Karen Tongson

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Tracee Ellis Ross and Megan Mullally

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Tracee Ellis Ross
Guests: 
Megan Mullally

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.


Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Megan Mullally: On her Childhood, The Return of Will & Grace, and Performing with Donald Trump

Megan Mullally is one of those actors who just kind of radiates confidence and poise. In the nearly 100 roles she's had on film & TV, that's made her stand out. She's kind of a character actress - a lot of the time she plays people with huge personalities.

If you're a fan of Parks and Recreation, you'll remember she played Tammy, the ex-wife of Ron Swanson- a kind of menacing, toxic seductress. Ron is played by Nick Offerman, by the way - Megan's real-life husband.

She also has some unforgettable credits on shows like Bob's Burgers, Childrens Hospital, even a few episodes on 30 Rock.

But she's probably best known for her role in the groundbreaking sitcom "Will & Grace" where she plays Karen Walker- a kind of deranged, sociopathic, judgmental socialite who works for Grace on the show.

During its original run, between 1998 and 2006, the show earned 16 Emmy awards and over 80 nominations. Last year, the show returned for a 9th season. Megan, who's already won two Emmys for her role as Karen, is now up for her third award in the supporting actress category.

Megan tells Jess about why she feels she was born - yes, literally born - to be in showbiz. Plus, she talks about the time she sang the theme song from "Green Acres" on stage at the Emmys with Donald Trump.

If you haven't seen the new season of Will and Grace, you gotta! It's free to stream on NBC's website right now.

Click here to listen to Megan Mullally's interview on YouTube.


Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Tracee Ellis Ross: On Directing and Growing Up with Diana Ross

Director and actress Tracee Ellis Ross was born in Los Angeles to music executive Bob Ellis and singer Diana Ross. Yes, THE Diana Ross!

For a while she worked in indie films and made for TV movies, then in 2000 she broke through on the sitcom "Girlfriends" - she starred as Joan Clayton. The show ran for eight smash hit seasons on UPN and the CW.

In 2014, she took on a role in a new series: ABC's "Black-ish." Starring alongside Anthony Anderson, Tracee plays Dr. Rainbow Johnson, an anesthesiologist who's married to Andre, Anderson's character. The show focuses on Dre and Bow, as they're called. They've settled down in the suburbs and started a family. As the kids grow up and the family settles in, Dre and Bow realize the life their kids are leading is very different from their own. The show touches on race, class, and politics.

The role has earned Tracee a Golden Globe award for Best Actress, and now she's up for the same honor at this year's Emmys.

Tracee talked with Karen Tongson, professor of English and Gender studies at USC, and co-host of Pop Rocket, Bullseye's sister show over here at Maximum Fun.

In their conversation, Tracee and Karen go deep into her acting and work directing Black-ish, and she talks about what it was like to grow up in a New York apartment when your mom is Diana Ross.

You can stream or buy all four seasons of Black-ish on a bunch of different platforms right now. Like we said before, she's up for the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series at the Emmy Awards this year. Wanna see if she'll win it? Tune in September 17.

Click here to listen to Tracee Ellis Ross's interview on YouTube.


Photo: Courtesy of Entertainment One

The Outshot: "The Eye Has to Travel"

In this week's Outshot, Jesse talks about Diana Vreeland, the subject of the 2011 documentary "The Eye Has to Travel." It's about the life of Diana Vreeland. You could say she was a fashion editor, but that certainly undersells her. She is the fashion editor's fashion editor - a transformational figure who carried women's style from the Edwardian to the modern. She convinced the world to wear blue jeans and bikinis. She ran Harper's Bazaar, then Vogue, and changed them both forever. Above all else, she spoke with the perfect combination of audacity and charm.

Click here to listen to The Outshot on YouTube.

Pop Rocket Ep. 185: “Eighth Grade” and Awkward Adolescence w/ NPR's Linda Holmes

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Linda Holmes, Karen Tongson, and Margaret Wappler
Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Karen Tongson
Guests: 
Margaret Wappler
Guests: 
Linda Holmes

***Warning - this episode contains spoilers***

This week, Karen Tongson and Margaret Wappler chat it up with pop culture maven and Pop Rocket's own podcast godmother Linda Holmes, the host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. The ladies revisit that wonderfully awkward time of their lives of Clearasil and body self-consciousness also known as 8th Grade while doing an in-depth exploration of Bo Burnham's debut film Eighth Grade. The movie centers around this socially awkward teen girl who tries really hard to fit it and be popular at school, but can't quite get there. Karen, Margaret, and Linda harken back to the drama of that time in their own lives, and also flesh out whether one of the scenes in the movie should--or not--be labeled a #MeToo moment.

