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Judge John Hodgman Episode 103: Gas, Grass, or Justice

Paul F. Tompkins

MaxFunDrive is just around the corner! We'll be running some of our best shows of the year from April 1 to April 12. Stay tuned for more info!

Ruthie brings the case against her partner Chris. She says he pledged to get a driver's license years ago, but hasn't yet fulfilled his promise. Chris says he's on track to get the license, but he's been slowed down by difficulties with driving practice. Should Chris be held to a strict timeline to acquire the license? Only Judge John Hodgman can decide.

This week, we're joined by actor, comedian, and expert witness Paul F. Tompkins. He'll be performing in the UK from April 2 to April 13 with a new hour of standup comedy. If you want more Paul, check out his weekly podcast, The Pod F. Tompkast.


Special thanks to listener Jaron James for suggesting this week's title!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: NBC’s Must See TV with Warren Littlefield, former NBC executive

Warren Littlefield
Oliver Wang
Brian Heater
Alex Zalben

New to Bullseye? Subscribe in iTunes or the RSS feed. You can also find and share all of our segments on our Soundcloud page.

Comics with Alex and Brian: Other Stuff and Relish: My Life In The Kitchen

BoingBoing comics editor Brian Heater and MTV Geek's Alex Zalben are here to talk comics. Brian suggests checking out Peter Bagge's Other Stuff, a collection of the cartoonist's side projects since the 90s. Alex's pick is Relish: My Life In The Kitchen, a unique comic that's part memoir and part cookbook.

Embed or share this week's comic recommendations from Brian and Alex

Former NBC President Warren Littlefield on Making Must-See TV

In the late 1970s and early 80s, NBC had a lot in common with...well, NBC today. The network was consistently behind in the ratings, with not a whole lot to lose. That might partially explain why a young executive named Warren Littlefield was able to approve a couple of shows that, on paper, didn’t look all that promising. One of them found itself with the lowest ratings in all of TV at the end of the first season. The other show was a family sitcom that ABC rejected, after executives there proclaimed that family sitcoms were dead. Not the best odds, right? But those two shows – Cheers and The Cosby Show, respectively – went on to become two of the most important sitcoms in television’s history, leading directly to the development of the Thursday night powerhouse that was Must-See TV.

Littlefield left NBC in 1998; since then, the network's fortunes have changed pretty dramatically and Must-See TV no longer exists for ANY channel. So Littlefield is taking a look back at NBC's glory years in an oral history called Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV, which was just released in paperback. Littlefield joins us to discuss how NBC's shows changed primetime, how the shows forged intimate connections with viewers, and the pleasures and sorrows of working with a pre-rehab Kelsey Grammer.

BUT WAIT -- there's more. If you want to know why Warren thinks Norm MacDonald was fired from SNL, or why he backed Leno as the successor to the Late Night throne... Listen here for an extended cut of our interview with him, and share it with your friends.

Canonball with Oliver Wang: Al Green’s I’m Still In Love With You

In Canonball, we take a flying leap into the canon of popular music. We're joined by professor and music writer Oliver Wang to talk about an Al Green album that deserves your attention. No, it's not Green's chart-topping record Let's Stay Together. Wang says that it was Al Green's followup to that album that really rattled him to his core.

Wang talks to us about 1973's I'm Still in Love with You, the record that created a new kind of soul music. Green's beautiful, if flawed voice, was merged with Willie Mitchell's innovative rhythm section and a new sound emerged.

You can find Oliver Wang's thoughts on soul rarities and more on his blog, Soul Sides.

Special thanks to Chris Berube, who edited Canonball for us this week.

Embed or share Canonball: Al Green’s I’m Still In Love With You with Oliver Wang

The Outshot: Where The Wild Things Are

What do you do when you’re mad? Not just a little miffed, but angry – so angry that you’re shaking? Jesse finds a way out through Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are.

Embed or share The Outshot: Where The Wild Things Are

My Brother, My Brother and Me 145: Three's Company High


Is this episode a day late? Yes. Is it a dollar short? Absolutely not. We'd say it's a dollar richer, since we had an extra day to ruminate on your questions, providing even more potent measures of sweet, sweet wisdom.

Suggested talking points: Passover the Dutchie, Lonely Wife Swap, The Worst Fast and Furious Movie, Arby's Reunion, Hydranting, Two Dads, Family Photos, Romantic Audiobook

Throwing Shade #73 - Supreme Court Gay Marriage, North Dakota Abortions, Erin's Forgotten Birthday, Semen Stains


Happy Erin's Birthday! Yup, it was the first lady of Throwing Shade's birthday, and everyone missed it - including Bryan! This week, Bryan and Erin tackle Justice Scalia's homophobic remarks before the Prop 8 hearing, the possible outlaw of abortions in North Dakota, and the semen stains found on Bryan's wall. Hey now, you're an all star! Get paid! 
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Stop Podcasting Yourself 262 - Kevin Banner

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Kevin Banner

Comedian Kevin Banner joins us to talk attempted murder, talking to strangers, and seaplanes.

Download episode 262 here. (right-click)

Get in touch with us at spy [at] maximumfun [dot] org or (206) 339-8328.

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(click here for the full recap)

Jordan, Jesse, Go! Episode 268: Midler and Johnson's with Biz Ellis

Biz Ellis

One Bad Mother co-host Biz Ellis joins Jordan and Jesse for a discussion of seedy adult books stores that sell potions, raising a child speaking Swedish, Biz's one-eyed rescue cat Onion, and Richmond Virginia's plethora of civil war memorials.

Action Item: What's a good general beginners thing Jordan can request that won't scare somebody off, but will get the most out of his Extreme Restraints offer?

RISK! #426: Roof is on Fire

Robert Hurst

Description: Robert Hurst finds catharsis in the Temple at Burning Man.

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: Longform Podcast


Vital stats:
Format: interviews with writers and editors of long-form articles
Episode duration: 35m-1h
Frequency: weekly

Say 3:00 a.m. has rolled around. I’ve walked my lady home, downed whatever wine remained in the night’s bottle, sent the day’s last few dangling e-mails, read two or three page-downs on Twitter, glanced at Facebook, and checked the New Yorker for anything new from Anthony Lane. I could go to bed. Or I could check Though I rarely admit it, I only direct my browser that way in hopes of finding a 3,000-, 5,000-, or — jackpot — 10,000-word article so interesting as to deprioritize sleep and the dull preparations it demands. I imagine you’ve done this too. If you happen to have a day job, maybe you’ve burned hours of your employer’s time — even days of it — reading articles aggregated by Longform and its ilk (Longreads, say), luxuriating in a combination of boredom, fascination, and sheer spite. I had to ditch my own day job after envisioning the decades ahead melting into an ocean of text, often damned interesting but essentially opiate.

Though I no longer rely on Longform as that sort of drip-feed, it has remained in my night-elongating rotation — no morning pressure to get to “the office,” after all — and I took notice when the site began putting out a podcast [RSS] [iTunes]. The show delivers not audio versions of long-form articles but interviews with the sort of people who write and commission them: folks from New York magazine, the New Yorker, the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine... you know, the publications whose sites you pull up after dark looking for an extended distraction. (Also publications with “New York” in the title. Longform does have its office, I believe, in New York, but guys, come on — America has two cities.) Built at the intersection of an addiction to long-form articles and a compulsion to listen to interview podcasts, the Longform Podcast should sit right in my personal (and thus professional) wheelhouse. Yet I approached with trepidation.

Scanning the guest list, I inhaled sharply: “Oh no — journalists.” To be fair, journalists have proven less a force of 21st-century irksomeness than has the concept of journalism itself. It once rode high, at least in the United States, on newspapers’ robust stream of classified ad revenue. But when the money dried up, journalism took the uniquely unpalatable rearguard action of insisting that we need it. Through little fault of journalists working today, American journalism had already drawn considerable resentment for its perceived high-handed self-regard; doubling down on yapping about the Fourth Estate raises predictably little sympathy. Here I defer to the aforementioned Anthony Lane, on Shattered Glass, Billy Ray’s movie about about disgraced New Republic reporter Stephen Glass: “Glass may be a rotten apple in the barrel, but the contention of Ray’s film is that the barrel itself, the noble calling of the reporter, is as sturdy and as polished as ever. Give me a break. On second thought, give me His Girl Friday. Five minutes of Howard Hawks’s speedy and cynical view of hacks in sharp suits, as they themselves bend the world to fit the shape of their own cynicism, is a more bracing sight than ninety-four minutes of Stephen Glass and his tragic slide from grace.”

