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
It’s official: starting in April, Bullseye with Jesse Thorn will be distributed by National Public Radio! This is the culmination of months and months of meetings, negotiations and planning, and we’re so, so proud to make it public today. (And so, so proud of the sweet illustration that we just made (above).)
We’re excited to be joining forces with the big dogs in public radio, and excited that we’ll no longer have to spend like half of every conversation at every cocktail party explaining the complicated square-rectangle relationship between “public radio” and “NPR.” (From now on, we can just be all, “yup, I do a show on NPR.” It’s gonna be great.)
We’ll be on the same team as our all-time favorites like Terry Gross and Brooke Gladstone, and our new jack favorites like Glynn Washington and Jad Abumrad. It’s an ideal situation.
If you’re a longstanding Bullseye listener, you’ve got nothing to worry about. The show will continue to be produced independently by MaximumFun.org, but now we’ll also have the cachet and manpower of NPR helping us to bring it to public radio stations around the country. Our hope is that this partnership will mean a better show, better guests and a bigger station lineup.
This is the next chapter in a story that started at my college radio station when I was 19. Twelve years later, I think our show is the best it’s ever been, and now we’re in position to take advantage of that fact.
As a great American once said… haters don’t be mad, ‘cause it’s all about progression… loiterers should be arrested.
Andrew Noz joins us this week to talk about throwback 90s sounds and a rapper gone viral on Youtube. He talks to us about the DC-based Ras Nebyu's "Washington Slizzards" and Chief Keef's "Laughin' to the Bank".
W. Kamau Bell wants to talk to you about race. And about urban inequality, and politics, and Spider Man too. He came to his own brand of sociopolitical comedy after working as a comic for years, eventually shaping his work into a one-man show in which he promised to "end racism in about an hour."
A lucky break with an audience member at one of those shows – Chris Rock, to be precise – landed Bell his own TV talk show, called Totally Biased. He joins us to talk about transitioning into the talk show world, the sweet spot of gentrification, and remaining true to his own comedic voice.
Totally Biased airs Thursday nights at 11pm on FX.
(Embed or share this interview with W. Kamau Bell)
This segment originally aired on September 4th, 2012.
Singer-songwriter Eleni Mandell had one of those experiences as a kid that was a hallmark of experiencing music before the internet. She heard a song she liked, went out to the record store, and picked an album by the same artist. The problem? It sounded totally uncool, and not at all like the song she'd heard. It did, however, open her up to a whole new way of listening to music.
Eleni talks to us about the song that changed her life, Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues." Eleni grew up in Los Angeles loving both punk rockers X and folk rocker Bob Dylan, and her own music mixes airy vocals with 60s pop, country, and folk sounds.
(Embed or share Eleni Mandell on the Song that Changed Her Life)
This segment originally aired on September 4th, 2012.
Mike Birbiglia knows his own story pretty well by now. After struggling as a stand up, he started working some personal details from his life into his comedy. Some of it was pretty standard, like wrapping his head around the idea of getting married to his longtime girlfriend. And some of it was less familiar stuff, like running out of a window while sleepwalking.
Birbiglia went on transform these thoughts into a one-man show, a book, and finally, a movie. And although talking about the subject matter was second nature, directing a movie about it was not. He joins us to discuss being a first-time director, the difficulty of delivering stand up in a casual, easy way, and why he considered long-lasting marriage to be a totally foreign concept.
(Embed or share this interview with Mike Birbiglia)
This segment originally aired on September 4th, 2012.
Jesse recommends the ESPN documentary Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks for a look at a volatile shooting guard, an intense basketball rivalry, and some courtside conversations with Spike Lee.
(Embed or share The Outshot: Winning Time)
This segment originally aired on September 4th, 2012.
Are you a sports fanatic with a favorite doc? Head on over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.
Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing and the podcast Gweek zeroes in on his favorite card games. His first pick is The Struggle for Catan, a spin-off of the colony-building board game Settlers of Catan. He also plugs Anomia, a crazy-fast word game that "makes your brain confuse being first with being the loudest."
Nick Kroll has a knack for taking humanity's very worst and turning it into comedy. You can see it in his portrayal of Ruxin, the overly-aggressive lawyer and fantasy football player of FX's The League, but it's even more apparent in his new Comedy Central series, Kroll Show.
Kroll Show features amazingly specific characters that have become familiar as artifacts of our reality-show, fame-gripped culture: self-indulgent trust fund party boys, vapid PR professionals, and a wannabe record producer who lives with his mom.
Kroll returns to Bullseye to discuss how he finds inspiration in people lacking self-awareness – and, on the other hand, the perils of being too self-aware.
Kroll Show airs Wednesdays at 10:30/9:30c on Comedy Central.
This episode marks the debut of our new segment: Canonball. We'll take a flying leap into the canon of popular music and find albums that deserve a closer look.
He'll tell us about Led Zeppelin III. With that album, Led Zeppelin moved away from the 60s obsession with authenticity and deep ideas -- and into a whole new sound.
Comedian Billy Eichner roams the streets of New York with a camera crew, roping unsuspecting pedestrians into playing his game show, Billy on the Street. While Cash Cab paved the way for street-ambush game shows, Eichner's approach has a unique twist.
