We're joined by AV Club Assistant TV Editor Erik Adams and contributor Claire Zulkey for some all-time favorite TV picks. Claire recommends checking out Spaced, a lightning-fast, pop-culture-tastic British sitcom from the brains behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Erik's pick is the mysterious, funny, and very surreal Twin Peaks, David Lynch and Mark Frost's series about a small town with big secrets.
This interview originally aired December 2012.
Years before he became famous in Britain for skewering celebrities on Popworld and Nevermind the Buzzcocks, Simon 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.
This segment originally aired December 2012.
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.
This segment originally aired December 2012.
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 helped craft 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.
This segment originally aired October 2012.
The AV Club's Music Editor Marah Eakin and Head Writer Nathan Rabin discuss a few of their all-time favorite albums. Marah is a fan of the layered, sampled feel of Fleetwood Mac's post-Rumors album, Tusk. Nathan Rabin suggests a listen to Warren Zevon's intimate but ferocious live album Stand in the Fire.
Like a lot of funny people, Aisha Tyler often found herself on the outside looking in as a kid. She was the only black girl in her school and thought of herself as kind of a geek... Standing six-feet tall by third grade didn't help things, either. Ultimately, feeling out of place gave her the feeling that she could survive anything -- and the confidence to pursue performance. She's since performed stand up, hosted E!'s Talk Soup, appeared on CSI, 24, Friends...and even competed on an episode of Jeopardy.
She also has a starring role on the FX animated series Archer, where she voices Lana Kane, a beautiful and brilliant secret agent who plays the straight man to her idiot co-workers.
Aisha joins us to talk about her choice to do comedy in her own voice, the challenges of voice acting, and about living a real-life version of Fame in high school.
Archer airs on Thursdays at 10/9c on FX. The show is in its fourth season; it was just renewed for a fifth. Aisha will host The CW’s reboot of Whose Line Is It Anyway? this summer. You can also catch Aisha at a performance of Archer Live!.
This interview originally aired in January 2012.
You'd think that God would be pretty focused on the choice of a new Pope right about now. But might some of that attention be diverted to.... spring training? Has the Almighty ever swayed athletic outcomes? Does He care for sports at all? Get the straight truth from The Man Himself (as relayed to David Javerbaum). The answer may surprise you.
This excerpt is from The Last Testament: A Memoir By God, with David Javerbaum.
David Javerbaum is an Emmy-winning comedy writer and former executive producer of The Daily Show. You can see more of his work with God on Twitter @TheTweetofGod.
Our voice of God is provided by comedian Seth Morris, who is also on Twitter at @SethISMorris.
This segment originally aired in April 2012.
Here's one way a musical artist can succeed: artist records album, sends it off to the label, label rejects album, album is leaked online, fans and critics love album, artist goes independent.
That's exactly what happened to jazz and soul singer Bilal, who wanted to follow up his debut album, 1st Born Second, with something a little more experimental. That album (titled Love For Sale) was never officially released, which left a nine-year gap between his debut record and his second album, Airtight's Revenge. That album earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.
The wait between Bilal albums this time around is a little more manageable: his new album, A Love Surreal, was just released last week. It's a beautiful, headspinning collision between 1960s soul and modern hip-hop, sounding like neither the past or the present.
We spoke with Bilal back in 2010 right around when Airtight's Revenge was released. Bilal talked to us about his high school identity, growing up with jazz music, and his choice to go wild on Jay Leno.
Bilal's new album, A Love Surreal, is available now.
This interview originally aired in September 2010.
Looking for the perfect cold open? Jesse's found it. Newsradio. Season 2, Episode 9.
Kurt Andersen is the host of Studio 360, co-founder of the satirical Spy Magazine and a novelist. He brought his love of research and cultural criticism to bear when he penned the new novel True Believers, the story of a high profile lawyer who steps away from a nomination to the Supreme Court. True Believers follows her on a quest to piece together a mysterious episode in her childhood during the Cold War and the age of the spy novel.
Andersen fondly recalls his own childhood interests in espionage, and he discusses the leap of faith required for a trained journalist to stop doing research and begin trusting the imagination. The end result is a novel which weaves together generational politics, 1960s counter-culture, and a children's game that becomes all too real.
Ari Graynor plays a lot of outrageous, messy roles -- she was a self-destructive college student on The Sopranos, and she played a drunken best friend in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist -- but her characters have heart and a kind of innocence.
The same is true of her most recent role of Katie Steele, the brash-yet-vulnerable young Manhattanite who runs a phone sex line in the new movie For a Good Time, Call. The film is in select theaters nationwide this week.
