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The Alumni Newsletter: January 14, 2011

  • Samantha Bee ramps up to live a cynicism-free life with the help of the OWN network.

  • Rapper Killer Mike, aka Mike Bigga, has released a new track from PL3DGE, his newest album due in February. He's also collaborating with El-P on an album -- you can find a snippet here.

  • Gary Hustwit, director of the consumer design documentary Objectified, has launched the website for his newest documentary Urbanized, blogging his thoughts and the progress of the film. Urbanized will explore who designs our cities and is responsible for urban design, and how they do it.

  • Electronic musician Dan Deacon is set to score Francis Ford Coppola's newest film, a gothic romance titled Twixt Now and Sunrise, out later this year.

  • Ze Frank is soliciting photos of people recreating pictures of their parents for his new project, Like Mom, Like Dad.
  • Judge John Hodgman: Maritime Edition

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    Judge Hodgman entered the field of maritime law while on Jonathan Coulton Cruise Crazy earlier this month, ruling on two very different cases brought forward by cruise participants.

    First, brown gravy versus cream gravy.

    And a post-holiday ruling on the appropriate time to play Christmas and other seasonal music.

    Thank you to "Simalot" for providing documentation of our cases at sea.

    Stop Podcasting Yourself 148 - Pete and Courtney Johansson

    Pete Johansson
    Courtney Johansson

    Pete and Courtney Johansson join us to talk about foreign toilets, lotions, and creative breakups. So giggly.

    Download episode 148 here. (right-click)

    Brought to you by: (click here for the full list of sponsors)

    The Alumni Newsletter: January 11, 2011


    Podcast: The College Years: Rebirth

    DJ Spooky
    Sharon Waxman

    The College Years is a look deep into the vaults of The Sound of Young America. Take a journey with us every week as we post a new program from our salad days.

    Today's theme: Rebirth

    In this episode, Jesse first talks with Paul D. Miller, AKA "DJ Spooky" or "That Subliminal Kid." Miller is a writer, artist, and musician. His written work has appeared in The Village Voice, The Source, Artforum and The Wire among others. His music touches on jazz, reggae and dub influences.

    Then we hear from writer Sharon Waxman. She's the author of Rebels on the Backlot, which discusses the indie film explosion of the mid 1990's and features profiles on the directors behind it, including Quentin Tarantino, Spike Jonze, Steven Soderbergh, and David Fincher. Waxman continues bringing the world entertainment industry analysis and breaking Hollywood news from

    The Spirit Awards!


    The kind folks at IFC invited me to host The Spirit Awards Nomination Special. You can watch it and see me interact with a very actor-y Jeremy Renner, the very charming Eva Mendes, and the very funny (and distressingly handsome) Joel McHale. You can also find out who was nominated for the only big awards show that consistently awards really great movies.

    You can catch it on IFC starting Saturday:
    Sat 02/05/11 12:00PM (premier)
    Tue 02/08/11 09:30AM
    Sun 02/13/11 03:30PM
    Tue 02/15/11 02:30PM
    Thu 02/24/11 12:00PM

    The VCR Plus code is THEREISNOSUCHTHINGASVCRPLUSANYMORE. So just type that into your betamax and we'll be all set!

    Portlandia: Did You Read?


    Another wonderful preview clip from Fred Armisen & Carrie Brownstein's Portlandia, which premiers January 21st on IFC. (Who I work for part time). I could not be more excited.

    TSOYA Classics: David Koechner and Dave "Gruber" Allen (January 12, 2007)


    This TSOYA Classic features David Koechner and Dave "Gruber" Allen. Separately, Koechner has worked on Saturday Night Live and in films like "Anchorman" and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." And Allen has worked on "Freaks and Geeks" and the cartoon sitcom "King of the Hill."

    Together, they spent years honing "The Naked Trucker & T-Bones Show," a live stage variety show in which Koechner plays T-Bones, a demented redneck con-artist, and Allen plays The Naked Trucker, a trucker without any clothes on. The stage show was later adapted into television series on Comedy Central.

    Jesse talked with Koechner and Allen about their long partnership and the show.

    Listen Now

    Subscribe to TSOYA Classics: iTunes / Feed

    David Rakoff, Essayist and Author of Half Empty: Interview on The Sound of Young America

    David Rakoff

    David Rakoff is a very funny essayist, journalist, and regular contributor to This American Life. We spoke to him last on The Sound in 2005. His latest collection of essays is Half Empty, in which he champions pessimism.

