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

Bulleye With Jesse Thorn: Guy Branum

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Emily Lordi

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

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

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: 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.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: My Brother My Brother and Me and Gina Prince-Bythewood

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Justin McElroy
Guests: 
Travis McElroy
Guests: 
Griffin McElroy
Guests: 
Gina Prince-Bythewood

This week Linda Holmes of NPR's podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour fills in for Jesse this week.

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:Screenshot Via MBMBaM Youtube Channel

My Brother My Brother and Me on their SeeSo show of the same name

This week guest host Linda Holmes talks with Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy, the hilarious three brothers behind the comedy advice podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me. Recently, the brothers became the creators and stars of their very own TV series by the same name on the Seeso streaming network.

The McElroys tell Linda why it was important to them to film their new show in Huntington, West Virginia, where they grew up. They dish on the common misconceptions of their hometown, and what it was like to rope fellow Huntingtonians, including the mayor, into their antics.

The McElroys’ irreverent yet humane sense of humor has won them a following of very passionate fans, especially online. There’s even a McElroy wiki that catalogues the many callbacks and gags that have appeared in their comedy over the years, not to mention the brothers’ other shows with spouses, family members, and friends.

The McElroys tell Linda about how growing up in the same household shaped their comic sensibilities -- and how even after all these years, they’re still trying to make each other laugh.

All episodes of My Brother, My Brother and Me are now available to stream on Seeso. A free episode is available here.


Photo: Larry Busaca/Getty Images

Gina Prince-Bythewood on her new Fox miniseries Shots Fired

Gina Prince-Bythewood is a producer and writer who is probably best known for her 2000 movie Love and Basketball. Raised in Pacific Grove, California Gina moved down to Los Angeles to attend UCLA, graduating from the film school with honors. Gina has directed many movies since her 2000 breakthrough, films such as The Secret Life of Bee's and Beyond The Lights.

Her new project called Shots Fired, created with her husband Reggie Rock Bythewood, was a film idea turned mini series dealing with issues of race inequality and police corruption and violence against the black community. The murders of unarmed black men and women at the hands of white police officers and in particular the acquittal of George Zimmerman from the murder of Trayvon Martin were the catalyst for this project.

Gina tells Linda how rejection has influenced her work ethic, why she thinks it's important to represent diverse experiences and casts, and why she think Love and Basketball is cherished by so many people.

You can watch Shots Fired on Fox every Wednesday at 8/7c.

The Outshot: Pete Seeger

Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Linda tells us about a musician who can turn literally anybody into a great singer, doesn't matter who you are.

Bullseye With Jesse Thorn: Paul Shaffer, Javaka Steptoe, and Louis Theroux

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Paul Shaffer
Guests: 
Javaka Steptoe
Guests: 
Louis Theroux

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: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Paul Shaffer on Leaving The Late Show and his new album

Paul Shaffer is best known for his work as the band leader and music director on David Letterman’s late night TV shows, from the late 80’s until 2015. Though he was in charge of choosing and playing the music that would appear on the show, Shaffer was kind of a sidekick to Letterman, pulling things out of hats and setting up joke punchlines for him. Before Shaffer was on The Late Show, he was a band member on Saturday Night Live. He would appear in sketches with Bill Murray and would play piano during the Blues Brothers sketches. Letterman took notice and decided he wanted that rapport to be a part of his show.

Shaffer is not just known for working with Letterman. He has written a couple of really great disco tunes, including the 1983 jam It's Raining Men, and plays with The Late Show's The World's Most Dangerous Band.

He and Jesse talk about his expansive career, what it was like working on a show everyday for half of his life then not, and his impressive eyewear.

You can catch Paul Shaffer & The World's Most Dangerous Band on tour this Spring. Their new album is on sale now.


Photo: Gregg Richards

Javaka Steptoe on his Caldecott Award Winning book Radiant Child

Javaka Steptoe is a children's book author and illustrator who has made a career of biographizing his heroes and creating books that reflect the diversity of his neighborhood. He makes an effort to illustrate books that have people of all races, all kinds of families, from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds present.

