Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair of Womp It Up! on May 20, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Vulture Festival)

In Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at podmass@avclub.com.


2 Dope Queens

I Don’t Practice Santeria

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Whether or not you know Jessica Williams from her tenure on The Daily Show or have read co-host Phoebe Robinson’s You Can’t Touch My Hair, the duo regularly make something special with their joint podcast. In this episode, Williams and Robinson are joined by Aya Cash of You’re The Worst, along with Joyelle Nicole and Clayton English. Robinson was recently filming in Croatia and discusses shopping at Zara (a.k.a “Zar Zar Binks”). Shifting gears into some hilarious commentary on HGTV programming, notably Tiny House Nation, the consistent laughter of their live audience underscores the two hosts’ talents throughout. Williams has some awesome insight into the oeuvre of White Guys With Guitars everywhere (especially in L.A.), exposing Robinson to the work of Sublime. Guests Cash, Nicole, and English bring in even more laughs, incorporating entertaining interviews that delve into some awful dating experiences, as well as current events, race, and the world of singles cruises. [Jose Nateras]


IRE Radio Podcast

A Workforce At Risk

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After ProPublica published a report indicating U.S. temp jobs are more dangerous than full-time equivalents, Sara Mojtehedzadeh of the Toronto Star decides to find out if that’s true in Ontario, Canada as well. Through her work, Mojtehedzadeh single-handedly revived the labor beat at her paper, but the September 2016 death of an unidentified migrant worker whose head scarf got caught in industrial baking equipment prompted her to investigate deeper than ever. She assumed a fake identity to gain employment as a temp worker at the same bakery. What she found was a system that minimized training and safety precautions and routinely violated Ontario employment law. When collecting her first paycheck, she was directed to payday loan shop, where she was handed cash with no paystub. Upon quitting, she was denied a record of employment. All this prompts significant fallout when it shows up in print, of course. [Zach Brooke]


Must Love Fetish

Mental Illness & Sex

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Each week on Must Love Fetish, host Sweetly Sensual Sara brings on guests with an investment in kink or sex work from both personal and professional points of view. Sara has covered everything from crossdressing to financial domination to good old-fashioned BDSM in past episodes. This week is a little different, as Sara has brought on Dr. Nazanin Moali, a clinical psychologist and host of the Sexology podcast. Even Sara admits to being slightly intimidated by hosting such a prestigious guest, but part of Moali’s charm is that she talks about this serious topic in a very accessible manner. There’s a focus on bipolar disorder and the challenges of being involved sexually with someone who suffers from it. Sara and Dr. Moali also touch on anxiety and depression, their effect on the libido, as well as mania and hyper-mania and the increased desire for “risky sex.” There are no easy answers to any of the questions presented, but perhaps listening to this podcast could help encourage someone who thinks they might be undiagnosed to ask for help. The episode might also be illuminating for those who are not affected but are involved with someone who is. [Mike Vanderbilt]


Raised By TV

Commercials

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Fans of prolific comedian podcasters Lauren Lapkus and Jon Gabrus are likely already aware of just how deep the duo’s love for their childhood TV shows goes. In this bubbly good time of a new series, now in its fourth episode, the two Los Angeles improvisers rack each other’s brains about all things ’80s and ’90s TV, from ABC’s TGIF lineup to Nickelodeon to daytime game shows. Lapkus’ affinity for and encyclopedic knowledge of jingles is on full display during this week’s discussion of kid-aimed commercials and the toys they hawked. Between bits of commentary over vintage clips, the hosts observe how redhead child actors had it made in the ’80s, how toys marketed to 11-year-old girls applied a weird pressure for them to grow up, and how rebellious Kid Power themes always manifested themselves against teachers and, wisely, not wallet-carrying parents. Mary Holland pops by to reenact a Very Special Episode moment from Growing Pains. [Dan Jakes]


Rockin’ The Suburbs

Interview—Tommy Keene, Part 1

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Last Thursday, guitar pop cult favorite Tommy Keene unexpectedly died. Jim Lenahan and Patrick Foster open the show with a charming tale of how fellow power popper Matthew Sweet—whom Keene was opening for—facilitated the meeting between the songwriter/guitarist and the two hosts. The rumor going around is that this might be the last interview Keene conducted, and appropriately enough for rock and roll, it took place in a bar. The Washington D.C. native reminisces about auditioning to join The Razz, who were “the biggest band in town” and “a dream come true.” Keene comes across as humble and accessible, and perhaps most charmingly, he showcases his deep knowledge of bands that inspired him. For having been around the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle for so long, Keene displays a sharp recollection of those early dates, describing opening for Rockpile and The Nerves. One of the nicest guys in rock, he also appears to remember everyone’s name. His earliest tunes are interspersed between the interview segments, making this episode perfect for longtime fans as well as new additions to the cult. [Mike Vanderbilt]


