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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Maria Bamford and George Saunders [R]

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Maria Bamford: Comedy's Orchid

Maria Bamford's comedy is weird and wonderfully distinctive. For example: she recorded her last stand up special at home, in her living room. The seating? Her couch. The audience? Her parents. She performed her set with breaks "off-stage" to take cookies out of the oven and administer medicine to her pet pug. Her comedy takes on a number of difficult issues, ones that are personal to her -- mental illness, suicidal thoughts, or tough family dynamics (she describes her family's favorite pastime as "Joy Whack-a-Mole"). But she doesn't use humor as a shield. She uses it to confront an issue, point-blank.

Bamford talks to us about why she chose to perform a special in front of her parents, processing awful experiences or feelings into jokes, and why she describes herself as "the orchid of comedy".

The Special Special Special is available now and streaming on Netflix. Her new Comedy Central CD / DVD special, Ask Me About My New God is now available.

This interview originally aired on 2/12/13.

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Dan Deacon on "The Song That Changed My Life"

Dan Deacon is a Baltimore-based composer and electronics musician who has released over a dozen albums since 2003. He talks about why a player piano composition by Conlon Nancarrow changed his life and the way he made music.

This interview originally aired on 1/03/12.

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George Saunders on Creative Challenge and Financial Pressure

George Saunders could have been a geophysicist. In fact, he was one. He graduated from the Colorado School of Mines and worked in the oil fields of Sumatra. He came to fiction writing a little later in life, attending Syracuse University's creative writing program (where he now teaches).

Saunders is now well-recognized as one of the greatest short story writers and satirists of our time. He's been awarded a MacArthur "Genius" grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship, along with piles of literary accolades for his collections, which include Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. His stories often explore a world much like our own, just slightly more grotesque -- societies that are terrifying and recognizable. His writing is incisive, sad, and also really funny. His collection, Tenth of December, is available now in paperback.

Saunders talks to us about how people interpret luck and what they do with it, drawing inspiration from a disturbing dream, and unyielding financial pressure (the kind that doesn't even lift when you win a major award).

This interview originally aired on 2/12/13.

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The Outshot: William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe"

Jesse ruminates on alone time and... William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe".

This segment originally aired on 2/12/13.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Todd Glass & Raffi

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Todd Glass
Guests: 
Raffi
Guests: 
Ariel Schrag

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

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Todd Glass Talks about "Busting Out of the Shed", Learning Disabilities, and Crafting Stand Up

Todd Glass is a veteran stand up comic. He's been performing comedy for thirty years. Two years ago, he made a big change. He had created a life for himself. He was a well-respected and well-liked comedian. But he was living in large part as a closeted gay man. He worried about who knew, and who didn't. At forty seven years old, he made the decision to come out, and finally live on his own terms.

His new memoir is called The Todd Glass Situation: A Bunch of Lies about My Personal Life and a Bunch of True Stories about My 30-Year Career in Stand-Up Comedy.

Glass tells us why he waited so long to "bust out of the shed", the elaborate coping mechanisms and fake outs he constructed to hide his learning disabilities growing up, and why he thinks so much comedy doesn't stand the test of time.

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Ariel Schrag on 'September Girls' and Flipping the Mermaid Script: "I Wish I'd Made That"

Artists -- the people that make stuff -- are always influenced by the work of others. And sometimes, something an artist sees is so good, so perfect that they wish they had made it themselves.
This happens so often to the people we talk to, that we made a segment about it. It’s called I Wish I’d Made That. This week, we talk to cartoonist and author Ariel Schrag.

Ariel Schrag was already writing and drawing comics as a freshman in high school. Each summer, she'd create and self-publish a comic about the previous school year. The subject matter was, well, high school stuff. She wrote about her high school crushes, family issues, her struggles in AP Chemistry. Then she caught the attention of an indie comics publisher who decided to release her work as a series of graphic novels. She was only in the eleventh grade.

