Week of Sept. 8-14
- Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg stop by everywhere, Alex Winter talks Bill & Ted, and a history of drag queens
- Josh Homme joins Nerdist, Sound Opinions revisits At Folsom Prison, and The Indoor Kids talk video games
- Jim Jefferies talks pinball, the cake council convenes, and A History Of Oil explained
- David Sedaris describes his bath time, cicadas are explained, and Wompler returns
- The Dice Man infiltrates podcasting, Casey Wilson chokes up on The JV Club, and Kumail vs. Maron
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“Gus Van Sant has a film coming out called Restless. Here’s the précis: Quirky girl with cancer meets boy obsessed with death, and they keep encountering the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot from World War II. From that description, it sounds like the worst episode of Scooby-Doo ever, directed by Diablo Cody. It’s just the twee-est of the twee—it’s a twee falling in the forest.” —Glen Weldon, Pop Culture Happy Hour
“I was born in Livingston, New Jersey, home of Chelsea Handler and also where Mitch Hedberg died.”
“Oh… so two tragedies.” —Myq Kaplan and Matt Belknap, Never Not Funny
“Besides all the food, what was the last thing you bought?”
“Bell Biv Devoe tickets.” —Scott Aukerman and Zach Galifianakis, Comedy Bang Bang
“I found my son’s foreskin at tax time.” —Peter Hyman’s first line in a story on The Moth
“I know you guys all had bad experiences in gym class. I understand it. But you got to understand that we had those same feelings in science class.”—Bill Burr bridges the nerd-jock divide, Nerdist
“At that point I realized, ‘I got to get to L.A. and stick my dick in a pie if I ever want to do a play.’”—Charlie Day, WTF With Marc Maron
“There’s nothing you can’t do with Twitter that a good beach plane can’t match.” – Tom Scharpling, The Best Show on WFMU
“That show was canceled because it wasn’t self-righteous enough.” —Julie Klausner on Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, How Was Your Week?
“It’s like you’re being waited on by a ska band.” —Greg Behrendt on the service at coffee shops in South Africa, on Walking The Room
NEW (TO US)
The Comedy Film Nerds
The name of the podcast says it all: Comedians and independent filmmakers Graham Elwood and Chris Mancini honestly and hilariously review movies and talk to guests about those movies. Reviews are simple, humorous, and lack any film-critic pretentiousness—Elwood and Mancini are self-proclaimed nerds who can enjoy a ninja movie and an art-house flick equally. The guests are usually actors or independent filmmakers, and they often have an easy rapport with the hosts. While the discussions can fall into rote sermonizing about the DIY ethos or the broken entertainment industry, the hosts eventually make their way back to more interesting topics about filmmaking. Elwood and Mancini have a self-deprecating charm, so their usually awkward opening banter or occasional mistakes are more endearing than frustrating.
Episode 74 with Chris Gore of G4 and FilmThreat.com is typical. Gore adds a new level of film nerdiness by explaining how Return Of The Jedi was supposed to end, among other behind-the-scenes tidbits he gleaned from his obsession with DVD commentaries. In the reviews, Contagion earns high marks for its competent direction and excellent cast. Film fans who like Doug Loves Movies or Nerdist will find the blend of silliness and serious passion for film in Comedy Film Nerds worth a listen.
The Smartest Man In The World
Comedian Greg Proops is known for his improvisational skills—remember Whose Line Is It Anyway?—and it shows in his podcast, The Smartest Man In The World, taped weekly before a live studio audience in whatever city he’s visiting at the time. Careening from topic to topic, Proops hits on subjects that are both planned and improvised, then follows up with a segment answering questions submitted via his website and from the audience. In “Bats,” taped at the Hideout in Austin during the Out Of Bounds Comedy Fest, Proops takes time out to address a fly that’s bugging him and coffeeshop customers unaware of his taping. He also mocks Texans, hits political hot topics (including Texas Governor Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann), and discusses Hurricane Irene. The transitions between the pre-written spiels and the more off-the-cuff riffs, and between serious and comedic diatribes, can be jarring, but Proops’ improv experience helps smooth over some of the rougher moments. The stream-of-consciousness nature of the podcast has it charms, and the discussion of current events keeps it topical rather than just stand-up, but the scattershot format can test listeners’ patience over the course of an hour.
