Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

With Hound Tall, Moshe Kasher brings a new podcast to the airwaves

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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.

Affirmation Nation
New Beginnings

It’s been two long years since Bob Ducca’s inspirational podcast aired its last bite-sized episode. Seth Morris established himself early on as Scott Aukerman’s fictitious ex-stepfather on Comedy Bang! Bang!, and he’s been a beloved part of the show ever since. The constantly defeated Ducca struck out on his own and carved out a wonderful niche by recording weekly affirmations of brief, beautiful, rambling nonsense. This week’s surprise return plays with the show’s formula. The rambling nonsense is still there (he opens the show with a ritual sacrifice), but this time it goes long form and he’s joined by a guest. June Diane Raphael pops in as Carol Carawanna, a novice astrologist who is somehow as pathetically gross as Ducca. They happily discuss Ducca’s accidental trip to Burning Man where he made a number of new friends, with respect to Natasha Folklore, Miranda Stinkwood, Rosario Dawson, and Coyote Man, among others. Carawanna does most of the heavy story lifting, especially when talking about her tumultuous two year descent, as told by the stars. Things slow down to crawl as they labor through a bit about struggling with a horoscope app, and sputter out by the end, but the depressing 45 minutes with Ducca are ultimately well spent. [Matt Kodner]


The Art Of Wrestling
Cliff Compton

Colt Cabana doesn’t like having the same guest on his podcast more than once, maybe twice if it’s a good friend. The cult wrestler wants to avoid what he lewdly refers to as redundant conversations. This week’s episode with Cliff Compton marks the first third-timer to ever grace Cabana’s studio (apartment). More so than any other Art Of Wrestling guest, Compton—known as the greaser oddball Domino during his semi-notable run in the WWE—has created an entire persona around his AOW appearances. After appearing in the “monumental” episodes 18 and 59, Compton capitalized on the occasion and became known to a certain set as Mr. 1859. Those kind of off-kilter sensibilities are rare in the world of wrestling. The two chat about the show’s early days, and eventually about how insane it is to wrestle in the Congo. The episode’s high point comes when Compton lets loose a hilariously dark story he had been saving for this very occasion. Unfortunately, the show winds down before the two even get to discuss how they ended up in a KFC commercial together. Though it may be a long way off, a fourth appearance will be a future highlight for sure. [Matt Kodner]

Doug Loves Movies
Paul F. Tompkins, Ben Acker, Ben Blacker

Since the Godzilla spoiler grace-period has finally expired, this week’s L.A. Upright Citizens Brigade panel rips into the film for how much of a summer disappointment it was, namely how deceiving those Bryan Cranston-filled trailers were. Maybe it’s because this week features two courteous first-time guests, but there’s actually quite a bit of movie chatter. Thrilling Adventure Hour’s Ben Acker and Ben Blacker join Paul F. Tompkins for an uncommonly focused and easygoing episode. After some pre-game conversation about @midnight, the dais plays an inadvertent game of Last Man Stanton when debating some of Tom Cruise’s filmography. There isn’t enough time for any full side games, but Doug Benson manages to squeeze in three satisfying Leonard Maltin Game rounds. And a side note: Guests know what they’re getting into when they appear on Getting Doug With High, right? Benson mentions this week that following Matt Walsh’s polite retraction request, there is apparently now conversation about pulling Jack Black’s episode because of how over-high he becomes following a weed hiatus. So, public service announcement for non-stoner comics: Consider a dress rehearsal joint a day before showtime. [Dan Jakes]