Ari talks to us about the 80s films that inspired her, the story's depiction of female friendship, and the strange intimacy and appeal of phone sex.
Jordan shares his passion for the music of the late Tony Sly, of punk band No Use for a Name.
Got a favorite band you want to spread the word about? Head on over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.
Our culture gurus over at The AV Club delve into film this week: head writer Nathan Rabin suggests the documentary The Queen of Versailles, which follows a billionaire’s family (and their undoing) in the wake of the economic crisis. Film editor Scott Tobias thinks you should look into two classic films, Body and Soul and Force of Evil, both written by screenwriter Abraham Polonsky.
The Queen of Versailles is now in theaters nationwide. Force of Evil and Body and Soul are both available on Blu-Ray and DVD.
What do The Partridge Family, Black Sabbath, and David Bowie all have in common? They all nurtured the music- and pop culture-obsessed minds behind the punk band Redd Kross. Brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald started the band as kids in the late 1970s, growing up in Hawthorne, California near a burgeoning LA punk rock scene.
The band flew mostly under the radar of mainstream culture, but found a devoted fan base and was hugely influential to the punk, grunge, and indie rock scenes. Kurt Cobain regularly included their songs on his mix tapes, and they've been name-checked by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Stephen Malkmus of Pavement, and even Joe Elliott of Def Leppard.
They've just released their first album in fifteen years, called Researching the Blues.
You think you’ve got issues? Todd Barry might give you a run for your money.
Todd Barry is a NYC-based veteran comedian. You can see him regularly at venues across the country. He collects mundane quotes, misprinted receipts, and subversive Tweets. His new stand up album, Super Crazy, is out now.
Matt Braunger began his career as an actor and stumbled into comedy, but now is known for both -- he’s been a feature performer on MADtv and toured the country with his standup, and he’s scored a recurring role as the genial, dorky neighbor on NBC’s Up All Night.
He talks to us about growing up in Portland and creating his own blend of stand-up comedy -- observational stories, mixed in with fanciful musings. His new stand up album and DVD special, both entitled Shovel Fighter, are out now.
Got a favorite musical comedy album? Share it on the the MaxFun forum by picking your own Outshot.
What’s worth watching on TV this summer? Our TV critics Erik Adams and Claire Zulkey of the AV Club have a few suggestions (yes, other than Breaking Bad). Adams suggests Disney Channel’s Gravity Falls, which airs on Fridays. Zulkey recommends The Franchise, which airs on Showtime on Wednesdays at 10pm.
Lisa Kudrow broke out to TV stardom on the hugely popular sitcom Friends, portraying the clueless but street-wise Phoebe Buffay. The cast members of Friends were practically America's Sweethearts, but Kudrow has pursued roles as less easily lovable characters in movies like Easy A and the short-lived but critically acclaimed cable series The Comeback.
Most recently, Kudrow has co-created and stars in the improv-comedy series Web Therapy, about a self-centered therapist who has an unusual "modality" approach -- she insists on cutting the usual 50-minute dreams and feelings session to a three-minute web chat. Web Therapy was adapted for TV by Showtime last year, and just began its second season on the network.
Kudrow talks to us about her early career in science research, how the fickleness of middle-schoolers set her on the path to acting, and being mentored by none other than Jon Lovitz.
Maximum Fun Headquarters recently relocated to a beautiful, but barren, new office -- and it needed a touch of character. There's probably no better place to find it than at the huge Rose Bowl flea market in Los Angeles, but we needed a seasoned antiquer to help us out. Enter Danielle Colby, star of the History Channel's series American Pickers, who helped us pick a doozy.
Eric Andre isn't a comedian with a household name, but that didn't stop him from getting his own talk show. And it didn't stop him from breaking every rule in the book when it comes to doing monologues or interviewing guests, either. The Eric Andre Show is hard to describe, but if you know that Andre isn't averse to pouring ketchup down his own pants or borderline abusing his guests, you might start to get the idea. His extremely low-key straight man Hannibal Burress provides a counterpoint to the madness.
Andre talks to us about literally deconstructing the talk show, setting up unexpected situations for guests, and more.
The Eric Andre Show airs Sundays at 12:30am on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.
This week, Jesse recommends that we all overcome any reluctance to let salsa music into our lives, and to begin with the Fania All-Stars.
Do you have a new music love? Tell us about it in your own outshot.
This week's pop culture picks come to us from The AV Club's Keith Phipps and Tasha Robinson, who share a few of their all-time favorites. Tasha talks up Richard Adams' fantasy novel Watership Down -- a book which, if you weren't already forced to read it in high school, is well worth a look. Keith meanwhile shines a light on perhaps the least renowned of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, Duck, You Sucker! (also known as A Fistful of Dynamite or Once Upon A Time... The Revolution!), in which the Italian master of the gunslinger casts his gaze on the tale of Zapata.