Now she's written a new coming of age novel, Adam. The title character is an awkward teenager who spends a summer visiting his older sister in New York City. He develops a crush on a girl. The problem is, this girl likes girls. To get around that problem, Adam convinces her that he's a trans man. The book is sweet, funny and frank.

For our segment, Schrag tells us about a very different kind of coming of age novel, Bennett Madison's September Girls, and how it's inspired her to infuse some magic and otherworldliness into her own work.

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Raffi on Performing for Kids, Growing Up in Egypt, and His Forty Year Career

If you were a parent or a child after about 1975, you probably know Raffi. He's one of the best known children's performers in the world, and his original works like "Baby Beluga" and "Bananaphone" and renditions of folk songs like "Down By the Bay" have helped him sustain a career for almost forty years.

Now he's released his first new album in over a decade, called Love Bug.

Raffi Cavoukian talks to us about his early childhood in Egypt, his social activism, and why he's dedicated his life to entertaining children.

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The Outshot: Van Morrison's Revenge Album

What happens when a musician records thirty one songs in one session, all out of spite? Jesse tells us about Van Morrison's "revenge album".

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Chuck Klosterman

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Chuck Klosterman
Guests: 
Karina Longworth
Guests: 
Phillip Crandall

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

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Chuck Klosterman Explores Villainy with Kanye, Batman, LeBron: What Makes Someone a "Bad Guy"?

Chuck Klosterman has been thinking and writing about culture for over a decade. He's written several essay collections, nonfiction and novels, and for the past few years, he's written the weekly column as the "Ethicist" for the New York Times Magazine. In his newest book, he takes on, well… bad guys.

Klosterman looks at athletes, musicians, politicians, vigilantes and even fictional characters who have been framed as villains -- from Bill Clinton to Darth Vader to LeBron James -- and tries to deconstruct the stories we tell about them in I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined). The book is now available in paperback.

Klosterman tells us how we've got Machiavelli all wrong, why Batman works great as a fictional construct but fails as a real person, and why it's so easy to villainize professional athletes.

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Time Traveling Back to Early 80s Punk with 'Smithereens' and 'We Are the Best!'

Film critic Karina Longworth invites you to time travel back to the early 1980s to explore the punk rock dreams of young girls in Smithereens and We are the Best!.

She suggests checking out Smithereens from 1982, a kind of prequel to director Susan Seidelman's Desperately Seeking Susan, for the time capsule of 1980s fashions and New York City street scenes.

If you want a pure breath of fresh air and fun, go with 2013's We Are The Best!, a Danish-Swedish film from director Lukas Moodysson. An adaptation of a comic book authored by his wife Coco, the movie follows a crew of young girls in Stockholm who found respite from the cruelties of middle school in punk rock.

Longworth hosts the podcast You Must Remember This, which explores forgotten bits of Hollywood history.

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Hey You, Let's Party: Andrew WK and the Party Philosophy of "I Get Wet"

This week, Phillip Crandall takes on Andrew W.K.'s 2001 debut, I Get Wet. At the time of its release, the album got a lot of flack. A lot of people just weren't sure what to make of it. The cover art was a gory photo of Andrew with blood running down his face, the song titles and lyrics were absurdly simplistic. A critic at Pitchfork gave it the abysmal rating of 0.6 out of 10. Ten years later, Pitchfork reviewed the reissued record, and gave it an 8.6. What gives? Well, Crandall says the album has a purpose and a message that endures.

Phillip Crandall is the author of a critical analysis of I Get Wet for Bloomsbury's 33 1/3 series.

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The Outshot: Stuart Saves His Family and Drawing from the SNL Well

Lots of recurring characters and sketches from Saturday Night Live have spawned feature films. Some of them are great, and some don't hold up well for 90 minutes of screentime. Jesse takes a look at the Al Franken vehicle Stuart Saves His Family, because "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!"

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn LIVE! in LA

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Date: 
10/15/2014 - 20:00
Show: 
City: 
Los Angeles, CA
Venue Name: 
Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

See Bullseye with Jesse Thorn LIVE in Los Angeles at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery!

