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: Jon Ronson & Peter Guralnick

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Jon Ronson
Guests: 
Peter Guralnick
Guests: 
Guy Branum

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.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.


Photo by Jesse Thorn

Jon Ronson on the Aftereffects of Public Shaming and Why He Values People Over Ideologies

If the name Justine Sacco rings a bell with you, we'd guess it's because you remember this poorly-conceived and ill-judged tweet she sent that was heard around the world.

"Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!"

People on Twitter piled on, Justine Sacco publicly shamed and fired, and everyone went about their business. Except for Justine, that is.

Jon Ronson's new book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed, explores the effects that public shaming has on the shamed and the shamers.

He joins us to talk about Justine's tweet and whether or not public shaming is always a force for good.

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Photo by Seth Olenick

Comedy: Guy Branum in the Caribbean

Maybe you've heard our new sister podcast about culture, Pop Rocket. It’s hosted by a comic called Guy Branum. His new stand up album Effable was just released, so we thought this’d be a good opportunity to play you some of his set from last year’s Atlantic Ocean Comedy and Music Festival, AKA Boat Party dot Biz. So here’s the great Guy Branum, recorded live on a ship in the Caribbean.

Canonball: Peter Guralnick Gets "Knocked Out" by the Blues

It's time for Canonball. We take a leap into the deep end and talk to experts about classic albums -- or albums that should be considered classics -- and find out what makes them great.

This week, we’re joined by music historian and journalist Peter Guralnick. He's written about rock, soul and blues musicians for decades, profiling Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Sam Cooke, and Elvis among dozens of others.

But for our segment, he chose a record that captures what he loves about live music. It was recorded by the ethnomusicologist Harry Oster in the late 50s and early 60s, and it was released on as Country Negro Jam Sessions. (Please excuse the anachronistic title).

Several of Peter's books, including his acclaimed biography of Elvis, are now reissued with video and audio in e-book format. You can find more at PeterGuralnick.com.

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The Outshot: Man Seeking Woman

What if a bad date was literally one of the worst things ever? Jesse explores Simon Rich's unique talents in Man Seeking Woman.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Tom Scharpling & Andy Summers

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Guests: 
Tom Scharpling
Guests: 
Andy Summers

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.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.


Photo by Jesse Thorn

Tom Scharpling on The Best Show's Past and Future

For most of the past fifteen years, Tom Scharpling has hosted a free-form comedy show called The Best Show. It began on the New Jersey community radio station WFMU, and it grew into its own universe. That universe includes regular calls in character from Scharpling's comedy partner Jon Wurster, and a thriving community of listeners and callers.

A few years ago, the show moved from its home on the radio to a new home on the internet, where it still streams each Tuesday evening night and podcasts every week.

Tom Scharpling joined us to talk about his on-air personality, his community of listeners, and the creation of The Best Show's aesthetic.

A new box set from the Numero Group of Scharpling and Wurster's work is called The Best of the Best Show.

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Photo by Eric Michael Pearson

Comedy: Sara Schaefer's Tale of Deodorant

Sara Schaefer is a comedian, writer and performer who's appeared on @Midnight, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Best Week Ever, and Inside Amy Schumer. You may have also seen her work with her comedy partner Nikki Glaser on MTV's Nikki and Sara Live.

On her new stand up album, she shared a memory of her treasured middle school years.

Sara Schaefer's debut stand up album is called Chrysalis. You can find Sara's upcoming stand up dates here.


Photo by Jesse Thorn

Andy Summers of The Police on Songwriting and Rock Stardom

By the time The Police released "Roxanne", their first single from their debut album in 1978, guitarist Andy Summers had gone through several phases of his career. By sixteen, he was playing in local clubs and in short order he was playing with the London-based R&B group, Zoot Money's Big Roll Band. That group evolved into a psychedelic rock band in the late 1960s. Summers played a brief American tour with The Soft Machine, then rejoined Zoot Money to play with a new incarnation of The Animals before finally taking a break.

He studied classical guitar for a few years in Los Angeles, and by the time he formed The Police with Sting and Stewart Copeland in 1977, he had playing music professionally for over fifteen years.

Summers' story with that band is documented in the new documentary Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police. The movie is in theaters now.

He joined us to talk about the origins of some of the band's songs and the strange experience of being a rock star.

