Week of Oct. 6-12

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“It’s like the people putting the rocks on the tombstone at the end of Schindler’s List.” “That’s what Dolphin Tale was like?”—Doug Benson and Sean Jordan, Doug Loves Movies

“First of all, we teased it a little bit in season four, but Don this year joins the Playboy Club. It’s really going to be cool. And I don’t want to give too much away, but we might see Don in a very recognizable blue stewardess uniform.” —Jon Hamm teases new season of Mad Men, Comedy Bang Bang

“You think Potsie he ever said ‘I’m proud to be a nerd’? No! He lived in fear that Fonzie was going to crush his skull with a pipe!”—Garry Marshall (Paul F. Tompkins) dismisses the rise of nerd culture, Comedy Bang Bang
“How do you talk to an angel?” —Julie Klausner discussing Jeffery Self’s encounter with Brett Butler on How Was Your Week? 

NEW

The Dead Authors Podcast
Podcast darling Paul F. Tompkins has a brand-new show in which H.G. Wells travels around in his famous time machine, gathering notable literary figures for a discussion at the UCB Theater in Los Angeles. The concept promises hilarity and potentially some education that no one really cares about but pretends to appreciate anyway, and the podcast has a noble intent: It benefits non-profit tutoring and writing center 826 LA. The first and so far only episode, Emily Dickinson featuring Andy Richter, has plenty of promise as well, because Richter is reliably funny, but he fails to live up to it. Richter’s stilted Dickinson seems based on a quick glance at her Wikipedia page, and his reserved delivery and choice to communicate primarily through correspondence falls flat. (Maybe he was trying to be true to Dickinson’s real life?) Tompkins’ Wells is bland and can’t decide between a British or old-money New England accent. Too many jokes focus on Dickinson’s culture shock with regards to the bearded youth with hats in the UCB audience, but the show picks up when questions from Twitter are presented, including an amusing story about a time-traveling Lady Gaga. The first 10 minutes of the episode features an unnecessary warning about audio quality—“We’re working on it. By Chapter 3, we’ll all be laughing about this!” says the website—and a bizarre PBS-telethon-style description of the show. The podcast needs to be either more educational or funnier (or both?), and hopefully that will happen in future episodes. 


OUTLIERS

WhiskyCast
It’s just what it sounds like: Host and veteran journalist Mark Gillespie spends an hour every week talking about all things whiskey, including news (that, shockingly, has new content every week), interviews with the people who work in the industry, production talk, and discussion about Gillespie’s preferred drinks. He’s dead serious about his mission, too: Whiskycast.com has a “statement of principles” that goes into detail about his journalistic ethics (and why he favors the “whisky” spelling). But the 6-year-old podcast is hardly dry or boring; episode #338 features some interesting highlights, such as a discussion of rare whiskey that still sells at a high price during tough economic times, the best way to store multiple bottles of whiskey in checked baggage, and a rare interview with Jim Beveridge (real name), the master blender for Johnnie Walker. 


THE BEST

The Best Show On WFMU
When Tom Scharpling begins a show by announcing he only had 90 minutes of sleep, listeners know they’re probably in for an abundance of classic rants. After Puppet Wally Wackiman’s “feltdown” from last week, he has plenty of ammo to last a whole show.  Scharpling chastises Uncle Evan from Saskatchewan for his inability to pronounce “tour” without sounding like a SCTV skit, and does his best Iggy Pop impression, but Scharpling really gets going when George from Bergenfield proclaims that he’s “the quality caller.” Things get existential in the most Best Show way possible: Scharpling searches for the next moves on the regular caller ban, and turns to crowd-sourcing for answers. The results from that, a story about an aggressive balloon-puncher at the Flaming Lips concert, and Scharpling’s hopes that Occupy Wall Street descends into chaos, make this a classic Best Show

