In Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends 10–15 of the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at email@example.com.
Cosmic Toilet: Cady Coleman
Drought is a word on everyone’s lips, with the effects of the impending crisis in California born out in many different arenas—including The New York Times, which was willing to spend a full page water-shaming readers. So maybe it’s time for a new approach to the problem, but surely the one posed by a listener at the start of this episode is not the answer: A Waterworld-style idea, but with twice the schadenfreude. Enter host Flora Lichtman to set the matter straight, as she so often does on this wonderfully frank yet fun podcast about the realities of climate change from a purely scientific perspective. What follows is a thought-provoking and in-depth discussion about the particular mores that affect the notion of recycled water being used for human consumption. Lichtman goes to no-less a source on the matter than Cady Coleman, a NASA astronaut who, over her nearly six-month stay on the International Space Station, drank untold gallons of recycled sweat and urine from the ISS water-recovery system. The episode touches on a number of other thought-provoking topics, especially that of how sustainability butts heads with emotionality, which may be the biggest factor holding society back.
The Adventure Zone
Petals To The Metal - Chapter One
This is an opportune time to dive into The Adventure Zone, which is quickly sweeping other RPG-podcasts into obscurity. The Agatha Christie-flavored Murder On The Rockport Limited storyline is done, and the podcast gives way to a brand new adventure. The McElroys serve up a perfectly balanced hour of storytelling, NPC interaction, and combat. Magnus, Merle, and Takko, are tasked with tracking down the nature-controlling Gaia Sash. The episode feels a little light on Takko, so fans of the dim-witted wizard may feel let down. Instead, Magnus and Merle dive head-first into Goldcliff, a metropolitan city besieged by powerful magic. Magnus and Merle even get into a gruff-off with “Captain Captain Bane,” seeking to prove who has the most manly baritone voice. The high point of the episode is Merle talking an enchanted planted into sexual climax. Hearing Clint McElroy use horticulturally specific pillow-talk sends his sons cowering as they cannot unhear words like “pistil” and “stamen.” The episode wraps up with the adventurers taking on a powerful Treant. Merle finally casts a healing spell, and Takko has a ring-of-power-like moment, providing a brief glimpse at ethereal antagonists who will likely reappear in subsequent chapters.
The Dead Authors Podcast
L. Ron Hubbard: Andy Daly
Paul F. Tompkins giveth, and Paul F. Tompkins taketh away. Last week, The Dead Authors Podcast saw Tompkins’ H.G. Wells announcing his intention to “not do this anymore,” and this week brought news of the demise of Paul F. Tompkins’ interview web series Speakeasy. It’s hard to blame the man with full-time gigs at Netflix and Fusion, and though it’s a shame that this gig has to go as well, it’s a great beginning to its twilight. Andy Daly is back and continues to ascend delusional heights as L. Ron Hubbard. With two of the greatest comedy minds at the top of their game (again), many of the episode’s biggest laughs come from actual and unbelievable details of Hubbard’s life—sex magic, initial reviews of Dianetics, running from INTERPOL on the high seas, and an international criminal conspiracy called Operation Snow White. Daly’s characters are always an iceberg with the darkest of dark submerged below, but the jocularity he brings to L. Ron Hubbard makes the subject’s familial abandonment and forays into black magic a fun adventure.
Doug Loves Movies
Michael Sheen, Jonah Ray, Brett Morgen
Michael Sheen is a bit like a parallel-universe Hugh Grant: Instead of playing the perennial English gentleman on-screen and acting like an incorrigible shitheel during media appearances, he regularly plays grandiose eccentrics on film and television while seeming to be the friendliest guy alive during interviews. That’s certainly the case on Doug Loves Movies last week, in which Sheen arrives with a generous armful of prize-bag goodies, including a stack of DVDs and a body pillow of himself (“For anyone who has wanted to sit on my face… namaste.”) Alongside Jonah Ray and Montage Of Heck director Brett Morgen, Sheen riffs about new releases, pokes fun at his fellow panelists’ answers, and eagerly jumps into the games, including the refreshingly new and fun Whose Tagline Is It, Anyway? Unlike during live shows at the Los Angeles Upright Citizens Brigade, Doug Benson doesn’t seem restrained to a short time limit at the NerdMelt Showroom in Hollywood, so the momentum gets to play itself out naturally instead of grinding to a halt. Those extra 20 minutes or so are worth it; it’s episodes like this that Doug Loves Movies fans stick around for.
Everything's Coming Up Podcast!
“You Only Move Twice”: Matt Mira
It’s almost hard to remember when The Simpsons was arguably the funniest, most culturally relevant thing on television. But season eight was a high-water mark for the show, with episodes like “A Milhouse Divided,” “The Mysterious Voyage Of Homer,” and “In Marge We Trust.” “You Only Move Twice” is among those classics, and it’s fitting that podcast journeyman Matt Mira would pick this 007-inspired episode to discuss on Everything’s Coming Up Podcast!, given his fascination with James Bond. Mira, along with hosts Allie Goertz and Julia Prescott, don’t devote the bulk of conversation to rehashing “You Only Live Twice.” Instead, they explore the specific stickiness of classic Simpsons non-sequiturs like “lousy Smarch weather,” and how spot-on the episode was in sending up the new-wave lifestyle of tech-bubble start-ups. Mira recounts growing up with The Simpsons, including repeatedly listening to a tape-recording of this particular episode, and wisely calls out the two biggest contributors of this episode—reclusive writer John Swartzwelder, and Albert Brooks. Mira is so enamored with Brooks’ performance as the secret supervillain, that he imagines how much better The Simpsons Movie would be if Brooks had reprised Hank Scorpio for the feature film, and the Springfield dome was revealed to be one of his nefarious plots.
