Jesse Thorn

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: The Pointer Sisters and Bootsy Collins

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
The Pointer Sisters
Guests: 
Bootsy Collins

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

The Pointer Sisters on going from being mid-size R&B stars to huge, mega hit makers

[r]The Pointer Sisters ruled the 1980s with hits like "I'm So Excited" and "Jump (For My Love)." Growing up in Oakland, California, they had a reverend father who taught them that rock and roll was "the devil's work." But when their parents were not around, they snuck in listening sessions to Elvis, The Supremes, and James Brown.

Bonnie and June Pointer were the first to form the group in 1969, and they were followed by Ruth and Anita in later years. They recorded their debut self-titled album in 1973, and the single "Yes We Can Can" became their first hit.

Ruth and Anita joined Jesse in 2014 to talk about their vintage style, forging their own musical path, and mixing family with business.

Learn more about the Pointer Sisters by visiting their website.

Listen to The Pointer Sisters' interview!

Bootsy Collins on funk, LSD and more

Bootsy Collins is a funk legend. A bassist by happenstance, in his teen years Bootsy was discovered and hired by James Brown to be part of the band The J.B.'s. At only 19, Bootsy was on the rise and made the move to play with another inventive and pioneering funk artist, George Clinton, as part of Funkadelic-Parliment up until the formation of his own band Bootsy's Rubber Band.

In 2011, Bootsy spoke to Jesse about sharing the stage with James Brown, experimenting with LSD, the freedom he felt with the Parliament-Funkadelic collective and his solo career.

Bootsy is currently working on his 14th solo album, World Wide Funk. Keep up with the latest on Bootsy by visiting his website.

Listen to Jesse's 2011 interview with Bootsy Collins!

The Outshot: The Muppet Movie (1979)

Say what you want about the Muppets. Maybe you didn't like the new movies, maybe you missed the TV show. Jesse tells you why the original Muppet Movie is still a classic.

Listen to this week's Outshot!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jonathan Coulton and Tim Gunn

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Jonathan Coulton
Guests: 
Tim Gunn

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

Photo by Jesse Thorn

Jonathan Coulton on his new album Solid State, and using humor in songwriting

This week Jesse talks to singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton. About 12 years ago, Jonathan decided to quit his job as a computer programmer to pursue a full-time career in music. And he did so by starting maybe one of the most ambitious songwriting projects ever: he decided he would write, record, and release one song every week for an entire year.

That project, called Thing a Week, was a runaway success. And while the novelty of the project eventually wore off, he gained a huge following of fans smitten by catchy and humorous songs of his like "Code Monkey," "RE: Your Brains," and even an acoustic cover of "Baby Got Back" so popular that the TV show Glee ripped it off. His career took off, leading to opportunities like writing songs for the popular Portal video games, and landing a gig as the house musician for the NPR quiz show Ask Me Another.

There's always been an underlying sadness and tragedy in some of Jonathan's music, funny songs included. Those themes come to the fore on his latest album, Solid State, which came out this year. It's kind of a dystopian concept album about the future of the internet, with songs about cat photos and trolls. He also just put out a companion graphic novel book with the same title.

Jonathan tells Jesse that even though he owes his career to the Internet, sometimes he actually hates it. As he gets older, he has increasingly mixed feelings about effects of Internet culture on our lives and relationships, an ambivalence that pervades his latest record. He also plays a couple tunes!

Learn more about Jonathan's music and where he's playing next on his website.

Listen to Jonathan Coulton's interview and in-studio performance!

Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Tim Gunn on Project Runway, and what our clothes say about us

Next up this week is Tim Gunn from Lifetime's Project Runway! If you can believe it, the show just started its 16th season last month. If shows like Top Chef brought haute cuisine into America's living rooms, Project Runway did the same with fashion.

Alongside host Heidi Klum, Tim's a teacher and mentor on the show. He guides aspiring designers on their path to stardom with his intelligence, compassion, and sense of humor. Even when he has to get tough on his students, he still comes across as thoughtful and winsome.

