QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“Unfortunately, you can’t set babies to ‘vibrate’” —Chris Hardwick on people traveling with kids, Nerdist
“I went to college at the worst time, because it was like after AIDS, but before the Internet. It’s no wonder we listened to grunge and tied shirts around our waists.” —Seth Meyers, WTF With Marc Maron
“I’m really good at handicapping how old little boys are.” —Scott Aukerman, Comedy Bang Bang
“That guy has some bad bedside manners, doesn’t he? He’s rude.” —Bill from Consolidated Cardboard on Dr. House’s fatal flaw, Best Show Gems
“What you put in your Top 25 doesn’t matter to me. You are an authority only in your own personal weird basement full of moths. We can have a conversation about which movie is better than the other. But you’re stipulating to, ‘Well, it’s still in my Top 100’… look, I don’t care. No offense. I don’t care. But if you’re sitting here, via Skype, telling me that 30 Days Of Night [is better than The Exorcist]—look, I like Danny Huston a lot, but it just doesn’t track for me, sir. It just doesn’t track.” —John Hodgman, Judge John Hodgman
NEW (TO US)
That may or may not be a good thing. In the case of the sleepy discussion of Jawbreaker’s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, it’s not. Minneci and Dziak admit at the top of the show neither is familiar with the seminal San Francisco punk band (Dziak says later “I didn’t do any research on this band”), and that quickly becomes obvious as Minneci seemingly recites highlights from the band’s Wikipedia page, spending an inordinate amount of time discussing Jawbreaker’s very earliest days. Worse are the erroneous assertions made by the hosts, which will cause many face-palms among listeners familiar with the band: “This was the punk crossover album that was the precursor to emo” (nope); “[Jawbreaker’s second album] Bivouac is considered the essence of their punkness—was when they’re most polished as far as being a punk band” (not even close). And there are straight-up factual errors, like when they discuss bassist Chris Bauermeister releasing archived Jawbreaker material on his own label without the involvement of the other two members. (It was drummer Adam Pfahler, and the rest of the band was involved.) Minneci and Dziak are unimpressed by 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, so much so that they repeatedly express their bafflement that Jawbreaker went on to sign a $1 million deal with a major label—apparently without understanding that their deal was for three albums, not one, making the band’s per-record budget unexceptional by major-label standards. These may seem like niggling details, but getting them right is the basis of credibility. The hosts’ lack of enthusiasm for the album keeps the podcast’s energy level sleep-inducingly low—and the entire album playing underneath them at all times is annoying—and when they veer into a similarly slow discussion about the merits of Deep Purple, no one could be blamed for checking out.
Best Show Gems: Bill From Consolidated Cardboard Can’t Keep His Story Straight
The Bugle #170: It’s Time To Ban Slap Bass
Hang Up And Listen: The Better To Be Luck Edition
Judge John Hodgman #39: Slash-Friction
Never Not Funny #922: Pat Francis
Pop Culture Happy Hour: Halloween TV, From Homer To Linus And Back
Sound Opinions: #309: Halloween Special 2011
The Halloween show is a popular annual tradition on Sound Opinions, and this year’s episode shows why. Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis once again pick a bunch of scary songs from a variety of genres, and while some of the selections stretch the definition of “scary”—see 10CC’s soft-rock classic “I’m Not In Love”—many of these tracks hit the mark. The strongest picks include Scott Walker’s unnerving “Jesse”—which is about Elvis Presley addressing his stillborn twin brother in the womb—and Nina Simone’s “Pirate Jenny,” a re-purposed number from Threepenny Opera turned into a furious revenge tale set in the Jim Crow South. Not only are these songs creepy, they’re also great, and destined for numerous mix-tapes made by listeners.
Stuff You Missed In History Class: Blood Work: Part 1
After meeting her at a book fair, the hosts interview Dr. Holly Tucker, author of Blood Work: A Tale Of Medicine And Murder In The Scientific Revolution, giving listeners the chance to hear about this fascinating niche of medical history from the point of view of an articulate, personable author to whom they might not have otherwise been exposed. Tucker’s deadpan proclamation at the start that she decided she would “do a little bit more reading about blood” leads into her story about studying the history of blood transfusions in the 17th century and the absolute horrors that existed before that. History imagined for centuries that taking blood out was the key to balancing humors, and the idea of “putting blood back in” took a long time to become positive. Thankfully, blood was eventually judged to be relatively independent from less glamorous humors like phlegm, bile, and “black bile.” By sticking to stories of individuals, Tucker makes medical procedures seem accessible, making her as easy to follow as her hosts and making this an especially creepy and delightful episode.
Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Gunpowder Plot: Part 1
Superego: Episode 3:9
This American Life #449: Middle School
Walking The Room #75: Witch Nose And The Pig Room
WTF With Marc Maron #222: Steve Almond
The Adam Carolla Show
On this week’s Ace Show, the guests are an afterthought, and the episodes are all full of filler. In order of descending interest: Alec Baldwin’s top-billed appearance is actually an impromptu call that briefly speculates on the future of 30 Rock. The bulk of the episode is news (Casey Anthony) and listener calls (meeting women post-divorce and Vegemite). Mick Fleetwood spends more time talking about cars than his musical career or his new YouTube musician-on-musician interview show, Off The Record. In Halloween Stories With Ray, Ace and his pal wax nostalgic about the simpler days when you had to find parties without GPS, and nobody minded if you showed up in blackface. Ace tries to pass regular Larry Miller off as a guest in an episode that’s extra long to accommodate Carolla’s numerous grievances with Halloween, techno, Steve Miller’s “Abracadabra,” and mandatory sexual-harassment training, in addition to Ace’s insights on Herman Cain and the Kardashian divorce. Live from Adam’s car, Deaf Frat Guy and his fake-fraternity-dude shtick leave you wishing Ace would pull over and pick up a real college kid; the episode further confirms that Ace is no Howard Stern, and his best wack-pack guests are just wack.
The Best Show On WFMU
Fallout from the Wally Wackiman “Feltdown” continues with the introduction of Skeevy, the part-insult comic and part-observational puppet created by AP Mike. Other potential puppets call in to match wits with Skeevy, who hopefully becomes a mainstay on the show. May the search for a new “official” Best Show puppet be more successful than the failed attempt at finding a new protégé for Tom Scharpling.
Comedy Bang Bang #129: Comedy Fang Fang: Brett Gelman, Jon Daly, Allan Mcleod, Neil Campbell
This Halloween episode starts slowly and never picks up over the course of its 74 minutes as Scott Aukerman broadcasts under the direction of spooky overlords Beuford and Messmore le Barron, with guests Ghost Boy and UCB’s Neil Campbell. Aside from a few funny moments, the whole episode drags. To wit: The rap battle lasts nearly seven minutes.
Culture Gabfest: The Erudition Is Sick Edition
In this mostly solid episode, the Gabfesters zip again from low culture to high culture, offering a mixed assessment of Beavis And Butt-Head’s return to MTV (which all agree is inessential, but disagree on whether or not it’s funny) before reminiscing about the time when literary theory was a big deal on college campuses, a phenomenon that’s dissected in Jeffrey Eugenides’ new novel The Marriage Plot. The feistiest segment brings on the fast-talking music critic Jody Rosen to pick apart the assertion that indie rock—as represented by the likes of Wilco and Feist—has become adult contemporary. The gist of Rosen’s counterargument: So what?
Doug Loves Movies: Elizabeth Laime, Psychic Andy, and Matt Belknap
This week’s guests—hosts of the Earwolf Challenge-winning Totally Laime podcast Elizabeth Laime and her husband, who goes by Psychic Andy—are both familiar with and eager to play the Leonard Maltin Game, which makes for a more efficient-than-usual episode; unfortunately, like so many in-studio DLMs, there’s an airless quality to the proceedings that makes both the introductory conversation and the game seem to drag on forever. Neither Laime nor her husband is a particularly tough competitor, and Doug Benson seems only as engaged as he absolutely needs to be. It’s nice that Benson strives to give airtime to other, lesser-known podcasts on his show, but that doesn’t always make for a compelling DLM.
Firewall & Iceberg #101: Hell On Wheels, Bones, Charlie Sheen And More
Hitfix critics Dan Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall were the first in line to pummel the pilot of AMC’s old-West railroad drama Hell On Wheels, but now they’ve digested five episodes and have better things to say about it. Following a look at PBS’ star-studded, play-like spy movie Page Eight, they swing to the other side of the spectrum and ponder the moral, logistic, artistic, and synergistic implications of FX picking up a Charlie Sheen vehicle. Other topics include a reality-TV roundup (Survivor, various American Idol knockoffs) and the hosts’ nauseated response to the breaking news of American Horror Story’s renewal.