Comedy Bang Bang #126: Suicide Is Painless: Jon Hamm, Nick Lowe, Paul F. Tompkins
Like its predecessor, episode #126 looks like it can’t miss on paper, but it delivers: Podcast all-star Jon Hamm plus Paul F. Tompkins as Garry Marshall—what do you need, a roadmap? Last week, Hamm got the Marc Maron treatment on WTF, and he fits well in CBB’s far sillier atmosphere—Scott Aukerman sounds like less of fan boy than Maron, aside from his “You have the Emmy in my heart” comment—but the episode really gets going when Tompkins arrives. Not only does he announce his next holiday-themed ensemble rom-com, Halloween (“It’s a bunch of people going to a costume party, all different walks of life—there’s even a black couple”), but he goes into detail about the origins of Happy Days, including how the “aaay” catchphrase preceded the Fonzie character. (“Who’s the most Italian guy I know? It’s gotta be Henry Winkler. ’Hen, you gotta come do this. It’s right up your alley: It’s an Italian greaser!”) There’s also a great freestyle rap battle (Aukerman is hilariously awful), and a good game of “Would You Rather?” that offers the podcast’s most bizarre moment of the year: Hamm, Aukerman, and Tompkins harmonizing “Suicide Is Painless” (the M*A*S*H theme) with laughs. Although haters of CBB’s music will be annoyed by even more songs this week (from the great Nick Lowe), Aukerman mentions he’s winding down the musical guests. 

Culture Gabfest: Bronze Ball Of Regret Edition
From highbrow to lowbrow, the sublime to the ridiculous, the Gabfesters travel from one end of the cultural spectrum to the other in this week’s episode, finding gratification on both fronts. First, they add their plaudits to the many already accumulated by Weekend, an independent film about gay lovers that’s being compared to Before Sunrise. Their only disagreement is over how political the film is: Have we reached a point where depicting gay relationships on screen is not making a statement, or is the film’s very matter-of-factness in itself a statement? Then they dive into communal American bath that is Dancing With The Stars, the long-running ABC dance show, and find themselves helpless to its old-school variety-show charms. The endorsements this week are fun, too, with Stephen Metcalf rightly rhapsodizing over Final Cut, Stephen Bach’s classic Hollywood book about the making of Heaven’s Gate and the subsequent collapse of United Artists, and Julia Turner rescinding her endorsement of the unfunny, racially questionable sitcom 2 Broke Girls

Freakonomics Radio: Where Have All the Hitchhikers Gone?
Hitchhiking has fallen out of favor in recent decades, and host Stephen Dubner examines the assertion that people assume it’s too dangerous. That’s understandable, considering the horrific story of Colleen Stan, who hitched a ride with strangers in 1977 only to end up the victim of a seven-year kidnapping. But Dubner argues that maybe it’s not as dangerous as it seems, and he and his guests maintain that hitchhiking fell out of favor because of the greater number of cars per household, the higher number of driver’s licenses, as well as the deregulation of air travel in 1980, which ultimately made flying more affordable. Dubner throws out some successful examples of hitchhiking, like “slugging” (carpooling), which allows drivers to use carpool lanes during rush hour. He also says that perhaps our biggest fear is of strangers, then rattles off crime stats about victims knowing their attackers. (Three-quarters of all murder victims knew their murderers.) The episode is a bit heavier on number-crunching than the episode before it, but the biggest disappointment is that there is no data on hitchhiking-related crimes.

Hang Up And Listen: The Crown Prince Of Paranoia Edition
In the wake of the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies getting early exits from the major-league playoffs, the HUAL gang questions the logic of a best-of-five crapshoot determining the fates of teams that have proved their mettle over the 162-game season. Fair point, but would they be asking the same question if the Detroit Tigers or the St. Louis Cardinals had been dumped instead? (The proposal offered by this amazing Slate piece from 2004 suggests the number of games played in a series should depend on how it develops.) The rest of the show is lively and thought-provoking, from a hilarious beatdown of Morgan Spurlock’s ESPN doc on sports agents to a discussion with Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler about the future of the WNBA. Best of all is a consideration of the late Al Davis that’s neither hagiography nor hack job, but a nuanced look at a legacy that’s both extraordinary and troubling. 