Hound Tall

The latest podcast from comedian Moshe Kasher, Hound Tall is a comedic take on an educational town hall, with Kasher rounding up two comedy buddies and an expert of some sort to chat for an hour or so. (As Kasher puts it, it’s “a smart person and three idiots trying to make you laugh.”) For Harems, the show’s first episode, Kasher enlists Pete Holmes and Beth Stelling to chat up Jillian Lauren, author of several books about her time as part of the Sultan Of Brunei’s harem. Lauren’s tawdry tale is the perfect place for Hound Tall to start, as both Holmes and Kasher are instantly taken with the sexy details, while Stelling is more interested in the practicalities of Lauren’s life behind closed doors. (“Did they pay your rent while you were there?”) It makes for some interesting and hilarious riffs from all three comedians, who work well together, especially during Holmes and Stelling’s rendition of Aladdin’s “Prince Ali.” Holmes especially gets in some good digs about Lauren’s time with the Sultan, including lines about both the Guts Aggro-Crag and “being Jesused.” If Kasher continues to draw quality guests and hilarious pals, Hound Tall has the potential to become one of the most uniquely interesting podcasts around. [Marah Eakin]


LIVE From L.A. Podfest 2014

Any fan of comedy podcasts who doesn’t subscribe to Matt Besser’s Improv4humans is missing out on some of, if not the best unadulterated comedic performances available outside of major club stages. This week’s all-star filled episode, recorded in front of a live audience at the second annual L.A. Podfest, offers an excellent entry point for new listeners. Founding Upright Citizens Brigade member Ian Roberts joins Besser, Horatio Sanz and Comedy Bang! Bang! regular Lauren Lapkus to field audience and Twitter suggestions for scenes. It’s fascinating to hear the differences between sets performed in front of an audience versus those in a studio—counterintuitive as it sounds, the lack of audience feedback during studio episodes seems to allow comics to dive deeper into absurd premises into wild, often hilarious tangents. Things still get delightfully weird this week. Knock-off superheroes come to a man’s rescue, a prostitute satisfies clients with asexual fetishes (“I want you to bite down on a TV guide while doing it”), and a Brechtian theater performs corpse puppet Ibsen based on a truly messed up commercial by Tomcat. Sanz is big on blue non sequiturs, but they help keep everyone on their toes. At this point, Lapkus is basically a queen Midas of any podcast episode she touches, and listening to her regularly hold her own with veterans, it’s easy to understand why. [Dan Jakes]


Inquiring Minds
Steven Pinker - The Science Behind Writing Well

This interview with Harvard professor and pop science writer Steven Pinker is the kind of thing many listeners may want to keep handy to send to pedantic editors, petty professors, and online grammar vigilantes. The author of The Sense Of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide To Writing In The 21st Century walks Inquiring Minds co-host Chris Mooney through a gallery of unhelpful rules of style (proscriptions against split infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions) that have either outlived their usefulness or never had much to begin with. In doing so, he gets to the heart of what grammar rules are actually good for: helping people express their thoughts simply and succinctly in the written form. It should be noted that even some of the most liberal grammarians out there may not enjoy hearing Pinker’s thoughts on the fluid nature of language, as he defends the use of online writing slang and points out that every generation of writers has lamented the damage done to the written word by its subsequent generation. Anyone who’s had the chance to hear Pinker lecture on topics ranging from curse words to abstract concepts will know how much life he can breath into seemingly small topics. [Dennis DiClaudio]


99% Invisible
The Straight Line Is A Godless Line

The title of this episode of 99% Invisible comes from eccentric Austrian artist Tausendsassa Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser, whose name translates to the no-less ridiculous “Multi-Talented Peace-Filled Rainy Day Dark-Colored Hundred Waters.” What Hundertwasser means in his silly declaration is that all architecture and design is being rendered artless by the tyranny of straight lines. Reporter Luisa Beck is from a town in Germany where one of Hundertwasser’s most infamous buildings lies, and she combines archival audio of Hundertwasser with a current-day visit to this Green Citadel. The Citadel itself is a ridiculously asymmetrical, bright pink building covered inside and out with elaborate mosaic tile patterns that keep it looking curvy where a normal building would offer sharp modern corners. Some of Hundertwasser’s ideas make little to no sense (he proposed his Citadel building have indoor composting toilets, something investors successfully rallied against), but he still provided practical, reusable ideas and to this day he inspires legions of free thinkers. Yet, it’s Beck’s interviews with residents of the Citadel and her nearby grandparents that give the episode a light, goofy, human touch. Though the sound of the furious voice of Hundertwasser paints quite a clear picture, images of his work can be found on 99% Invisible’s website. [Dan Telfer]


