Since the iPod debuted in 2001, it has gone from portable music player to a medium in itself: Podcasts, like blogs, indelibly shaped the media landscape in less than a decade. The A.V. Club listens to a lot of them, and Podmass is our weekly round-up of the podcasts we follow.
Quotes of the Week:
“She makes Amelie look like Large Marge!” —Julie Klausner on Anthony Bourdain’s second wife
“The fact that an alien has a gastrointestinal tract exactly the same as ours—please. Where’s the verisimilitude?” —Rainn Wilson, Doug Loves Movies
“I swear, if I joined that Ethiopian tribe, the one that has those big plates in their lower lips, if I came home with a 6-inch saucer hanging out of my mouth, my mother wouldn’t even see it. She’d just dump a pile of pot roast on it.” —Eve Lederman, The Moth
Best Show Gems: A Call From Gene Simmons
Comedy Death-Ray Radio #99: Patton Oswalt, Andy Daly
Culture Gabfest #133: Debonair Counterspy Edition
Doug Loves Movies: Rainn Wilson, Simon Pegg, and James Gunn
Hang Up And Listen: The I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butler Edition
Judge John Hodgman #18: The Colbert Rapport
The Pod F. Tompkast #9: Jaunty, Right Out Of The Gate!
Sklarbro Country #36: Jimmy Pardo, Chris Cox
The Tobolowsky Files #46: The Time Machine Deconstructed
WTF With Marc Maron #163: Conan O’Brien
The Adam Carolla Show
It was a tame week with Ace. In descending order of interest: Ace gets straight down to business with millionaire/rockstar (in that order) Sammy Hagar, who recaps some of the juicy stuff from his unbelievably frank autobiography, including behind-the-scenes intrigue with Van Halen. (Eddie Van Halen is kooky; Michael Anthony is cool.) Rosa Blasi, author of dating-pro-athletes memoir Jock Itch, discusses the hows and whys of cheating in the Twitter era. Comedian-author Greg Fitzsimmons briefly mentions his new book, which sounds like an autobiography, but he and Carolla spend much more time comparing strategies for pooping during flights. Dana Gould shares some comedian shop talk, including the pros and cons of post-show meet-and-greets. Adam DeVine and Blake Anderson briefly recall parlaying their little-watched Internet sketch troupe into Comedy Central’s new, Office Space-esque sitcom Workaholics, but Carolla dominates the conversation with his complaints about cell phones. Typical.
All Songs Considered: New Mix: Low, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, More
The All Songs crew puts together a mix of new songs from Five Eight, Of Montreal, Timber Timbre, King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, Low, Paul Simon, and The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. The podcast ends with LCD Soundsystem’s “Losing My Edge” as a sort of send-off. Also, All Songs fans can apparently look forward to a blog post on “Sunday-morning listening.”
The BS Report With Bill Simmons
Simmons’ lone podcast this week is with writer/sparring partner Chuck Klosterman, who joins him for a discussion that centers exclusively on basketball, as they recap the dreadful UConn-Butler NCAA championship game, discuss various options for keeping college players from leaving for the NBA too early, the evolution of women’s college basketball, and how the NBA now appeals to casual fans rather than die-hards. The highlight, though, is Klosterman playing Debbie Downer to Simmons’ story about bonding with his young daughter at an L.A. Clippers game.
Extra Hot Great #25: Yes, And…
Two long segments take up much of this week’s episode: The first, a detailed discussion on improv with special guest Will Hines, a teacher and performer at the UCB Theater in New York; the second, a consideration of Community’s “Modern Warfare” (a.k.a. the paintball episode) for The Canon. The former goes a long way toward squashing popular assumptions that improv is what you see on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and the latter gives David T. Cole, Tara Ariano, and Joe Reid a chance to remind listeners that they weren’t always disenchanted with the show. The episode ends with a fun Game Time that asks Ariano, Reid, and Hines to recognize 25 TV theme songs for shows that start with the letter “T.”