Growing up in New York and being the son of children's book author/illustrator John Steptoe, Javaka knew he was going to be an artist from the time he was a child. His first book In Daddy's Arms I am Tall, received the Coretta Scott King award for Illustrators in 1997, and many of his subsequent books recieved awards and recognition. His newest book, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat has won the 2017 Caldecott award, which is basically the Pulitzer Prize for children's books.

Javaka joins Jesse to talk about what it was like to grow up with a well known father, where his passion and interest in Jean-Michel Basquiat came from, and why he finds it important to create diversity in the books that children read.

Javaka's book Radiant Child:The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is out now.


Photo: Jesse Thorn

The Craziest Day Of My Career: Louis Theroux

Louis Theroux is a British documentarian whose career has found himself interacting with some of the most depraved and despised people in our society. He reported on the family who runs the Westboro Baptist Church and spent time with the the leader of the White Aryan Resistance and his family. Louis, whose main interest is finding out why members of niche political parties and subcultures do what they do, also spends time with less harmful people, such as UFO hunters and Swingers on his BBC program Weird Weekends. As a part of this series, he reported on the pro-wrestling community in the United States, and took on the challenge of training with the new recruits. Louis recalls that experience for us as the craziest day of his career. Lets just say, things did not end well.

Louis has a new documentary out now called My Scientology Movie.

The Outshot: John Wick 2

What makes a perfect action film? No dialogue.

Bullseye With Jesse Thorn: Sam Richardson and Syd of The Internet

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Sam Richardson
Guests: 
Syd

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.

This week, Wyatt Cenac sits in for Jesse Thorn.


Photo: Kevin Ferguson

Sam Richardson on growing up in and returning to Detroit

Sam Richardson is an actor, writer, and comic. He was born in Detroit, but he has a Ghanaian mother. His childhood was split between the two places. After college, Sam moved to Chicago to pursue comedy through The Second City improv theater. He then moved to LA where he landed a couple of small roles in TV comedies like The Office and Arrested Development, eventually getting his breakout SAG nominated role as Richard Splett on HBO's Veep. Now, Sam's co-created and starred in the new Comedy Central show Detroiters produced by Lorne Michaels and Jason Sudeikis. It's about two young men (Sam and co-creator Tim Robinson) who acquire an advertising company in Detroit.

Sam talks to Wyatt about creating his new show, what it was like growing up between the United States and Ghana, and what people get wrong about Detroit.

You can watch Sam on Detroiters Tuesday's at 10:30/9:30 c on Comedy Central and on the sixth season of Veep which premieres on April 16th.


Photo: Jesse Thorn

Syd on her new album Fin

Syd was born and raised in Los Angeles, and has been making music for most of her life. She began her career producing and singing on tracks in the music collective Odd Future when she was still in high school. In 2011, she and producer Matt Martians started an R&B band called The Internet. Six years later, they are signed to Columbia Records, have three albums under their belt, and one Grammy nomination. This year, Syd decided to venture out on her own and released her first solo album Fin to great reviews

Syd sits down with Wyatt to talk about about how she wrote and produced her new album, the influence of her parents on her music, and why she is not in a rush to meet her idols.

She is currently on tour and her debut solo album Fin is out now.

The Outshot: The Thing With Two Heads

This week, Wyatt tells us about the 1972 Blaxploitation film The Thing with Two Heads.

Bullseye With Jesse Thorn: Danny McBride and Miroslav Vitous

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Danny McBride
Guests: 
Misoslav Vitous

[r] 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

Danny McBride on Writing Dark Comedy, Returning to High School, and Playing the Antihero

Danny McBride is a comedic writer and actor who started his career starring in the cult classic comedy, The Foot Fist Way. Although the film went to Sundance and was a modest success, McBride went back to North Virginia to work as a substitute teacher. Danny and frequent collaborator Jody Hill began creating the series Eastbound & Down, which would jumpstart McBride’s career and make him a film and television star.

