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PodmassPodmassIn 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.

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.

And Introducing
Cherie Currie


Certain musicians’ memoirs have snuck into canon, but it’s the lesser-known titles that hosts Chris Wade and Molly O’Brien tap into on And Introducing, a podcast devoted to reading such memoirs and riffing about “their music, their career, and their self-mythologizing—both the accurate and the embellished.” This week is lighter on the riffing as the crew, joined by guest Emily Morris, tackles Cherie Currie’s Neon Angel: A Memoir Of A Runaway. Named for The Runaways, a mid-’70s all-female band for which Currie was the lead singer, this book exposes readers to the darker side of the music industry. By the age of 23, Currie and her bandmates had experienced so much abuse at the hands of producer Kim Fowley and others that it’s difficult to to take anything but a somber tone when discussing her life. There are pockets of laughter, however, like when they discuss Currie’s recollection of bringing Rod Stewart to tears when she offered him blow. Let the show do your reading for you and dive into some of the most enthralling and lesser-known stories in rock history. [Becca James]

Armchair Expert With Dax Shepard
Kristen Bell

The first episode of Armchair Expert starts mid-spat. Dax Shepard’s new podcast sees the actor and writer interviewing people about “the messiness of being human,” and the launch is certainly both messy and human. Shepard and his wife, Kristen Bell, speak candidly about how irritated they are with each other as they begin their conversation, but it doesn’t make the conversation less fascinating. As Bell and Shepard gradually lower their hackles, their discussion gets progressively more insightful, and the charm never evaporates, even as they’re discussing altruism and selfishness, self-esteem and hangovers, and the appeal of Lee Press-On Nail ads. It all wraps up with the podcast’s most distinct segment, as producer Monica Padman fact-checks everything that was said, up to and including the exact number of feet to the nearest toilet, the names of local knitting stores, and how old Bell was when she started to play music—a fact that required a phone call to Bell’s mother to confirm. It’s a doozy of an episode, and a hell of a way to kick off the new show. [Allison Shoemaker]

Bigfoot Collectors Club
“Coral Castle” with Rachel Bloom


The appeal of Bigfoot Collectors Club—and there is plenty of appeal—springs from a heady combination of practicality and acceptance of the unknown, both brought to the table by hosts Michael McMillian and Bryce Johnson. They’re funny, too. The format is a simple one: McMillian and Johnson interview a guest about their own personal history with the paranormal, then one of the two hosts dives into a notable paranormal story, as though they’re all around a campfire that happens to include microphones. That campfire feel is particularly present in the last episode in the show’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend month, in which guest Rachel Bloom’s story of her journey toward skepticism sets the tone for Johnson’s exploration of Coral Castle, “the world’s only modern megalithic structure,” and of the man who created it. Bloom and McMillian (who’s also a member of the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend cast) have great rapport, and the moment Johnson starts story time engenders such a feeling of warmth it’ll damn near have you headed to the woods to make a quick s’more before you settle in for a few more episodes. [Allison Shoemaker]

Conversations With People Who Hate Me
Bigot Scum


When last we visited Dylan Marron’s Conversations With People Who Hate Me, the writer and video essayist was foraging truths from a conversation with one of the many people who attack him on the internet. Now, after numerous engagements with his own trolls, Marron is opening the door for others to find the humanity in those who collide online. In this episode, he facilitates a conversation between comedian Marcia Belsky and an anti-feminist named Andrew who asserts that Belsky advocates “female supremacy.” Belsky’s “men are scum” comment on social media—a joke that got her banned from Facebook for a month, by the way—prompted Andrew to send Belsky a message calling her a “bigot.” Their conversation is both surprising and frustrating, as Andrew proves to be a pleasant human and gracious listener who nevertheless can’t be convinced that women have it any worse than men in terms of harassment. Marron does an admirable job of facilitating, providing insight into both parties’ arguments while never invalidating either one. He’s also realistic in that he doesn’t expect these conversations to change minds so much as provide a sense of perspective that gives flesh and blood to those who it’s easy to believe only exist online. [Randall Colburn]

Hella In Your Thirties
A Valentine’s Day Probing: A Journey Of Discovery And Holiday Magic! 