* Wednesday, October 15
* Doors 8pm, Show 9pm
* Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever
* Live interviews, music and comedy
* NPR Generation Listen sponsored Meet-and-Greet with Jesse Thorn after the show

Our live show last fall sold out early -- buy your tickets now and make sure you don't miss out. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, August 26th at 12pm PDT. Click here to purchase.

Past live show guests include Bill Hader, Amy Sedaris, Odd Future's The Internet, and June Diane Raphael -- so you know this show will be good!

To make it extra special, the show will kick off MaxFunWeek, a celebration of MaxFun podcasts and everything awesome. Mark October 15th - 21st on your calendar now and sign up for the MaxFunWeek email list to make sure you don't miss any of the fun.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: George Takei and Damian Abraham of ****ed Up

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
George Takei
Guests: 
Damian Abraham
Guests: 
Carolyn Kellogg

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

If you're in Los Angeles, come hang with us at a cemetery this October. For real! It's how we're kicking off MaxFunWeek. Find details and ticket information here for our upcoming live show on 10/15 at Hollywood Forever's Masonic Lodge.

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What Is it Like "To Be Takei"? George Takei on Growing Up Japanese-American (and Gay), Acting Challenges and Yes, 'Star Trek'

Star Trek: The Original Series broke ground with its debut in 1966. The show had a multiethnic cast, and creator Gene Roddenberry tackled social issues in a futuristic setting. George Takei was an original castmember, and helped paved the way for Asian-American actors on television with his character Hikaru Sulu.

Takei went on to reprise his role in the animated Star Trek series and six Star Trek movies. He's also accumulated dozens of other acting and voiceover credits, from the 1956 Japanese monster movie Rodan, to The Simpsons, to Heroes.

But the new documentary To Be Takei goes beyond his acting career to show Takei's remarkable backstory and his positivity in the face of adversity. Before he even began kindergarten, he and his family were ordered at gunpoint to a U.S. internment camp for Japanese-Americans. In puberty, he realized that his emerging crushes were on boys, not girls. Takei chose to remain closeted for decades, to shelter his acting career from any fallout over his sexuality.

Takei spoke to us about his family's struggle to retain normalcy during and after their imprisonment in an American internment camp, starring in the Twilight Zone episode that America couldn't handle, and the impact that being gay has had on his personal and professional life. (Yes, there's a Star Trek question in there too.)

To Be Takei is now in theaters and available on VOD.

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Satisfying Thrills, Chills and Noir: Carolyn Kellogg on New Books

Los Angeles Times book critic Carolyn Kellogg stops by to talk about two innovative new books that should satisfy your need for thrills and chills, or noir-ish detectives and dames.

Her first recommendation is Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes, a supernatural detective story set in present-day Detroit.

She also suggests checking out Kill My Mother, by acclaimed cartoonist and writer Jules Feiffer. It's a graphic novel which gives a new twist on noir.

Carolyn Kellogg covers books for the Los Angeles Times. You can find her writing online in the Times' book blog, Jacket Copy or follow her on Twitter @paperhaus.

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"Music by Participation": Damian Abraham of ****ed Up on Finding Punk Rock

What happens when a hardcore band makes a rock opera, or quadruple tracks their drums, or writes a beautiful love song? Damian Abraham's band, ****ed Up, has done all of that and more. They started back in 2001, and have only gotten more ambitious over time.

Abraham, also known as Father Damian or Pink Eyes, got his first taste of punk rock as a fourteen-year-old, when the lead singer of the band he was seeing jumped off stage and tackled him and his friends. Abraham loved that punk wasn't "music by observation", it was "music by participation".

He talks to us about what it's like to have punk rock be your life and career, the circumstances that spurred his decision to drop his straightedge lifestyle, and the aesthetics of his music.

****ed Up's newest album is Glass Boys. The band will wrap up a string of U.S. tourdates shortly, and will tour Canada in September.