How Was Your Week? #31: “My Birds”
A story about a guy meeting comedian Brett Butler might not sound terribly fascinating, but actor and writer Jeffery Self’s tale of encountering and later receiving email from his comedy idol is strangely hilarious, disconcerting, and poignant (and may be the first recorded anecdote to feature dueling Brett Butler impressions.) Julie Klausner and comedian Sandra Bernhard also have a rapid-fire conversation about topics like Paris Is Burning, conservatives who love Israel for the wrong reasons, and why hippie Jews are the worst. Also, Klausner presents a compelling argument for why it’s okay for women to make Chris Christie fat jokes. 

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #29: Eddie Pepitone 
Comedy fans know Eddie Pepitone as a bellowing, bellicose screamer of a man, a perpetually apoplectic kvetcher in the Lewis Black vein. However, a much different Eddie Pepitone shows up to The Mental Illness Happy Hour. Listeners could be forgiven for assuming that Pepitone’s normal speaking voice is an enraged yell, but he quiets down here for a thoughtful, penetrating conversation about the ego’s never-ending hunger for external validation and spirituality’s call to transcend such unimportant matters. Pepitone strikes a thoughtful and contemplative figure as he discusses giving up pot and Prozac and trying to find his spiritual center in an industry that chews up and spits out sensitive souls. He may have a reputation for loud angst—even Marc Maron seemed impressed by the depths and ferocity of his furious anger/ferocious vulnerability on WTF—but Pepitone is just as entertaining at one-fifth the volume and intensity. 

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #37: Munchkins
In a classically tangent-tempted MATES episode, Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh spend a lot of time discussing the rules for ordering one’s last meal on death row. If it’s this week’s reviewed snack, Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins, you may have as many as you want, but they must all be one flavor. Of course, tangents are inevitable when you’re trying to summon up an informed opinion about doughnut holes, as are discussions of their “buoyancy levels.” As for Black’s ad-libbed tale about how he ended up on death row and how he plans to go out, it’s another fine moment of MATES insta-fiction and prevents the pair from making too many jokes about Canadian doughnut/coffee chain Tim Hortons.

The Moth: Josh Blau And Erin Barker: StorySLAM Favorites
Accountant and father of five Josh Blau offers a story this week that exemplifies one of the great things about The Moth’s format: It can flow between straight narration and the boisterousness of stand-up comedy. Blau establishes a rowdy rapport with the crowd as he recalls arguing with his wife over whether to have a post-9/11 baby to stick it to the terrorists: “What the hell does Osama bin Laden care about us having a baby? I don’t even think he’d know.” He manages to keep that slightly profane excitement escalating as he eventually watches his wife birth the resulting set of triplets, and finds himself saying, “Oh my God, college, college, college!” in a nervous sing-song voice. In this episode’s second half, Erin Barker has adorableness and the power of surprise on her side in a story about growing apart from a childhood friend, only to have to reassure that friend in some difficult post-blowjob circumstances.

Nerdist #132: Ben Folds
It’s a slight disappointment that Ben Folds was in the studio with the Nerdist guys for nearly two hours and only spends 20 minutes at a piano. But the conversation that proceeds Folds’ short set (comprising scraps of unfinished songs, an improvised musical riff on the old “Superman-Wonder Woman-Invisible Man” joke, and back-catalogue requests “Philosophy,” “Cigarette,” and “Fred Jones, Part Two”) is so wide-ranging and absorbing that the songs feel less like the delayed main attraction and more like a pleasant coda. Non-musically inclined Nerdist listeners ought to dig Folds’ account of working on William Shatner’s Has Been LP, while Folds fanatics earn insight into the singer-songwriter’s deadline-driven process (he doesn’t have anything written for the reunion album Ben Folds Five is recording in December, by they way) and an account of a recent, disastrous attempt at stand-up comedy. There’s also an anecdote about Folds being punched in the eye by a French toddler, which, as Chris Hardwick rightly points out, has all the markings of lyrical fodder for a potential Folds song. Maybe one for that record he needs to start writing?

