Bullseye

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: RuPaul & Terry Crews

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RuPaul on the Many Shades of Drag

Before he was the world's most famous drag queen, RuPaul was just a kid growing up in San Diego, California. But he knew something was different about him. He noticed things that other people didn't. He found joy in the irreverence of characters like Bugs Bunny, and TV shows like Monty Python's Flying Circus. When he was still in his teens, he packed his bags and followed his sister to Atlanta. He attended performing arts high school, and a brief stint as a car salesman, he started performing with a couple of underground bands. They were searching for a way to be subversive, and decided to perform in drag. RuPaul found that something clicked -- both for himself, and for the audience.

He spent years performing and appearing on public access TV, but he became an international star with his 1992 hit single, "Supermodel".

Recently, he's hosted RuPaul's Drag Race, a reality competition series featuring RuPaul as host and mentor to the contestants as they battle to become America's next drag superstar. Drag Race is now in its seventh season on LOGO TV.

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Carolyn Kellogg Recommends: Cryonics and Gangsters

We're joined by Carolyn Kellogg to talk about books!

Her first recommendation is a memoir about a TV repairman's obsession with immortality that leads to his professional pursuit of cryonics -- the art of freezing people. It's called Freezing People Is (Not) Easy: My Adventures in Cryonics by Bob Nelson, Kenneth Bly and Sally Magana.

Her second recommendation is a twining novel about the legendary gangster Meyer Lansky and a murder investigation in Israel, called Jacket Copy.

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My Brother My Brother and Me Solve Your Cultural Quandaries

The hosts of the podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me won't hesitate to give their advice, though they don't always suggest you follow it.

Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy and Griffin McElroy stop by Bullseye to answer some of our listeners' cultural quandaries. Here are their takes on dealing with your parents' (terrible) TV recommendations, what it means to hog a game at a barcade, and how comedians should respond to hecklers in the crowd.

If you’ve still got questions that need answers, the McElroy brothers host a weekly advice show for the modern era called My Brother, My Brother, and Me. You can subscribe wherever you download podcasts, and send your queries to mbmbam@maximumfun.org.

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Terry Crews on Art, Athletics, and Comedy

Terry Crews has taken a pretty unconventional path. He played football in college, but he didn't go on scholarship, and joined the team as a walk on. He played in the NFL for years as a linebacker with the Rams and the Chargers, but when he was done, he didn't become a sports commentator.

Instead, Crews went back to one of his first loves -- the arts. And while he continues his devotion to his workout regimen, he now uses his physicality in his work as an actor. He's worked steadily in a string of movies like The Longest Yard and The Expendables, and adds a tough-but-caring element to his characters in TV shows like Everybody Hates Chris and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

You can see him now as an essential part of Brooklyn Nine-Nine's ensemble as the police detective and family man, Sergeant Terry Jeffords.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Sunday nights on FOX.

Crews is also the author of a memoir, called Manhood: How to Be a Better Man - or Just Live with One.

This week, Crews tells us about growing up in Flint, Michigan, discovering his love of both art and physical fitness, the difficulty of ending an NFL career, and the joys of working on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

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The Outshot: Nas' Illmatic

Jesse shares the greatest hip-hop album ever recorded, Nas' Illmatic. A bold claim? Yes. A true claim? Also yes.

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This episode originally aired March 25, 2014.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Nick Hornby & Luis Guzmán

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Nick Hornby
Guests: 
Luis Guzmán

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Photo: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Nick Hornby on 'Funny Girl', Creativity and Ambition

Nick Hornby became famous as a literary writer for men. His first three books were about guys, fans specifically, Fever Pitch was a memoir about Hornby’s love of soccer; High Fidelity was about a record store owner, struggling with love. About A Boy was about a sort of boyish man tending to a mannish boy.

Hornby has since written several other books and screenplays, including Oscar nominee An Education.

His new novel, Funny Girl, is about a working class young woman in the 1960s who leaves her small town in search of a career on television, and her success on a BBC sitcom.