Scott Aukerman is a writer and the host of Comedy Bang! Bang!, formerly known as Comedy Death-Ray. The show began in 2002 as a comedy pub night in Los Angeles, and is now one of the landmark shows at L.A.'s UCB Theater. In 2009, Scott took many of the show's best regular characters and comics with him into a radio environment, launching Comedy Death-Ray Radio on Indie 103.1, and setting the template for what would become one of the internet's premiere comedy podcasts. Comedy Bang! Bang! is now the flagship show on Aukerman's Earwolf podcast network. This month the show made the leap into another medium entirely: as a darkly satirical late night television talk show.
Scott sat down with us to discuss the move to TV, his early years in Hollywood as a sketch writer on HBO's Mr. Show with Bob & David, and the strange business of getting paid to do work that's never produced. Comedy Bang! Bang! airs Friday nights at 10PM on IFC.
Pencil sharpener David Rees was long trapped in an awful job as a satirical cartoonist until he just couldn't take it anymore. In 2010, Rees decided to get back in touch with on old-school writing instrument and took up artisanal pencil sharpening as a profession. His new book, How To Sharpen Pencils, was released earlier this year, and he's now demonstrated his old-fashioned technique in bookstores across the country. David joins us this week to discuss the lost art of pencil sharpening, and treats us to a chapter reading from his book.
Mark Duplass is an actor, writer, director, musician, and a man who can be described as having many irons in the fire. He's the star of two films currently in theaters, Your Sister's Sister and Safety Not Guaranteed, with a third film, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, that he wrote and directed alongside his creative partner (and brother) Jay, due later this summer. The Do-Deca-Pentathlon will be the second Duplass Brothers film to hit screens this year, following the brothers' biggest film to date: Jeff, Who Lives At Home, with Jason Segel and Ed Helms. And as if all that weren't enough, you might know Mark best from his starring role as Pete on the FX comedy series The League, which will be back for a fourth season in the fall.
Mark joins us to discuss the way his musical past has influenced his tendencies as a filmmaker, and why he's not worried about taking his projects to total perfection.
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For The Outshot this week, Jesse highlights the relaxed, harmonious hip hop sound of Digable Planets' revolutionary but commercially disastrous 1994 record Blowout Comb.
Got a cultural gem of your own? Set the record straight by picking your own Outshot on the MaxFun Forum.
Keith Phipps and Nathan Rabin of The AV Club recommend their all time favorite classics - Rodney Dangerfield’s 1981 comedy special No Respect and ‘50s Japanese film The Burmese Harp directed by Kon Ichikawa.
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Writer, director, comedian, and actor David Wain has worked on many projects, from cult classics to commercial successes. From his early days on MTV’s sketch comedy show The State he moved on to write and direct the cultishly popular film Wet Hot American Summer. David returns to our show to trace his career path, discuss what made The State such a special comedy troupe, and of course talk about his new Judd Apatow-produced comedy, Wanderlust. The film opens in theaters nationwide on February 24th. It stars Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston.
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Jordan Morris gives the good old U.S. of A. a run down of the top 5 most important things happening within its borders this month. Old friends, Blu-ray movies, how will he break it all down?
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If you bring the potato salad, we’ll bring the chili as Jesse pines after potlucks with this week’s Outshot, DJ Quik’s Pitch In OnA Party.
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The AV Club has kindly put the transcript up on their site with a foreward by, who else, Jesse Thorn. Go read it!
Dan Deacon with "The Song That Changed My Life": Baltimore-based musician Dan Deacon talks about why a player piano composition by Conlon Nancarrow changed his life and the way he made music. (Embed or share)
Downton Abbey: Hugh Bonneville, Dan Stevens and Joanne Froggatt from the totally unstuffy costume drama Downton Abbey talk about the peerage system, upstairs and downstairs love affairs that make us swoon, and the show's bridge between the old customs and modernity. The second season of the show begins airing January 8th on PBS's Masterpiece. (Embed or share)
Chris Lilley, Creator of Angry Boys: Chris Lilley, the very funny Australian comedian and showrunner, talks about his new series Angry Boys. The show pushes boundaries with his faux-documentary of characters in different stages of life and scenes of adolescent torment. Lilley plays six characters, both male and female and occasionally side by side, in sort of a natural continuation of his work in the acclaimed show Summer Heights High. You can catch Angry Boys on HBO on Sunday nights. (Embed or share)
Our friends from the AV Club join us to share their top picks for this month. Editor Keith Phipps and Associate Editor Tasha Robinson tell us what's good.