No Such Thing As A Fish
No Such Thing As Man Eating Clam

This episode of There’s No Such Thing As A Fish opens with the decadent habits of Louis XVI of France. Louis XVI employed a morning routine that serves as a perfect example of why people view royals as non-functional caricatures: with over 100 people observing his every morning, he would wash his hands in wine, be kissed by his childhood nurse, and have courtiers assemble his various undergarments. And like every bit of research the hosts bring to the episode, it spins a huge amount of comedic tangents that fly by at an alarming rate. The idea of Louis XVI’s ceremony turns quickly to the world of micro-biomes and spins back to Louis XV’s annoyance when he inherited it all, then touches it, remarkably, back into the source of the word “silhouette” in its relation to Louis XIV. This then segues into remarkable facts about paintings, but it’s truly the back half of this episode that shines. Without giving away the best parts, there are some surprisingly melodramatic warnings of Victorian-era clam non-murders to share, as well as some origins for the modern counting system that are likely to melt some listener brains. This episode represents both No Such Thing As A Fish at its best, and what makes the show the hosts works for (Q.I.) brilliantly entertaining. Perhaps if the podcast can keep up this quality, a savvy executive will notice and its parent television show can be broadcast on BBC America some day. [Dan Telfer]


The Q&A
Captain America: The Winter Soldier

One of the biggest mysteries surrounding this past spring’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier—just recently released on Blu-ray—is how the directing team of Anthony and Joe Russo managed to turn a sequel featuring one of the blander A-list characters from the Marvel universe into a genre-transcendent ’70s-paranoia-thriller-inspired financial and critical mega-hit. Perhaps the only bigger mystery is how two brothers from Cleveland who are mostly known for their work in oddball TV comedies like Community and Arrested Development were even given a shot at the material. This thirty minute conversation with The Q&A’s Jeff Goldsmith sheds some light on both enigmas. As the former host of Creative Screenwriting Magazine’s podcast, Goldsmith is quite comfortable getting down into the nitty gritty aspects of the filmmaking process, where the Russos are more than happy to be led. Though all three of them are unabashed wonks for cinematic history and the moviemaking process, the conversation never spins so wildly into technicalities as to scare off genuinely interested fans of the film. However, people who are looking for insights into the myopia of the Marvel Cinematic Universe might want to look elsewhere. This is more for film geeks than comic book nerds. [Dennis DiClaudio]


Color Therapy

Sawbones has a reputation for not wasting a great deal of its time on “pseudo-science” unless the particular subject is of special notoriety. But hosts Dr. Sydnee and Justin McElroy found a particularly strange and intriguing topic with color therapy, or the idea that changing the colors around oneself can alter immediate health and well being. Dr. Sydnee in particular was a incensed after reading that color therapy was a potential cure for cancer, a topic she does not take lightly. With their suspicions on full alert, she and her co-host husband do admit that there may be some benefits to certain color schemes for the photosensitive, with particular interest shown to those who suffer from migraine headaches, a subject that no scientist is able to completely pin down. But as usual, it’s the hosts’ ability to comedically riff on the subject and reflect it back onto their personal lives that make a standout episode. The harsh greens that threaten their own home lead to personal realizations that there is some kind of force at work when shades of color hit a human being’s retina. And unlike most episodes about pseudo-science, like the recent one on spontaneous combustion, they both rule out the ridiculous and leave the door open to some speculation. [Dan Telfer]


The Alibi

Serial is the new murder-mystery spin-off from This American Life, telling a single, true story over the course of its season rather than several stories on a weekly theme. The first two episodes were released Friday, and already Serial is like nothing else on the podosphere. “The Alibi” introduces listeners to the bones of the story: In 1999, a Baltimore girl named Hae Min Lee went missing. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested for her murder six weeks later. He proclaims his innocence, but he was found guilty in court. This American Life producer Sarah Koenig investigates, recording her search for the truth of what happened on a January afternoon 15 years ago. This deeply suspenseful podcast provides a heady sense of anxiety similar to an engrossing, can’t-put-down mystery novel or some of the more compelling, hour-long This American Life episodes. Listen to the episodes in order, and set aside the required time; listeners won’t want to pause once they’ve started this engrossing podcast. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]


The Treatment
Quentin Tarantino

That Quentin Tarantino would eventually take up the programming duties for a revival house like the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles is such an obvious and unsurprising outgrowth of his filmmaking career that it kind of seems weird that it’s only being discussed now. Each one of his movies already feels like a primer for a handful of genres that casual moviegoers didn’t even know existed. Why not cut out the middleman and just pump his exhaustive collection of 35 mm prints directly into people’s eyeholes? Although The Treatment is a standard—though highly above average—interview show, Tarantino has been a guest so often over the years that his and host Elvis Mitchell’s mutual affection and respect is evident. The comfort afforded by that makes this the perfect outlet for the film obsessive to lay out his philosophical preferences for analog over digital projection without seeming like a hipster crank, shaking his fist at technology. Or at least less so. Regardless, Tarantino is always an interesting conversationalist, and the problem with this discussion is that its 30 minute run-time isn’t nearly enough long enough for him to really get into a serious groove. [Dennis DiClaudio]


You Are Not So Smart

Most people are probably aware, on some intellectual level at least, that they cannot possibly be 100 percent correct about 100 percent of their beliefs. There must be some things that they think are so that simply are not. But—as The Unpersuadables: Adventures With The Enemies Of Science author Will Storr points out during his comfortably in-depth conversation with You Are Not So Smart’s David McRaney—if you file through, point by point, all that person’s beliefs, you’d be lucky to find one that they’ll own up to maybe being slightly off base about. Such is the power of the human brain to shield itself from its own ignorance. Over the course of this episode, McRaney talks with several experts in an attempt to figure out how irrational belief systems come to be accepted by otherwise intelligent people and why its so monumentally difficult to for them to be subsequently purged. Though there’s a lot to appreciate in this episode, Storr’s explanation of how climate skepticism became a bedrock article of faith for one influential British lord is a notable highlight. Plus, there’s some really fun stuff with pyramids and the Mysteries Of The Unknown book series early on. [Dennis DiClaudio]


We see what you said there

“You know what they used to call hoarders back in the ancient times? Archivists, librarians. This information needed to be stored for future generations.”—Bob Ducca (Seth Morris), Affirmation Nation

“You assume that once you become a tag-team champion, you’re known forever… but then some guy looks at you at a Denny’s and goes, ‘Who the fuck are you?’”—Colt Cabana, Art Of Wrestling


“I’m so looking forward to that. Have you seen the trailer for Inherent Vice? It’s back where I wanted [Paul Thomas Anderson] to be. You know, There Will Be Blood and The Master were amazing achievements that bored the shit out of me. I’m very excited that he might be going back to Boogie Nights territory.”—Doug Benson, Doug Loves Movies

“They kind of serve as a tactic for one upmanship. They’re a way in which one person can prove that they are more sophisticated or literate than someone else.”—Steven Pinker on “bogus rules” of grammar, Inquiring Minds


“Anytime that you’re forced to define your vision for something, you’re always going to do better work. And because we went through the wringer trying to get the project, it felt like by the time we won the project, we were as prepared as we could absolutely be to direct that movie.”—Anthony Russo, The Q&A

“Part of the magic of movies is you think you are looking at moving pictures, and you are not looking at moving pictures. There’s never moving pictures in movies.”—Quentin Tarantino, The Treatment


“That’s a warning sign—if you’re feeling that strongly about something that you just have to tell everybody what you think, I think you need to step back.”—Will Storr on keeping our irrational beliefs in check, You Are Not So Smart