Episode 199

Nerdist Podcast

Romany Malco

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Nerdist Podcast: Romany Malco

Actor, rapper entrepreneur and overall awesome guy Romany Malco comes on the show! He talks about using the internet as a platform to advertise ideas, does some accents for us and talks about choosing the roles he does. And who is the mysterious Tony??? Many of your Tony-related questions will be answered…

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  • On the topic of bad role models, there are plenty of bad male role models. Just look at anyone on the Jersey Shore. Tons of guys on there have empty fame and now just put money in businesses like the Kardashians.

  • Not gonna lie.

    I thought he was kind of full of hot air at the start. Now, at the end, I think he might just be such an awesome human being I couldn’t really comprehend it at the beginning.

  • I’m sorry, but Mr. Malco, while his heart is in the right place. IS full of hot air. He is right that we should reduce sugar. But trying to make it out to be some poison is completely unreasonable. It’s not HFC that is dangerous, its the sheer amount we consume. Also, MSG is no more dangerous than salt, unless you have an allergic reaction to it.

  • I agree with Chris. He seemed like a fun guy but he said a lot of things that are untrue or at least unproven. Here is a great article thoroughly researched about HFC ( I was also disappointed that he sells herbal products online. The Nerdist podcast set a good standard for science and skepticism by having guests like Neil Tyson, Penn Jillette, Phil Plait, to name a few. Having Romany on and letting him say all of that nonsense unchecked is disappointing. I love the podcast and this is the first time anything happened on the podcast that bugged me. Please keep doing your awesome podcast and getting new and exciting guests just don’t let them use it as a platform to promote unscientific things.

  • I’ve listened to almost every nerdist podcast and I think is has been my favorite so far. This episode had SUBSTANCE… I think Romany Malco deserves his own podcast.

  • He is so unbelievably right about America/corporations and our food. I wanna punch someone in the freakin face when I see those corn syrup commercials and how safe they are. When I was first educating myself about this I was so shocked because so much of what is allowed into our food is banned everywhere else. So much of Europe is about promoting a healthy lifestyle and trying to make sure that everyone’s medical needs are met. Maybe now that we’re working on getting the pink slime out of our meat people can wake up to all the other poisons out there.

  • Easily one of the best epsiodes yet. I love listening to a person that’s so well-rounded and intelligent. Keeping this one in the archives, for sure!

  • @DevonA: Malco never claimed to be a scientist, so you have to take what he says with that in mind.

    Anyway, I’m pretty certain, though it doesn’t immediately appear that way even in context, that his claims about HFC and sugar being poison or toxic are just hyperbole. If I yelled “McDonald’s is poison” at you, I’m sure you’d know I wasn’t actually saying that McDonald’s food is arsenic based.

    In any case, you’re getting bogged down in the details. I totally get not wanting the types of websites that peddle snake-oil herbal remedies to gain ground, but the food industry is an exponentially greater evil. HFC/sugar may not TECHNICALLY be particularly dangerous, but the amounts the food industry wants to and even currently uses it in and the campaigns they fund to make it seem harmless aren’t.

    Don’t miss the forest for the trees.

  • Also, I believe he said the herbal remedy thing was something he did in the past.

    I’m not really down with that stuff unless you’re going through someone who legitimately devotes themselves to studying traditional/natural/holistic medicine.

    Your passion for science and admiration for all the INCREDIBLE good it does shouldn’t remove your skepticism. If there’s money attached, and there is, there’s corruption. Big pharma stands to gain nothing by letting traditional medicine gain any legitimacy. Traditional medicine is still widely practiced in many parts of the world where life expectancy and health is much better than it is in America.

  • 0:52:28
    “Is it allright to eat monosodiumpoisonate?… they made it sound scientific!”

    What kind of a stupid comment is that?

    It seems Chris Hardwick buys into the HFC and MSG conspiracy theory.
    Welcome to Joe Rogan territory mr Hardwick!
    I’ll stick with science and skepticism thankyouverymuch.

    I’ll put my trust in science and skepticism

  • I really like Unsupervised, it is probably my favorite of the new 2011 shows. FX just has the best cable comedy shows. The episode where they think the one kids older brother is struggling with coming out as a gay man but it turns out he is just a methhead who is blowing guys behind restaurant for drug money is hilarious. It is cool “as hell”.

  • I just read Tijuana Jacksons 5 more ways to legally poison your child.
    I knew I was in for some BS when I saw a quote by renowned quack Stephen Mercola.

    Also Mr jackson’s grasp of microbiology seems tedious.
    Her’e a small gem from the triclosan page:
    “Most germs are caused by virus and not bacteria so antifungal bacteria’s offer no real protection”

    There’s like four things wrong with that sentence
    Unscientific fear mongering like this shouldn’t be promoted.

