QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“It’s a tough game, dude.”
“No, it’s not!”—Doug Benson consoling sullen Leonard Maltin Game loser “Bald” Bryan Bishop, Doug Loves Movies
“No. 1 music event in 1998? ‘Weird Al gets LASIK to cure his myopia. At the same time, he grows out his hair and shaves his mustache, drastically changing his look.’”—Janet Varney, reading from Wikipedia, Never Not Funny
NEW (TO US)
The Mental Illness Happy Hour
For the seventh episode of Mental Illness Happy Hour, Gilmartin talks to Tyler Smith of the film website Battleship Pretension. Gilmartin aspires to be intimate without being invasive, and funny without being crass. He generally succeeds, but he’s also clearly cognizant that he’s riding a fine line, which he crosses with an offhanded incest quip to Smith, a devout Christian. Gilmartin is open about his suspicions of organized religion, but the two men find common ground in their battles with what is colorfully personified as the growling, cognac-swilling voice that confronts us every morning to deliver the news that we’re not good enough, we’re not smart enough, and people don’t like us. Mental Illness Happy Hour oscillates between the psychological, spiritual, and practical; Smith’s aversion to anti-depressants as “mental steroids” leads to a discussion about whether depression masks or reveals the authentic self lurking under billowing clouds of grey despair. In this crazy, fucked-up modern world, a podcast devoted to figuring how to stay sane against long odds isn’t just entertaining, it’s important.
Comedy Bang Bang: The Podcast #104: Paul Feig, The Birthday Boys
Culture Gabfest #138: “Grody, Moldy Breath Of Tourists” Edition
Extra Hot Great #30: Off With His Pants
Firewall & Iceberg #72: Upfronts Preview and Listener Mail
How Was Your Week? #9: In The Face: Seth Rudetsky & Baratunde Thurston
Judge John Hodgman #23: Arbys-Tration
The Pod F. Tompkast: Episode 10
This American Life #434: This Week
WTF With Marc Maron #173: Jonathan Winters
The Adam Carolla Show
Ace puts his money where his mouth is this week. In order of descending interest: Tim Daly’s main contributions to the conversation are insights on the Schwarzenegger divorce. More compelling is the opening segment in which Carolla reveals he recently passed up a lucrative offer to return to radio, in favor of cultivating his own podcasts. The Andy Dick And Sheryl Lee Ralph show has it all: Dick—co-star of the Ace all-stars’ upcoming movie Division III: Football’s Finest — dishes on his recent arrest and feud with Jon Lovitz. Tony-nominated Dreamgirls actor Sheryl Lee Ralph talks gender, hair, education, and race. After a round of Made Up Movie, comedian and 40 Year Old Boy podcast host Mike Schmidt tells about his torturous existence when he weighed 500 pounds, and slimming down via a gastric bypass. When WTF‘s Marc Maron visits, they don’t talk podcasting, instead trading notes on comedy clubs. (Don’t you hate when the bartender keeps firing up the blender during your act?) The Lisa Ann Walter show is exceptionally nebulous: The comedian stops in for a few minutes to discuss Dr. Drew, but the bulk of the show—and, as usual, the week itself—is rapid-fire subject-shuffling.
The B.S. Report With Bill Simmons
Picking up where he left off last week, Simmons opens the week talking with ESPN Fantasy’s Matthew Berry and TrueHoops’ Henry Abbott about the struggle facing the Los Angeles Lakers and other subplots of the NBA playoffs. It’s fun to hear Simmons toy with Berry, who’s a long-time Lakers fan, but the two don’t really discuss the similar fate facing Simmons’ beloved Boston Celtics. A few days after the podcast was posted, the Dallas Mavericks swept the Lakers out of the playoffs. So the Lakers flame-out is also the subject on the next podcast, when Simmons talks with pal and ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, as well as Marc Stein, an NBA writer and ESPN’s resident Dallas Mavericks fan, who’s in full celebratory mode. Next, Simmons welcomes fellow sportswriter Mike Lupica, one of the few national sportswriters who has as many detractors as Simmons. The two talk NBA playoffs, of course, but also talk about Lupica’s career and even the evolution of sports stadiums, in a conversation that isn’t nearly as bad as the haters would have you believe. Finally, with the Celtics facing elimination, Simmons chooses instead to talk to MSNBC’s Willie Geist (of Way Too Early and Morning Joe) in what seems to mostly be an excuse for Simmons to talk about the killing of Osama bin Laden and surrounding conspiracies, though the pair does touch lightly on sports and ESPN’s 30 For 30 documentary series, produced by Simmons, being shut out at this year’s Sports Emmys. But with Boston now eliminated from the NBA playoffs, we should prepare for the Celtics postmortem in the upcoming week.