Even though Tim's won an Emmy for his work on Project Runway, he's far more than a television personality: he's got a brilliant mind for fashion. He taught design at the New School for 25 years, and was a department chair for five of those years. Tim talks to Jesse about the relationship between architecture and fashion, and the powerful messages that our clothes send to others. He argues that dressing well is something that everyone should be thinking about, not just fashion hounds. He also talks about those early years of working on Project Runway, and why he was initially skittish about being on TV.

Learn more about Project Runway, now in its 16th season.

Listen to Jesse's interview with Tim Gunn!

The Outshot: Norm MacDonald's "Roast" of Bob Saget

Jesse's never cared much for Comedy Central roasts, except for one. In this week's Outshot, he remembers Norm MacDonald's subversive performance at Bob Saget's roast in 2008.

Listen to this week's Outshot !

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Wallace Shawn, Jay Baruchel & Nick Lowe

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Wallace Shawn
Guests: 
Jay Baruchel
Guests: 
Nick Lowe

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

Jay Baruchel on directing Goon: Last of the Enforcers, starring in Undeclared, and Canadian humor

This week Jesse talks to Canadian comedian and director Jay Baruchel. You've probably seen Jay in some great comedies like the FXX show Man Seeking Woman and Judd Apatow's Undeclared. He also starred in the How to Train Your Dragon movies as the voice of Hiccup.

This year, Jay directed his first ever feature length movie. It's called Goon: Last of the Enforcers, and it's the sequel to Goon, a movie he co-starred in a few years ago. The movie tells the story of an enforcer named Doug Glatt who's played by Seann William Scott.

Jay talks to Jesse about his love for hockey and the important function that violence plays in the Goon movies. He also shares a bit about his experience on the set of Undeclared and how it shaped him as a comedian. Plus, Jay drops some knowledge about his home and native land: specifically why Canadians are well represented in American comedies, and misconceptions about Montreal, his hometown.

Goon: Last of the Enforcers comes to theaters and VOD on September 1. You can pre-order it on iTunes now.

Listen to Jesse's conversation with Jay Baruchel!

Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for SAG Foundation

Wallace Shawn on acting and his latest book, Night Thoughts.

Also this week, the character actor Wallace Shawn. On screen he has over 180 credits, including films like Clueless, The Princess Bride, My Dinner with Andre. He's also had regular roles on Gossip Girl and Crossing Jordan. You probably also know him as the T-Rex from the Toy Story movies.

Wallace is also an Obie award-winning playwright and the author of several books. His latest is called Night Thoughts, an extended of essays touching on topics like politics, morality, and privilege.

You can find Night Thoughts on Amazon or your local bookseller.

Listen to Wallace Shawn's interview!

Photo: GARI GARAIALDE/AFP/Getty Images

The Song That Changed My Life: Nick Lowe on "Fatback Louisiana, USA"

English singer-songwriter Nick Lowe recalls the indelible mark that the 1950s country and western song "Fatback Louisiana, USA" by Tennessee Ernie Ford left on him as a young boy growing up on a Royal Air Force base.

Nick Lowe is gearing up to tour the Midwest and East Coast this fall. Find out if he'll be playing near you on his website, NickLowe.com.

Hear Nick Lowe talk about the song that changed his life!

The Outshot: The story-driven gameplay of Firewatch

Jesse praises Firewatch, an adventure game that combines gripping narrative and well-written dialogue to make for a deeply human experience.

Firewatch is available as a download on Windows, Mac, Linux, Playstation 4 and XBOX One.

Listen to Jesse's Outshot on Firewatch!

The Turnaround: Terry Gross

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Show: 
The Turnaround
Guests: 
Terry Gross

Jesse will be hosting an AMA on Reddit on Friday, August 11th at 12 pm PST to talk about what he's learned from making The Turnaround. Visit iama.reddit.com to join in the conversation and ask Jesse anything you'd like.

On the last episode of The Turnaround, Jesse talks to his all-time interviewing hero Terry Gross! For more than 30 years Terry's hosted Fresh Air from WHYY in Philadelphia, conducting some of the most insightful, fascinating conversations you'll likely ever hear.

