Kevin Allison (The State, RISK!) Discusses Confessional Comedy on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #70

Kevin was in the infamous, NYU-based sketch comedy group The State which had a show for a season on MTV and seemed like it was going to get picked up by CBS, but no. After several years getting over this disappointment, Kevin discovered a new outlet for his energies: He delivers, curates, and coaches personal stories (bordering on too personal, thus the “risk”) for his stage show and podcast RISK!

Kevin joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to discuss this idiosyncratic form: Do the stories have to be funny? Can you change things? What’s the relation to autobiographical, humorous essays a la David Sedaris? What might be too personal or actually indicating trauma to actually share on RISK? This seems like something anyone can do, so what’s the role of craft and story-telling history?

Listen to RISK at risk-show.com, and watch many stories on the RISK! YouTube channel. Also: kevinallison.net, thestorystudio.org, and @thekevinallison. Kevin’s story about prostituting himself is about 14 minutes into this episode. Hear Kevin on Marc Maron’s WTF! Listen to that audio guide Kevin mentions, “What Every RISK! Storyteller Should Know.” Read about the four lies of storytelling.

Hear more of this podcast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This time, the hosts tell (or at least outline) their own RISK!-like stories, and the result is predictably too personal for our public feed.

This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

Pop Songs with Narrative: Pretty Much Pop (#69) Discusses Tunes Ranging from Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” to “The Pina Colada Song” with Songwriter/Author Rod Picott

Plenty of songs purport to tell stories, and the narrative ballad of course has a long enough history that the two forms certainly aren’t alien. But how do our listening practices conditioned by pop music jibe with recognizing and understanding narrative?

Singer/songwriter and short story author Rod Picott joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to talk about classics by writers like Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, formative nightmares like “Leader of the Pack” and “Escape (The Pina Colada Song), borderline cases like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and more. We also consider how this form relates to musical theater, music videos, soundtracks, and commercials.

We tried to stick to popular songs, but most of us are pretty old. You can listen and read the lyrics if you’re not following:

Why these songs? Well, we found a few lists online:

Hear Mark interview Rod on Nakedly Examined Music. Learn more at rodpicott.com.

Hear more of this podcast at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This time, an update on Rod’s music plus political discussion and more.

This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

The Biblical Sci-Fi of “Raised by Wolves”–Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #68

What happens when a male android loves a female android VERY much, and they nurse human embryos together on a distant planet after fleeing from war-torn Earth? Why the female android flies and makes a bunch of people explode with her eyes, that’s what happens! …In the first episode of this bonkers HBO Max series by Aaron Guzikowski (with notable assistance from Ridley Scott of Alien and Blade Runner fame).

Your hosts Brian Hirt, Erica Spyres, and Mark Linsenmayer reflect on how much we’re supposed to understand, what if any character we’re supposed to identify with, whether the imagery is just TOO heavy-handed, and how this show compares with related sci-fi like Westworld or post-apocalyptic shows like The Walking Dead. Beware: Spoilers abound in this one, so you might want to watch the show, or just let us reveal its weirdness to you.

Here are some articles to feast on:

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

“Borat” on Politics and Embarrassment–Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast Discussion #67

Let’s stop obsessing about election matters and consider instead a clown who brings out racism in rubes. Your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, Brian Hirt, and our guest musician/actor Aaron David Gleason consider the comedy of Sacha Baron Cohen, in particular the new Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, which you should definitely go watch before listening, unless it’s the kind of thing that so repulses you that you’ll never watch it, in which case this is the podcast to tell you what the fuss is about.

A few questions we explore: Is it unethical to use unwitting people who signed your release form as your supporting cast? Is it OK to use racism to expose racism? Are cameras now so ubiquitous that many people feel perfectly comfortable letting their true colors show on film? How dehumanizing is the nature of retail in America that all these shop keepers would go along with Borat’s bizarre and/or racist requests? Cohen claims that this new film was about demonstrating the humanity of his subjects; how evident was that purpose on screen? How does this film differ from Cohen’s other work? Was the film actually funny, or did it transcend (or fall short of) comedy in its politics and its king-size servings of embarrassment?

Watch Cohen and Maria Bakalova on Good Morning America explaining the film. Look at the Wikipedia article for info on how and when sequences were shot. You can browse through the critical reactions yourself.

After we recorded this, Cohen provided financial help to his very sympathetic victim, Jeanise Jones (the babysitter). And to settle one issue that came up in our conversation, Judith Dim Evans (the nice old lady in the temple who subsequently passed away) didn’t know the gag during filming, but Cohen revealed it right afterwards.

Hear Aaron’s music on Nakedly Examined Music #71. Listen to Aaron, Erica, Mark, and others including Lucy Lawless and Emily Perkins on the Partially Examined Life Players’ reading of Lysistrata. Learn more about Aaron at aarondavidgleason.com, and you can follow him on Instagram @aarondavidgleason.

