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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Nick Hornby & Luis Guzmán

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Nick Hornby on 'Funny Girl', Creativity and Ambition

Nick Hornby became famous as a literary writer for men. His first three books were about guys, fans specifically, Fever Pitch was a memoir about Hornby’s love of soccer; High Fidelity was about a record store owner, struggling with love. About A Boy was about a sort of boyish man tending to a mannish boy.

Hornby has since written several other books and screenplays, including Oscar nominees An Education and Brooklyn.

His recent novel, Funny Girl, is about a working class young woman in the 1960s who leaves her small town in search of a career on television, and her success on a BBC sitcom.

Nick Hornby sat down with Jesse to talk about why he set his novel in the mid-60s (and why its protagonist is a woman), personal ambition and creativity, and what it's like to be a Hollywood dinner guest.

Funny Girl is available now in paperback.

The interview originally aired in March 2015.


Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

Luis Guzmán on 'The Part'

Luis Guzmán is a veteran character actor. But back in the early 1990s, he was still working as a social worker on the Lower East Side, and acting was more of a side gig. Then he got a role that put him on the map -- the thuggish sidekick Pachanga in the 1993 movie Carlito's Way.

As Guzmán tells it, everything crystallized with that role.

You can currently see Luis Guzmán in the role of Jesse Sallander on the CBS hospital drama, Code Black. On the show, he plays the role of the trauma unit’s senior nurse, affectionately referred to as “Momma”.

The interview originally aired in March 2015.

The Outshot: Devil in a Blue Dress

Jesse explains why Easy Rawlins, of Devil in A Blue Dress, is a different breed of private detective.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Ellie Kemper & Glen Weldon

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Ellie Kemper
Guests: 
Glen Weldon

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Photo: Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Ellie Kemper was introduced to the popular consciousness through her role as Erin Hannon on the NBC sitcom, The Office. Her portrayal of the office receptionist was popular with both fans and critics and showcased her talent and skills as a comedic actress. These talents have also been showcased on the big screen in films including Bridesmaids and 21 Jump Street.

Now, she plays the title character in the Netflix Original series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Despite the show’s dark premise which involves her character being abducted by a cult leader and sequestered in a bunker, the show plays it all for laughs as her character tries to rebuild her life in New York City. Her years of isolation leave her ignorant of many social touchstones, but she pushes through with an enthusiasm and tenacity that is both endearing and hilarious.

Ellie Kemper joined Jesse to talk about her early experiences of living and working in New York, mining material from her time at Princeton and her self-consciousness about privilege.

The second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is available this Friday on Netflix.


Photo: Faustino Nunez

Glen Weldon on the Lasting Popularity of Batman in Pop and Geek Culture

For almost 80 years, Batman has changed and evolved to mean something to different generations of fans. Whether his characterization was that of the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader or the campy character of sixties television, Batman has become a lasting icon of popular culture.

In his new book, The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, author Glen Weldon moves beyond the chronological history of the character. He explores how fans of the various iterations of the character on radio, film, television and the comics have made the character a reflection of their own self-identity, be they straight or gay, cool or geek.

Glen sits down with Jesse to talk about why Batman fans both hate and love the 60s television series, why the character of Robin is so important to Batman’s mythology and how the character also serves as a symbol of gay culture.

Glen Weldon’s book The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture is available in bookstores everywhere.


Photo: Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images

The Outshot: Remembering A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg

Jesse fondly remembers Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Thao Nguyen & Lance Bangs

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Thao Nguyen
Guests: 
Lance Bangs

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Photo: Mike Windle / Getty Images

Thao Nguyen on 80s Pop Music, Collaboration and Familial Estrangement

Thao Nguyen began her career as a singer-songwriter in her teens, while making change for customers at her mother’s laundromat. Her musical influences include country, folk and hip-hop, but her music is uniquely her own.

Her latest album as the frontwoman of the band Thao and the Get Down Stay Down is called A Man Alive, and takes its inspiration from Thao's complicated relationship with her father. Their estrangement began when Thao was a teenager and has continued into her adulthood. Her feelings of affection and resentment results in a musical experience that is both raw and intimate.

Thao Nguyen sat down with Jesse to talk about the importance of her collaboration with producer Merrill Garbus in the making of the album, the diversity of her early musical influences and the struggle to fit in while growing up as a Vietnamese-American.

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down's new album, A Man Alive is available now. The band is currently on a cross country tour; you can find those tourdates here.


