AV Club Head Writer Nathan Rabin and Managing Editor Kyle Ryan join us this week to give their pop culture picks. Kyle recommends checking out The Thermals' new album, Desperate Ground, a return to the band's loud, punk rock style. From the world of film, Nathan suggests checking out It's A Disaster, a black comedy on VOD and in select theaters about a group of friends dealing with a divorce and the approaching apocalypse.
What does the career trajectory of a lifelong political junkie look like? There are the obvious choices, like a major in Political Science, law school...maybe even a career in politics. But Armando Iannucci took a different path – one that led him to Oxford, an incomplete PhD, and work writing and producing comedy, like his acclaimed political satire The Thick of It and the feature film In the Loop.
Iannucci created a new take on American politics in the HBO comedy Veep. Now in its second season, the show follows a fictional Vice President (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) with lofty ambitions but little actual power. Veep showcases the comedy inherent in the struggle for the political upperhand, the constant panic and exhaustion. Seemingly small gaffes quickly escalate into ridiculous catastrophes. The show's dialogue is marked by careful attention to absurd politi-speak and some especially creative cursing.
Iannucci joins us to talk about the difference between UK and US politics, why he sympathizes with our elected officials, and conducting swearing research in Washington, D.C.
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 to him developing 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 is currently touring the US. You can find dates and tickets through his website.
Most of us first knew Julia Louis-Dreyfus from her Emmy-winning role as Elaine on Seinfeld. Elaine flailed, fought, and danced her way into our hearts as the friend to "losers" Jerry, George and Kramer. But Louis-Dreyfus first arrived in entertainment fresh off her college comedy sketch group, as a repertory player in the Dick Ebersol-helmed cast of Saturday Night Live.
After Seinfeld, she went on to anchor several sitcoms, including The New Adventures of Old Christine, with delightful guest appearances on shows like Arrested Development and 30 Rock. Her career has now taken her to a different cast of skewed characters on HBO's Veep.
On Veep, Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer, Vice President of the United States. Though the vice-presidency is a prestigious position, Meyer's day-to-day work is less than impressive. Her staff members claw at each other for power and prestige. She suffers awkward encounters with the media and consistent snubs from the President (a running gag on the show is Selina's off-hand question, "Did the President call?" The answer is usually no).
Julia Louis-Dreyfus joins us to talk about the similarities she's discovered between show business and politics, the boys' club that was SNL in the 80s, and a certain terrible dance that still haunts her to this day.
Veep airs on HBO on Sundays at 10/9 PM central.
Rap isn't poetry – it's its own thing. But, like poets, many of the best rappers imbue their lyrics with layers and layers of meaning. Need proof? Jesse suggests a close listen to Jay-Z's "Threat".
It's the MaxFunDrive, April 1st - 12th! Visit maximumfun.org/donate to find out more and support this show.
Erik Adams and Claire Zulkey from The AV Club join us this week to talk about what you should be watching this spring. Erik's pick is Happy Endings, a great sitcom from ABC with undeservedly less-than-great ratings. And speaking of ABC sitcoms: Claire's recommendation is Suburgatory, a single-camera sitcom about a couple of Manhattanites who make the big move upstate.
Lily Tomlin has a remarkable range as an actress and comedian. Whether she's playing a precocious six-year-old on Laugh-In or a pill-popping sixty-six year old on HBO's Eastbound and Down; whatever character she plays, Lily inhabits her roles in a way that few performers can.
Now, she appears in the new film Admission, playing a tough second-wave feminist mom to an uptight college admissions officer played by Tina Fey. Though she may not have as much screen time as Fey, Tomlin made the most of the role (and insisted on the proper accoutrements, including a fake tattoo of founding feminist Bella Abzug).
Lily talks to us about shaping her role in Admission, the moment that she decided she wanted to be a professional actor...and yes, a certain YouTube-famous confrontation (link NSFW) with I Heart Huckabees director David O. Russell.
Admission is in theaters now.
But wait! There's more! Click here for an extended interview with Lily Tomlin for talk about how she develops her characters, coming out of the closet as a performer, and why her main priority as a comedian isn't getting laughs. And don't forget to share this one with your friends – it's too good to keep to yourself!
FOUND Magazine co-creator and editor Davy Rothbart is back again to share more pieces of lost and found ephemera: receipts, notes, and letters with stories behind them that we can only imagine...or laugh at.
