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Ira on The Simpsons


Bravo. BRA VO.

Nerds v. Jocks with John Hodgman

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Our close personal friend Mr. John Hodgman is taping his first-ever television pilot in New York tomorrow (Tuesday). The show will feature another friend of ours, The Great Sarah Vowell, as well as Nick Mangold, who is a New York Jet.

The venue seats 1700 (!) people, so John &co need as many folks to come as they can. You can find time and location details here. You simply need to send an email to an email address, then show up.

If you live in New York Or Environs, and you don't go, then I will put it simply: YOU ARE A TURKEY AND A FOOL.

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: Le Show


Vital stats:
Format: satirical news-reading, monologues, and sketches
Duration: ~1h
Frequency: weekly
Archive available on iTunes: last ten

Years ago, I thought Harry Shearer was living the radio dream. Each and every weekend, he rolls into the studio — usually KCRW in Santa Monica, which he rightly calls “the home of the homeless” — and cranks out an hour of solo broadcasting, mixing news with commentary with comedy with music. His program, Le Show [RSS] [iTunes], is heard all over the world, and he’s been doing it since 1983. This once seemed like such a sweet deal, until it occurred to me that he probably doesn’t get paid. Luckily, he can bankroll all his radio efforts, no matter how pricey, with all the money he earns as the voice of Bart Simpson.

No, I kid; Bart’s voice actor is actually some lady Scientologist. But, having voiced half the remaining population of Springfield over the past 20 years, Shearer does indeed draw what must be a luxurious Simpsons paycheck. That means, not to put too fine a point on it, that his next meal ain’t comin’ from Le Show, which effectively makes it the highest-profile, highest-gloss one-man volunteer community radio public affairs shows ever. And when you’re talking about volunteer community radio public affairs shows, you’re talking about hobbyhorses.

Of all the Simpsons characters he’s done, Shearer’s “actual” voice sounds most like a very relaxed Principal Skinner, which, for me, remains a little surreal to hear saying things about Afghanistan and such. But for better worse, his has lodged itself in my mind as the voice of Sunday mornings. I find something very appealing, tonally, in hearing him calmly read the week’s selection of stories that appall and outrage him most. Though he pre-produces any number of sketches and surprisingly elaborate comedy songs about current events, he’s at his satirical best when simply peppering the news with off-the-cuff witticisms, jabs, even puns.

And yet, somewhere in the mid-2000s, I found I couldn’t bring myself listen to another second of his complaining about Dick Cheney. Shearer seemed to have developed an unhealthy fixation on the ex-Vice President to which he spared his audience no exposure. It was a bit like when Phil Hendrie decided to stop doing fake phone-ins and just talk about Iraq all the time. They’re men of two different ideological perspectives, sure, but an ideological perspective is an ideological perspective. If the Cheney thing hadn’t cut off my regular Le Show habit, I’m sure one of the other horses in Shearer’s table would’ve: high-definition television, maybe, or more recently, the Army Corps of Engineers.

But I kind of miss it when it’s not around. Returning to the program via its podcast in this post-Cheney era, I find that, though the positions of Shearer’s individual obsessions have reshuffled, the themes remain the same. He’s more or less entirely concerned with waste, incompetence, and general failure committed by corporate or governmental institutions, whether in distributing sodas, building nations, or all points between. There’s a place for this, of course, and Shearer’s take on it does seem to generate a certain amount of dark, Kafkan stupidity-of-systems laughter. Yet I find that most of the troubles he highlights, no matter how ridiculous, seem pretty much par for the course.

Maybe this is a generational thing, but I’ve always thought of sufficiently large companies or bureaucracies as the primary engines of epic failure. That’s what they’re for, right? So when Shearer goes on with very low-key indignation at the Army Corps of Engineers somehow flooding Denver or Pepsi accidentally giving Saudi Arabia the bomb or the U.S. military spending ten million dollars per year on a ragtime band or whatever, it can feel like he’s reading out of the phone book. “Joanne Smith, 847-2351. Joe Smith, 452-2822. John Smith, 358-2384. John Smith, 358-2384, ladies and gentlemen.” I have to wonder: what on Earth does he expect?

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

Flying Lotus, Progressive Hip-Hop Producer: Interview on The Sound of Young America

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Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus is a critically acclaimed music producer. His sound lies somewhere between progressive hip-hop and dance music. This year he's released an LP, Cosmogramma, and an EP, Pattern+Grid World.

FlyLo talks with Jesse Thorn about how he found his aesthetic, about his Aunt, Alice Coltrane, about how his mother convinced him to submit music to Cartoon Network's [adult swim], about the influence of the late hip-hop producer Jay Dilla and more.

Stop Podcasting Yourself 133 - Kyle Kinane

Kyle Kinane

Comedian Kyle Kinane joins us to talk trampolines, bed bugs, and parental exclamations.

Download episode 133 here. (right-click)

Brought to you by (click here for the full list of sponsors)

John Waters, Filmmaker and Author: Interview on The Sound of Young America

John Waters

The filmmaker, actor, artist, and writer, John Waters, needs no introduction. He joins Jesse on TSOYA to discuss his latest work, Role Models. Composed of essays on individuals beloved by John Waters, Role Models brims with charm and insight, just like the author himself.

Podcast: Coyle & Sharpe Episode 99: Big Heads

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Coyle & Sharpe ponder the implications of the newest breakthrough in cranial expansion.

Jordan, Jesse, Go! Episode 146: King of Fruit with W. Kamau Bell

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W. Kamau Bell

Jordan and Jesse welcome comedian W. Kamau Bell to discuss fruit picking, Salt Lake City, and more!

Podcast: Kasper Hauser Comedy Podcast Ep. 17: News Update


Your news in brief, with the Kasper Hauser news anchors.


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Joad Cressbeckler: NASA Honeyfuggling America With Nonsense Space Dreams


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