Bullseye with Jesse Thorn

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jemaine Clement & Jonathan Ames

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Jemaine Clement
Guests: 
Jonathan Ames

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Jemaine Clement on Fighting, Flight of the Conchords, and Comic Drama in People Places Things

Jemaine Clement’s upbringing in a small community in New Zealand could have led him to career making cookies or cheese. Instead he found a way to transform his sense of humor into a career making other stuff -- things like music and comedy.

Along with his partner, Bret McKenzie, he is a member of musical comedy duo, Flight of the Conchords which aired as a television show for two seasons on HBO. Clement has also written and produced with McKenzie and other longtime collaborators on movies like What We Do in the Shadows.

He stars in the new movie People Places Things, about a graphic novelist and professor who's grappling with loneliness and fatherhood in the wake of a breakup. The film is in theaters and available on VOD.

Clement join us to talk about working in the comic drama People Places Things, his early comedic influences back in New Zealand, the challenges he faced producing a television show, and how the word “grommet” resulted in his last physical altercation.

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Jonathan Ames on Valets, Questing and 'Blunt Talk'

Jonathan Ames is a writer who has earned a reputation for ruthless honesty when writing about his own life and those of his fictional characters. Whether the topic is alcoholism, sexuality or depression, Ames’ books and television projects delve deeply into what it means to be human, with wit and care.

Ames created the beloved HBO show Bored to Death. Now, he's the creator and showrunner of the new Starz show Blunt Talk, featuring Patrick Stewart as cable news host Walter Blunt.

Blunt Talk airs Saturday nights at 9 on the Starz network.

Ames sat down with Jesse to talk about how he came to create his new show, why he's obsessed with the "valet", and why his characters are constantly "questing" with greater purpose.

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The Outshot: The 'Who Moved My Cheese' Incident

Our takeaway? ALWAYS BE PREPARED.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Corin Tucker & Kyle Kinane

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Corin Tucker
Guests: 
Kyle Kinane

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney on The Early Riot Grrrl Scene, Finding Her Voice, and S-K's Return

Sleater-Kinney is one of the most-loved indie bands of the past two decades. The band formed in the latter days of the riot grrrl movement in Olympia, Washington, and found an intense following. They were fierce, and they let their ideas "fill the room".

After recording eight albums and tons of touring, they went on hiatus. The band's members pursued other musical and creative projects, but there was a nagging question -- what would it be like if Sleater-Kinney returned?

In January of this year, the band released a new record called No Cities to Love. It had been nearly a decade since their last LP.

Corin Tucker, the group's co-founder, joins us to talk about soaking up the punk and riot grrrl scenes of the early 1990s, finding her voice, and why Sleater-Kinney returned.

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Kyle Kinane finds "the puzzle that could never be solved" in stand up comedy

Kyle Kinane lives every day as if his good luck is about to run out. Or at least, what he considers to be good luck. Kinane has worked hard refining his stand up comedy for fifteen years and taken the leap from Chicago to Los Angeles to further his career, but part of him still can't believe he gets paid to tell jokes.

His comedy is often a special brand of self-deprecation. So many of his jokes are about him messing up. Falling out of the shower. Literally throwing away money. But he says he finds the joy in these moments.

He joins us to talk about how he started out in stand up, measuring his success in comedy, and his life philosophy of "can, so should".

Kinane's newest stand up special is called I Liked His Old Stuff Better.

Kinane's just finishing up a round of tourdates in the Midwest (if you move fast, you can catch him this week in Ohio and Indiana). You can find all of his upcoming shows on his website, or check out I Liked His Old Stuff Better in audio and video format via Comedy Central.

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The Outshot: What Will $150 Million Buy You? Blockbuster Insanity

So, is Mad Max: Fury Road really worth its $150 million budget? Jesse takes a look and finds out.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: 'I Am Big Bird' & Vince Staples

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CLICK HERE FOR A DIRECT DOWNLOAD OF THIS EPISODE.