Photo: Jesse Thorn

Lance Bangs on His Intimate Approach to Filmmaking, Working on 'Jackass' and Exploring the Messy Living Habits of Stand-Up Comics in 'Flophouse'

Lance Bangs is the kind of filmmaker who would prefer jumping into the backseat of a car with a camera than being responsible for a huge budget and massive crew. His intimate approach to filmmaking has been appreciated and sought after not only for films and television, but also numerous music videos for performers including Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Green Day, Arcade Fire, REM and Kanye West.

He was even brought on to help film the intimate relationships within the MTV reality show Jackass, which focused on its talent performing incredibly dangerous and crude pranks and stunts.

Lance Bangs’ latest television show is the new Viceland series Flophouse. The show profiles the lives of up-and-coming stand-up comics and the sometimes questionable living conditions they live under while trying to make career for themselves in comedy.

Lance Bangs joined Jesse to talk about his why he prefers his intimate approach to filmmaking, his memories of working on Jackass and why he is attracted to the world of comedy.

The first season of Flophouse is airing now on Viceland Thursdays at 10:30pm.

The Outshot: Black Sabbath’s Paranoid

Jesse talks about the emotional depth to be found in Black Sabbath’s 1970 album, Paranoid.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Bob Odenkirk & Rickey Vincent

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Bob Odenkirk: Cult-Comedy Icon, Reluctant Celebrity

Millions of Breaking Bad fans know Bob Odenkirk as sleazy criminal lawyer, Saul Goodman. He has reprised the role the spin-off show Better Call Saul which is in its second season.

But comedy fans already knew about Odenkirk from another show -- Mr. Show with Bob and David. Odenkirk’s outrageous and profanity-ridden outbursts were a staple of his performances and helped make him a cult-comedy icon.

Before that he wrote for Saturday Night Live. Perhaps his most notable work was co-writing the sketch Down by the River The bit featured a 35-year-old divorcee motivational speaker played by Chris Farley and is considered one of the best sketches in the history of the SNL.

When Mr. Show ended, Odenkirk appeared in a number of one-off roles for TV before working behind the camera. He directed Let’s Go to Prison, Melvin Goes to Dinner and The Brothers Solomon. Even though he loves directing, it’ll be a while before he decides to gives it another shot. He’ll explain.

Odenkirk talks to us about why writing timeless humor is so difficult, transitioning from comedy to drama and why he still doesn’t consider himself a celebrity.

Odenkirk will also read a selection from his collection of short-fiction humor. It’s called A Load of Hooey and is available now.

Better Call Saul airs Monday nights at 10 pm on AMC.

Cannonball: Touring Parliament's Mothership Connection with Rickey Vincent

Every so often we like to take a closer look at albums that should be considered classics, to find out what makes them great. It's Cannonball.

This week we're joined by author, historian and self-described funkateer, Rickey Vincent. He's going to talk about Parliament's landmark R&B album, Mothership Connection. The album is at once a celebration of the past and a glimpse into the future. It touches on a lot of traditional soul ideas, but delivered with a new funky edge. Vincent will explain more.

Vincent's recent book is called PARTY MUSIC: The Inside Story of the Black Panthers Band and How Black Power Transformed Soul Music. You can also hear his radio show The History of Funk on KPFA.

The Outshot: Why Can't We Live Together by Timmy Thomas

Jesse tells us about a song that makes him imagine a better world: the simple but powerful Why Can't We Live Together by Timmy Thomas.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Dick Van Dyke

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Dick Van Dyke
Guests: 
Margaret Wappler

If you liked this episode of Bullseye, you can help support our production by becoming a monthly member! It's our annual MaxFunDrive, the time of year we ask for your help. Visit www.maximumfun.org/donate today and help us reach our network goal of 5000 new and upgrading members, and you'll not only get the satisfaction of sustaining the show -- we'll send you some nice swag, too, like a custom Bullseye bandana or an adventure pack with a Swiss Army knife and a paracord!

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Dick Van Dyke on His Early Years in Television, Worrying Less, and Owning Up to the Worst English Accent in Film History

For over 70 years, Dick Van Dyke has been an entertainer of stage, film and television. His work has garnered him generations of fans as well as numerous honors including a Grammy, a Tony and several Emmy awards.

