The Pulitzer Prizes were announced this past week and everyone was in a huff (the Huff-ington Post, especially) about how there was no winner for fiction but I was wondering why there wasn’t a winner for podcasts this year, OR ANY YEAR. I know what you are thinking, “Generally, the Pulitzer is a writing award and podcasts are an aural medium.” Well, I’m thinking, “Oh, I guess I didn’t really know that, ooops. Nevermind.” And now you’re thinking, “That’s ok, Jesse. We decided that you deserve the Pulitzer for Criticism. And that is a thing. Here you go.” So now I’m thinking, “Wow, no way! Thanks for the Pulitzer Prize, guys. I’m going to go call my parents. Here are our podcast picks for the week:”
BRADFORD: Nerdist #194 -Tenacious D
It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from Tenacious D. After their big movie The Pick of Destiny tanked at the box office in 2006, the rock comedy outfit has been keeping a low profile – but that all ended this year with the lead-up to the release of their new album, Rize of the Fenix. Jack Black and Kyle Gass stopped by the Nerdist studio to whet fans’ appetites for Fenix, and the resulting podcast is a fun and informative chat about the D’s distant and recent past. Chris Hardwick does a fine job of contextualizing Tenacious D’s spot in musical comedy history by explaining that they made it acceptable for comedians to bring instruments into comedy clubs by proving they were anything but hacky guitar comics and paving the way for folks like Flight of the Conchords, Bo Burnham, and Garfunkel and Oates. The show offers up a revealing glimpse back at the D’s early days as a pivotal part of the mid-90s Mr. Show/Uncab alt-comedy scene in L.A., some hilarious a cappella renditions of Nickelback and Puddle of Mudd songs by Jack Black and Chris Hardwick, and of course, a special performance from Tenacious D that sees them slipping right back into their old ways with ease and proving that this upcoming album should be a return to form.
JESSE: You Made it Weird #41: Live from NYC – Jim Gaffigan, Michael Ian Black, Jessi Klein, Matt McCarthy, Chelsea Peretti
I was at this taping and man was Pete Holmes eating it up. Early on, he dropped a He-Man reference that the crowed loved, which made him realize that they were his people. Beyond even headlining standup dates, live podcast taping audiences are made up of people who know everything about and have wholly accepted the comedian. There was a bravado a swagger a take-on-all-comers-even-Chelsea-Peretti-ness that is not usually there. Also, boy did it get weird, twice! First, when Michael Ian Black acknowledged that he could have hired Pete to write on Michael and Michael Have Issues but very much decided not to. Second, when Michael “Men in Black 3: Manlier and Blacker” Ian Black asked pretty pointedly if Pete and Chelsea were having sex. Both these moments exhibited something specific to live podcast; beyond getting to hear laughs, you get to hear complete silence. Pregnant poises are more so when everyone is having a silence baby. Anyway, everyone was great. Especially, Jessi Klein who was the super best.
JOEL: The Crab Feast – Jay Larson, Retta, Matt Fulchiron
Comedian Ryan Sickler doesn’t mess around and his weekly show. The Crab Feast, is packed with great stories and fun riffing. There’s not a lot of filler here. The latest episode featured guest comedian Retta joining Sickler and his fellow co-hosts and comedians, Jay Larson and Matt Fulchiron. Sickler is a laid back but skilled host, always keeping some sense of order while also setting everyone up for great stories and fun conversations. Retta is a great fit for the show bringing a bunch of Duke Basketball stories to the fold and equal amounts of outlandish travel stories. Larson, one of the best comedic storytellers, doesn’t disappoint with his get-in-a-stranger’s-car story. Fulchiron via phone is again ready to play the obnoxious and aloof foil with his own travelling with strangers’ anecdotes. The Crab Feast is a great example of funny people hanging out and sharing fun stories that build off of one another. Not a lot of filler or misguided angst. Just Sickler and pals trading the funny.
LINDSEY: WTF with Marc Maron #271- Stephen Merchant
Two facts about Stephen Merchant: he is too cool for headphones and can recognize celebrities by the back of their heads. What a guy. I know it’s redundant to review WTF at this point because if you are even reading this column it is obviously one of your staples, but it’s not often one gets to listen to The Office/ Extras/ The Ricky Gervais Show co-creator Merchant without also having to listen to his other half, Ricky Gervais. This was such a treat, you guys! Merchant has often been the unsung hero of the duo, and it was lovely listening to him just ramble on about royal culture, cockney rhyming slang and what pops up in many a Brit’s mind when they hear the name Bristol Palin. Calm and simple and not a piercing laugh heard at all throughout the interview. (Can you tell I’m a little sick of Gervais? I needed this, apparently.) Perfect for those looking to get more into British comedy, people that need another reason to fall in love with John Cleese, and the few that have always wanted to hear Maron say, “I want to stick my dick in power.” The most important part of the episode, though, had nothing to do with the guest and happened within the first five minutes of Maron’s opening segment. A new installment of The Marc and Tom Show (Hotel Room Version) is on the way. Prepare yourselves accordingly.
The JV in the title of this new podcast (featured on the Nerdist network fresh out of the gate) are the initials of the host, the bubbly Janet Varney. (I believe that Ms. V is also the welcoming voice leading into ALL Nerdist shows with “Now entering Nerdist dot com…”) Firmly into the Hollywood scene – Varney has an impressive role call of guest starring TV shots and movies, too – she’s well suited as the host of show that A) talks with women in the industry and, B) has her initials in the title. I was just remarking on my own podcast recently that there seems to be a paucity of female hosts in podcast land and it looks like Varney is helping to tip the scales even more by featuring only women guests on the (so far) one-on-one conversations that comprise the show. And that’s really what you hear – it’s not so much an interview as it is two women having as near to a heart-to-heart chat as you’re likely to get on a comedy podcast. Varvey and her guest Natasha Leggero use each question as if it were a diving board into increasingly deep water, with both of them revealing more about their fears and upbringing as the show progresses. It’s not all played for laughs – in fact, most of what gets touched on: teenage outcasting, first-time sexual experiences and (in Leggero’s case) blindfolding a school bus driver while the bus was in motion, is pretty heavy stuff. But it keeps getting lightened up by the mutual peals of laughter from both host and guest at the absurdity of the moments remembered.
ROGER: You Had To Be There #59 - Kurt Braunohler
After years mostly only being known as the guy with the last name you have trouble pronouncing that performs with Kristen Schall, Kurt Braunohler is following in Schall’s footsteps and attempting to “make it” on his own - Braunohler in June will be starring in an unorthodox but humorous game show on IFC and perform stand-up solo on John Oliver’s comedy show. He admitted towards the end of this week’s You Had To Be There that he considered censoring his twitter account to not alienate some new fans that are going to find his basic cable friendly humor fun, but changed his mind. Considering that he brought this up after an hour filled with compelling, funny and honest talk about adult sexual manners, it’s a good thing Kurt and hosts Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer (who are working on a pilot for MTV) haven’t yet sold out. If any of the three of these comedians hit the big time and start to think too much about appeasing the most people possible, us comedic nerds will at least have this podcast that featured finding a Monistat cap in the vagina, a lengthy discussion on orgasm noises both fictitious and real, and having sex in public to listen to. I’d like to think we’ll come off as cool for knowing who they were before they signed to a major label, and conspiratorial for passing something dirty like this podcast along to others, like in 5th grade when we all passed around a copy of the “kind of rape scene” that was in that one Sweet Valley Highbook.
SAMANTHA: Get Up On This #37 – Neil Mahoney
Maybe you don’t have time to keep track of what’s new on the Internet (and elsewhere), but you do have time to settle down with a two-hour podcast; Get Up On This knows you, baby, and they’re here to catch you up on all the cool shit you’ve been missing. This week, hosts Jensen Karp and Matt Robinson are joined by Neil Mahoney, director of Matt Besser’s fantastically camp Freak Dance. The first half of the show focuses on Mahoney, who talks about his Cape Cod upbringing, his short-lived Mr. Show internship and his Tiffani Amber Thiessen connection. For the second hour, the guys go through their lists of things to ‘get up on’; this installment features the perfect dick pic printer, the worst thing that’s ever happened to baseball and a dramatic reading of the week’s best Tweets (what’s up Brody Stevens and Josh Gondelman!), among other things. Come for the laughs, stay for the awesome art talk (and, if you’re into it, a track from Chicago ska-jazz-rap band Kids These Days).
Comedy Bang Bang #154 - Lennon Parham, Jessica St. Clair
Girl on Guy with Aisha Tyler #43 - Retta
This Better Be Funny #19 – Sean Patton, Dave Stone
Who Charted #72 - Elizabeth Laime, Andy Rosen
Jesse David Fox is a writer, cat person, and Jew (in that order). He lives in Brooklyn. His iPod is broken.
Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.
Lindsey Allen lives in Austin, TX. She has perfect teeth and a nice smell. A class act, all the way.
Roger Cormier hasn’t had pink eye in like forever.