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Conan & the Tonight Show in the Times Magazine

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"In 2004, when O’Brien’s contract was up and other networks were aggressively wooing him, NBC promised him their flagship. “But they wanted me to wait five years to be the host of ‘The Tonight Show,’ ' O’Brien told me. “And in 2004, 2009 sounded absurdly far away. I thought that in 2009, we’d be flying around with jet packs and our dinners would be in pill form. It was like being given a car when you’re 11 years old and being told, When you’re 16, you get to drive it. So I put my blinders on, and I went back to work. And, then, two years ago, I began to feel the barometric pressure changing. When it was a year away, I sat bolt upright in my bed. And now. . . ' O’Brien’s voice trailed off as 3 of his 15 writers arrived for their weekly meeting. “And now, we’re stuck between two worlds. We’re putting on a show here while we’re imagining another show there.'"

Conan O'Brien profiled in the NY Times Magazine

(heads up from John Moe)

A new way to fundraise...

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It turns out we're not the only ones using video for our fundraising these days.

This video was produced for Chicago's WBEZ by WBEZ employee and Schadenfreude member Justin Kaufman. Looks like BEZ is trying to raise money Obama-style -- with a broader, younger group of donors, $20 at a time.

How hilarious is MaxFun booster Peter Sagal in this vid? Answer: very. Like a joke-obsessed puppy dog.

Sometimes folks in the public radio establishment get nervous as more and more shows and show-producing stations do direct fundraising. I think that giving breeds giving. Once you figure out how good it feels to support your favorite shows, it's that much easier to support your favorite stations.

I know in the past year or two I've given to KCRW, WBAI (to support my pal Jay Smooth), WFMU (ditto Tom Scharpling), WNYC (On the Media! Radiolab!) and BEZ (This American Life!). While I sometimes sent some money to KPOO back home in the Bay, I now find myself giving more than ever, and feeling great about it.

I hope you'll give to your local public radio station. They really do need your help now more than ever.

Best. Concert. Ever.

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Our friend Jonathan Coulton is coming back to The Sound of Young America in a few weeks, to celebrate the release of his live CD/DVD, "Best. Concert. Ever."

Here's a special treat from JoCo's upcoming set on The Sound: Shop Vac (Live on The Sound of Young America)

Raekwon f. Ghostface & Method Man - The New Wu

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Like it a lot.

Nick Kroll Live in Portland

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Nick Kroll

Nick Kroll on The Sound of Young America from Jesse Thorn on Vimeo.

Nick Kroll has been featured in the television shows Cavemen, Sit Down & Shut Up, The Human Giant and The Life & Times of Tim. He's also the author of Bar Mitzvah Disco.
We spoke with Nick in Portland at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival.

Improv Everywhere: The Book

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Our friend Charlie Todd, founder of Improv Everywhere, wrote a book about pranks, pranking, IE and the work they do. Charlie is a prince of a guy, and we're so happy that the book is in stores now!

Below, one of our interviews with Charlie, who we first had on the show maybe five years ago? The show below also features Matt Walsh and Coyle & Sharpe.

Squirrels in My Bed

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At first, I was like... "really? a tiny hands joke?"

Then I was like... "I'm laughing so hard I can't breathe please save me"

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "A Life Well Wasted"

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Your Podthinker's normal standard of podcast-journalistic integrity demands that he listen to no fewer than ten or fifteen hours of each show under review. This is an ironclad, uncompromisable rule, except when it isn't. In no normal case would less than four hours of material constitute background material adequate for a reasonably descriptive review. A Life Well Wasted [iTunes link], however, is not a normal case.

