A.V. Club Podmass 05.18.15

Hello, From The Magic Tavern

There is so much to discuss surrounding the latest episode of Hello, From The Magic Tavern, the inventive, often hilarious podcast about host Arnie Niekamp’s adventures while trapped in a parallel dimension. What begins under the pretense of just another entry from the magical realm of Foon quickly swings to another pole, opening the show up to entirely different realms of possibility. Niekamp, struggling with a bout of homesickness, retreats to his room at the eponymous tavern, The Vermillion Minotaur, and as the podcast cuts to what should be a mid-roll ad, the fabric of the show’s reality stretches in an entirely different and exciting direction. To describe exactly what happens would be an unfair gesture here, but it finally sheds light on the mysterious man (excellently voiced by Tim Sniffen) who serves as the show’s announcer, as well as his continued exhortations that the show is entirely a product of fiction. The depth of world-building has been among the strongest elements of Hello, From The Magic Tavern, and “Homesick” shows that it is just getting started. At only 10 episodes, it is not too late to jump on what has the potential to become the next Welcome To Night Vale.


Open Run
The Fellowship Of The Rim Vol. 1 And 2: Dave Hartley

While the continued longevity of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy is a bit of a curiosity to many pop culture observers, it is a boon to listeners of Open Run, as the 2015 broadcast network upfront presentations provides the backdrop for what are easily the standout episodes in the show’s nascent existence. This two-parter sees hosts Jesse Williams and Stefan Marolachakis hanging out in the Trump International Hotel in New York City along with all-star podcast sixth man, Dave Hartley of the band The War On Drugs. The trio engage in one extra-long hang session, drinking beers, shooting the shit, and covering a wide range of topics in continually hilarious fashion. The real treat of these episodes comes from how well they succeed in conveying to listeners the atmosphere of being in the room; few podcasts find such a balance between access and accessibility. The conversation flows naturally from serious basketball discussions, to Mr. Show and Naked Gunreferences, to a very in-depth and astute dissection of sports fandom, artistry, and personal identity. Hartley brings some absolutely crazy nickname game, and the show hands out its own end-of-season awards. With the NBA season drawing to a close, it will be interesting to see what comes next for the show.

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A.V. Club Podmass 05.11.15

Hound Tall
History of Hip-Hop: Jeff Chang, W. Kamau Bell, Kaseem Bentley, Natasha Leggero

If the title of this episode seems like a big topic to cover in less than two hours, you’d be right. Though the show only ends up scratching the surface of hip-hop’s storied history, it does so in such an excellent and hilarious fashion that it seemingly positions itself perfectly as just the first part of an ongoing series. It helps that Hound Tall host Moshe Kasher is a dyed-in-the-wool hip-hop head, evidenced by some of the deep-cut references that he drops offhandedly throughout. Some unfortunate recording issues lead to an odd opening for the show, but stick with it, as Kasher invites author Jeff Chang and comedians W. Kamau Bell, Kaseem Bentley, and Natasha Leggero on to discuss the story of the genre from its earliest days through the mid-’90s. The show is frequently funny, with the varied panel delighting in taking spirited shots at one another, or in Leggero’s continual attempts to steer the conversation toward the culture of sexism that came to pervade within the music. The show ripples with intelligence and wit, even when it is fixated on hot dogs and the lamentably named Duke Bootee.


Women Of Science: Raychelle Burks, Rachel Swaby, Vivian Underhill

There is a question posed at the beginning of BitchMagazine’s feminism and pop-culture podcast Popagandathat really lands hard. Host Sarah Mirk asks about the number of female scientists that listeners can name and, as the question hangs heavily in the air, Mirk goes on to detail how a recent survey discovered that 65 percent of respondents in the U.S. couldn’t name a single female scientist. The issue isn’t just one of the presence and visibility of women in STEM fields, but also that of their experiences. Popaganda takes time to look at several situations that relate to the sojourn of women in science. The show opens with Mirk conversing with analytical chemist Raychelle Burks about the depiction of women in science in pop culture. The findings are unsurprisingly sparse, though not without hope, as they are seeing an increase in representation of late. Additionally, the show covers the predominantly female science of veterinary medicine; journalist Rachel Swaby and her book Headstrong, about the lives of 52 female scientists whose contributions have gone largely unheralded; and an interview with Vivian Underhill on the issues facing LGBTQ people in the sciences. The show’s topic may seem heavy, but the conversation is lively, interesting, and very necessary.


Should I Worry About This?
Should I Worry About… Getting Sick And Going Bankrupt?

With each successive listen to the frequently excellent Should I Worry About This? one begins to feel that the answer to the rhetorical question posed in the title is always an unqualified “Yes.” This week’s dissection is no different, as hosts Cat Oddy and Eden Robins discuss the shocking statistics about American health care-related debt. This discussion is mainly brought on by Oddy’s recent expatriation to London and a conversation that she had regarding the cost of healthcare in America. Robins’ findings are staggering, with results of a survey from 2007 showing some 70 million Americans were affected by medical debt, that two-thirds of all bankruptcy filings were related to medical bills, and that up to 2 million people were facing illness and bankruptcy at the same time. Perhaps one of the more interesting pieces of information to come out of the show is the surprisingly antiquated link between employer-offered health care benefits and World War II. The passing of the Affordable Care Act has helped increase the rates of insured people in America, but the issue goes beyond just being insured. It is tied to the relaxed legislation of the marketing of credit cards to consumers, leading to a rather vicious cycle that is sure to give listeners nightmares.

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A.V. Club Podmass 04.06.15

It’s all comedy and drugs this week as I wrote about Thomas Middleditch’s phenomenal Comedy Bang! Bang! debut, the brand new Paul F. Tompkins improv showcase Spontaneanation, Duncan Trussell’s MDMA discussion on The Duncan Trussell Family Hour, and a Bill Maher interview on the Swedish podcast Varvert International. In all a great week of shows.

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