Never Not Funny: #919 Aisha Tyler
As Never Not Funny grows its stable of guests this season, it reaches a surprising milestone with episode #919: its first black one. With “an entire people to represent,” Aisha Tyler (of Archer, Friends, and general nerd-fantasy-girl fame) takes it on herself to educate Jimmy Pardo and crew on both her peoples, black and nerd. “They’ve actually changed it now: Points of singularity are now called African-American holes, or holes of color. Which, by the way, is the name of my favorite hooker. Bam!” The latter half of that quote informs much of Tyler’s style, as she launches into transparent riffs and bits at a pace so frenetic even Pardo has a hard time keeping up. Tyler’s funny and charmingly self-deprecating, and it’s very apparent she understands comedic material, but her punchlines suffer from a lack of timing and context. She’s essentially the conversation, tangent, set-up, and punchline, while Pardo and crew stare wide-eyed at a woman who won’t pause for a breath. The podcast does settle into an actual two-sided conversation in the second half, buoying what’s more of a showcase for her podcast, Girl On Guy, than an episode of Never Not Funny.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Let’s Talk Mr. Terrific! But Enough About Aaron Rodgers
To date, the most uncomfortable PCHH episode was the early installment where NPR comics writer Glen Weldon introduced his co-hosts to some contemporary superhero comics, which they dutifully read and reluctantly discussed, while Weldon audibly struggled not to sound defensive over their generally negative reaction. It’s a mark of the podcast’s development over time that this week’s similar experiment (which Linda Holmes dubs “Make Ya Do Somethin’ You Don’t Wanna Do Week”) is lively, in-depth, and enjoyable. First, the hosts all read some of DC’s new reboot comics from the 52 line, and talk about why they serve fanboys more than newcomers, and why YA fiction has a better line on reeling in young readers. Then they dissect the experience of watching the Packers/Broncos game with Packers superfan Stephen Thompson. (Trey Graham on NFL RedZone anchor Scott Hanson: “He had both of his suit-jacket buttons buttoned while he was sitting down! He just looked untidy!” Weldon: “The refs had sleeves that were distractingly blousy.”) Nobody but Thompson seems likely to continue on with sports—the stories about early negative experiences with football are entertaining and telling—but this time around, everyone enthusiastically embraces trying new things, then cheerfully ragging on them.

Sound Opinions #306: The Legacy Of R.E.M.
The break-up R.E.M. happened about a dozen news cycles ago in Internet time, but this installment discussing the band’s career and impact proves to be worth the wait. While Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis are both guilty of occasionally wallowing in punk/post-punk nostalgia—and a retrospective on R.E.M. indulges those tendencies—this overview does a good job of summing up why the band was important. It helps that Kot and DeRogatis have covered R.E.M. from the beginning of its career; most interesting is DeRogatis’ anecdote about being flown down to the band’s home base of Athens, Georgia, to cover 1991’s Out Of Time, and observing the band members’ varying ways of dealing with the press. It’s a valuable piece of insight for R.E.M. fans and neophytes alike.

Stuff You Should Know: A Podcast On Zoot Suits? Yes
While many people may identify zoot suits as “the thing the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies made nauseating,” there is actually a profound racial backstory to the outfit. In the ’90s, they were something weird white rich kids wore to piss off their parents, but in the ’30s and ’40s, the actual Zoot Suit Riots involved Mexican and African-Americans such as Detroit Red (a.k.a. Malcolm X) royally pissing off white people. Los Angeles-area sailors used them as an excuse to assault every young Latino they could find. While the hosts attempt to describe the start of those riots, it seems very clear they stemmed from good old-fashioned racism. The riots become the focus of this episode rather than just the suits, and the event turns out to be a pretty interesting bummer. As a result of these assaults, the outfits became legendary symbols of martyrdom. If that sounds strange, it just so happens that it is still illegal to wear a zoot suit in Los Angeles. Everything from period lingo to an inch-by-inch description of how to construct a zoot suit is tailored into the podcast. 

Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Sisters Fox: They Talked To Dead People
This week’s “spooky” episodes start with this entry about the founders of the modern spiritualist movement. What could be spookier than Victorian-era ladies summoning spirits? How about those women dying friendless and in poverty, calling spiritualism “a modern curse” and being haunted by the immorality of their own choices? Sarah Dowdey and Deblina Chakraborty have covered spiritualists before and stay as objective and non-judgmental as history buffs can be, but the sisters dig their own graves here. It begins with the fitting ghost story of the haunted Fox family home, where as children, the girls suspected strange creeping noises loud enough to shake the furniture were the result of a haunting. It drove the mother of the home into madness. Rather telling is that, by all accounts, the noises never bothered the children. They engaged the noises by name, their mother so desperate for resolution that she encouraged the activities. The hosts bask in the spooky, almost harmless charm of the young family mingling with these spirits, which  makes the eventual deception in their family business particularly tragic.    

Stuff You Should Know: How The Peace Corps Works
Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant usually do their best to maintain a certain academic distance from their topic, but it seems if a topic truly seduces them, the episode is no worse for it. In this Peace Corps episode, the duo waxes that, if they could live their lives all over, they’d spend some ripe college-era years working to make the world a better place. Ever wonder what your application should take into consideration? You can get a verbal cheat sheet from the hosts, but entry is neither easy nor without its problems. Apparently, lazy hippie kids tend to use it as a scam to get a longer “finding yourself period” after bailing on college, and occasionally those kids are brutally murdered in a Third World country. No romance is lost by discussing these pitfalls however, and the hosts enjoy discussing the exact value of electricity, running water, and giving yourself to a community without even knowing which one it will be when you sign up.

This American Life #448: Adventure!
Though it stumbles at times, this week’s episode is well worth a listen for the main act, a 23-minute piece from Alex Blumberg. The show centers on adventure, and Blumberg found the best kind—one that combines high stakes with folly and disbelief. He interviews “Luke,” an American living in China who ends up head-butting a guy one evening after a soccer game. He lands in prison, and it takes a while for Luke to figure out that Chinese prison doesn’t work like it would in America, nor does its judicial system. Rounding out the episode are short stories from Dave Eggers, Jeanne Darst, Wendy McClure, Fiona Maazel, and Neil Gaiman, all written specifically for the episode. 

The Tobolowsky Files #51: The Light Of The First Day
Fans who’ve seen Stephen Tobolowsky’s Birthday Party, the film that inadvertently inspired The Tobolowsky Files, may find themselves a touch disappointed by the storyteller’s latest. The concluding story—a moving tale of when Tobolowsky encountered an armed gunman while out at a store squeezing mangos—is one he told in the film. But if those who’ve seen the earlier work are willing to hear a reprise, Tobolowsky’s telling here is superior, allowing more time for the story to unwind and more time for the two central characters—Tobolowsky and the gunman—to become fixed in our heads. The other two stories in the episode—detailing a childhood project that resulted in a certain amount of youthful overkill and an incident on a film shoot—are good as well, but listening to the last story after having seen the movie offers an idea of just how Tobolowsky builds his tales, and what he chooses to emphasize in each shows how The Tobolowsky Files has allowed him to grow as a storyteller.

Uhh Yeah Dude #292
This must be one of the few times Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette’s odd obsession with honorary months and weeks has tied to some actual news: On this week’s UYD, they point out that Steve Jobs died in the midst of Computer Learning Month. The charm is good and strong this week, whether they’re riffing on Pete Wentz’s Twitter account or lending their helpful advice on automotive safety (i.e., make the whole car out of the airbag, guys!). There’s just something about giving advice that draws great riffs out of the UYD fellows, especially when they discuss how to handle finding out that a co-worker is a registered sex offender. But as for their foray into the world of black-market artificial insemination, you’re on your own.

Walking The Room #72: Warm Yogurt And Cold Popsicles 
Greg Behrendt and Dave Anthony are the kind of folks who can get away with beginning an episode with a wildly inaccurate Boots Riley impersonation: The Coup’s MC is nowhere near the “Jamaican-Irish” voice our Walking The Room hosts conjure up, but at least they conjure him with runaway silliness. The two go on to praise men who put their semen in food for being “at least self-aware enough” to know people won’t touch their semen through other means, proof that you can get a new angle on something infantile just by torturing the subject matter a little. Behrendt and Anthony also read a negative iTunes review of their podcast and contemplate the existence of a “high-end Popsicle shop.” This week they even find a clever way to mock their own podcast’s supposed lack of success, by proposing that they create their own “after-show” for WTR.

