andy Zaltzman fumbles through his upcoming live appearances, sets the tone for a clunky and disappointing episode. The Bugle is best when it mixes facts in with a lot of hilarious bullshit; this episode leaves off the second half of that equation. Zaltzman and John Oliver offer a number of real stories about the 2012 London Olympics that perfectly set up fake anecdotes about the history of the games, yet never deliver on that promise. Add in a few cheap, tired shots at bankrupt Greeks and humorless Germans, and the end result is an underwhelming Bugle. [AJ]

Doug Loves Movies: Matt Walsh, Michael Bacall, Brody Stevens, Joe Wagner
This edition of Doug Loves Movies doesn’t really pick up until it hits a particularly rousing edition of The Leonard Maltin Game—unfortunately, that’s too much time to invest in a podcast that isn’t particularly memorable. Perhaps the banter portion could have been saved with more Matt Walsh and less of everyone else, but many of the biggest laughs—from the audience anyway—come from visual cues, which don’t translate to the podcast. [MS]

The Moth: Ed Koch: Standing Up
The former New York City Mayor offers a great anecdote about fighting anti-Semitism during his basic training for World War II, but not every great anecdote makes a good Moth story. It’s got courage, humor, and a radical change in it, yet it’s quite short, and feels a little more pat than the brief-yet-intricate, fleshed-out pieces Moth participants usually bring to the mic. [SG]

Nerdist #175: Cake
John McCrea, vocalist for longstanding alt-rock band Cake, joins the Nerdist guys for a discussion that starts strong then slowly loses steam. McCrea starts by sharing his experiences in the music industry, but the episode loses all of its energy by the midway point. It devolves into the Nerdist crew trying a little too hard to insert humor into the interview, but it never really works. Tacked on the end are a couple of songs from Cake’s soundcheck, and while it’s a nice addition, it’s not enough to stay invested through the episode’s lagging middle section. [DA]

Nerdist #176: Danica McKellar
Danica McKeller is best known as Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years, but this episode of Nerdist focuses her career as an author of math books for kids. While it’s nice to see that Chris Hardwick can recite the first 150 digits of pi, it’s the farthest thing from an interesting listen. If there’s one podcast that could get away with devoting an episode to math equations, it’d be Nerdist, but the crew just couldn’t pull this one off. [DA]

Never Not Funny: #1013 Wagging The Dog With Craig Bierko
This week’s episode might be the most interesting this season, not necessarily for the content, but for its flaws. Never Not Funny excels as a fast-paced, superficial talk show, so when guest Craig Bierko pauses the conversation to congratulate (or deprecate) himself, relish in his impolite manners, and miss nearly every reference, the show transforms into something else, even if the comedy suffers for it. Given Bierko’s career as an actor and musical-theater performer (and the dry stories that come with it), it’s not entirely surprising the laughs are scarce or forced, but Bierko’s endearing self-awareness and the crew’s delight in his missteps mostly salvage a lackluster episode. [SM]

The Smartest Man In The World #148: Pictures
Greg Proops offers a rambling film-history lesson during much of this week’s podcast, leading to a lot of arch analysis of Ernst Lubitsch, the namesake of the venue where he recorded the episode. But listeners at least have to admire how he somehow incorporates bits about Sisqo and James McNeill Whistler. [SG]

This American Life #459: What Kind Of Country
This American Life this week takes a look at what budget cuts during the recession have done to government and politics. The information is solid—it’s good to know that fewer police leads to more crime, or how our current low taxes sit historically—but the hour lacks TAL’s typical character-driven storytelling. The acts this week feel closer to All Things Considered than they do great episodes of TAL. [EW]

The Todd Glass Show #34: Geoff Tate, Daniel Kinno
Deep into an unusually short episode of The Todd Glass Show plagued by technical difficulties, the host and his guests score some killer riffs on a hilariously maudlin, unintentionally creepy slab of country kitsch about a sad-sack disabled boy, his CB radio, and his disturbingly helpful trucker pals. Alas, it’s not enough to redeem an otherwise subpar episode marred by meandering conversations about politics and manners and a guest (Geoff Tate) who fails to make much of an impression. [NR]

You Made It Weird #29: Greg Fitzsimmons
As Pete Holmes gleefully acknowledges, guest Greg Fitzsimmons is unabashed in how he presents himself to the world, but this sometimes-frustrating episode of You Made It Weird suggests that’s not inherently a good thing. Fitzsimmons discusses his “numbers game” approach to sleeping with as many women as possible in college, explosive diarrhea, and the dominant role he plays with his hot housewife as the unquestioned head of the household. This episode can be rough going for listeners who find Fitzsimmons’ alpha-male antics substantially less delightful than You Made It Weird’s endlessly delighted host. [NR]

WTF With Marc Maron: #259: Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally
Marc Maron’s conversation with actor couple Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman is an interesting look at the life of a marriage within the entertainment industry, but those looking for a Parks And Recreation/Party Down/Will And Grace lovefest may be disappointed. Both theater-trained actors hold themselves a little bit at arm’s length from the roles that made them cult favorites, which makes them interesting as people but a bit of a letdown, perhaps, for a comedy podcast. In other news, Maron also presents the most pessimistic-sounding announcement of cohabitation possibly ever recorded. [CZ]

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