From listening to their interviews, I do believe that the Longform crew and their subjects understand full well, if sometimes on a half-suppressed level, how weary we all feel with the established models of journalism. With each skilled, young-ish writer and/or editor I heard one of the Longform Podcast’s trio of hosts (one of whom comes from The Atavist, a new-media operation I don’t quite understand) talk to, I grew more convinced that they’ve all been badly hamstrung by both the irreparable old journalistic business models and the corruptingly pageview-driven current ones. But the money side has only done half the damage, at most; say the word “journalism” to today’s average young reader, and they surely think of some combination of plodding sequential narrative, pretend objectivity, deadening house style, and J-school piety. Pay occasional reflexive tribute to the positively spun versions of those qualities though they may, Longform’s interviewees generally “get it.” But get what? An idea that crystallized for me when I heard the new episode where travel writer Rolf Potts argues that travel writing concerns travel only incidentally and writing almost wholly: journalism will find itself replaced by essayism, or at least transformed by it.

Having built my own career of talking and writing, I can understand why someone might call me a journalist, but I still wince when it happens. I do pull up Longform in search of work by my (roughly defined) peers, but certainly not for anything I’d consider reportage. In those wee small hours of the night — or even during the day — I’m looking for essays. “An essay doesn't begin with a statement, but with a question,” writes Paul Graham in "The Age of the Essay”. “You don't take a position and defend it. You notice a door that's ajar, and you open it and walk in to see what's inside.” Longform mainstay John Jeremiah Sullivan has demonstrated mastery of, if not the pure essay, then at least the highly essayistic piece of reporting. I look forward to one day hearing him on the podcast. The conversation will surely not contain much hand-wringing about who will fund the Baghdad bureau. (If every Baghdad bureau shut down tomorrow, I doubt I’d notice for months, if ever.) The conversation surely will contain an insight or two into, explicitly labeled or not, the journalism that has become essayism. Forget the new journalism; bring on this new new journalism, the contours of whose stories follow the contours of human thought. Consciously or unconsciously, many of the Longform Podcast’s subjects, as well as Longform itself, will do the bringing. As soon as those fact-checking departments can't make payroll, we'll really tear it up.

Comment or suggest a podcast on the Podthoughts forum thread

[Podthinker Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture [iTunes] and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He's working on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Contact him at colinjmarshall at gmail or follow him on Twitter @colinmarshall.]

Episode 65: Big Gay Ice Cream

Big Gay Ice Cream's Doug Quint

Episode 65 is here and most people can't even handle it probably! This time around, pull your loved ones close as I sit down with Big Gay Ice Cream's Doug Quint in the basement/murder hole of their West Village shop to discuss topics including but not limited to ice cream (I mean, c'mon- it would have been weird not to) his dark past as a classically trained musician, the lactose intolerance of the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt, the inevitable breakup of Motley Crue, the oboe, those bassoon-playing bastards, whether I will ever amount to anything, and much, much more. I also answer extremely important listener questions, check in with my secretary Shaina Feinberg, and pass the baton to Ian Ball as he delivers hit hot Hot Jamz from London once again. For more information this podcast and oher Dave-related stuff, please visit my website at and follow me on Twitter at @mrdavehill. Okay- those are my demands.

Dave Hill

Wham Bam Pow Episode 1: Sci-Fi Snubs and Jackie Brown

Wham Bam Pow

In this, the inaugural episode of Wham Bam Pow, we discuss the great Sci-Fi movies that were NOT recognized by the Academy (hint: nearly all of them), Rhea pitches a HOT sequel, and we review Quentin Tarantino's oft forgotten Jackie Brown.

Follow us on Twitter! Cameron is @cameronesposito, Rhea is @RheaButcher, and Ricky is @RickyCarmona.


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