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: John Oliver & Larry Wilmore

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John Oliver on 'Last Week Tonight', American Positivity and a Love Story That Began at the RNC

Though John Oliver is English, he's probably best known now for being part of an American cultural institution -- The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He served as the show's "Senior British Correspondent" for seven years before he was tapped to guest host in 2013. Stewart went off to shoot a documentary, and Oliver filled in as host for eight weeks, to great critical acclaim.

It was an audition of sorts, and Oliver got the part. He was offered his own weekly show on HBO, which began airing just a few weeks ago. Last Week Tonight provides Oliver his own platform to talk and joke about everything from the death penalty to climate change to the Indian general election.

He joins us to talk about his love for American positivity, his tone and approach for Last Week Tonight, the unique challenges of doing news satire and the signature field pieces of The Daily Show, and the romantic story of how he met his wife at the Republican National Convention.

Oliver's show Last Week Tonight airs on HBO Sunday nights at 11pm. He also co-hosts The Bugle podcast with Andy Zaltzman.

This interview originally aired May 20, 2014.

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My Brother, My Brother and Me Proffer Advice: Reading Classic Lit, Gaming with Your Boss, and Solo Concert-Going

Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy and Griffin McElroy stop by Bullseye to solve our cultural quandaries. Listen to their advice on reading classic literature like "Super Fudge", playing video games with your boss and grooving solo at a James Taylor concert.

If you still have 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.

This segment originally aired January 28, 2014.

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Larry Wilmore on His Early Comedy Writing and Training at The Daily Show

Last year, as Stephen Colbert stepped away from The Colbert Report, Comedy Central cast their net for a new nightly host. They settled on someone close to home -- the Daily Show correspondent Larry Wilmore. Wilmore has just launched the new program. It's called The Nightly Show.

Before his time with Jon Stewart, Wilmore wrote for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and In Living Color. He also created The Bernie Mac Show, and co-created The PJs with Eddie Murphy.

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore airs weeknights at 11:30 on Comedy Central.

This interview originally aired February 3, 2009.

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The Outshot: Why "I Want You Back" Is The Greatest Pop Song Ever

There's really only one way to prove "I Want You Back" is the greatest pop song ever: listen.

This segment originally aired September 23, 2013.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Kaitlin Olson & Jeff Chang

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Kaitlin Olson
Guests: 
Jeff Chang


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Kaitlin Olson on "Sweet Dee" and the Morally Bankruptcy in It's Always Sunny on Philadelphia

Kaitlin Olson plays Sweet Dee on the long-running sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Dee is the only female member of "The Gang", a bunch of depraved, self-centered pals who run a bar. The Gang is constantly looking for ways to get rich quick, humiliate their enemies, get out of work, and prove once and for all the talent, charisma and brilliance they hold to be self-evident. In an unusual move for a solo female character, Dee doesn't serve to counterbalance the guys' bad behavior -- she absolutely matches their pace.

Olson talks to us about creating a more fully-fleshed character for Dee, how she came to comedy, and how she ended up dating (and marrying) her showrunner.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is currently in its tenth season. It airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on FXX.

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Jeff Chang on Art, Race, and How Diversity Now Means "Them"

About ten years ago, Jeff Chang published his book Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. His new book is a sort of follow-up -- it chronicles some of the cultural and racial shifts we've experienced as a nation. It's called Who We Be: The Colorization of America.

Chang talks to us about what "diversity" means to us today, the struggle for artists to defy racial categorization, and how and why corporations embraced multiculturalism.

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The Outshot: What It Means to Be Superhuman

Jesse tells us about the life and legend of Andre the Giant.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Ricky Jay

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Vijay Iyer

Magician & Sleight of Hand Artist Ricky Jay on the Nature of Deception

Is there such a thing as honest deception? Ricky Jay thinks so. Jay is one of the finest practioners of magic and sleight of hand in the world, and began performing as a child in Brooklyn. He learned the elements of performance from his grandfather, who was also a magician, and from his mentors like Dai Vernon and Charlier Miller.

He talks to us about magic as the family business, the times his work has made people angry, and why deception isn't always evil.

Ricky Jay: Deceptive Practice will kick off the new season of American Masters on Friday, January 23, 9-10pm on PBS (check local listings).

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Vijay Iyer on "The Song That Changed My Life"

Pianist, arranger and composer Vijay Iyer describes the pop song that lodged itself into his consciousness and changed his life.

