Episode 158: Simon Amstell, Rodriguez, and Dyn-o-mite Tips

Simon Amstell/Photo by Richard Grassie

This week: British comedy wunderkind Simon Amstell sings America’s praises… Author Sheila Heti explains How A Person Should Be… Musician and archivist Michael Feinstein adds to the Great American Songbook… Folk-rock legend Rodriguez rises from the dead… Jimmie “DY-NO-MITE” Walker blows up etiquette… and Rico samples ceviche from ‘the new Tuscany’ (it’s in Mexico). Plus: mammoth cheeses, shifting to manual transmission, and a globe-hopping soundtrack from The Antlers.

Icebreaker: Peter Silberman of The Antlers

The Antlers’ frontman Peter Silberman riffs on mummies and daddies. The atmospheric Brooklyn band release their new EP, Undersea, next week.

Small Talk: Paddy Hirsch

Marketplace Money’s Paddy Hirsch explains the country is shifting – for now, anyway — to more manual transmission cars.

A History Lesson with Booze: The Mammoth Cheese and the “Berkshire Local Motive”

This week back in 1801, the Baptists of Cheshire, Mass. celebrated Thomas Jefferson’s Presidency by making him a strange gift of congratulations – a 1,200 pound cheese. Hear about the grand fromage, then wash it down with this cheese-complementary custom cocktail.

“The Berkshire Localmotive,” as churned out by Nancy Thomas at Mezze Bistro & Bar in Western Massachusetts – origin of the cheese ball.

Add to shaker with ice:

  • 1 oz. bourbon (preferably Berkshire Mountain Distillers)
  • 1 oz. aged apple brandy
  • 1/4 oz. maple syrup
  • two dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

Stir and strain into a small martini glass, preferably an old-fashioned “coupe” style. Top with a splash of sparkling apple cider. Wrap yourself in the American flag and sip while nibbling on the biggest piece of cheese you can fit in your house.

Guest List: Michael Feinstein

Five-time Grammy-nominated musician Michael Feinstein knows his way around music. The singer performs hundreds of shows a year, drawing from a vast repertory of standards and his own compositions. He hosts NPR’s “Song Travels,” a series of conversations about people’s relationships with music of every stripe. And, outside the limelight, he collects and preserves great American music. Here he is to list some of his favorite recent discoveries. (You can catch Michael this weekend with the Pasadena POPS, or next week in Seattle.)

Guest of Honor: Simon Amstell

English comedian Simon Amstell has just crash-landed on American shores…and we’re all the better for it. Simon’s the former host of the beloved BBC shows “Popworld” and “Never Mind the Buzzcocks” – an interview show that skewered celebrity culture. He’s also co-writer and star of the British sitcom “Grandma’s House.” This week, in New York, he’s launching his biggest US venture yet – the smart, self-deprecating stand-up show “Numb.” He talks about about stage-storming and sex in museums…and then turns the tables on Brendan.


Eavesdropping: Sheila Heti

Sheila Heti is a Canadian novelist and an editor of the magazine “The Believer.” Her widely praised novel “How Should A Person Be?” (just released in the U.S.) draws heavily on her own experiences amongst Toronto’s young, artistic milieu. Today we overhear Sheila reading a dinner-party-worthy excerpt from her prologue.

Main Course: Ceviche Fresco

The hottest food regions in the Americas… isn’t in America. Fantastic restaurants are opening across Baja, Mexico and earlier this year Anthony Bourdain himself compared the region to Tuscany as a food destination. Rico heads to the town of Ensenada, where a little streetcorner stand called Mariscos “La Guerrerense” serves what’re widely known as the best ceviche dishes around. Rico gets the scoop from owner Sabina Bandera, with a translation assist from Baja Tourism officer Cesar Rivera. (You can taste Sabina’s ceviche – in America! – this weekend at the Los Angeles Street Food Fest).

Etiquette: Jimmie “J.J.” Walker

As J.J. in the ’70s sitcom “Good Times,” Jimmie Walker became one of the biggest TV stars of the decade – but his career in comedy goes far beyond that. In the new memoir “Dyn-o-mite!: Good Times, Bad Times, Our Times,” he takes us behind the scenes of his writer’s room – where Leno and Letterman once scribbled away – and reflects on 40 years spent on the stand-up circuit. Jimmie offers listeners advice about faking sick, phone battles, and why NOT to go through airport security next to him.

Searching For Sugar Man

In 1970, an enigmatic Detroit musician named Rodriguez released a folk-rock album hyped by industry players as better than Dylan… and which was ignored by the public. The new documentary “Searching for Sugar Man” tells the incredible story of what happened next… including a Rodriguez resurrection in the most unlikely of places: South Africa. Director Malik Bendjelloul — and the musician himself — join Rico to talk about the wild ride. (The documentary hits theaters in limited release on Friday, and the soundtrack arrives Tuesday.)

Soundtrack: The Antlers’ Peter Silberman

Brooklyn musicians The Antlers play a dreamy brand of indie-pop, with influences from across the globe. So it figures frontman Peter Silberman’s dinner party soundtrack is a wildly international affair: Mulatu Astatqe’s “Nètsanèt (Liberty),” Sandro Perri’s “Family Tree,” and King Tubby’s “Send Me Dub”. He closes out the set with “Endless Ladders” from the band’s EP “Undersea,” out this week (7/24).

Other Music in this week’s show:

The Sea & Cake – “The Argument”

Aphex Twin – “Boy/Girl Song”

Tipsy – “Liquordelic”

Henry Mancini – “The Greatest Gift”

Nirvana – “Big Cheese”

George Gershwin – “Rhapsody in Blue”

Oscar Levant – “Blue Plate Special”

Theme from “the Thin Man”

Frank Sinatra – “Three Coins In The Fountain”

Michael Feinstein – “You’re an Education”

!!! – “Even Judas Gave Jesus a Kiss”

Clams Casino – “Moon and Stars”

unknown Mexican street performer – Pink Floyd: “Time”

Digitalism – “Jet Set”

Rodriguez – “Sugar Man”

Rodriguez – “I Wonder”

Mulatu Astatqe – “Nètsanèt (Liberty)”

Sandro Perri’s “Family Tree”

King Tubby – “Send Me Dub”