L to R: Caroll Spinney on location with Kermit Love who built the original Big Bird puppet from a design created by Jim Henson.
Photo credit: Copper Pot Pictures

'I am Big Bird': Caroll Spinney and Dave LaMattina on Big Bird's Big Heart

Spend a few minutes watching Sesame Street, and you'll recognize some part of yourself in Big Bird. His kindness, curiosity and vulnerability resonate with everyone, young and old. But who brought Big Bird to life?

Caroll Spinney is the man inside the Big Bird suit, and he has been since 1969. (He's also Oscar the Grouch). Dave LaMattina is the co-director, along with Chad Walker, of new a documentary about Spinney. It's called I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story.

Spinney made his television debut in 1955, working on the local Las Vegas show Rascal Rabbit, then moved on to the East Coast and performed on Bozo the Clown. But he was looking for greater purpose in his work, and he found it. He met Jim Henson and began work on the pioneering children's TV show, Sesame Street.

Spinney and LaMattina sit down to talk with us about Big Bird's physical and spiritual evolution, how the 80-year-old Spinney manages to maneuver in a full-body puppet suit, and how Big Bird has helped so many children and adults deal with loss, love and their own feelings.

I Am Big Bird is in theaters nationwide.

This interview originally aired in June 2014.

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Photo courtesy Vince Staples

Vince Staples on Rap, Growing Up in Long Beach, Gang Culture, and Why Being Hard is "Just Corny"

The rapper Vince Staples is now 21 years old. As a teenager, he got jumped into a gang in Long Beach, where he’s from. He didn’t expect to become a rapper. And unlike some rappers, he doesn’t think street life is anything to brag about.

He's been fighting against his own upbringing and the gang culture that surrounded him since childhood, and his verses reflect that. He's released several well-received mixtapes, and he's continually outshone other rappers in guest verses on their own tracks.

Staples talks to us about growing up, why gang banging seemed like fate, and how he became a rapper.

His debut LP, Summertime '06 will be released by Def Jam on June 30th.

A different edit of this interview originally aired in June 2014.

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The Outshot: Game of Thrones

Like the 18 million people who watch it each week, Jesse loves Game of Thrones. But though he finds himself jumping up and down and shouting at the TV, he doesn't care how it all will end. Why? He'll explain.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Patton Oswalt, 'Fresh Off the Boat' & Jemaine Clement

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Patton Oswalt
Guests: 
Randall Park
Guests: 
Nahnatchka Khan
Guests: 
Jemaine Clement

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Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Patton Oswalt on Immersion in Art (and Life)

There was a period of time in the mid to late 1990s when Patton Oswalt spent most of his waking hours indoors. He'd be in a TV writers' room all day, make his way to the movie theater for a film or two, and then hit the stand up stage before going to sleep. Then he'd get up and do it all over again.

His movie obsession was supposed to teach him how to be a filmmaker and create better art, but he found he was missing out on life, and art was no substitute.

Oswalt's new book is called Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life From an Addiction to Film.

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Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Jemaine Clement on Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life"

You likely know Jemaine Clement best as half of the New Zealand comedy-music duo The Flight of the Conchords. Their show ran for several seasons on HBO.

More recently, Clement co-wrote, -directed and -stars in the new movie What We Do in the Shadows, about modern day vampire housemates.

What song changed his life? Stevie Wonder's recording of "For Once in My Life".

What We Do in the Shadows is in theaters now.

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Photo: ABC/Bob D'Amico

The Asian-American Sitcom in 2015: Randall Park and Nahnatchka Khan on 'Fresh Off the Boat'

Fresh Off the Boat is the first network sitcom about Asian-Americans in a long time, and that's a big deal. The creative team behind the show, including memoirist Eddie Huang, showrunner Nahnatchka Khan and star Randall Park have publicly grappled with that blessing and burden. How do you retain the specificity of the Tawainese-American experience and provide that to a group of Americans who are hungry for mass-market representation, and also make a show that's big-tent enough to welcome hundreds of millions of Americans who don't know what bao are?

We're joined by Nahnatchka Khan and Randall Park to talk about trying to achieve those goals, how they see their own American experiences, and how to write a sitcom dad who's not dumb.

Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesday nights at 8/7c on ABC.

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The Outshot: The Perfect Sly & the Family Stone Album

Jesse explains how Sly and the Family Stone made a perfect album, even as they slowly disintegrated as a group.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Kaitlin Olson & Jeff Chang

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Kaitlin Olson
Guests: 
Jeff Chang


Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Kaitlin Olson on "Sweet Dee" and the Morally Bankruptcy in It's Always Sunny on Philadelphia

Kaitlin Olson plays Sweet Dee on the long-running sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Dee is the only female member of "The Gang", a bunch of depraved, self-centered pals who run a bar. The Gang is constantly looking for ways to get rich quick, humiliate their enemies, get out of work, and prove once and for all the talent, charisma and brilliance they hold to be self-evident. In an unusual move for a solo female character, Dee doesn't serve to counterbalance the guys' bad behavior -- she absolutely matches their pace.

Olson talks to us about creating a more fully-fleshed character for Dee, how she came to comedy, and how she ended up dating (and marrying) her showrunner.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is currently in its tenth season. It airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on FXX.

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Photo credit: Jeremy Keith Villaluz

Jeff Chang on Art, Race, and How Diversity Now Means "Them"

About ten years ago, Jeff Chang published his book Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. His new book is a sort of follow-up -- it chronicles some of the cultural and racial shifts we've experienced as a nation. It's called Who We Be: The Colorization of America.

Chang talks to us about what "diversity" means to us today, the struggle for artists to defy racial categorization, and how and why corporations embraced multiculturalism.

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The Outshot: What It Means to Be Superhuman

Jesse tells us about the life and legend of Andre the Giant.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Ricky Jay

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Ricky Jay
Guests: 
Vijay Iyer

Magician & Sleight of Hand Artist Ricky Jay on the Nature of Deception

Is there such a thing as honest deception? Ricky Jay thinks so. Jay is one of the finest practioners of magic and sleight of hand in the world, and began performing as a child in Brooklyn. He learned the elements of performance from his grandfather, who was also a magician, and from his mentors like Dai Vernon and Charlier Miller.

He talks to us about magic as the family business, the times his work has made people angry, and why deception isn't always evil.

Ricky Jay: Deceptive Practice will kick off the new season of American Masters on Friday, January 23, 9-10pm on PBS (check local listings).

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Photo: Matthew Eisman/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Vijay Iyer on "The Song That Changed My Life"

Pianist, arranger and composer Vijay Iyer describes the pop song that lodged itself into his consciousness and changed his life.

The Vijay Iyer Trio has a new album, Break Stuff, out on February 10. They'll be out on tour supporting the album this winter and spring.

For more from Vijay, check out our interview from 2012.

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The Outshot: Jay Mitchell's Bahamian Funk

An awesome album cover leads Jesse on a journey to the little-known Bahamian musician Jay Mitchell.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: 'Boyhood' & The Life of Richard Pryor

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Richard Linklater
Guests: 
Ellar Coltrane
Guests: 
David Henry
Guests: 
Joe Henry
Guests: 
Linda Holmes
Guests: 
Glen Weldon

Boyhood's Richard Linklater and Ellar Coltrane on Childhood and the Filter of Memory

Thirteen years ago, the director Richard Linklater set out to make a very ambitious film. He wanted to make a movie about childhood and growing up, and he wanted it to actually capture the passing of time in the actors' lives. He cast Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as parents, and an as-yet-unknown seven year old actor named Ellar Coltrane as their son.

Linklater shot the movie bit by bit, over the course of twelve years, and it was released last year in theaters with the title Boyhood. The movie shows a series of moments in a boy's life (and by extension, his parents' lives). He eats dinner with his family, goes bowling with his dad, meets a new stepdad, gets a girlfriend, learns photography, moves away to college.

Richard Linklater and Ellar Coltrane join us to talk about how the movie was conceived, how Coltrane's life and personality was slowly integrated into his character, and which things stayed the same over twelve years of filming.

Boyhood just picked up several awards at this year's Golden Globes, including Best Director and Best Motion Picture - Drama. It's now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD.

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Pop Culture Happy Hour Takes Us Through 'The Towering Inferno' and 'Parents'

Glen Weldon and Linda Holmes of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast join us to talk about some of their favorite underrated films.

Glen recommends checking out Bob Balaban's dark horror comedy Parents, starring Mary Beth Hurt and Randy Quaid. It's available on Amazon Instant.

Linda suggests going back to watch the 1974 blockbuster The Towering Inferno, which is jam-packed with movie stars and epic disaster scenes. It's available on DVD and VOD.

You can hear Glen and Linda every week on Pop Culture Happy Hour, and check out Linda's writing about TV, books, movies and more on her blog at NPR.org, Monkey See.

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Furious Cool and the Genius of Richard Pryor

When David and Joe Henry set out to write about Richard Pryor, they weren't looking to write a straight-ahead biography. Instead, they produced a poetic and impressionistic portrait of Pryor as a product of the time and place where he lived.

Their book, Furious Cool, explores the cultural landscape of Pryor's life, in addition to the events of his childhood and professional career.

David and Joe Henry join us to talk about Pryor's ascent in the comedy world, some of his most transformative moments, and why he remained so well-loved, even when he behaved atrociously.

Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him is now available in paperback.

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The Outshot: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Why does Jesse love The Gang from Always Sunny so much? It's definitely not because they're good people. He'll explain.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Nick Offerman, Billy Bragg and Dolly Parton

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This week's episode includes content from previous broadcasts. Check out the links below to listen and share each segment.

Nick Offerman Talks Moustaches, Woodworking and Luck

Nick Offerman is a man accustomed to being recognized. As city administrator Ron Swanson on NBC's Parks and Recreation, he sports one of the most revered moustaches in recent television history. He'll explain why his moustache is may actually be more famous than he is.

Swanson has a lot in common with Offerman. They both pride themselves on masculinity and have a penchant for carpentry. But Offerman says there are some major differences between himself and the character he portrays; like the fact that Offerman took two semesters of ballet classes.

Offerman also talks about the joys and perils of growing up in a small town in Illinois, how he discovered his theatrical side, and why woodworking continues to be central to his life.

Offerman's book, Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living is now available in paperback. You can also catch his new comedy special on Netflix. It's called American Ham, and see him in the final season of Parks and Recreation, which begins January 13th.

This segment originally aired October, 15 2013.

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Billy Bragg on "The Song That Changed My Life": Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'"

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 him to develop 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's latest album is called Tooth & Nail.

This segment originally aired April 23, 2012.

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Dolly Parton on Show-Business and Sacrifice

Dolly Parton's beautiful voice and musical talent could have carried her to some measure of success. But it was Parton's unwavering drive and embrace of hard work that made her a superstar.

Parton will talk about the personal sacrifices she made for professional success, the events that shaped her life and how she feels about them now.

She'll also share stories about childhood. Parton grew up in the mountains of Tennessee with a large family and a not-so-large home. You'll find out how her upbringing relates to one of her most-loved songs, "I Will Always Love You".

Parton's newest album, Blue Smoke is available now.

This segment originally aired December 11, 2012.

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The Outshot: Michael Mann's Thief

Jesse recommends the 1981 noir film Thief, starring James Caan. It's a crime thriller about one last big score, but it's just as much about running from loneliness and is about running from the cops. Director Michael Mann infuses it with a cool, dark beauty unlike any robbery film you've ever seen.

This segment originally aired July 8, 2013.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Holiday Special 2014

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Mitchell Kezin
Guests: 
Bill Corbett
Guests: 
Elliott Kalan
Guests: 
Dan McCoy
Guests: 
Stuart Wellington


Christmas Music Fanatics and Mitchell Kezin's "Jingle Bell Rocks"

Mitchell Kezin is the director of the new documentary Jingle Bell Rocks! Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree at 33 ⅓ RPM. In it he unravels the backstories of twelve alternative Christmas songs that you won't hear on the radio or in department stores. You'll hear a few of those tracks today.