The Memory Palace
In this brisk and sadly infrequent podcast, Nate DiMeo tells the strange and often poignant tales that American history has forgotten: the con artist that captured the imagination of Manhattan socialites, how lobsters used to be peasant food before the locomotive, etc. The five- to 10-minute stories feature a kind of precious, deadpan delivery similar to This American Life, but more humorous, backed by a surprisingly evocative and effective musical score. The latest series of episodes, produced for Slate, travel beyond DiMeo’s favorite time period (turn of the 20th century) to focus on the American Civil War. Episode #39: Road Trip looks at the start of the war from the point of view of the troops who made the long march from D.C. to Bull Run, from their naive preconceptions of glorious battle to their hopes for a quick war. The sudden change in mood halfway through is jarring, but like most episodes of The Memory Palace, very affecting.
The Best Show On WFMU
Cautionary tales about when practicing the dark arts goes wrong, a little John Hodgman, and Tom Scharpling’s thoughts about the worthlessness of Twitter: There’s a lot of wisdom provided on this week’s Best Show. Meanwhile, Scharpling’s challenge for one of the regulars to step up and provide a good call stays unanswered, but other callers give us plenty of ideas as to what films Orson Welles should have been in during the twilight of his life. Overall it’s good show this week—not the best Best Show, but once Scharpling conjures up that demon, you’d better watch out.
Comedy Bang Bang #122: Zach Galifianakis, Paul F. Tompkins, Yo La Tengo
Considering the guests, episode 122 has all the markings of an all-star episode, but make no mistake: This is the Paul F. Tompkins show, as he debuts a new character, renowned German filmmaker Werner Herzog. The man behind such laugh riots as Grizzly Man, Fitzcarraldo, Rescue Dawn, and many others provides a perfect persona for the comedian, who portrays Herzog as humorless, death-obsessed, and completely deadpan, even as his outrageous statements crack up the other guests. Galifianakis barely registers in this episode, though it’s funny to listen as Scott Aukerman and Tompkins continually tease him to the point that he actually (comically) breaks at episode’s end. Also hardly registering are the typically taciturn members of Yo La Tengo, who say little but perform a few songs.
Hang Up And Listen: The Football And The Flag Edition
By nature, the Hang Up And Listen crew is suspicious of league/network hegemony and the self-righteous tsk-tsk-ing of athletes’ on- and off-screen behavior. But the hosts aren’t robots, and this week they take unexpected positions on two segments. In the first, they praise the NFL (and the networks) for their respectful treatment of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, particularly in light of the sport’s militaristic bent. (In other words, no jet flyovers.) In the second, they concur with the criticism directed at Serena Williams, whose blowup at a U.S. Open chair umpire they consider out of line and whose cognitive dissonance at the press conference afterward speaks to a pattern of not taking responsibility for on-court tantrums. Continuing with tennis for the “Afterball” segment, Josh Levin tracks down the game’s first noted “grunter,” Victoria Heinicke (Victoria Palmer in her ’60s heyday), who’s now a retired tech-support consultant. This leads to quality Mike Pesca tomfoolery about a grunt-filled tech-support call.
The Mental Illness Happy Hour #25: Greg Cheever, Part 2
The first part of Paul Gilmartin’s interview with friend, projectionist, and recovering addict Greg Cheever ranked as one of the podcast’s frankest and most compelling installments. But it now feels like a mere warm-up to this. In Cheever’s first appearance, he described how he got addicted to heroin and just barely survived prison. The follow-up finds Cheever in the shadowy depths of addiction as he tries to reconcile his commitment to his projectionist craft with his rapacious need for drugs and alcohol. Spoiler: Addiction wins nearly every battle. Cheever has been fired from just about every studio in town, and for good reason: He didn’t enjoy a career as a projectionist so much as he enjoyed a lengthy and colorful reign of terror that involved everything from running around a screening room naked and clutching a bottle of vodka to physically threatening Robert Redford during a screening of Ordinary People. Cheever regales audiences with tales of his past indiscretion not with pride or an inflated sense of outlaw swagger, but with f perspective that only comes with time.
Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #34: Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies And A Glass Of Milk
MATES is not a cooking podcast, but rather a sit-on-your-ass-and-eat-snacks podcast, so Tom Cavanagh gets extra points this week for cooking up chocolate-chip cookies, the podcast’s first-ever homemade snack. Cavanagh uses the classic Toll House recipe as a control, with his kids helping. (“Now I know they were made with love,” says his co-host Michael Ian Black.) Cavanagh himself contends that this episode is weak because there can be no conflict when you’re enjoying chocolate-chip cookies. Then again, it also contains his confession that he cooks “wearing my elfin apron without my pants.”
The Moth: Peter Hyman and Michele Weldon: StorySLAM Favorites
On a podcast that usually isn’t reminiscent of a Farrelly Brothers movie, Peter Hyman recounts going on a mission to bury some foreskin. It was his infant son’s, and for a traditional Jewish ritual, but Hyman does indulge a little of the subject matter’s gross-out potential. He even tries some tax-related humor, noting that it was his son’s “only major deduction of 2010.” In other parenting challenges, Michele Weldon talks about the lies, small and big, that she told her three sons to get through raising them as a single mom. It isn’t as transgressive as Hyman’s segment, but it’s strong in terms of that compassionate, humanizing humor The Moth tends to bring out in people.
Nerdist #122: Bill Burr And Reggie Watts
Montreal’s Just For Laughs comedy festival is the great Canadian melting pot of funny, and that’s reflected in this fractured but nonetheless enjoyable episode of Nerdist taped at the festival this past July. There’s a lively bit of culture clash as Bill Burr compares sports fanaticism and comic-book obsession (alliances be damned, everyone agrees that former New Orleans Saints running back Chuck Muncie has a goofy-sounding name), but the conversation takes a turn for the cerebral when Reggie Watts joins the panel. Watts’ performance style seems so intuitive, but his digressions on fringe science and his music roots show there’s a sponge-like brain backing it all up. It doesn’t take much prodding for Watts to put his skills on display, and he ultimately proves that nerds and jocks alike can delight in an improvised rap that name-checks both Transformers and Robotech.
Never Not Funny #915: Myq Kaplan
Viewers of last year’s season of Last Comic Standing will have likely paid attention to fifth-place contestant Myq Kaplan, whose intelligent, acrobatic sets were more inclined to win over comedy fans than winner Felipe Esparza, whose mere existence in the L.A. comedy scene confounds Jimmy Pardo. That’s how Kaplan prefers it though, because “the more people that know you, the more people that hate you.” As so often happens on NNF, Pardo and Kaplan spend much of the first half analyzing comedy, from pondering the unanimous respect of Rodney Dangerfield to discussing an autistic fan’s diagnosis of Kaplan and dissecting why riff-ending clunkers can be fun. Quick and verbose, Kaplan and Pardo escalate the conversation rapidly after the break, only to be thwarted by Matt Belknap’s drawn-out questioning of Pardo’s Stallone-in-a-bottle character; however, Kaplan’s cryptic “it’s like that old song” prompts a medley of bottle-themed parodies and the best ending to an episode since #906 with Pat Francis.
Sklarbro Country #59: Twitter King Me: Alec Sulkin, Jesse Thorn, Joe Mande
Like Second City or The Daily Show, Sklarbro Country maintains such high standards that it’s easy to take it for granted, so it’s nice when the brothers switch things up a little. On this week’s installment, for example, they call old friend Joe Mande to discuss his very one-sided Twitter war with Orlando Magic player, shark-grotto proprietor, and Sklarbro Country favorite Gilbert Arenas, and whether Mande can claim credit (or blame) for Arenas leaving Twitter. Twitter is an enduring fascination of the Brothers Sklar; guest Alec Sulkin is trotted out as another superb Twitter wit, and while he’s not quite as funny or memorable as previous guest Rob Delaney, he still proves a lively and engaging presence. As the podcast’s resident Fantasy Sports Analyst, Jesse Thorn of The Sound Of Young America and Jordan, Jesse, Go! traffics in a more precious, McSweeney’s style of humor than the others, but that actually renders him even more welcome. Thorn’s reports tend to be on the esoteric (and non-sports) side, but he really outdoes himself with a fantasy “doula” report on the top non-medical suppliers of support to women before, during, and after childbirth.