The correct answers are often subjective (as in the game "Dead or Boring") and his game show persona is hyper-energetic and over-the-top. He's ready to swoon with a contestant who shares his love of Meryl Streep, or yell and stalk angrily away from a contestant who doesn't.
Eichner tells us about his screaming encounters with Madonna, the influence of Pee-wee Herman on his on-screen persona, and the role that game show laws played in the development of his show. (It turns out that "game show compliance lawyer" is a real job.)
Episodes of Funny or Die's Billy on the Street are available online and air Fridays at 10/9c on FUSEtv.
On the Outshot, Jesse features João Gilberto, a musician who stripped away the heat and intensity of samba to create a cool, minimalist genre: bossa nova.
And if you're in the San Francisco Bay area this weekend, come join us at a live taping of Bullseye at the Punchline Comedy Club as part of SF Sketchfest. We'll talk to 99% Invisible host Roman Mars, The Coup's MC Boots Riley, and more. Find tickets and more details here!
The AV Club's Head Writer Nathan Rabin and Music Editor Marah Eakin join us to share some favorite new releases.
Nathan recommends the new DVD release of the documentary film The Imposter: the gripping story of a man who impersonates a family's long-lost son. Marah suggests a listen to the new collaborative album by the Scottish indie band Frightened Rabbit, called Pedestrian Verse.
Maybe you've seen the cult film The Big Lebowski. Maybe you've seen it more than once. The movie lends itself to repeat viewings: it's chock-full of amazing and delirious visuals and wickedly funny and quotable dialogue. But what kind of wisdom can one gain from The Dude, the film's chilled-out slacker hero who's trying simply to "abide"? Maybe the key to living a more Zen life?
The Dude himself, Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges, and the renowned buddhist teacher and social activist Roshi Bernie Glassman join us to talk about following The Dude's example, loving, living life and some of the other philosophical riffing from their new book, The Dude and the Zen Master.
Mike Wiebe, vocalist for the punk band The Riverboat Gamblers, reveals the song that changed his life: The Dictators' "Faster and Louder", from 1978's Bloodbrothers. The song showed Wiebe that goofiness and edge weren't mutually exclusive, and inspired the Gamblers' beginnings.
The Riverboat Gamblers have honed their brand of melodic punk rock over the past fifteen years. Last year saw the release of their sixth full-length album, The Wolf You Feed. The band kicks off a European tour this spring.
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.
This week, Jesse pays tribute to the documentarian Huell Howser -- a California transplant with a Tennessee drawl and perpetual and infectious sense of wonder.
Jason Kottke, proprietor of Kottke.org, a collection of some of the most interesting links the internet has to offer, joins us this week to share some all-time internet picks. First, he enlightens us about the practice of sending children through the mail. He also shares a mind-bending physics thought experiment -- if an airplane moves forward on a conveyor belt that's moving in the opposite direction at the same speed, can the airplane take off?
When Benedict Cumberbatch spoke to us last year, the interview centered on his portrayal of one of the most well-represented heroes in literature -- Sherlock Holmes. Jesse started off their discussion with talk of a more sinister role, however -- Cumberbatch's upcoming portrayal of the Star Trek villain John Harrison. With the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness so far away from the interview's original air date, that part of their chat didn't make the cut. Now that the film's release is a matter of months away, however, it seems a fitting time to revisit it.
Cumberbatch shares his appreciation for the mystery surrounding the new Star Trek film, deconstructs the challenges inherent in bringing a fresh perspective to his interpretation of the legendary detective for the BBC series Sherlock, and details how he emerged from a tremendous trauma with a renewed dedication to living life fully.
(A alternate cut of this interview originally aired 5/15/12)
Craig Finn is the lead singer and guitarist for the Brooklyn rock outfit The Hold Steady. Earlier this year, Finn released his debut solo album Clear Heart Full Eyes. This week he tells us about the song that changed his life: The Replacements' "I Will Dare", off their 1984 album Let It Be.
(This segment originally aired 5/15/12)
Celebrated director Errol Morris's acclaim is well-earned -- his documentary films are all masterfully executed and extraordinarily compelling. Some of his films, such as The Thin Blue Line
(which ultimately helped secure an innocent man's freedom from prison) drive at an objective truth, while others are more concerned with the unique truths of individuals' experiences.
Errol Morris joined us in 2011 to talk about his film making process, celebrating reality versus fiction, and the enduring popularity of his Miller High Life commercials. Morris's most recent film, Tabloid, and most recent book, A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald are available in stores now.
(This interview originally aired 07/18/11)
For The Outshot this week, Jesse basks in the warm, loving glow of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready", and explains exactly why the singer's smiling face hangs on the wall above his son's crib.
If you've got a song that lifts you up like this one does, share the warmth on the MaxFun forum by picking your own Outshot.
(This Outshot originally aired 5/15/12)
Andrew Noz joins us this week to share a couple of his current favorite rap tracks. His first pick is Mouse On Tha Track's smooth and mellow "Get High Get Loaded," featuring Fiend. His second recommendation is Mystikal's incredible new song "Hit Me."
Aimee Mann rose to prominence in the 80s with the success of her new wave band 'Til Tuesday's single, "Voices Carry," but she found the limelight uncomfortable. Tired of contending with record companies' attempts to pigeonhole her and her work, Aimee struck out on her own. She joins us this week to discuss that transition from frontwoman to solo artist, the stresses of fame, and coping with uncertainty at a time in her life when she thought she would have had everything figured out.
Aimee's new album, Charmer, is available now.
2013 is a whole new year chock full of things that want ranking -- who has the time to tackle that task? Fortunately, we have Jordan Morris to tell us what's what!
Seth Godin is best known as a marketing guru, but he brings far more compassion and genuine insight to his work than the title might lead you to expect. And his observations aren't just valuable for CEOs. He makes his work for content creators operating on every scale. He joins us this week to delve into the "assets that matter" -- the qualities and values critical to creating great, meaningful work.
Seth Godin's new books are V Is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?, and Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck?.
Trickery and deception are featured prominently in some of Orson Welles's finest works, so it is fitting that the existence of an objective truth and its relative importance is most thoroughly explored in Welles's final major film, F for Fake. Part documentary, part film essay, F for Fake features tricks and truths layered atop each other, creating a mesmerizing narrative.
Join us for a live recording of PRI's Bullseye with Jesse Thorn on Saturday, January 26th in San Francisco!
Tickets now available here (two-drink minimum will not be enforced).
AN INTERVIEW with
ROMAN MARS, host and producer of KALW's 99% Invisible
LIVE MUSIC PERFORMANCE AND INTERVIEW with
BOOTS RILEY, MC, activist and member of Oakland-based hip hop group THE COUP
(check out one of our favorite songs from The Coup, off their new album!)
STAND UP COMEDY from
STEVE AGEE (The Sarah Silverman Program)
ERIN FOLEY (Just for Laughs, Conan)
PETER HARTLAUB of the San Francisco Chronicle
If you're coming to the show, you can tell your friends on Facebook.
It was a great year in comedy, so selecting the best of the best and compiling it into an hour-long special was a tall order. We have done just that, however, and we're kicking a new year off with a bang and The Best Comedy of 2012, as curated by the Bullseye staff.
You'll hear selections from the following, all of which are available for purchase now:
Almost seven years ago, Mike Arnold, then of PRI, called me and asked me a question: "If PRI were interested in distributing your show, would you be interested in having PRI distribute it?" It was a dream come true, and I value immensely the hard work Public Radio International has done sharing our show with stations, and the kind people who work there who've become my friends.
That's why it was so immensely hard to say goodbye.
I've decided that starting this spring, Bullseye will have a new distributor. We'll announce the specific details soon, but for the time being, I want to emphasize that the only effects for listeners and stations will be positive. Our production and distribution won't be interrupted, and the show will only get better. This is a difficult step, but it is also a step forward.
For the time being, I just want to thank all of the kind people at PRI who've been wonderful partners over the years, particularly those who've worked with me directly, like Mike, Mark Kausch and Heidi Schultz. It's been an honor to be associated with PRI, and with wonderful shows like This American Life, Studio 360, To The Best of Our Knowledge and others. Thank you.
Bullseye fans: the future is bright. I'm excited.
Josh Modell and Andrea Battleground from The Onion's AV Club join us this week with some holiday gift ideas. Josh recommends Tarantino XX, a 10-disc, Blu-ray collection of several of Tarantino's most loved films. Andrea suggests picking up one of the Rediscover jigsaw puzzles of your gift recipient's favorite album covers.
John Roderick and Jonathan Coulton each carved his own warm, authentic, relatable space in the indie rock scene, and their sounds and aesthetics are complementary enough to make a collaboration welcome and exciting. That the collaboration comes in the form of a Christmas album is unexpected, but the end result, One Christmas at a Time, is a fun and charming exploration of familiar holiday themes -- from coping with drunk uncles to the one ultimate childhood gift. Roderick and Coulton join us this week to discuss their first meeting, the challenge inherent in capturing the feelings and emotions of the holiday season while maintaining secular points of view, and why celebrating Christmas in Los Angeles is contemptible.
Navigating the holidays can be a treacherous task; between divining proper party etiquette, appropriately selecting gifts for your loved ones, and just coping with all of the little things that spring up around this time of the year, you're probably aching for some guidance right about now. Fortunately, an ace team of (terrible) advice-giving brothers joins us this week to set us straight.
The choral symphonic band The Polyphonic Spree's new album, Holidaydream: Sounds of the Holidays started out as an experiment -- what happens when you take The Polyphonic Spree's ethereal, angelic sound and apply it to holiday favorites? The Polyphonic Spree's lead singer Tim DeLaughter joins Bullseye contributor Daniel Ralston to explore this question, the role of spectacle in the act, and DeLaughter's experience collaborating with his young son on the record.
Daniel Ralston is a co-host, producer and editor of The Low Times Podcast.
Popular Christmas music can be pretty hit or miss, and a relatively small catalog of options combined with seasonal overexposure to the genre can make the hits seem few and far between. One Christmas pop song that never disappoints Jesse: Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas".