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: Judd Apatow, Dolly Parton, Jason Reece

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Guests: 
Judd Apatow
Guests: 
Dolly Parton
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Jason Reece
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Alex Zalben
Guests: 
Brian Heater

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December Comics Recommendations: King Cat and Tune: The Vanishing Point

Brian Heater and Alex Zalben join us this week to share some comics picks. Alex suggests you check out Derek Kirk Kim’s Tune: Vanishing Point, a charming, insightful graphic novel with a great twist at the end. Brian recommends the 73rd issue of John Porcellino’s King Cat, a long-running, autobiographical mini-comic featuring tight, minimalist artwork and storytelling.

Brian Heater curates Boing Boing’s comics column, and Alex Zalben writes about comics for MTV Geek.

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Judd Apatow on making movies with his family, staying funny and provoking audiences

Judd Apatow is a man who wears many hats: director, producer, screenwriter, husband, and father to name a few. His new movie, This is 40, explores the struggle many married couples face as they try to keep careers and children sorted while nurturing a strong relationship. Apatow talks about his relationship with his wife and collaborator, Leslie Mann, grappling with insecurity, and the source of his lifelong aversion to being the “bad guy.” He also fills us in on the latest Pee-wee Herman movie news.

This is 40 opens in theaters December 21st.

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Jason Reece of ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, The Song That Changed My Life

Jason Reece of the band …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead spent many of his teenage years listening to stereotypical punk music from the 80s, and while he loved music, he felt stuck and uninspired by the genre. Fortunately, he stumbled across the Fugazi album 13 Songs in a record store. The song “Waiting Room” changed his perception of what punk music could be.

…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead’s most recent album is called Lost Songs.

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Dolly Parton on show business and sacrifice

Dolly Parton’s beautiful voice could have easily carried her through life. Parton’s unwavering drive and embrace of hard work meant she was ready and willing to carve her own path, however, despite the great sacrifices such commitment required. Parton joins us this week to discuss some of these sacrifices, how they have affected her life, and how she feels about them now. She also shares stories from her childhood (having grown up in a large family in the mountains of Tennessee, Parton has no shortage of fondly remembered anecdotes) and relates the story behind one of her most well-loved songs, "I Will Always Love You."

Dolly Parton’s new book is called Dream More, and it is available now.

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The Outshot: ego trip's Big Book of Racism

ego trip’s Big Book of Racism takes the beloved coffee table book genre and flips it on its head – it’s a book you might hesitate to display in your living room, just based on its provocative title. The content, however, is a pitch-perfect analysis of the absurdity of racism in modern and historical times – observations any host should be glad to broadcast to his or her guests.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Simon Amstell, Brian K. Vaughan, and Jordan Morris

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Simon Amstell
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Brian K. Vaughan
Guests: 
Jason Kottke
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Jordan Morris

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Explaining the Bloop and David Chang's "The Mind of a Chef" with Jason Kottke

Jason Kottke, master collector of the internet's most fascinating links (assembled at his website, kottke.org), shares some current favorites. He recommends diving in to explore the world's unexplained sounds and David Chang's new PBS show, The Mind of a Chef, airing now on PBS and also available online.

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Simon Amstell on provoking Jermaine Jackson, his shamanic quest to find peace, and television fame

Years before he became famous in Britain for skewering celebrities on Popworld and Nevermind the Buzzcocks, Simon's Amstell's childhood ambition was to be on TV. And unlike most kids with dreams of TV stardom, he made it a reality -- but found it less fulfilling than he had hoped. Comedian, writer and TV host Amstell joins us this week to share his experiences in the entertainment industry, including navigating the delicate line between crafting clever comedy and bullying his celebrity guests as a TV host, writing and starring in Grandma's House, a sitcom with parallels to his own life, and seeking enlightenment on a Shamanic quest in South America.

Simon Amstell will be performing his very funny and deeply personal stage show Numb in early 2013. His most recent stand-up special Do Nothing recently aired on BBC America.

