Hugh Likes Podcasts: The Flop House

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The Flop House
Dan McCoy, Stewart Wellington, and Elliott Kalan
The Maximum Fun Network

It should come as no surprise to regular readers that I’m admittedly kind of a podcast hipster.  I love shows about nerds telling jokes about bad movies.  I’m even a member of one.  It’s a nerdom that for me goes all the way back to watching MST3K on the Sci-Fi Channel Saturday mornings.  There are a lot of bad movie podcasts out in the wilds of iTunes, but The Flop House is special because it brings so much more improvisational humor, lightness, and camaraderie to the recording.
Hosted by veteran Daily Show Producer Dan McCoy and writer Elliott Kalan along with their friend Stewart Wellington, each episode examines a different commercial bomb.  They talk about the aspects of the film and decide whether or not the flop is as bad as it seems or if it deserves another chance.
What sets The Flop House apart is the second half of the show, in which the hosts open up the mail bag, accompanied by an improvised and surprisingly long song by Elliott.  I can’t think of a way to appealingly describe it, and they seem like they should be terrible, but they are in fact delightful and charming.  That’s the best way I can explain the podcast as a whole.  The hosts are knowledgeable, funny, and have a real sense of friendship that is brought to the fore.  The Flop House is a podcast that seems like it shouldn’t work on paper, but is in fact a wonder that is more than the sum of its parts.
It also has a huge back catalog.  The Flop House recently celebrated its 200th episode, so there are plenty of old episodes to go back and find a movie you’d like to hear them discuss.
The Flop House is hosted by the Maximum Fun Network and can be found online at flophousepodcast.com.  It can be downloaded from iTunes and other podcatching services.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: Retronauts

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Hosted by Jeremy Parish and Bob Mackey

For a long time, video games have been trying to rise as a medium from frivolous entertainment to serious art form.  Some notable successes have been achieved, but also success hasn’t been universal.  Something similar can be said for video game podcasts.  While many gaming podcasts fall into the ‘bro-gamer’ subculture that seems to permeate the internet, Retronauts rises above the field by mixing intelligent analysis with nostalgia.
Nominally hosted by gaming news site USGamer.net , Retronauts covers games from the dawn of the medium up to about ten years ago.  Hosted by two veteran game reviewers and bloggers, the cast is in-depth and smarter than it needs to be.  It not only provides a dose of heady nostalgia, but historical analysis and design critique as well.  The main show updates every two weeks considering topics such as specific games or series, but also topics like a retrospective on the career of Final Fantasy score composer Nobuo Uematsu.  These episodes go in-depth with three or four guests, running one to two hours.
Alternate weeks update with shorter microsodes that focus in deeper on more obscure, but none the less interesting topics like the groundbreaking but often overlooked survival horror adventure ‘Clock Tower,’ or the music of the SNES port of Sim City.
Host Bob Mackey and Jeremy Parish, who is also the talent behind Game Boy World, really know their stuff, and have plenty of anecdotes and inside information that really sheds a light on the game design and development process.
As someone who spent much of his childhood with an NES controller in hand, but usually couldn’t afford the latest generation system, I am a dyed-in the-wool retro gamer.  This podcast is my jam.  If you prefer pixelated nostalgia over the latest shooter, Retronauts might just be the gaming podcast you’re looking for.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: The Hidden Almanac and Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap

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The Hidden Almanac and Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap
Kevin Sonney and Ursula Vernon
Hiddenalmanac.com and http://kuec.libsyn.com

“The Hidden Almanac” and “Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap” are two very different, gloriously odd podcasts from Hugo Award-winning author Ursula Vernon and her husband Kevin Sonney  While Ursula is a children’s author these podcasts, particularly the later, are not for kids and they are two of my favorite new additions to my podcast playlist.
“The Hidden Almanac” is a micro-fiction podcast staring Immortal plague doctor Reverend Mord, played by Sonney in a delightfully creepy monotone, and his assistant, the enthusiastic and rarely sober Pastor Drom, played by Vernon.  Every few days, a five-minute or so episode drops, in which Mord intones the historical importance and Saint’s feast of the day from a world that is very much not our own.  He also fills the listener in on the status of his garden, which is filled with plants both fantastical and mundane.  Drom assists in much the same way that gasoline assists a campfire.  Episodes are written by Vernon, and the humor on display is similar to her popular comics.
“Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap” is a much longer podcast in which the couple test out a variety of prepackaged instant food and snacks.  If you can’t stand the sound of chewing, this podcast isn’t for you.  However, the presenters, particularly Ursula, are hilarious in their reviews and so colorful in their language that sitting through these two-hour episodes is a joy.  Ursula recently described one food choice as tasting ‘like an independent bookstore.’  The couple often goes on smart, funny tangents that are as entertaining as the food reviews.  Running the gamut from ‘healthy’ snacks including organic and gluten free items, to the most basic instant fare, these two food critics are sure to entertain with their common sense wisdom and curmudgeonly wit.
Whether you prefer your podcasts in short bursts or marathon sessions, check out these selections in itunes or your preferred podcast player.

Hugh Likes Podcasts: We Got This With Mark and Hal

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We Got This With Mark and Hal
Hal Lublin & Mark Gagliardi
Maximum Fun Network
“We Got This” is a podcast that sets out to settle the very small questions.  Hosted by Thrilling Adventure Hour regulars Hal Lublin and Mark Gagliardi, it tackles the cultural debates that hover over bar rooms and gaming tables.  From what state has the best barbecue to Best Star Trek film, they hash out the data and come up with a definitive answer to life’s least pressing debates.
One of the things that makes this show really work is the chemistry between Mark and Hal.  As cast members of the long-running stage show and podcast “Thrilling Adventure Hour,” their camaraderie and friendship is in evidence.  And as working actors and bonafide nerds, their pop-cultural cred can’t be questioned.  While many of the show’s topics are suggested by fans through the Maximum Fun Reddit page, there is a sense that they are returning to arguments they have hashed out before over backstage drinks and diner food.
But where one of them is lacking expertise, they never fake it.  There is a genuineness to this podcast that is quite charming, even when you want to shout corrections into your player.  They have had an excellent set of guest experts as well.  A recent episode debating Star Trek vs. Star Wars, which was recorded live, featured Mythbuster Adam Savage and Internet Judge John Hodgeman, for example.
Thrilling Adventure Hour may be complete, but Hal and Mark are still making great podcasts.  If you’ve missed your Work Juice Player fix, this is a great show to pick up.  And even if you have never heard of the hosts before, their charm and sagacity is sure to delight.  So if you have some niggling pop-culture question, check their archives.  Chances are, They’ve got this.

Hugh Likes Podcasts: Nerdy Show

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Nerdy Show
Hosted by Cap Blackard, and others
Nerdy Show is a podcast that spawned a network.  Originally a college radio show ran for and by central Florida geeks, Nerdy Show has expanded into a network of podcasts, videos, streaming music, and articles that strive to cover every bit of fandom and nerd culture.
The central podcast has changed formats a few times over the course of its run, but currently consists of a podcast feed with a titular main show every two weeks, and a variety of additional programming.  These other podcasts include Flame On, a podcast about gay nerd culture, Wicked Anime, an anime fan show, Dungeons and Doritos, a popular role playing live reading/audio drama, and even a book club!
One of Nerdy Show’s strengths is that it is inherently positive about nerd culture.  The podcast casts a wide net and has a little bit of everything, but still seems to find the good.  Geek culture is about having an unabashed love for something, and that love shines through, whether the topic is Star Wars, tech news, or voice actors of the eighties.  As their motto says, if it’s geeky, they’ve got you covered.
Their fan community an outreach is also really well maintained.  Through their own forums, social media, and even now Patreon, Cap and his crew have an amazing outreach to their fans, and their fans keep them afloat.  Nerdy Show is as much a community as it is a podcast, and even has their own unofficial headquarters in Orlando, Florida’s nerd-themed hang-out The Geekeasy.
Nerdy Show is a team of geeks creating their own network of geek entertainment, and delivering a high quality set of shows.  No matter what your nerddom, there is something there for you, so go check them out at nerdyshow.com.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: International Waters

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International Waters
Hosted by Dave Holmes
International Waters is a lot of fun.  Ostensibly a panel quiz show, host Dave Holmes pits teams of American and British comedians against each other to determine which country is better.  In reality, it’s a thin rationale for pop culture and current events jokes, it is still a joy to hear.  You cold think of it like ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’ without the NPR respectability.
While the humor is often lowbrow, Holmes is a charming host, and the guests are usually quite witty in between the poop and dick jokes.  The show is divided into three rounds.  First, the panels answer current events trivia.  Then, there is a round of games in which the guests try and answer questions about odd bits of the other country’s pop culture.  Finally, there is the last and most important round which is a creative challenge of some kind, where the comics have to defend the worst bits of their own culture or attack something beloved of their opponents, such as Doctor Who or Spider-Man.  There is a nice variety to the games, and they are quite entertaining.
International Waters is available from the Maximum Fun network and comes out twice a month.  It’s a great addition to stand-up fans, Anglophiles, and ex-pats alike.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: Supervillian Corner

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Supervillain Corner
Written, Produced, and Hosted by Christopher Morse

How do you bring a super-villain to life?  For actor and podcaster Christopher Morse, it seems like it’s as easy as opening his mouth.  The creator of Supervillain Corner, Chris steps into the roles of a huge cast of powered villains and heroes, from the brilliant Professor Brainfever to the ever-vigilant Nocturnal Knight.  Every wanted to how heroes find time to fall in love, or what to do when your diabolical plan is foiled?  This podcast has the answers.
Each episode is hosted by a different character as they reveal a little bit of their world and give advice to would-be rulers of the world or saviors.  And when Chris isn’t behind the mic, he gets a little help from stellar podcasting talents like Christiana Ellis, Dave Robison, and Veronica Giguere.
Obviously it can’t be as easy as all that, though, because the effort that goes in to each episode really shows.  From the sharp-witted and gloriously nerdy scripts to the impeccable voice-work and sound design, this is an outstanding and enjoyable program worth more than any doomsday device.  I especially enjoy the in-world promos that Chris includes in every episode.  From Superhero tailors and costume designers to Henchperson H R services and Supervillain dating websites, they’re hilarious and spot on.
Supervillain Corner has been on hiatus for far too long, but has just launched its third season, “Supervillain World.”  Chris has always peppered in an ongoing plot with his villainous hijinks and advice, and this is a great place for new listeners to jump onboard.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: The Fantasticast

