Bullseye

Bullseye is a public radio show about what's good in popular culture. With a keen editorial eye, Bullseye sifts the wheat from the chaff, and brings you hot culture picks, in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary creative people and irreverent original comedy.

Bullseye is equal parts funny and fascinating. Whether you're already plugged in to the culture map, or looking for a signpost, Bullseye will keep you on target. More About Bullseye

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Kathryn Hahn and David Letterman biographer Jason Zinoman

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Kathryn Hahn
Guests: 
Jason Zinoman

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Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer / Stringer

Kathryn Hahn on her new Amazon series, I Love Dick

Kathryn Hahn is an actor and has been in comedy films like Step Brothers, the Anchorman movies, and a bunch more. She's also starred in the NBC series Crossing Jordan and was also on Parks and Recreation, playing Jennifer Barkley, the political consultant.

Lately, she's been working a lot with the writer and director Jill Soloway. She was in her 2013 film Afternoon Delight, she plays Raquel the rabbi on Amazon's Transparent, and now she's starring in another Amazon series called I Love Dick, based on the Chris Klaus book by the same name.

Hahn and Jesse talk about the inherently feminist space that I Love Dick inhabits, and the deeply complex character that Kathryn plays on the show. She talks about working with Jill Soloway on many of her most recent projects, and the special and deeply creative environment that Soloway creates on her sets.

You can catch Hahn in I Love Dick on Amazon now.

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Jason Zinoman on "The Last Giant of Late Night", David Letterman

Jason Zinoman is a writer and a critic covering comedy over at the New York Times. He also writes for Slate and Vanity Fair. He's got a new book out - it's called Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night. More than a biography of David Letterman, it is about one of the funniest TV hosts of all time and why so many people are fascinated with him.

Jason and Jesse talk about the span of David Letterman's career, from parodying regional radio on his college radio station, to his time working as the weekend television weatherman, to his late night show segments that appealed to really basic comedic instincts in the audience (i.e. "Dropping Stuff off a 5 Story Tower" and "Stupid Pet Tricks" and "How many Guys in Spider-Man Suits Can Fit Into a Jamba Juice").

Jason's book Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night is out now.

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The Outshot: Concrete the Superhero

Jesse tells us about Concrete, one of the saddest and most honest superhero comics he's ever read.

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Bullseye With Jesse Thorn: Carol Kane and Chris Fairbanks

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Carol Kane
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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Carol Kane on her childhood, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and auditioning

Carol Kane is a veteran actress. She began her career in 1971 and landed some pretty heavy roles - one of her first films was in the Mike Nichols drama Carnal Knowledge. Later on, she'd work on other classics like Annie Hall and Dog Day Afternoon. She was even nominated for a best actress Oscar for her part in the 1975 film Hester Street.

She eventually found her home doing comedy, something she never expected she would do growing up. She appeared on Taxi as Simpka, the wife of Andy Kaufman's character on the show. She was in the Muppet Movie, The Princess Bride, Scrooged, and so many others. Her current project is Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt where she plays Lilian, Kimmy's landlord.

She and Jesse talk about her childhood, and the special school she went to that allowed actors time to audition. They also talk about many of her projects over her expansive career- The Princess Bride, Taxi, and of course Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Plus, she tells Jesse that after all of these years, she still gets nervous auditioning.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 3 in it's entirety is on Netflix now!

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Chris Fairbanks live at MaxFunCon

Chris Fairbanks is a standup comedian, he's appeared on Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel Live and Comedy Central. Alongside April Richardson, he also hosts the tv show Almost Genius on TruTV. His standup is really unique. It is kind of improvised, really surreal, and contains lots of quick two line jokes.
Last year, we were lucky enough to host Chris at MaxFunCon, which is an annual gathering in the woods organized by Maximum Fun, and we've got a bit of his set from that show for you this week!

Check out Chris' album Fairbanks! which was released in 2010 and is an absolute classic. You can also still get tickets to MaxFunCon East which is happening this September in Pennsylvania.

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The Outshot: The Larry Sanders Show

Jesse tells us about the HBO metasitcom from the late 90's, The Larry Sanders Show.

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Bullseye With Jesse Thorn: Terry Crews and Amber Tamblyn

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Terry Crews
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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Terry Crews on addiction, physical fitness, and why he works so much

Terry Crews is the kind of performer that has his hand in all different facets of the entertainment industry. He's Andy Samberg's co-star on Brooklyn Nine Nine, and he played the president in Idiocracy. He was also the screaming muscle man in all those Old Spice ads. His latest role is in Sandy Wexler, the new Adam Sandler comedy on Netflix. But, before all that, Terry was a football player from Flint, Michigan - like not just high school and college - he played on four NFL teams over 5 years. He was picked by the LA Rams in the 11th round of the 1991 NFL Draft, and in 1996 he played his last season ever for the Eagles.

