Week of Sept. 1-Sept. 7
- The Dice Man infiltrates podcasting, Casey Wilson chokes up on The JV Club, and Kumail vs. Maron
- Maron talks to the Community ladies and Comedy Bang! Bang! celebrates an anniversary
- Kurt Braunohler joins the podcast fray, Werner Herzog continues his streak, and Radiolab cuts to the heart
- A Comedy Bang! Bang! sequel, Pete Holmes yaps with Jeff Garlin, & Rob Zombie returns to Nerdist
- Rob Schneider unloads on WTF and David Lee Roth takes over Mohr Stories
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“You’re the worst person alive.”—Doug Benson to Jeff Garlin, Doug Loves Movies
“Almost said ‘theater’! But I know the blacks don’t go! Unless it’s that My Arms Are Too Short To Box With God production. Or The Wiz.” —Jimmy Pardo during “What Am I Thinking?, Comedy Bang Bang
“I saw a young girl throw up this summer after looking at my calves. It was sick.” —Shawn from Rampridge on one of his myriad physical defects, Best Show Gems
“I have watched enough awards shows that when Bruno Mars performs, I feel a sort of Pavlovian impulse to urinate, because I’m so accustomed to taking my bathroom break during Bruno Mars’ many incredibly boring performances. I find Bruno Mars is maybe the most boring, just completely missable entertainer in America today. Like, he seriously should be performing at a casino.” —Stephen Thompson, Pop Culture Happy Hour
“Right now, everyone’s like, ‘Oh my God, what has happened to Entourage? Entourage is so terrible now!’ When was Entourage good?” —Dan Fienberg, Firewall & Iceberg
“One guy with a ding-dong, two ladies with some knockers.”
“A registered voter is in it. I think someone with a legume allergy.”
“Guy allergic to shrimp, right? Little Mexican guy with the arm that’s 10 feet long?”
“I think a former baby made an appearance.”—Eugene Mirman and Paul F. Tompkins describe the cast of Star 80, Doug Loves Movies
“If this is how it is down there, it’s making me think Smokey And The Bandit was a documentary.” —Tom Scharpling to Jason from Huntsville, The Best Show On WFMU
“I’m 6-foot-3, and if you looked at like, a thermal image of me and couldn’t tell my skin color, you would think I was a black major-league catcher, because my thighs and buttocks are furious. They’re filled with fury.” —Rob Delaney, Comedy Bang Bang
“Give my love to your cat, even though he seems like a dick.” —Julie Klausner to Jake Fogelnest, How Was Your Week?
“If they made a movie of My Pet Goat, do you think it would be against the backdrop of 9/11?”—Paul F. Tompkins, Doug Loves Movies
“You guys communicate well. I don’t know of other friends that have this long of a discussion about missing a picnic.” —Ty Burrell to Matt Belknap and Jimmy Pardo, Never Not Funny
NEW (TO US)
The Todd Glass Show
“Dodd” Glass refuses to let a joke die in his offbeat podcast that is part chat show, part Andy Kaufman-esque absurdist exercise that may leave listeners wondering why they’re laughing. It’s not that the show isn’t funny, but Glass is as bizarre and confusing as he is hilarious. Each episode features him sitting down with his producer (“co-host” seems like an exaggeration) and a guest, and they talk for an hour about seemingly random topics. Following the main segment is an after-show where Glass gets stoned and does the same bits from earlier, only high. To say that he’s beating a dead horse is accurate and the point—the show is funny because he won’t stop the joke. The Todd Glass Show may be the first two-hour podcast that leaves listeners wanting more.
Comedian/songwriter Henry Phillips owns episode #4 with epically strange stories from the road. Glass gets most of his laughs by breaking the fourth wall in the middle of a bit, stopping it cold, then continuing. It’s the least coherent episode so far—which actually makes it the best episode yet.