Firewall & Iceberg: #67
Hiftix.com's Alan Sepinwall and Daniel Fienberg rate Wondercon, Top Chef Masters, Community, Comedy Central’s sitcom Workaholics, and Breaking In, Christian Slater’s wobbly new heist comedy. The biggest segment is a spoiler-free postmortem on Lights Out, FX’s latest likable-yet-failed series. What killed the boxer comeback drama? Maybe, they conclude, a low-luster subject matter brought to life by unknown actors walking through contrived plot complications. If their spot-on analysis isn’t exactly effervescent, it’s a reflection of the show’s own shortcomings.
How Did This Get Made? #7: All About Steve
When is a romantic comedy secretly a dispiriting melodrama about a woman wrestling with profound mental illness? When it’s the misbegotten Sandra Bullock vehicle All About Steve, a bizarre vehicle whose surreal conception of what constitutes plausible human behavior sends the hosts of How Did This Get Made? into a frenzy of disbelief. As with previous entries, the film offers such an embarrassment of riches that the hosts can barely unpack all of the lunacy involving three-legged babies, blind children stuck in wells, apple-people, Asperger Syndrome, and DJ Qualls before time is up.
How Was Your Week #4: “I Did Fiddler!”
This week, Klausner breaks down what’s specific to Los Angeles-area skanks and reveals which celebrities she saw while she was on the West Coast. Ronna and Beverly (Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo) stop by to discuss their favorite Holocaust movies, saying what we were all thinking about Life Is Beautiful: that it turned “6 million lemons into 6 million glasses of lemonade.” Character actor James Urbaniak stops by to talk about his heroes, and he and Klausner swap Alec Guinness stories like it’s 1955. Klausner continues her reign of terror on Anthony Bourdain, as well, which is helpful if you sense that he’s something of a dick but don’t have specific examples as to why—she fills you in.
Jordan, Jesse, Go! #169: Provel with Dave Holmes
JJG features a laid-back, entertainment-focused installment this week with TV host Dave Holmes. It’s an unusually gay-friendly episode—you know, as opposed to JJG’s typically threatening, hyper-heterosexual machismo—with topics such as Cher, Bette Midler, the Sex And The City movies, Timothy Olyphant’s muscles, Palm Springs gays, and the definition of “gender queer,” which Holmes, who is gay, asks Thorne to explain. Holmes also provides an intriguing thumbnail version of the JT LeRoy literary scandal. JJG fans in the Midwest, make sure you mark your calendars for the upcoming tour.
The Moth: Jack Hannibal & Eve Lederman: StorySLAM Favorites
It’s another twofer on The Moth this week, with two stories of self-improvement, one spiritual, one physical. Jack Hannibal brings a humorously cynical voice to his story of enlightenment, telling about his chance encounter and unexpected friendship with a Tibetan monk, while Eve Lederman details the fallout—or lack thereof—from some impulsive plastic surgery, and what it says about her desire to just be seen.
The Nerdist: #75: James Gunn
Critics who complain about the hosts of The Nerdist occasionally talking over their guests will find much fodder in this episode, which is marred by audio issues that amplify the voices of Chris, Matt, and Jonah way above that of their guest, Super director James Gunn, who sounds like he’s talking from across the room inside a box. It’s a shame, because Gunn gives good interview, and this live podcast, recorded at the now-weekly Nerdist/Meltdown show, offers up a handful of surprisingly good audience questions.
Never Not Funny: #819 Seán Cullen
Canadian comedian/actor Seán Cullen stops by the Never Not Funny studios while in L.A. for pilot season, or possibly to steal our health care. Cullen’s work on popular Canadian show The Debaters, a calm, radio version of Lewis Black’s Root Of All Evil, defines much of the episode, as Jimmy Pardo presents debatable topics of found-money morality, the merits of parody songs, and why exactly Kobe Bryant would give himself the nickname “Black Mamba.” For someone so irascible (even though it’s an act), Pardo remains calm throughout the episode, which is a testament to Cullen’s talent.