Terry and Jesse discuss football, and the culture that surrounds the player in training and on the field. They discuss what life was like for Terry after leaving the NFL, and how that time shaped his relationship to fitness. They also discuss his childhood, his relationship to success, and why he works so much.

You can find Terry's new movie Sandy Wexler on Netflix now.

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Photo: Ilya S. Savenok / Stringer

Amber Tamblyn on her new movie Paint It Black

Amber Tamblyn has had a really interesting career. She is the daughter of actor Russ Tamblyn and she appeared in her first ever movie when she was only 12 years old. She's landed roles on TV shows like Joan of Arcadia, General Hospital, Inside Amy Schumer, as well as playing the beloved Tibby character in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies. Tamblyn is also a poet. She's had three books of poetry published, the latest of which, Dark Sparkler, came out a couple years ago and features photos by David Lynch. Now, Tamblyn has written and directed her first ever feature length film. It's called Paint it Black and is based on the Janet Fitch novel of the same name. It tells the story of Josie, whose boyfriend Michael dies suddenly before the film begins.

Amber and Jesse talk about what it was like to direct her first feature film, and the theme of death throughout much of her published works. They talk about what it was like to be a child actor, and the spark of creativity that becoming a new mother has given her.

Paint It Black is in theaters now, and don't forget to pick up a copy of Tamblyn's book of poetry Dark Sparkler.

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The Outshot: The Gap Band

Jesse tells us about the 1982 classic album, The Gap Band IV.

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Bullseye With Jesse Thorn: John Waters and Andy Kindler

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

John Waters on writing, death, and trigger warnings

John Waters is a director who hasn't made a movie in over a decade, and he doesn't really plan to make any more. He's directed some absolute classics like Pink Flamingos, Cry-Baby and probably most notably Hairspray. But even though he's not making movies he's keeping busy - he's done a ton of live performances, released a few compilation albums and he's a published author, too. He's written about half a dozen books, his latest is called Make Trouble. It's an illustrated transcript of a commencement speech he gave in 2015. He's also an actor - he played director William Castle in the latest season of FX's Feud, he even had a cameo in one of those Alvin and the Chipmunks movies.

This week, John and Jesse talk about how he keeps the motivation to work, even after he has achieved so much in his career. They talk about trigger warnings, and John tells Jesse why he was never interested in school.

His new book Make Trouble is available now.

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Andy Kindler on comedy writing, hack stand-ups, and staying funny while angry

Andy Kindler is a stand up comedian. He's also kind of the ombudsman for comedy. Every year since 1996, Andy's taken the stage at the Just for Laughs Festival to give what he calls the State of the Industry speech. Andy gets in front of a giant crowd of stand-ups and industry types and basically puts them all on blast. And it's given Andy a reputation as being sort of a comic's comic. Of course, it's also really, really funny - it gets a huge crowd every year.

Andy and Jesse talk about the hardest part of giving that State of the Industry speech- staying funny while being angry. They also talk about hack comedians of the 1980's and 90's and racism in the industry. Plus, Andy blesses us with very accurate impressions of some of your favorite comics.

You can watch Coming To The Stage on Hulu now. And there are still tickets available for this years Just for Laughs Festival where you can see Andy deliver his State of the Industry speech.

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Photo: John Iacono/Sports Illustrated

The Outshot: Rickey Henderson

Jesse tells us about one of his favorite baseball players, Rickey Henderson.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Moshe Kasher, Brother Ali, and Felicia Day

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Felicia Day

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Moshe Kasher on his new Comedy Central show Problematic

Moshe Kasher has been a stand-up for the last 16 years. You've seen him on The Tonight show with Jimmy Fallon, Conan, and Chelsea Lately.

Now, he's got his own TV show. Problematic with Moshe Kasher is on Comedy Central right now. Like a lot of shows nowadays it has a comedian taking on issues of the day, talking with newsmakers. He's explored cultural appropriation on the show, technology, and Islamophobia, to name a few. But there's something really intriguing in the show's format. He talks with experts and everyday people and the result is this really frank and insightful conversation.

Moshe also had a pretty rough childhood. He grew in Oakland and got kicked out of a bunch of schools and did hard drugs for a while. He talks about that in his autobiography, Kasher in the Rye.