The Tolkien Professor
Corey Olsen is a professor of medieval literature at Washington College in Maryland, but his real homeland is Middle Earth. The majority of his podcast’s episodes are lectures covering each of Tolkien’s major works, chapter by chapter. It may sound mind-numbing, but Olsen’s geeky fervor and the audience participation bring a lot of life to the episodes. Each one has a baffling level of focus; the recent Silmarillion Seminar episodes tackle the biblically dense supplement to Tolkien’s popular trilogy in a way that would only really appeal to diehards (or students). Featuring a Q&A between Olsen and some former students, each episode is helpful for Lord Of The Rings fans who could never penetrate The Silmarillion. For total neophytes, the WC Tolkien Course Session 1 from January 2010 provides a great guide through Tolkien’s work.
Best Show Gems: Shawn In Rampridge Survived A Plane Crash
To qualify as a truly excellent Best Show Gem, Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster should be so far off-course by the inevitable hang-up that it’s hard to remember where they started. That’s certainly the case with this week’s episode, which begins with Shawn from Rampridge describing a harrowing flight experience and ends soon after he’s played a cover version of Kiss’ “Black Diamond” using an air horn. Philistine that he is, Scharpling doesn’t exactly “get” Shawn’s love for compressed air, but he’s even more confused by the body-image issues, the overt racism, and Shawn’s tales of a surprisingly cutthroat portable-toilet industry. This episode aired during a particularly sweet stretch for Scharpling and Wurster bits, with few lulls, big payoffs, and the kind of laughs you just don’t get anywhere else.
The Best Show On WFMU
Tom Scharpling emerges from his basement flooded by Hurricane Irene to continue the regular caller ban, though he cracks the door by challenging any of the banished to call if they have a top-notch story. Jason from Huntsville obliges (though he was never banned), spinning a hysterical yarn about an apartment building owner who found a mobile home subletting the land—and an electrical outlet—next to the complex for $50 a month from a tenant in an adjacent apartment. But Philly Boy Roy’s call is undoubtedly the highlight, as is usually the case. As mayor of Newbridge, he took some heat for his administration’s Hurricane Irene response—like the mandatory tarp purchases, available only in front of the Wawa and sold by Roy Jr. (He also congratulates Scharpling on being voted “favorite podcast” by America’s 100 worst criminals.) After a couple off episodes, The Best Show is thankfully back in top form.
Comedy Bang Bang #121: Bro-ing Out: Jimmy Pardo, Paul Rust, Rob Delaney
Going into episode #121, Scott Aukerman has even less planned than usual—no characters, no games, just “talkin’ to bros and havin’ bro talk” with guests Jimmy Pardo (Aukerman’s podcasting mentor), Paul Rust, and Rob Delany. But it isn’t long before some familiar segments pop up, starting with What Am I Thinking? and even Jukebox Jury. The former elicits some hilarious banter with Pardo, and the latter is terrible as usual—one of the songs is called “We Fuck Titties (Every Day)”—though they make it through the entire third song. But the best moments of the episode come when Aukerman unveils a new segment, Hot Topics, which takes its discussion points from The View’s segment of the same name. Since The View is on hiatus, the discussion points are old (Schwarzenegger’s mistress), but it leads to some funny riffing. “If she’s in your house all the time, you’re gonna fuck her at some point,” Delaney says on behalf of the former governor. “What are you gonna do, not fuck her?”
Doug Loves Movies: Scott Aukerman, Amy Schumer, Rory Scovel, and Valient Himself
It was only a matter of time until a Doug Loves Movies audience member used a living being of some sort as a nametag; thankfully, Scott Aukerman is confident and practiced enough as a DLM contestant to take that ball—or in this case, baby—and run with it during this first of three episodes recorded at the Bumbershoot Music And Arts Festival in Seattle. Aukerman gets tremendous mileage out of bringing Baby Elliot (and his dad) onstage during the Leonard Maltin Game, and the other comedians—plus Valient Thorr singer Valient Himself—seem delighted and baffled in equal measure by the infant’s bemused reaction to them and the audience. The game itself is fairly anticlimactic, thanks to some shrewd strategizing on Aukerman’s part, but the baby-centric tomfoolery that surrounds it is the real spectacle.
