Saturday, September 03, 2011

Blogging My Podcasts: Five

Pop My Culture

You're likely to have gotten by now that I prefer my podcasts on the lighter side, although there are certainly exceptions--WTF can get pretty heavy, for example. But Pop My Culture is probably the coziest podcast around.

It's like sitting on a sofa with a couple of funny, nerdy friends, hosts Cole Stratton and Vanessa Ragland. Who developed pretty quickly if not instantaneously into a good double act.

Neither is the others stooge, but--to oversimplify--Stratton is the "Abbott" or pseudointellectual one, and Ragland the "Costello"--childlike in her enthusiasms, and almost surreal in her thinking processes (at least as presented on the show).

Their guests tend to be people whose names you may or may not recognize depending on how aware you were of that sort of thing in preadulthood, but whose work you definitely know if you were young at all in the '80s.

For example: William Zabka, Eddie Deezen, Alan Ruck, and Savage Steve Holland w/Curtis Armstrong.

Another of their guests, voice artist Rob Paulsen, has a podcast of his own called:

Talkin Toons with Rob Paulsen

Unfortunately I can't recommend it as a regular listen. Not that Paulsen doesn't have some great stories to tell, he does. And like most voice-over artists, he can raise a smile simply by adopting a voice from when you were a kid (he was Pinky of and the Brain, Yakko of the Animaniacs and hundreds more).

Listening to at least a handful of his shows is well worth your time: Episode 7, with special guest “The Brain” Maurice Lamarche is the one I’d suggest first.

The problem is that he front-loads each episode with too long a commercial for seminars he's offering across the States. I don't object to him promoting this venture, the podcast is, after all, free, and he has the right to use it to get people in their seats at paying gigs.

That's what most comedians use theirs for at least in part, after all. But Marc Maron gets through his sponsorship messages and/or personal plugs in scarcely more than a minute, y'know?

(It should also be noted that a percentage of the moneys from these seminars is to go to charity, in the interest of fairness and fullness)

How Was Your Week with Julie Klausner

If you're anything like me, you may find yourself disagreeing with Klausner at least as often as you agree with and/or are amused by her. But where else are you going to find a podcast with segments on favorite performances of the National Anthem? Or interviews with Paul Scheer of the podcast How Did This Get Made? (which I'll get to any day now) and movie star Sally Kellerman in the same episode?

Friday, September 02, 2011

These are the podcasts I listen to: Four

I listen to a number of old-time radio podcasts. Retro radio is one of my favorite things, and there's something extra-fun to me about the incongruity of listening to it via technology not only that the participants couldn't have imagined, their children couldn't have imagined. I won't recommend any specific episodes or even podcasts (there are simply too many), but if you share my interest, the iTunes search window is your friend.

Kevin Pollak's Chat Show

Actor and comedian Pollak was an "early adopter" of the online show/podcast format with this series, which he has described as an attempt to make "a funny Charlie Rose." Which I interpret as something with dignity which also tries to go a little deeper than your average come-on-and-plug-your-movie show...and is also funny.

The resulting show, available in both audio and video formats, is hit-and-miss. The best come when Pollak gets to the conversation with his guest quickly. He too often spends too much time beforehand chatting with regulars Sam Levene, the closest thing this show has to an Andy Richter, and Jaime Fox, who assists Pollak in the running of the show (she's also his romantic partner). This is not as much fun for the audience, or at least not this member of it, as Pollak thinks.

But some of the conversations are excellent, with Michael McKean a recent standout, and a joint appearance from Paul Provenza + Rick Overton a little further back another. Certainly enough to keep me a subscriber.

(The Laura Prepon interview, on the other hand, I've yet to be able to get through and it's not just because I don't like looking at Prepon so much since she went blonde--why, god, why?. It's because their conversation sinks into a discussion of poker, of interest to both of them as well as Levene. Just not to me. I can listen to conversations about things not really of interest to me, if those conversing can connect to me in such a way that I understand at least their passion for it. A recounting of winning hands does not qualify, at least not without a good story to go with it.)

Totally Laime

I've said of other shows in this ongoing "tribute" that they were "relaxed" and/or "easygoing." Well, Elizabeth Laime (get it?) takes that to such an extreme on her podcast that one could almost forget she was even there; her guests seem to get the lion's share of the attention. I'm not entirely sure that's a bad thing.

I don't mean that Laime isn't interesting herself: I started listening to this podcast because I liked a piece she'd written in an anthology. But the "podsphere" (people say that, right?) is not exactly lacking in people who like to talk about themselves--or, to be fair, in people who are engaging at it. It's kind of a nice relief to tune into someone who doesn't seem to be podcasting from the home for the pitiful wretched.

Recommended episodes: Garfunkel and Oates; Margot Leitman

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ben Loves Podcasts III

Doug Loves Movies

The Doug of the title is comic Doug Benson, and this is half talk show; half game show. The talk is just about what movies he and his guests have seen recently, and the game is what's called "The Leonard Maltin Game."

This consists of him reading an entry from the Maltin movie guide (leaving out anything that gives away the title). Then the contestants--show guests who play for someone in the audience that they select--"bet" on how few names from the cast list, starting from the bottom, they need to hear before naming the movie. If this game were played for some real money, I could clean up.

I fear I've made this sound a whole lot heavier than it is. Benson makes no secret of his regular marijuana usage (and I have just proven myself a master of understatement) and, at least partly as a result, his attitude towards his hosting duties can perhaps best be described as...relaxed.

Recommended episodes: John Lithgow, Jonathan Lipnicki, Sarah Silverman and Greg Behrendt, Kevin Pollak & Dave Foley.

Who Charted?

This agreeable if inconsequential podcast looks at the music and movie charts with the help of a guest, and there's usually a special chart or two just for them. Recommended episodes: Sarah Silverman and Aimee Mann.

Battleship Pretension

BP probably does the best job of bringing on guests you haven't already heard on every single other podcast. Even if you like Marc Maron and Paul F. Tompkins, and I do (especially Maron), there comes a time when you start to wonder if they have to be on every show every week.

What Battleship Pretension does the worst job of, however, is labeling their episodes for their subscribers on iTunes. See, when I go to the WTF section of my "sync podcasts" page, I can see at a glance that episode 203 is Carol Leifer, 202 is Jimmy Schubert, 197 is Andrew Dice Clay and his son. In the Battleship Pretension section, all I get is numbers: 231, 230, 229, 228. I wish they'd fix that.

But anyway, recommended episode: 221 with Susan Burke. I had never heard (or heard of) Burke before, but it's a good conversation, and on a semi-personal note I was especially taken with Burke's speaking voice. After hearing this episode I "Facebooked" her to say I thought she should do audiobooks.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

More podcasts

Making It with Riki Lindhome

Lindhome is the Garfunkel in Garfunkel and Oates, the singing-songwriting team all the nerds have crushes on and I am no exception.

She's also an actress whose films have ranged from two with Clint Eastwood to the Last House on the Left remake, and worked in the theater with Tim Robbins' Actors Gang.

The idea of her podcast is to talk to other people who, like her, have basically "made it" (get the pun of the title now?) in the business they call show. Not your Emma Stones necessarily in terms of fame, but people who are at the very least financially secure from their work.

She's trying (I think) to give as gloss-free a look as possible at the process of getting there; they're fun conversations on which to "eavesdrop."

Recommended episodes: Diora Baird and Lindhome talk candidly about being good-looking women in Hollywood, and it's actually a lot more interesting than I just made it sound. And my favorite Terminator-turned-supercomputer/sociopathic, human trafficking and murdering villain, Garret Dillahunt.

The Nerdist

This is a chat show about, as the title suggests, nerdy things. However, since host Chris Hardwick uses the definition of "nerd" as-

"A person who is intensely interested in a particular hobby or topic."

-he casts a wider net than you might imagine. SF TV shows, more mainstream fare, comic-books, comic-book movies; comedy and comedians are all subjects worthy of nerding out over on this show (among others).

When Hardwick and sidekicks Jonah Ray and Matt Mira don't have guests they do what they call "Hostful Podcasts," which is just the three of them talking. These can be fun and informative, but the best shows hands down are those with the guests, especially if those guests have some relationship with one or more of the hosts.

For example, possibly the episode to which I've re-listened most often features geek god Wil Wheaton, whose friendship with Hardwick spans two decades; that history can be heard in the way they talk to each other.

That episode, like all of those I would choose as the "best of the best," was recorded live before an audience. The hosts and their guests universally seem to do better with an audience to play to.

Another recommendation, but only if you're already a fan, is the special Doctor Who episode they did for the premiere of that series' season six. Hardwick is arguably the best known Who fan in least as far as the contemporary version is concerned. When it comes to the original; classic series his knowledge is a little more shaky.

Which is why he gets taken to school in the episode featuring his only rival for most famous US Dr. Who fan, Late Late Show host and all around cool guy Craig Ferguson.

WTF with Marc Maron

Odds are even if you don't listen to many (or any) podcasts, you've heard of this one. Maron is the current face of podcasting, having taken over the role from Ricky Gervais. His experience working in radio no doubt helps the professional sound, but the biggest rocks in his pack are his neurosis and ability to articulate same.

As with The Nerdist, the very best episodes are those whose guests have some history with Maron; since he's a 20-plus year veteran of stand-up, that's almost everyone. But in Maron's case, however, there's a running gag in the number of guests to whom he has to apologize at least once during the show, usually for having acted like a dick to them in some previous meeting.

As a recommended episode, I'm going to suggest you start with the recent 200th, even though it's atypical. For this Maron turns the tables on himself and is interviewed by New York City comedian Mike Birbiglia.

Basically, if Marc isn't for you, his podcast won't be either, and an hour and a half of him talking about himself should be enough to tell you if he's for you. Besides, he certainly has a history with that guest. As a bonus, there's a closing montage of "greatest hits" from the first 199 episodes.

To be continued...