Pyramid schemes get ripped apart on Lie, Cheat & Steal, a podcast about bullshitters

Image: Gary Waters/Getty Images
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Bad Science
The Shape Of Water w/ Steph Tolev

A joining of comedy, science, and cinema gives life to this show about science scenes missing the mark. Biologists Misty Paig Tran and Kristy Forsgren are joined by comedian Steph Tolev to take on the accuracy of fish genitals in 2018’s Best Picture winner, The Shape Of Water. Perhaps unexpectedly, it’s the scientists who enjoyed the movie and the humorist who hated it; Tolev cops to a lifelong repulsion of underwater animals. The smooth, eunuch-y genital area portrayed in the film might have been a cop-out to avoid making a weird fish schlong, but the Ken doll groin does exist in nature—it’s just the outside of a pouch that secrets away the sex organs from hungry predators. The junk is kept in a trunk, if you will. Interspecies aquatic creature sex encounters are also a thing. Well, sex assault at least. Along with commonly known dolphin “rape” (the “Louis CK of the sea,” as Tolev says) are the lesser known attacks by sea turtles, who accost divers during mating season, mistaking an oxygen tank for a shell. [Zach Brooke]

Pilot/Dead Air

It starts with a man shooting down a cell tower, international blackouts, and a crashing fighter jet in the small town of Berlin, Massachusetts. As the U.S. and Canada are plunged into darkness, radio DJ and aspiring writer Simon Itani (Rami Malek) finds himself struggling to protect his family. With a lack of answers and mounting tensions among the citizens, Itani takes to the airwaves to remind listeners that sometimes people just need to hear anything but silence to stay sane. In these first two episodes, Rami Malek delivers an excellent performance that allows listeners to feel his dread, confusion, and hope while the world as he knows it turns into something menacing. Blackout’s high-quality sound production creates a completely immersive experience that drowns listeners in suspense in the best way. This thriller, written by Scott Conroy, is unpredictable and shows how podcasts as a storytelling medium are forever evolving. Blackout is sure to be enjoyed by those familiar with fiction podcasts, but it would also be a great first listen for those unfamiliar with the genre. [Nichole Williams]

Dyking Out
Baby Gay w/ Allison Ponthier

If Dyking Out was a podcast about cooking or carpentry or something equally unrelated to its title, it would likely be just as entertaining as it is now. So much of its charm comes from the sharp wit and easy banter of its two hosts, Carolyn Bergier and Sarah York. The show bills itself as “a lesbian and LGBTQ podcast for everyone,” and it hits that mark. Topics are generally queer-minded, but the conversation never feels exclusionary, and a straight cis male reviewer (to pull an example out of thin air) can walk away from an episode with the impression of having sat through a good conversation over coffee with friends. This week, model/musician Allison Ponthier reminisces about this past year, which she spent as a “baby gay”—a newly out member of the LGBTQ community—detailing all of its associated joys and miseries. For people who’ve gone through this themselves, it’ll likely pluck certain emotional strings. And for those who haven’t, it’s a poignant window into the lives of so many of our friends and family members. [Dennis DiClaudio]

Everything’s Coming Up Simpsons
Homer’s Triple Bypass w/ David Silverman

On this week’s episode of Everything’s Coming Up Simpsons, hosts Allie Goertz and Julia Prescott sit down with animator David Silverman to discuss the golden-era episode “Homer’s Triple Bypass.” The season four, episode 11 favorite famously catapulted Dr. Nick into Simpsons fandom and showed Homer Simpson come to terms with some food-related health issues. Silverman, who directed the episode, sits with Allie and Julia to discuss some of their favorite bits and scenes, as well as dissect some of its animation sequences. Following the podcast’s lengthy introduction and a story about a bunch of animators watching a child spray everyone with a water gun at a massive party (that is awesome), Silverman explains that he was tasked with the job of animating a heart attack at a time when “there weren’t a lot of jokes about heart attacks in sitcoms.” He then describes the heart attack’s buildup through bouts of cartoony expressions, comparing it to a song: backed by comedic writing beats and sporadic body language. Pure Chuck Jones, Silverman notes. If anybody could make a heart attack look funny, it’s David Silverman. [Kevin Cortez]

Sunny and I Like It (with Jeffrey Cranor)

After sending hosts Eric Silver (Join The Party) and Mike Schubert (Potterless) a very lengthy email, guest and Night Vale Presents founder Jeffrey Cranor joins this episode of the best basketball podcast about everything but the points. HORSE is a podcast about the NBA that anyone can listen to and enjoy, regardless of their level of basketball knowledge; it’s a hilarious podcast about a specific culture, not a nitty-gritty look into sports. Cranor pitches Silver and Schubert trades between 14 different teams’ cities. Why would Memphis have the Grizzlies when you’d only really see grizzly bears in, say, Portland? Why not give Portland’s Trailblazers, then, to the real trailblazers of the modern day: Silicon Valley by way of San Francisco? One of the best aspects of HORSE is the dynamic between Silver and Schubert, and Cranor—usually known for his surrealist and often unsettling works like Welcome To Night Vale and Within The Wires—fits in shockingly well here. His comedic muscles are fully flexed, and it turns out that when it comes to jokes, he’s ripped. [Wil Williams]