Moshe and Jesse talk about the rough parts about growing up in the Bay Area. He is candid about what he is learning in the transition between doing stand-up and hosting a television show. Finally, he tells us why he thinks a diverse representation of disabled people is lacking in the media, and why he is so keen to take on controversial issues on his new show.

You can watch Moshe's new Comedy Central TV show Problematic Tuesdays at Midnight and his autobiography Kasher and the Rye is out now.

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Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

Felicia Day on The Mighty Boosh

Felicia Day is a comedian, she's an actress, she's kind of a legend in the worlds of comedy and nerdy stuff. She had a recurring spot on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, worked with Wil Wheaton, she's also created and starred in her own web series called The Guild.

She tells us how with the weird British TV series The Mighty Boosh helped heal her with laughter, when she really needed help.

Felicia currently is starring in the anticipated reboot of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on Netflix.

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Photo: Daniel Yang

Brother Ali on his new album and why he's choosing beauty over resistance

Brother Ali is a rapper based out of Minnesota. He's part of the Rhymesayers collective - a label he shares with Aesop Rock, Dilated Peoples, and Atmosphere.

For the first part of his career, he focused a lot on making protest rap. His latest record is called All The Beauty In This Whole Life. And on it, he focuses on a lot more positive stuff. And he does it with a real honesty and openness at the same time. Ali talks about his faith a lot - he's been a Muslim since he was 15. He also talks about his albinism - and how having no pigment in his skin presented a ton of totally unique challenges growing up.

He and Jesse talk about what it was like growing up albino, and how that has affected his racial politics. He tells Jesse what it's like to have a black son in 2017, and why he's chosen to focus his music on love rather than protest in these tumultuous times.

His new album All The Beauty in This Whole Life is out now.

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The Outshot: In The Night Kitchen

Jesse recommends the kids book In The Night Kitchen for children, or adults, who need to remember why dreams are so important.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: George Saunders, Chris Gethard, and DJ Jazzy Jeff

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Bullseye
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George Saunders
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Chris Gethard
Guests: 
DJ Jazzy Jeff

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Chris Gethard on mental health and the importance of failure

Chris Gethard hosted the The Chris Gethard Show for 6 years. It aired first on New York City public access, then later on the Fusion network. You might've also seen him on Broad City or Don't Think Twice, the Mike Birbiglia movie that came out last year.

Chris is also a standup. His latest special, which was produced with Judd Apatow, is called Career Suicide and is kind of a one man show. Career Suicide, specifically talks about alcoholism, depression, and death.

Chris and Jesse talk about his HBO special, and why he's looking forward to taking a break from talking about mental health issues.

Career Suicide premiere's May 6th on HBO.

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The Song That Changed My Life, with DJ Jazzy Jeff: Funkadelic's Knee Deep

Jeffrey Townes is a DJ, record producer and actor from Philadelphia. But you probably know him better as DJ Jazzy Jeff, the producer and collaborator to Will Smith's Fresh Prince. Growing up in Philly in the late 70s, Jazzy Jeff remembers the song that changed his life. It's Funkadelic's Knee Deep.

You can stream his new album Chasing Goosebumps now, and see him on tour this year.

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George Saunders on humor, death, and choosing positivity

Photo: Beowulf Sheehan / ZUMA Press

George Saunders is a writer. His short stories have appeared in the New Yorker, GQ, McSweeney's and more. His 2013 book, a short story collection called Tenth of December, was a finalist for a National Book Award. His latest is called Lincoln in the Bardo - it's his first novel, ever. A lot of his work is funny, but where his other stories focused on absurdity and consumerism, Lincoln in the Bardo goes back to the 19th century, it's almost historical fiction.

In his conversation with Jesse, George talks about his process for writing his first novel, and combating the urge to insert jokes into scenes that are too emotional. They talk about whether he's afraid of death, and about that time he was almost died in a plane crash.

You can find Saunders' new book Lincoln in the Bardo in stores and online now.

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The Outshot: Paul Simon's Graceland

Paul Simon's 1986 Graceland is the perfect record for middle age.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Werner Herzog and Mount Eerie's Phil Elverum

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Phil Elverum of Mount Eerie and The Microphones on his wife's death and creating music honoring that experience

First up: Phil Elverum. He's a recording artist and songwriter. Elverum's career dates back over 20 years, first as the Microphones and later Mt. Eerie. He's produced ambitious, beautiful records that mix genres like folk, noise, death metal, shoegaze and more. It sounds a little like we're listing off different bins in a record store, but it's really compelling stuff.

His albums have all gotten a lot of acclaim, not just because of the studio experimentation but because of the beautiful, kind of ephemeral lyrics he used to tackle big, existential questions.

On his latest record, A Crow Looked At Me, he abandons pretty much all of that. His wife, Geneviève, died of pancreatic cancer last summer.

Phil wrote and recorded the album in the room where she died, using instruments she owned. As an album it's raw, plainly spoken and kind of therapeutic. He talks about really specific moments - trips to the hospital, getting rid of old clothes, getting her mail still.

He talks to Jesse about death and dying, and how he processed thatloss through music. Plus, for a little levity, he talks about his high stakes gambling game: Wad Lord

Phil's new album A Crow Looked At Me is out now.

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Werner Herzog on his new film Salt and Fire

From eating a shoe onstage to hauling a steamboat over a huge hill in the Amazon, German film director Werner Herzog is one of those public figures that has a kind of mythology to him him. But in Werner's case, a lot of it's true. He has had a career that spans more than 5 decades and dozens of awards, working both in documentaries and narrative films. He's known for Grizzly Man, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Fitzcarraldo and Little Dieter Needs To Fly. He says that although he doesn't consider himself a workaholic, he has directed a film almost every year from the beginning of his career, with 3 being released in the last year alone.

Jesse and Werner talk about his new film starring Michael Shannon and Veronica Ferres and what it was like when he was shot during a routine interview with the BBC.

Werner's new films Salt and Fire and Queen of the Desert is out now.

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The Outshot: Broadcast News

Jesse tells us about his why the 1987 classic dramedy Broadcast News is his favorite James L. Brooks film.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Armando Iannucci and Billy Bragg

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus
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Armando Iannucci
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Photo: Linda Nylind

Veep Creator Armando Iannucci on Poking Fun at Politics

What does the career trajectory of a lifelong political junkie look like? There are the obvious choices, like a major in Political Science, law school...maybe even a career in politics. But Armando Iannucci took a different path – one that led him to Oxford, an incomplete PhD, and work writing and producing comedy, like his acclaimed political satire The Thick of It and the feature film In the Loop.

Iannucci created a new take on American politics in the HBO comedy Veep. Now in its second season, the show follows a fictional Vice President (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) with lofty ambitions but little actual power. Veep showcases the comedy inherent in the struggle for the political upper hand, the constant panic and exhaustion. Seemingly small gaffes quickly escalate into ridiculous catastrophes. The show's dialogue is marked by careful attention to absurd politi-speak and some especially creative cursing.

Iannucci joins us to talk about the difference between UK and US politics, why he sympathizes with our elected officials, and conducting swearing research in Washington, D.C.

Ianucci's new film The Death of Stalin comes out later this year.


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The Song That Changed My Life, with Billy Bragg: Bob Dylan's The Times They Are A-Changin

Billy Bragg performs politically-minded folk music with a punk rock edge, songs with a tone and attitude somewhere between Woody Guthrie and the Sex Pistols. But what led to him developing his voice as an artist?

As Bragg explains, one of the most pivotal moments in his life happened during his lunch break at a record store. He put on a record that changed his life: Bob Dylan's folk anthem "The Times They Are A-Changin'".

Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Tapping Into Frustration for Seinfeld and Veep

Most of us first knew Julia Louis-Dreyfus from her Emmy-winning role as Elaine on Seinfeld. Elaine flailed, fought, and danced her way into our hearts as the friend to "losers" Jerry, George and Kramer. But Louis-Dreyfus first arrived in entertainment fresh off her college comedy sketch group, as a repertory player in the Dick Ebersol-helmed cast of Saturday Night Live.

After Seinfeld, she went on to anchor several sitcoms, including The New Adventures of Old Christine, with delightful guest appearances on shows like Arrested Development and 30 Rock. Her career has now taken her to a different cast of skewed characters on HBO's Veep.

On Veep, Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer, Vice President of the United States. Though the vice-presidency is a prestigious position, Meyer's day-to-day work is less than impressive. Her staff members claw at each other for power and prestige. She suffers awkward encounters with the media and consistent snubs from the President (a running gag on the show is Selina's off-hand question, "Did the President call?" The answer is usually no).

Julia Louis-Dreyfus joins us to talk about the similarities she's discovered between show business and politics, the boys' club that was SNL in the 80s, and a certain terrible dance that still haunts her to this day.

Veep airs on HBO on Sundays at 10:30/9:30 PM central.

The Outshot: Jay-Z's "Threat"

Rap isn't poetry – it's its own thing. But, like poets, many of the best rappers imbue their lyrics with layers and layers of meaning. Need proof? Jesse suggests a close listen to Jay-Z's "Threat."

