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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Podmass series spotlight
Turner Masters Memory Hospital
Turner Masters Memory Hospital is the new scripted satire from the Forever Dog Podcast Network, which is quickly emerging as the home of some of the most exciting and fresh voices in comedy. Written by the sharp-tongued duo of Catherine Cohen and Steven Markow, it’s the story of the death of Turner Masters: captain of the football team, celebrated date rapist, and truly despicable teen who was the pride of Riverwater, a vile town full of vile people. Benina Masters, played with villainous mirth by Peter Smith, mourns the death of her awful son by purchasing the local hospital and turning it into a living monument to his memory, displacing all the patients and replacing them with actors to embody his legacy until the end of time. As the circumstances surrounding his death are described (a ridiculous accident that occurred on his “backup yacht”), Turner’s tortured girlfriend, Magrissa, and his lowly best friend, Gronathan, come to the conclusion that he could’ve been murdered and take it upon themselves to investigate. Catherine Cohen breathes nasally, clueless life into the vacuous Magrissa, while Markow’s Gronathan could almost sound naively sweet if you didn’t actually listen to the barbaric things he was saying.
Across the scathing satirical series’ six episodes, every character is written with such id, and each is grotesque in their own unique and surprising ways. It’d be wrong to categorize the show as pure gross-out humor, though. It takes some very smart people to write characters this dumb, and that is showcased consistently in the artful way Cohen and Markow construct spiraling tangents and flesh out this world. The writing is cleverly as violent and grotesque as the real world can be, but it’s also magnetically surreal, as the graphic nature of its dialogue constantly tops itself with brutal imagery. The performers tackle the script with the vulgar gusto it deserves, with standouts in Matt Rogers as 24-year-old high school student and avid white guy rapper Trebuchet; Dan Chamberlain as Ed Hardy; and many more. Turner Masters Memory Hospital is truly unlike any other comedy podcast out there, and much like its horrible titular character, it will not soon be forgotten.
Happy Birthday To Me certainly had one of the most memorable posters in the early ’80s glut of slasher films to stalk multiplexes in the wake of Friday The 13th. Featuring death by shish kebab, Birthday promises “six of the most bizarre murders you will ever see.” On this week’s Kill By Kill podcast, hosts Patrick Hamilton and Gena Radcliffe are joined by friend Josh Hollis as the three horror fans celebrate a year of exploring the characters of horror cinema with a look at this Canadian slasher favorite. The show features a wry sense of humor as the hosts pick on Glenn Ford’s Dr. David Faraday for his large open collars and even bigger medallion. Happy Birthday To Me is known among slasher enthusiasts for its inventive kills, overly complicated plot (particularly by ’80s slasher standards), and a notoriously convoluted ending, partially due to the script having been rewritten well into production. Even the hosts, who obviously just watched the film, have a hard time explaining what happened, but that’s part of the fun. The hosts then rank how they’d prefer to be offed in the style of the film (of course the shish kebab is a favorite).
The Trump administration’s recent high-profile push to break the MS-13 gang has dominated headlines as of late (or it did 40 news cycles ago before all the additional unpleasantness). So NPR package podcast Latino USA stitched together new and old reporting on the gang to provide a comprehensive primer. What we find behind all the tough talk and horrific tales of violence is a comedy-of-errors suppression effort that’s escalated a minor confederation of L.A. street hoods into an international supergang some 80,000 strong. Despite its current home base in Central America, MS-13 originated in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles when a group of El Salvadoran youth banded together to stop harassment from larger Mexican gangs. A surge in violence spurred prosecutors to aggressively deport violent undocumented immigrants, and MS-13 members who had been exiled back to El Salvador started new chapters there. Local authorities enacted their own crackdown only to pump the country’s prison system full of organized gang elements, leading to massive new recruitment efforts.
QUEERY With Cameron Esposito
The LGBTQ community is currently undergoing a period of transition unlike it has ever seen before. As 35-year-old Cameron Esposito observes early on here, in the fourth episode of her new podcast, it’s reasonable to place her in a different generation of queer folks than those who were born just five years later. We’ve seen an immense amount of cultural awakening in just the past decade, so what might seem normal and tolerable to one person can be wholly otherwise to another. In this hour-long conversation with 30-year-old L.A.-based philanthropist-hairdresser Madin Lopez, Esposito examines some of those differences, and even more sprawling are the ones between Lopez and the homeless LGBTQ kids for whom they cut hair in their free time. Preferred gender pronouns, and the resistance by otherwise enlightened queer and straight-cis friends to use them, is a dominant and engrossing chunk of this episode. One fascinating aspect of this podcast is that it’s decidedly not for non-LGBTQ listeners, which in a counterintuitive way makes great listening for them. It begins and ends with the accepted opinion that queer considerations are valid and that LGBTQ rights are not bargaining chips. Everything else takes off from there.
Brazil In Black And White
To be American is, almost as a rule, to be myopic about the world. Its citizens look ever inward, rarely stopping to consider the ways of the world outside our borders. Thankfully, NPR’s engaging new program Rough Translation is intent on exploring the minutiae of life in other countries. The show is focused on going deep inside stories from abroad that approach an issue on the minds of Americans, presenting new and different angles on the topic in order to better help listeners parse the situation at home. In the show’s debut episode, NPR international correspondent Gregory Warner and fellow reporter Lulu Garcia-Navarro travel to Brazil for a mind-bending exploration of the nation’s racial identity issues: In Brazil, affirmative action abuses involve panels designed to judge each applicant’s “blackness.” Warner and his team deftly convey the many sides of this complex issue. As the Trump administration’s justice department angles toward investigating America’s affirmative action programs, this is a necessary listen.
R.L. Stine’s Cheerleaders: The Third Evil
Dredging up books from the dead, so to speak, Teen Creeps focuses on the paperback pulp fiction one might remember from earlier years spent in the spooky section of bookstores’ YA aisles or, as hosts Kelly Nugent and Lindsay Katai identify it, the “YA pulp fiction of [their] awkward, neon youth.” The past three episodes have discussed the work of teen-creep expert R.L. Stine and what can easily be considered his best work: The Fear Street Cheerleaders trilogy. (“Give me a D-I-E!”) Nugent and Katai provide a nice balance of nostalgia and critique, adoring the flawed characters and poking fun at the ludicrous plots. They also have fun reading excerpts from the book, which often reveal the author’s penchant for using names to fill space. When heard aloud, this can induce heavy giggling. Listen along for the laughs, the lore, and the trip down Shady, er, memory lane.
The Potterotica Podcast
“Suck it, Malfoy.”
In the third episode of the third season of The Potterotica Podcast, hosts Allie LeFevere, Lyndsay Rush, and Danny Chapman look at the latest chapter of the erotic Harry Potter fan fiction story “The Critiquer.” The episode focuses on the third chapter of a longer piece, so the context of the first two chapters is missing; however, the overall narrative arc is secondary to the fun, goofy sexiness of the content, and the hosts still provide enough details for casual listeners to understand that Harry has enrolled in a magical photography class taught by Draco Malfoy several years after their time at Hogwarts. Harry is trying to improve his photography skills to take better pictures of his penis, thereby earning the respect of the titular “critiquer” of dick pics, who had poorly rated some of his earlier photography. Unbeknownst to Harry, this anonymous critic is actually Draco. The three hosts chime in with jokes while reading through the chapter, ultimately offering their ratings of “wands up or down“ to the fictive exploration of sexual tension between Draco and Harry.