  • @Roy: It should be noted that Tijuana Jackson is Romany Malco’s alter ego. He does a show on Funny or Die where he gives people advice. I’m assuming that due to Romany’s passion for food activism in the actual podcast, the article he mentioned is meant to be a little more serious than his usual stuff, but he’s not really an expert.

  • It doesn’t matter if it’s an alter ego or if he’s not an expert.

    ‘5 more ways to legally poison your child.’ as far as I can tell is presented as a totally serious article. So I criticize it as such.

    It’s full off unsubstantiated claims which is not surprising when you check out the sources he lists.
    Decrying food supplements is one thing. Not backing it up with sufficient evidence another.

    He mentions

  • For the most part, I enjoyed this episode and was interested in what was being discussed. Romany’s perspective was intriguing and insightful into how he pieces together reality. I didn’t find any of his claims outside of what I have heard before. But, some of his notions are not substantiated by evidence. I feel it must be stressed that you do not need to be a “scientist” to understand “science.” This really can serve us as a lesson in why science literacy is so important in today’s world filled with so much scientific techno-babble.


    how do you tell the difference between bad science, pseudoscience, and the real thing?

    The commenter, ‘mistletoe’ pointed out that, “Traditional medicine is still widely practiced in many parts of the world where life expectancy and health is much better than it is in America.” However, just because two events occur around the same time does not in itself mean that one “caused” the other. I would point out that the subject of “life expectancy” is much more complicated issue and a separate argument altogether involving not just nutrition, but environmental and genetics as well.

    There was also one other moment of concern where I thought that Romany eluded to “natural” herbs being held down by some conspiracy. Here’s a fun fact about aspirin; waaaay back in 1829, scientists discovered a compound called “salicin” in willow plants, then later refined the “miracle drug” by isolating the active ingredient from “willow bark”(1). You see, the leaves and bark of the willow tree were even used by the ancient Greeks to treat fevers. Tim Minchin had a wonderful way putting it in his great short film titled “Storm”, and since he was a rather recent guest, I’ll end with that,

    “By definition”, I begin
    “Alternative Medicine”, I continue
    “Has either not been proved to work,
    Or been proved not to work.
    You know what they call alternative medicine
    That’s been proved to work?



  • I love the Nerdist podcast and the network. My favorite podcasts (in no particular order) are: Todd Glass, Nerdist and Skeptics Guide to the Universe. Maybe you can see where this is going.

    It’s free content, but it’s also a loud mouthpiece. I love that you have prominent scientists on your show like Neil Degrasse Tyson and Phil Plaitt. But sometimes I question your dedication to science when you have guests like Romany Malco and Tim Ferriss and discuss how Matt is on an incredibly unhealthy juice fast.

    I’d love for you to talk about holistic medicine with guests like James Randi or provide context for spurious claims by guests with links to skeptical websites.

  • I love the Nerdist podcast and the network. My favorite podcasts (in no particular order) are: Todd Glass, Nerdist and Skeptics Guide to the Universe. Maybe you can see where this is going.

    It’s free content, but it’s also a loud mouthpiece. I love that you have prominent scientists on your show like Neil Degrasse Tyson and Phil Plaitt. But sometimes I question your dedication to science when you have guests like Romany Malco and Tim Ferriss and discuss how Matt is on an incredibly unhealthy juice fast.

  • I love the Nerdist podcast and the network. It’s free content, but it’s also a loud mouthpiece. I love that you have prominent scientists on your show like Neil Degrasse Tyson and Phil Plaitt. But sometimes I question your dedication to science when you have guests like Romany Malco and Tim Ferriss and discuss how Matt is on an incredibly unhealthy juice fast.

  • @ Cochrane

    To be fair. This podcast is about nerd/geek culture, not science and skepticism.

    It would be nice to see a skeptic podcast on the Nerdist network though.

  • Yes! I second the motion for a skeptical podcast. ‘The Skeptics Guide to the Universe’ was the reason that I got into listening to podcasts in the first place. Upon searching for a “good” science podcast, I found the SGU and skepticism…it changed my life. I also came to face the fact that, even with degrees in science, I still didn’t REALLY know what science was. That also opened my understanding into the state of science education. I think it would be great to use this particular platform to expand the love for science to more people.

    I understand that people point out that this is not a “science and skeptic” podcast, however, I do not think you can separate the association between the terms, “nerd” and “science”. I mean, for the most part, I get pegged as a nerd as soon as people find out my love for science. I am pretty confident that those who call themselves “skeptics”, also share that passion for everything science-related. After all, as Michael Shermer once said, “We are skeptics, not because we don’t want to believe, but because we want to know” That urge to ‘find out what makes things tick’ is expressed by Chris all of the time on the show, and in his book “The Nerdist Way”, as part of what makes us “nerds”.

