Brian Heater and Alex Zalben join us this week to share some comics picks. Alex suggests you check out Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon, a superhero comic about everyday stuff -- like attending a BBQ. Brian recommends Anders Nilsen's Don't Go Where I Can't Follow, a very moving pastiche of a couple's relationship.
George Saunders could have been a geophysicist. In fact, he was one. He graduated from the Colorado School of Mines and worked in the oil fields of Sumatra. He came to fiction writing a little later in life, attending Syracuse University's creative writing program (where he now teaches).
Saunders is now well-recognized as one of the greatest short story writers and satirists of our time. He's been awarded a MacArthur "Genius" grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship, along with piles of literary accolades for his collections, which include Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. His stories often explore a world much like our own, just slightly more grotesque -- societies that are terrifying and recognizable. His writing is incisive, sad, and also really funny. His new collection, Tenth of December, is out now.
Saunders talks to us about how people interpret luck and what they do with it, drawing inspiration from a disturbing dream, and unyielding financial pressure (the kind that doesn't even lift when you win a major award).
Maria Bamford's comedy is weird and wonderfully distinctive. She's just released a new special, recorded at her home, where she performs a stand up set with breaks "off-stage" to take cookies out of the oven and administer medicine to her pet pug. Her comedy takes on a number of difficult issues, ones that are personal to her -- mental illness, suicidal thoughts, or tough family dynamics (she describes her family's favorite pastime as "Joy Whack-a-Mole"). But she doesn't use humor as a shield. She uses it to confront an issue, point-blank.
Bamford talks to us about why she chose to perform a special in front of her parents, processing awful experiences or feelings into jokes, and why she describes herself as "the orchid of comedy".
The Special Special Special is available now. Her new Comedy Central CD / DVD special, Ask Me About My New God, is due out later this year.
Jesse ruminates on alone time and... William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We're joined again this week by guest co-host Julie Klausner.
Associate National Editor Tasha Robinson and Film Editor Scott Tobias of the AV Club recommend Imagination Illustrated, which journals the various creative efforts of Jim Henson, and a modern, dark adaptation of Wuthering Heights.
Inspired by the sounds of Jackie Wilson, Little Walter, and Muddy Waters, Syl Johnson set out to make his own mark in music in the 1950s. His own gritty, bluesy voice and funk rhythms earned him a place in the Chicago soul and blues scene. Over the course of a career on Chicago's Twinight and Memphis' Hi Records, Johnson released several singles that climbed their way up the pop and R&B charts ("Different Strokes", "Come On Sock It To Me", "Is It Because I'm Black?") and but never attained the smash success of contemporaries like Al Green or James Brown.
He found ubiquity later in life, when dozens of hip hop artists from Run-DMC to Kanye West dug into his catalog to sample his sounds (perhaps foremost his signature scream on "Different Strokes"). Johnson found himself in the spotlight again last year when the archival label Numero Group assembled a Grammy-nominated boxset of his early cuts, titled Syl Johnson: The Mythology.
Armed with childhood memories of watching Psycho and Alien and an insatiable appetite for true crime stories, Gillian Flynn began writing her first thriller, Sharp Objects. The book's success took Flynn from magazine journalist to full-time author. Her newest book, the bestselling Gone Girl, is a twisted and wry look at a marriage gone horribly wrong.
Flynn offers insights on the twisted and damaged psyches of her characters, cherishing the unease that comes with following an unreliable narrator, and how she combats the trope of the female victim.
This week, Jesse lauds the commitment and direction of Key & Peele's sketch comedy.
For more, check out our interview with Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele from earlier this year.
What’s your favorite sketch comedy show? Jump over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.
Hey Bullseye listeners! You’ll hear a new voice on this show. Guest co-host Julie Klausner joins us for the next two weeks.
Check out more of Noz’s work in his new hip hop column for Pitchfork, Diamonds and Wood.
Nellie McKay is a singer-songwriter, actor and cabaret artist with a wry sense of humor and a throwback aesthetic. Her voice might evoke Doris Day or Peggy Lee, but her lyrics are often sardonic, political and thought-provoking. She’s been a guest on our program in the past, and has since released two albums and created two original cabaret shows. She tells us why she avoids modern conveniences, the reasons why she actually prefers to produce records with her mom, and finds time to play us a few songs on the ukelele, too.
McKay is on a solo tour this fall with her ukelele and piano. You can catch one of her musical cabaret shows, Silent Spring: It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature, and I Want to Live! in New York.
Comedian Jordan Morris knows that you meant to make a list of all the things in America today. He went ahead and did it for you, because you’re busy and he’s a nice guy like that.
Jordan is the co-host of the weekly podcast Jordan, Jesse, Go!.