Though he initially sought out a career in radio, he was soon performing on the stage and on the new medium of television, which included the classic comedy, The Dick Van Dyke Show created by Carl Reiner. Along with his many other television appearances, Dick Van Dyke has starred in films that are still family favorites decades after they were made, including Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Dick Van Dyke joined Jesse to talk about landing the lead role in Bye Bye Birdie on Broadway despite not being a trained singer or dancer, his memories of working with a very young Mary Tyler Moore, his alcoholism and getting sober, and how he maintains a healthy physical and mental lifestyle in his nineties.

Dick Van Dyke’s new book, Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging is available now.

Canonball with Margaret Wappler on Bjork’s Post

Every so often we like to take a closer look at albums that should be considered classics, to find out what makes them great. It's Canonball.

This week we're joined by the pop culture critic and writer Margaret Wappler. She'll talk about Bjork’s 1995 album, Post. This album served as the follow-up to Bjork’s first album, Debut. The album went beyond being a repetition of what she had created before, and served as "a breakout work of feminine emotional electronica".

Margaret Wappler’s essay on Bjork can be found in the anthology Here She Comes Now. Margaret’s novel, Neon Green will be out in July. She can also be heard as our sister-podcast, Pop Rocket.

The Outshot: Ralph Lauren

Jesse will tell you about how Ralph Lauren captures the shared American-ness of Sonia Sotomayor, Jay-Z and Donald Trump. (You can find his video interview for Put This On here.)

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Zach Galifianakis & Michael K. Williams

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Zach Galifianakis
Guests: 
Michael K. Williams

If you liked this episode of Bullseye, you can help support our production by becoming a monthly member! It's our annual MaxFunDrive, the time of year we ask for your help. Visit www.maximumfun.org/donate today and help us reach our network goal of 5000 new and upgrading members, and you'll not only get the satisfaction of sustaining the show -- we'll send you some nice swag, too!

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.


Photo: Jesse Thorn

Zach Galifianakis on Unlikeable Characters, Sudden Fame and Facing “Heartbreaking” Criticism on Public Radio

Zach Galifianakis is an actor, writer and stand-up comedian whose humor isn’t for everyone. His comedic observations and characterizations in television and film have made him a unique voice that some people love and others love to hate.

Galifianakis is probably most widely known for his role as Alan in The Hangover films, but he's also been in everything from Up in the Air, Birdman and Bored to Death. He's now the star and co-creator of the new FX series, Baskets. He plays a clown who can't keep up with the tuition or his classmates at his French clowning school, and returns to his hometown of Bakersfield, California to work in a rodeo.

Galifianakis sat down with Jesse to talk about creating a show that revolves around a mean and unlikeable character, how he contended with the sudden fame that came with The Hangover and what it’s like be dissed on public radio.

Baskets airs on Thursday nights at 10 pm on FX.


Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Michael K. Williams on His Club Kid Days, Breaking Ground with The Wire and Why a Pop Song Touches Him So Deeply

Michael K. Williams is an actor and dancer who broke out in the role of Omar Little on HBO’s The Wire. His characterization of a criminal “with a code” made the show a favorite among critics and viewers, one of whom was President Obama.

He was a club kid turned professional dancer, and later turned to acting. His resume includes everything from Boardwalk Empire to Twelve Years a Slave to Inherent Vice. He currently co-stars in the new Sundance TV series, Hap and Leonard.

Williams sat down with us to talk about his memories of being a New York club kid, the difference that playing Omar made in his life and others and the opportunity that led him to realize that being a performer could be a career, rather than just a job.

Hap and Leonard can be seen Wednesday nights at 10 pm on Sundance TV.

The Outshot: Gravediggaz’s Poetic

Jesse remembers the poignancy of rapper Poetic’s examination of his own mortality in the music he produced with Gravediggaz.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Ricky Jay & G. Bruce Boyer

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Ricky Jay
Guests: 
G. Bruce Boyer

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Ricky Jay on the mystery of Matthias Buchinger, calligraphy and practicing magic with an injured hand.

Ricky Jay is a man with a particular set of skills. He is a magician, a master of sleight-of-hand, a historian, a writer, an actor and a collector of the odd and the unusual. He is also easily recognized for his performances in television and movies, including the films Magnolia, Boogie Nights and The Prestige.

Jay is also an avid collector of rare books and manuscripts often associated with magic, gambling, fraud, confidence games and unusual entertainers. His passion for unusual performers led him to write his latest book on a peculiar 18th century German man, Matthias Buchinger, who despite being born with no hands and legs, was an extremely skilled performer and calligrapher.

Now, Jay sits down with Jesse to talk about his discovery of Matthias Buchinger, his own theories about Buchinger's life and works, and why suffering an injury to his hand led him to an even greater appreciation of Buchinger's skill.