Its first and most apparent distinguishing feature is the hyperbolic-sounding, borderline ridiculous praise it receives from its fans. "The best-produced podcast around," they say. "Without a doubt the finest video-game-related thing in circulation on the internet, even if you hate video games," they say. "We would trade our immortal souls for the next episode of this podcast," they probably say. Hear all this once and it sounds like mere fanatic enthusiasm. Hear it again and again and it sounds suspicious, especially given that only three full episodes have been released. Host and producer Robert Ashley has somehow managed, with just a few hours of content pertaining to the still-kinda-sorta-niche-y sphere of video gaming, gained a listenership ready to hard-sell his product at a moment's notice.

A Life Well Wasted has been described as "the This American Life of video games," and not without good cause. The format, such as it has thus far emerged, is nearly identical to that of Ira Glass' brainchild, except there's a lot less wistful commentary on humanity's foibles and a lot more pressing of the B button. If you momentarily stopped understanding spoken English, though, you'd mistake it for This American Life itself. Ashley conducts and dramatically recuts interviews, he weaves his own words in with others' and he aligns the whole shebang against a low-key but sharp musical score. It's a slick package.

It's also hard not to read some sort of symbolic changing of the guard into the fact that the program not only sounds as good as the behemoth that pioneered its format, but that it sometimes sounds even better. (And it probably costs a damn sight less per minute to produce, at that.) Its choice of subject matter will no doubt keep it from unseating the unseatable, but that's no bad thing: video game culture has always lacked accessible coverage of not just the people who make them, but the people who journalize about and simply play them. The show has thus far tidily covered all these bases in a way that, to concede a point to those unsettlingly zealous subscribers, may well appeal even to those who continue to regard video gaming as the unchallenged domain of the dateless wonder.

Episode one, "The Death of EGM" MP3, finds Ashley at the staff party following the demise of the once-beloved magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly, reminiscing about the salad days of print game journalism with the likes of Crispin Boyer and Sean "Seanbaby" Reiley, exhuming the kind of memories that are hugely resonant for the kind of gamer now likely, still gaming or not, to reside in his mid-twenties. Episode two, "Gotta Catch 'Em All" MP3 is, rather than an ode Pokemon — though that would have been good too — a first-hand exploration of extreme collectorhood, from a guy with a sprawling underground warren filled with every console known to man to the proprietor of an all-vintage-pinball arcade to a Stanford academic bent on preserving our increasingly distant gaming past. Episode three, "Why Game?" MP3, delves into deeper issues surrounding the pressing of buttons and the watching of onscreen actions corresponding to said button-pressings, but it's probably most memorable for its conversation with an eccentric conceptual game designer who rides a recumbent bike and somehow survives on about fifteen cents a year. Runner-up for memorability is an interview with a developer who, despite talking through a voice filter that puts him on the edge of unintelligibility, makes with the juicy details about how bad games become bad. (The fourth episode is an extended version of the conversation with that game-preserving academic. Considering the infrequency of the main episodes, periodically releasing a handful of in-between supplements wouldn't be a bad idea.)

The best-produced podcast around? It's one of them, certainly. The finest video-game-related thing in circulation on the internet? Sure, but the competition ain't much. One immortal soul for another episode? Sorry, but if we're talking souls, your Podthinker demands at least three A Life Well Wasteds.

Vital stats:
Format: "the This American Life of video games"
Running since: January 2009
Duration: ~1h
Frequency: monthlyish, plus supplement(s?)
Archive available on iTunes: all

[Podthinker Colin Marshall does most of his gaming str8-up Turbografx-16-style. Share Turbo tips with him at colinjmarshall at gmail.]

Sketchfest Sketchfest Sketchfest

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Hey, guess what?

Our pals at Sketchfest Seattle are now taking applications for performers. It's a really great festival, in a really great town, and highly recommended.

Which reminds me... The Sound of Young America is proud to be a sponsor of This year's Sketchfest NYC. We're still working on getting the names of events into the live shows section of the sidebar, but there it is down there as "New York, NY." It runs the same dates as MaxFunCon, so I won't be there, but those guys always put together an amazing festival.

Thank you, donors.

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Thank you.

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