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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Reparations Podcast unabashedly schools listeners on the appropriation of black culture

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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 podmass@avclub.com.


Poeta En Las Lomas


This week’s wonderful episode of ARRVLS explores the tumultuous life of Los Angeleno poet and activist Luis Rodriguez, and acts in some ways as a rebuke to anyone mistaking American poetry for a hobby practiced only by precious persons. Producer Jonathan Hirsch opens the show with Rodriguez’s reading of “The Concrete River,” an autobiographical poem about nearly dying from huffing spray paint, to set the tone for the episode. Things only get more interesting from there: Rodriguez is something of a Byronic hero, candidly discussing his transition from outcast kid to dangerous gang member, addicted to drugs but possessed of serious compassion and an abiding love of books despite his struggles. A violent encounter with police led Rodriguez to find his purpose as a writer and integral member of the burgeoning Chicano movement. The episode feels like a well-timed and potent reminder that there is complexity, passion, and potential within everyone. [Ben Cannon]

Between The Liner Notes
The Colored American Opera Company


Black culture creates something really cool, and then white people get to work appropriating it as a means of acquiring credibility. That seems to be the natural order of things. But that wasn’t always the case, as is evidenced by the story of The Colored American Opera Company. Built from the congregation of an all-black Catholic Church in D.C. only a few years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, this team of vocalists—trained by the man who trained John Philip Sousa—gained notoriety by singing choral arrangements of composers like Mozart before touring the country performing opéra bouffe. We are apprised of this group’s all-but-lost legacy by a music historian who stumbled about a passing mention of the company and was subsequently moved to piece their full story together over the course of years. For those still unfamiliar with Between The Liner Notes, it is an immaculately produced podcast that churns out overlooked bits of music history that most listeners weren’t even aware they wanted. And if that is the case, the good news is that there are an additional 16 episodes waiting in the archives. The story of MTV’s troubled and charmed birth is highly recommended. [Dennis DiClaudio]

Dead Pilots Society
Angry Angel Written By Will Gluck


Once a month, hosts Andrew Reich and Ben Blacker talk with the creators of pilots that never got made and pull together a cast for a table read of the script. This time around they meet with Will Gluck (Friends With Benefits, Easy A) to get the scoop on his fledgling show Angry Angel. The first half of the episode considers why the pilot wasn’t put into production, sharing insights on what writers and networks go through together before a single actor lays eyes on the script. Aubrey Plaza leads the table read as the character of Alison, an angel who must complete miracles on Earth to regain her rightful place in heaven. Her first assignment: helping Captain Sullenberger land a plane on the Hudson River. Plaza is charming and funny throughout, and rounding out the reading are entertaining turns from Danielle Nicolet, Ed Weeks, Cedric Yarbrough, and Craig Cackowski as Olympic gold medalist Shaun White. Their performances make the case that this is a pilot worth raising from the dead. [Brianna Wellen]

Gilmore Guys
Bunhead Bros 1 - Pilot (With Ben Schwartz)


A promised, Demi Adejuyigbe and Kevin Porter have finally said goodbye to the Gilmore Guys and are greeting a new era as the Bunhead Bros. To kick off the Bunheads-centric series, they’re joined by the always hilarious Ben Schwartz, and his energy makes it easy to see why he’s a podcast favorite. Feeling loose and free in this new thematic space, all three guys allow the episode to take enjoyable, meandering turns. Whether chatting about UCB shows, religion, or how they came to know each other, this quasi-spin-off sees its hosts having carefree fun. It’s why the long runtime never feels like a chore and why topics that stray from Bunheads don’t leave the listener feeling cheated out of what they came for. Schwartz has a tendency to put himself in the driver’s seat, but his childlike curiosity opens up the conversation to ever more playful distractions, never losing momentum. Adejuyigbe and Porter are at their best here, comfortable and willing to play along, and if this episode sets the tone for the rest of the show, their dedicated fan base won’t waver. [Rebecca Bulnes]

Don’t Get Me Started
Lauren McGuire - RuPaul’s Drag Race


The biggest draw of Don’t Get Me Started is listening to people talk about what they love. This week’s guest, Lauren McGuire, has a palpable passion in her voice as she discusses her adoration of RuPaul’s Drag Race. At the top, the hosts go through their minor obsessions of the week: Anthony King discusses the broadway show Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812, and Will Hines plugs his new podcast, Screw It, We’re Just Gonna Talk About The Beatles. Launching into the main conversation, Hines mentions he knows other fans of Drag Race, all of whose eyes light up when they talk about it; what follows exemplifies that same joy. McGuire’s eagerness to share her infatuation with the reality competition show is only amplified by Hines and King’s own interest in it. They explain why it’s so compelling, what sets it apart from other reality TV programs, with McGuire listing some of her favorite queens. They also break down why the culture surrounding drag is so positive, sparking a conversation about sexuality, identity, and community. To McGuire, it comes down to the unparalleled feeling of watching someone be exactly who they want, and the inspiring fearlessness of being seen doing it. [Rebecca Bulnes]

Mike Cernovich (Feat. Vic Berger)


The phrase “fake news” has come to dominate political discourse since November, used by both parties to categorize media they feel is either skewed or fully fabricated. Nathan Bernard—no stranger to “alt-right” trolls—investigates this in his new podcast, wherein he provides context to the personalities behind psychotic dreck like “Pizzagate.” The subject of this first episode is Mike Cernovich, a Twitter personality who, in addition to being one of #Pizzagate’s main architects, is known for spreading conspiracy theories and accusations of pedophilia with an ironclad sense of conviction. What’s refreshing about Bernard’s podcast is that he allows Cernovich to speak for himself through audio clips culled from interviews and Cernovich’s own Periscope. The result is an unsettling portrait of a charismatic narcissist, desperate for power and attention after being bullied as a child and in the army. It’s easy to hate people like Cernovich, but a contextualized understanding of his perspective is vital in order to argue against his ideas. Comedian and video editor Vic Berger pops in during the final minutes to share his own experience of being cyberbullied (and called a pedophile) by Cernovich and the latter’s many, many followers. [Randall Colburn]