The Pod F. Tompkast EXTRASODE: “Fan” Mail
With the help of Weeds star Justin Kirk, Tompkins acts out an email exchange he had with a fan disgruntled by his annual Christmas show. After the man sent him a patronizing email, Tompkins responded with an apology, only to receive an even more unwittingly patronizing message from the guy. Tompkins reads a hostile reply he didn’t send, which offers a glimpse into his professional frustrations. It ends, “I don’t need fans like you. I, as a hard-working professional comedian, deserve better.” Tompkins plays the whole exchange for laughs, but at least some of them have to be nervous laughs—there’s real, slightly off-putting venom in his response. Let this be a lesson, fans: Don’t send dickish emails to people you like.
Pop Culture Happy Hour: The Tragic Nerd Trapped Between Beauties
It’s admittedly crass to bite the hand that’s offering us (and Nathan Rabin in particular) a mighty compliment and a lot of direct, specific praise, but this week’s PCHH could probably have used a little more planning or communication over its title-inspiring segment attempting to find a film archetype as resonant as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Everyone apparently interpreted the assignment differently, and the results are disappointingly haphazard, though entertainingly giggly. Other segments this week poll the usual four participants for their feelings on April Fool’s Day and worthwhile pranks (lap giraffes!), and get into narrow genres they love. And as usual, the podcast wraps up with What’s Making Us Happy, which this week touches on Albert Brooks’ publisher-imposed Twitter feed, and why Brooks “gets Twitter” in a way that few others do, celebrities or otherwise.
Savage Lovecast #232
The Savage Lovecast has a new episode this week, yet the subject matter feels strangely familiar. Savage criticizes Rick Santorum, a representative from the ACLU makes an appearance to discuss a high school’s antediluvian approach to prom, and once again, a married guy who used to be satisfied with his sex life but isn’t anymore calls in. (Shouldn’t Savage just record a definitive podcast for these people so they can just listen to that and not keep calling in with the same question?) There are some tender moments, though, as a closeted gay kid calls to find out how to be out and safe in college, and a lesbian calls to ask about maintaining her relationship as she nurses her dying mother.
The Sound Of Young America: Carl Newman of The New Pornographers
Those unfamiliar with supergroup The New Pornographers might not feel invested in Jesse Thorn’s brief chat with the band’s leader, Carl Newman. However, maybe the samples of the band’s excellent power-pop sprinkled throughout the interview will inspire listeners to explore the New Pornos’ catalog and revisit Newman’s discussion of the band’s history and influence.
Sound Opinions #279: Dylan’s Folk Years
“Some of you may be groaning,” Jim DeRogatis says at the start of this special episode examining the early years of Bob Dylan, the first of three planned editions discussing the man’s career as he turns 70. Indeed, Dylan might be the most well-covered subject in all of rock history; while this episode is well-intentioned and informative for neophytes, DeRo and Greg Kot don’t cover any ground that hasn’t already been trod many times by many other rock critics. Still, the music is pretty wonderful, drawing from Dylan’s time in the early ’60s Greenwich Village folk scene through his early dabblings with the more personal, surreal style that would carry him to his greatest triumphs in the middle of the decade. Kot also takes advantage of the tangential Woody Guthrie connection of the show’s theme to rep for Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue albums in the Desert Island Jukebox segment, convincingly arguing that “One By One” is the band’s best performance ever.
This American Life #431: See No Evil
Looking at people who ignore sometimes ugly truths, this week’s This American Life starts incredibly strong, with the heartbreaking story of three brothers whose mother was killed by one of them. When the second act leads with a woman whose husband dies slowly and painfully after Chernobyl, it seems like this is going to be one of those tear-jerker episodes, but the tone shifts. Unfortunately, it also fizzles, with the final act’s quirkiness unable to match the strength of the first two segments.
WTF With Marc Maron #162: Michael Showalter
Marc Maron has an awful lot of intellectual insecurities for such a smart, cerebral comic, which informs his conversation with The State and Stella’s Michael Showalter. Maron delves into his beef with the Ivy League (Showalter went to Brown, the “funky” Ivy) and semiotics, subject matter not even folks as funny as Showalter and Maron can make particularly compelling.