Matthias Buchinger: The Great German Living is available now from Siglio Press. A corresponding show is currently on exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It's called “Wordplay: Matthias Buchinger’s Drawings from the Collection of Ricky Jay”.

Segment begins at 2’20”

Comedy: Brandie Posey on the Unique Challenges of the Millenial

Brandie Posey, co-host of Maximum Fun's podcast Lady to Lady, recently released her debut stand-up album, Opinion Cave. In this excerpt, she talks about the weird place millenials occupy in our culture (and how it feels to be one).

Posey's album is available now via Bandcamp.

Segment begins at 32’20”


Photo: Rose Callahan

G. Bruce Boyer on the difference between fashion and style, why he hates uniforms and the most essential menswear item

G. Bruce Boyer has made the art of style his life’s work, but you shouldn't assume he's a fashionista. Instead, he's spent decades exploring and writing about what it takes to develop a sensibility around menswear.

A former fashion editor for GQ and Esquire, he has also authored, co-authored and contributed to several books on fashion including Elegance - A Guide to Quality in Menswear and Rebel Style: Cinematic Heroes of the 1950s. His latest book is entitled, True Style: The History and Principles of of Classic Menswear.

Boyer sat down with us to talk about the difference between fashion and style, why he's excited by the downfall of uniform dressing and the best piece to begin a men's wardrobe.

Segment begins at 36’30”


Photo: Liam Daniel

The Outshot: Attack the Block

Jesse gets past his aversion for “horror” and takes on the British sci-fi film Attack the Block, starring a pre-Star Wars John Boyega.

Segment begins at 62’50"

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Gillian Jacobs & Jonathan Gold

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Click here to download this episode.


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Gillian Jacobs on Surviving Juilliard and the Unique Challenges and Joys of Working on NBC's "Community"

Gillian Jacobs may never know what it’s like to play the ingenue. As an actress, she has an energy that’s hard to pin down, but it’s anything but naive. After a tough stint at Juilliard's acting school, Jacobs pursued a career in film and television, often being cast in dark, gritty roles. However, in 2009 her career took a sudden lurch in the opposite direction when she was cast in a very different role.

Her breakout role was as Britta Perry, the confident and outspoken student opposite Joel McHale’s self-involved lawyer-turned-study group leader Jeff Winger on Community. Britta is exceptionally eager, mostly to the vexation of her peers who often voice their displeasure at her stances on social issues. Her friends often describe her as "the worst", but she's ever-confident in her own identity.

When Jacobs signed up for the role in Community, all she knew was that Joel McHale had been cast in it, but she soon realized that it would be a very unique and ambitious show.
In this extended conversation with Jacobs, we'll talk about why she didn't fit in at Juilliard, her big break on Community, and get a peek behind the scenes on a beloved but aggrieved network show.

Jacobs currently stars in the Netflix comedy Love alongside Paul Rust. Love's first season is available for streaming on Netflix.

The interview originally aired in October 2013.

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Photo: Anne Fishbein

Food Critic Jonathan Gold on Los Angeles and High and Low Dining

The Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold joins us to talk about -- what else? -- food. With his enthusiastic and equal opportunity criticism, he's become known as the authority on where and what to eat in Los Angeles.

His award-winning work has regularly appeared in numerous newspapers including the LA Weekly and the Los Angeles Times, the latter where he is currently a regularly columnist. His articles and reviews have also appeared in Blender, Spin, Rolling Stone and Gourmet magazines. Along with the Pulitzer, he was the first food writer to be honored as a National Magazine Award finalist in criticism by the American Society of Magazine Editors

He joined Jesse to talk about how he manages the day to day eating, the one food fear he just can't overcome, his thoughts and high and low dining and more. Jonathan is also the author of the highly regarded food guide to LA, Counter Intelligence, which details some of his best food discoveries.

Gold is the subject of a new documentary called City of Gold, which is in theaters next week.

The interview originally aired in December 2011.

The Outshot: Sly and the Family Stone's Perfect Album

Jesse explains how Sly and the Family Stone made a perfect album, even as they slowly disintegrated as a group.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jason Sudeikis, Sarah Vowell & Paul F. Tompkins

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Jason Sudeikis
Guests: 
Paul F. Tompkins
Guests: 
Sarah Vowell

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Photo by Jesse Thorn

Jason Sudeikis on Mentorship, Fame and his Blue Man Group Aspirations

Jason Sudeikis is an actor, comedian and screenwriter, probably best known for time spent as a writer and performer on Saturday Night Live.