He sat down with Jesse to talk about why he set his novel in the mid-60s (and why its protagonist is a woman), personal ambition and creativity, and what it's like to be a Hollywood dinner guest.

Funny Girl is available now.

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Luis Guzmán of Ana Maria in Novela Land on 'The Part'

Luis Guzmán is a veteran character actor. But back in the early 1990s, he was still working as a social worker on the Lower East Side, and acting was more of a side gig. Then he got a role that put him on the map -- the thuggish sidekick Pachanga in the 1993 movie Carlito's Way.

As Guzmán tells it, everything crystallized with that role.

You can see Luis Guzmán playing evil lawyer Licenciado Schmidt in the new movie Ana Maria in Novela Land, in theaters now.

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The Outshot: Devil in a Blue Dress

Jesse explains why Easy Rawlins, of Devil in A Blue Dress, is a different breed of private detective.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Spike Lee & The Creators of 'High Maintenance'

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Spike Lee
Guests: 
Katja Blichfeld
Guests: 
Ben Sinclair

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.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.


Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Spike Lee on 'Da Sweet Blood of Jesus', the Knicks, and Gentrification

Jesse sits down with acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee. Spike tells us about how addiction is made explicit in his new movie, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, how he really feels about Larry Bird and about his own very serious addiction.... to Air Jordans.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is in theaters now and available on VOD.

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Photo courtesy Matt Doyle

High Maintenance: Co-Creators Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair Talk About Marijuana, Their Webseries, and Asking for Money

Jesse sits down with Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair. Katja Blichfeld is a casting director who previously won an Emmy for her work on 30 Rock; Ben Sinclair is an actor. The two are a married couple, and created the series High Maintenance, a “not on television” show that follows a New York City marijuana delivery guy as he visits his various clients.

The series has evolved over two seasons and several years of production. Sinclair and Blichfeld released the second half of season 2 on Vimeo earlier this month.

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The Outshot: Wonder Showzen

MTV2's Wonder Showzen looked like a kids' show. But it wasn't. It really, really, wasn't. Jesse tells us why Wonder Showzen is his favorite TV satire of the past decade.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Rene Russo & Dan Gilroy of 'Nightcrawler'

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Rene Russo
Guests: 
Dan Gilroy
Guests: 
Alexandre Desplat

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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Dan Gilroy and Rene Russo of 'Nightcrawler' on Seediness in TV News, Writing a Desperate But Strong Female Character, and the Constraints of Independent Film

Dan Gilroy is the writer and director of the movie Nightcrawler, which is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, a video stringer for a local TV news program, and Dan's wife Rene Russo as an overnight news producer, Nina.

Lou is an anti-hero, bordering on a psychopath. His attempts to build a career and establish relationships with others are charmingly off-kilter. But also more than a little creepy. Russo’s character, Nina, ends up on the receiving end of both the charm and the creepiness.

Jesse spoke with Gilroy and Russo in front of a live audience at a benefit for the film nonprofit Vidiots.

Nightcrawler is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

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Song Exploder: Alexandre Desplat on Creating The Imitation Game's Theme

Alexandre Desplat is an Academy-Award-nominated French film composer. He's written the score for lots of Hollywood movies: Zero Dark Thirty, Harry Potter, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and several Harry Potter films among others.

Desplat talked to Hrishi Hirway for an episode of his podcast, Song Exploder. On Song Exploder, Hrishi asks musicians to deconstruct their songs, track by track. This year, Alexandre has been nominated again for an Oscar twice in the same category, for his work on both "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "The Imitation Game".

The Imitation Game stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the English mathematician Alan Turing. Turing helped crack the Enigma code during World War II, but his achievements didn't keep him from being persecuted for his sexuality.

Desplate broke down the orchestration in the main theme from the film.

You can listen to other episodes of Song Exploder on our website, in iTunes or wherever you download podcasts.


