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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Chris Rock as a white man, freaky Fridays: The Swapcast celebrates the body-swap tropes we know and love

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Cher And Retweet
Pen Licenses, F*g Undies And “Is It 29”?

Oh, bless this podcast. Cher And Retweet springs from a delightful corner of the podcast world, where two or more people come up with some super-specific thing to discuss—in this case, Cher’s Twitter feed—as an excuse to get together and crack each other the hell up. It’s the podcast equivalent of a hangout film, where the events on screen matter a lot less than the characters to which they’re happening. Andy Balloch and Justin Porter are two such characters, or in this case, capable hosts. One’s American, one’s Australian, and and they’re both goddamned hilarious. In this episode, as with all of them, they look at the music icon’s tweets past and present, political and inexplicable, turning many an odd corner along the way. A particular highlight in this installment: pen licenses, a simple concept that reduced two grown men to helpless giggles. Loving Cher is optional, but loving this podcast is inevitable. [Allison Shoemaker]

Gaslit Nation
2016, A Gaslit Year, Part One—Manafort, Wikileaks, And Trump’s Long Bromance With Putin


Today, it’s pretty much taken for granted that Donald Trump has some kind of shady business going on with Vladimir Putin. To state otherwise is the contrarian view. This wasn’t the case two years ago. Not at all. And not for a lack of credible evidence. That’s the incredibly frustrating reality that gets unpacked in this inaugural episode of Dame Magazine’s Gaslit Nation podcast. Co-hosts Andrea Chalupa and Sarah Kendzior—two of the first journalists to ring alarm bells—spend a good deal of time simply laying out everything we knew for sure prior to the GOP convention in Cleveland, and it’s quite a bit. For anyone who was following along with news of Trump’s business practices and Paul Manafort’s history with Russian oligarchs, it was pretty clear that there was reason for concern, which made the yawns of cable news and mainstream media all the more infuriating. If you were one of the people following along, this podcast might not make you feel better about our current predicament, but it will make you feel heard. And for the rest, it’s a hell of a recent history lesson. [Dennis DiClaudio]

Ghost Town
The Comedy Store

In the third episode of Ghost Town, hosts Jason Horton and Rebecca Leib explore the storied history of infamous L.A. comedy club The Comedy Store. Both Horton and Leib are comedians and are thus familiar with the venue, having even performed there. The compelling history of the club, including its old-school mob connections, its previous life as a clinic for illegal abortions, and the death of a former employee, is enough to make listeners at least consider the possibility that The Comedy Store might be haunted. Leib asks her co-host one of the most important questions for a podcast about hauntings: whether or not he believes in ghosts. Both hosts, it turns out, are thoroughly on the fence between skepticism and belief. For a podcast clocking in at just over 15 minutes, Horton and Leib cover a lot of ground and end things with an invitation for listeners to share experiences they might have had at The Comedy Store as well as other stories of ghostly encounters. Paranormal enthusiasts seeking new additions to their list of haunted tourism spots need look no further than Ghost Town. [Jose Nateras]

Dick Move


Scene On Radio has repeatedly proven itself as both exceptionable and reliable. Take for example last season’s 14-part Seeing White series, which sought the answer to the question “Just what is going on with white people?” by centering the voices of people of color. Now back for a third season (distributed this time around by PRX), host John Biewen is joined by Celeste Headlee to apply that same level of focus on men and manhood: “What’s up with this male-dominated world? Is male supremacy inevitable? How did we get sexism/patriarchy/misogyny, and what can we do about it?” Biewen identifies himself up front as a white, cisgender, heterosexual, middle-class, non-disabled American male, or “the oppressor,” and Headlee identifies herself as a woman of color, adding that despite Biewen’s heavy involvement, the podcast will quickly move on to other, often marginalized voices. Given the history of transparency here and the genuine interest in inclusive storytelling, listeners can count on another well-reported and enlightening venture, one that upholds Scene On Radio’s mission of “exploring human experience and American society.” [Becca James]