Stuff You Missed In History Class: The Freedom Riders: CORE’s First Wave
As hosts Sarah Dowdey and Deblina Chakraborty note: While it is not the May anniversary of the beginning of Freedom Riders that most people celebrate, September is when they succeeded. It’s a messy, dramatic time in the Civil Rights movement, beginning in 1944 with Irene Morgan, who—an entire decade before Rosa Parks—refused to move from a seat and fought a sheriff’s deputy. Morgan would pay the fine for resisting arrest, but not for sitting in the wrong bus seat, and the NAACP eventually came to her aid. The ensuing protests on American buses resulted in violent reactions across the country. While crooked sheriffs and FBI informants conspiring to commit mass beatings may sound like an unrealistic Sons Of Anarchy plot, it was par for the course back then. This is the first of two parts, with the FBI-informant story promising to unfold more next week. It’s an obviously compelling topic, and Dowdey and Chakraborty never skip a beat trying to sound ironic or smooth over the brutality.
Stuff You Missed In History Class: Not Ned: Early Australian Bush Rangers
It might surprise new listeners to learn this is not the first time SYMIHC has discussed Australian Bush Rangers. But it’s less difficult to believe when you discover that bush rangers not only outnumbered American Wild West outlaws, but made them look quite the sissies. The titular “Ned” is Ned Kelly, the bush ranger you’ve most likely heard of, but the first true bush ranger was John Caesar, a.k.a. “Black Caesar” or the “Cannibal Bush Ranger.” He was a convict (possibly) over 7 feet tall known for eating his gang members when rations were low, repeatedly escaping prison, and wounding a legendary aboriginal warrior. It’s difficult to tell what Black Caesar did exactly, as nearly every Australian crime from the 1790s was blamed on the gigantic, terrifying man. Sarah Dowdey and Deblina Chakraborty mention other bush rangers as well and manage to give them intriguing personalities, but starting with a giant cannibal and moving on to other characters who jump parole to start their own non-human butcher shops is a little unfair. The hosts even find themselves imagining how hard it would be to follow his reputation.
Stuff You Should Know: How The World Trade Center Memorial Works
There are few tasks more difficult than putting the World Trade Center into context as a functioning building rather than a piece of history, but Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant do it in podcast form about as well as you could ask. The two only briefly describe where they were that day, like we all have for the past decade. Clark and Bryant are warm but efficient in summarizing the structural questions of the original buildings, the politics surrounding them, and the potential for the disaster being worse before spending the rest of their time on the memorial itself. Hearing the extreme temperatures needed to melt the steel of buildings puts into context the weight of what fell to the ground that day. There are still moments of irony to uncover too, such as the fact that the primary destination for the debris was called “Fresh Kills Landfill.” The episode is never maudlin or overly personal, and makes for a good way to actually not “forget.”
This American Life #445: Ten Years In
In a week saturated with 9/11 commemorations, This American Life focuses on what it does best: approach the story from a different place, beginning with a prologue that asks just who these 9/11 commemorations are for. Instead of rehashing the usual talking points, Ira Glass and company revisit the stories they’ve reported in the past decade in an intense six-act episode. All of them are memorable and affecting, but never melodramatic or exploitative. There’s an update from Hyder Akbar, whose teenage audio journal about his father’s work in Hamid Karzai’s administration provided two episodes’ worth of material in 2002 and 2003. Today, Akbar works for an NGO in Kabul and is considering a future his younger self would have never imagined. There are also updates from Marian Fontana, whose firefighter husband died in one of the towers, a soldier suffering from PTSD whose life took a violent turn, a family that fled Iraq for Norway, and a young Muslim girl terrorized by her schoolmates. The episode closes with a retelling of Lynn Simpson’s chilling story about escaping from the 89th floor of the World Trade Center. If only every other 9/11 special were this well done.