The Vijay Iyer Trio has a new album, Break Stuff, out on February 10. They'll be out on tour supporting the album this winter and spring.

For more from Vijay, check out our interview from 2012.

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The Outshot: Jay Mitchell's Bahamian Funk

An awesome album cover leads Jesse on a journey to the little-known Bahamian musician Jay Mitchell.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: 'Boyhood' & The Life of Richard Pryor

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Richard Linklater
Guests: 
Ellar Coltrane
Guests: 
David Henry
Guests: 
Joe Henry
Guests: 
Linda Holmes
Guests: 
Glen Weldon

Boyhood's Richard Linklater and Ellar Coltrane on Childhood and the Filter of Memory

Thirteen years ago, the director Richard Linklater set out to make a very ambitious film. He wanted to make a movie about childhood and growing up, and he wanted it to actually capture the passing of time in the actors' lives. He cast Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as parents, and an as-yet-unknown seven year old actor named Ellar Coltrane as their son.

Linklater shot the movie bit by bit, over the course of twelve years, and it was released last year in theaters with the title Boyhood. The movie shows a series of moments in a boy's life (and by extension, his parents' lives). He eats dinner with his family, goes bowling with his dad, meets a new stepdad, gets a girlfriend, learns photography, moves away to college.

Richard Linklater and Ellar Coltrane join us to talk about how the movie was conceived, how Coltrane's life and personality was slowly integrated into his character, and which things stayed the same over twelve years of filming.

Boyhood just picked up several awards at this year's Golden Globes, including Best Director and Best Motion Picture - Drama. It's now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD.

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Pop Culture Happy Hour Takes Us Through 'The Towering Inferno' and 'Parents'

Glen Weldon and Linda Holmes of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast join us to talk about some of their favorite underrated films.

Glen recommends checking out Bob Balaban's dark horror comedy Parents, starring Mary Beth Hurt and Randy Quaid. It's available on Amazon Instant.

Linda suggests going back to watch the 1974 blockbuster The Towering Inferno, which is jam-packed with movie stars and epic disaster scenes. It's available on DVD and VOD.

You can hear Glen and Linda every week on Pop Culture Happy Hour, and check out Linda's writing about TV, books, movies and more on her blog at NPR.org, Monkey See.

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Furious Cool and the Genius of Richard Pryor

When David and Joe Henry set out to write about Richard Pryor, they weren't looking to write a straight-ahead biography. Instead, they produced a poetic and impressionistic portrait of Pryor as a product of the time and place where he lived.

Their book, Furious Cool, explores the cultural landscape of Pryor's life, in addition to the events of his childhood and professional career.

David and Joe Henry join us to talk about Pryor's ascent in the comedy world, some of his most transformative moments, and why he remained so well-loved, even when he behaved atrociously.

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him is now available in paperback.

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The Outshot: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Why does Jesse love The Gang from Always Sunny so much? It's definitely not because they're good people. He'll explain.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: H. Jon Benjamin & Jessica Walter

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This week's episode includes content from previous broadcasts! Check out the links below to listen and share each segment.


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H. Jon Benjamin on Archer, Bob's Burgers and an Unlikely Career in Voice Acting

H. Jon Benjamin is a writer, comedian and a prolific voice actor, but he's not exactly the man of a million voices. In fact, he's really the man of one voice, which depending on the setting could be the shiftless son on Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, the misanthropic dad of Fox's Bob's Burgers, or a self-involved secret agent on FX's Archer. Benjamin has appeared in his own physical form on shows like Parks and Recreation, and in 2011 created and starred in the Comedy Central series Jon Benjamin Has a Van.

Benjamin talks to us about and how his career in comedy and voice acting came together, the humble beginnings of the beloved animated series Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, and the perks inherent in voicing the super-spy and super-jerk Sterling Archer.

Archer begins its sixth season this week on FX.

This segment originally aired January 22, 2013.

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Canonball: The Runaways' "Live in Japan"

Over the course of four short years, the teenage members of glam rock band The Runaways released four albums for a major label, toured the world, and unleashed their classic single, "Cherry Bomb". While the group was huge overseas, they never gained the same level of popularity in the US.

Rhythm guitarist and vocalist Joan Jett went on to acclaim with her band Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, but as Evelyn McDonnell tells it, The Runaways have never really gotten their due.