The film includes other famous Christmas-music lovers including Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips and John Waters.

Kezin will tell us why a grumpy Christmas song helped ignite his love of holiday music and how the US Air Force produced a Christmas album in the late 1960s (complete with fighter jets). He'll also recommend some of his favorite records for people who want to branch out from Bing Crosby.

Jingle Bell Rocks! is available now on VOD and DVD.

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Bill Corbett on Riffing and Rebooting Christmas

If you've ever listened to Mystery Science Theater 3000 or RiffTrax, you know who Bill Corbett is. He's been mocking bad movies for decades, alongside his collaborators Michael J. Nelson and Kevin Murphy.

He's also kept busy as a writer, a screenwriter and a playwright. He writes for the public radio show Wits, was a contributor to A Prairie Home Companion and even wrote the Eddie Murphy movie Meet Dave.

This year, he's getting into the holiday spirit. What if Santa Claus and Rudolph were actually super heroes that went by the names Red Avenger and Caribou? What if they spent their time fighting the villainous Ebenezer Scrooge? That's the premise of Corbett's new graphic novel Super-Powered Revenge Christmas.

Corbett will tell us why he chose to tackle a Christmas reboot, and explain why his most important holiday tradition involves melted cheese. And we couldn't let him go without divulging one of his favorite bad Christmas movies -- he'll tell us about Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny.

Super Powered Revenge Christmas is now available.

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The Flop House Tackles the Holiday with Flash Gordon

The Daily Show writers Dan McCoy and Elliott Kalan host The Flop House podcast along with their pal, Stuart Wellington. The films the show covers aren't complete amateurish duds like The Room or Birdemic. Rather, they deal with Hollywood gone wrong. Think films like Pompeii or Dracula 3D.

Now the show's hosts have written a new holiday comic: The Flash Gordon Holiday Special: 2014. The adventures Flash and his crew go on show the hero in unusual situations that you may not expect; especially if the only thing you know about Flash is the 80's Queen song.

They'll talk about the Flash Gordon mythos and some of their favorite bad Christmas films. Plus, they'll explain how they celebrate Cagemas; a special holiday tradition that's all about Nicolas Cage.

The Flash Gordon Holiday Special: 2014 is out this month from Dynamite Comics.

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The Outshot: The Peewee's Playhouse Christmas Special

Jesse doesn't have many holiday traditions. But he'll tell you about the one thing that he makes time for every year: The Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Mavis Staples

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Mavis Staples


Larry Busacca/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Mavis Staples talks about Singing Gospel, Civil Rights, and Working with Prince

Mavis Staples is one of the greatest singers of our time-- a gospel, soul and R&B vocalist known for her rich, throaty voice. She began as the lead member of The Staple Singers in the 1950's, a family gospel group formed by Pops Staples and several of his children.

The Staple Singers achieved hits with "Respect Yourself", "I'll Take You There" and "Let's Do it Again". They also became a musical voice of the American Civil Rights Movement with their protest music.

Staples has reinvented her sound over the decades. She's worked with Curtis Mayfield, Ry Cooder, Bob Dylan and Prince (Yes, THAT Prince).

Her most recent album One True Vine was released in 2013 and produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy. You can find a partial transcript of this interview here.

This segment originally aired January 30th, 2011.

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My Brother, My Brother and Me Offer Pop Culture Advice

Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy from My Brother, My Brother and Me join the show to answer pop culture quandaries from listeners.

Are you ever too old to hang up posters on your walls? Should you ever tell your children that the shows they like actually suck? Is it ever a good idea to talk to a stranger about the book they're reading? The brothers proffer their advice with a healthy amount of goofs mixed in.

If you liked what you heard, over 200 episodes of My Brother, My Brother and Me are available on
iTunes and right here on Maximumfun.org

This segment originally aired February 28, 2012.

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The Outshot: Bill Cunningham New York

Jesse examines the often superficial fashion world and finds a stunningly sincere and emotional portrait of a man. The man is New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, and the portrait is Richard Press's biographical documentary Bill Cunningham New York.

This segment originally aired March 24, 2012.

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