Being a radio interviewer came somewhat naturally to Terry. She tells Jesse she prefers the medium to television, where you're expected to look or dress a certain kind of way, and where you can't just disappear behind a microphone. She also goes into the nuts and bolts of how Fresh Air gets made, and why doing a recorded show allows her take risks that often make for wonderful, unexpected moments. They also talk about a not-so-wonderful moment: that infamous 2002 interview with Gene Simmons.

Be sure to check out Terry's amazing interviews on Fresh Air's online archives.

The Turnaround is a production of Maximum Fun in partnership with the Columbia Journalism Review. Visit their website to learn more about their "mission to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society," and to read edited transcripts of our other Turnaround episodes.

Hosted and created by Jesse Thorn
Produced by Kara Hart and Nick Liao
Senior Producer: Laura Swisher
Managing Director: Bikram Chatterji

Music for The Turnaround provided by Mobius Van ChocStraw.

Special thanks to Kyle Pope and his team at CJR, Darrel Frost, and Emilie Erskine.

The Turnaround: Werner Herzog

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Show: 
The Turnaround
Guests: 
Werner Herzog

New to The Turnaround? Subscribe in Apple Podcasts or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get two new interviews a week through August 11th.

This week Jesse is in conversation with German filmmaker Werner Herzog, the man responsible for films like Grizzly Man, Tale of Forgotten Dreams and Lo and Behold. If you have not seen one of Werner's films, they might be described as intense, extreme, maybe even dark. But they are also very insightful, and this depth can be credited to the way that he interacts with the people he is interviewing. He chooses his subjects carefully, often times based on whether or not he thinks that they can handle his line of inquiry.


Photo: Jesse Thorn

Werner's career spans more than 50 years, and he has released work almost every year since he began. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his 2009 documentary Encounters at the End of the World, and has been nominated for and won many other awards during his long career. He is one of the most celebrated figures in documentary film making, for both the final product and the processes by which he makes them.

Jesse and Werner talk about how he gets people to talk to him, and why he asks questions that he knows he won't get the answer to. They talk about his 1996 film, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, and why he thinks his dramatizations of his subject's lived experience aren't manipulation, but actually the way to get to the truth of the matter. They also talk about the interviews that take place on, and off camera, and why the latter often involves deeper and more meaningful conversation.

You can watch Werner's Emmy nominated film Into the Inferno on Netflix now.

Jesse will be hosting an AMA on Reddit this Friday August 11th at 12 noon PST to talk about what he's learned from this project. Go to iama.reddit.com/ to join in the conversation and ask Jesse anything you'd like.

The Turnaround is a production of Maximum Fun in partnership with the Columbia Journalism Review. Visit their website to learn more about their "mission to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society," and to read edited transcripts of our other Turnaround episodes.

Hosted and created by Jesse Thorn
Produced by Kara Hart and Nick Liao
Senior Producer: Laura Swisher
Managing Director: Bikram Chatterji

Music for The Turnaround provided by Mobius Van ChocStraw.

Special thanks to Kyle Pope and his team at CJR, Darrel Frost, and Emilie Erskine.

The Turnaround: Ray Suarez

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Show: 
The Turnaround
Guests: 
Jesse Thorn
Guests: 
Ray Suarez

New to The Turnaround? Subscribe in Apple Podcasts or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get two new interviews a week through August 11. Also, Jesse will be hosting a Reddit AMA talking about what he's learned from creating The Turnaround on Friday, August 11 at noon PST.

Ray Suarez is a broadcast journalist and news anchor who has done just about everything under the wider "journalism" umbrella. He began his career working for WMAQ in Chicago, covering local and national news. He was a senior correspondent for PBS NewsHour, hosted NPR's Talk of the Nation for almost seven years, and most recently, he hosted a show on Al Jazeera America called Inside Story. He is a published author, and is currently a visiting professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts.


Photo: Courtesy of Ray Suarez

Ray is the kind of journalist that you would want to talk to as a private citizen. He's kind, morally adept, and does not try to take advantage in any way. He's still a super fair guy when he's interviewing public figures, but he tries to get them off script -- which he's become really good at in his more than three decades-long career.