McDonnell wrote the book on the band. She's the author of Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways, based on interviews conducted with the influential "queens of noise". McDonnell found that the band's manager Kim Fowley had a tight grip on the group's sound, and that their studio albums didn't fully capture their unique sound and chemistry.

Evelyn takes us on a journey to the other side of the Pacific Ocean to hear where the band hit their peak: on a Japanese tour where they recorded their album, Live In Japan.

This segment originally aired March 18, 2014.

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Jessica Walter Talks about Vulgar Lines on "Archer", Love for Lucille Bluth and Showbiz Secrets

If you only know the actress Jessica Walter from her recent work, you probably know her from her role as the singularly-focused, boozy, terrifically manipulative matriarch Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development or her voice acting on the animated spy spoof, Archer. But her career stretches back fifty years, with hundreds of TV appearances, from The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Love Boat, and Trapper John, M.D. to a starring role in Clint Eastwood's directorial debut Play Misty for Me.

Jessica sits down with us this week to talk about getting line reads for (the often quite vulgar and racy) scenes on FX's Archer, her love of Lucille Bluth and working with Clint Eastwood. She even divulges a few trade secrets from her role on Flipper.

The sixth season of Archer returns this week.

This segment originally January 21, 2014.

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The Outshot: Prince's "Dirty Mind"

Prince is one of the rare artists whose name has become synonymous with an entire era of sound. Jesse explains how Prince's 1980 album Dirty Mind was the turning point in his career, marking a transformation from musician to music god.

This segment originally aired July 2, 2013.

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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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Best Comedy of 2014 Special

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Today we're spotlighting what we think is the greatest comedy of the year. The Bullseye staff has poured over plenty of records, including industry veterans, newcomers and lesser known talents. Now we're ready to showcase what we think is the best stand up comedy of 2014.

You can find all of these albums available for purchase, except for the set from the Atlantic Ocean Comedy and Music Festival.

Patton Oswalt - Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time

Cristela Alonzo - Some Of The Hits

Cameron Esposito - Same Sex Symbol

Jasper Redd - Jazz Talk

Jim Gaffigan - Obsessed

Hannibal Buress - Live From Chicago

Tommy Johnagin - Stand-Up Comedy 3

Nadia Kamil at the the Atlantic Ocean Comedy and Music Festival

Chris Gethard - My Comedy Album

Andrés du Bouchet - 20-Sided Guy

Bob Odenkirk - Amateur Hour

Jackie Kashian - This Will Make an Excellent Horcrux

Sarah Silverman - We Are Miracles

Hari Kondabolu - Waiting for 2042

Did we miss your favorite stand up special this year? Add your recommendation to the list! You can discuss this episode on our forum. You can also talk about it at Maximum Fun's sub Reddit, or join our lively discussions in the Maximum Fun Facebook group. Or you can just Tweet us -- @Bullseye.

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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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Nick Offerman, Billy Bragg and Dolly Parton

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This week's episode includes content from previous broadcasts. Check out the links below to listen and share each segment.

Nick Offerman Talks Moustaches, Woodworking and Luck

Nick Offerman is a man accustomed to being recognized. As city administrator Ron Swanson on NBC's Parks and Recreation, he sports one of the most revered moustaches in recent television history. He'll explain why his moustache is may actually be more famous than he is.

Swanson has a lot in common with Offerman. They both pride themselves on masculinity and have a penchant for carpentry. But Offerman says there are some major differences between himself and the character he portrays; like the fact that Offerman took two semesters of ballet classes.

Offerman also talks about the joys and perils of growing up in a small town in Illinois, how he discovered his theatrical side, and why woodworking continues to be central to his life.

Offerman's book, Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living is now available in paperback. You can also catch his new comedy special on Netflix. It's called American Ham, and see him in the final season of Parks and Recreation, which begins January 13th.

This segment originally aired October, 15 2013.

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Billy Bragg on "The Song That Changed My Life": 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 him to develop 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'.

Billy Bragg's latest album is called Tooth & Nail.

This segment originally aired April 23, 2012.

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Dolly Parton on Show-Business and Sacrifice

Dolly Parton's beautiful voice and musical talent could have carried her to some measure of success. But it was Parton's unwavering drive and embrace of hard work that made her a superstar.

Parton will talk about the personal sacrifices she made for professional success, the events that shaped her life and how she feels about them now.

She'll also share stories about childhood. Parton grew up in the mountains of Tennessee with a large family and a not-so-large home. You'll find out how her upbringing relates to one of her most-loved songs, "I Will Always Love You".