WTF With Marc Maron #216: Bryan Cranston
Marc Maron remains a peerless chronicler of the tormented psyche of the contemporary stand-up comedian, but he’s branched out lately. Last week, he jibber-jabbered with Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, and this week he snags Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad. Cranston regales a clearly delighted Maron—who makes no secret of his obsessive love for Breaking Bad—with a laid-back account of his personal evolution from aspiring police officer to free-spirited biker to would-be carnie, and, ultimately, acclaimed thespian. Cranston’s colorful stories about his migratory youth, life as a carnival worker, and the time he was a murder suspect would make this podcast essential on their own, but #216 also offers insight into Breaking Bad’s creation and Cranston’s process as an actor. It’s a little jarring hearing the paternal Cranston say the word “vagina” repeatedly as he reminisces about his misbegotten youth as a very mediocre, mildly ribald stand-up comedian, but he cuts a genial figure as he discusses his craft with insight and affection. The unlikely pairing of Cranston and WTF invites high expectations, but this stellar podcast more than lives up to them. 


THE REST

The Adam Carolla Show
In descending order of interest: In a one-on-one interview, Rotten Tomatoes editor-in-chief Matt Atchity dishes on the movie-review website’s history, mission, and methodology. No smug übergeek, Atchity breaks down his vision for a site that provides reliable reviews for the general public. Duff McKagan answers Ace’s questions about Guns N’ Roses (Ace seems blissfully unaware that the GNR, technically, still exists), W. Axl Rose, and Velvet Revolver frontman Scott Weiland, then moves on to the bassist’s addictions, recoveries, and rebirth as a financial adviser and author. The bulk of David Alan Grier and Dr. Bruce is a free-form conversation about smoking, divorce, and pretending you’re listening to your kids. Late in the show, Dr. Bruce takes listener calls, and the Loveline session turns into Weedline, and Hernialine, and Opiateline. In a live show, Patrick Warburton is an afterthought following comedian and former Jay Leno writer Jim Shaughnessy, who milks his muscular dystrophy for some laughs, contrasts Leno and Jimmy Kimmel, and talks inside-baseball about his shows’ writers’ rooms. UFC referee Big John McCarthy discusses the unique challenges of calling mixed martial arts fights. Then Ace and crew take passing looks at news items about Steve Jobs and Sarah Palin, but they’re both shorter than Ace’s report on his dental procedures.

The Apple Sisters #19: Trick Or Treat
It looks like The Apple Sisters are following up the six-part Boat Queen odyssey with at least a couple of Halloween episodes—ahem, a “Boosical Spooktacular”—set in the house of their deceased aunt. There’s a killer on the loose, but the girls are too busy debating costume choices and goofing around to be scared. It’s a fun, loose episode—with nice cameos from Baron Vaughn and Janie Haddad Tompkins (wife of Paul F.)—but not especially noteworthy. However, the girls deserve some kind of award for making two Squirrel Nut Zippers references in one episode (one for the candy bar, another for the band).

The Bugle Leaders Special #2: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 
Yet another week without a fresh episode, and this time it’s not even the best material that Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver have on Ahmadinejad. The episode focuses on the most recent Iranian elections, which Ahmadinejad allegedly rigged and followed up with some festive and brutal oppression. It’s really not the best material, and it ignores Ahmadinejad’s great moments at the U.N. meetings and insane ramblings about America, all of which Producer Chris promises will be in the sequel episode. Like last week, this episode is fine for acclimating new Buglers, but not the best example of The Bugle’s satirical might. 

Doug Loves Movies: Anthony Jeselnik, Big Irish Jay Hollingsworth, and Sean Jordan
In what Doug Benson has subsequently subtitled (in this week’s “hotel room” minisode with Sean Jordan) the “how high is too high” episode, his podcast’s visit to Portland is undone by the City of Roses’ other favorite plant. Benson perks up—relatively speaking—when his guests take the stage, but his introduction sounds as if it’s being delivered from a particularly comfortable beanbag chair. It’s not the “mumble-mouth mess” Benson claims it is—after all, the guests and the audience eke out the impressive Build-A-Title The Sandalot Like Love And Other Drugstore Cowboys And Aliens Vs. Predatora, Tora, Tora, Torambowfingirl, Interrupteddie And The Cruisers—but getting through the whole thing requires several ounces of patience.  

Firewall & Iceberg #98: Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Last Man Standing & More
This week’s Firewall & Iceberg is a podcast with a body count: Dan Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall aren’t surprised by the cadavers in a rundown of canceled shows, and they pronounce Tim Allen’s new sitcom Last Man Standing and HBO’s Enlightened dead on arrival. Their enthusiasm for season two of AMC’s The Walking Dead is good to hear, but confusing in light of how little they liked season one. Now that Breaking Bad, their favorite show of the year, is over, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be this happy again until spring. But The Simpsons’ stay of execution gives them something to smile about.

Sklarbro Country #63: The Sklar Triplets: Matt Besser, Howard Kremer, Danielle Schneider 
Jason and Randy Sklar are so goddamned good that they need to take a week off to give others a crack at their seemingly permanent spot among Podmass’ best. This week they hand over the reins to sports buff Matt Besser, Who Charted? host Howard Kremer, and Besser’s wife, Danielle Schneider. The results are as sloppy, loose, and disjointed as the show is usually tight and consistent. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t feel much like Sklarbro Country either, falling way below the brothers’ usually high standards. 

The Smartest Man In The World: Walls
In Cleveland, Proops fights a tough crowd, winning them over with plenty of stories from past visits there, including one that involved a drunken frozen-turkey-bowling incident during a morning radio show appearance in 1990. Running through memories of Carl Lewis, Satchel Paige, Steve Jobs, and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Proops also sneaks in a great Cuyahoga River joke with a few other gentle pokes at Clevelanders. Additional references to Cleveland and Ohio and their ties to his topics—including a visit he paid to the Occupy Cleveland protest—play a significant through-line for this solid entry.

The Sound Of Young America: Bootsy Collins
Jesse Thorn chats with Bootsy Collins in a somewhat scaled-down version of the interview the funky bass player did with Sound Opinions, though with the added dimension of Collins discussing how he put together his image as well as how uncool it was for black people to be freaky back in his freaky heyday. Listeners will likely leave with the distinct opinion that Collins is a guy they’d want to hang out with, maybe partially to try on his famous star sunglasses, but mostly because he seems so nice.

Stuff You Missed In History Class: Admiral Yi Sun-sin And The Turtle Ships
Korean turtle ships were pretty badass. They were huge, fat, covered in steel spikes, and had a dragonhead in the front. Sadly, that is about all there is to them. Some of the best episodes of this podcast center on events, and this one is spread across hundreds of years—focusing on a battle instead of the inventor probably would have gone a long way. Hosts Sarah Dowdey and Deblina Chakraborty never really make them seem more than an oddity you’d find stuff in a dusty museum corner (if they weren’t so big). 

Who Charted? #45: Sex Chickens: June Diane Raphael
Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack welcome the pleasant and charming actress June Diane Raphael for an episode that recalls overhearing another table’s lively brunch conversation—amusing at times, but not entirely memorable. The one takeaway from the conversation involves the revelation that Raphael and Vilaysack take an exercise class that involves them discovering their “erotic creatures.” It is just as ridiculous as it sounds.

WTF With Marc Maron #217: Amy Sedaris, Sam Seder, Julie Klausner, Mike Lawrence, Leo Allen
Skip to the one-hour mark of this week’s live WTF to hear Sam Seder and Amy Sedaris publicly audition for their own solo chats with Marc Maron. As Maron’s former Air America sparring partner, Seder has a knack for getting under the host’s skin that’s just playful enough to merit a full hour of their back-and-forth; Sedaris’ appearance is just so gleefully batty that to limit her to 15 minutes of conversation about her fantasy TV projects—“I pitched ’Night, Mother once as a TV show, where each week the girl’s trying to kill herself”—and eccentric family is only the tip of the funny iceberg. Too bad they had to share the dais this time around.