Davy's new book of personal essays is called My Heart Is an Idiot. FOUND Magazine is on its eighth issue and posts new finds all the time on their website. If you've got a cool find, be sure to share it with them.
When Neil DeGrasse Tyson was a kid, he had a plan: he wanted to be an astrophysicist. But the adults around him had other plans. They thought he'd make a great athlete. But Neil stuck to his guns, and now he's one of the most famous astrophysicists in the world – heck, one of the only famous astrophysicists in the world.
But how did he persevere? Or, to use his words: why was it that he took the "path of most resistance" when there were plenty of other, easier paths around him? Ultimately, it was his passion for the universe itself that kept him going.
Neil joins us to talk about why he thinks the universe is more awesome than anything else...and to maybe try to help Jesse get over his fear of outer space.
Neil is the host of StarTalk, director of the Hayden Planetarium and the author of Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, out now in paperback.
This week, the big thing on Jesse's mind is baseball, specifically opening day – not just for the excitement of the game itself, but for the new beginnings it brings.
The pop culture luminaries at the AV Club return to recommend some of their favorite new releases. Josh Modell suggests a listen to the new album Amok from Atoms for Peace, a supergroup featuring Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Scott Tobias recommends a new Romanian drama, Beyond the Hills. The movie enters limited US release on March 8th.
Josh Modell is the AV Club's Managing Editor and Scott Tobias is the site's Film Editor.
When he was a kid growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, Andrew Rannells never pictured his face beaming out to millions of television screens. He loved acting, but his future was on the stage. The most realistic way to make it big? Broadway.
Now, he's garnered a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Elder Price in the Broadway run of The Book of Mormon and made his way to TV, co-starring in The New Normal on NBC and popping up as a regular on HBO's Girls.
Andrew talks to us about growing up gay in Nebraska, finding his characters' voices for The Book of Mormon and The New Normal -- and how to avoid uncomfortable moments when
filming nude scenes.
The New Normal airs Tuesdays at 9:30 / 8:30c on NBC. A new episode, "Rocky Bye Baby", airs this evening.
Thao Nguyen fronts the folk-pop band Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. The band's new album, We The Common, has an intense and spirited sound. The songs feature rhythmic guitar, taut drums, and Nguyen's clear and passionate vocals.
Thao remembers when music became important to her and the song that changed her life -- Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got a Hold On Me."
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down head out on a cross-country tour this week. Find their tourdates and more information here.
Jim Lehrer anchored the Newshour on PBS for more than three decades and remains its executive editor to this day. He's also moderated twelve presidential debates and in 2011 he wrote a memoir about those experiences called Tension City. Yet another hat that Lehrer wears is that of a novelist. He's written 20 of them, the most recent of which is a charming mystery called Super.
Lehrer talks to us about his early job at a bus depot, the benefits of producing media on a tight budget, and the role public broadcasting ought to play in the future.
[This interview originally aired in May, 2010]
Jesse suggests a look at his favorite Mike Judge creation. It's not Beavis and Butthead, and it's not Office Space. It's a low-key workplace comedy starring Jason Bateman, called Extract.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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?
This week, the AV Club’s Assistant TV Editor, Erik Adams, shares his affection for Police Squad!, the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker classic with Leslie Nielsen. His colleague Claire Zulkey recommends Law & Order.
R.A. Dickey is a pitcher for the New York Mets, and the only man in the majors currently throwing a knuckleball. His new memoir, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest For Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball, is a story of perseverance more than anything. He had a difficult childhood marked by abuse and poverty, but found his gift in baseball. Early on in his career, the Texas Rangers offered Dickey a lucrative contract but retracted it when they discovered a physical abnormality that theoretically should have kept him from playing ball. Dickey then bounced back and forth between the major and minor leagues and says he floundered, personally and professionally. But he stuck with it, and worked on mastering the wildly unpredictable knuckleball pitch (and finally found stability and peace in his relationships with his family and friends). Now, at age 37 Dickey is just hitting the prime of his career while many players of his age have long since retired. If anything, the knuckleball means his best days may still be ahead of him.
R.A. sits down with us to discuss his search for peace from a troubled past, the art of throwing the perfect knuckleball, and exactly why he names his bats after fantasy swords. Wherever I Wind Up is available in bookstores now. This interview originally aired May 22, 2012.