Ray tells Jesse about his childhood ambition to be a professional journalist. They talk about his time reporting local news, and what he learned about talking to private versus public people. They also talk about the moral choices that comes with interviewing non-professionals. We also find out what it's like to interview politicians, and how to get the better, less rehearsed interview.

Ray has written three books, the most recent of which is called Latino Americans: The 500 Year Legacy that Shaped a Nation. You can also hear Ray interviewing Desus Nice, the Kid Mero, and Walter Murch on Bullseye with Jesse Thorn this past February here.

The Turnaround is a production of Maximum Fun in partnership with the Columbia Journalism Review. Visit their website to learn more about their "mission to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society," and to read edited transcripts of our other Turnaround episodes.

Hosted and created by Jesse Thorn
Produced by Kara Hart and Nick Liao
Senior Producer: Laura Swisher
Managing Director: Bikram Chatterji

Music for The Turnaround provided by Mobius Van ChocStraw.

Special thanks to Kyle Pope and his team at CJR, Darrel Frost, and Emilie Erskine.

The Turnaround: Katie Couric

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Show: 
The Turnaround
Guests: 
Katie Couric

New to The Turnaround? Subscribe in Apple Podcasts or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get two new interviews a week through August 11. Also, Jesse will be hosting a Reddit AMA talking about what he's learned from creating The Turnaround on Friday, August 11 at noon PST.

America's Sweetheart meets America's Radio Sweetheart! Katie Couric visits Jesse Thorn on today's episode of The Turnaround. Katie Couric has worked in TV news for nearly 40 years, an illustrious career that's included hosting duties at the Today Show, CBS Evening News, and most recently, an interview show on Yahoo. Name a famous person, and she's probably talked with them at some point: everyone from presidents, to superstar athletes, to actresses. But her skill as an interviewer also extends to her intimate conversations with everyday people, as seen in documentaries like Gender Revolution. And when she's not anchoring or interviewing people, she's hosting her own podcast.


Photo courtesy of Midroll

Katie talks to Jesse about what it was like being a morning talk show host for years, including dealing with the insanely early call times. She also opens up about tense interview situations, like the time in 2008 when she interviewed then VP candidate Sarah Palin about her foreign policy credentials. Plus: she offers tips on how to exit conversations at parties.

Check out Katie's great podcast on the Stitcher network, simply called Katie Couric.

The Turnaround is a production of Maximum Fun in partnership with the Columbia Journalism Review. Visit their website to learn more about their "mission to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society," and to read edited transcripts of our other Turnaround episodes.

Hosted and created by Jesse Thorn
Produced by Kara Hart and Nick Liao
Senior Producer: Laura Swisher
Managing Director: Bikram Chatterji

Music for The Turnaround provided by Mobius Van ChocStraw.

Special thanks to Kyle Pope and his team at CJR, Darrel Frost, and Emilie Erskine.

The Turnaround: Louis Theroux

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Show: 
The Turnaround
Guests: 
Louis Theroux

New to The Turnaround? Subscribe in Apple Podcasts or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get two new interviews a week through August 11. Also, Jesse will be hosting a Reddit AMA talking about what he's learned from creating The Turnaround on Friday, August 11 at noon PST.

Today Jesse is joined by Louis Theroux, a British documentarian whose work frequently brings him into intimate contact with some of the most fascinating subcultures in our society.


Photo: Jesse Thorn

For more than fifteen years, Louis has been a BBC presenter, covering some of the most extreme groups in the world today, including the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, and the leader of the White Aryan Resistance. In recent years, he has also covered a plethora of public interest issues, including crime, disability, and alcohol addiction.

Louis talks to Jesse about what it's like to go into seemingly hostile environments and interview people he deeply disagrees with. He also shares some interviewing insights, including why a non-response to a question can almost be as interesting as an actual response.

Louis' latest feature film is called , which follows his attempts to delve into the Church of Scientology's inner workings. You can find it on iTunes, Amazon, and wherever else you watch movies.

The Turnaround is a production of Maximum Fun in partnership with the Columbia Journalism Review. Visit their website to learn more about their "mission to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society," and to read edited transcripts of our other Turnaround episodes.