How Was Your Week #34: “Satchel”: Sarah Silverman, Mike Albo
Julie Klausner half-heartedly talks about Halloween and Chaz Bono’s departure from Dancing With The Stars before bringing on her special guests. When the show finally gets to Mike Albo, he offers an interesting story about working for the New York Times, but Klausner unfortunately cuts the interview short. Happily, shorting Albo gives Sarah Silverman time to talk about her father, the struggles of being an actor, and balancing creativity with career ambition. Had Klausner cut the first 24 minutes down to five or 10 and stopped talking over her guests, the episode might be stronger.
The Mental Illness Happy Hour #32: Alycia Schlesinger
Although Alycia Schlesinger and Mental Illness host Paul Gilmartin met each other in a support group, they genuinely sound like they’re discovering new things about each other during this week’s episode. Of course, extreme openness and mutual encouragement are standard on this podcast, so it’s really not a knock to call this an ordinarily therapeutic installment.
The Moth: Annie Duke: A House Divided
Moth stories usually surprise with the broad appeal they bring to very personal tales, but Annie Duke’s entry feels exclusive to the teller and the vastly different relationships she had with her mother and father. Duke still reveals quite a bit about failure, acceptance, family, and card games, even if her delivery doesn’t quite match the addictive charm The Moth usually has.
Nerdist: #137: Veronica Belmont
Recorded at the California Academy of Sciences, this audio-plagued episode with guest Veronica Belmont, answers the question “What if we podcasted from a public restroom?” Belmont isn’t a recognizable name but makes a compelling guest, not just for her love of computers and gaming, but also for her revelation of still-packaged Cabbage Patch Kids resting quietly in her parent’s basement from when her mom worked for Coleco.
RadioLab: Sleepless In South Sudan
Science writer Carl Zimmer recounts the unlikely story of how he ended up camped out in the middle of nowhere in Africa with holey mosquito netting, which led to him fearing he contracted a terrible disease. It’s a bit more The Moth than RadioLab, but Zimmer is a good storyteller, and portions of his tale are legitimately heartbreaking.
Stuff You Should Know: How The Autobahn Worked
Hitler did not create the Autobahn, it turns out, and thusly the German Autobahn does not really have a dramatic history. The topic is so dull that hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant forget to say what the Autobahn is for the first seven minutes, instead making very tangential observations about Kraftwerk and The Big Lebowski. By delving into rules of travel, the mystique of the German roads evaporates, and concepts like “stopping distance” and “get over for a faster driver” become remarkably tedious. At one point Bryant sighs and asks, “Should we talk about some of these fines?” They don’t. Guest John Hodgman dominates the second half of the episode, but the topic is both lame and cut rather short, and even Hodgman’s wit can’t resuscitate the first half.
Stuff You Should Know: Berenice
For Halloween, the hosts drop the pretense of doing research and simply read a work of Edgar Allen Poe called Berenice, set to spooky music. It’s fun for longtime fans of the show, but clearly there’s not much to be gleaned, knowledge-wise. They frequently stop to comment wryly on the piece, and their tone is generally sarcastic, but while it’s not an academic exercise, it’s not terribly compelling, either. John Hodgman stops by at the end yet again to promote his book and discuss the failure of his zeppelin the “HZ Hubris.” He becomes the highlight of the episode, but does not improve on the surprise of his previous appearance.
Uhh Yeah Dude: #295
It’s a fraught week for Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette, despite the fact that they’re honoring National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Month. When bad, weird things happen—like motorcyclists dying in a crash while on an autism-benefit ride, or Matthew Perry acquiring so much real estate despite a track record of canceled shows—they bring a slightly dark edge to an otherwise typically intriguing mix of Uhh Yeah Dude topics.
Who Charted?: #48 Emotional Baggage
The podcast starts off a bit slow when guest and resident L.A. alt-comedy stoner Doug Benson discusses the country-music charts, but it’s expected that things will pick up once the podcast enters Benson’s area of expertise, movies. However, all momentum is ruined when host Howard Kremer makes a creepy rape joke about Jodie Foster’s infamous pool-table scene in The Accused. What’s even more disappointing is that co-host Kulap Vilaysack actually laughs at what’s a low moment for this usually delightful podcast.