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The Outshot: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Jesse talks about beauty, perfectionism and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Chris Rock, John Cleese & Scott Aukerman

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Chris Rock
Guests: 
John Cleese
Guests: 
Scott Aukerman


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Chris Rock Explains His Commitment to Stand Up

Chris Rock has never strayed for too long from stand up comedy. He started performing stand up in his late teens, then he was handpicked by Eddie Murphy to be in Beverly Hills Cop II. Rock then spent a few years on Saturday Night Live and In Living Color, and eventually turned to stand up yet again in the mid 1990s.

You probably remember what happened next. Rock released a series of stand up specials, earning him several Emmys and cementing his status as one of the industry's best comics.

It was Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing that inspired him to work behind the camera, as a movie director. Rock directed two movies in the 2000s, Head of State and I Think I Love My Wife. His latest is a comedy called Top Five. Rock stars as Andre Allen, a famous comic who wants to be taken seriously as an actor. Andre can't get audiences to embrace his dramatic turn in a movie about the Haitian slave rebellion -- they just want him to be funny.

Rock will talk about why he's making movies instead of touring stand up clubs, why he isn't worried about becoming "old Bob Hope", and the real reason he's afraid of losing his fame.

Top Five is in theaters this week.

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I Wish I'd Made That: Scott Aukerman on Twin Peaks

Artists are always influenced by the work of others. And sometimes, something an artist sees is SO good, so PERFECT that they wish they had made it themselves.

This happens so often to the people we talk to, that we made a segment about it. It’s called I Wish I’d Made That.

Today you’re going to hear from the Comedy Bang Bang host Scott Aukerman. One of his early jobs was as a writer for the comedy program Mr. Show.

So why does this comedy aficionado wish he'd made the dark, surrealistic murder-mystery show Twin Peaks? He'll explain.

Twin Peaks is currently available on Blu-ray and Netflix, and will be returning to air sometime in 2016 on Showtime.

You can hear more from Aukerman on the TV show and podcast Comedy Bang! Bang!. Season three of the show is wrapping up on IFC.

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John Cleese on His Early Life and the Road to Comedy

John Cleese is one of the most influential figures of comedy. He's best known as one the creative forces behind the legendary comedy troupe Monty Python. But before that, he was almost a lawyer.

Cleese went to Cambridge, studied law, and was about to accept a job with a big firm when another opportunity came up. This one was perhaps slightly less distinguished, but infinitely more appealing to Cleese. The BBC was impressed by his work with his college comedy revue, The Footlights, and offered him a job writing and producing comedy.

In his new memoir So, Anyway… Cleese discusses his journey, from his childhood in prep school, to his early days of sketch comedy at Cambridge, to the co-founding of the Pythons.

Cleese will talk about being one of the "scientific" minds of the Pythons, writing and re-writing with his comedy partner Graham Chapman, and how he felt about the recent Monty Python reunion.

Cleese's new book, So, Anyway… is available now.

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The Outshot: Transparent

Why does Jesse like Transparent? Well, it's the rare television show that has people acting like... real people.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Live in L.A. with Dan Harmon and Rob Corddry

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Steve Agee
Guests: 
Dan Harmon
Guests: 
Rob Corddry
Guests: 
Andy Kindler
Guests: 
Sara Watkins

This week's episode was recorded live on stage in the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Our thanks to them for hosting us. Additional thanks to NPR's Generation Listen for sponsoring the event.


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Comedy: Steve Agee Talks About His Year

Steve Agee is a comedian, writer and actor, known mostly for his work on The Sarah Silverman Program. He performed as part of our live show in the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

If you want to hear more from Steve Agee he has a podcast where he interviews all sorts of television and music personalities. It’s called Steve Agee: Uhhh and can be downloaded on iTunes.

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Dan Harmon Explains Why He Was Fired from Community (and Why He Was Rehired)

Dan Harmon created the NBC sitcom Community. It’s a show about seven misfits at a community college trying to get their lives together as they deal with their new friendships. The show’s offbeat humor and characters earned it a devoted following and helped Harmon rise to fame.
Harmon was fired from Community after its third season, but it wasn’t long before he was able to find a new job… as the showrunner for Community.