His comedic skills were honed as a founding member of Second City Las Vegas and have been enjoyed by audiences on television shows including 30 Rock and Eastbound & Down as well as the films Horrible Bosses and We’re the Millers.

His recent work has taken a more dramatic turn, and includes his role in the film Race, which tells the story of track and field legend Jesse Owens' pursuit of the gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Sudeikis plays Owens' coach, Larry Snyder, who mentored and coached him through his time at Ohio State University and into the Olympics.

Race is in theaters now.

Sudeikis joined Jesse to talk about his aspirations to join The Blue Man Group, the role that his own mentors have played in his life and what it’s like to have his personal life serve as fodder for tabloid media.

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"I Wish I'd Made That": Sarah Vowell on her Love of Randy Newman and "The World Isn’t Fair"

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 author and social commentator Sarah Vowell who joins us to talk about the Randy Newman song, "The World Isn’t Fair".

You probably don't need us to tell you who Sarah Vowell is, if you're listening to an NPR podcast, but she's a frequent contributor to This American Life, and is the author of multiple bestselling books including Assassination Vacation and Unfamiliar Fishes.

Vowell's latest book is about the Marquis de Lafayette, a Frenchman who became a sort of adopted son to George Washington and fought in the American Revolutionary War. It's called Lafayette in the Somewhat United States.

You can find her other appearances on our show here and here.

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Photo by Jesse Thorn

Paul F. Tompkins Talks Success, Podcasting and Improvising with Puppets

Paul F. Tompkins has a certain kind of fame. If you're a comedy fan, he is known and beloved for his appearances on comedy podcasts (including his own) or from his live stand up and improv comedy. But to the world at large, he's probably best known for his work as a writer and performer on the HBO cult comedy show Mr. Show with Bob and David.

In recent years, he's started his own improv podcast, Spontaneanation with Paul F. Tompkins, and also currently hosts the show No, You Shut Up! on the Fusion network.

No, You Shut Up! is a talk show in the vein of "Meet the Press", if its talking heads were actually puppets from Henson Alternative. The show airs Thursday nights at 10pm on Fusion. Episodes are also available on YouTube.

Tompkins joined Jesse to talk about what it feels like to become more personal in his stand-up, the role of podcasting in his success and what it’s like to improvise with puppets.

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The Outshot: SNL’s Tales of Fraud and Malfeasance in Railroad Hiring Practices

Can a Saturday Night Live sketch change the course of your life?

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Dwayne Kennedy & Noel Fielding

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Guests: 
Dwayne Kennedy
Guests: 
Noel Fielding

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Dwayne Kennedy on His Debut EP, Using Jokes About Race as a Barometer, and Playing Different Kinds of Crowds

Dwayne Kennedy has been in the stand up comedy game for about thirty years now, performing everywhere, from Showtime at the Apollo to the Late Show with David Letterman, but he's still a bit of a comic's comic.

He'll talk to Jesse about why he's recorded plenty of his sets, but is only releasing his debut stand up EP this month. Plus, he'll explain how he's adapted his comedy for different audiences and how he's used jokes about race as a barometer.

His debut record is called Oh No! It's Dwayne Kennedy and is available now on Bandcamp. You can also check out Dwayne Kennedy's site for a schedule of his upcoming shows. See if he's coming to a city near you!

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Photo by Jesse Thorn

British Cult Comic Noel Fielding on 'The Mighty Boosh' and Creating New Worlds

If audiences in the United States know Noel Fielding, it's for his cult comedy show The Mighty Boosh, a comedy double-act turned radio program and then TV show. It aired here on Cartoon Network's adult swim. But Fielding is much better known in his native UK for not only the Boosh (which has done arena tours) but his appearances on quiz shows and his specific sense of style.

Fielding is touring the United States this spring with a live show called An Evening with Noel Fielding, which features some of his beloved characters and frequent collaborators (like Rich Fulcher).

Fielding sits down with us to talk about his comedy "marriage" with his Mighty Boosh creative partner Julian Barratt, his personal aesthetic, and creating new worlds on the radio, on TV, and on the stage.

His show The Mighty Boosh is available now on Seeso.com. Find out if An Evening with Noel Fielding is coming to a city near you by checking out Fielding's site.

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The Outshot: Beyoncé's "Formation" and Taking Space

Jesse considers the backlash to Beyoncé's new single, and explains why he thinks it's worth your attention.

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