Doug Loves Movies: Adam Carolla, Jerry O’Connell, And “Bald” Bryan Bishop
Pity poor “Bald” Bryan Bishop: All he wanted for his second go-round on Doug Loves Movies was to nail a Leonard Maltin Game answer in zero names, thereby guaranteeing himself a spot in the Tournament Of Championships. Instead, Jerry O’Connell gets that spot, and Bishop’s boss, Adam Carolla, shits on him for 55 minutes. Too bad the Ricky Gervais Show podcast is no longer a going concern—The Adam Carolla Show already has an ongoing cultural exchange program with Doug Loves Movies, and Bishop might benefit from taking Karl Pilkington’s place as the brunt of someone else’s abuse.
The Moth: Mike Daisey: What Was Learned In London
Mike Daisey’s neurotic, Wallace Shawn-like delivery makes his story of his time in an acting program in London seem much more lighthearted and silly than it actually is, making his eventual revelation about his romantic relationship there a little jarring. The ending leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and the emotional button feels a little unearned; but like Daisey’s trip, it’s more about the journey than the destination, and it’s fun to get lost in his description of London bohemia for 15 minutes.
The Nerdist #86 and #87: Dana Dearmond and Ed Helms
If nothing else, give credit to The Nerdist for exploring a wide swath of nerdy topics. This week in particular dug into a couple of niches outside the show’s usual purview of comedy, movies, and TV: namely porn, via “anal queen” and longtime friend of the Nerdist hosts Dana Dearmond, and bluegrass music, via The Office star and banjo aficionado Ed Helms. Surprisingly, Chris Hardwick and Co. delve much deeper into bluegrass with Helms than they do into porn with Dearmond. (Hardwick maintains that he isn’t really “into” porn, though he repeatedly mentions attending a porn convention.) This could be more a function of the hosts’ friendship with Dearmond than a disinterest in the porn world, but it’s slightly disappointing that the episode glosses over what could be interesting discussions about life as a porn star in favor of lots of “remember when” reminiscing among the old friends. (Though those curious about the upcoming Star Trek: The Next Generation porn parody, which Dearmond appears in, should have all their questions answered.) Helms’ chat is more enlightening—once it gets past a boring, rambling introductory conversation about remote iPad control, that is—splitting its time between discussions of Helms’ occupation, comedy, and his passion, bluegrass music. (Helms hosts an occasional bluegrass show at Largo in L.A.) There’s even an Easter egg at the end: Prompted by a joke about bluegrass covers of Radiohead songs, Hardwick ends the episode with a performance of “Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box” from bluegrass provocateurs and frequent Radiohead coverers Punch Brothers.
Never Not Funny #824: Janet Varney
From calling out Jimmy Pardo for “obvious trivia” to more musical interludes than an episode with Ellis Paul, comedian and Dinner And A Movie co-host Janet Varney channels her inner Pardo so well that she could have hosted this episode herself. The energy and quick pace dips briefly for a meditation on bin Laden’s death, and while there’s little that hasn’t been covered in the two weeks since, it’s a relief to hear their bewilderment at the frat-boy celebrations that followed. Season eight is wrapping up soon, so what better way to entice listeners to pre-order season nine than closing an overly punchy episode with a Gummi Bear taste test and an on-camera haircut by Matt “The Barber” Belknap?