Uhh Yeah Dude #288
There’s news that’s weird and then there’s news that’s made for Uhh Yeah Dude, including studies of space junk and expectant mothers who apparently try to be as fat as possible. Between wondering about the auditory disorder misophonia (“it’s ear racism”) and the prospect of buying a Chinese basketball team, Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Larroquette get fired up for some inspired back-and-forth. They wonder if food companies should sponsor the Moms of the Year competing for the Guinness World Record for weighing the most at the time of giving birth, and honestly aren’t that far from the realm of possibility when they pitch the related reality show Feeding And Fiancés: Nashville. Better still is when the two move into non-news antics, namely reading each other lyrics from country singer Jake Owen’s “Apple Pie Moonshine” and Ace Hood’s “Twitpic.”
Walking The Room #68: Men In Trunks And Jellyfishin’
The episode title gives you some idea of how wide the goalposts are for Greg Behrendt and Dave Anthony this week. Anthony shares a long story about a drug-dealer uncle (hence men in trunks), which gets funnier when the two wonder aloud about having reviews of drug dealers on iTunes. Later on, the two joke about throwing jellyfish at their kids as a punishment: “I jellyfish that bitch up,” Behrendt says, referring to his very real daughter, which always gives these riffs a surreal, menacing quality. The high point comes, though, when the two compare notes on South Africa, where Behrendt says he recently failed to amuse a stand-up crowd by observing that South Africans “eat all the pretty animals.”
WTF With Marc Maron #208: Live From Montreal
Live WTF podcasts invariably feel looser and more raucous than usual episodes. In this installment, recorded the night before Marc Maron’s keynote address at Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival, Maron gets into dicey racial and gender territory with a black albino convinced he’s found the one time when it is socially acceptable to smack a woman in public. He also gets Jewy with Jeremy Hotz and has an exceedingly odd conversation with Nina Conti, a ventriloquist and daughter of character actor Tom Conti. (Conti jokes of being halfway toward a “psychotic puppet break” from reality à la Mel Gibson in The Beaver.)
WTF With Marc Maron #209: Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton
Two-thirds of the creative brain trust behind It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia makes it to Marc Maron’s garage, and Maron is quick to discern the reason behind Rob McElhenney’s absence: McElhenney’s too busy shedding the 50-odd pounds he packed on for the seventh season of It’s Always Sunny. According to Day and Howerton, McElhenney suggested that all three co-creators/co-stars enter into his experiment in humor via weight-gain, but this is one proposition he couldn’t smooth-talk to success. So while the series’ fans are left imagine a version of It’s Always Sunny with an additional 100 pounds of funny, Day and Howerton recount the origin of the series, hiring Danny DeVito (his kids liked the show), and their days spent trodding the boards in New York City. (Day almost received his big Broadway break in the stage adaptation of The Graduate, before the last-minute intervention of Jason Biggs.) Maron slots snugly into his guests’ long-established rapport, and while he’s not quite one of “The Gang,” he at least enables Day and Howerton to open up about the impulse-channeling power of their name-making television show. Howerton truly hopes he never meets a fan who says he or she is “just like” his It’s Always Sunny character—so it’s a good chance that your “I gained 50 pounds to be just as funny as Rob McElhenney” story isn’t going to impress him, either.