Ministry Of Ideas
Nothing Matters


How exactly does one begin to contemplate the existence of nothing and determine its place among history’s greatest philosophical debates? If you’re Ministry Of Ideas, you start with a four-minute recap of Rick And Morty. Hosted by a Harvard Divinity School grad student, episodes bend more toward obscure religious scholarship than contemporary cartoon programming, with a smattering of marquee figures making cameos along the way. Host Zachary Davis first uses Rick And Morty and H.P. Lovecraft to explain the genre of cosmic horror, which posits nothings matters, then sums up the West’s long struggle with conceptualizing nothingness, beginning with Aristotle and continuing to the outside introduction of the number zero. He switches gears to argue that scientific theories like heliocentricity and evolution carry an element of nothingness that was seen as an affront to godly thinking. Nothing made us, and we’re the center of nothing. This line of thinking helped birth a new strain of philosophy, given the name “nihilism” in the 1862 novel Fathers And Sons. But it doesn’t necessarily mean an absence of spirituality; it can also serve as a spiritual vessel, demonstrated by the Buddhist doctrine of nirvana and mystic teachings in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. [Zach Brooke]

Mother, May I Sleep With Podcast?
Harry & Meghan


For two seasons Molly McAleer’s Lifetime movie podcast has analyzed every detail of these idiosyncratic films, from their over-the-top acting to the wigs and costumes to the typography used in the title sequences. More often than not, episodes focus on movies of subpar quality attempting to cover heavy issues, so it’s refreshing in season three to hear McAleer and her guest, Blaire Bercy, cover the lighthearted TV movie based on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s love story, which Bercy repeatedly dubs “the best Lifetime movie of all time.” That’s not to say it’s without its share of deeper moments—they dig into issues of race, sexism, and classism displayed by the Windsors, and Bercy shares why it was so important for her to see a black woman join the royal family. But mostly it’s just a joy to hear Bercy and McAleer sing the praises of a movie that, despite being scripted almost in real time as the royal engagement unfolded, is actually well-written, well-acted, and well-produced. By the end of the episode they’ll have you believe that it’s not just the best Lifetime movie, but maybe the best film ever created. [Brianna Wellen]

The Real Story
Poland Out In The Cold


Headlines in the U.S. have been so fixated on our domestic political shitstorm that the brewing xenophobic nationalism and anti-democratic authoritarianism overseas in places like Turkey and Hungary haven’t received the mainstream attention their significance warrants. A bit of sunlight on Poland’s looming crisis broke through for American audiences last year when Donald Trump—to the delight of the ruling anti-immigrant, anti-EU Law And Justice party—gave a hard-right speech in Warsaw to throngs of bussed-in conservative supporters. This week’s edition of The Real Story, a one-hour BBC World Service program devoted to a single, thorny geopolitical topic, is a frustrating but critical listen. Host Paul Henley frames the Polish post-Communism success story and massive GDP growth of the last decade or so with Poland’s reactionary majority party, which is arbitrarily purging the judiciary to stack it with “friendly” judges. MP of the governing Law And Justice party Dominic Tarczyński demonstrates how barely veiled racism cuts through in any language. [Dan Jakes]

The Swapcast Podcast
Down To Earth


Paul Mizzi, Lucy Thomas, and Brendan Levi explore a very specific film genre on their podcast: the body-swap film. The series premiered earlier this year and has released nine episodes so far, which already proves that there are even more body-swap movies in existence than we could have possibly imagined. Each episode breaks down the tropes of what happens when one character ends up in another character’s body, including an initial chest or crotch grab to confirm the swap and the almost instant acceptance of what has happened. While many of the films are meant to be lighthearted comedies, the trio has explored just how problematic the concept can be. In the most recent episode they watch and discuss Down To Earth, in which Chris Rock dies and is revived in the body of a rich white man to pursue a stand-up career with jokes that are often about race. The unfortunate truth Mizzi, Thomas, and Levi discover throughout the series is that many body-swap movies aren’t very good, but they always end with suggestions on what’s actually worth watching to swap out for the movie in question. [Brianna Wellen]