All Abouts

Margaret is all about journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner's latest article in the NYTimes Magazine about Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle brand company Goop and how it went from Paltrow's Martha Stewart-like project to a 250 million dollar company. Linda is all about a new (and disappointing) study on inequality in film out of USC Annenberg that highlights the lack of progress in inclusion in film. Karen is all about Episode 7 of The Affair, specifically the scene that features “sapphic dabbling in a yurt” between Helen (Maura Tierney) and Sierra (Emily Browning).

With Karen Tongson, Margaret Wappler, and Linda Holmes.

That's My Jam:

Linda- Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone.

Margaret - Nine Inch Nails - Down In It.

Karen - Debbie Gibson- Only In My Dreams.

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

If you haven't already, follow us on Instagram.

Produced by Laura Swisher for MaximumFun.org. Edited by Shana Daloria.

Pop Rocket Ep. 184: "Who is America?" w/ "UnREAL" Creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro

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Guy Branum, Karen Tongson, Margaret Wappler, and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro
Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Karen Tongson
Guests: 
Margaret Wappler
Guests: 
Sarah Gertrude Shapiro

We've got a SUPERSIZED Pop Rocket for our first-ever Friday release, so strap yourselves in! This week, Guy Branum, Karen Tongson, and Margaret Wappler are joined by TV powerhouse Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, co-creator and executive producer of the Lifetime drama UnREAL.
The crew discusses the good, the bad, and the ugly of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's new Showtime series Who Is America. Not unlike his previous series, Da Ali G Show, which aired on HBO in the early aughts, Cohen continues his controversial schtick of interviewing people in character while trying to get them to humiliate themselves all for our viewing pleasure. They draw the connections between Cohen's comedy and Sarah's show UnREAL. The fourth and final season of UnREAL recently came out on Hulu.

Jonathan Gold

First, the crew pays tribute to the late, great Los Angeles food critic Jonathan Gold. Gold was the city's unofficial ambassador whose reviews propped up great restaurants on the verge of going out of business, gave a spotlight to forgotten histories, but more than anything taught Angelenos to be less afraid of their neighbors.

The Pop Rocket Seal of Approval

Two weeks ago Guy created the Pop Rocket Seal of Approval and quickly submitted its first nomination: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. This week we had enough of a quorum to hold our first-ever vote. Guy, Margaret, and Karen each weigh in with the pros and cons of awarding this prestigious honor to The Rock, and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro comes in hot with her own opinions (but no voting rights). Will The Rock earn Pop Rocket's first ever Seal of Approval? Find out!

With Guy Branum, Karen Tongson, Margaret Wappler, and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro.

That's My Jam:

Margaret - Demi Lovato - Sober.

Karen - Lisa Loeb - Stay (I Missed You).

Sarah- Nina Simone - Ain't Got No, I Got Life (Live).

Guy - Zedd, Maren Morris, Grey - The Middle .

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

If you haven't already, follow us on Instagram.

Produced by Laura Swisher for MaximumFun.org. Edited by Shana Daloria.

Pop Rocket Ep. 181 Unplugged: Declaring Independence from Glowing Screens

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Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Margaret Wappler
Guests: 
Karen Tongson

This week, Guy Branum, Margaret Wappler and Karen Tongson are declaring their independence from screens, push notifications and batteries. That’s right, it’s all about the pop culture that you’ll still be able to experience after the grid goes down.

Margaret is all about The Moment app which displays just how much time you spend on your phone every day, which she hopes will help keep her phone out of her motherhood. Karen is all about LeBron James being signed to the LA Lakers and everyone celebrating something good finally happening for the Lakers. Guy is all about the Amazon Prime movieThe Little Hours which features plenty of effective comedy and just the right amount of Aubrey Plaza.

The group will take an extensive look at modern media that doesn’t require a screen; everything from drawing, tarot cards, The Joy of Cooking, the card game Set and so much more

The Pop Rocket 2018 Summer Book Club is a go! We’re reading Crazy Rich Asians. Join the Facebook group and get in on the conversation.

With Karen Tongson, Guy Branum and Margaret Wappler.

That’s My Jam:

Margaret - My Bathroom Is a Private Kind of Place.

Karen - 10,000 Maniacs - These Are Days

Guy - Betty Who - Taste.

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

Produced by Laura Swisher for MaximumFun.org. Edited by Julian Burrell.

Pop Rocket Ep. 180: Dietland is Unapologetically Fat w/ Lindy West

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Lindy, Guy, Karen, Margaret
Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Lindy West
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Karen Tongson
Guests: 
Margaret Wappler

This week, Guy Branun, Margaret Wappler and Karen Tongson are joined by Lindy West, New York Times opinion writer and bestselling author of the book Shrill to discuss the AMC show Dietland and one of TV’s best fat characters ever: Plum Kettle.

Lindy is all about is all about the UK show Grand Designs, which offers a respite of pleasantness in the current world of television. Margaret is all about Michelle Goldberg's NYT op-ed We Have a Crisis of Democracy, Not Manners, which takes a look at the morality behind Sarah Huckabee Sanders being kicked out of a restaurant. Karen is all about The World Cup, especially the Group that includes Mexico, Sweden, Germany and South Korea. Guy is all about the Netflix series Alex Strangelove a show with a lot of potential…but suffers from the unfortunate issue of being stuck in white suburbia.

The group will take an extensive look at Dietland and the history of fat characters on television. Why is it that even the “good” takes on this archetype often end up feeling incomplete? What would it take for people to get past the message of “body empowerment” when writing stories about fat bout fat people?

The Pop Rocket 2018 Summer Book Club is a go! We’re reading Crazy Rich Asians. Join the Facebook group and get in on the conversation.

With Lindy West, Karen Tongson, Guy Branum and Margaret Wappler.

That’s My Jam:

Margaret - The Carters - NICE.

Karen - Germans - Cruel

Lindy - Bobby McFerrin - Don’t Worry Be Happy.

Guy - Lizzo - Boys.

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

Produced by Laura Swisher for MaximumFun.org. Edited by Julian Burrell.

Pop Rocket Ep. 179: What's in YOUR (pop culture) Bubble? w/ Jordan Morris and Sudi Green

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Sudi, Guy, Jordan, Karen
Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Jordan Morris and Sudi Green
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Karen Tongson

This week, Guy Branun and Karen Tongson are joined by Jordan Morris, writer of the new Maximum Fun scripted series Bubble, and Sudi Green, former Totally Biased w/ Kumau Bell production assistant, current model and current writer for Saturday Night Live. In honor of Bubble the team will discuss which shows and films help create their safe bubble from the rest of the scary world.

Jordan is all about is all about Hearts Beat Loud, a summer film that offers the perfect respite from the deluge of CGI battles on the silver screen. Sudi is all about the book Educated, a memoir from Tara Westover that’s startlingly dark, but compulsively readable. Karen is all about The Showtime series The Affair, which just began its latest season and has all the hetero-disaster-kink that fans of the show have come to expect. Guy is all about the Netflix film Set it Up, a rom-com that’s getting a lot of love online… but he just couldn’t quite get into.

The group will take an extensive look at their personal pop culture bubbles; the things that help define their outlook on life in an unchallenged way. But as this country feels more and more divided, not just politically but in media tastes, what shows and films are there that transcend the borders of the Bubble and unite everyone in their consumption? They’ll provide the answers.

With Sudi Green, Karen Tongson, Guy Branum and Jordan Morris.

The Pop Rocket 2018 Summer Book Club is a go! We’re reading Crazy Rich Asians. Join the Facebook group and get in on the conversation.

That’s My Jam:

Sudi - Rachel Crow - Dime.

Karen Tongson - Huey Lewis and the News - Do You Believe in Love?

Jordan Morris - Rachel Cantu - Love Rush.

Guy Branum - Calvin Harris (with Dua Lipa) - One Kiss.

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

Produced by Laura Swisher for MaximumFun.org. Edited by Julian Burrell.

Pop Rocket Ep. 179: Strike a Pose with Las Culturistas

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Guy, Bowen, Matt, Karen, Margaret
Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Matt Rogers
Guests: 
Bowen Yang
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Karen Tongson
Guests: 
Margaret Wappler

This week, Guy Branum, Margaret Wappler and Karen Tongson are joined by Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers, the hosts of the Las Culturistas podcast. The gang will discuss the show Pose which focusses on the Ball culture of 1980’s New York.

Bowen is all about everything going down at E3, especially the long-awaited crossover madness that is Kingdom Hearts III. Margaret is all about Ocean's 8, a film that may be full of missed opportunities, but also has enough iconic moments to make it worth the watch. Karen is all about Hannah Gadsby and her newest show Nanette which showcases plenty of laughs and an explanation for why she’s quitting comedy. Matt is all about the trailer for A Star is Born. Guy is all about the Netflix show Lost in Space a sci-fi show that he says is a perfect example of “Competence Porn.”

The group will take an extensive look at Pose, including which characters they enjoy (and which they can’t stand), how they first learned about Ball culture, and why fans of Ru Paul’s Drag Race might enjoy the show.