How Did This Get Made?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze: Adam Pally
How people feel about this podcast depends largely on their opinion of resident loudmouth Jason Mantzoukas. Live episodes such as this one bring out his combative mania, as he enjoys nothing more than berating a willing audience. How Did This Get Made? host Paul Scheer makes a bold choice in inviting back Adam Pally, as the guest seems hell-bent on out-Zouksing the Zouks. Of course, that’s literally impossible, but the effect is like having Mantzoukas in stereo, which is fun if you’ve braced yourself. The target of the week is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze, the sequel that removed everything great about the first movie, replacing it with Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap.” That scene is taken to task with particular vigor. Recorded live from Irving Plaza in New York City, Mantzoukas and Pally also engage the dumdums of Manhattan in a frontal assault of 9/11-themed put downs. The audience groans, but actually seems more tolerant of terrorism than Pally’s fascination with performing broadly racist Japanese accents. This episode is great for those who love bad-movie skewering podcasts with real energy.
Never Not Funny
It’s a good sign when a two-hour plus podcast seems to go by quickly, and the debut Never Not Funny appearance of Anthony Rapp—best known for Dazed And Confused and as an original Broadway cast member of Rent—flies by. There’s a lot of Rent talk, but it’s not all back-patting. Jimmy Pardo, of course, has a bizarre, complicated relationship with the musical, where he by all accounts hates everything about the it but nonetheless sees it every chance he gets, and sobs profusely in his car afterward each time. Rapp, for his part, is as baffled by this as anyone would be, but he takes it well, even though he still has a lot of love for the show. (The same cannot be said for Twister; his work in that film also gets some decent discussion time.) Though the topics are wide-ranging, the episode feels more focused than usual. It’s hard to feel anything but joy by the end, too, when Pardo and Rapp attempt to duet a Rent number before the whole crew joins in for “Seasons Of Love,” which quickly devolves into a delightful disaster.
Affliction: John Levenstein, Molly’s Mom
Molly McAleer’s advice podcast Plz Advise has the same open, intimate tone as a diary or a casual conversation among friends. It doesn’t feel performative. It doesn’t feel obligatory. McAleer asks her guests about their fears in a straightforward way that gets them to open up right at the start. Even the advice comes off as more of a meditation than a prescription. This week, McAleer’s joined by her mother, Seana Ambulos, and John Levenstein, executive producer of Kroll Show and noted The Slap enthusiast. The dynamic between McAleer and Ambulos is great (Ambulos’s debut on the podcast was so well-received that McAleer brought her back for a second week in a row). And Levenstein is brutally, hilariously honest with his words of advice, especially when it comes to the men, who he says up front he’s going to be harsher on. The callers this week don’t really seem to know what they want or what they’re asking, but Levenstein manages to find the real question underneath the question they’re asking. And after they’re done giving their advice, McAleer and Levenstein dive into a very earnest conversation about the most recent season of The Bachelorette that’s both funny and (surprisingly) emotionally real.
[Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya]
U2 - “Cedarwood Road”
Song Exploder has been coming up in the podcast world, landing both a slot in the Radiotopia lineup and a gig as one of Wired’s recurring features. That might explain how Song Exploder host and creator Hrishikesh Hirway landed U2 for his latest episode. Granted, in the episode, Hirway asks the band to dissect “Cedarwood Road,” a song from its latest album Songs Of Innocence and not more well-known fare, but it’s still a good get. Bono and The Edge—both of whom have seemingly lost their Irish accents—wax rhapsodic about skinheads, religion, and government housing. Especially interesting is Bono’s patter about how, years removed from his childhood home on Cedarwood Road, he still remembers the fear he felt growing up in tumultuous Ireland. As Bono aptly puts it during the episode, “You can’t escape your upbringing.”
With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus
The North Pod With Santa Claus: Paul F. Tompkins
Well, Paul F. Tompkins has certainly went and had himself a week, starting with a new Spontaneanation followed by the long-awaited release of part two of The Dead Authors Podcast featuring Andy Daly as L. Ron Hubbard, closing it out by returning to host With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus as perennial favorite character Santa Claus. And as surely as naughty kids get coal for Christmas, so too was it a given that Lauren Lapkus would reprise her wildly popular, and grossly inappropriate, id-like elf HoHo, further barfing her way into listeners’ hearts. Tompkins seemed in a rare state, playing Santa Claus with more of a bite than in previous appearances on Comedy Bang! Bang!, casually cursing up a storm as he and HoHo discuss topics ranging from Santa’s obtrusively libidinous ways with Mrs. Claus to the “gossip” about various elves’ uncontrollable bodily discharge in the toy workshop. Later in the episode the phone lines are opened, giving way to a Tompkins and Lapkus character fest, with appearances from several of the pair’s past hits like Garry Marshall, Allison Gondry, Mizz Chips, Alan Thicke, and Amanda Calzone. As an episode it’s a bit disjointed, but that doesn’t matter because it exists as a sort of love letter to devoted TompKus ’shippers.
“Urine is basically, I like to say 99 percent beautiful water and 1 percent yucky stuff.”—NASA astronaut Cady Coleman on the math behind water recycling, The Adaptors.
“Sex magic is great—it’s really just sex.”—L. Ron Hubbard (Andy Daly) on his occult interests, The Dead Authors Podcast
“I love you, I also despise you, I would like to see you murdered, but not by my own hand”—Paul F. Tompkins as Santa Claus expressing his complicated feelings toward Lauren Lapkus’ HoHo, With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus