Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Image courtesy of Mark Rudolph, Requiem Metal Podcast

I'm not sure what percentage of Illogical Contraption's readership listens to podcasts--it is, after all, an acquired taste, not the most popular form of entertainment, but burgeoning nonetheless. I subscribe to exactly 20 myself (my computer's memory won't allow for much more and I ain't about to start dumping 'em onto my external hard drive), and in the last 6 months or so my music-to-podcast ratio has been about 50/50. They're a great alternative to commercial radio for a guy like me that spends alot of time in cars or on public transportation, after all you can't spend 100% of your earbud time rocking to Russian slam metal (can you?). So today's post is a breakdown of the aforementioned 20 podcasts on my roster, most of them probably pretty well-known and familiar to you if you're already an enthusiast, but hey, whatever, I thought I'd share...

- HorrorEtc

An in-depth exploration of the horror genre (amongst many other things) with very-Canadian hosts Anthony and Ted (and sometimes Doug). Podcasts are produced at least once a week, with a huge archive for your perusal (almost 200 episodes, most in the 1:30 to 2 hour range). These guys like to swill beer while they talk slasher, gore, thriller, suspense, etc., but slobs they aren't--discussions often swerve into the technical minutiae of filmmaking, and they are always "films", not "movies".

Pros: 300+ hours of obscure horror cinema talk at your disposal.
Cons: Anthony in particular can come off as a little bit pretentious, and subject matter is explored SO deeply and thoroughly that a lot of uninteresting fodder gets thrown in.

- Junk Food Dinner

Junk Food Dinner, although relatively young, appears to be a weekly affair, and, like HorrorEtc, is almost completely film-related. The Skype-based format of its production model allows for 3 hosts based in Ohio, LA, and New York to be present for each episode, with each of them bringing an obscure film to the table for discussion every week. Along with quite a bit of "nerd news", good musical interludes, and plentiful digression, JFD brings the B-movies, grindhouse, horror, sci-fi, and 80's comedies hard and fast, and I always end up adding a movie or two to my Netflix queue after listening.

Pros: Shitloads of quality flicks you've never heard of.
Cons: Only, like, ten episodes available on iTunes right now.

- Doug Loves Movies

Continuing with the movie theme, we have the always-stoned Doug Benson and his weekly comedy/film trivia podcast Doug Loves Movies. Usually performed live at the UCB Theater in LA, DLM is always populated by an entertaining list of A-to-B-grade movie stars and comedians (he got John Lithgow!), and always ends in a spirited round of The Leonard Maltin Game.

Pros: Never fails to entertain--Benson is a genuinely funny host and guests are mostly lucid and well-chosen.
Cons: The live setting of the show doesn't always translate 100% to podcast format.

- Comedy Bang Bang

Transitioning from film to comedy, we now start with our 5-show block of podcasts from the Earwolf Network, co-founded by Comedy Bang Bang (formerly Comedy Death Ray) host and former Mr. Show writer Scott Aukerman. I posted on CBB/CDR back here, sharing several of their finest clips via YouTube, but again, the show archive is massive and stocked with quality bits, offering hours and hours and hours and hours of listening pleasure to the casual comedy enthusiast. Comedy Bang Bang is often considered the yardstick by which to measure comedy podcasts, and Aukerman's format (usually featuring a movie or music star paired with an "in-character" comedian) is about 90% successful.

Pros: Seth Morris, Nick Kroll, James Adomian, and Paul F. Tompkins ALWAYS kill it.
Cons: Humor-wise, CBB can be pretty hit-or-miss.

- Affirmation Nation with Bob Ducca

The first "official" CDR/CBB spin-off features Seth Morris as the ailment-stricken self-help addict Bob Ducca, initially introduced on Comedy Death Ray as Aukerman's (fictional) ex-stepdad. In a departure from the "usual" comedy podcast format, Affirmation Nation is offered in 1-to-4 minute installments 5 times a week, and somehow, almost every episode manages to be literally laugh-out-loud funny. Highest recommendations possible.

Pros: Introduction of terms like "faucet titties", "Kettle Corn enema", "nasal halitosis", and "hand putty" into your daily vernacular.
Cons: None.

Pro tip: Bob Ducca's Twitter account is amazing, if you're into that sort of thing.

- Mike Detective

A deft send-up of the long-gone private eye/film noir genre, Mike Detective is the creation of comedian/actor Rob Huebel (of Human Giant and Children's Hospital), and is chock full of ridiculous wordplay, graphic single entendres, low-brow comedy, and brilliantly stupid puns. Episodes are usually in the 5-to-10 minute range, with the first "season" ending recently.

Pros: Like Affirmation Nation, good for a few solid belly laughs.
Cons: Episodes are short, few and far between.

- How Did This Get Made?

Speaking of Human Giant, Huebel's co-star Paul Scheer (who also appeared in Piranha 3D and was quasi-interviewed by our own Brother Cory back here) co-hosts the twice-monthly shitfest HDTGM? with Jason Mantzoukas and June Diane Raphael, and consistently nails it with his brutal eviscerations of past and current Hollywood garbage (most of it involving Nicolas Cage). This podcast can be an acquired taste, but I personally have an unquenchable thirst for shit-talking bad movies, the worse the better (and vice versa?).

Pros: In-depth plot analysis of movies like Sucker Punch and Drive Angry: Shot in 3d save you the pain and hassle of actually watching them.
Cons: I actually wish the 45 minute-to-1 hour episodes were longer.

- Who Charted?

The last in our series of 5 Earwolf-produced podcasts is Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack's Who Charted?, a show which, despite being pretty funny, I consider something of a neccesary evil. Their weekly run-downs of top charters in film, music, video gaming, and the like are mostly foreign to my ultra-specialized tastes, but in a way, if I must keep up with pop culture, this is the way I want to do it--in short, controlled, 10 second bursts.

Pros: Good guests, good music (Kremer moonlights as alter-ego comedy rapper Dragon Boy Suede), and a healthy dose of deserving cynicism (mostly on Howard's part) when discussing "popular stuff".
Cons: I could tell you what song was #3 on the dance charts last week, if I wanted to.

- The Nerdist

Another "guilty pleasure" on the list, the Nerdist podcast (co-hosted by Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Mira) is sort of like the "morning radio show" of my poddictions. These dudes are all legitimately funny, super nerdy, and full of quick wit, but also obsessed with the Hollywood "scene", often pandering to A-list guests or dropping names unnecessarily. I don't know--I can't always get behind the Nerdist 100%, but it hasn't stopped me from downloading and listening to all 100+ shows in their archive.

Pros: The title implies a certain degree of nerd and/or geek-based knowledge, which the show delivers in abundance.
Cons: Chris is hung up on himself, Jonah likes to talk about "indie rock", and Matt is a fan of the Dave Matthews Band. 'Nuff said.

- The Pod F. Tompkast

Paul F. Tompkins is a fucking comedy genius, and his foray into the world of podcasting is a welcome one. But while the Pod F. Tompkast is well-produced, creative, and intelligent, it lacks variety, an element that will hopefully be added when the first episode recorded in front of a LIVE audience airs next month. This show is relatively new, and could use a couple tweaks to hold listener interest better. But I trust the comedic instincts of its seasoned host, and hopefully the Tompkast will continue to improve accordingly.

Pros: Regular visits from well-worn Tompkins characters such as Cake Boss, Ice T, Gary Marshall, and Dame Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Cons: Paul's one-man, direction-less rants can get tiresome (he needs to start bringing on some guests), and his ongoing segment featuring extended phone conversations with comedian Jen Kirkman don't really go anywhere.

- Superego

Holy shit this show is bizarre. And fucking hilarious.
I stumbled accross this one on a chance recommendation from the previously-mentioned Mr. Tompkins, who, along with other well-known comics like Patton Oswalt and Andy Daly, has done extensive guest-voice work on the show. Somehow, the creators of Superego have created their own off-kilter comedic language, full of weird non-sequitirs, purposefully misplaced pauses, nonsensical word combinations, and pure, unadulterated insanity. I'm not even really sure what to call it. It is "sketch comedy", yes, but somehow beyond it as well, contorting into abstract surrealism and improvisational scat-storytelling as well. If Tim & Eric directed the Firesign Theater, the results would be something resembling Superego.
As a bonus, the production value and technical details are top-notch as well, with the podcast itself being presented in a "chaptered" format I've never before experienced in a comedy podcast (custom graphics "follow" the show's storyline as well, changing on your iPod's display screen as the episode progresses). But above all, the show is FUNNY, and if you choose to take the plunge, you'll soon be as enamored with Shunt McGuppin, General Zod, Don DeLillo, and The Pray-Day-Dur Kid (you'll know when you get there) as I am.

Pros: Pretty sure this podcast actually makes you smarter.
Cons: Only one 20-minute-to-half-hour episode per month.

- WTF with Marc Maron

I guess WTF is the closest you can get to a "mainstream" comedy podcast, although that term means something totally different in such a specialized form of media. Maron still produces his interview segments from his own garage (when he isn't conducting them live on stage or from a hotel room), with his own gear, and each episode is flavored, for better or worse, by his cynical, twisted world view. Say what you will about the bitter old fuck, but Maron certainly isn't a "sell-out", and half the fun of the show is hearing his own dark, honest stories intertwined with those of his (usually) high-profile guests. Unlike mainstream television or radio interviewers, WTF is unafraid to sink its proverbial claws into its victims interviewees, and the magic of the show is hearing about the darkest fears and anxieties of otherwise "untouchable" comedy/media stars.

Pros: Endless kvetching.
Cons: See "Pros".

- Things We Did Before Reality

Personality-wise, SF-based comedian Will Franken has a lot in common with Marc Maron--they're both unrepentantly bitter and angry, sharp of wit and tongue, and prolific as Hell--but Franken's podcast is a hard 180 from Maron's dry back-and-forth, a frenetic, schizoid, one-man romp indulging all the voices in his head. Where Maron is liberal and prone to chin-scratching introspection, Franken is (beneath a confusing mass of conflicting voices) actually pretty conservative, and never hesitant to put his ideas into action. Despite a complete schism with his Republican leanings, I have to hand it to the guy: Things We Did Before Reality is an amazing listen, an obvious labor of love that is as funny as it is random. Franken's stream-of-conciousness ramblings involve a huge cast of characters (all performed by the man himself), an arsenal of sound effects and weird references, even a healthy dose of original music. This is probably the most obscure podcast you'll find on this list, and undeservingly so.

Cons: No new episodes in over a year, looks like a limited run...?

- Out There Radio

Man, I listen to waaayyyy too many comedy podcasts. Shit.
Anyway, next up on the list is Out There Radio, a conspiracy-themed 50-part series created several years ago by two college dudes in Georgia. Now, I've gone through my share of "conspiracy" podcasts, and without fail, ALL of them except Out There have fallen by the wayside. You see, conspiracy theory-based podcasts always fall prey to one of two downfalls: they either A) are super boring, or B) have awful production (basement-dwelling conspiracy nuts rarely get the feedback the need to correct such issues). Out There succumbs to neither, and as a result, remains an all-time favorite. Running the gamut from UFOs to Satanism to mass suicide to the JFK assassination/Warren commission to Nazi cults to 2012 to Charles Manson, show topics are engaging and well-researched, and the hosts are wise enough to present both sides of every case while endorsing neither. As a bonus, when you subscribe to Out There on iTunes, you also get a couple dozen episodes of a Disinformation series these same guys did, super recommended all around.

Pros: Hugely informative.
Cons: Defunct.

- Requiem Metal Podcast

... And onward to the METAL podcasts! I've spoken about Requiem at length here on IllCon before, but allow me to repeat myself once again: this is a GREAT show, and has turned me on to a shit-ton of previously-undiscovered gems (mostly Swedish) in the recent past. Hosts Mark and Jason have put in decades of service to the metal cause, and it shows in the quality of their work. While my taste in metal doesn't always converge with theirs (come on, guys, that new Cathedral is AWFUL!), I don't really expect it to either, as metal is a splintered prism of fractalized preferences and styles. These guys love ALL of it, which is why the show works so well.

Pros: Hugely informative.
Cons: A whole show abouth the fucking DEFTONES? Really?

- MetalCast

Double that previous statement for MetalCast: The Ultimate Metal Show. This international endeavor is extremely heavy on the symphonic Italian power metal, gothic Grecian power metal, Finnish psychedelic power metal, etc. etc. etc.--long story short, lots of stuff that I don't really care about. But it is formatted, like Superego, in CHAPTERS, making it really easy to skip forward and backward over songs to get to the good stuff. MetalCast is actually a pretty awesome resource for exposure to new metal, and, like several other podcasts here, their archives are enormous. Like Requiem, MetalCast is a great way to discover music you would never be exposed to otherwise, and the thick-ass accents present on the entire rotating cast of hosts are pleasing to the ear as well.

Pros: At least one exciting discovery per episode. What the Hell is a Nader Sadek?
Cons: Power metal. Power metal power metal power metal power metal power metal power metal power metal. Power metal.

- StarTalk Radio

OK, metal's over. Good metal podcasts are hard to find, or maybe I'm just too picky...?
Either way, we're now getting into the intellectual stuff, so I won't blame all you knuckle-dragger if you want to bail now. Gone? OK cool.
StarTalk Radio, hosted by "celebrity astrophysicist" Neil DeGrasse Tyson (you may have seen him on The Colbert Report or The Daily Show), succeeds in its goal of making science--both celestial and terrestrial--accessible to the common fuckup, by relating the basic tenets of physics and biology to pop culture, whether it be movies, comic books, sports, or music. By avoiding the humdrum lecture style of the average science teacher, Tyson makes science an engaging topic, and by bringing the odd comedian on as a sidekick manages to keep conversation light and goofy. But be careful, because you might end up actually learning something.

Cons: Neil DeGrasse Tyson is kind of a smug bastard. He seriously introduces himself as "Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson" in EVERY EPISODE.

- H.P.

Depending on your literary preferences, you probably either love or hate Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Me, I reside firmly in the former camp, although I think everyone can agree that his style of prose is convoluted, confusing, heavy-handed, and over-wrought. Luckily, the dudes over at the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast have your back, creating a show that can be viewed almost as high-production-value audio Cliff Notes of the man's work. Seamlessly fusing sound effects, readings via actors from the original text, and extensive plot analysis and insight (their exploration of At The Mountains of Madness is at 5 hour-long episodes and counting), HPPodcraft is an excellent companion piece to the writings of one of horror's greatest minds, and will most likely help you parse some of Howard's most heinous run-on sentences--with a dash of macabre humor.

Pros: Will allow you to reference Lovecraft's work much more freely and accurately in mixed company. Chicks are WAY into that.
Cons: Niche interest. I doubt many people will enjoy this one as much as I do.

- Dan Carlin's Hardcore History

I don't really know much about Dan Carlin outside of this podcast, but it was recommended from several different sources and I'm glad I checked it out. Wanna listen to a seven-plus hour history of ancient Rome with ALL of the gore, murder, incest, and baby-sacrifice intact? Good! Carlin's got you covered, breaking down several of history's greatest epochs into lascivious, easily-digestable 90-minute chunks. I don't really consider myself a big history buff, but Hardcore History expounds on humanity's finest (and most deplorable) hours in a way that is both interesting and informative, and even though I'm not sure if more episodes will be made or not, there is plenty here to keep you busy for dozens of morning commutes.

Pros: More "smart" podcasting. Might as well stimulate your brain cells while you slowly destroy your eardrums.
Cons: Dry-er than Barbara Bush's vagine.

- This American Life

Okay. I admit it.

Pros: What, are you too "cool" to sit down and just listen to a GOOD FUCKING STORY every now and then? Jesus man, get over yourself. Asshole.
Cons: Listener may or may not develop brown corduroy patches on elbows of jacket, listener may or may not sprout ponytail, spectacles, or bad facial hair, listener may or may not find him/herself driving a Prius or visiting local Farmer's Market more than once daily.

So there you have it. The 20 podcasts that I subscribe to, in no particular order. What buried treasures are YOU CLOWNS listening to these days? Comments section, go!


Helm said...

I love podcasts and I'll be checking out almost ALL OF THESE eventually. I didn't stick with comedy death radio because let's face it folks, I am not American, and american pop culture humour is for Americans, but chauvinism aside, there's a lot of hopefuls in this list.

Here's my favourites, I gladly offer them to you

Stuff You Should Know: keeps you company, makes you smarter

Radiolab: all you ever wanted to know about sound, plus stuff you didn't want to know about sound but needed to.

G O D said...

Yo ! , check out my blog for pirate radio shows I broadcasted 15-20 yrs ago,playing weird ,old,punk,metal,thrift,and other varieties of musics on WGOD radio ,with your host G O D ,which makes it a GODcast instead of a podcast, so check out some WGOD! P.S. not related to any religions,christian or otherwise.GOD plays GOD-like music,and speaks to you thru his magical effects pedal,twisting your noodle with tunes,while keeping you up to date with what you're ears are heaRING!!! Load this on your I-Pod ,if you dare!1!

G O D -The Only D.J.,on WGOD .

There are a few shows posted with guest D.J. Wilmer Moseby ,who plays a more eclectic set of ditties
Thanks ,and enjoy!!!!

The Thing That Should Not Be said...

Nader Sadek? I refer you back to my - woefully incorrect assessment now that I've heard the album - Steve Tucker post.

Roger Camden said...

Battleship Pretension - Basically Requiem Metal with movies instead of music. It's two guys who majored in film studies (or acting or whatever) talking about the history of film. They usually have a topic and try their best to only cover it in passing glances. I realize this doesn't seem positive, but give it a shot. Pick an episode with a theme you're familiar with to see where these guys' opinions sit.

Jordan, Jesse Go! - A vulgar comedy podcast vaguely affiliated with the LA comedy scene. Jesse Thorn also hosts a public radio program called The Sound of Young America which is in the Fresh Air/All Things Considered vein. Each episode features Jesse, Jordan Morris (an improv guy who does man-on-the-street interviews for Fuel TV), and a guest (usually a comedian or television personality) dicking around for around 90 minutes. Despite the loose conversation, the show uses segments to pull together a stable format. I find them charming, but sometimes everything I like about them is also everything I hate about them.

Nekromantis said...

I've listened to some podcasts for a little while but just like radio it feels something that's not for me and will not stick. I just don't have patience to go through songs I don't necessary feel like listening at that given moment and the talk programs.. well I prefer audio books and/or sitting at home reading a book or watching documentary. I guess I should give these another chance though.

Roger Camden said...

The Nerdist podcast...

Three funny guys who manage to represent everything you'd expect the word nerd to mean, for good or bad. Since it deals with nerds, it also draws nerd-grade internet criticism, ranging from nitpicking to broad dismissal to impotent threats. It may not be the strongest podcast, but it draws strong opinions out of its listeners.

AV Club commenter "Curly Jefferson" posted a fine analysis that I will not attempt to top (I agree with most of it):
"I mock out of frustration, not hate. I dug the podcast for the first year or so it was on. I actually think the guys would be better served heeding the criticism rather than railing against it. The critiques that keep coming back on here week after week are the same ones: the guys aren't as funny as they think they are and need to let the guests talk. Maybe a small percentage of the guests listen for the inside jokes between the three, but most of us listen for a long form interview with an interesting guest, and there's a reason we like Hardwick to interview; he's doing it from a fan's perspective [I disagree. He interviews like a cable television personality-- all affirmatives, no meaninful feedback or critical thought] But a lot of that seems to have been lost in favor of three guys bullshitting in a not-so-entertaining manner.

That said, I do have some problems with Hardwick, the more we learn about him. He seems way too insular in his view of culture, like anyone who isn't a nerd or a comic or even someone who doesn't live in LA or NYC is sort of a jerk or a figure of fun. It's that same myopic, high school nerd point-of-view that most of us grew out of once we got to college. He makes statements like "I'm not friends with any non-comics" with pride, when he should probably be embarrassed. Obviously I take umbrage with much of [Adam] Carolla and [Marc] Maron's opinions and worldviews, but I give them more of a pass because their whole bit is that they're curmudgeons with issues. It bothers me more with Hardwick because he presents himself as an exceptionally nice, positive guy, but he comes off more like a formerly bitter guy who listened to a lot of self-help tapes. The problem is, the bitterness still leaks through. If he were more honest about himself and didn't cover up with this veneer of positivity, I'd probably be more willing to give him a pass."

The Ugfromumant said...

I dropped my Ipod in a puddle while jogging one day. :(

Mister Booze said...

I wish podcasts weren't so genre oriented. More randomized entertainment and less format oriented. Music. Comedy. News. Celeb gossip. Balls. I want more interesting stuff that entertains and delights.

Shelby Cobras said...

I think you just described IllCon Radio. I think.

Mister Booze said...

Bro, would love IllCon radio podcasts. Format bending mind warping infotainment. I thought about producing something like that but I have a voice for silent films and content generation is a bitch. That's one of the things I like about this American life, it doesn't really fit into a radio genre.

Shelby Cobras said...

I doubt anyone will read this, so I'll spill the beans re: IllCon Radio--
Pitches are happening, gears are turning...

Mister Booze said...

Also, I dig the Fresh Air podcast. That Terry is a great interviewer but if I don't care who the guest is I don't listen. Wish iTunes had a system for marking podcast duds and deleting them so you don't accidentally redownload a dud.

Anonymous said...

i been hooked on Radiolab podcast. check it out it's awesome.

Shelby Cobras said...

Yup, I checked it out on Helm's recommendation/ Great stuff.

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