With Guy Branum, Margaret Wappler, Karen Tongson, Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers.

That’s My Jam:

Matt Rogers - Shea Couleé - Crème Brûlée.

Karen Tongson- Christine and the Queens - dis-moi

Margaret Wappler - Bryan Ferry - Slave to Love.

Guy Branum - Little Big Town - Summer Fever.

Bowen Yang - Big Freedia - Play feat. Goldiie

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

Produced by Laura Swisher for MaximumFun.org. Edited by Julian Burrell.

Pop Rocket Ep. 178: We Say Goodbye to The Americans

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Margaret, Alonso, Karen
Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Alonso Duralde
Guests: 
Karen Tongson
Guests: 
Margaret Wappler

**Warning: This episode contains spoilers from The Americans series finale. If you, like Margaret, want to avoid the spoilers, skip from 7:01 to 14:20.**

This week, Margaret Wappler and Karen Tongson are joined by Alonso Duralde, one of the hosts of the Max Fun podcast Who Shot Ya?, a movie podcast that isn’t hosted by dude-bros. The gang will discuss the finale of FX Series The Americans and the effect of the Cold War on pop culture.

Alonso is all about is all about National Drive-In Day, which is on June 6th but can absolutely be celebrated all month. Margaret is all about Ali Wong’s new Netflix Special Hard Knock Wife , which has gained a lot of attention for being equal parts hilarious, honest and raunchy. Karen is all about the finale of The Americans which - SPOILER ALERT - she and Alonso will discuss in detail.

And in honor the Russian spy drama coming to an end, the team will take a look at what effect the Cold War, nuclear anxiety and cloak-and-dagger politics had on pop culture, both in the modern context and in the 80’s.

With Margaret Wappler, Karen Tongson and Alonso Duralde.

That’s My Jam:

Alonso Duralde - The Police - Miss Gradenko.

Karen Tongson- Sting - Russians

Margaret Wappler - The Smiths - Ask.

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

Produced by Laura Swisher for MaximumFun.org. Edited by Julian Burrell.

Pop Rocket #171: SHHHHHHHHHHH...a quiet place

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Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Karen Tongson
Guests: 
Wynter Mitchell
Guests: 
Riley Silverman

This week, Guy Branum, Karen Tongson and Wynter Mitchell are joined by Riley Silverman. She’s the head writer of the Max Fun podcast, International Waters. They discuss A Quiet Place, John Krasinski’s horror film about a family trying to survive a post-apocalyptic world where monsters kill anything that makes sound.

Karen is all about the video for Janelle Monáe’s new music video for the track PYNK, which she says may have established her as a force in queer performance and art. Guy and Wynter are all about Beyonce’s Coachella performance, which may have single-handedly made the music festival relevant again. Riley is all about the movie Blockers, a comedy that she says feels refreshingly scripted.

The panel will their discuss what they think of A Quiet Place, including whether it has a positive portrayal of a character with a disability and explain their theories about what the film’s subtext could be.

With Karen Tongson, Guy Branum, Margaret Wappler, Wynter Mitchell and Riley Silverman.

That’s My Jam:

Riley Silverman - Jeremy Jordan - She Used to be Mine

Karen Tongson - Windy - The Association

Wynter Mitchell - Prince - Purple Music

Guy Branum Mel Tormé - Stardust

Pop Rocket Episode 164: Wakanda Forever with Tavia Nyong'o

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Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Tavia Nyong'o

Karen Tongson takes over hosting duties and is joined by special guest Tavia Nyong'o to discuss Black Panther! The gang chats about the impact the soundtrack had on them, afro-futurism/afro-centrism as part of the storytelling, and "double consciousness." Plus, Margaret talks Monica Lewinsky, Karen just finished watching Ugly Delicious, Tavia has some thoughts on the reboot of Heathers, and Wynter discusses GQ's article on Brendan Fraser.

And producer Christian comes into the studio for a very special announcement and his very first jam.

With Karen Tongson, Wynter Mitchell, Margaret Wappler and Tavia Nyong'o.

That’s My Jam:

Margaret Wappler - Ella Jenkins - Who's Gonna Be Your Man?
Karen Tongson and Wynter Mitchell- Janelle Monae - Make Me Feel
Tavia Nyong'o - MeShell Ndegeocello - Waterfalls
Christian Duenas - Frank Ocean - White Ferrari

Each week we’ll add everyone’s jams to our Spotify playlists.

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

Produced by Christian Dueñas for MaximumFun.org.

Farewell Rocketeers! It's been a blast getting to know you all on the Facebook and on Twitter. I'm gonna miss you so much!
Christian Dueñas

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