Lie, Cheat, & Steal
Lularoe, The Leggings Scam w/ Sasha Zazzi

Lie, Cheat, & Steal presents the stories of thieves and scam artists who are often just as amoral and divorced from their humanity as the subjects of murder podcasts, but are usually far wealthier. Hosts Pat Sirois and Kath Barbadoro are joined by podcaster Sasha Zazzi to discuss LuLaRoe, a multi-level marketing women’s apparel company that is part pyramid scheme, part cult, and very, very Mormon. Both Barbadoro and Sirois are stand-up comedians, so they absolutely revel in such absurd details as high-ranking members of LuLaRoe all getting gastric bypass surgery at a Tijuana clinic called Obesity Not 4 Me, or the head designer for the company becoming famous for inventing diagonal flies for jeans. But both hosts have also worked in retail, so they have tremendous sympathy for those at the bottom of LuLaRoe’s pyramid who are left to sell appallingly ugly leggings that are sometimes sent to them covered in rat feces. Lie, Cheat, & Steal is a delightful listen and can even help you recognize when you’re being scammed. Plus, there’s brief talk about multi-level marketing pornography, which is a thing that you now know exists. [Anthony D. Herrera]

News Beat
E-Carceration: Are Digital Prisons The Future?

It wouldn’t be hyperbole to suggest that News Beat is what happens when the youth raised on Schoolhouse Rock! grow up and stay woke. Produced and hosted by Manny Faces, each episode blends the viewpoints of political pundits and educators alongside cable news sound bites and hip-hop beats and verses. This latest edition takes a deeper look at the criminal justice system and how technology plays a role in moving surveillance outside prison walls and into communities nationwide. With the use of electronic monitors on the rise, following parolees and even former prisoners once released, Center for Media Justice organizer Myaisha Hayes raises concerns about how this trend undercuts real criminal justice reform. Teacher and activist James Kilgore speaks firsthand about being shackled with an ankle monitor and how that’s not necessarily better than being behind bars, while Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Stephanie Lacambra highlights the privacy alert coupled with a GPS device tracking someone’s every step. In between their observations, artist in residence Silent Knight delivers the one-two punch with insightful lyricism. “I have to give it up, it’s a pretty clever trick,” he laments. “Prison population down, but now they get to take their pick.” [Jason Randall Smith]

The Internet

Unrequited love, pixelated lines between fantasy and reality, cyberstalking and cyber threats, X-rated’s the digital Wild West in the romance saloons. Today’s stalkers apparently have it easy, thanks to the way society engages with social media. Director Neil Jordan, of the 2018 thriller Greta starring Chloe Grace Moretz , offers his thoughts how vulnerable most users are—and how dangerously unaware. Throughout the expert talk, former couple Abby and Will share their sides of a love turned poison. Abby reports feeling shaken by how it all went down, while Will thinks he was acting like a man who couldn’t let his lover get away. No spoilers here, but it is chilling to hear him with a tone of bewilderment, seemingly ignorant to his harassment. Join Focus Features and the LA Times Studios as they present Obsession. [Nekala Alexander]

She’s All Fat
Fat Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Body-positive podcast She’s All Fat is going through changes. With co-host April K. Quioh on temporary leave due to health concerns, Sophie Carter-Kahn opens this first episode of season four on her own, and reveals some of her anxiety surrounding this unexpected development. Change is scary, and physical change can be especially fraught. Mainstream cultural narratives dictate that weight gain signals a lack of self-control, but according to guest Whitney Catalano RDN, physical change isn’t a moral failure; often, it’s inevitable. Catalano and Carter-Kahn offer a sharp critique of Biggest Loser–style makeovers and weight loss redemption stories, discuss the connection between chronic anxiety and gut health, and debunk the fallacy of the “freshman fifteen,” which Catalano suggests is more than a physical phenomenon if it’s even real at all. The episode takes an introspective turn when Carter-Kahn shares an intimate conversation with her mother about growing up fat and forever on a diet, revisiting the way diet culture and fatphobia shaped their bodies and their relationship. Carter-Kahn’s mother, who is naturally thin, describes her own experience learning to embrace both the discomfort and beauty of living in an ever-changing body, with its endless opportunities for growth and change. [Sofia Barrett-Ibarria]

The Momo Challenge

True love is someone who will look at some nasty shit for you. And because Dallas comedians Heather McKinney and Christie Wallis care so much, they’ll look at Momo. Mother Bird (by Japanese artist Keisuke Aisawa) and its journey to becoming the sinister, Kim Kardashian–bothering suicide game “the Momo challenge” is the creepy subject of this episode. Momo is a woman with long black hair, protuberant eyes, and, according to McKinney and Wallis, looks like Shelley Duvall from The Shining or the thing from Beetlejuice if it had a baby with the girl from The Ring. Momo has allegedly been telling teenagers to kill themselves via Peppa Pig videos, Fortnight, WhatsApp, and Snapchat, but somehow no one seems to have any receipts. If you love blacking out in a Reddit hole or have spent time on, this close read of Momo’s nasty alleged behaviors, and her similarity to past internet hoaxes, is disturbingly amusing and off-kilter. [Morgan McNaught]

Stat Lines Matter
Will Kanye Ever Be Allowed Back at the BBQ?

If you like listening to singer Jason Weaver, his podcast Stat Lines Matter (co-hosted by Mark E. Stewart and Rob Hunter) promises Weaver “unlike you’ve heard him before.” The three banter back and forth about the topics of the day; on this episode they discuss fellow music artist Kanye West. Of course they toss in a few roasts while they chat about Kanye and his recent political affiliations, but they all agree: with redemption, Kanye can eat his plate of ribs in peace. The conversation moves on from forgiveness to Floyd Mayweather and his aptitude as a businessman, albeit a problematic one (but a wealthy game player nonetheless). Naturally, this segues into a film analysis of the Rocky franchise, with the hosts debating which of their personal favorites in the series deserve to be a personal favorite. What Stat Lines Matter lacks in continuity, it makes up for in chemistry. If you want to hear a few guys with great studio equipment discourse about society, welcome to the arena. [Nekala Alexander]

The Deca Tapes
The Teacher

The second episode of The Deca Tapes opens with, I am the teacher, and this is my third entry,” launching a dictaphone-style monologue interspersed with fragments of a story set in the past that wouldn’t be out of place on a Black Mirror episode. The premise of the fiction series is cold, hard sci-fi: ten people are locked in a room with no memories of the outside world and no idea how to get out. But what truly sets it apart is the podcast’s meta approach to the story: the eponymous Deca Tapes aren’t being released to the public, they’re being leaked, according to its social media presence. The series goes even further in establishing its metanarrative with in-universe news bulletins about the Deca Group (the people responsible for all of this) and the legal consequences of their actions. With a haunting mystery and an intriguing universe, The Deca Tapes is already one of the best debuts of the year. [Alma Roda-Gil]

The Thick
Happy Birthday Tabria!

God have mercy on anyone who goes out with either professional plus-size model Tabria Majors (she’s posed for a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and everything!) or journalist-cum-rapper Mindy J and fail to treat them right. As the hosts of the brazenly tea-spilling The Thick, these two friends have absolutely no qualms dragging men who fall short—in oh so many ways. This ep starts off with “Tabrindy” comparing notes on their latest dating disasters, with Majors recounting a Tinder date with a guy who showed her nude pics of himself on his phone and Mindy basically going through a Goldilocks-like journey where she went through a trio of men until one of them made love just right. But these ladies aren’t just about calling dudes out on their fuckboy tendencies. As a pair of sex-positive ladies of color, they also dispense life lessons, wisdom, and advice (answering drama-filled letters from listeners) to all of the women out there who need support or guidance or just a couple of down-ass sistas in their ears, reminding them never to settle for less. [Craig D. Lindsey]

The Workshop

Victoriocity’s second season opens with the rekindling of Inspector Fleet and journalist Clara Entwhistle’s hilarious, slightly off-kilter partnership on their newest case of a missing person. Set in the world of Even Greater London, the newly alive, partially clockwork Fleet and bubbly, naive Entwhistle must navigate their weird steampunk Victorian surroundings without getting killed by their enemies, or indeed, by the city itself. The listener is guided by a narrator, who is used sparingly but intelligently to bring Even Greater London to full color around the characters with his deadpan sarcasm and straightforward delivery of wild facts about it. Fleet and Clara’s encounters with strange and charming characters are the finishing touch, each an extreme parody of their profession, like the bureaucratic private secretary who hires them refusing to give them any information other than “there’s a missing person” and “this fake brooch, made of real gems and gold, is associated with the case.” Nothing can go wrong working on this little information, surely. Punctuated by perfect comedic beats and ironic silences, the return of Victoriocity is triumphant, thought Fleet and Clara’s fates are a little more nebulous. [Elena Fernández Collins]

E.T., Phone Hollywood: Aliens Invade the Movies

Zoom, a new podcast from Focus Features, tries to tie up those loose threads of what we wonder about when we watch movies and television. And, truth be told, it will probably be saving true film geeks at least a few hours of Googling. Since nothing tests our suspension of disbelief more than science fiction, host and film critic Amy Nicholson (Unspooled) spends the first episode diving into our love/hate relationship with our favorite frenemies and overlords, the aliens. She starts her quest for context with the sneakily subversive first aliens of film, the “ant-lobster-butt-scooter” beings from French filmmaker Méliès visionary 1902 classic, A Trip To The Moon, and continues on to those sexy 1950s space babes fighting earth men who had their “ray guns set to ‘mansplain.’” Nicholson has a knack for posing feisty and fascinating questions to academics, like when she asks an evolutionary astrobiologist what kind of actual planet E.T. would come from (a dark one) and whether aliens really want to bone us, like Natasha Henstridge in Species. (Spoiler alert: we’re more likely to successfully mate with a jellyfish.) [Amber Cortes]