Love + Radio
No Bad News


In order for this bonkers new episode of Love + Radio to have the most impact, listeners should adopt the habits of its subject, Larry Garrett, an American hypnotist who sought to better his life by not watching or reading the news for some 15 years. That’s not to say that listeners should keep themselves in the dark because the episode’s twists are the only thing going for it; rather, the careful build up established by producer Sarah Geis is commendable and worth experiencing as she intended. Garrett—something of a star in the hypnosis community—was recruited overseas to aid a patient in his recovery after being shot. Having avoided world news for so long, Garrett agreed to take on the case without considering the potential dangers he might encounter. Garrett’s tale has so many improbable moments, but without divulging too much, his eventual actions as he aids the patient raise myriad moral and ethical questions. Though only a few weeks into the new year, this episode is already one of the year’s best. [Ben Cannon]

Reparations Podcast
Black Art Ain’t Free


This week, Reparations Podcast hosts Renee Miller and Richard Brookshire welcome writer Antwaun Sargent to talk black art in the age of Trump and the erasure of black imagination in white mainstream culture. The sixth episode of this podcast (which launched in November) clocks in at 149 minutes, comprehensively analyzing black culture as a stand-in for American culture, even while remaining largely marginalized elsewhere. One example of this is the innovative nature of black language, which Sargent says is only respected when it’s appropriated: “If you’re writing it on paper and turning it in in class, suddenly that’s not proper English.” Things get especially interesting when the conversation turns toward television, with Miller describing the networks’ deceitful practice throughout the ’90s of using black lineups to draw viewers but quickly dropping those shows in favor of white ones—a bait-and-switch that fortunately seems to be vanishing in favor of an investment in telling authentic stories. Throughout the podcast, Miller, Brookshire, and Sargent deftly dissect everything from the history of black people in STEM curricula to the role of white women in this year’s presidential election, making for a must-listen. [Becca James]

Running Commentary
Episode Fifty Two - Clapham Common With Bryony Gordon


One gets the feeling that, with their engagingly niche show Running Commentary, British comedians Rob Deering and Paul Tonkinson reacted all-too-literally to the trope about podcasts being two dudes just sitting in front of a microphone. That’s because on their program Deering and Tonkinson strap on wireless mics and go for a run every episode, recording their extemporaneous chats. It may seem odd at first—there is more heavy breathing here than on most podcasts—but the pair’s rapport and detailed narration (often with accompanying photos) make the show a gem. This week the pair are joined by journalist and author Bryony Gordon to talk about her new memoir, Mad Girl, detailing her life with obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as Gordon’s now-international running group specifically aimed at helping those afflicted by mental illness. Of course all of this is done whilst the three have a run around South London’s somewhat dodgy Clapham Common attempting to spy used condoms along their route. Especially funny is Gordon’s story of how a casual conversation between her and Catherine, Duchess Of Cambridge, led to Gordon reluctantly having to sign up for the London Marathon. For runners and the sedentary alike, there is much to enjoy. [Ben Cannon]

Screw It, We’re Just Gonna Talk About The Beatles
Please Please Me


The world is not wanting for people eager to huddle together and revel in their shared love of The Beatles. And yet, the activity somehow never gets old. It’s a pastime that baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials can all enjoy together, such is the timeless quality of four Liverpool kids’ 50-year-old catalog. The Screw It, We’re Just Gonna Talk About The Beatles podcast is a pretty good way to join in the international conversation without technically having to interact with other humans. Each week, comedian Will Hines and a panel of his wit-rich industry friends focus on one Beatles album. On this, the inaugural episode, the four music obsessives go deep on Please Please Me, the Beatles’ 1963 debut that was almost entirely recorded over the course of a few hours. Listening to a group of friends fan-gush over these 14 songs, providing bits of backstory and trivia along the way, is an ideal way to reinvigorate one’s love for an album that’s already been played down to the nub. Bear in mind, these are comedians and writers, not musicologists. It’s more of an exuberant conversation than an informational lecture. Plan to listen for pleasure, not pedagogy. [Dennis DiClaudio]

We Should Have A Podcast
Road Trip Day 6 & 7: I Love Bread!!!


Corey Podell and Courtney Pauroso are best friends who use their podcast to explore every aspect of their lives, including, in a recent string of nearly daily episodes, their road trip from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Women’s March on Washington. Along the way, they stop at Roswell for a little paranormal tourism, interview the guy with whom Courtney lost her virginity, and keep track of how many times they say “sorry” in order to break the habit. Days six and seven mark the halfway point of their trip, and the pair find themselves at Oprah’s birthplace in Mississippi confronting the flaws in themselves and each other. Stuck in a car with only each other for days, and emotionally raw from the journey (and synced-up periods), they are forced to talk through their problems instead of avoiding them. After reading some sage advice emailed from a friend and a visit to two fans of the show in Little Rock, Courtney and Corey continue their expedition to join thousands of women in Washington, now with a stronger friendship. [Brianna Wellen]

We see what you said there

“Hillary Clinton is standing on stage fucking dabbing, but Migos doesn’t have a No. 1 record, and that is the rape of [black] culture. That is the appropriation that makes black people so angry, but also robs black people and black artists of well-deserved capital, whether that translates to actual green dollars or their social credit.” —Renee Miller on the erasure of black imagination in the white mainstream culture, Reparations Podcast