The Podcast For Laundry

Cole Escola

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This week on The Podcast For Laundry, Brett Davis is joined yet again by a guest who is skeptical about the show’s strictly laundry-centric concept. At first, Cole Escola (who should be on more podcasts) is scathingly distant and unenthusiastic about segments like “Bleach Please!” But what’s hilarious about this episode is the subtle shift in power that happens when Davis prompts Escola—who has a famous knack for eccentric personas—to help him create a laundry character. Slowly but surely, Escola becomes more dedicated to his premise of “Jesus Christ The Laundry Monster,” giving him a tragic backstory. And of course the character has to be political in this climate, though Davis only cares about the laundry aspect. He tries to draw parallels between himself and Jesus Christ, but it gets away from him, Escola’s on a roll. The ease with which he slips in and out of these characters is almost jarringly funny, though the show’s tone is never overshadowed by it. There’s an atmospheric universe developing on The Podcast For Laundry, and episodes like this prove there’s always something new to be found. [Rebecca Bulnes]


The Read

Give Thanks

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A short excerpt of the song “Oh Happy Day,” as heard in Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit, leads into the two hosts (Kid Fury and Crissle) quoting the movie Harlem Nights in remembrance of Della Reese, who died on November 19. After a quick glance over her filmography, Kid Fury and Crissle send a shout-out to everyone celebrated by the NAACP’s Image Awards and the recently elected Latoya Cantrell, New Orleans’ first black female mayor. Adopting a more freestyle structure for this Thanksgiving episode, the two hosts express their gratitude for the standards (health, family, friends, and shelter) as well as such goodies as Oprah’s favorite things. They discuss more current events by way of giving thanks for each, such as LaVar Ball and Trump, the recent Dipset reunion, Lena Dunham (Crissle succinctly says, “Just go away”), and relationships across different religions. As always, they close out the show by addressing some questions from listeners. Overall, a great holiday episode covering a wide array of topics with their trademark humor and sharp insight. [Jose Nateras]


Thin Air

Jesse Ross

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A model UN conference is an unlikely catalyst for a decade-long missing persons case, but that’s exactly where 19-year-old college student Jesse Ross was last seen on November 21, 2006. The University of Missouri–Kansas City student was in Chicago with 1,200 other attendees. In the early hours of the conference, an emergency UN meeting was called at 2 a.m. This task was a simulation of a historic international crisis meant to catch attendees off-guard and test their diplomacy skills under pressure. Ross was present at the emergency meeting for a time, but left early after muttering something unintelligible to his group. He’s seen on security camera footage exiting into a service hallway, and never again. Police believe Ross stumbled into the nearby Chicago River that night and eventually drowned. But the lack of a body turning up after more than 10 years leads his parents and a documentary filmmaker to suspect other outcomes. [Zach Brooke]


U Talkin’ U2 To Me?

24 Songs Of Experience

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It’s been a while since the hilarious duo of Adam Scott Aukerman hit the Earwolf studios to record their haphazardly released absurdist musical appreciation show. Excepting the pair’s July ep recapping their trip to the Rose Bowl for the band’s Joshua Tree anniversary tour, the last time the show dropped an episode was their landmark sit-down interview with those “lovable lads from Liverpool” themselves back in 2015. But the time off hasn’t dulled their sharp wits, and this time they have another big surprise up their sleeves: exclusive first-listen tracks from the new U2 record they unveil on the show. But first, any true fans of the band must spend roughly half of the episode’s two-hour runtime making it through important discussions about lawns, Harry Potter, Fox… ROCKS, and a whole lot of timely Bill Clinton impressions. At the end of the episode, listeners get a fresh dose of hope, as Adam and Scott discuss the possibility of the pair doing an all-R.E.M. podcast. Hopefully next time we’ll be covering Scottomatic For The People? [Ben Cannon]


Womp It Up!

Paul Scheer—Spotlight On: Mr. Casey Steers

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Nineteen months have passed since Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham posted an episode of Womp It Up!, making it seem like the podcast was pretty much done. Turns out it isn’t, which is great news for fans of their characters that originated on Comedy Bang! Bang!: hyperactive high school student and lackadaisical CBB intern Marissa Wompler (St. Clair) and her teacher/mentor/substitute parent, Charlotte Listler (Parham). Their first episode back, neither of them is terribly concerned with maintaining the continuity of their increasingly insane story, keeping Womp It Up! delightfully loose and silly. Paul Scheer joins as a pervy Marina Del Rey high school teacher who has a thing for his students, providing numerous opportunities for Wompler and Listler to get gleefully graphic. The rapport between St. Clair and Parham has now carried two TV shows and a podcast, and it makes Womp It Up! a reliable delight. [Kyle Ryan]