In the year that Community went on without him, he took his podcast on the road. Documentarian Neil Berkley produced a movie about the tour and Harmon’s impact on others. It’s called Harmontown.

Harmon will talk about his mindset going into the sixth season of Community, what he likes and dislikes about traditional sitcoms and why he will never again share a personal voicemail from Chevy Chase with a public audience.

You can catch the documentary Harmontown in select theaters and available on demand now.

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Rob Corddry’s Golden Childhood

Rob Corddry has been a correspondent for The Daily Showand starred in a bunch of different movies, but more recently his face -- covered in clown make-up -- has been a fixture of Los Angeles billboards and bus stops. It’s because he created and stars in adult swim’s Children’s Hospital. It’s probably the silliest show to have ever won an Emmy.

Corddry also plays a doctor in the webseries Wedlock. In it, he attempts to help a couple played by Mark Duplass and Jennifer Lafleur who are desperate to start a romantic relationship, but have none of the chemistry necessary to make it happen.

Corddry will talk about growing up as the oldest sibling, what he worked out in therapy, and what it’s like being on-set with Michael Bay.

Wedlock is available through Vimeo on Demand. Children’s Hospital can be seen on Adult Swim .

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Comedy: Andy Kindler Is Legendary

Andy Kindler was the second comedian that joined us live on stage in the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. He’s had two specials on Comedy Central and has an annual State of the Industry Address at Montreal’s Just For Laughs, festival.

You can catch Kindler as the voice of Mort in the animated series Bob’s Burgers and as a fictionalized version of himself in the IFC series Maron.

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Sara Watkins and members of the Watkins Family Hour perform "You and Me"

Singer and fiddler Sara Watkins has been busy in the bluegrass scene since she founded Nickel Creek with her brother Sean and mandolinist Chris Thile in 1989. She's released five studio albums as part of the band. In 2009, she began her own solo project and has released two albums.

Watkins joined us to perform the single "You and Me" from her 2012 album Sun Midnight Sun. Her band included Sean Watkins on guitar, Don Heffington on drums and Benmont Tench on piano.
Sara and Sean have a monthly podcast called Watkins Family Hour in which they banter and play music with fellow bluegrass musicians. You can download it on iTunes.

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photo courtesy Dana Robinson

Outshot: The Museum of Jurassic Technology

Jesse tells you about The Museum of Jurassic Technology, a place that does very little to explain its exhibits, but is no less beautiful for it.

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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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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: DJ Quik

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
DJ Quik

If you're in Los Angeles, you've got less than 48 hours to buy tickets to Bullseye with Jesse Thorn LIVE on Wednesday, October 15th at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Featuring conversation with Rob Corddry (Wedlock, Childrens Hospital) and Dan Harmon (Community, Harmontown), music from Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek, Watkins Family Hour), comedy from Steve Agee (New Girl, The Sarah Silverman Program) and Andy Kindler (Maron, Letterman) and more! Plus, your ticket gets you a free beer after the show at our meet-and-greet sponsored by NPR's Generation Listen.

Tickets are going fast - get yours now, and we'll see you there!


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DJ Quik Talks About Bollywood Samples, Life Imitating Art, and Hairstyles

DJ Quik is one of the most prolific figures in West Coast hip hop. He's a great rapper, but first and foremost, he's always considered himself a producer. He's produced some of the most inventive samples and beats of the genre. And even though he geeks out about latest and greatest studio equipment, he's always used whatever it takes to capture the sound he wants -- even if it means recording a music sample with a VCR.

Quik first made a name for himself in the hip hop scene in the late 80's and early 90's, handing out homemade mix tapes and deejaying around Los Angeles. He's since released ten albums, and produced records for everyone from Tupac, Snoop Dogg and Xzibit to Tony! Toni! Toné!.

He'll talk about why a leaked record and a couple of guns made him realize he needed a new circle of friends, why he never wants to stop making pretty beats for his records and his inspiration for his awesome, awesome hairstyles over the years.

DJ Quik's new record is The Midnight Life. It's available now.

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Photo: Mandee Johnson

Comedy: Cameron Esposito Explains Why Difference is Good

America is a place of differences. And in an excerpt from her new stand up comedy album, Cameron Esposito explains why we should celebrate that.

Esposito's new record is called Same Sex Symbol. It's available now from Kill Rock Stars Records and on iTunes. She's also one of the co-hosts of the action and sci-fi podcast Wham Bam Pow.

The Outshot: Skymaul 2

Have you ever picked up and actually flipped through one of those in-flight catalogs? Well, the sketch comedy group Kasper Hauser takes all of the grotesque and excessive product offerings of Skymall, and brings them to another level in Skymaul 2: Where America Buys His Stuff.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards and John Darnielle

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Merrill Garbus
Guests: 
John Darnielle
Guests: 
Josh Dorman

If you're in Los Angeles, come see Bullseye with Jesse Thorn LIVE on Wednesday, October 15th at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Featuring conversation with Rob Corddry (Wedlock, Childrens Hospital) and Dan Harmon (Community, Harmontown), music from Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek, Watkins Family Hour), comedy from Steve Agee (New Girl, The Sarah Silverman Program) and Andy Kindler (Maron, Letterman) and more! Plus, your ticket gets you a free beer after the show at our meet-and-greet sponsored by NPR's Generation Listen.

Tickets are going fast - get yours now!

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Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs on Discovering the Ukulele, Hip Hop, and a Sense of Place

Merrill Garbus is the creative force behind the musical project tUnE-yArDs. The group’s first album, BiRd-BrAiNs, was released in 2009 and if it sounds lo-fi, it's because it is. Garbus recorded the album almost entirely on handheld voice-recorder. All those music loops? She created them by copying and pasting the sound files over and over on her computer.

tUnE-yArDs released a new album earlier this year. It’s called Nikki Nack. It still features the band's signature mix of drum loops, samples and ukulele, but it’s a much smoother-sounding production than their debut.

Garbus talks to us about why she was drawn to the ukulele as a hormonal teenager, how she fell into producing Bay area hip hop, and how to weave political and social issues into music without getting preachy.

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Landscape with Yellow Birds, Paul Klee


Memento Mori, Josh Dorman

"I Wish I'd Made That": Josh Dorman Experiments with Childlike Vision

Artists are always influenced by the work of others. And sometimes, something that an artist sees is so good, so perfect that they wish they had made it themselves.

This happens so often to the people we talk to, that we made a segment about it. It’s called I Wish I’d Made That.

Josh Dorman is a fine artist from New York. He specializes in invented landscapes, created in a mixture of collage, drawing and painting. His images play around with the ideas of time and space to create an unusual reality.

Dorman was a sophomore in college when he discovered Paul Klee and his painting Landscape With Yellow Birds. And it really affected him -- maybe too much? He'll explain.

If you’re in New York, you can see Josh Dorman’s solo exhibition, Whorled, at the Ryan Lee Gallery, through October 11.

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John Darnielle on 'Wolf in White Van', Working with Teenagers, and Artistic Responsibility

You probably know John Darnielle as lead member (and sometimes only member) of the band The Mountain Goats. His music is known for its poignant lyrics and simple instrumentation. Darnielle started the band in 1991 and has since released 14 albums.

Now, he’s written his first novel, which is long-listed for the National Book Award for Fiction.

Wolf In White Van is the story of Sean, a young man who has survived a suicide attempt, but is horribly disfigured in the process. Sean goes on to create a mail-order role-playing game, only to find out how his imagination can have real-world consequences.

Darnielle talks to Jesse about why lyrics are so important to him, subliminal messaging, and how much artistic responsibility we should assign to writers, musicians, and other creative people.