The Adam Carolla Show
If you’re the kind of Carolla fan who listens for the chatter (not the guests), this is your week. In order of descending interest: Tim Ferriss, author of manifestos The Four-Hour Body and The Four-Hour Work Week, offers some intriguing strategies for sleeping, dieting, and promoting books via Google. Then it’s all downhill: Blake Anderson and Anders Holm from Workaholics return, again showing they’re less douche-y than the cubicle inmates from their Comedy Central show (while barely mentioning the program). This time, Anderson, a former Real Time With Bill Maher writer’s assistant, dishes on the host, which leads to a discussion of who’s the worst human being—Rosie O’Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres, or Don King? The anecdotes from comedian Brad Williams about life as a dwarf are a blip in his episode, and Ace moves on to relationship calls from listeners who are clearly incapable of maintaining a relationship. You can actually hear the parentheses around comedian T.J. Miller; between Carolla’s rants about a malfunctioning iPod and religious commercials, Miller gets in few words about his upcoming musical comedy album, Gumby, and Davey And Goliath. 9/11 Calls is unlistenable: Carolla cuts half the callers’ pointless anecdotes short, and the crew’s musings on the tragedy—like how Hollywood people “hate America”—would have been hackneyed on 9/18/2001.
The Apple Sisters #15: Boat Queen, Week 3 Of 6
After a week off, the ladies return to settle episode 14’s cliffhanger with the nasty pirate, who turns out to be pretty nice (until he’s booted from the boat). There’s a lot of mail-room silliness, but this feels pretty inconsequential—though the girls’ argument and song about shutting up is fun.
Culture Gabfest: “Stop Touching Your Face” Edition
There isn’t much passion evident in any of the three segments on this week’s episode: Nobody can work up much enthusiasm either way for Contagion, which they appreciate as an epidemiology procedural but less so as a disaster movie, and bits on Anderson Cooper’s new daytime talk show and the possible demise of the U.S. Postal Service are neither here nor there.
Doug Loves Movies: T.J. Miller, Adam Scott, and Myq Kaplan
Adam Scott’s Parks And Recreation schedule and the undeniable allure of driving down the freeway with the windows down make him 20 minutes late to this episode of Doug Loves Movies—another good argument that DLM deserves a more accommodating time slot than the one immediately preceding Comedy Bang Bang. Scott’s been on the show plenty of times, so his absence isn’t a total loss—and it gives T.J. Miller time for a lengthy breakdown of his new album, The Extended Play E.P. It also affords Kaplan the awkward/hilarious opportunity to introduce himself to Scott on mic, a quick laugh the ’cast might not get in a new spot.
Firewall & Iceberg, #92: “Ringer, Up All Night, Secret Circle & More”
To kick off the 2011-12 TV season, Hitfix.com critics Dan Fienberg and Alan Sepinwall have an infectiously swell time giving articulate drubbings to new shows, including the Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle Ringer and would-be reality-star redemption H8R. They give better marks to CW witch drama Secret Circle and NBC sitcoms Up All Night and Free Agents, then experience true enjoyment with FX’s returning It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Archer. This week, the worse the show, the better the commentary.
How Was Your Week: #27: “Shelf Of Justice”: David Rakoff
As a frequent contributor to This American Life, author David Rakoff has a habit of bringing the darkness, but his chat with Julie Klausner stays light (at least at first) as the two discuss the joys of Ikea and the infamous hobo-themed wedding from the Etsy blog, but the conversation gets deeper when the theory of defensive pessimism comes up. Gentiles and non New-Yorkers may feel slightly in the dark as the two talk about being young in the city as well as Jewish vs. Goyishe desserts, but the first part of the podcast delivers the required dosage of pop-culture snark: Klausner discusses Nancy Grace’s upcoming appearance on Dancing With The Stars as well as the art of the flame war—this one about circumcision based on something Mario Lopez said on Twitter.
Nerdist #123: Big Bang Theory
Fall cleaning at the Nerdist archives yields this panel with the cast, creators, and producers of The Big Bang Theory, a fan-service-oriented chat recorded at the ever fan-service-oriented San Diego Comic-Con International. To that effect, Chris Hardwick puts too much power in the people’s hands, giving nearly 30 minutes to audience Q&A. Fan favorite Jim Parsons fields some awkward questions about his BBT character’s perceived autism/Asperger’s syndrome/obsessive-compulsive disorder/lack of social skills, while Kaley Cuoco and Mayim Bialik go a long way toward subverting the geeky goodwill within the convention hall. (Note to Cuoco: Never let ’em know you’re not familiar with the term “TARDIS.”) Perhaps that’s why Hardwick feels the need to overemphasize the series’ role in helping its nerdy fan base “come out,” which is a bit much, even for a Comic Con panel.
