Jesse Thorn

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Mel Brooks and Directors of "The Source Family"

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Mel Brooks
Guests: 
Maria Demopoulos
Guests: 
Jodi Wille
Guests: 
Andrew Noz

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Hip Hop Recommendations from Andrew Noz: Juice by Chance The Rapper and Picacho by Young Thug (feat. Maceo)

Andrew Noz joins us to provide some recommendations from the world of hip hop. First, he talks to us about Chance the Rapper's self-proclaimed lyrical challenge, as evidenced in Juice, a track off his latest mixtape, Acid Rap. And what if Lil Wayne stayed off the beaten pop music path? It might sound like Young Thug's weirded-out track, Picacho.

Andrew Noz is the columnist for Pitchfork's Hall of Game, and also blogs and Tumblr-s regularly at Cocaine Blunts and Tumblin 'Erb.

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Mel Brooks catching up on the present in between takes of History Of The World: Part I. (Photo by Pamela Barkentin Blackburn.)

Mel Brooks Takes Down Hitler (and Makes a Few Wonderfully Bad Jokes Along the Way)

It's hard to imagine what American comedy would look like without Mel Brooks. With a sharp eye for parody, a seemingly infinite supply of gags, and enough destruction of the fourth wall to make a postmodern novelist blush, his work has set the tone for countless comedy TV shows and films. It's hard to imagine SNL's relentless TV parodies without Your Show Of Shows (which Brooks wrote for alongside Sid Caesar back in the 50s), The Simpsons without his filmography full of sly pop-culture references, or the careers of Airplane! creators Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker without Brooks' shameless love of (self-admittedly) awful jokes.

A new PBS American Masters documentary, Mel Brooks: Make A Noise, explores the life and career of the EGOT winner and man behind The Producers, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and so much more. Brooks talks to us about fighting in World War II (where he managed to even make a few Germans laugh), the genius of Gene Wilder, and that time Sid Caesar dangled Brooks out the window of a Chicago hotel room.

PBS's American Masters documentary Mel Brooks: Make A Noise premieres Monday, May 20. Check with your public television station for local listings. A box set from Shout! Factory with over ten hours of rare and exclusive footage was also released late last year.

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Directors Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille on The Source Family, LA's Most Famous Hippie Cult

The Source Family fit the conventional image of a typical hippie cult in a lot of ways – assuming, of course, that there is such a thing as a typical hippie cult. You could point to the commune, the long hair, the Jesus-y robes...not to mention occasional hits of what they called "sacred herb". Dig deeper, though, and it becomes clear that there was plenty that separated the Source Family from stereotypes.

The group was just as unique as their leader, a man who called himself Father Yod. He was a former Marine, stuntman, jujitsu expert who founded the Source Family alongside a highly successful vegetarian restaurant. Out of the back of that restaurant, the family sold recordings of their regular jam sessions, which became the stuff of psychedelic rock legend. Perhaps most unlike your average cult leader, Father Yod was not particularly attached to any particular ideology – not even his own. In direct violation of his own commandments, Yod married thirteen wives, a move which both alienated a number of family members and caught the LAPD's attention. This caused the Source Family to flee to Hawaii, which ultimately resulted in the group's demise.

We're delving further into LA's most famous hippie cult with the help of Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille, the directors of a new documentary called The Source Family. They discuss the group's run-ins with celebrities (and law enforcement), why Father Yod once told his followers to cut their hair and get jobs, and whether or not they would have joined the group, if given the chance.

The Source Family is in limited nationwide theatrical release. For information about screenings at a theater near you, check out the film's website.

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The Outshot: Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson

This week, find out why Jesse's been spending a lot of time with Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson, a home-tome that gracefully runs the housekeeping gamut from sections titled "Administering Insurance Policies" to "Privacy, Sex, and the Constitution".

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International Waters: Episode 15 You're Welcome, Posterity

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Rob, Cameron and Jesse
Guests: 
Cameron Esposito
Guests: 
Rob Huebel
Guests: 
Humphrey Ker
Guests: 
Nat Luurtsema

Cameron Esposito, Rob Huebel, Humphrey Ker and Nat Luurtsema join host Jesse Thorn for a distinctly dirty episode of the comedy quiz show where land laws do not apply. You're welcome, posterity.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Huey Lewis and Phone Phreaking with Phil Lapsley

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Huey Lewis
Guests: 
Phil Lapsley
Guests: 
Carolyn Kellogg

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Book Recommendations from Carolyn Kellogg: Walden on Wheels and Life After Life

We're delighted to have blogger, book critic, and LA Times writer Carolyn Kellogg with us to give this week's pop culture picks. Her first suggestion is Ken Ilgunas's Walden on Wheels, a memoir about a three-year cross-country journey that he took to pay off his student loans. If you're looking for something from the world of fiction, Kellogg says to check out Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, a darkly funny novel about an early 20th century girl that Atkinson repeatedly (and gleefully) kills off over the course of the novel.