He has appeared in a number of comedies, such as Tropic Thunder, 30 Minutes or Less, and Observe and Report. McBride is perhaps best known for writing and starring in the HBO series Eastbound & Down, where he plays disgraced MLB player, Kenny Powers.

McBride sat down with Jesse to talk about about working with Jody Hill, writing for Eastbound and Down, and dealing with people who idolize Kenny Powers just a little too much.

The second season of Vice Principals is out this summer.

Miroslav Vitous on the Recording Session that Changed His Life

Jazz bassist Miroslav Vitouš explains how working with Weather Report on the composition "Morning Lake" is an experience he will never forget.

Miroslav Vitouš's new album is called Music of Weather Report.

The Outshot: The Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Jesse talks about the film Hunt for The Wilderpeople and why calling it "twee" is actually a compliment.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Desus Nice, The Kid Mero, and Walter Murch

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Bullseye
Guests: 
The Kid Mero
Guests: 
Desus Nice
Guests: 
Walter Murch

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.

Ray Suarez guest hosts this week.


Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Desus Nice and The Kid Mero on their new Viceland TV show Desus & Mero

Desus and Mero have worked together since 2013 when they started their first podcast Desus vs. Mero but have actually known each other since going to summer school together in The Bronx. Both Mero and Desus have huge Twitter followings, where they first cultivated a rapport. Eventually, they transferred it to podcasting. After their first podcast ended, they started The Bodega Boys which has a similar vibe and is everything that makes podcasts great; improvised, diverse, hilarious, and irreverent. Their success in podcasting has lead to Vice tapping them to host their flagship late-night show on Viceland, the new television network. It's called Desus & Mero, of course.
In for Jesse Thorn, public media legend Ray Suarez talk with Desus and Mero about their new TV show and the differences between being funny on twitter and producing a TV show or podcast. They tell us why they talk about race so much, and give us a look into what it was really like to grow up in Bronx in the 1980's.


You can watch Desus & Mero weeknights at 11 p.m. on Viceland. You can also find The Bodega Boys podcast on iTunes or wherever you download podcasts.


Photo: Vittorio Zunino Celotto

Walter Murch talks sound and film editing and the new book about him, Waves Passing in the Night

Three time Academy Award winning sound designer and film editor Walter Murch has been a part of Hollywood scene for over 50 years. One of his most frequent collaborators is Francis Ford Coppola - he worked on Apocalypse Now and The English Patient. In his free time, though, he does something completely different: astrophysics. He's particularly mesmerized by Bode's Law, the almost 250 year old theory that explains the spacing and orbit of the planets. Murch is the subject of Lawrence Weschler's new book Waves Passing in the Night, which chronicles Murch's education in astrophysics.
Murch tells Ray about how the move from analog to digital machines changed the game, his obsession with science and astrophysics, and what he learned about sound editing from Marlon Brando.
Waves Passing In The Night is out now.

The Outshot: The Young Pope

Photo: HBO

Ray tells us why the HBO limited series The Young Pope is so surprisingly captivating.

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

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Zach Galifianakis
Guests: 
Michael K. Williams

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

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

[r] 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 best known for his roles in The Hangover films and in the Between Two Ferns web series. But he's also been in a lot more, from Up in the Air, to Birdman to Bored to Death. He's now the star and co-creator of the FX series, Baskets, currently in its second season. In the show, 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, which begins its second season in March.

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.

The second season of Hap and Leonard begins airing on March 15.

The Outshot: Gravediggaz’s Poetic

Jesse remembers the poignancy of the late rapper Poetic, who detailed his harrowing fight with cancer in one of his final songs.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Pete Holmes and Mike Mills

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Pete Holmes
Guests: 
Mike Mills

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: Frederick M Brown/Getty Images

Pete Holmes, creator and star of HBO's Crashing

This week Jesse talks with standup comic Pete Holmes. He's the creator and star of Crashing, a brand new show on HBO that's based in part on his life.

Compared with many of his standup peers, Pete had somewhat of an atypical upbringing. He was raised as an evangelical Christian and attended a Christian college, where he studied to be a youth pastor. He began performing standup in his early 20s, getting his start in New York City's club scene before playing to crowds around the country.

