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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comedy Bang! Bang!
Solo Bolo Trolo: Ben Schwartz
Waiting, wondering, the question remained: Would Scotty and Benny Schwa grace listeners with another Solo Bolo? For the unfamiliar, a Solo Bolo is an episode where Scott Aukerman and Ben Schwartz talk about nothing and everything for a little over an hour, singing at least 70 percent of the time. This third edition is a Solo Bolo in its purest form as they go through all their greatest hits, from a harmonized rendition of “Feed Me Seymour,” a record-breaking Olympic Song Challenge, Aukerman’s latest take on House Of Lies (much to Schwartz’s chagrin, “House Of Piss”), and sexual tension that is out of this world. Schwartz actually licks Aukerman’s face while he calls Schwartz a “cum slut” during the show (and there’s photo evidence for any skeptics), allowing Aukerman to eventually relinquish his role of the straight man, and it’s delightful. Plus, the two sing some Hamilton and play a drunken New Year’s Eve freestyle rap voicemail from Lin-Manuel Miranda. This Solo Bolo Trolo is one for the ages.
The Podumentary Supreme
Despite the presence of a number of Earwolf vets, this behind-the-scenes look at Tenacious D’s third-annual comedy and music fest—held at L.A.’s Shrine Expo Hall And Grounds in October last year—isn’t focused on gut-busting laughs. Instead, Unicorns and Islands frontman (and composer of the Serial theme) Nicholas Thorburn takes a documentarian’s approach by flitting around backstage and interacting with the various guests. This gives the episode a whirlwind, slightly absurdist feel as he watches Nathan Fielder crunch loudly on Mexican food, has a goofy exchange with his childhood hero Super Dave Osborne, and conducts a grunt-filled interview with one of the festival’s yeti mascots. The hour culminates in a retrospective interview with the D themselves, with Jack Black and Kyle Gass reflecting on the highs and lows of putting together such a behemoth buffet of entertainment. While their chat is interesting, the episode’s first half feels more raw, amusing, and unconventional—a half-hour of Thorburn excitedly hunting for comedians in the wild.
My Favorite Murder
Five Favorite Murders
On this new podcast, two cheery ladies (Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark) joyfully discuss the nitty-gritty details of their favorite gruesome murders. They are admittedly not crime experts (and in some cases, they’ve brought barely any researched facts to the table) but they offer entertaining theories, insights, and personal obsessions that put a new spin on the age-old tales of the Night Stalker or the assassination of Robert Kennedy. On this episode, the gals dive into their favorite murders of the week: the death of Martha Moxley and the L.A. Freeway Killers of the ’70s. While the details they relay to each other already make for one of the most chilling episodes yet, it’s the two listener tales that really induce shivers down the spine. Both are personal stories about brushes with serial killers in their hometowns; if just one tiny detail was different, they could have been victims themselves. The daily commute to work will never be the same after hearing the hosts’ realization that if you put on a button-up oxford you can get away with anything.
Ménage A Trois Radio
Keaton Patti Of What Else?
In the latest episode of Ménage A Trois Radio, real-life lovers Murf Meyer and Diana Kolsky are joined by comedian, What Else? podcast co-host, and lovely person Keaton Patti, to discuss all things hearts and parts. Patti is charming as hell and clearly comfortable on the show as Meyer and Kolsky ask him Six Sextions (six rapid fire sex questions) such as, “If you had to make love to one piece of furniture what would it be?” to which he promptly answers, “Ottoman.” They also answer some of the most bizarre listener questions to date, topics ranging from “lard lust” and masturbating while in public, which prompts producer Ben Hosley and Kolsky to reveal some of their most wild vehicle bound sexcapades. The hosts and Patti play a round of Make It Sexy, where they each do their best to read a passage from Jaws as sexually as possible, and Patti and Kolsky go on a pretend date involving corn dogs and tape worms. The episode is a hilarious mess of revealing anecdotes and games, allowing the show to continue being unapologetically itself.
It’s unsurprising to Radiolab listeners that the Valentine’s Day episode would involve biologist Dave Goulson’s gleeful detailing of the deathwatch beetle’s life cycle. Why wouldn’t it? In its primordial way, this is indeed a love story—and one with lots and lots of sperm. The male deathwatch beetle, Goulson explains to a stunned Robert Krulwich, blindly calls out for a mate by knocking his head against a hard surface, then quickly fumbles to ejaculate 13 percent of his body weight into whatever lucky female heeds the call. A story this romantic can only be placed into the capable hands of a different kind of expert: Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda and Pitch Perfect’s Utkarsh Ambudkar, who perform a rap rendition of the beetles’ struggle to find love in a hopeless place. Lyrics like “I’ve been chewing all my life long, trying to put the work in / Beetle baby doll, don’t let me die a virgin” or “I guarantee I’m your chosen / But can you remind me which end it goes in?” ranks this episode among Radiolab’s best, and perhaps its most surprising. Hopefully “Hard Knock Life” is a sign of more form-bending and playfulness to come.