Doug Loves Movies: Anthony Jeselnik, Wayne Federman, Kyle Kinane, and Big Irish Jay Hollingsworth
The second of this week’s three Bumbershoot episodes of DLM benefits greatly from the odd yin-and-yang chemistry of Kyle Kinane’s drunken proto-hobo persona and Anthony Jeselnik’s cool, calculated jackassery (or as Kinane characterizes it at one point, “confident and condescending”). There’s also a fair bit of excitement built up around someone taking a “1-inch punch” from Seattle comic “Big Irish” Jay Hollingsworth in exchange for an extra point in the Leonard Maltin Game. When the big moment eventually arrives, it doesn’t really translate to audio, but the contestants’ giddy trepidation during the lead-up and fallout results in some solid riffing, peppered with a few of Jeselnik’s laser-guided verbal jabs.
Doug Loves Movies: Eugene Mirman, Paul F. Tompkins, Kurt Metzger, and Sean Jordan
The ultimate lesson of Doug Loves Movies’ Bumbershoot run: Doug Benson has enough of a handle on what works and what doesn’t with his podcast that it has transcended its status as Comedy Bang Bang’s “opening act.” Episodes like this one—where Eugene Mirman drops nonstop non-sequitur gold, Paul F. Tompkins blusters away from his “Best Podcast Guest Ever” throne, Kurt Metzger phones in from Planet Weed, and Sean Jordan skateboards alongside them all, because he’s from Portland, man—are headlining stuff. If this episode were in danger of encroaching on CBB’s start time, the tangent about Tompkins’ work with Daniel Day-Lewis would’ve been much shorter and much less funny. These stellar Bumbershoot eps may just be a case of “right guests + right environment + right crowds,” but they’re also examples of how DLM excels when it has enough space to let funny people be funny—and/or attempt to name the three top-billed cast members of Star 80 in the most abstract terms possible.
Firewall & Iceberg, #91: Wilfred, Louie, Entourage, & More
With the help of listener mail, Dan Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall go long this week, covering shows they love (FX’s Louie and AMC’s Breaking Bad) and love to hate (Entourage, which gets a pre-finale postmortem). As Louie’s season ends, they coronate it among TV’s finest shows—even if it leaves them equally amused and baffled. (In their book, the other two best are Breaking Bad and NBC’s Parks And Recreation). Mesmerized by Louie’s lack of continuity, the critics perform rhetorical acrobatics trying to categorize the unconventional show in conventional terms. Is it a short film collection? Anthology series? Is a show really allowed to just drop characters without an in-text explanation? True to function, they seem much more perplexed by these issues than the guy who writes the show.
Hang Up And Listen: The Punter Will Be Eaten Edition
Ex-Denver Broncos tight end (and former Stefan Fatsis teammate) Nate Jackson and current Minnesota Vikings punter/card Chris Kluwe join the HUAL crew for an NFL preview that sets the tone for a loose, funny, hugely entertaining episode. After Kluwe wrote a tweet that called the QBs holding up union negotiations “douchebags,” Jackson wrote a piece in Deadspin called “Dear Chris Kluwe: When We Want The Punter’s Opinion We’ll Ask For It (We Won’t),” but the two spar good-naturedly about bargaining strategy and the kicker’s low place on the totem pole. The two other segments are just as strong, with Fatsis, Josh Levin, and Mike Pesca discussing the aesthetics and purpose behind flashy college football uniforms like the ones worn by Maryland and Georgia this week (the sport’s corporate overlords play a part), and the troubled state of professional tennis, where fans have become nostalgists. Pesca has the most compelling argument on that front, making the case that racquet technology has homogenized a game that used to have a diversity of different styles.
How Was Your Week? #26: “Count Chocula’s Other Teeth”: Michael Musto, Jake Fogelnest
Julie Klausner hits her sweet spots this week—comedy nerds and old-timey gays—with guests who cater to those demographics. After tackling the hot topics of the VMAs and the new Dancing With The Stars cast (she is clearly obsessed with Chaz Bono and should just get him on the podcast already), Klausner and SiriusXM host/VH1 talking head Jake Fogelnest geek out over old SNL sketches and discuss what’s so funny about Billy Joel. Village Voice gossip columnist Michael Musto follows, as he and Klausner discuss how Madonna is the worst, Suzanne Somers’ poetry and one-woman show, and other gay-friendly topics. It’s bitchy, smart fun.