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Huey Lewis on Making Music That Sounds Old and New All at Once

It seems strange now, but when Huey Lewis and The News released their first record in 1979, music executives weren't expecting them to become a huge success. With bombastic hair bands on one end of the rock spectrum and sneering punk rockers on the other, there didn't seem to be much of a place for Lewis and company's fun, bluesy pub-rock. But thumbing their noses at industry naysayers turned out to be the right move for Huey Lewis and The News. Case in point: 1983's Sports, their first record to hit number one on the Billboard charts.

Thirty years later, the band's commemorating the thirty-year anniversary of that album with an expanded re-issue of Sports, featuring remastered tracks and live versions of songs like "The Heart of Rock & Roll" and "I Want a New Drug". Huey Lewis sat down with Jesse to talk about the album that brought them to stardom, as well as his experiences writing songs for Back to the Future and Pineapple Express, how to stow away on an airplane to Europe (well, it worked in the seventies), and how a trip to Morocco convinced him that a career in music was possible.

Huey Lewis and The News' 30th Anniversary Edition of Sports will be released on May 14. For more information about the band and their US tour, you can check out their website.

(And as a bonus for our podcast listeners: want to hear about how Huey Lewis met Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, and just about every other super-famous singer…all in one night? Then be sure to check out our extended interview with him on our SoundCloud page, where he talks about recording the eighties anthem "We Are The World".)

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Phone phreaker Al Diamond in 1972

Writer Phil Lapsley on the Subculture of Phone Phreaking

Remember the seventies, before phones got smart? It was a simpler time. There were no apps, no texts, and jailbreaking was something you could only do in a prison. But there was still plenty of trouble to get into using a phone.

As Phil Lapsley explains in his new book, Exploding The Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws who Hacked Ma Bell, the early seventies marked the beginning of phone phreaking. Phreaking involved tricking the systems that controlled phone lines by re-creating frequencies that phones used to communicate with one another. Just by using a tone-generating device called a blue box, a phone phreaker could fool phone networks into connecting them to long-distance calls – calls that usually cost hundreds of dollars – for free. But it didn't take long for phone companies to take notice.

In this interview, Lapsley explains that phone phreaking changed the world as we know it. He talks about why phone companies were initially hesitant to prosecute phreakers, why enthusiasts involved with phreaking despite having no one in particular to call, and why Steve Jobs once said that there'd be no Apple without phone phreaking.

Exploding the Phone is available now. And if you pick up a copy of the book, keep an eye out for phone numbers in the text... They could lead you to some interesting places.

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The Outshot: Antiques Roadshow

There's a pretty simple formula to Antiques Roadshow: someone comes in with a knickknack and has it assessed by an expert. Next comes everyone's favorite part: the big reveal, where they find out what their item is really worth. That's part's pretty great, Jesse says – but there's something about Antiques Roadshow that he loves even more.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Armando Iannucci, Billy Bragg

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Guests: 
Armando Iannucci
Guests: 
Billy Bragg
Guests: 
Kyle Ryan
Guests: 
Nathan Rabin

New to Bullseye? Subscribe in iTunes or the RSS feed. You can also find and share all of our segments on our Soundcloud page.


The AV Club Recommends: Desperate Ground by The Thermals and It's A Disaster

AV Club Head Writer Nathan Rabin and Managing Editor Kyle Ryan join us this week to give their pop culture picks. Kyle recommends checking out The Thermals' new album, Desperate Ground, a return to the band's loud, punk rock style. From the world of film, Nathan suggests checking out It's A Disaster, a black comedy on VOD and in select theaters about a group of friends dealing with a divorce and the approaching apocalypse.

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Veep Creator Armando Iannucci on Poking Fun at Politics

What does the career trajectory of a lifelong political junkie look like? There are the obvious choices, like a major in Political Science, law school...maybe even a career in politics. But Armando Iannucci took a different path – one that led him to Oxford, an incomplete PhD, and work writing and producing comedy, like his acclaimed political satire The Thick of It and the feature film In the Loop.

Iannucci created a new take on American politics in the HBO comedy Veep. Now in its second season, the show follows a fictional Vice President (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) with lofty ambitions but little actual power. Veep showcases the comedy inherent in the struggle for the political upperhand, the constant panic and exhaustion. Seemingly small gaffes quickly escalate into ridiculous catastrophes. The show's dialogue is marked by careful attention to absurd politi-speak and some especially creative cursing.

Iannucci joins us to talk about the difference between UK and US politics, why he sympathizes with our elected officials, and conducting swearing research in Washington, D.C.

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The Song That Changed My Life, with Billy Bragg: 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 to him developing 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 is currently touring the US. You can find dates and tickets through his website.