Nick Casalini and Muriel Montgomery are two comedians who are married to each other and, yes, are in their 30s. As podcast hosts, they place a funny and cynical lens on their various attempts at the get-your-shit-together lifestyle practices often associated with the decade following those messy 20s. This week, the duo shares their particular perspective on Valentine’s Day. They aren’t strictly against the holiday, being an earnestly romantic couple who have been together for 13 years. But despite admitting that V-Day can be a fun occasion, Casalini and Montgomery are more than willing to embrace the absurdity of it. This week, they set up a number of challenges, à la The Newlywed Game, and try out a variety of foods often considered to be aphrodisiacs. The fact that the two hosts are married to each other makes the concept of the podcast sweetly encouraging: here are two fun people trying to put their lives in order the way so many thirtysomethings feel they should, all while having fun doing so—together. Listening to Hella In Your Thirties is like hanging out with the best couple you know. [Jose Nateras]

Never Seen It
Josh Gondelman Has Never Seen Avatar


This podcast is like a big dumb dog, so full of shaggy and endearing stupidity that you can’t help but fall for it. Never Seen It has such an effortless playfulness that all you can do is shake your head in jovial wonderment. Each week on the show, host Kyle Ayers invites a guest to write a script treatment for a film that they’ve never seen, to be performed on the episode. The results are totally bonkers, producing hilariously sweded audio reimagining from the barest whiff of understanding. In this episode, Last Week Tonight writer Josh Gondelman drops by to rewrite James Cameron’s Avatar, expertly aping Cameron’s nuance-free tone to great comedic effect. In addition to Gondelman, Ayers is aided by the excellent manic energy of comedian Blair Socci. The trio’s conversation is propulsive and engaging, helped along by a series of movie-related games, each more winningly clumsy than the next. Things peak with the absurd “What Movie Is Kyle’s Dad Describing, Based Solely Off Describing The Trailer And Not Ever Having Heard Of The Movie.” [Ben Cannon]

Valentine’s: How To


This week on Shmanners, husband-and-wife podcasting team Travis and Teresa McElroy look back not only at the history of Valentine’s Day but also the long history of whining about the commercialism of Valentine’s Day (it dates back all the way to 1847). The hosts also take questions from listeners, suggesting ways to make gift giving less cliché, how to celebrate with platonic friends, and how to cope with mushy posts from lovers when you’re single. The McElroys go on to explore the fairly common dilemma of first dates on and around the holiday, and the etiquette in that touchy situation. This episode of Shmanners might have come too late to help your love life in 2018, but it’s never too early to start planning for next year. [Mike Vanderbilt]

The Ezra Klein Show
Steven Pinker


The consensus opinion seems to be that the world is going to complete shit. The problem is that no one can agree on which ideologically prescribed version of shit we’re talking about. Are we tumbling hopelessly into anarchy or fascism, lawlessness or too much government? There is, however, a measured voice quietly suggesting that maybe none of that is happening. That, maybe, things are actually getting better. That voice belongs to Harvard professor Steven Pinker. In this conversation with Ezra Klein, Pinker brandishes the primary stakes in his conjecture that humanity is still enjoying an ever-illuminating age of reason, as laid out in his new book, Enlightenment Now. He asserts that for all our problems, we are still at the height of human civilization and on a continued path of improvement. A quick glance at the day’s headlines might seem to disprove that hypothesis, but his arguments are impressive. While Klein—no lazy thinker himself—pushes back against many of the points made in the book, Pinker absorbs the skepticism and responds with supporting evidence. Not all listeners will be convinced, but it sure is a treat to bask in this kind of optimism for an hour. [Dennis DiClaudio]

The Memory Palace


This thoughtful vignette presents the story of Hercules, an early American slave (of George Washington’s) who distinguished himself through his cooking. Over the course of the show’s 10-minute runtime, we get a brief sketch of Hercules’ life, or what we think we know of it, because a brief sketch is all that exists. To the extent that his existence is acknowledged is due strictly to the happenstance of being owned by the first president, the man who dominated his life, at least until Hercules successfully escaped bondage in 1797 and disappeared from history. But the show is more than a cursory summation of Hercules; it’s a poignant rumination on the barbarism of slave ownership, evidenced by the singular desire of captives to flee enslavement, regardless of whether they are “treated well” by their owners. The story also lingers on the motives of those slave owners who were highly aware of the horrors of their practice, including Washington himself. [Zach Brooke]

This Is Love
The Run


Brought to you by the makers of the spectacular podcast Criminal, This Is Love possesses the same structure as its predecessor, with interviews and host Phoebe Judge’s narration backed by music to envelop listeners. The notable difference is tonal: This Is Love is a warmer podcast, a manifestation of Judge’s self-professed love of Valentine’s Day (“Valentine” also happens to be her middle name) and an attempt to investigate “life’s most persistent mystery” through “stories of sacrifice, obsession, and the ways in which we bet everything on each other.” That last bit of This Is Love’s tagline plays into the show’s debut episode, which is about David Alexander’s 1971 meet-cute in Central Park—superficially, of course. As can be expected, Judge’s approach and her interest in atypical stories reveals an anthropological depth. Slated for six episodes, This Is Love is poised to remain relevant far after Cupid’s done letting his arrows fly this February. The team thinks so too, and has reportedly “prepared for another six episodes to release in the fall if all goes well.” [Becca James]

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