The Mental Illness Happy Hour #24: Greg Cheever (Part 1 of 2)
For guests of The Mental Illness Happy Hour, Paul Gilmartin sometimes chooses creative friends with particularly juicy stories to tell rather than conventional entertainers. Greg Cheever is one, a projectionist by trade with such a treasure trove of sordid anecdotes at his disposal that Gilmartin devotes two full episodes to his tales of overcoming addiction. Cheever talks with Gilmartin about how the “false god” of LSD left him with a faux sense of contentment and inner peace, but the most riveting parts of the interview chronicles Cheever’s stint in prison and the crafty measures he employed to avoid being sodomized by fellow inmates. As is often the case, a streak of dark humor courses through even the most horrifying anecdote, but this is still strong stuff. Judging by Gilmartin’s account of what’s to come (projecting while naked and blackout-drunk, for starters), listeners have much to look forward to in the second half. Gilmartin closes the podcast with an email from a 17-year-old listener that eloquently and succinctly captures what makes The Mental Illness Happy Hour special and important, ending a memorable episode on a particularly poignant note.
Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #33: Popchips
Michael Ian Black and Tom Cavanagh receive the snack reviewer’s equivalent of their first promo copy this week. That is, Popchips becomes the first company to send MATES its own product for review, in the form of “a wicker fuckin’ basket” of assorted flavors. They insist they can’t be bribed, but it’s mostly just fun to hear them openly mock some poor Popchips employee for writing a cover letter that tries too hard to be slick. It turns out sending multiple flavors makes a MATES episode faster and punchier, what with the disconcerting barrage of quick-hit reviews from Black: “Cheddar potato... suck my dick.”
The Moth: Khalid Latif: Shattered Silence
The Moth marks the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with an episode that tries to capture a moment of understanding in a climate of fear. But instead of milking that moment for its tear-jerking potential, Khalid Latif uses it as the almost subdued ending to his story. Having experienced 9/11 as a Muslim student at New York University (and eventually becoming a chaplain for the NYPD), Latif recalls the difficult way in which the attacks led him to embrace his religious identity. It’s a reminder that Moth stories can be powerful and gracefully crafted even without laughs, unless you count Latif’s little crack about the phrase “organized Islamic activity.”
Sklarbro Country #58: Less Is More: Kevin Pollak, Chris Cox
Kevin Pollak has long reigned as the corny but welcome uncle of the podcast world. He’s at least a generation older than most podcasters, but it’s his glad-handing, name-dropping, old-school sensibility that sets him apart. He’s the kind of guy who can say he went to high school with former New York Yankees pitcher Dave Righetti (whom he calls “Rags”) and really expect it to mean something. During his spirited, self-aggrandizing visit to his spiritual nephews in Sklarbro Country, Pollak discusses how listening is the key to being a good dramatic actor, regularly pimps his eponymous online chat show/podcast, and tells a juicy anecdote involving Buzz Bissinger and Sugar Ray Leonard (who was just a delightful guest on Pollak’s highly rated podcast, conveniently enough).
Superego: Episode 3:7
In the opening case study, Superego regular Paul F. Tompkins pits his beloved Andrew Lloyd Webber character against HR Giger while being moderated by a delightfully creepy Don Dimelo (Andy Daly). Although Tompkins’ Lord Sir Dame Andrew Lloyd Webber has made the rounds on Comedy Bang Bang and his own Pod F. Tompkast, it feels especially fresh playing off of the hilariously unsettling Giger. Although it seems like his partners are doing their damnedest to make Tompkins break character, he finishes the scene without a giggle fit—no small feat. Easily the strongest bit on the episode is the Relaxation With Mudge Claughlin, an intense relaxation guru who demands the listener relax and lets the world know he “lacks shit giving” over a soundtrack of aggressive guitar shredding, revved-up motorcycle engines, and explosions. Mad Men’s Rich Sommer makes a notable appearance in The Rockstone Investments case study in dual roles as a married gay couple working in a call center. The bit also makes excellent use of Marcy Playground’s “Sex And Candy,” a song that almost deserves its own cast credit for the comedic mileage it provides.