    One can also be a nerd for things that are not necessarily science-related. For instance, we nerd out over comedy and Romany is in some pretty damn funny movies. I like the philosophical pondering into questions like, “what makes something funny?”

    So, I think that the mix of guests is great. It representative of the real world where not everyone thinks the same, so you get exposed to new concepts and perspective. Even if it reaffirms your prior convictions, it is good psychological practice to keep testing your own claims as well. Or you can simply choose not to listen to episodes that make your head go all ‘Scanners’ on people and explode. :)

  • Sorry for the triple post earlier, i was on mobile and the site kept throwing me errors. I didn’t realize it posted.

    I agree that it’s a comedy show, but they bring on a number of guests and talk about a lot of topics that aren’t comic in nature. In a day and age when people get a lot of news from other comedy shows like The Daily Show, i think that it’d be turning a blind eye to ignore the platform that Chris and the guys have here.

    They do a great job bringing on skeptics but they never talk to them about skepticism (probably because those guys are pretty good about sticking to the subject material).

  • I think “citation needed” is needed for about half the things said on this episode. Not just for favorably comparing heroin to sugar, but for when Mr. Malco talks about how he drove across Europe and, even if you look at the people in Slovakia, they look younger than Americans because they’re healthier due to the reduced amount of corn syrup and sugar in their diet. The Average life expectancy of an American is 78.2, while a Slovak’s is 74.7. Plus, if you want to look at things qualitatively, you don’t really see that many gorgeous people in economically depressed Eastern European countries.

    Now, the US is fucking 38th on the UN’s list of Life Expectancy (behind Costa Rica at 30 and Chile at 34), so that means that Malco’s basic thesis is correct; that we’re fucking our own health over and damaging ourselves. But the fact that he has to inject outrageous speculation damages that genuine message. The ubiquity of corn in our food, the prevalence of junk, the inaccessibility of fresh food for millions of Americans, the lack of proper safety protocols in the meat industry, etc. are all legitimate concerns that are doing great harm to this country, but in order to properly address these dangers, we have to approach them with actual science, not herbal boner pills sold on the Internet.

    I think Mr. Malco is an EXTREMELY talented and funny man, but he’s also talking about how he wants to keep things edgy and to not be afraid to be offensive, which is why he’s in love with his FX show. Yet he’s starring in ‘Think Like a Man,’ which is another shamelessly engineered, formulaic rom-com, based on a self-help book no less. He’s charming as James Bond in a tuxedo, but he’s selling his perspective and his products on this podcast. Still, I’d listen to him as a guest again, for sure.

  • I am so happy to see others defending science and reason in the comment thread. I was totally on board with Romany all the way on social issues until he started in on the Corn Sugar/Syrup thing. It’s not a poison, it’s fructose, you get it from a lot of things, your body knows what to do with it, unless you megadose it. Then you’re an idiot and that’s why you’re fat. But seriously, it’s not a conspiracy, the fact is we (Americans)* eat too much processed food for convenience and price. Processed food, in order to have a shelf life and not taste like horses ass, needs preservatives and flavor enhancers. So if you’re too dumb and lazy to not less processed food, then quit blaming evil corporations for your deep vein thrombosis.
    Now if you want to talk about why lower income people are more susceptible to these problems, then we have something intelligent to discuss, but calling a fructose derivative a “toxin” is just anti-science fear mongering and the biggest naturalistic fallacy I have ever seen catch on in the public’s mind.
    Romany, stick to acting, you’re excellent at that.
    Chris, feel free to get up in your guests’ faces when they’re being intellectually lazy or dishonest.

    *What’s up with the European worship BTW? A little bizarre to think Europeans are superior because they haven’t succumbed to our grab and go lifestyle. They’ll get there eventually too…

    • But Erik, it’s not nonsense that millions of Americans lead unhealthy lives. It’s not nonsense that our industrial food system is unsafe, either from contamination or deliberate sabotage. People DIE from diseases like diabetes, diseases that are partially caused by poor diet, a way of life more likely to affect poor people because of the inaccessibility and cost of healthier food. It doesn’t help that lettuce (LETTUCE, of all things) has to be recalled due to a salmonella contamination (

      For all of these reasons and more, I view the types of things Malco said all the more damaging because there are roots of various truths in what he was saying. When paired with nonsense like the implication that MSG kills, however, it makes people think EVERYTHING you said was nonsense.

  • This podcast took a very unfortunate turn. At the mention of making money by peddling the promise of herbal snake oil via the internet, I squirmed. That was the past though, so one can forgive some amount of con artistry. Once the uneducated attacks on HFCs started, the podcast took a steep nose dive. When the support for herbal remedies kicked in, I had to tune out.

    While I recognize the hosts are not scientists or necessarily skeptics, I had always appreciated that they kept a largely clean podcast. This episode became a very unfortunate platform for some one making many broad claims that were demonstrably untrue.

    I look forward to more episodes with entertaining and enlightening guests. This episode was the first one that I actively disliked. Heck, it was the first one that I did not very much enjoy.

  • JC wrote:
    “What’s up with the European worship BTW? A little bizarre to think Europeans are superior because they haven’t succumbed to our grab and go lifestyle. They’ll get there eventually too…”

    Being european myself I wholeheartedly agree with that.

    The whole ”America is a corporation, europe is a culture” is ludicrous.
    American culture is rich and varied and not solely defined by consumerism.
    And as for europe being built for the people:
    Those beautiful churches mr Malco saw everywhere on travelling europe represent one of the mightiest corporations in human history: the Catholic Church and its various offspring.
    And the monarchs ruling europe where in the sack with the church WAY more than the US goverment could ever be with corporations.
    I wouldn’t want to go back in time and tell all the victims of the spanish inquisition:”Hey, at least you haven’t had to put up with high fructose corn syrup.”

  • Yeah, I can’t say I agree with everything Mr. Malco had to say, but boy howdy was he interesting to listen to. And if you’re only listening to things that expose you to viewpoints that you agree with all the time, you’re probably missing out on something important. That is all.

  • I was totally won over! While listening (while driving) I had to pull over so I could write down “I’d rather be an old man’s daughter, than a young man’s fool”.
    I know there’s a ’60’s song w/ sweetheart instead of daughter…but I like this sentiment better. Don’t just attatch yourself to any guy….
    But really there were so many things from this pdcst that made me think outside myself.
    Maybe I was just in the right headspace for once?
    Thanks for a great listen!!!

  • Chris, to be honest I am pretty irritated by this episode.

    Malco basically tells you how someone told him about the internet, how the became a Spammer on the Usenet, how he sold people “an idea”, e.g. he defrauded them of their money because he didn’t actually have a product to sell – making him one of the first people on the net to sell the equivalent of “an idea for boner pills” and how he made a lot of money with that.

    I don’t know… why is it that in this context you like what he says while when you’d get an email into your inbox peddling this holistic boner-pill bs, you’d understandably, rightfully go apesh*t about some ass**** thinking you’d be so stupid as to give him money for something that’s never going to work?

    Later on he tells you about how America is ruled by corporations. He has a good point there but hidden within that he tells you how the corn syrup (sugar) industry is allowed to call it natural while you can’t sell cinnamon for curing stomach ulcers. That is a) a false dichotomy and b) he basically told you that cinnamon cures stomach ulcers. You don’t have to have a degree in economics nor medicine to know that he is complaining that he nearly had to go to jail because he sold “natural remedies” e.g. non-medicine as medicine while comparing it to the corn industry selling something as “natural”, while the corn industry most likely didn’t tell customers it’s going to heal their dandruff. Or cancer. Or whatever.

    Then he goes into this angle where he has “a friend” who “gets insider information from the four most powerful people in Hollywood” – which is basically the best example I myself could think of for an angle to start a Ponzy Scheme. And all that after he told you how he sold fake boner pills on the internet. Mentioning half a dozen websites where people should look for further information.

    And all the while he tells you he won’t diss the Kardashians. No wonder he won’t. Because he’s one of them. Selling something that is completely fake. And you don’t notice him doing it, shifting the focus of the anger of people to a “common enemy” followed by his pitch.

    I think this episode of the Podcast is dangerous, because it’s unreflected. People who are young, who don’t know any better, might be enticed to agree to Malco’s way of thinking and with that you basically help someone who has no real substance to sell people the idea of getting rich or healthier based on non-scientific ideas. He’s basically another version of “just get famous and then peddle shit to the masses”. Which is really kinda sad.

  • @Sebastian I was going to listen to this episode, but after reading your comment and listening to the first 20 minutes, yup I’m done. Well said.

    Big C doesn’t like to ruffle feathers and/or call guests out on their shit, which is fine. But I agree with you that to a certain extent he has a responsibility to write some sort of disclaimer and or provide some critique/reflection.

  • I have to disagree with everything you say Sebastian. You have to look at the picture at a whole and not in one tiny box. What Romany said about America being a corporation he is completely right because all we want as Americans is to make money where as the rest of the world would rather live a happier life. Also, corn sugar is cheaper to make then cane sugar and we as Americans are fat and we need to do something. The way we eat need to change.