Pop Culture Happy Hour: Fall Movies And The Guests We’re Always Glad To See
Pop Culture Happy Hour’s fall movie preview mostly amounts to a glancing list of films the four regular participants have heard about and are moderately interested in seeing; they usually bring a great deal of expertise and depth to their show, so it’s frustrating and not always engaging hearing them vaguely speculate about art they haven’t seen and don’t know much about. A second segment on their favorite TV guest stars gets into more depth, but this episode’s strongest moment comes during the What’s Making Us Happy segment, when Linda Holmes recounts a recent viewing of The Princess Bride and reminds listeners that it’s worth revisiting über-quotable, oh-so-familiar art to remember how it got that way.
RadioLab Shorts: Mapping Tic Tac Toe-Dom
An odd installment of the series finds author Ian Frazier sharing the story of how he went to Siberia and found no one who knew the game Tic Tac Toe. Naturally enough, Jad Abrumad and Robert Krulwich decide to test this hypothesis and briefly come to think no one but Americans know the game, before realizing that other nations just call it a different name. It’s a strange question that can be answered through a simple Google search, and it feels like a lot of effort for very little payoff.
The Sound Of Young America: Nicolas Winding Refn
Refn won Best Director at Cannes this year for Drive, a film about a stunt performer (Ryan Gosling) who moonlights as a wheelman and has a price on his head after a heist goes wrong. Refn has a few cool stories about hanging out with Gosling and getting high on flu medicine given to him by Harrison Ford, but the conversation gets a bit affected as the Dane blathers about feeling alienated in Los Angeles and how art is like sex and also like violence and also kind of like war.
Sound Opinions #302: Iron & Wine
A.V. Undercover All-Star Sam Beam of Iron & Wine stops by to discuss the evolution of his recording career, from his early four-track albums to the soft-rock lushness of this year’s Kiss Each Other Clean. Enjoyment of this episode hinges on your appreciation of the whispery wimpiness of Beam’s music—and it’s a little strange, in light of Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis’ vocal dislike of Bon Iver, that they’d gush over somebody so unabashedly whitebread. But if you’re a fan, this interview should be a fascinating listen, covering the particulars of his career as well as his philosophies on songwriting and art in general.
Stuff You Should Know: How Casinos Work
Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant claim to be excited at the beginning of this episode, but excitement soon gives way to veiled bragging. Neither host claims to be a “big gambler,” but they spend a lot of time on “advice” and personal winnings. The episode has moments of fun, but it’s as if the two fear copping to research will make them sound too nerdy to gambling listeners. This is not really conducive to a facts-themed podcast. Apparently they “heard” that the mafia is “probably” not involved in Vegas anymore, and later that “some guy” figured out the keno system.
The Tobolowsky Files #50: The Primary Source
Stephen Tobolowsky offers a tale of the time he was kind of sort of in a band with a young Stevie Ray Vaughan in this often amusing, often moving, but often slight installment of The Tobolowsky Files. There’s some interesting talk of actors going to certain sources to study their upcoming roles, and the stories about Vaughan’s genius being revealed at the age of 14 are good, but the episode feels slightly rote overall. The latter story—about Tobolowsky ending up providing an unusual link to a dead man to the man’s family—is stronger, but the Vaughan story relies too heavily on events Tobolowsky wasn’t present for, particularly in its climax.
Who Charted? #41: Teach Me How To Skittle: Andy Kindler
Over the past few episodes, hosts Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack have built momentum with some particularly strong shows—momentum that comes to an abrupt halt with the addition of guest Andy Kindler. Essentially, Kremer and Vilaysack are unable to establish any kind of conversational rhythm with Kindler due to his tendency to lapse into schlocky Jewish-mother impressions and general obnoxiousness. In other words, Kindler’s appearance is more of an uncomfortable performance than a conversation with the hosts.