Uhh Yeah Dude #287
Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette’s installment this week benefits from the little comedic snowballs that occur when separate bits of subject matter collide—such as Texas State Fair food and transgender romance. “Your cleave be killin’ it, son. Any walking tacos around here? That’s what bros eat!” In other words, this UYD is rich in the kind of banter that makes no sense out of context. All the better to fuel the pair’s take on such newsworthy issues as poison snow and prenatal snuff use. They even hatch a plot to unite a few different evangelical hyper-breeding families into one big “superfuck” of a family, and dip their toe in the chemically dodgy waters of ThankYourWank.com.
Walking The Room #67: Humpin’ Baboons And Death Balloons
Fueled by a package of chocolate vaginas mailed in by a fan, Greg Behrendt and Dave Anthony get some spastic limericks about farts out of the way and proceed to discuss Behrendt’s recent travels in South Africa. That makes the first half of the episode heavy on touring-comic road stories, most engagingly one about two baboons having sex in the middle of a road. (That’s one of Behrendt’s anecdotes, not a joke setup.) Riffs about budding childhood resentment are always better coming from real, live family men, and so it is later on in the episode, as Anthony and Behrendt analyze the experience of giving a child a balloon, only to have the balloon inevitably float away. It’s worth getting to the end this week just to hear Behrendt talk about being a judge on Earwolf’s podcast challenge, only to end up eliminating some contestants who were Walking The Room fans.
Who Charted? #40: All About Lee
When Howard Kremer teased the possibility of doing an entire episode in the character of his curmudgeonly brother Lee, the idea seemed questionable. Sure, the “cranky older brother” persona is effective in short bursts, but an entire hour? Fortunately, it turns out that “Lee” is actually funnier than most of the actual guests. For starters, Kremer really commits to it, so the conversations between him and his brother play out seamlessly. Plus, it’s clear that Kremer is putting a lot of love into the character, especially when Lee poses a quiz asking if Kremer could win a fight against the podcast’s engineer. According to Lee, Kremer would get “crushed like a Flintstone vitamin in a horse’s mandible.” However, the biggest laugh comes when Lee describes a Selena Gomez track as sounding like “a drunk punched a horse in the ribs.” Maybe in a future appearance Lee will reveal why he enjoys horse similes so much.
WTF With Marc Maron #206: Anthony Jeselnik
Is Anthony Jeselnik the devil? That’s the stated and unstated question behind the red-hot stand-up comic’s recent trip to the Cat Ranch. The Roast Of Donald Trump standout recounts finding his comic voice by making a list of the most taboo subjects known to man—rape, abortion, the lot—and hitting them hard. Jeselnik compellingly discusses developing his sociopathic persona and how it sometimes made it difficult to write in Jimmy Fallon’s voice during his stint as a writer on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. The best parts of the podcast come directly from Jeselnik’s stand-up act. He’s the king of the morbid one-liner; his dead-baby material alone makes this worth a listen, even if Jeselnik emerges as a shockingly functional, even normal character despite the transgressive nature of his material and shtick.
WTF With Marc Maron #207: Sandra Bernhard
There’s a certain pervasive perception of Sandra Bernhard—“cunty,” as she puts it near the end of her inaugural appearance on WTF—and it clearly preceded the comedian and actress before she arrived at Marc Maron’s house. Maron acknowledges this multiple times in their conversation, but Bernhard is a warm presence in the garage, as willing to talk about shooting The King Of Comedy as her daughter’s bat mitzvah. Maron and Bernhard dance around the potential seeds for that negative perception—Hudson Hawk sank her chances of being a movie star; it’s been ages since she was a fixture on the late-night TV circuit—but Bernhard maintains a pragmatic and appreciative tone toward the vagaries of show business. Considering her anecdotes about brushing shoulders with comedy survivors like Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller, why wouldn’t she?