Anthony Fantano And Appreciating Lil B
Artists and critics are usually portrayed as being at odds; however in this episode of Secret Skin, rapper and skilled interviewer Open Mike Eagle dives into a layered conversation with music reviewer Anthony Fantano about the current state of journalism, music, and the internet. Their mutual love of hip-hop and business is what deepens the conversation and separates it from the typical “So, how did you get into this?” banter of other interview podcasts. Fontano created The Needle Drop YouTube series, garnering thousands of subscribers who have helped him build a sustainable career. One of Fantano’s most compelling talking points is on how he maintains the proper distance from artists in order to judge their work. He also sums up his take on modern journalism with an anecdote about the time pictures of him were mistakenly used by news outlets as the image of a school shooter. By the end of the episode, it’s apparent that in the internet-based content economy, critics and musicians are closer than ever in terms of the hustle required to get their work noticed and appreciated. The episode is capped by Eagle and Fontano dissecting their love/hate relationship with the work of rapper Lil B. Eagle can’t help but appreciate Based God and neither can Fontano. However, there is a critic in both of them that still wants to figure him out.
How To Memory
The extended McElroy family of podcasters has gotten even bigger as Sydnee McElroy—wife of My Brother, My Brother And Me’s eldest brother Justin and the host of Maximum Fun’s medical history show Sawbones—welcomes her younger sister, high school sophomore Rileigh Smirl, to the fold. On Still Buffering, the pair explore the generation gap when it comes to one’s teen years, but thankfully resist the urge to fall into an easy youth-shaming narrative. This week, Smirl’s long explanation of the different functions of Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter sounds crazy even to her, but her sister listens intently and doesn’t judge too harshly when she hears how Smirl can simply type the word “go” into a group text with her friends and secure the coveted 11 likes threshold on her latest picture. The social paranoia that comes with letting a Snapchat Story expire is new to McElroy too, but the wash of guilt when an uninvited friend views it brings the same cold-shouldering that any party with an adult’s invite cap did back then. First-time parents of teenagers may find some perspective in Still Buffering, but it’s a sweet, unserious program even without that context.
This Feels Terrible
The Return Of This Feels Terrible
When we last heard from Erin McGathy on This Feels Terrible, she was sharing the details of her wedding to Dan Harmon. Now she’s back, a year older and wiser, living in Ireland, and, oh yeah, divorced. The episode opens with a clip from McGathy telling the tale of her divorce at The Moth in Ireland, and it really captures what has always made this podcast so great. She can talk about the personal ups and downs of relationships in a way that’s honest, emotional, and hilarious. She doesn’t pull any punches when digging into the dark corners of her own neurotic behavior, and comes out on the other side a better person for it. In the interview portion of the show, McGathy talks with her first boyfriend ever about their dramatic love affair, complete with readings of post-breakup emails and all. Coming full circle from her last relationship to her first and drawing parallels between them was her perfect return to this podcast. The episode is both heartbreaking and uplifting; McGathy is more vulnerable than ever, but seems genuinely happy with where her life is going. As she says on the podcast, she’s carpe-ing the shit of the diem, and her listeners are lucky to be along for the ride.
Whether Bernie Sanders ultimately wins the democratic presidential nomination, it seems likely that the junior senator from Vermont will change the American political climate for years to come. Though the idea of a democratic socialist successfully taking on the Democratic Party establishment and forcing major media sources to utter contemplative words about corporate excess and financial inequality seemed unlikely, to say the least, just a few months ago, Sanders has somehow pulled it off. In this episode of KCRW’s daily news show, To The Point, host Steve Inskeep takes a deep dive into the life story of the 74-year-old lifelong iconoclast with a number of guests, including Harry Jaffe, author of the unauthorized biography Why Bernie Sanders Matters. Beginning with his upbringing in a predominantly Jewish-socialist Brooklyn neighborhood, they trace his life though the worldview-shifting six months he spent in an Israeli kibbutz and into his career in politics, which began with a meager 10-vote upset victory over Burlington, Vermont’s fat and lazy democratic institution. They also discuss Sanders’ viability as a general election candidate and what it means to be a progressive. This is a fascinating and easy way for primary voters to familiarize themselves with a famously private political phenomenon.
Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer of Broad City visit Marc Maron’s garage this week just in time for the start of the show’s third season. Jacobson and Glazer talk to Maron about their families and childhoods growing up outside of New York City, Glazer’s musical background and Jacobson’s background in visual art and dramatic theater, and how they started Broad City as a webseries after they were unable to make it on any Upright Citizens Brigade teams. They also explain how on a whim they asked Amy Poehler to be part of the webseries’ finale and later asked her to produce the Broad City television show, even though they never thought she would do it. It’s no surprise that Jacobson and Glazer’s “Why the fuck not?” attitude that is so present in almost every aspect of their show was also part of the duo’s path to success.
No Way Out
Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether The Walking Dead is the greatest shitty show or the shittiest great show on television. As it pulls in around 14 million weekly viewers, the dark fantasy of its concept clearly captures the public imagination. But it’s so frustrating. Character motivations are often wonky, remarkably engrossing season or mid-season budget-blowing premieres are usually followed by a string of lackluster placeholder episodes, and then there’s the Glenn situation. Watching Dead is a podcast that’s all about reckoning with this dichotomy. Ostensibly, it’s a recap and review podcast, much like many similar ones that exist for this and many other shows. But what makes this one stand out is the immense amount of shade that hosts A. Ron Hubbard and Jim Jones are willing to throw at AMC’s cash-cow horror drama when they feel it’s deserved. Because “No Way Out” was a mostly solid episode, they’re fairly even-handed in their analysis here (though they do squeeze in some jabs glaring bits of laziness, like the alarmingly speed with which the sun seems to set on Alexandria). Following lesser episodes, however, they pull zero punches, and listening to their grievances being apoplectically aired can almost make an episode like “Slabtown” worth the time spent watching it. Almost.
“I believe that Purple Rain is about as accurate as The Pick Of Destiny.”—Jack Black, Podumentary Supreme