Hosted and created by Jesse Thorn
Produced by Kara Hart and Nick Liao
Senior Producer: Laura Swisher
Managing Director: Bikram Chatterji

Music for The Turnaround provided by Mobius Van ChocStraw.

Special thanks to Kyle Pope and his team at CJR, Darrel Frost, and Emilie Erskine.

The Turnaround: Reggie Ossé (Combat Jack)

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Show: 
The Turnaround
Guests: 
Combat Jack

New to The Turnaround? Subscribe in Apple Podcasts or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get two new interviews a week through August 15th.

Joining Jesse on The Turnaround is Reggie Ossé, also known as Combat Jack. He's a founding partner of the Loud Speakers podcast network and host of The Combat Jack Show, one of the best hip-hop podcasts around -- some might say the best, period. On his show Reggie chops it up with a veritable who's who of the rap world -- people like Dame Dash, Big Daddy Kane, and Lord Finesse -- not only about music, but also about race, politics, and a whole lot more.

Reggie has led a truly fascinating career. He's a lawyer by training and used to represent some of the biggest hip-hop stars, including guys like Jay-Z. He also worked for MTV and was managing editor of The Source. But as he tells Jesse, he kind of fell into what he does now, which is interviewing people for a living.

There's no denying that Reggie is a true New York hip-hop head. He grew up in Brooklyn during the '70s and early '80s, where he had a privileged front seat as rap was quite literally being invented before his very eyes. His deep respect for the culture shines through all his interviews, paving the way for some amazingly real moments.

You can find the latest episodes of the Combat Jack Show on Soundcloud. Reggie is also the host of the excellent new podcast Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty, a collaboration between his podcast network Loud Speakers Network and Gimlet Media.

The Turnaround is a production of Maximum Fun in partnership with the Columbia Journalism Review. Visit their website to learn more about their "mission to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society," and to read edited transcripts of our other Turnaround episodes.

Hosted and created by Jesse Thorn
Produced by Kara Hart and Nick Liao
Senior Producer: Laura Swisher
Managing Director: Bikram Chatterji

Music for The Turnaround provided by Mobius Van ChocStraw.

Special thanks to Kyle Pope and his team at CJR, Darrel Frost, and Emilie Erskine.

The Turnaround: Anna Sale

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Show: 
The Turnaround
Guests: 
Anna Sale

New to The Turnaround? Subscribe in Apple Podcasts or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get two new interviews a week through August 15th.

Anna Sale is the host of WNYC Studio's Death, Sex, and Money. As she puts it, her show is about "The things we think about a lot, and need to talk about more." Anna sits down with celebrities like Kevin Bacon or Mahershala Ali, but more often than not she's talking to someone you've never heard of. She is interested in the stuff that sometimes gets skipped over in other interviews. The downfall before the success, and poverty before the wealth.


Photo by Amy Pearl

Before Death, Sex & Money Anna was a political reporter for 9 years. She worked for news outlets like CNN and MSNBC, covering elections and talking to voters and elected officials alike. She was interested in learning why people vote the way that they do, which was one of the inspirations for her show. Since its debut in 2014, Death, Sex, & Moneyhas been on all sorts of "Best Of" lists, and Anna herself won a Gracie Award for best podcast host in 2016.

Anna and Jesse talk about her past career covering politics and elections, and how her decade doing that work aids her in the kind of interviewing that she does now. They get into how to ask really sensitive questions without it feeling exploitative, and why it is important to talk about the hard or shameful parts of a person's life.

New episodes of Death, Sex & Money come out every other Tuesday. You can listen and subscribe here.

The Turnaround is a production of Maximum Fun in partnership with the Columbia Journalism Review. Visit their website to learn more about their "mission to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society," and to read edited transcripts of our other Turnaround episodes.

Hosted and created by Jesse Thorn
Produced by Kara Hart and Nick Liao
Senior Producer: Laura Swisher
Managing Director: Bikram Chatterji

Music for The Turnaround provided by Mobius Van ChocStraw.

Special thanks to Kyle Pope and his team at CJR, Darrel Frost, and Emilie Erskine.

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