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Tapping Into Frustation for Seinfeld and Veep

Most of us first knew Julia Louis-Dreyfus from her Emmy-winning role as Elaine on Seinfeld. Elaine flailed, fought, and danced her way into our hearts as the friend to "losers" Jerry, George and Kramer. But Louis-Dreyfus first arrived in entertainment fresh off her college comedy sketch group, as a repertory player in the Dick Ebersol-helmed cast of Saturday Night Live.

After Seinfeld, she went on to anchor several sitcoms, including The New Adventures of Old Christine, with delightful guest appearances on shows like Arrested Development and 30 Rock. Her career has now taken her to a different cast of skewed characters on HBO's Veep.

On Veep, Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer, Vice President of the United States. Though the vice-presidency is a prestigious position, Meyer's day-to-day work is less than impressive. Her staff members claw at each other for power and prestige. She suffers awkward encounters with the media and consistent snubs from the President (a running gag on the show is Selina's off-hand question, "Did the President call?" The answer is usually no).

Julia Louis-Dreyfus joins us to talk about the similarities she's discovered between show business and politics, the boys' club that was SNL in the 80s, and a certain terrible dance that still haunts her to this day.

Veep airs on HBO on Sundays at 10/9 PM central.

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The Outshot: Threat by Jay-Z

Rap isn't poetry – it's its own thing. But, like poets, many of the best rappers imbue their lyrics with layers and layers of meaning. Need proof? Jesse suggests a close listen to Jay-Z's "Threat".

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Judge John Hodgman Episode 104: The Birthday Suit

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MaxFunDrive is upon us! Help support your favorite MaximumFun shows by becoming a monthly donor. Visit MaximumFun.org/donate. Our goal this year is a thousand new donors – help us make it happen!

Aldo brings the case against his partner Sean. They decided to plan trips for each other's birthdays, but make each destination a surprise. But the secrecy is making Aldo anxious, and now he wants to know where they're going! Should Sean reveal their itinerary, or must Aldo wait for his birthday surprise? Only Judge John Hodgman can decide.

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Special thanks to listeners Sandra Macke and Melanie Bernal for suggesting this episode's title!

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Judge John Hodgman Episode 101: Courtlandia

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Drew brings the case against his girlfriend Lyndy. Lyndy says that Drew's tastes and attitudes make him a hipster and that he shouldn't resist the label. Drew says it's a derogatory term and that he's NOT a hipster, anyway! Who's right? Who's wrong? Only JUDGE JOHN HODGMAN can decide.

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Special thanks to listener Shawn O'Reilly for suggesting this week's title!

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Episode 4: Whither Shaggy?

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Steve and Holly in London
Guests: 
Rob Huebel
Guests: 
Sarah Thyre
Guests: 
Holly Walsh
Guests: 
Steve Hall
Guests: 
Jonathan Coulton

Holly Walsh, Rob Huebel, Sarah Thyre and Steve Hall join special guest Jonathan Coulton and host Jesse Thorn to talk baby punk makeovers and Cockney rhyming slang in another bid to work out which country is best.

If you think you've got what it takes to write a round of International Waters then drop us a line: iw@maximumfun.org and don't be shy, you can like us on Facebook too!

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International Waters Episode 3: Exploding Draculas

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Margaret and Humphrey in London
Guests: 
Andy Daly
Guests: 
Erin Gibson
Guests: 
Humphrey Ker
Guests: 
Margaret Cabourn-Smith
Guests: 
John Crace
Guests: 
Kurt Andersen

Andy Daly, Erin Gibson, Humphrey Ker and Margaret Cabourn-Smith compete for their nations’ honour in the pop-culture quiz show where land laws do not apply. With special guests Kurt “Explodo” Andersen and the Guardian’s John Crace. Hosted by Jesse Thorn, written by Jordan Morris and produced by Colin Anderson.

If you think you've got what it takes to write a round of International Waters then drop us a line: iw@maximumfun.org and don't be shy, why not like us on Facebook too!

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Reminder: MaxFun Meet-Up @ This American Life is THIS THURSDAY!

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Just a friendly reminder that this Thursday, May 10th is not only the night Ira Glass brings This American Life to the stage (and movie theaters across the country), but it's also the night of our massive, nation-wide MaxFun Meet-Up to celebrate!

LA area MaxFunsters are encouraged to join us Buffalo Wild Wings Burbank after the show (which we'll be taking in at the AMC Burbank 16) for a night full of new friends and maximum fun! Jesse Thorn, Jordan Morris, Erin Gibson, Bryan Safi and all of us behind-the-scenesters will be there. Will you?

And fear not out-of-towners, as Burbank is hardly the only place to get in on the action. MaxFun listeners all across the country and organizing their own meet-ups: New York, Portland, Iowa City and Indianapolis are all onboard, with the potential for countless more meet-ups. If you live in a major American metropolis (or even a small one!), chances are there's a MaxFunster in your area dying to see this show and chow on some chicken wings afterward. Organize yourselves by heading over to the MaximumFun Forums.

Have fun everyone! We can't wait to see you.

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