To say Jim Coyle and Mal Sharpe were ahead of their time would be putting it mildly. The duo produced hundreds of man-on-the-street interviews in San Francisco during the mid-1960s, always claiming to be something they weren't, all in the name of comedy. Their efforts would go mostly unappreciated for decades, though the dedication of Mal's daughter Jennifer would ensure their work would eventually find an audience.
In this classic clip, the pair try to convince a Navy serviceman to rob a bank for them. You can hear more from Coyle & Sharpe right here on MaximumFun.org, where their archives have been converted to The Coyle & Sharpe Podcast. This segment originally aired May 22, 2012.
On the Outshot this week, Jesse makes the rather unconventional move of recommending a radio show that isn't this one -- but you'll want to check it out all the same. It's The Best Show on WFMU, the music show turned character-based comedy call-in program whose cryptic host Tom Scharpling can satirize the role of the radio host while perfecting it in the same breath. This segment originally aired May 22, 2012.
Is there a show on the radio that you consider appointment listening? We want to hear it, so let us know on the MaxFun Forum by picking your own Outshot.
This week’s culture critics are Nathan Rabin and Scott Tobias of The AV Club, here to offer up a pair of humor-fueled recommendations. Nathan suggests checking out comedian Hannibal Buress’s debut one-hour special, Animal Furnace, noting a marked evolution in Hannibal’s stand-up style. Meanwhile Scott is enamored with Wes Anderson’s latest, Moonrise Kingdom, hailing it as the filmmaker’s best work.
Moonrise Kingdom is currently in limited release, opening nationwide on June 15th, while Hannibal Buress’s Animal Furnace is now available on both CD and DVD.
Kurt Braunohler is a stand-up comedian and improviser, as well as one half of the sketch duo Kurt & Kristen, performing alongside writing partner Kristen Schaal. While stand-up consumes much of his time these days, he may soon be best known for IFC's Bunk, putting his disarming charms to work as host of an improv game show where comedians compete in insane challenges on behalf of less than charitable causes.
Kurt sits down with us to discuss the myriad ways in which the conventions of the game show format are begging to be satirized, the serendipitous origin of Kurt & Kristen, and how they took one of our all-time favorite sketches, "Kristen Schaal is a Horse", to Australia's biggest stage. Bunk premieres Friday, June 8th at 10:30 PM on IFC.
Thought you could escape the world of news within the hour of our pop culture program? Think again! Getting you caught up on all the latest stories that may or may not have happened, here's an update from the minds of our fake news team: the San Francisco-based sketch comedy group Kasper Hauser.
For more Kasper Hauser, check out The Kasper Hauser Podcast right here on MaximumFun.org.
Walter Mosley is an author of nearly forty books, but perhaps he's best known for his work in detective fiction. His Easy Rawlins detective series began with 1989's Devil in a Blue Dress. Lately Mosley's penning the stories of a new detective: Leonid McGill. His latest serial novel is All I Did Was Shoot My Man, the most recent entry in the McGill series, and it's loaded with the kind of snappy, hard-boiled noir writing Mosley is famous for.
Walter joined us back in 2010 to talk about the existential crises at the heart of the detective genre, and how he made the move from computer programming to detective fiction so many years ago.
For The Outshot this week, Jesse makes the case for Jay-Z as hip hop's greatest of all time -- if only for the effortlessly perfect rhythm of his lyrical flow, best represented on the track "Hovi Baby".
Got your own pick for rap's best flow? Stake your claim on the MaxFun Forum by picking your own Outshot.
Hi gang, it's our annual MAX FUN DRIVE, happening now. If you love this show, please take a moment to support it. There's a level of support for everyone, and it makes this show possible. Thank you.
Genevieve Koski and Josh Modell of The AV Club weigh in with their pop culture picks this week. Josh thinks you should check out John C. Reilly's very funny [adult swim] series Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule, which just began its second season. The show airs Sundays at 12:30am. Genevieve recommends the documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, the story of Kevin Clash following his dream to work with Jim Henson, and how he gave voice to one of the Henson Company's most iconic characters.
Moshe Kasher is a comedian based in Los Angeles. He's performed at Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festival, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Chelsea Lately, and was named "Best New Comic" by iTunes for his debut comedy album. His new book is a memoir, but it's not what you might expect from a comedian memoir. Moshe's story is far from typical. It's called Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16 and that title should give a good idea of the wild stories it contains.