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The Outshot: The Nicest Guy in Showbiz

Jesse tells us about one of the folks who made Conan O'Brien's show the weird and wonderful thing it is today. He's Brian Stack, nicest guy in showbiz.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: George Clinton & Christian Acker

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P-Funk's George Clinton: From Doo Wop to Funk, and Saving His Musical Career

The musician, producer and 73-year-old mastermind of Parliament-Funkadelic, George Clinton, has never been shy of the limelight. He started his career singing doo wop, later found himself writing songs for Motown, and finally wound up creating a wholly unique sound and visual experience with Parliament-Funkadelic. They made hits like One Nation Under A Groove and Flashlight and their performances were as funky as their tunes.

In recent years, Clinton has found himself entangled in a series of legal battles over the copyrights of his songs. While fighting in the courts, George found himself fighting for his health as well. The doctor of the Funk gave himself his own prognosis: if he was going to continue a musical career and regain agency in his business affairs, he had to clean up his act, and he has.

The pioneer of funk joins us this week to talk about the evolution of his musical career, getting wild onstage, and putting forward momentum back into his musical career -- and even gives us an update on Sly Stone.

George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic are still touring and recording, and Clinton recently released his memoir, Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?.

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Andrew Noz on All-Time Favorite Tracks: Organized Konfusion and Ice-T

Hip hop critic Andrew Noz digs way back in the catalogs of past Bullseye guests Pharoahe Monch and Ice-T to recommend some of his favorite tracks.

He suggests taking a listen to the amazing technical performances in Organized Konfusion's "Bring It On", and revisiting a poetic early track from Ice-T, "High Rollers".

Andrew Noz is a hip hop journalist. You can find him blogging at Cocaine Blunts or on Tumblr.

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Comedy: Chris Fairbanks Wonders About Owls

The comedian Chris Fairbanks joined us a few years ago at our annual convocation in the woods, MaxFunCon. And he wondered -- what's up with all these owls?

You can find more from Chris on his official site and on his podcast Do You Need a Ride?, which he co-hosts with Karen Kilgariff.

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Why Tagging is Beautiful: Christian Acker and "Flip the Script"

You know those tags you see on walls, park benches and trash cans everywhere? You might not think it's something beautiful, but Christian Acker does. His book Flip the Script is a look at graffiti typography, and celebrates the art of tagging -- one of the last strongholds of highly refined penmanship.

Acker collected writing and spoke to graffiti artists all over the country, to chronicle and analyze hand styles from Oakland to Queens. In a world where people too rarely place ink to paper, we'll look at a typographical expression that reflects your individuality, roots, and even how long you've been practicing.

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The Outshot: Baba O'Riley

There's at least a couple of good parts of teenagerdom. This week, Jesse shares some of them with The Who's Baba O'Riley.

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This episode originally aired March 11, 2014.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Lynda Barry & Tom Arnold

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Lynda Barry
Guests: 
Tom Arnold
Guests: 
Brian Coleman

It's MaxFunDrive time! The production of Bullseye is funded by your donations. Become a monthly sustaining member now, and get cool thank you-gifts, plus unlock challenge funds from other donors and help us meet our goal of 4000 new and upgrading members by March 27th. Just visit www.maximumfun.org/donate!


Photo: Guillaume Paumier, CC-BY

Lynda Barry Inspires Us to Get Creative with Monsters

Lynda Barry is a self-identified "freak", a cartoonist, a writer, and for the last couple of years, she's also been a college professor teaching interdisciplinary creativity at the University of Wisconsin.

What does that mean? Well, she encourages students to abandon their fears of creating and embrace their work and process.

Her most recent book, Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor collects her lesson plans and writing and drawing exercises.

Lynda talks with us about using monsters as a tool, why we're sometimes afraid to draw, and how elementary school aged kids can teach us a thing or two.

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Canonball: Brian Coleman Talks about Mantronix: The Album

Every so often we interview music journalists and experts, and ask them which records they think should be part of the pop music canon. It's Canonball.

This week, we're talking with the acclaimed rap journalist Brian Coleman, author of the series Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip Hop Junkies. He chose to talk to us about Mantronix.

In the mid-1980s, producer Kurtis Mantronik and MC Tee joined forces and created the hip hop group Mantronix.

Kurtis Mantronik rocked the TR-808 drum machine, and MC Tee moved the party along with his lyrics.

Together, they recorded Mantronix: The Album, and influenced the producers who followed them.

Brian Coleman's newest edition of "liner notes" is Check the Technique Volume 2.

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Tom Arnold Talks About Shaking Off the Bullies and Making His Own Way

Tom Arnold is a real show business survivor. In the mid 1990s he got famous -- both the kind you want to be, and the kind you don't want to be. His first big job in Hollywood was as a writer on Roseanne. He ended up married to her. He became a regular on the show and their relationship was tabloid fodder for five years. By the time they broke up in 1994, you couldn't make it through a late night monologue without a Tom Arnold joke.

But that was just the beginning of Tom Arnold's ride. A star making performance in a huge hit movie, True Lies, made him a star. Then a disastrous series of broad comedies made his career a punchline again.

But Arnold never stopped working, as a character actor, as a sports talk show host, as a stand up comic, and now in his 50s he's a dad for the first time and he's now been a star in Hollywood for thirty years. His new show is Yahoo's Sin City Saints. Arnold also continues to perform stand up across the country.

Tom talks with us about growing up in Iowa and fighting bullies, the difficulties of working in Las Vegas, his enduring respect for Roseanne, and the way he's found satisfaction with his work.

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The Outshot: MacGruber

Jesse heartily disagrees with A.O. Scott's review of the film version of MacGruber. In short: MacGruber exists, and the world is better for it.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Patton Oswalt, 'Fresh Off the Boat' & Jemaine Clement

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Patton Oswalt
Guests: 
Randall Park
Guests: 
Nahnatchka Khan
Guests: 
Jemaine Clement

It's MaxFunDrive time! The production of Bullseye is funded by your donations. Become a monthly sustaining member now, and get cool thank you-gifts, plus unlock challenge funds from other donors and help us meet our goal of 2000 new and upgrading members by March 27th. Just visit www.maximumfun.org/donate!


Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Patton Oswalt on Immersion in Art (and Life)

There was a period of time in the mid to late 1990s when Patton Oswalt spent most of his waking hours indoors. He'd be in a TV writers' room all day, make his way to the movie theater for a film or two, and then hit the stand up stage before going to sleep. Then he'd get up and do it all over again.

His movie obsession was supposed to teach him how to be a filmmaker and create better art, but he found he was missing out on life, and art was no substitute.

Oswalt's new book is called Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life From an Addiction to Film.

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Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Jemaine Clement on Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life"

You likely know Jemaine Clement best as half of the New Zealand comedy-music duo The Flight of the Conchords. Their show ran for several seasons on HBO.

More recently, Clement co-wrote, -directed and -stars in the new movie What We Do in the Shadows, about modern day vampire housemates.

What song changed his life? Stevie Wonder's recording of "For Once in My Life".

What We Do in the Shadows is in theaters now.

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Photo: ABC/Bob D'Amico

The Asian-American Sitcom in 2015: Randall Park and Nahnatchka Khan on 'Fresh Off the Boat'

Fresh Off the Boat is the first network sitcom about Asian-Americans in a long time, and that's a big deal. The creative team behind the show, including memoirist Eddie Huang, showrunner Nahnatchka Khan and star Randall Park have publicly grappled with that blessing and burden. How do you retain the specificity of the Tawainese-American experience and provide that to a group of Americans who are hungry for mass-market representation, and also make a show that's big-tent enough to welcome hundreds of millions of Americans who don't know what bao are?

We're joined by Nahnatchka Khan and Randall Park to talk about trying to achieve those goals, how they see their own American experiences, and how to write a sitcom dad who's not dumb.

Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesday nights at 8/7c on ABC.

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The Outshot: The Perfect Sly & the Family Stone 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: RuPaul & Terry Crews

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RuPaul on the Many Shades of Drag

Before he was the world's most famous drag queen, RuPaul was just a kid growing up in San Diego, California. But he knew something was different about him. He noticed things that other people didn't. He found joy in the irreverence of characters like Bugs Bunny, and TV shows like Monty Python's Flying Circus. When he was still in his teens, he packed his bags and followed his sister to Atlanta. He attended performing arts high school, and a brief stint as a car salesman, he started performing with a couple of underground bands. They were searching for a way to be subversive, and decided to perform in drag. RuPaul found that something clicked -- both for himself, and for the audience.

He spent years performing and appearing on public access TV, but he became an international star with his 1992 hit single, "Supermodel".

Recently, he's hosted RuPaul's Drag Race, a reality competition series featuring RuPaul as host and mentor to the contestants as they battle to become America's next drag superstar. Drag Race is now in its seventh season on LOGO TV.

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Carolyn Kellogg Recommends: Cryonics and Gangsters

We're joined by Carolyn Kellogg to talk about books!

Her first recommendation is a memoir about a TV repairman's obsession with immortality that leads to his professional pursuit of cryonics -- the art of freezing people. It's called Freezing People Is (Not) Easy: My Adventures in Cryonics by Bob Nelson, Kenneth Bly and Sally Magana.

Her second recommendation is a twining novel about the legendary gangster Meyer Lansky and a murder investigation in Israel, called Jacket Copy.

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My Brother My Brother and Me Solve Your Cultural Quandaries

The hosts of the podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me won't hesitate to give their advice, though they don't always suggest you follow it.

Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy and Griffin McElroy stop by Bullseye to answer some of our listeners' cultural quandaries. Here are their takes on dealing with your parents' (terrible) TV recommendations, what it means to hog a game at a barcade, and how comedians should respond to hecklers in the crowd.

If you’ve still got questions that need answers, the McElroy brothers host a weekly advice show for the modern era called My Brother, My Brother, and Me. You can subscribe wherever you download podcasts, and send your queries to mbmbam@maximumfun.org.

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Terry Crews on Art, Athletics, and Comedy

Terry Crews has taken a pretty unconventional path. He played football in college, but he didn't go on scholarship, and joined the team as a walk on. He played in the NFL for years as a linebacker with the Rams and the Chargers, but when he was done, he didn't become a sports commentator.

Instead, Crews went back to one of his first loves -- the arts. And while he continues his devotion to his workout regimen, he now uses his physicality in his work as an actor. He's worked steadily in a string of movies like The Longest Yard and The Expendables, and adds a tough-but-caring element to his characters in TV shows like Everybody Hates Chris and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

You can see him now as an essential part of Brooklyn Nine-Nine's ensemble as the police detective and family man, Sergeant Terry Jeffords.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Sunday nights on FOX.

Crews is also the author of a memoir, called Manhood: How to Be a Better Man - or Just Live with One.

This week, Crews tells us about growing up in Flint, Michigan, discovering his love of both art and physical fitness, the difficulty of ending an NFL career, and the joys of working on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

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The Outshot: Nas' Illmatic

Jesse shares the greatest hip-hop album ever recorded, Nas' Illmatic. A bold claim? Yes. A true claim? Also yes.

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This episode originally aired March 25, 2014.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Nick Hornby & Luis Guzmán

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Nick Hornby
Guests: 
Luis Guzmán

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Photo: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

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 nominee An Education.

His new 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.

He 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.

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Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

Luis Guzmán of Ana Maria in Novela Land 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 see Luis Guzmán playing evil lawyer Licenciado Schmidt in the new movie Ana Maria in Novela Land, in theaters now.

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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.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: The Pointer Sisters

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The Pointer Sisters Get Excited (About Music, Clothes, and More)

The Pointer Sisters have always been musical chameleons. They had huge dance-pop hits in the 1980s, like "I'm So Excited" and "Jump (For My Love)", but at that point they had already found success in genres from jazz to R&B to disco, and even won a Grammy for their country hit, "Fairytale". The sisters grew up in Oakland, California and were taught by their reverend father that rock and roll was 'the devil's work'. However, when their parents weren't around, they snuck in listening sessions to Elvis, The Supremes, and James Brown.

Sisters Bonnie and June Pointer formed the earliest incarnation of the group in 1969, joined within several years by Ruth and Anita. They recorded their debut self-titled album in 1973, and the single "Yes We Can Can" became their first hit. They went on to record more hits over the next few decades, including "How Long (Betcha' Got a Chick on the Side)", a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Fire", and "He's So Shy".

Ruth and Anita Pointer join us for a wild and entertaining interview about their signature vintage style, forging their own musical path, and mixing family with business.

This interview originally aired February 18, 2014.

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Carolyn Kellogg Talks Westerns

Every week we like to check in with one of our favorite culture critics to get some recommendations of things that are worth your time. This week, Los Angeles Times book critic Carolyn Kellogg stops by to talk about some of her all-time favorite westerns, starting with one that broke the mold.

Her first recommendation is Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses.

Kellogg also recommends Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers.

This segment originally aired July 22, 2014.

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Bobby Lopez on The Song That Changed My Life: "Pure Imagination"

Think of a song you know by heart. A song that's been in your life for such a long time, you don't even remember when you first heard it. Maybe it was in your favorite movie as a kid.

Bobby Lopez writes those kind of songs. He's a composer for musicals and movies, and co-created the hit Broadway shows The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q. He and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez are behind the enormously successful songs for Disney's Frozen, including Let It Go.

This week, Bobby shares the song that changed his life: the inspiring and magical Pure Imagination, from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

This segment originally aired February 18, 2014.

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The Outshot: The Muppet Movie

Why do folks get into showbiz? If you think it's all to get attention, fame, or money, let The Muppet Movie show you why you're wrong.

This segment originally aired February 18, 2014.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Spike Lee & The Creators of 'High Maintenance'

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Spike Lee
Guests: 
Katja Blichfeld
Guests: 
Ben Sinclair

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Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Spike Lee on 'Da Sweet Blood of Jesus', the Knicks, and Gentrification

Jesse sits down with acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee. Spike tells us about how addiction is made explicit in his new movie, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, how he really feels about Larry Bird and about his own very serious addiction.... to Air Jordans.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is in theaters now and available on VOD.

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Photo courtesy Matt Doyle

High Maintenance: Co-Creators Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair Talk About Marijuana, Their Webseries, and Asking for Money

Jesse sits down with Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair. Katja Blichfeld is a casting director who previously won an Emmy for her work on 30 Rock; Ben Sinclair is an actor. The two are a married couple, and created the series High Maintenance, a “not on television” show that follows a New York City marijuana delivery guy as he visits his various clients.

The series has evolved over two seasons and several years of production. Sinclair and Blichfeld released the second half of season 2 on Vimeo earlier this month.

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The Outshot: Wonder Showzen

MTV2's Wonder Showzen looked like a kids' show. But it wasn't. It really, really, wasn't. Jesse tells us why Wonder Showzen is his favorite TV satire of the past decade.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Rene Russo & Dan Gilroy of 'Nightcrawler'

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Rene Russo
Guests: 
Dan Gilroy
Guests: 
Alexandre Desplat

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.

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Dan Gilroy and Rene Russo of 'Nightcrawler' on Seediness in TV News, Writing a Desperate But Strong Female Character, and the Constraints of Independent Film

Dan Gilroy is the writer and director of the movie Nightcrawler, which is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, a video stringer for a local TV news program, and Dan's wife Rene Russo as an overnight news producer, Nina.

Lou is an anti-hero, bordering on a psychopath. His attempts to build a career and establish relationships with others are charmingly off-kilter. But also more than a little creepy. Russo’s character, Nina, ends up on the receiving end of both the charm and the creepiness.

Jesse spoke with Gilroy and Russo in front of a live audience at a benefit for the film nonprofit Vidiots.

Nightcrawler is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

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Song Exploder: Alexandre Desplat on Creating The Imitation Game's Theme

Alexandre Desplat is an Academy-Award-nominated French film composer. He's written the score for lots of Hollywood movies: Zero Dark Thirty, Harry Potter, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and several Harry Potter films among others.

Desplat talked to Hrishi Hirway for an episode of his podcast, Song Exploder. On Song Exploder, Hrishi asks musicians to deconstruct their songs, track by track. This year, Alexandre has been nominated again for an Oscar twice in the same category, for his work on both "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "The Imitation Game".

The Imitation Game stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the English mathematician Alan Turing. Turing helped crack the Enigma code during World War II, but his achievements didn't keep him from being persecuted for his sexuality.

Desplate broke down the orchestration in the main theme from the film.

You can listen to other episodes of Song Exploder on our website, in iTunes or wherever you download podcasts.


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The Outshot: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Jesse talks about beauty, perfectionism and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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