Photo: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

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.


Doughboys
Sugarfish With Jason Mantzoukas

Advertisement

Listen to any L.A.-based comedy podcast long enough and you’re guaranteed to hear a passing reference to Sugarfish, the upscale, portmanteau-branded sushi chain dotting Southern California and parts of New York. It’s one of the few restaurants that won’t kill egg-allergic comedian Jason Mantzoukas, who joins Mike Mitchell and Nick Wiger to discuss growing up with a severe food restriction, the ready-to-fight vibe in Boston, his edamame-eating technique, the pervasiveness of gum-related jokes in Heathcliff comics, and, of course, raw fish. One of the great delights of Doughboys is learning in detail about regional staples, and as the panel notes, unlike, say, hamburgers, the gulf between good and bad sushi is gargantuan. With its vinegary rice, high-quality fish, and tasty green tea (“ice cold Gak” according to Wiger), the consensus is that Sugarfish occupies a reliable space somewhere between truly spectacular fare and the thousands of dodgier mom-and-pop joints. In the bonus segment Drank Or Stank, the gang samples and rates the new, seemingly La Croix–inspired Diet Coke variations, including head-scratching flavors like zesty blood orange and twisted mango. [Dan Jakes]


Disgraceland
Sid Vicious: Love Kills… Even A Mother’s Love?

Advertisement

Courtney Love did it. Katy Perry is actually JonBenét Ramsey grown up. Paul McCartney is dead. Elvis is alive. Conspiracy theories surrounding musicians are as endless as they are entertaining, which is fortunate for Disgraceland. The new podcast, hosted by Jake Brennan, focuses on these transfixing tales “exploring the true-crime antics and criminal connections of musicians,” a topic ripe for discussion. This week’s focal point is punk rock icon Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. It’s long been believed that Vicious died, in 1979 at the age of 21, from a heroin overdose; however, Brennan argues that new evidence suggests his “overly affectionate and increasingly dependent” mother killed him out of mercy with a hot shot. Why? He was out on bail as a suspect in the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen (which raises a whole other crop of conspiracy theories), and was generally unable to confirm or deny whether he did it. Was it Anne Beverley, Vicious’ mother, who decided that poison was better than prison? Tune in and decide for yourself. [Becca James]


Night Call
Space Zamboni

Advertisement

Like an old-school radio show featuring listener call-ins, the Night Call podcast lets its audience weigh in with topics and questions. Whether callers are seeking advice on life and love or raising pretty much any other issue, hosts Molly Lambert, Tess Lynch, and Emily Yoshida are down to talk about it. This episode finds an unnamed caller specifically interested in discussing fart humor in the trailers for Paddington 2. Covering a wide range of subject matter on their way to the topic in question, the hosts somehow manage to examine everything from Elon Musk’s latest space ventures (specifically the lame choice of car he chose to send into orbit) to the Nazi origins of IKEA and other retail chains to ice skating and the Winter Olympics. The three women have well-informed, fun, and compelling conversations with the sort of friendly banter that allows for both the revelation of one host’s secret history of youthful winter sports activity and calling out the International Olympic Committee for the harm that occurs when a city hosts the Olympics. [Jose Nateras]


Poetry Off The Shelf
The Poetics Of Mass Murder

Advertisement

It’s a curious thing to create art in the wake of a major tragedy today. Instead of like Picasso’s Guernica, for example, which became inextricably fixed to the lone horror that spawned it, artistic responses to contemporary mass shootings take on an evergreen quality. As these events accumulate, the accompanying din folds into rhyme, punctuating the chilling meter of modern American society. This sense of return is captured nicely in this rebroadcast of a 2009 episode of Poetry Off The Shelf that literally could have been taped last week. It features a poem from Dan Beachy-Quick, who was working through The Dream Songs by John Berryman on April 20, 1999, when news broke of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. Beachy-Quick’s thoughts immediately went to his sister-in-law, then a Columbine student. He also remembered a Berryman poem about Charles Whitman and the shooting at the University of Texas three decades earlier. Beachy-Quick’s processing of mass trauma is borne out through the poem “Chorus and Hero,” which invokes present-day senseless carnage by recalling an ancient Greek play about Hercules. [Zach Brooke]


Punch Up The Jam
Welcome To The Jungle (W/Grace Helbig)

Advertisement

Anyone finding themselves in a funk this week need only fire up the latest episode of Punch Up The Jam and marvel as the stress melts momentarily away. Like a bizarro world version of Radiotopia’s Song Exploder, each week the show takes apart a different, often abstruse song to find out where its creators went wrong. Hosts Demi Adejuyigbe (of Gilmore Guys) and Miel Bredouw spend most of the episode analyzing the song’s themes, instrumentation, and idiosyncrasies to hilarious results. The show’s real magic comes when the track is reworked and performed by either Adejuyigbe or Bredouw. The results have been uniformly excellent and inspired, but this week’s song is jaw-droppingly good. The pair are joined in the studio by Grace Helbig (of the Not Too Deep podcast) to dissect Guns N’ Roses’ 1987 single “Welcome To The Jungle,” and their findings will change the way listeners hear the song. An early comment from Bredouw—positing that the titular jungle actually refers to a thicket of pubes—inspires Adejuyigbe to make the eventual punched-up version into a circus-inflected Broadway musical number all about the hormonal changes experienced during puberty. Adejuyigbe’s deliriously comic songcraft makes for an excellent cure for what ails you. [Ben Cannon]


R U Talkin’ R.E.M. RE: Me?
Chronic Town

Advertisement

Much like the Solo Bolo episodes of Comedy Bang! Bang!, the scattershot, aggressively silly, in-joke-stuffed banter/music criticism of Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott is either very much listeners’ thing or absolutely not their thing. Scott and Scott surprised folks in the former group last week by lighting up the previously retired U Talkin’ U2 To Me? feed with a new name and a new season of album-by-album, track-by-track commentary, this time about U2 contemporary R.E.M. The relationship between ’80s and ’90s alt-comedy and alt-rock runs deep, and in the premiere episode, the Scotts give an overview of why the immediately catchy, (mostly) parent-friendly, linguistically inscrutable early songs of the band were so formative to the hosts’ teenage musical tastes. After going down a rabbit hole of mini-podcasts and a rundown of R.E.M.’s musicians (nicknames and batshit backstories abound), the hosts get into the nitty-gritty of the EP Chronic Town. Best tangent: the bizarre, localized Southern California phenomenon of folks scratching off letters on In-N-Out Burger bumper stickers to read “In-N-Out urge” in the ’80s. [Dan Jakes]


Skeptoid
All About Grounding

Advertisement

Okay, so a critical takedown of “grounding”—a lifestyle trend that advocates going barefoot to siphon electrons from the earth for, uh, wellness—is a bit of low-hanging fruit, but it’s important to stop these things before they have a chance to spread beyond the Dr. Ozs and Gwyneth Paltrows of the world. Plus, skepticism rarely comes up against something this silly. The “ancient” practice traces its lineage all the way back to the last millennium; the 1990s, to be exact. Cable TV salesman Clinton Ober was looking into the alleged dangers of cellphone towers and wifi signals, concluding that animals were impervious to harmful effects generated by such hazards because their feet were grounded to the earth. The baton was picked up by the Earthing Institute, which now pitches products in line with its central thesis: that absorbing the earth’s electrons reduces inflammation. As host Brian Dunning explains, this claim is not backed up by mainstream science journals. Even granting the premise that grounding yourself to the earth would give your body extra electrons (it won’t), there are plenty of science-based refutations of the practice Dunning lays out across this episode of Skeptoid. [Zach Brooke]


The Reductress Minute
Dermatologists Hate Her! This Woman Is Really Mean To Dermatologists

Advertisement

Brought to you from the brilliant minds of the satirical website Reductress, this new podcast promises to take listeners through the week’s “most topical stories, messiest sex trends, and finest subscription boxes” while being “short, sweet, hot, and to the point.” It delivers. Clocking in at around 20 minutes, it really is “all the news you need to know in the time it takes to get from the hair salon to the pube salon,” and it’s as endlessly quotable as any Reductress headline. Each episode is hosted by a rotation of Reductress staffers as they share the site’s most popular headlines and invite comedians to drop in and read the best articles. They also goof around providing plenty of bits by crank-calling Katie Couric, playing a supportive voicemail from Janeane Garofalo, and offering their condolences to the many readers who are “literally dead” after reading Reductress spot-on satire. It is, as they say, “all the news that’s fit to speak!” [Becca James]