Rob Delaney is known as the comedian Twitter made. He discovered something about comedy that changed him when he saw an Upright Citizens Brigade show, but it would be years before he was able to capture that spark onstage himself and pursue his calling in comedy. First, he went through a period of alcoholism and survived a devastating car accident and a stint in jail.
He's learned to cope with the physical and psychological damage from his addiction and accident, and he joins us to talk about his recovery, the Twitter evidence of a hard work ethic, and why he's both intrigued and disgusted by the human body.
His new standup special, Live at the Bowery Ballroom, is available now.
Our guest co-host Julie Klausner suggests you to immediately track down Nancy Sinatra’s 1967 TV special, Movin’ with Nancy, and find the way to becoming a groovier, happier person.
Is there a classic television special that speaks to you? Jump over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.
Brian Heater and Alex Zalben return with more of their favorite comics. Brian recommends Gabrielle Bell’s collected diary comics in The Voyeurs. Alex Zalben suggests you check out The Manhattan Projects: Volume 1, which begs the question -- what if the creation of the atomic bomb was a cover for even more sinister and weird activities?
Brian Heater is the founder of indie comics site The Daily Cross Hatch and the new comics contributor at BoingBoing. Alex Zalben writes about comics for MTV Geek and hosts NYC’s Comic Book Club Live. He’s also currently Kickstarting a new mystery comic called Detective Honeybear.
The Nigerian band leader Fela Kuti had a vision for a new kind of music that would synthesise traditional African rhythms, highlife and pop music and American jazz and funk. He decided to sing in pidgin English, so the music could be understood and enjoyed throughout Africa. The music became known as afrobeat, and Fela is widely celebrated as a pioneer of the form.
Martín Perna and Jordan McLean continue in Fela’s tradition with their NYC-based afrobeat orchestra Antibalas. Perna founded the band in 1998 and was joined by lead trumpeter McLean and a host of other musicians to create a sound reminiscent of both Fela’s Africa 70 and Eddie Palmieri's salsa-fusion group Harlem River Drive.
Their new album is the self-titled release Antibalas.
Perna and McLean discuss the virtues of the bari sax, a pan-American sound, and the Broadway production of Fela!.
Brent Weinbach does stand up comedy, but his past records have included lots of tracks recorded without an audience -- alone, in a studio. His particular brand of weird, brooding and often dark comedy earned him an Andy Kaufman Award just a few years ago.
His new album, Mostly Live, was recorded at the Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles and has more audience interaction. In fact, he gave one lucky audience member a short impromptu acting lesson.
Wayne White's name may not ring a bell with you, but his artwork likely would. You may have been of the age to regularly watch Pee-wee’s Playhouse on Saturday mornings in the late 1980s and early 90s, when he designed sets and puppets for Pee-wee’s amazing and kitschy playhouse. Or maybe you’ve seen the visually striking music videos he worked on for The Smashing Pumpkins and Peter Gabriel. Eschewing the idea that people should “do one thing, and do it well,” White has experimented throughout his career with animation, puppetry, set design and fine art.
Neil Berkeley befriended White when they worked together in design and wanted to showcase White's cultural impact. He’s made his directorial debut with a documentary about White’s life and artwork called Beauty is Embarrassing.
White and Berkeley talk to us about deconstructing puppetry, White’s Southern roots, and the backstage world of Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
Beauty is Embarrassing is in select theaters nationwide and rolling out throughout the fall; you can find a theater near you on the film’s site.
Self-released mixtapes often end up consisting of the dregs of an artist's work. If you’re looking for a mixtape that’s carefully crafted, Jesse suggests LiveLoveA$AP by A$AP Rocky.
Is there a mixtape that’s stuck with you? Jump over to the MaxFun forum and suggest it as your own Outshot.
Jason Kottke, from one of our favorite repositories of web links, Kottke.org, joins us to tell us about his favorite stuff on the web right now. First we talk about Dr. Seuss's past as an ad man, then we tackle Errol Morris' new short film Team Spirit
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 gentrication, and remaining true to his own comedic voice.
Totally Biased airs Thursday nights at 11pm on FX.
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.
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 now, 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.
Sleepwalk With Me is in theaters nationwide.
Jesse recommends the new 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.
Are you a sports fanatic with a favorite doc? 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.
For summer music recommendations, we’re joined by our rock music correspondents Daniel Ralston and Maggie Serota of the Low Times podcast. They recommend Henrietta by Yeasayer and Life by Summer Camp.
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.
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.
Why not go where everybody goes your name? This week, Jesse recommends that you revisit Cheers.
Do you have a piece of pop culture that keeps you coming back? Share your own Outshot on our forums.
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.