At the start, it's a story of growing up the child of two divorced deaf parents, split between living with his Hasidic father in New York, and his hippie mother in Oakland. Moshe joins Jesse to share stories from his upbringing, and shed some light on how he eventually got right and saved himself from addiction, anger, and violence.
(Embed or share this interview with Moshe Kasher)
Lateef the Truthspeaker is an Oakland MC and one of the founding members of the hip-hop collective / record label Quannum Projects, whose members include DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born and Blackalicious. He talks to us about the song that changed his life -- Cloudburst by the jazz group Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross.
(Embed or share The Song That Changed My Life with Lateef the Truthspeaker)
Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin are the Oscar-winning directors behind the emotionally-charged sports documentary Undefeated. The film follows a challenging season for the Manassas Tigers, an underdog football team in North Memphis, Tennessee. The Tigers had traditionally been a team with troubles both on and off the field. Its fortunes changed under volunteer coach Bill Courtney, dedicated not only to excellence on the field, but in fostering resilient players off of it. As Coach Courtney says, "There's a story under every helmet," and Undefeated tells a few of them.
Daniel and T.J. sit down with Jesse to talk about developing the story of the film, the challenges of shaping a narrative when the events unfolding are out of your control, and the experience of following a handful of teens throughout their senior year of high school. Undefeated continues to open theatrically in more and more cities across the country. Find out when it's coming to your city by visiting UndefeatedMovie.com.
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For The Outshot this week, Jesse shines a light on one of the lesser-known members of Atlanta's Dungeon Family hip-hop collective. Witchdoctor (born Erin Johnson) might not be as famous as Family members OutKast, Cee-Lo Green or Goodie Mob, but his 1998 album A S.W.A.T. Healin' Ritual just might be the best record of its time and place.
Is there an unsung record you think is worthy of recognition? Let us know by heading over to the MaxFun forum and naming your own Outshot.
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Erik Adams and Claire Zulkey of The AV Club recommend some of their favorite television – the new drama about a blurred line between life and dream life called Awake and the gleefully self-promotional reality show RuPaul's Drag Race.
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Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are actors, comedians, and the creators and co-stars of the new 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 new film Wanderlust. In their new show, Keegan and Jordan go from stand-up, to sketches about Scrabble, to a top-notch presidential impersonation.
Their new 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 Tuesdays at 10:30pm on Comedy Central. The show was just picked up for a second season.
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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.
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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.
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Keith Phipps and Nathan Rabin of The AV Club bring us their recommendations - John Mulaney’s stand up special New In Town, and the movie reboot of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes. (Embed or Share the AV Club's Picks)
The hugely innovative and influential hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest began as many groups do -- as a band of friends, passing out demo tapes, dreaming of hearing their songs on the radio. But after releasing five gold and platinum selling albums in the late 1980s and early 90s, the group combusted and left fans like Michael Rapaport in the lurch.
Rapaport was an actor known for his roles in several Woody Allen films, Boston Public, Friends and Prison Break. He set out on his directorial debut to capture the past, present and future of A Tribe Called Quest, hoping to better understand what made them tick. The resulting documentary, Beats, Rhymes & Life creates a compelling oral history of the group from interviews with members Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Mohammed and Jarobi White, along with hip-hop producers, radio personalities and other rappers. We spoke to Rapaport last year, and the film is now out on DVD. (Embed or Share Michael Rapaport on Bullseye)
The latest scientific findings, human interest stories, and much more, all brought to you by the top fake news anchors -- San Francisco based sketch comedy group Kasper Hauser. (Embed or Share Kasper Hauser on Bullseye)
Werner Herzog is an acclaimed (and prolific) film writer and director, known for narrative films like Aguirre, the Wrath of God as well as documentaries like Grizzly Man. His filmmaking distinctively pushes boundaries and explores humanity's extremes. His documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a 3D look into the Chauvet Cave, home of the earliest known cave paintings in the world. With a tiny crew and jury-rigged 3D cameras, Herzog looked at some of the first images ever created. Herzog takes the opportunity not just to present to us the beauty of the caves, but to consider what it means to create and how we define our own humanity. We spoke to him about the film last year. It’s now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and Netflix Instant. (Embed or Share Werner Herzog on Bullseye)
Jesse suggests that one of the best ways to experience Sly Stone is through his beautiful, heartbreaking hit "If You Want Me to Stay." (Embed or Share The Outshot)