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The Outshot: 'Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women'

Jesse thinks you too might be charmed by magician Ricky Jay's history of Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: 'Jodorowsky's Dune' and Dee Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Frank Pavich
Guests: 
Glen Weldon
Guests: 
Linda Holmes
Guests: 
Matt Fraction
Guests: 
Dee Dee Penny

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

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Set design for Jodorowsky's Dune by Chris Foss

Expanding Consciousness with Frank Pavich and 'Jodorowsky's Dune'

When Alejandro Jodorowsky set out to make the first movie adaptation of the sci-fi novel, Dune, he wanted to make something more than a Hollywood sci-fi flick. He wanted something almost beyond description. His goal was to open people's minds and expand their consciousness.

But it was never filmed, and now it lives on a single bound set of storyboards.

Documentarian Frank Pavich interviewed Jodorowsky and his collaborators to tell the story, and called his movie Jodorowsky's Dune. He talks with us about Jodorowsky's dream of making an epic space opera, the process of gathering spiritual warriors and cast members (including Orson Welles, Salvador Dali and Mick Jagger), and how an unfilmed movie can continue to influence other artists.

Jodorowsky's Dune is available on DVD and Blu Ray.

Pop Culture Happy Hour on Sabotage in the Kitchen and Bad-Ass Lady Mercenaries

Linda Holmes and Glen Weldon of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast stop by to share some of their newest pop culture obsessions.

Linda recommends checking out the Food Network series Cutthroat Kitchen, a cooking competition show that has all of the thrills and outlandishness of reality television, along with a sense of humor.

Glen recommends the new comic book series Rat Queens, which takes Dungeons and Dragons-style fantasy and comedy and combines them in a satisfying series about a group of female contract killers.

You can hear Glen and Linda every week on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, and check out Linda's writing on the Monkey See blog.

I Wish I'd Made That: Matt Fraction on Loving 'Enter the Dragon'

Artists -- the people that make stuff -- are always influenced by the work of others. And sometimes, something an artist sees is so good, so perfect that they wish they had made it themselves.

This happens so often to the people we talk to, that we made a segment about it. It’s called I Wish I’d Made That.

Matt Fraction writes comic books. Along with artists David Aja and Javier Pulido, Fraction was behind the acclaimed reboot of Marvel's Hawkeye. He writes the dirty, funny, and intensely imaginative series Sex Criminals (the title is literal -- the main characters discover they can freeze time when having sex and use that power for Robin Hood-style justice).

The thing Matt Fraction wishes he made isn't a comic. It's Bruce Lee's kung-fu classic Enter the Dragon.

Fraction is the author of the acclaimed series Sex Criminals, now on its seventh issue. The first five issues are collected in Sex Criminals Volume 1.

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Dee Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls Talks about Early Days on MySpace, Creating a Persona, and Overcoming Anxiety and Stage Fright

Kristin Gundred, AKA Dee Dee Penny, is the creative force behind the band Dum Dum Girls. But she wasn't always front and center. She's played in bands for almost fifteen years now, playing drums and singing in other people's groups. Eventually she realized the only way to create the music she wanted was to do it herself. So Dee Dee created a MySpace page and started working on her music.

Now Dee Dee and Dum Dum Girls have three studio albums under their belt, including their newest, Too True.

Dee Dee talks to Jesse about making music in her bedroom, constructing the persona of Dee Dee Dum Dum, and overcoming anxiety and stage fright to be a rock musician.

Dum Dum Girls newest album, Too True is out now. They're also on a North American tour this fall.

The Outshot: Is 'What's Up Fatlip' the Least Braggy Rap Song Ever Written?

Don't call it a comeback. Jesse tells us about the LEAST braggy rap song ever written, "What's Up Fatlip?".

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Ishmael Butler, Allison Janney & Michel Gondry

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Ishmael Butler
Guests: 
Allison Janney
Guests: 
Michel Gondry
Guests: 
Todd Martens

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.


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Ishmael Butler on the Short Life of Digable Planets and the Cosmic Hip Hop of Shabazz Palaces

In the early 1990s, the hip hop group Digable Planets broke through with their single "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)". The single was jazzy and laid-back, and became a crossover hit. The trio were pegged by some as a counterpoint to gangsta rap, but they didn't love the efforts to categorize their sound. They went further on their next boundary-pushing release, the classic record Blowout Comb. The album was critically acclaimed, but didn't sell well, and the group drifted apart shortly afterward.

Founding member Ishmael Butler was only in his mid 20s when Digable Planets broke up. And so he tried other things, like filmmaking. He still made music, but the releases were few and far between. About five years ago, he teamed up with Tendai Maraire to form a new group called Shabazz Palaces.

Shabazz Palaces' new release is called Lese Majesty, and it expands on their interstellar sound.

Butler spoke to us about his days as a indie label gopher, the awkward audition Digable Planets had to endure for a record company executive, and the the transformative sounds of Shabazz Palaces.

Todd Martens Recommends Pop-Punk and Garage Rock: the Muffs and Twin Peaks

Is there still good pop-punk out there? What's the musical equivalent of a drunk text? Music critic Todd Martens of the Los Angeles Times stops by to answer both of those questions!

He recommends a listen to two new albums: the Muffs' first release in ten years, Whoop Dee Doo, and a new record from Chicago garage rockers Twin Peaks called Wild Onion.

You can find Todd's writing in the LA Times and on their blog, Pop and Hiss.


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"The Song That Changed my Life": Director Michel Gondry Gets Nostalgic for "Le Sud" by Nico Ferrer

There's a certain kind of feeling to the director Michel Gondry's films. A little bit of happiness mixed with sadness. Nostalgia for something that you experienced, or maybe something you wish you had experienced. You may have felt it watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, or his new film Mood Indigo.

For "The Song That Changed My Life", Gondry describes the feeling of saudade and how he felt watching Nico Ferrer perform the song "Le Sud" on a Saturday night.

Gondry's new film Mood Indigo is a fantastical story of love and loss, starring Audrey Tatou and Romain Duris. You can find it in theaters now.

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Allison Janney, from Loose Cannon Sitcom 'Mom' to Intimate Drama in 'Masters of Sex'

If you've seen Allison Janney on television lately, it's been in one of two very different roles. On the Showtime series Masters of Sex, Janney guest stars as a somewhat naive, vulnerable 1950s housewife who experiences a breakthrough after many years in a sexless (but not loveless) marriage. Her story is both heartbreaking and hopeful. In the CBS sitcom Mom, she plays Bonnie, a recovering alcoholic who's outrageous, biting, and very funny. Bonnie's been down, but she's making peace with her estranged daughter and getting her life back together. Janney's characterizations are versatile; they allow her to be warm, steely, confident, and thin-skinned by turns. Janney is currently nominated for Emmys for both roles; 'Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama' for Masters of Sex, and 'Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy' for Mom.

She spoke to us about her early acting days (including auditioning for an intimidatingly handsome Paul Newman), getting comfortable with the inevitable nude scenes for Masters of Sex, and the ways that her mom's background and brother's struggle with addiction gave her insight and empathy for her current roles.

The Outshot: Orson Welles and 'Touch of Evil'

Jesse explains why the last Hollywood picture Orson Welles directed, Touch of Evil, tells us so much about Welles as an artist.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Elizabeth Gilbert and Daryl Hall

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Elizabeth Gilbert talks curiosity, life after "Eat, Pray, Love" and writing her most recent novel

If you know of the writer Elizabeth Gilbert, it's probably from her 2006 memoir, Eat Pray Love. Gilbert's book, which was about travel and love and re-gaining a sense of self, spent years atop the bestseller list and inspired a movie starring Julia Roberts. It also saddled Gilbert with a certain kind of fame.

Gilbert was already an accomplished novelist, biographer, and journalist when fame happened. But the massive success of Eat, Pray, Love necessarily transformed Gilbert's creative life.