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

“The Last of Us” Franchise: Can Video Games Be Cinema? A Pretty Much Pop Culture Podcast Discussion (#64)

Your Pretty Much Pop hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Brian Hirt, and Erica Spyres all played both The Last of Us, and more recently immersed themselves in the lengthier The Last of Us 2, which has been generating a lot of acclaim but also controversy. Actually, Erica just watches her husband Drew Jackson play these things, but he showed up to this discussion too. Yes, these creations of Neil Druckmann with the Naughty Dog team are groundbreaking, and riveting, but by design not necessarily “fun,” or thereby involving much “playing.”

The franchise is ostensibly about a zombie apocalypse and an immune girl that might be its cure, but it’s really a drawn-out drama about loss, family, and the cycle of revenge… You know, in between running around looking for scraps to craft weapon upgrades and skulking around driving shivs through the necks of numerous monsters and people.

We compare The Last of Us to other zombie media like Walking Dead, address the shifting points of view in the game (playable flashbacks!), representation, fan and critical reaction, the effectiveness of the game’s message, and more.

This conversation should work both for listeners who’ve actually played the games and those who are just curious about what the fuss is about. There are some plot spoilers about the end of the first game and events near the beginning of the second game necessary to discuss the narrative.

Listen to the official Last of Us podcast. For another player perspective, check out the Besties podcast.

Other resources:

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

What Can Superhero Media Teach Us About Ethics: A Pretty Much Pop Culture Podcast (#63) Discussion with Philosophy Professor Travis Smith

Is there no end to the seemingly endless fascination with superhero media? Your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by Travis Smith, who teaches political philosophy at Concordia University, to discuss. Travis sees their resonance as a matter of metaphor: How can we do more with the abilities we have? His book Superhero Ethics: 10 Comic Book Heroes, 10 Ways to Save the World, Which One Do We Need Now? matches up heroes like Batman vs. Spider-Man for ethical comparison: Both “act locally,” but Batman would like to actually rule over Gotham, while Spider-Man engages in a more “friendly neighborhood” patrol.  What philosophy should govern the way we try to do good in the world?

Lurking in the background is the current release of season two of the Amazon series The Boys, based on Garth Ennis’ graphic novels, which assumes that power corrupts and asks what regular folks might do in the face of corporate-backed invulnerability. This cynical take is part of a long tradition of asking “what if super-heroes were literally real?” that goes through Watchmen all the way back to Spider-Man himself, who faces financial and other mundane problems that Superman was immune to.

Given Travis’ book, we didn’t really need supplementary articles for this episode, but you can take a look at this interview with him to learn more about his comic book loves and the Canadian heritage that led him to start fighting crime (you know, indirectly, through ethical teaching).

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts

Mulan Re-Disneyfied: A Pretty Much Pop Culture Podcast (#62) Discussion with Actor Michael Tow

Is the new Mulan the equivalent for Asian-Americans what Black Panther was for African-Americans? The largest entertainment machine we have featured an all-Asian cast telling a traditional Chinese story aimed at the widest possible audience. Did it work?

Actor Michael Tow joins your hosts Erica Spyres, Mark Linsenmayer, and Brian Hirt to discuss the development, aesthetics, and political controversies surrounding the film. The vision of feminism changed between the original poem from ca. 550 C.E. (“When the two rabbits run side by side, how can you tell the female from the male?”) to the present, and the “just be you” ethic (with your magical chi!) is not the norm for China in any period. Was the project in its very conception doomed to fall short of some of its goals? Was the live-action an improvement over the 1998 animated version?

Read the poem, and watch a reading of the illustrated 1998 Robert San Souci book Fa Mulan that the films were based on. There have been many adaptations of the story in China.

Other sources we read to prepare included:

Follow Michael on Twitter @michaelctow and check out his imdb credits. Michael hosted a Q&A with the Mulan cast shortly after the film’s release.

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts

The Philosophy of Photography with Amir Zaki on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #61

Amir Zaki teaches at UC-Riverside and has had his work displayed in numerous galleries, in his recent book California Concrete: A Landscape of Skateparks, and profiled via a short film.

Amir joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to consider this common act that can stretch from the mundane to the sublime. How have our various purposes for photography changed with the advent of digital technology, the introduction of social media, and the ready access to video? What determines what we choose to take pictures of, and how does taking photography more seriously change the way we experience? We touch on iconic and idealized images, capturing the specific vs. the universal, witnessing vs. intervening via photography, and more.

See more of Amir’s work at amirzaki.net.

A few of the articles we looked at to prepare included:

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Follow Amir on Instagram @amir_zaki_.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts

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