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The Fantasticast
Stephen Lacey and Andrew Leyland
One of the advantages of digital comics is that issues that were once collectors items are easily available for modern readers.  Wether through reprinted omnibuses, black and white ‘essential editions,’ DVD editions, or online stores, there are more ways to read comics than ever before.  Which in turn means that issues that might have been lost to time can be reexamined, enjoyed, and picked apart.  Which is just what the Fantasticast does.
A team-up of two veteran comics podcasters, Steve Lacey of “Twenty Minute Long Box,” and Andrew Leyland of “Hey Kids, Comics!” The Fantasticast sets out to summarize, celebrate, and take the piss out of every issue and appearance of “The Fantastic Four,” in order.  With well over six-hundred issues and innumerable guest appearances, this is no small task.  After 100-and-something episodes, they’ve just gone from their original appearance in 1961 to the early seventies.
I’ve been listening along issue-by-issue using the Marvel Unlimited app, and it is great fun.  Andrew and Steve have a great rapport, and it is interesting to hear the perspective of British fans to so American a medium as silver-age Marvel comics.  The show is a lot of fun, and balances humor, reverence for the subject matter, and intelligent perspective quite well.  Their synopses are entertaining and complete, and listeners don’t need a long box handy to follow along.
The Fantasticast is certainly a by-fans-for-fans presentation, and I don’t know if it would hold much interest for listeners who aren’t interested in the origins of the Marvel universe, or the Fantastic Four in particular, but it is well done and worth a listen for the comics geek who wants a bit of light perspective along with their heroism.

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Hugh Likes Podcasts: The Melting Potcast

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The Melting Potcast
A F Grapin and Erin Kazmark
I listen to a lot of writing and fiction podcasts.  Most of them try and cultivate a specific audience.  The Drabblecast is narrowly focused on weird fiction.  Ditch Diggers is specifically about the business side of writing professionally.  Specificity is good, usually.  But I really enjoy podcasts that go a bit broader.  My own podcast, The Way of the Buffalo, is founded on the new, rather than specific genre or even medium.  But I can’t think of a podcast that attempts to reach a broader audience that The Melting Potcast.
Billed as ‘a little bit of everything for everyone everywhere,’ they present flash audio fiction based on prompts, longer short stories not constrained by topic, and author interviews, amongst other content.  For the sake of full disclosure, I have had one of my own stories appear on the show.
Hosts Erin and A. F. inject humor and passion into their presentations, and the quality is top-knotch.  They are accompanied by regular and guest readers.  The prompts so far have been clever and interesting, creating a surprising variety of stories that hit on a variety of genre and emotional beats.  They’re still fairly new, but their passion for fiction, hard work, and supportive community all shine through.  This is definitely a podcast to watch, because it’s only going to get better as it keeps going.  Find The Metling Potcast in iTunes, or the podcatcher of your choice.
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Hugh Likes Podcasts: The Voice of Free Planet X

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HLP-The Voice of Free Planet X

Produced and hosted by Jared Axelrod



Over the course of over one-hundred and seventy-five episodes, Jared Axelrod has hosted a variety of projects on his podcast, The Voice of Free Planet X.  It began as a presentation of his short fiction.  It has also served as a platform for his sci-fi puppetry project, “Aliens You WIll Meet.”  It featured the serialized steampunk adventure “Fables of the Flying City,” which is where I jumped on board.  But the latest, recently begun project revives the original title, and is an outstanding podcast production.

Ostensibly published by GPR (Galactic Public Radio) The Voice of Free Planet X is This American Life for a fantasy world, a Radio Lab of the impossible.  Jared interviews stranded aliens and out-of-the-casket vampires.  He talks to AI musicians and post-apocalyptic road warriors.

It is a clever response to the post-Serial podcast landscape, and the production values are top-notch.  It takes a discerning ear to determine the show was made in a home studio with actors, and not on the board of a WBEZ mobile truck.  But the real strength lays in Axelrod’s writing, and the performances of his interview subjects.  He’s managed to take spec-fic cliches, such as vampires as metaphors for sexual deviancy, and breathe new, and interesting, human life into them.  The format does an end run around suspension of disbelief, but the voice, if you will, is what sells it.  These interviews aren’t pulse-pounding adventure stories.  They are the best sort of feature story for people that never existed.  And like the best of this flavor of fiction, it bleeds into the way we see the real world.  Because you never know when that youtuber will turn out to be an incarcerated computer intelligence.

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