    JESSE THORN: Welcome to The Sound of Young America, I’m your host Jesse Thorn. Our show so often focuses on how and why creative people are creative; how they get to where they need to go to make something. That’s what this episode of The Sound is all about.

    My guest is the writer David Rakoff. His third book Half Empty is a collection of essays that are meditations on the darker side of the human psyche. It comes with the warning, “No inspirational life lessons will be found in these pages.” But frankly it sort of betrays that. There are none of the traditional inspirational life lessons, but it is in part at least an argument that one can be inspired and draw life lessons from a little bit of pessimism and melancholy. David Rakoff, welcome back to The Sound of Young America.

    DAVID RAKOFF: Thanks for having me.

    Click Here for a Full Transcript.

    Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: The Smartest Man in the World


    Vital stats:
    Format: live persona-based comedy
    Episode duration: 1h-1h10m
    Frequency: once or twice a month
    Archive available on iTunes: all

    I don’t have to tell anyone who hangs around this part of Internet that comedians and podcasting are the new peanut butter and chocolate. Sure, whenever we weren’t seeing them live, we got used to enjoying our comedians on talk show appearances, critically-acclaimed double albums, buddy comedies, and Private Joke Files, but this podcasting business is a whole other deal. It’s like it was crafted specifically suit the form of expression and the lifestyle of the modern man or woman of hilarity. They’re catching on to this quick, too. Does your favorite comedian not have a podcast? Wait a few weeks.

    Greg Proops got with the program, as it were, in October. Remembering him as surely one of my top 25 favorite Loveline guests of all time — though I couldn’t quite remember why — I hopped immediately on his podcast, The Smartest Man in the World [iTunes]. Then I had to wait a few months for a substantial episode stock to build up, since he only puts out one or two a month. But they’re elaborate! You get over an hour! Recorded live! Audience Q&A and everything! The show, you see, takes on a form that’s recently gained a lot of traction in the podcasting comedian community: the recorded live show. As near as I can figure, Proops puts on a live show in L.A. every few weeks, records it as what he calls a “Proopcast”, then releases it to his worldwide Proops nation using the magic of the internet. Straightforward stuff, but with Proops, the personality delivers the complexity. Or I guess I should say the persona delivers the complexity, since it’s hard to imagine him going around like this all the time in real life.

    From his Loveline appearances, I’d remembered Proops as funny and crisply well-spoken, but not wildly out of the ordinary. Either I’ve misremembered him or he’s ramped it way up in the intervening years, because — jeez, how do I even describe his demeanor? He holds court with a manner of speaking that’s part old-school cartoon Englishman, part gay caricature, part regular Joe’s impression of an egghead, and part stoned Southern California surfer. He combines surprising-in-a-comedy-context historical references with impressively well-remembered quotations with deliberate malapropisms with pop-culture name checking that’s much more obscurantist in tone than in content.

    You’re probably either thinking this sounds grippingly fascinating or deeply insufferable. You are right and wrong, all at once. I’m no comedy nerd, but it seems to me that much of the way Proops performs exists outside the normal spectrum of comedic expectations. He walks the thinnest imaginable like between irony and sincerity; sometimes blasting the audience with a thick, gooey spray of vaguely multisyllabic adjectives, deadly maladies of centuries past, and lines from Antony and Cleopatra; sometimes simply connecting with a story or an opinion that’s cleanly, uncomplicatedly his own and doesn’t need the extra layers of delivery flavor.

    But it’s not always easy to tell which is which! At any given point in a Smarest Man in the World episode, you’re hearing, I suspect, a certain percentage Greg Proops the made-up character and a certain percent the genuine dude. Never is he 100 percent one and zero percent the other. As an audience for comedy, confusion isn’t a terrible state of mind to be in, but I have to say I come down solidly in favor of real Proops rather than crazy Proops. It’s best, I suppose, when the he cuts the former a little bit with the latter, but he risks a style takeover by his worst tendencies. It’s like, dude, I don’t much admire George Bush or Dick Cheney either, but those unhinged Mr. Hyde screeds aren’t doing either of us any favors. There are superlatives that apply to the sort of people who make a habit of those, but “smartest” isn’t one of them.

    [Podthinker Colin Marshall also happens to be the host and producer of public radio’s The Marketplace of Ideas [iTunes], the blogger of The War on Mediocrity and the writer of The Ubuweb Experimental Video Project.]
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