Gilbert returned to fiction with her first novel in thirteen years, entitled The Signature of All Things: A Novel. She spent several years doing research for the book, which follows the adventures of Alma Whittaker, a 19th century botanist who studies moss. The book shines with Alma's curiosity for life and science, and her struggle of self-discovery.

She'll talk about why she chose to write a "great moss novel", how she chose to write her heroine Alma (homely, brilliant, and moneyed), and how she dealt with a certain kind of fame.
(This segment originally aired in October 2013)

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The Dissolve Talks about All-Time Favorite Movies: "Real Life" and "To Be or Not to Be"

This week, a look back at some favorite films. Staff writer Nathan Rabin and Editorial Director Keith Phipps of film site The Dissolve join us to talk about some of their all-time favorite films.

Nathan recommends Albert Brooks' 1979 satire Real Life, a prescient look at documenting "real life" in pre-reality television times.

Keith recommends the 1942 Ernst Lubitch classic To Be or Not to Be (Criterion Collection), starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard.

(This segment originally aired in October 2013)

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Comedy: Patton Oswalt explains why sometimes shopping can be embarrassing

When you lose a few pounds it's natural to buy new clothes. You might try on those skin tight jeans that look so great on the model. But, trying on new clothes isn't always fun. Sometimes it's downright embarrassing. Patton Oswalt will explain why he didn't end up with new pants.

His most recent stand up special, Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time, is out now. He's actually gone silent for the summer. Taking a break from the internet. But you can catch him live in LA starting September 13.

Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates on forming a band, creating a signature sound, and hip hop sampling

Daryl Hall, best known as the lead vocalist and co-founder of Hall & Oates, is a singer, songwriter and producer with a collection of #1 songs to his name. He spent his formative years in Philadelphia around soul singers like Smokey Robinson.

Daryl Hall and John Oates met as students at Temple University, and went on to form a best-selling musical duo with chart-toppers like "Rich Girl", "Sara Smile", and "Private Eyes". Hall talks about his first meeting with Oates, and how he used disco and punk rock to help create Hall & Oates' signature sound.

His newest project is a web series called Live from Daryl's House of performances and collaborations with a diverse set of musicians that's included Minus the Bear, Cee-lo Green, Toots and the Maytals, Chromeo and the Neon Trees.
(This segment originally aired on The Sound of Young America in February 2011)

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The Outshot: Bo Jackson

And finally, the outshot for this week – Bo Jackson. How is a guy that fast, that strong? And how is a guy that strong, that fast? Jesse explains.

(This segment originally aired in January 2012)

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Lewis Black, Syl Johnson & Annie Hart

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New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.

Still Fuming: Lewis Black on Drama School, New York, And Why He's Still Fired Up

No comedian is angrier than Lewis Black. For the past 25 years, America has been infuriating him, and he's been on-stage telling us why.

After graduating from the Yale School of Drama in 1977, Black spent ten years as a playwright at the West Bank Cafe Downstairs Theater in New York. He transitioned to stand-up comedy in the late 1980s and has been regularly featured on The Daily Show's "Back In Black" segment for the past 16 years.

Lewis tells us about nearly getting expelled from Yale, why he loves performing in Bismarck, ND, and how theater is like heroin.

Lewis Black's most recent special, Live at the Borgata, is available now in digital formats. This interview originally aired in August 2013.

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Hip Hop with Andrew Noz: DJ Quik's Pacific Coast Remix and Rammellzee's Beat Bop

Hip hop blogger and Pitchfork columnist Andrew Noz joins us with a couple of his all-time favorite hip hop tracks. His first recommendation is Pacific Coast Remix by DJ Quik (featuring Ludacris), a track devoted to sunny Los Angeles's dark side. He also suggests checking out the 1983 track Beat Bop by Rammellzee and K-Rob. It's a song from an era where the uptown and downtown communities mingled in a way that the rap world would rarely see again. This segment originally aired in June 2013.

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"The Song That Changed My Life" with Annie Hart of Au Revoir Simone

Annie Hart of Au Revoir Simone grew up in the suburbs of Long Island. As the story goes for a lot of teenagers, she didn't quite fit in. The kids at her school wanted to spend time at the mall. They weren't interested in making stuff, shooting videos and writing zines.

Annie found a whole new world, and a whole new group of friends, through music. The song that changed her life is "Knew Song", by the Long Island hardcore band Silent Majority.

Au Revoir Simone's most recent album is Move In Spectrums. This interview originally aired in January 2014.

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The Enigmatic, Grammy-Nominated Syl Johnson

Inspired by the sounds of Jackie Wilson, Little Walter, and Muddy Waters, Syl Johnson set out to make his own mark in music in the 1950s. His own gritty, bluesy voice and funk rhythms earned him a place in the Chicago soul and blues scene. Over the course of a career on Chicago's Twinight and Memphis' Hi Records, Johnson released several singles that climbed their way up the pop and R&B charts ("Different Strokes", "Come On Sock It To Me", "Is It Because I'm Black?") and but never attained the smash success of contemporaries like Al Green or James Brown.

He found ubiquity later in life, when dozens of hip hop artists from Run-DMC to Kanye West dug into his catalog to sample his sounds (perhaps foremost his signature scream on "Different Strokes"). Johnson found himself in the spotlight again a few years ago when the archival label Numero Group assembled a Grammy-nominated boxset of his early cuts, titled Syl Johnson: The Mythology. This interview originally aired in October 2012.

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The Outshot: "Coney Island"

Jesse recommends a portrait of an American caught in between its past and its future in Ric Burns' documentary Coney Island.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Hari Kondabolu & Jake Kasdan

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Hari Kondabolu
Guests: 
Jake Kasdan
Guests: 
Carolyn Kellogg

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Hari Kondabolu: 'Waiting for 2042' and Stand Up Comedy with Required Reading

Hari Kondabolu is a stand up comedian. You might have seen him on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. He's also performed stand up on Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and The Late Show with David Letterman.

Hari didn't think he would be a comedian. He thought that he was going to law school. Then somewhere between taking an Americorps Job organizing immigrants in Seattle and taking the LSAT, things changed direction. He transitioned into stand-up comedy.

Hari talks to us about the unique profile of his fans, how he fits into the "alternative" comedy scene, and how he actually got into a discussion about the racism of Apu from The Simpsons with Hank Azaria -- the real voice of Apu.

His debut album, Waiting for 2042, is available now through BandCamp and iTunes.

Carolyn Kellogg Talks Westerns

Every week we like to check in with one of our favorite culture critics to get some recommendations of things that are worth your time. This week, Los Angeles Times book critic Carolyn Kellogg stops by to talk about some of her all-time favorite westerns, starting with one that broke the mold.

Her first recommendation is Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses.

Kellogg also recommends Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers.

Jason Kempin / Getty Images / Getty Images Entertainment

Jake Kasdan on Directing Jason Segel, Strategic Nudity, and His Unintentional Return to Television

Jake Kasdan grew up in the movie business. His father is Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote two Star Wars films, an Indiana Jones movie, and both wrote and directed The Big Chill. And Jake's been no slouch, either. He directed his first film, Zero Effect, when he was only 24. He's gone on to work on a slew of other projects, from critically acclaimed cult shows like Freaks and Geeks, to the beloved sitcom New Girl, to the hugely commercially successful film Bad Teacher.

His new movie is Sex Tape, which sees Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz re-teamed as a married couple who accidentally release an intimate home video to the internet.

Kasdan talks about his years working with Jason Segel, the strategy involved in shooting a movie that has both feelings and (comedic) nudity, and how he unintentionally returned to working in television on New Girl.

Sex Tape is in theaters now.

The Outshot: The Everyday Wonder of 'American Splendor'

Jesse explains why Harvey Pekar makes putting one foot in front of the other feel like something special.

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