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Jordan Morris ranks America's stuff

In this era of constant hustle and bustle, who can keep up with what's HOT and what's NOT in these United States? Fortunately, expert stuff-ranker Jordan Morris joins us this week to fill us in and set us straight.

Jordan Morris co-hosts the podcast Jordan, Jesse, Go!. You can follow him on Twitter at @Jordan_Morris.
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Brian K. Vaughan on creation, from babies to universes

Brian K. Vaughan has the kind of strange and epic vision that's made for science fiction and fantasy. He's written award-winning comic book series like Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man, and crafted otherworldly storylines for several seasons of Lost.

His works are notable for their intimacy and beautiful, meticulously crafted characters, despite grandly epic settings. His most recent comic book series Saga is a prime example: Vaughan presents a fundamentally domestic story of parents trying to give their child a good life, backed by a colossal, galactic war. He joins us this week to share why he enjoys storytelling on a grand scale. Vaughan also explains why writing stories about lesser-known comic characters -- like Marvel's weird wildman Ka-Zar -- can be preferable to writing about the big names like Spiderman, and he tracks how fatherhood has affected his writing.

A collection of the first six issues of Brian K. Vaughan's monthly comic book series Saga is available now.
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The Outshot: Brass Eye's Paedogeddon

Please be advised: the content in this week's Outshot may be objectionable to some listeners.

As more details emerge surrounding the BBC's recent horrific pedophilia scandals, Jesse recalls a special episode of the satirical UK television series Brass Eye, called Paedogeddon. The episode was made in response to a similar panic about pedophilia in Britain over a decade ago. Here's a look at Brass Eye's take on media hysteria.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: RJ Smith on James Brown, Comedy from Cameron Esposito, Mark Frauenfelder

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All-Time Favorites with Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder

Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder joins us this week to share some all-time favorites: a great dungeon crawler for iOS called The Sword of Fargoal and Chandler Burr's The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession, a fascinating book exploring the science of scent.

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R.J. Smith profiles the Godfather of Soul, James Brown

R.J. Smith is a former senior editor at Los Angeles Magazine and a music journalist who's written for the Village Voice and Spin. For his latest project, he took on the task of profiling the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Smith's extensive biography, The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, follows the musician from his childhood, raised in a whorehouse, wearing burlap sack underwear, to stardom, and then to reinvention.

James Brown was a hugely influential musician and performer, known for hits like "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Get Up (I Feel Like a Sex Machine)," and he was one of the driving forces behind the creation and popularity of funk music. But he was also much more than that -- a tenacious businessman who ran his finances into the ground, a man of messy and confusing political alliances, and a hardliner on drug abuse (who eventually fell to his own drug addictions).

Why didn’t Brown’s politics fit neatly into a particular mindset? And why, unlike nearly all of his black contemporaries, did he endorse Nixon? What drew crowds of screaming fans to his performances? And how did he survive the rise of disco? Smith's book delves into Brown's storied and complicated life and music career of six decades, as well as his effects on pop music, politics, and race relations in 20th century America. This interview previously aired July 24, 2012.

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Comedy from Cameron Esposito

Cameron Esposito is a standup comic who's been featured on this show and performed at TBS' Just for Laughs Chicago, South by Southwest, and the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festivals. She recently moved to Los Angeles right in time for the 4th Annual MaxFunCon, and joined us to perform a set musing on her childhood appearance. This segment previously aired July 24, 2012.

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The Outshot: Cheers

Why not go where everybody goes your name? This week, Jesse recommends that you revisit Cheers. This segment previously aired July 24, 2012.

Do you have a piece of pop culture that keeps you coming back? Share your own Outshot on our forums.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Tavi Gevinson, Retta, Michael Ian Black

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Nathan Rabin
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Kyle Ryan
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Michael Ian Black

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The Coup

Hip Hop and Punk Rock with The AV Club

The AV Club's Kyle Ryan and Nathan Rabin join us this week with music recommendations. Kyle suggests The Evens's new album, The Odds. Nathan recommends hip-hop group The Coup's new album Sorry to Bother You. Both albums feature artistic departures from the bands' traditional sounds -- The Odds marks a more melodic take on The Evens's punk-rock aesthetic, while Sorry to Bother You introduces punk and dance-rock elements.

You can find Kyle, Nathan, and their AV club colleagues on the AV Club podcast Reasonable Discussions. The Onion also has a new book out called The Onion Book of Known Knowledge.

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Rookie's Tavi Gevinson on Her Teenage Experience

Tavi Gevinson's interest in the artistry of fashion inspired her to start her blog, Style Rookie, when she was in middle school. Drawn to unusual color combinations, proportions, and textures, Gevinson sought to create narratives with her outfits -- which caught flack at school, even as fashion magazines praised her sense of style.

Most recently, Gevinson's founded and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the online magazine Rookie, a beautifully curated website for teen girls featuring content spanning myriad topics, including feminism, fashion, and how to build the very best forts. Gevinson recently collected some of Rookie's first year of content into a book called Rookie Yearbook One.

Gevinson joins us to discuss what sparked her foray into the fashion world, people's tendency to fixate on her age, and the qualities that make people worth writing about.

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Photo by Zac Wolf

Michael Ian Black on Halloween and Children's Creativity

Comedian and past Bullseye guest Michael Ian Black critiques his children's Halloween costumes and reflects on their creativity, live from our very own MaxFunCon East.

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Retta on Character Evolution and "Parks and Recreation"

We may have only known Retta as a neurosurgeon, given her pre-med track in college. But after a few years of working in the pharmaceutical industry post-grad, her casual TV-watching led to a spark of realization -- acting could be a viable path, too. Her newfound dream of working in entertainment led to a stand up act, and eventually the role of Donna on NBC's Parks and Recreation.

Retta talks about her start in show business, her fear of being typecast, and the evolution of her character on Parks and Rec, Donna Meagle. You can catch Parks and Recreation Thursday nights on NBC.

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The Outshot: Lake Dredge Appraisal

Who is better suited to parody the reality TV show genre as a whole, and Antiques Roadshow in particular, than the folks at The Onion? This week, Jesse recommends Lake Dredge Appraisal, a sly take on your typical appraisal show which often defies your expectations.

What show are you enjoying lately? Why don't you head over to the MaxFun forums and share YOUR outshot?

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Fran Lebowitz, Karriem Riggins, and Mark Frauenfelder

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Fran Lebowitz
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Subscribe to Bullseye in iTunes or the RSS feed! And if you enjoy this episode, SHARE IT! You can find links to each of our segments on our SoundCloud page.


Mark Frauenfelder on The Jon Ronson Mysteries and Light Emitting Daves

Boing Boing.net and the Gweek podcast's Mark Frauenfelder joins us this week to share some top-rate pop culture picks. He recommends British author Jon Ronson's new book, Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries, which collects profiles of some fascinating individuals and Sir Benfro's Brilliant Balloon, a beautifully illustrated and simple to play iOS game.

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High School Expulsion and The Fear of Writing with Fran Lebowitz

Fran Lebowitz's literary career had a somewhat inauspicious beginning -- not long after being expelled from high school, she moved to New York, showed up barefoot at a publishing house to submit her poetry collection, and was incredulous when it was rejected. Her determination, fearlessness, and sharp wit were undeniable, however, and she soon became not only a successful author, but one of New York's most important social critics.

Lebowitz shares stories of teenage rebellion, getting started as a writer, and why she considers herself to be the least envious person on the planet. A collection of her essays, The Fran Lebowitz Reader, is now available in audiobook form.

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Karriem Riggins on The Song That Changed My Life

You may not immediately recognize his name, but chances are good you've heard Karriem Riggins's work. He's a jazz drummer who's played with greats like Diana Krall and Ron Carter, and he's produced hip hop for Erykah Badu and The Roots. Riggins' new solo album, Alone / Together, fuses his drumming with his production chops.

He joins us this week to discuss the song that changed his life: "Give it Up or Turnit a Loose" by James Brown.

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The Outshot: Ice Cube's “It Was a Good Day”

"It Was a Good Day" is rapper Ice Cube's biggest hit -- a solid rap song with a great beat, it's easy to see why this record was so successful. What makes this song truly great, however, isn't Ice Cube's vivid description of his good day, but looming, omnipresent possibility of a much worse day.

Is there a song that speaks to you with what it doesn't say? Head over to the MaxFun forum and share YOUR outshot.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Stephen Tobolowsky and Kasper Hauser News

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Stephen Tobolowsky
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Maggie Serota
Guests: 
Tom Scharpling
Guests: 
Daniel Ralston

Subscribe to Bullseye in iTunes or the RSS feed! And if you enjoy this episode, SHARE IT! You can find links to each of our segments on our SoundCloud page.


Music Picks with the Low Times

Tom Scharpling, Maggie Serota, and Daniel Ralston from the Low Times podcast join us this week with music suggestions. Maggie recommends “What Have I Done to Deserve This” from Pet Shop Boys, Tom suggests “Stud Spider” by Tony Joe White, and Daniel thinks we should check out Bill Fox’s “Bonded to You.”

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Photo credit Jim Britt

Life Stories with Stephen Tobolowsky

You may best recognize Stephen Tobolowsky from his role as Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day, but his considerable body of work spans several mediums. He's appeared as a character actor in hundreds of films and television shows, including the HBO series Deadwood, he hosts The Tobolowsky Files podcast, and he's now written a book called The Dangerous Animals Club.

The stories in his podcast and his new book are about his life, but they aren't Hollywood gossip. They're funny, intimate, and often profound recountings of things from his normal life – like falling in love for the first time, being held at gunpoint at the grocery store, and spending Christmas Eve tripping on acid. He joins us to share some of those stories.

(Click here to listen and share more of our conversation with Stephen Tobolowsky that didn't make the radio cut!)


The News with Kasper Hauser

The intrepid journalists of Kasper Hauser news team have their fingers on the pulse of fake news, and they return this week to keep you updated.

The members of Kasper Hauser are based in San Francisco and are the authors of Obama's Blackberry, Weddings of the Times, and the forthcoming Earn Your MBA On the Toilet.

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The Outshot: Frank Ocean's Channel Orange

R&B has lost its edge in recent years, but Frank Ocean’s album Channel Orange is a new, exciting example of the genre. Ocean channels emotions and harnesses distance to create beautiful, memorable songs and a masterful record.

What's your favorite R&B album? Head over to the MaxFun forum and share YOUR outshot.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Ice-T, Greta Gerwig, Aaron Freeman, and Comics

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Ice-T
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Greta Gerwig
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Aaron Freeman
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Alex Zalben
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Brian Heater


Comics with Brian and Alex

Brian Heater and Alex Zalben join us this week to share some great comics. Brian recommends Skyscrapers Of The Midwest by Joshua Cotter, a beautifully illustrated story of growing up and imagination. Alex suggests Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson, an exploration of young adults living in New York in the 90s, informed by the author’s life experiences.

Brian Heater curates Boing Boing’s monthly comics round-up, Comics Rack. You can also find his work on Engadget. Alex Zalben covers comics for MTV Geek and hosts Comic Book Club Live in New York City.

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Rapper, Actor and Director Ice-T on Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap

Ice-T is a rapper and actor with more than ten albums and nearly eighty acting credits to his name. He's also one of the forefathers of west coast hip-hop. He's added "filmmaker" to an already diverse resume with his directorial debut: the hip hop documentary Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap. The film is now available on DVD and VOD.

Ice sits down with us to talk about his desire to bring an artful appreciation to hip hop's origins and about going through his phone book to sit down with friends to discuss the craft. He'll also answer that lingering question: did he ghostwrite for an 80s rap album by Mister T? This interview originally aired June 12, 2012.

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Aaron Freeman: The Song That Changed My Life

For much of his musical career, Aaron Freeman might have been better known to you as Gene Ween, guitarist and co-founder of the experimental rock band Ween.

In May, Freeman released his first solo record, Marvelous Clouds, a collection of covers of songs by 60s poet/songwriter Rod McKuen. Earlier this year, Freeman announced he was retiring the Gene Ween persona for good. This week he tells us about the song that changed his life: Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry". This interview originally aired June 12, 2012.

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Actress Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig is an actress and filmmaker, whose starring role in the 2007 comedy Hannah Takes the Stairs put her right at the heart of the mumblecore movement. She's since gone on to leading roles in bigger indies alongside Ben Stiller in Greenberg, as well as major motion pictures like Arthur, opposite Russell Brand. The indie darling has had a particularly prominent year in 2012, with starring roles in Damsels in Distress, Lola Versus, and Woody Allen's To Rome with Love. All are available now on DVD.

Greta joins us to discuss her artistic upbringing in Sacramento (complete with dreams of being a ballerina) and her meteoric and slightly serendipitous rise as an actress. This interview originally aired June 12, 2012.

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The Outshot: History of the World, Part I

On this week's Outshot, Jesse misses the old days of pure wacky comedy insanity exemplified by the unfiltered goofiness of Mel Brooks' History of the World, Part I. This segment originally aired June 12, 2012.

Is there a film that never fails to make you laugh like a mad man? Share the laughs on the MaxFun Forum by picking your own Outshot.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Key & Peele, Jason Kottke, and My Brother, My Brother and Me

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Keegan-Michael Key
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The McElroy Brothers


Internet Recommendations from Jason Kottke

Jason Kottke of Kottke.org, a collection of some of the finest links the internet has to offer, brings us this week’s culture picks. Jason starts us out by recommending Vol Libre, a short animation from 1980 that wowed people with its fractal-generated graphics when it was made and still impresses today.

Next, Jason recommends The Tommy Westphall Universe, an exploration of all of the television programs connected to St. Elsewhere and therefore relegated to dream status by the final reveal that St. Elsewhere itself was a dream.

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Comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are actors, comedians, and the creators and co-stars of the Comedy Central sketch show Key & Peele. They met during their years as cast members on MADtv; you might also recognize Jordan from adult swim's Childrens Hospital or perhaps you caught them both as commune-dwelling hippies in the film Wanderlust. In their show, Keegan and Jordan go from stand-up, to sketches about Scrabble, to a top-notch presidential impersonation.

Their series gives them full creative control over their comedy, but that hasn't always been the case. They join us to discuss the behind-the-scenes creative process of MADtv (and the difficulties therein), the keys to developing strong impressions, and exploring the humor of their bi-racial identities. Plus, Jordan divulges the details of an original card game he invented for movie buffs!

Key & Peele airs Wednesday nights on Comedy Central. Season one is availabile in stores now on DVD and Blu-ray. This interview originally aired February 28, 2012.

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Pop Culture Advice with My Brother, My Brother and Me

Our resident pop culture advice columnists, the McElroy brothers of My Brother, My Brother and Me take on questions about movie posters as art, what happens when you judge a child's abominable TV watching choices, and more. This segment originally aired February 28, 2012.

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The Outshot: Skyrim

Are you ready to sacrifice hours, days, weeks of your life and your relationship to the outside world in favor of improving your archery skills and gathering herbs? If so, join Jesse in this week's Outshot, the role-playing game Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This segment originally aired February 28, 2012.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Vijay Iyer, Dave Hill, and Demetri Martin

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Andrew Noz


Andrew Noz's Picks: Rapping About a Haircut and Pencap Beats

Hip hop blogger Andrew Noz joins us again this week to recommend some of his favorite tracks of the moment. What's he listening to now? Aesop Rock's ode to a haircut in Racing Stripes and Alpoko Don's stripped down track All I Know.

Andrew Noz writes about hip hop for Cocaine Blunts and has a regular column, Diamonds and Wood, for Pitchfork.

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Vijay Iyer on the Brain, the Body, and the Experience of Music

The Grammy-nominated jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer began learning classical violin at age three and started improvising on the piano only a few years later. While he studied math and physics at Yale and UC Berkeley, he couldn't stay away from music. He found himself doing academic work by day, and moonlighting as a jazz pianist in Bay Area clubs.

His music is known for its complex, pulsing rhythms and creating unusual covers of artists like Stevie Wonder, Flying Lotus, and Michael Jackson.

He talks to us about exploring rhythm with math (remember Fibonacci's sequence?), the social experience of creating and listening to music, and the idea that "music is action."

The Vijay Iyer Trio's newest album is Accelerando.

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Demetri Martin on People Watching

Demetri Martin is the kind of person who's obsessed with puzzles and linguistic and cultural ironies, and you've probably seen him explore those on his show Important Things with Demetri Martin. But he's usually got a big sketchpad, slides projected overhead, and a piano to riff on. He's put the theatricality aside in favor of straight ahead one-liners in this clip from his new special, Standup Comedian.

Want to learn more about Demetri Martin? Check out our interview with him about This is a Book.

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Dave Hill Pals Around with Maximum Security Felons

Dave Hill is best known as a New York-based comedian, but he's dabbled in a lot of things. He's interviewed fans of Chick-Fil-A for This American Life, lived the life of a frontman for a semi-successful rock band (they were big in Japan), and even had a job as a pedicab driver for a few days.

One of his trademarks is making himself and others uncomfortable during a performance, whether he's asking inane or (alternately) inappropriately suggestive questions in his man-on-the-street interviews, performing stand up or hosting his talk show The Dave Hill Explosion. He mines a number of uncomfortable situations in his recent book of essays, Tasteful Nudes: ...and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation.

He talks to us about how being a rock musician made him realize he loved comedy, and how he ended up performing at Sing Sing for maximum security felons. This interview originally aired July 2, 2012.)

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The Outshot: The Dirtbombs' Ultraglide in Black

Rage, garage punk, and R&B. The Dirtbombs' music has it all, and Jesse suggests you check out their album Ultraglide in Black.

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What's your favorite mashup of genres? Head over to the MaxFun forum and tell us YOUR outshot.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Liam Lynch, Geoff Nunberg and Kasper Hauser

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Liam Lynch
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Geoff Nunberg
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Maggie Serota
Guests: 
Daniel Ralston
Guests: 
Tom Scharpling


Music Picks with the Low Times

We're joined this week by the entire cast of the Low Times podcast for their music recommendations. Daniel Ralston goes with Rock Bottom by King Krule, Maggie Serota suggests Your Side by Fear of Men, and Tom Scharpling recommends The Diaz Brothers by The Mountain Goats.

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Musician and Director Liam Lynch on the Return of Sifl and Olly

Liam Lynch is a writer, director and musician who's made a career out of a certain kind of alternative musical and skit comedy -- the kind that is "funny the way your friends are funny with each other." That sensibility lent itself well to Lynch's directorial work in Sarah Silverman's Jesus is Magic and Tenacious D's The Pick of Destiny.

His sock puppet duo, Sifl & Olly, found a niche on late-night television on MTV. Joined by the occasional sidekick or home shopping network representative, Sifl and Olly ribbed each other, took calls from the public, and broke out into songs like Lynch's strange and catchy "United States of Whatever."

He's now revived the puppets, more than ten years after the last Sifl & Olly Show broadcast, to conduct fake video game reviews for the YouTube channel Machinima.

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The News with Kasper Hauser

The Kasper Hauser news team is back with another update. If you’re tired of telling fact from fiction in your news, we'll make it simple for you: this news is completely fake.

The members of Kasper Hauser are based in San Francisco and are the authors of Obama's Blackberry, Weddings of the Times, and the forthcoming Earn Your MBA On the Toilet.

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Linguist Geoff Nunberg on The First Sixty Years of Assholism

Geoff Nunberg is a professor at UC Berkeley, the resident linguist of Fresh Air, and the author of Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years. He talks to us about his studies into the word "asshole," which began life as a bit of slang used by WWII servicemen and has come to envelop the concept of modern incivility.

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The Outshot: Comedian Bill Burr

Jesse shares his enjoyment of the analytical comedy of Bill Burr.

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