The Adam Carolla Show
The week in Ace, in order of descending interest: Carolla spends an entire ’cast interviewing an always-in-character Andrew Dice Clay, covering Dice’s golden years, career revival, and the gambling habit that led to his current role on Entourage. Dice also explains his host of metrics that prove he is the most popular comedian ever. In a Labor Day special, the crew and callers discuss the worst jobs they ever had: Carolla flashes back to McDonald’s and a travel agency staffed by “every strain of cunt” before settling into his salad days as a contractor, when he dealt with asshole bosses and born-again gang-bangers. Comedian Ali Wong muses on the Darwinian dynamics of stand-up comedy, chats about her Chinese family, riffs on the country’s open-mic scene, contrasts gay and lesbian lifestyles, and briefly mentions her upcoming NBC sitcom Are You There Vodka, It’s Me Chelsea. Comedian Harland Williams (Half Baked) and Carolla geek out about evergreen Gen-X topics like Evel Knievel, Escape From New York, and old-school Planet Of The Apes flicks. Comedian-actor Aisha Tyler—a big fan of poker, boozing, and UFC—bros down with Ace and shares the pleasures and fringe benefits of “being a black chick.”
Culture Gabfest: “The Paranoid Style In American Podcasting” Edition
This week’s Gabfest starts with by far the strongest segment, bringing Slate’s Jeremy Stahl on to discuss his multi-part series on the rise and fall of 9/11 conspiracy theories, and the political conditions that explain both their popularity and their eventual relegation to the fringes. The Gabfesters do everything they can to spruce up an analysis of popular photo-doctoring applications like Instagram, but for all the brainy talk of photography in the digital age, the takeaway seems to be, in Julia Turner’s words, TFF (“totally fucking fun”). Guest host June Thomas’ passion for frivolous summer shows on the USA Network explains a frivolous final segment on Suits.
Doug Loves Movies: Jay Mohr, Jeff Garlin, and Evan Glodell
The best laid schemes of podcast hosts oft go awry—especially when they pair an up-and-coming director with two noted loudmouths. And so poor, unfortunate Bellflower director Evan Glodell is set adrift on the oceans of noise issuing from Jay Mohr and Jeff Garlin, whose games of one-upmanship here are mic-hogging at its most grating. Doug Benson quickly realizes this is far from a promotional boon for Glodell, and it’s a testament to his improvisational skills (or evidence that objects shouting shtick tend to keep shouting shtick) that he quickly switches gears to play Mohr and Garlin off of one another.
Nerdist #121: Sir Patrick Stewart
During this live interview recorded at Chicago’s Wizard World convention, Chris Hardwick hits all the major questions with guest Patrick Stewart—acting background, Captain Picard, Professor Xavier—but the time constraints limit it to scratching the surface. The guest alone could’ve made this a Best, but the 45-minute time limit, the absence of Matt Mira and Jonah Ray (it’s not the same without them), and the fact that many of the jokes were intended for the live audience sinks this episode.
Never Not Funny #914: Ty Burrell
Never Not Funny is known for its sprawling, referential conversations, but this week mainly concerns three familiar topics: baseball, parenthood, and the process of television. The last gives some insight on Ty Burrell’s role in Modern Family and his modest career prior, and his role as arbiter—in a spat over Matt Belknap bailing on a family outing with the Pardos—is especially funny. But Jimmy Pardo seems unusually reserved this week, often leaving Belknap to lead discussions that are genial, if a little rote.
Pop Culture Happy Hour: In Which It’s Time To Go Back To School, Kids
This week features the regular four PCHH participants back together for the first time in more than a month, but it’s sedate, as if everyone’s still hungover from the gigantic reunion party. The reopening of school prompts a general overview of schools in pop culture, which is fairly tame apart from Trey Graham’s insistence that no one talk about Hogwarts… after which he starts comparing things to Hogwarts. There’s some general sniping at the VMAs, a discussion of what Labor Day means, and an expansion of What’s Making Us Happy to What Made Us Happy This Summer. What made Graham happy: seeing the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ in Philadelphia. What made everyone else happy: repeatedly snickering over his ongoing use of the word “organ.”
Sound Opinions #301: Songs About Work
Theme shows are a common occurrence at Sound Opinions, especially around holidays. This time, Labor Day offers an excuse for Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot to discuss their favorite songs about work, a surprisingly fruitful topic for great songwriting. Unfortunately, their picks feel a little shopworn; DeRo goes with tracks from usual favorites like Lou Reed and Flaming Lips, while Kot picks some okay-ish Bob Marley and Van Morrison songs. Overall, it’s a decent theme with good (not great) execution.