Bulleye With Jesse Thorn: Guy Branum

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Guy Branum on his new tv show and the importance of being charming

Guy Branum is a comedian, writer, actor, podcaster, and now host of his own new TV show, Talk Show The Game Show. Before his career in media, he had his sights set on being a lawyer, completing a law degree and passing the bar exam before leaving that life behind. He realized he had an overwhelming passion for pop culture, and he began his career in stand-up. Eventually, he landed a writing and commentator position on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, and is now a writer on The Mindy Project. He is the host of Bullseye's sister show and Maximum Fun's own Pop Rocket podcast.

In this extended interview, Guy tells Jesse about his new show and some of the challenges that came with creating it. He shares what it was like growing up gay in a farming town outside of Sacramento, his journey of coming out to his family and friends, and why he uses the word "charming" so often.

You can watch Guys show every Wednesday at 10/9c on truTV.


Photo: Spotify

Canonball: Donny Hathaway's Live

Academic and writer Emily Lordi makes the case for why Donny Hathaway's live album deserves to be added to the canon of classic music. She tells us why this 1972 record, largely made up of covers of other people's songs, is so essential to understanding the black artistic experience at the time.

If you want to know more about this album, Emily's 33 ⅓ book on the album is out now.

The Outshot: It's Not Crazy, It's Sports

Photo: ESPN

Jesse tells us why there is no better person to capture the crazy things athletes and fans do than the documentarian Errol Morris.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Baseball Special with Tabitha Soren, Sean Doolittle, and Josh Kantor

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Tabitha Soren
Guests: 
Sean Doolittle
Guests: 
Josh Kantor

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Photo: Christian Petersen / Getty Images

Oakland A's Relief Pitcher Sean Doolittle

This week Jesse talks to Oakland Athletics' reliever Sean Doolittle, who's been called one of the most interesting players in baseball.

Sean had an improbable journey to the majors. He was originally drafted as a hitter in 2007 before being sidelined by knee injuries. He didn't play for two years as a result. Sean talks to Jesse about the physical and mental obstacles he faced during recovery. At one point, he thought about giving up and going back to college to earn his degree.

Eventually, Sean was encouraged to try his hand at pitching instead. As it turns out, he had an excellent arm and could throw in the mid-to-high-90s. He's been on the A's since 2012, and was selected as an All-Star in 2014.

Sean's known as one of the nicest guys in the majors. He's used his platform as a baseball player to raise awareness about a number of causes, including veteran homelessness and the Syrian refugee crisis. Jesse talks to Sean about his outspoken support for LGBT rights, somewhat of a rarity among his fellow players.

You can find out what Sean's up to on Twitter.


Photo: Jim Harrison

Boston Red Sox organist Josh Kantor on the Song that Changed His Life

For fourteen years, Josh Kantor has been the organist for Boston Red Sox games at Fenway Park. He's known for playing creative renditions of popular songs, and six years ago he started taking fan requests via Twitter.

In this Song that Changed My Life segment, Josh recalls one of first Twitter requests he ever got: "Halo" by Beyonce.

When he's not delighting Red Sox fans, Josh plays keys for a rock band called The Baseball Project, a baseball-themed supergroup that includes members of R.E.M. You can find him on Twitter,
where he's now taking song requests for the new season.


Photo: Kevin L. Jones/KQED

Photographer and former MTV newscaster Tabitha Soren on her new book, Fantasy Life

This week Jesse talks to the artist Tabitha Soren. You might remember Soren from her previous life as a newscaster if you watched MTV in the early 1990s. During the era of "Rock the Vote" and Bill Clinton, she was one of the most recognizable young faces on television.

Now Soren is an accomplished artist and photographer, whose work has appeared in galleries around the country. She has a new photography book called Fantasy Life: Baseball and the American Dream, which follows the 2002 Oakland Athletics draft class.

Soren admits she didn't know much about baseball before starting this project. She started shooting the Oakland A's draft class in 2003, while helping her husband with a book he was writing. That book was Moneyball, which became a New York Times bestseller and a movie by the same name. Fantasy Life is an update of sorts to Moneyball. Taken over the last fifteen years, the collection of photographs chronicles the lives of 21 players, most of whom are no longer playing baseball.

Soren talks about the incredible odds that these players faced, and how their struggle is a parable for a uniquely American obsession. She also explains why not knowing much about the game helped her tell a different story than most baseball photographers.

Fantasy Life is now available on Amazon.


The Outshot: The Glory of Their Times

Jesse shares about a book that he believes may be the greatest sports book ever written. Curiously enough, it was written by an economics professor, and it's called The Glory of Their Times.

The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It is available on Amazon.