Parton's newest album, Blue Smoke is available now.

This segment originally aired December 11, 2012.

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The Outshot: Michael Mann's Thief

Jesse recommends the 1981 noir film Thief, starring James Caan. It's a crime thriller about one last big score, but it's just as much about running from loneliness and is about running from the cops. Director Michael Mann infuses it with a cool, dark beauty unlike any robbery film you've ever seen.

This segment originally aired July 8, 2013.

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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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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Holiday Special 2014

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Mitchell Kezin
Guests: 
Bill Corbett
Guests: 
Elliott Kalan
Guests: 
Dan McCoy
Guests: 
Stuart Wellington


Christmas Music Fanatics and Mitchell Kezin's "Jingle Bell Rocks"

Mitchell Kezin is the director of the new documentary Jingle Bell Rocks! Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree at 33 ⅓ RPM. In it he unravels the backstories of twelve alternative Christmas songs that you won't hear on the radio or in department stores. You'll hear a few of those tracks today.

The film includes other famous Christmas-music lovers including Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips and John Waters.

Kezin will tell us why a grumpy Christmas song helped ignite his love of holiday music and how the US Air Force produced a Christmas album in the late 1960s (complete with fighter jets). He'll also recommend some of his favorite records for people who want to branch out from Bing Crosby.

Jingle Bell Rocks! is available now on VOD and DVD.

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Bill Corbett on Riffing and Rebooting Christmas

If you've ever listened to Mystery Science Theater 3000 or RiffTrax, you know who Bill Corbett is. He's been mocking bad movies for decades, alongside his collaborators Michael J. Nelson and Kevin Murphy.

He's also kept busy as a writer, a screenwriter and a playwright. He writes for the public radio show Wits, was a contributor to A Prairie Home Companion and even wrote the Eddie Murphy movie Meet Dave.

This year, he's getting into the holiday spirit. What if Santa Claus and Rudolph were actually super heroes that went by the names Red Avenger and Caribou? What if they spent their time fighting the villainous Ebenezer Scrooge? That's the premise of Corbett's new graphic novel Super-Powered Revenge Christmas.

Corbett will tell us why he chose to tackle a Christmas reboot, and explain why his most important holiday tradition involves melted cheese. And we couldn't let him go without divulging one of his favorite bad Christmas movies -- he'll tell us about Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny.

Super Powered Revenge Christmas is now available.

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The Flop House Tackles the Holiday with Flash Gordon

The Daily Show writers Dan McCoy and Elliott Kalan host The Flop House podcast along with their pal, Stuart Wellington. The films the show covers aren't complete amateurish duds like The Room or Birdemic. Rather, they deal with Hollywood gone wrong. Think films like Pompeii or Dracula 3D.

Now the show's hosts have written a new holiday comic: The Flash Gordon Holiday Special: 2014. The adventures Flash and his crew go on show the hero in unusual situations that you may not expect; especially if the only thing you know about Flash is the 80's Queen song.

They'll talk about the Flash Gordon mythos and some of their favorite bad Christmas films. Plus, they'll explain how they celebrate Cagemas; a special holiday tradition that's all about Nicolas Cage.

The Flash Gordon Holiday Special: 2014 is out this month from Dynamite Comics.

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The Outshot: The Peewee's Playhouse Christmas Special

Jesse doesn't have many holiday traditions. But he'll tell you about the one thing that he makes time for every year: The Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Chris Rock, John Cleese & Scott Aukerman

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Chris Rock
Guests: 
John Cleese
Guests: 
Scott Aukerman


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Chris Rock Explains His Commitment to Stand Up

Chris Rock has never strayed for too long from stand up comedy. He started performing stand up in his late teens, then he was handpicked by Eddie Murphy to be in Beverly Hills Cop II. Rock then spent a few years on Saturday Night Live and In Living Color, and eventually turned to stand up yet again in the mid 1990s.

You probably remember what happened next. Rock released a series of stand up specials, earning him several Emmys and cementing his status as one of the industry's best comics.

It was Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing that inspired him to work behind the camera, as a movie director. Rock directed two movies in the 2000s, Head of State and I Think I Love My Wife. His latest is a comedy called Top Five. Rock stars as Andre Allen, a famous comic who wants to be taken seriously as an actor. Andre can't get audiences to embrace his dramatic turn in a movie about the Haitian slave rebellion -- they just want him to be funny.

Rock will talk about why he's making movies instead of touring stand up clubs, why he isn't worried about becoming "old Bob Hope", and the real reason he's afraid of losing his fame.

Top Five is in theaters this week.

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I Wish I'd Made That: Scott Aukerman on Twin Peaks

Artists are always influenced by the work of others. And sometimes, something an artist sees is SO good, so PERFECT that they wish they had made it themselves.

This happens so often to the people we talk to, that we made a segment about it. It’s called I Wish I’d Made That.

Today you’re going to hear from the Comedy Bang Bang host Scott Aukerman. One of his early jobs was as a writer for the comedy program Mr. Show.

So why does this comedy aficionado wish he'd made the dark, surrealistic murder-mystery show Twin Peaks? He'll explain.

Twin Peaks is currently available on Blu-ray and Netflix, and will be returning to air sometime in 2016 on Showtime.

You can hear more from Aukerman on the TV show and podcast Comedy Bang! Bang!. Season three of the show is wrapping up on IFC.

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John Cleese on His Early Life and the Road to Comedy

John Cleese is one of the most influential figures of comedy. He's best known as one the creative forces behind the legendary comedy troupe Monty Python. But before that, he was almost a lawyer.

Cleese went to Cambridge, studied law, and was about to accept a job with a big firm when another opportunity came up. This one was perhaps slightly less distinguished, but infinitely more appealing to Cleese. The BBC was impressed by his work with his college comedy revue, The Footlights, and offered him a job writing and producing comedy.

In his new memoir So, Anyway… Cleese discusses his journey, from his childhood in prep school, to his early days of sketch comedy at Cambridge, to the co-founding of the Pythons.

Cleese will talk about being one of the "scientific" minds of the Pythons, writing and re-writing with his comedy partner Graham Chapman, and how he felt about the recent Monty Python reunion.

Cleese's new book, So, Anyway… is available now.

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The Outshot: Transparent

Why does Jesse like Transparent? Well, it's the rare television show that has people acting like... real people.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Bob Odenkirk

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Bob Odenkirk


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Bob Odenkirk: Cult-Comedy Icon, Reluctant Celebrity

Millions of Breaking Bad fans know Bob Odenkirk as sleazy criminal lawyer, Saul Goodman. He’ll be reprising the role in February in the spin-off show Better Call Saul.

But comedy fans already knew about Odenkirk from another show -- Mr. Show with Bob and David. Odenkirk’s outrageous and profanity-ridden outbursts were a staple of his performances and helped make him a cult-comedy icon.

Before that he wrote for Saturday Night Live. Perhaps his most notable work was co-writing the sketch Down by the River The bit featured a 35-year-old divorcee motivational speaker played by Chris Farley and is considered one of the best sketches in the history of the SNL.

When Mr. Show ended, Odenkirk appeared in a number of one-off roles for TV before working behind the camera. He directed Let’s Go to Prison, Melvin Goes to Dinner and The Brothers Solomon. Even though he loves directing, it’ll be a while before he decides to gives it another shot. He’ll explain.

Odenkirk talks to us about why writing timeless humor is so difficult, transitioning from comedy to drama and why he still doesn’t consider himself a celebrity.

Odenkirk will also read a selection from his new collection of short-fiction humor. It’s called A Load of Hooey and is available now.

Odenkirk also just released his debut stand-up comedy special, Amateur Hour. We'll be showcasing a clip from it in our Best Comedy of 2014 Special at the end of the year.

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Cannonball: Touring Parliament's Mothership Connection with Rickey Vincent

Every so often we like to take a closer look at albums that should be considered classics, to find out what makes them great. It's Cannonball.

This week we're joined by author, historian and self-described funkateer, Rickey Vincent. He's going to talk about Parliament's landmark R&B album, Mothership Connection. The album is at once a celebration of the past and a glimpse into the future. It touches on a lot traditional soul ideas, but delivered with a new funky edge. Vincent will explain more.

Vincent has a new book out. It's called PARTY MUSIC: The Inside Story of the Black Panthers Band and How Black Power Transformed Soul Music. You can also hear his radio show The History of Funk on KPFA.

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The Outshot: Why Can't We Live Together by Timmy Thomas

Jesse tells us about a song that makes him imagine a better world: the simple but powerful Why Can't We Live Together by Timmy Thomas.

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