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The Outshot: The Area Man

Jesse praises the true hero of The Onion: The Area Man.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Tig Notaro, Ed Helms & Nick Frost

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Tig Notaro
Guests: 
Ed Helms
Guests: 
Nick Frost

Do you live in Los Angeles? Know someone who does? Come see Bullseye with Jesse Thorn LIVE on Wednesday, October 15th at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Featuring conversation with Dan Harmon (Community, Harmontown), music from Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek, Watkins Family Hour), comedy from Steve Agee (New Girl, The Sarah Silverman Program) and Andy Kindler (Maron, Letterman) and more! Get your tickets now!


Larry Busacca/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

"I Have Nothing to Lose Now": Tig Notaro on Life and Stand Up Comedy After Cancer

In 2012, the stand up comic Tig Notaro had a famously bad year. She caught pneumonia, which snowballed into C. Diff. She and her girlfriend broke up. Her mother passed away unexpectedly. And then, she learned she had breast cancer.

You're probably familiar with what came next. Notaro headed out to a stand up gig in Los Angeles, at the Largo. But she didn't feel right performing her usual set. She decided to open up like she had never before. Hours after she received the diagnosis, she went on stage and said to the audience, "Hello, I have cancer."

She took the audience through the pain she had experienced over the last few months. It was still in her deadpan style, with jokes and stories that were brave and sometimes uncomfortably funny.

Notaro is in remission now, and she's continued to perform stand up, write and record her podcast Professor Blastoff. She's headed off on a new national stand up tour, called Boyish Girl Interrupted.

She talks with Jesse about how she decided to approach that set at the Largo, why cancer and tragedy made her more open to the world, and telling her "bee joke" after an emotionally intense set.

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The Part: Nick Frost on Humanizing Greed & Excess in 'Money'

Becoming an actor isn’t easy. Getting cast in your first role is a huge challenge. But even then it’s sometimes YEARS before an actor lands the role that changes everything. It's The Part.

The English actor Nick Frost is known for playing the everyman: goofy, kind, good-hearted men who are easy to love, like his characters in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

So why did he take a role as the greedy, hedonistic ad director John Self in the BBC adaptation of 'Money'? Well... he'll explain.

Frost voices the henchman Mr. Trout in the new animated movie The Boxtrolls, which is in theaters now.

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Ed Helms: From The Daily Show, to The Hangover, to... Bluegrass?

Ed Helms is an A-list comedy star these days. He starred in the mega-successful Hangover trilogy, and on NBC's The Office for seven seasons. And before that, he caught a break as a correspondent on The Daily Show, where his cohort included Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert.

But like most folks in show business, he started out low on the totem pole -- working as a barker for comedy clubs, handing out fliers to people walking by, begging them to come inside.

Helms talks to Jesse about his very early career, how Stephen Colbert helped him both professionally and personally, why he thinks The Hangover doesn’t deserve its reputation as a "bro movie", and why of all things, he started a bluegrass festival.

Helms is currently shooting the new National Lampoon's Vacation movie, in which he stars as Rusty Griswold. If you live in Los Angeles, you can find him hosting the 2014 LA Bluegrass Situation on October 10th and 11th.

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The Outshot: Nina Simone's "Four Women"

Jesse talks about one of his very favorite singers, Nina Simone, and "Four Women".

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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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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Maria Bamford and George Saunders [R]

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Maria Bamford: Comedy's Orchid

Maria Bamford's comedy is weird and wonderfully distinctive. For example: she recorded her last stand up special at home, in her living room. The seating? Her couch. The audience? Her parents. She performed her 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 and streaming on Netflix. Her new Comedy Central CD / DVD special, Ask Me About My New God is now available.

This interview originally aired on 2/12/13.

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Dan Deacon on "The Song That Changed My Life"

Dan Deacon is a Baltimore-based composer and electronics musician who has released over a dozen albums since 2003. He talks about why a player piano composition by Conlon Nancarrow changed his life and the way he made music.

This interview originally aired on 1/03/12.

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George Saunders on Creative Challenge and Financial Pressure

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 collection, Tenth of December, is available now in paperback.

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).

This interview originally aired on 2/12/13.

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The Outshot: William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe"

Jesse ruminates on alone time and... William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe".

This segment originally aired on 2/12/13.

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