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Podcasts from Scott Aukerman, Doug Benson, Jake Fogelnest named amongst AV Club's "Best Podcasts of 2013"

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AV Club December 4, 2013
The Best Podcasts of 2013
By Kyle Ryan, Genevieve Koski, Dan Telfer, Kevin McFarland, Nowah Jacobs, D.X. Ferris, David Anthony, Matt Kodner, Colin Griffith, Trip Cook, Dan Fitchette, Austin Bernhardt, Dan Jakes, Tim Karan & Dennis DiClaudio

What happened to podcasts in 2013? As The A.V. Club’s Podmass reviewers convened to parse the year’s best podcasts, a changing of the guard seemed to be afoot: Five of the 11 podcasts that made our best-of list this year weren’t on the 2012 list, and three of them didn’t even exist before last year. All of the shows that slipped from our top 10 are still going strong and doing good work—with the exception of The Pod F. Tompkast, whose return seems less likely every day—but didn’t end up in the best-of list this year for whatever reason. Our reviewers voted for 44 different podcasts this year (we kept our rule against nationally syndicated radio shows that are also released as podcasts), which they submitted via a simple numbered list of one through five. Their first pick earned five points, the second one four, and so forth. We added them all up, eliminated anything from the top 10 that only received a vote from one person, and ended up with the following list.

10. The Fogelnest Files (four points, two votes)
It wouldn’t be a mistake exactly to call The Fogelnest Files a comedy podcast. Jake Fogelnest has comedy chops (his résumé includes jokes on “Weekend Update” and a recent stint on Billy On The Street), and he is all too eager to veer into silliness whenever his guest is down to play. But it also wouldn’t be a complete description of how the show has evolved since its premiere last August. As when he recently sat down with punk elder statesmen Kim Fowley and Don Bolles to chat and share his regular collection of YouTube oddities, Fogelnest has positioned himself at the intersection of several seemingly disparate scenes: alt-comedy, punk, cult cinema, and “weird Twitter,” to name a few. While his largely comedy-oriented live shows continue to be hit-or-miss, he’s rather unbeatable when it comes to the depth and breadth of his cultural niche knowledge. His curatorial enthusiasm is likewise boundless, so much so that even if he has a self-professed bias against a wide swath of contemporary pop music, the show’s cultural mission remains largely unhindered. At its best, The Fogelnest Files isn’t about shining stars; it’s about buried treasure.

Check out: Fogelnest’s recent interview with similarly minded enthusiast Derrick Beckles is a cogent introduction to the kinds of things that get him going. As previously mentioned, the show’s periodic and informal oral histories of punk are entertaining and educational for anybody who’s open to learning more about the scene and can tolerate some posturing. The episodes with documentarians like Josh Johnson, Jeffrey Schwarz, and Rodney Ascher also offer impressively detailed treatments of marginal aspects of the media landscape.

9. Pop Culture Happy Hour (five points, two votes)

8. Harmontown (seven points, two votes)

7. Welcome To Night Vale (eight points, three votes)

6. Doug Loves Movies (eight points, four votes)
The longevity of Doug Loves Movies, which has been around since 2006, can be attributed to Doug Benson’s commitment to prolificacy and his willingness to change the formula with new games, rules, or in-jokes that become a part of the podcast’s fabric over time. This year, that resulted in both a new game in the rotation (the simple, but usually fun Seth Rogen game) and a new rule that Leonard Maltin Game winners can return the following week. The latter led to a run of episodes featuring Paul F. Tompkins’ Werner Herzog character, which rank among the show’s best. The show lives and dies by its panel of guests, and Benson’s commitment to abundance has resulted in some shows lacking in quality what they possess in quantity. It’s no easy feat booking an all-star panel every week, but DLM still hits far more often than it misses. Benson experienced some blowback a couple months ago when he threatened to stop doing the show after a lackluster turnout at the UCB live taping—a threat he’s since backed off on—but that fan reaction shows that even as DLM settles in to its well-worn groove, it remains a worthwhile listen.

Check out: The aforementioned run of Herzog episodes are all worth a listen, but the standout is the one that pits him against Jon Hamm and a giggly Nick Offerman. And for those who can stomach it, January’s rematch among the show’s three most notoriously annoying guests—Jeff Garlin, Pete Holmes, and TJ Miller—is delightful, horrifying anarchy.

5. (tie) The Bugle (nine points, two votes)
The Flop House (nine points, two votes)

4. Savage Lovecast (11 points, three votes)

3. The Best Show On WFMU (18 points, four votes)

2. WTF (27 points, nine votes)

1. Comedy Bang! Bang! (29 points, seven votes)
Since The A.V. Club started doing a “podcasts of the year” article in 2010, Comedy Bang! Bang! has lurked near the top, usually edged out by Marc Maron’s career-redefining WTF. But 2013 is the year CBB finally comes out on top, and with good reason: Nothing surpasses Scott Aukerman’s program in the cloistered world of comedy podcasts. Last year, the show suffered a bit when Aukerman struggled to balance the podcast and its televised sibling, but that wasn’t a problem in 2013, even with double the number of TV episodes on Aukerman’s plate. More impressive is its 53-9 record for Best and Rest so far this year. Let this be the final word: If you like comedy and like podcasts, but aren’t listening to Comedy Bang! Bang!, you’re doing it wrong.

Check out: Any episode with Paul F. Tompkins works (ditto Andy Daly), and Tompkins’ hilarious take on filmmaker Werner Herzog is always delightful. Pair him with fan favorite Ben Schwartz, and it’s one of the best episodes of the year. That honor is a toss-up between this installment and the one with Nick Kroll and John “Juan Jamón” Hamm, so listen to them both.

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