Pop Culture Happy Hour: Warrior Women And Movies That Call To Us
This week’s PCHH somehow gets from Osama bin Laden’s death to the role of women in action movies over the course of about 30 seconds. The discussion is more sincere and thoughtful than lively, and no great insights are offered—Linda Holmes asks whether women’s roles are actually changing, or we’re just noticing them differently, but that question and others never really get answered. Still, the participants smartly sum up a lot of salient points, particularly how Hollywood seems all too eager to claim that flops like The Golden Compass and Sucker Punch prove that audiences only want male heroes, whereas a Judd Apatow-derived flop doesn’t stop anyone from making man-child comedies. A second segment covers the mysteriously compelling (though not necessarily good—and sometimes not even enjoyable) movies the participants seemingly have to watch whenever they accidentally stumble across them, from Just One Of The Guys to The Fifth Element to Legend. Along the way, they talk about the phenomenon of sitting through a movie waiting for a specific moment, even though that moment is probably on YouTube somewhere. The weekly What’s Making Us Happy roundup focuses quite a bit on Free Comic Book Day, and why not everyone who works in a comic-book store is The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy. Also, Trey Graham is excited about lichen for some reason.
Radiolab: Radiolab Shorts: Cosmic Habituation
Reporter Jonathan Schooler drops by the Radiolab studios to discuss a potentially disquieting notion: Does the act of observing something make some experiments more difficult to duplicate? It seems like a strange, unverifiable notion, but Schooler provides countless examples from enough scientific practices to at least make listeners wonder what the hell could be going on. It’s nothing more than an intriguing nugget, but it certainly sets the mind spinning.
Sklarbro Country #41: Brett Erlich, Rhett Miller, Chris Cox
The Brothers Sklar have long been big music buffs, but they’ve only recently started having guests come on to perform music. On this typically strong episode of Sklarbro Country, they invite Rhett Miller of The Old 97’s to come on the podcast to play some songs and generally be affable and delightful alongside similarly ingratiating main guest Brett Erlich of Current TV. But the highlight of the episode is the closing bit from Chris Cox as Barack Obama. Cox’s Obama bears a distinct resemblance to his Tiger Woods—the rumbling pauses, the fetish for caution and restraint—but he’s nevertheless very funny as he does another victory lap following the killing of Osama bin Laden and compliments the riff-happy brothers for “rambling it good” with their sports-related natterings.
The Sound Of Young America: Sarah Vowell and Werner Herzog
Jesse Thorn talks with scribe Sarah Vowell in this week’s podcast, mostly pertaining to her new book, Unfamiliar Fishes. She talks research and compares the Puritans in the book with the ones featured in her previous book, The Wordy Shipmates, and how they’re all killjoys. Vowell is, of course, droll, but still charming. It’s a good interview, but if you’re a fan of Vowell, chances are good you’ve already heard most of the topics touched on here in other interviews with her, including ours. Thorn’s interview with Werner Herzog is relatively short, but fans of the director will enjoy this discussion of his new film, Cave Of Forgotten Dreams. Herzog discusses the logistics of shooting in an ancient, protected, and semi-poisonous cave, as well as his philosophy of shooting like a poet, not a documentarian. Herzog sounds lighthearted and friendly in the conversation, which is always a fun contrast to his somewhat forbidding voice.
Sound Opinions: Titus Andronicus
The intensely charismatic Patrick Stickles of New Jersey punk band Titus Andronicus settles down with Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis to discuss his group’s year-old record, The Monitor. One of the most ambitious bands of its kind in music right now, Titus Andronicus proves to be a juicy topic of discussion for the critics, who have a ball chatting with the thoughtful, self-deprecating Stickles. Unfortunately, Titus Andronicus doesn’t come off as well during the in-studio performances, which sound muted and stiff. The joyous fury of the band needs to be experienced in a club or theater in order to be appreciated.
WTF With Marc Maron #172: Sue Costello
Half the pleasure of WTF With Marc Maron comes from the palpable, infectious delight Maron takes in the rambunctious larger-than-life personalities of friends like Sue Costello, a dramatic actress who reinvented herself as a shit-talking Boston stand-up comic. Costello wows Maron with her infectious laugh, Boston stories, and riveting account of how she insulted her way into a supporting role in The Fighter. It’s minor compared to Maron’s understatedly epic sit-down with Jonathan Winters this week, but filled with small moments of insight and self-perception.