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Stop Podcasting Yourself 124 - Abby Campbell

Abby Campbell

Abby Campbell returns to talk wiener dog races, Just For Laughs, and play a round of Celebrity Crush Hat.

Download episode 124 here. (right click)

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Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: My Brother, My Brother and Me

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Vital stats:
Format: three brothers doling out comedic advice
Duration: 30m-60m
Frequency: weekly, usually
Archive available on iTunes: all

Podcasting’s gotten to where, if you want to get a bunch of dudes on Skype on the regular, you need a good reason. The McElroys, Justin, Griffin, and Travis — how about that for a suite of Gen-Y names, by the way — are already brothers, so that’s a head start. Even without a podcast, maybe they’d be holding the occasional Skype-ference call anyway. (They’re not called Skype-ference calls.) But lo, they’ve also got themselves some server space, an RSS feed, and, most importantly, an angle.

My Brother, My Brother, and Me [RSS] [iTunes] is the result, a weekly meeting of the McElroy minds meant to solve the world’s problems. Though I realize they must have existed since the dawn of the medium — I think Savage Love may qualify as a pioneer — this is actually the first advice podcast I’ve heard. While this seems like the natural next step in advice media, I still feel as if the problem of advisor authority has never really been solved.

In short: how does an advice columnist, advice radio host, advice blogger, advice podcaster, etc. establish and maintain credibility? It’s not even clear how the form’s titans, such as history’s various Ann Landerses, have done it. Is it just about giving advice for a long time, then pointing to how long you’ve been given advice? Is there some independent evaluative board that periodically checks your advice’s effectiveness? The brothers McElroy wisely steer around this thorny issue by somehow establishing their advice-giving authority through their lack of advice-giving authority. It’s credibility through non-credibility.

Or maybe three non-credibles make a credible. Theoretically, three minds addressing a question are better than one, and any especially incorrect impulses on the part of one McElroy could be balanced out by the other two. On the flip side, they might just egg one another on toward the worst possible solution to their supplicants’ problems. But I’m not sure how often this actually happens. For brothers, they all sound and act surprisingly different — not that I can reliably tell which one is which yet, though it helps that the oldest has some kind of odd regional accent — so the danger of groupthink is minimized.

Yet, on a show like this, sometimes groupthink, bad answers, and eggings-on are exactly what the advice columnist ordered. Besides the authority inherent in non-authority and in sheer numbers, the McElroys also aim to establish the kind of sacred advisor-audience trust that only hilarity can build. This process is greatly aided by the way they get their questions. It seems like a mixture: some are submitted by members of the audience, while others are apparently gathered from such other non-podcast founts of wisdom as Yahoo! Answers.

You probably won’t remember the bulk of the questions themselves, since so many lie along the how-do-I-know-he-likes-me/should-I-make-out-with-my-buddy’s-girlfriend/what-is-sex spectrum. But the way G., J., and T. McElroy tag-team them will stick with you. And as comedically focused as the show is — if you need a rule, I wouldn’t recommend following the bothers’ dictates — they sometimes bust out surprisingly useful insights, especially if you need to how how you know he likes you, or if you should make out with your buddy’s girlfriend, or what sex is.

And actually, some of these questions, the ones that put an extra challenge to the McElroys, are memorable. I’m thinking specifically of the guy who requested a list of the most useful kicks. He already knows about front kicks, side kicks, and roundhouse kicks.

[Podthinker Colin Marshall also happens to be the host and producer of public radio’s The Marketplace of Ideas, the blogger of The War on Mediocrity and the writer of The Ubuweb Experimental Video Project.]

Podcast: The College Years: It's All Politics!

Kristin Gore
Art Spiegelman
Patton Oswalt

The College Years is a look deep into the vaults of The Sound of Young America. Take a journey with us every week as we post a new program or two from our salad days.

Today's theme: It's All Politics!

First up, Jesse Thorn and guest-host Maria Schell welcome writer Kristin Gore. Kristin talks about her book, Sammy's Hill, her beginnings in comedy with Harvard's National Lampoon, and her time as a writer at Futurama.

Following that, Jesse interviews the great Art Spiegelman. Listen as Mr. Spiegelman reveals some of his motivations for his book about 9/11, In the Shadow of No Towers. It is fantastic. Do yourself a favor and find more of his work.

Lastly, Jesse talks to friend of the show, Patton Oswalt. In the world's shortest interview, Patton drops some funny, Jesse tries to demonize the Chipmunks, and Maria describes what she's wearing. Owe yourself another favor and go to one of his upcoming shows.

The AV Club Picks for July 2010: Interview on The Sound of Young America

Josh Modell
Nathan Rabin

Nathan Rabin and Josh Modell join Jesse to recommend the best of popular culture. Nathan chooses Louis CK's Louie and the new film The Kids Are All Right. Josh Modell chooses Inception and Children's Hospital.

The Sound of Young America Presents: Mike Schmidt: "The 40-Year-Old Boy: Success Is Not An Option"

08/20/2010 - 22:00 - 08/21/2010 - 22:00
San Francisco, CA
Venue Name: 
The Dark Room

The Sound of Young America is proud to present Mike Schmidt in "The 40 Year Old Boy: Success Is Not An Option" at the Dark Room in San Francisco on August 20th and 21st. Tickets are on sale now.

Podcast: Coyle & Sharpe Episode 90: Leftovers


Welcome to season two of Coyle & Sharpe: The Imposters! In the early 1960s, James P. Coyle and Mal Sharpe roamed the streets of San Francisco, microphone in hand, roping strangers into bizarre schemes and surreal stunts. These original recordings are from the Sharpe family archive, which is tended by Mal's daughter, Jennifer Sharpe. You can learn more about Coyle & Sharpe on their website or on MySpace. Their recent box set is These 2 Men Are Imposters.

On this episode: Coyle & Sharpe want to meet you. Just remember to bring a trashbag filled with leftovers.

Comedy: Nick Adams on the Sound of Young America

Nick Adams

Standup comedian Nick Adams is the author of Making Friends with Black People and a writer on the upcoming NBC sitcom Perfect Couples. He performed this set at The Sound of Young America Presents: Laugh Night at Art Share in Los Angeles.

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: Planet Money


Vital stats:
Format: probing of economic and financial issues
Duration: 15m-25m
Frequency: every 2-4 days
Archive available on iTunes: last 10

If, like me, you’re an enthusiastic This American Life listener, you’ve noticed a few trends on the show in recent years. One is that they’ve done more foreign stories, especially in the Middle East. I consider these episodes of a separate, slightly lesser series, which I call This American Foreign Policy. Another, more successful thread is their coverage of economic and financial issues. I, for one, never would have gone to a program like TAL to explain the health care industry’s structural problems — until, that is, they did it.

Those episodes were good in large part because they brought one of the show’s distinctive strengths to an issue that mainstream news usually covers. This strength is the understanding that the world’s problems are rarely, if ever, the fault of some shadowy individual or group, not can they usually be solved by some virtuous individual or group. This applies deeply to the parts of life that involve markets — and you could well argue that they all do — but most economic news doesn’t frame it that way. Most high-profile economic news is all about the finger-pointing, implicitly of explicitly. If any sector needed a This American Life-ing up, it’s that one.

Markets, of course, are just a whole bunch of individuals inadvertently working together through trade. Nobody controls them. (Unless you happen to be a conspiracy theorist, in which case, somebody controls them.) Most money-centric TAL episodes work from this premise, and they seem to all be co-productions with the show’s “friends at Planet Money.” It turns out that Planet Money [RSS] [iTunes] is also its own podcast, covering economic issues and economic issues alone. Sometimes it takes on the same broad subjects as its co-productions with Ira Glass’ team, but examine them more closely across a wider range of episodes.

You might expect Planet Money to play like a series of economically focused This American Life stories, but it’s pretty far from that. It’s more like those stories minus about half of their specifically TAL-esque qualities. While both shows do a great deal of field reporting and interviewing and (as I will be only the 256,395th public radio geek to point out) Alex Blumberg sounds like Ira Glass’ marginally reedier clone, PM goes much lighter on the narrative. This is actually a good thing, I would submit, since the reckless imposition of narrative renders most news reporting, and especially economic reporting, just this side of useless. Here, you get the facts and their relationship to one another, but it’s not typically hammered into the shape of a simple morality of the Hero’s Journey or whatever.

Planet Money’s chief value is in providing context. You hear this in microcosm every time, at the top of each episode, when a correspondent provides a certain economic indicator. This will be something like “$4.2 trillion,” “$128,000 per week,” or “seven.” Then the conversation that follows fills in the context behind the number, giving it meaning and relatability. The show touts itself as explaining economic issues in language anybody can understand, and for a long time that set off my intercranial alarm that warns of oversimplification ahead. But the program’s correspondents seem to know this, and will often acknowledge when they’re in danger of cranking down the complexity too far.

But by language anybody can understand, I think they really mean that they offer up a context that anybody can understand. A lot of reporting on the goings-on in the realm of money, even the high-quality stuff, takes so much context as assumed that it only seems linguistically impenetrable to the nonspecialist. Wags might question what something that comes from an entity like NPR, which seems to exist outside any structure you could call a traditional market, might know about buying and selling. A fair point, perhaps, but what are you going to listen to instead? Jim Cramer’s primal screams?

[Podthinker Colin Marshall also happens to be the host and producer of public radio’s The Marketplace of Ideas, the blogger of The War on Mediocrity and the writer of The Ubuweb Experimental Video Project.]

Samantha Bee: Daily Show Correspondent and Author of I Know I Am But What Are You: Interview on The Sound of Young America

Samantha Bee

Samantha Bee is the Daily Show's longest-tenured correspondent, having joined the program in 2003. She's also the author of a new memoir, I Know I Am But What Are You?

Bee grew up in an unusual tripartite family, splitting time between a matronly grandmother, a conservative, re-married father and a bohemian, Wiccan mother. She met her husband, the Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones, while working in a Sailor Moon-themed stage show at the Canadian National Exposition.

She talked with us from New York City.

Stop Podcasting Yourself 123 - Brad MacNeil

Brad MacNeil

Brad MacNeil returns for a super summery episode, complete with skinny dipping, summer TV, and the rules of Jinx.

Download episode 123 here. (right-click)

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