At the age of 28, Pete's marriage fell apart, which forced him to reevaluate his life and beliefs. Pete talks to Jesse about how setbacks such as his divorce and the cancellation of his late night show on TBS, The Pete Holmes Show, ended up paving the way for his current success. His divorce also supplied autobiographical material for his new HBO series Crashing. In the show, he plays a young comedian who finds himself dazed and newly single after his wife leaves him for a boxer.

Crashing premieres on HBO on February 19th.


Photo: Jesse Thorn

Mike Mills, director of 20th Century Women

Jesse also talks with Mike Mills, director of 20th Century Women, which is up for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. Before his career in feature films, Mills made his name directing short films and music videos, working with bands like Air, Blonde Redhead, and Pulp.

In 2010, Mills directed Beginners, a comedy/drama that told the story of a fictionalized version of his father, who came out of the closet in his late 70s. Christopher Plummer, who played his dad, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Mills' latest film, 20th Century Women, is about his mom. It tells the story of Dorothea (Annette Benning), a single mom living in a big house in Santa Barbara with two boarders and her teenage son, Jamie. The movie is also an exploration of the 1970s cultural landscape, including 2nd wave feminism and punk rock.

Mike talks with Jesse about his relationship with his parents, who grew up in the Depression era, as well as his philosophy on character development. He also tell Jesse about one of his first loves: skateboarding.

Learn more about 20th Century Women and where you can watch it.

Photo: YouTube

The Outshot: Babe: Pig in the City

You might laugh if you hear about a movie with CGI-rendered talking animals, but that just means you haven't seen Babe: Pig in the City. In this week's Outshot, Jesse explains why a movie about a brave little pig wandering through a bustling metropolis makes him cry every time he watches it.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Cristela Alonzo and Stretch Armstrong

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Cristela Alonzo
Guests: 
Stretch Armstrong

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: Tommaso Boddi / Stringer

Cristela Alonzo has a new stand-up special on Netflix, Lower Classy

Cristela Alonzo is a veteran standup comedian, actress, writer, and producer. She's also something of a pioneer. You might remember her from the ABC sitcom Cristela, where she was the first Latina to create, write, produce, and star in her own show.

In this week's episode, she talks to Jesse about her formative years growing up in South Texas with an undocumented parent. Hiding from police and immigration raids were daily realities in her small border town. Her family was also desperately poor--she recalls squatting in an abandoned diner.

Down the road, Cristela discovered she had a talent for weaving those tough experiences into comedy gold. That gift is on full display in her new Netflix standup special, Lower Classy, as she takes on difficult topics including racial stereotypes, immigration, poverty, and parenting, all with her trademark smile and laugh. Cristela recalls the long journey that led to the special, and how being a comedian is, for her, about more than simply making people laugh.

Cristela Alonzo's new standup special, Lower Classy, is available to stream on Netflix now.


Photo: John Phillips / Stringer

Stretch Armstrong

Stretch Armstrong is a renowned DJ, record collector, and writer. It's impossible to tell the story of New York rap in the 1990s--what some people consider the Golden Era of Hip-Hop--without at least mentioning The Stretch and Bobbito Show, the influential college radio program that he and Robert "Bobbito" Garcia co-hosted from 1990 to 1998.

In their time, Stretch and Bobbito were among the only FM radio outlets for a generation of New York rappers. MCs like Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious BIG, and Nas. The behind-the-scenes stories from those days are the stuff of hip-hop folklore, and the subject of documentary that came out a little over a year ago, called Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives. It's available to stream on Netflix now.

Stretch, whose real name is Adrian Bartos, also recently co-authored a book. He and Evan Auerbach teamed up to make a visual history of New York City's club scene, called No Sleep: NYC Nightlife Flyers 1988-1999.

The Outshot: "Wells for Boys"

In this week's Outshot, Jesse shares a Saturday Night Live sketch that spoke to him in a particularly magical way. Behold, Wells for Boys: