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 email@example.com.
Ezra’s Very Bad Week
In all of the madness following the terrible events in Charlottesville, Virginia two weeks ago it’s important to note the fallout felt abroad as well. This past week in Canada, famously litigious right-wing media magnate Ezra Levant’s popular The Rebel had something of a critical meltdown as a result of the so-called “Unite The Right” rally. It is in times like this that one is glad that CANADALAND exists, for there is really no other outlet better equipped to cover The Rebel’s unmaking than host Jesse Brown and his A-Team squad. The podcast is something of an overlooked gem south of the 49th parallel, and moments like this shine a light on precisely why it deserves wider acclaim. In the two short years of its existence, Levant’s The Rebel has gained a reputation as one of the most far-right, intentionally inflammatory news outlets—by all accounts besting even that of Breitbart. So, it is with a mix of prudent journalism and a gleefully ruinous tone that Brown and editor Jonathan Goldsbie detail the events that led to the site’s present misfortunes. The sheer number of departures, firings, disavowals, and cancellations is mind-boggling, but thanks to their tenacity, CANADALAND has captured every awful detail. [Ben Cannon]
Carry A. Nation
Carrie Amelia Nation was an unconventional criminal. Her chief transgression, zealotry, is not in itself against the law, especially in the U.S. where the Constitution gives us the right to subscribe to most more hardcore, reactionary, and limiting faiths out there. Where she erred is how she chose to practice her beliefs. After alcoholism killed her first husband, Nation became a devout disciple of the temperance movement taking hold of the country in the late 19th century. Kansas was the first state to ban recreational alcohol, but most drinkers used a loophole that allowed booze to be sold “medicinally.” Her appeals to Kansas state officials to end this fell on deaf ears, and, as a woman, she wasn’t even allowed to vote for sympathetic candidates. So she did what she felt was her only option: She picked up bricks and a hatchet and smashed the fuck out of some bars, claiming to be “a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn’t like.” A guest historian can’t help but admit a grudging admiration for this hurt woman who finds an uncharted path toward agency. [Zach Brooke]
How Did This Get Made?
The Garbage Pail Kids Movie
How Did This Gets Made? is live this week from Largo At The Coronet in Los Angeles. Joined by Jon Lovett (Pod Save America) and a rowdy audience, hosts Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, and June Diane Raphael talk about 1987’s The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. Ripe for riffing, the popular ’80s parody lends itself to some hilarious dissection as the hosts try to determine whether the Garbage Pail Kids are adults or prisoners in a state home for the ugly. The one-liners don’t disappoint either: “[The Garbage Pail Kids] are eternal?” “The Garbage Pail Kids are down to fuck,” and “So this is a sex dungeon of some kind.” Lovett and the hosts wrap up with some audience participation, yet questions remain about main character Juice and what exactly he does. Pimp? Drug dealer? Part of a larger commentary? Listen for yourself to decide. [Becca James]
It’s About Damn Crime
Esteban De Jesus
True-crime podcasts are about as old as the medium. Early successes include Radiotopia’s Criminal, which paved the way for NPR’s overnight sensation Serial, which ushered in an entirely new class of crime-focused ’casts. A popular branch that emerged is the female-hosted, murder-focused podcast. Most notable is My Favorite Murder, but like those that came before it, the podcast features mostly white men and has recently been scrutinized for its hosts’ microaggressions. So where can listeners go for an alternative that combats just that issue? It’s About Damn Crime. In a sea of people almost idolizing white men and the crimes they commit, IADC discusses minority crimes only, focusing on “those cases [that are] way less talked about.” This week, hosts Brittney and Justine talk about the rise and fall of Puerto Rican boxer Esteban De Jesus, who won a considerable amount of matches during his career before making a poor decision that cost an innocent 17-year-old boy his life. In addition to profiling one crime each week, the women publish Stranger Danger episodes, allowing listeners to share serious, funny, and/or scary stories about times they’ve encountered troubling strangers, opening up the genre to even more voices. [Becca James]
Library Of Things
The idea of going to the library and checking out a book on sewing machines isn’t a particularly revolutionary one. But what if you could go to your local library and physically check out the sewing machine? And what if the people at this library were willing to put you in touch with someone who could guide your hand as you made your way through your first few garments? That’s what the Library Of Things in South London is for. And it’s not just sewing machines; it’s also ukuleles and cameras and power tools and waffle irons—whatever useful items its thoughtful patrons saw fit to donate. This new limited-series podcast, hosted and produced by a member of the library staff, looks at the sharing community that has arisen around this unique enterprise and talks to those involved to see how it has affected their lives in ways that could not have been predicted. This debut episode examines the way these two blue shipping containers full of stuff have already proven to be a salve for the loneliness of urban living. [Dennis DiClaudio]
Electives are an important part of any well-rounded education. It’s with that attitude that the hosts of Part-Time Genius obsessively scour course catalogs from across the country to find the most eclectic offerings in higher learning. Foodies can sate their desire for academic aristology by enrolling in maple syrup- or ice cream-making (a class now in its 126th year at Penn State). More theoretical gourmands can choose Gastrodiplomacy at American University, which explores how food is tied to cultural understanding. University Of Southern California’s “selfie class” requires students to analyze five self-portraits for aspects of themselves that are revealed or obscured in the image. There are no fewer than four classes involving Harry Potter, but students who want to steep their pop culture obsessions in social justice and intersectionality can do so by signing up for Rutgers’ Politicizing Beyoncé or Skidmore’s Sociology Of Miley Cyrus. [Zach Brooke]
Scream Addicts Podcast
The Exorcist With Synapse Films’ Don May Jr.
This week the Scream Addicts Podcast welcomes producer Don May Jr. to discuss arguably the scariest movie of all time, The Exorcist. May owns and operates Synapse, which has restored and remastered numerous genre films and has a stunning 4K restoration of Suspiria on the docket this year. May admits to still being unable to watch The Exorcist by himself at 50 years old and recalls first being traumatized by William Friedkin’s unrelenting possession tale at an Illinois drive-in with his older sister. May ended up sleeping in his parents’ bed for a month, and his sister terrorized him by playing a recording made from the drive-in speaker late at night in her bedroom. In addition to the original film, May and host Jinx explore the differences between the 1973 release and the 2000 director’s cut, as well as the hit-or-miss sequels, particularly the bonkers (albeit misguided) Exorcist II: The Heretic. There’s also an amusing discussion about May and Jinx’s real-life experiences with moviegoers passing out during extremely disturbing films, a major part of the marketing of The Exorcist. [Mike Vanderbilt]
FFXII Part 3 - A Nightmare On Sandsea
Square Roots—“THE classic RPG podcast”—has to have one of the most epic metal intro songs out there, which is here followed by hosts John, Matthew, Jim, and Vanessa chatting about Final Fantasy: XII. After starting off with some valid criticism of the polygonal graphics of the Final Fantasy games of a certain era, the hosts delve into a fairly nuanced discussion of drag, which then makes its way into a brief chat of ’80s movies, all before they recap how each of the hosts “leveled up” since the last episode. Listening to the hosts chat about playing Final Fantasy: XII is fun and interesting if you’re a video game/RPG fan, but one of the most intriguing things about Square Roots is the fun, friendly, and interest-spanning nature of the conversation, much like a group of friends actually playing video games together. The hosts talk about everything from a Nightmare On Elm Street–inspired Will Smith rap to the new version of DuckTales, all while offering compelling gameplay discussion, picking up from where the last episode left off: heading into the Tomb Of Raithwall. [Jose Nateras]
In the latest episode of Tapped, Mary Holland, Casey Feigh, and Luka Jones continue to showcase their talent for improvising convincing characters in compelling situations. In this episode, a mother confronts her son about a used condom she finds; a second date gets emotional as the pair discusses regrets and magical thinking; and three obnoxious flight attendants prevent a passenger from sleeping with their loud gossiping. What makes this show so special is that the scenes aren’t just played for their premises. Instead of leaning into tropes and presenting an outline of what life might be like for these characters, they actively live through the moment, line by line. Like when Holland, as the mother, offhandedly tells Feigh, the son, to stop nervously picking his nails. The “sex talk” isn’t played for the jokes the way we’re used to; rather, it’s a realistic and touching slice of life. The unrestrained improv between Jones and Whitehead in the second date scene allows them to get to poignant places that couldn’t be planned, and the pure fun of the flight attendant scene balances out the episode perfectly. [Rebecca Bulnes]