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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Lily Tomlin and Rick Moranis

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Lily Tomlin
Guests: 
Rick Moranis

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Photo: Greg Gorman

Rick Moranis on growing up Jewish, Canadian comedy, and quitting showbusiness

This week on Bullseye, Jesse brings you some of his favorite interviews from 2013. The first of which is his conversation with Rick Moranis. You know him from Strange Brew, Ghostbusters, Spaceballs, Honey I Shrunk the Kids. He is the bespectacled man in argyle socks, who plays nerdy characters with goofy dad jokes. In the late 80's and early 90's, it seemed like he was the star of every family friendly comedy to hit the big screen. But, after his wife passed away in 1991, he quit the movie business, to raise his children. The last time he has been seen on screen was 20 years ago, in Honey We Shrunk Ourselves.

Nearly a decade after pretty much signing out of show business, Moranis returned in 2005 with a Grammy-winning album of original music, Agoraphobic Cowboy. In 2013, Moranis released his second album My Mother's Brisket and Other Love Songs, which is a collection of comedic music inspired by Moranis's Jewish upbringing in Toronto.

Jesse and Rick talk about his first job selling hockey programs in the nosebleed section, SCTV and the ironic outcome of his famous nose-thumbing at Canadian content laws, and his decision to be a stay-at-home father.

Click here to listen to Jesse's interview with Rick Moranis!

Lily Tomlin on being someone else... in her own way

Lily Tomlin is a comedic actress if there ever was one. She has incredible rang, whether she's playing a precocious six-year-old on Laugh-In or a pill-popping sixty-six year old on HBO's Eastbound & Down, Lily inhabits her roles in a way that few performers can. She was nominated for an Oscar for her 1976 performance in Nashville, as well as being awarded the Mark Twain Prize for humor back in 2003.

Back in 2013 when Jesse and Lily spoke, she had just appeared in the Tina Fey led and Paul Weitz directed movie Admission. This was 2 years before a resurgence in her career, which would earn her recognition in Grandma, her first lead in a film in 27 years, and a Golden Globe nomination for the Netflix series Grace and Frankie.

Lily talked to Jesse about shaping her role in Admission, the moment that she decided she wanted to be a professional actor...and yes, a certain YouTube-famous confrontation (link NSFW) with I Heart Huckabees director David O. Russell.

Click here to listen to Jesse's interview with Lily Tomlin!

The Outshot: Chance The Rapper's Acid Rap

Jesse tells us about Chance The Rapper's 2013 mixtape Acid Rap.

Click here to listen to Jesse's outshot about Acid Rap!

Bullseye With Jesse Thorn: A$AP Ferg and Dr. Katz

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
A$AP Ferg
Guests: 
Jonathan Katz

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

A$AP Ferg on how to form a successful hip-hop collective

Rapper and fashion designer A$AP Ferg was born Darold Ferguson and grew up in Harlem's Hamilton Heights neighborhood. Together with A$AP Rocky, A$AP Bari and many more, he established himself as one of the best MCs in the New York hip hop collective A$AP Mob. In 2013 he released his first solo record, Trap Lord, which included the hit single "Shabba", which hit #7 on the Billboard hot 100. Ferg has spent the last couple of years cultivating a sound that's totally unique, touching on genres like trap, house, soul and dubstep. He's achieved this by working with artists like the girl group Haim, Bone Thugs N' Harmony, Missy Elliott, and more.

A$AP Ferg and Jesse talk about how attending an arts high school fueled his creativity and allowed him experiences he wouldn't of otherwise had. They talk about the beginnings of A$AP Mob, and the death of his dear friend and A$AP Mob co-founder A$AP Yams.

A$AP Ferg's latest album Always Strive and Prosper is out now, and has a new mixtape called Still Striving coming out in August. And don't forget to check out his clothing line Traplord.

Click here to listen to Jesse's interview with A$AP Ferg!


Photo:Michael Fein

Jonathan Katz on Dr. Katz Professional Therapist

Jonathan Katz is best known for Dr. Katz Professional Therapist, his animated hit TV series from the 1990's that aired on Comedy Central where he voiced Dr. Katz. It was one of their weirdest animated TV shows on air at the time. Katz took the saying, "stand up is therapy for comedian's" and made a whole show based around it, having a whole host of characters on the show played different comedian's in his circle, all to be seen by Dr. Katz. Since the show went off the air in 1999, Katz has kept writing and doing standup.

Jonathan tells Jesse what it was like working with Robin Williams, when he was on tour with his then popular TV show Mork & Mindy. They talk about how he created Dr. Katz Professional Therapist, and the revival of that show in audio form. Plus, they talk about multiple sclerosis, and how it has affected his stand-up career.

Jonathan's Dr. Katz: The Audio Files is available on Audible now.

Click here to listen to Jesse's interview with Jonathan Katz!

The Outshot: Prince's Sign O' The Times

Jesse makes a case for why the now 30 year old Sign O' The Times is Prince's most essentially Prince album.

Click here to listen to Jesse's outshot on Prince's "Sign O' The Times"!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Zach Galifianakis and Michael K. Williams

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Zach Galifianakis
Guests: 
Michael K. Williams

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Zach Galifianakis on Unlikeable Characters, Sudden Fame and Facing “Heartbreaking” Criticism on Public Radio

[r] Zach Galifianakis is an actor, writer and stand-up comedian whose humor isn’t for everyone. His comedic observations and characterizations in television and film have made him a unique voice that some people love and others love to hate.

Galifianakis is probably best known for his roles in The Hangover films and in the Between Two Ferns web series. But he's also been in a lot more, from Up in the Air, to Birdman to Bored to Death. He's now the star and co-creator of the FX series, Baskets, currently in its second season. In the show, he plays a clown who can't keep up with the tuition or his classmates at his French clowning school, and returns to his hometown of Bakersfield, California to work in a rodeo.

Galifianakis sat down with Jesse to talk about creating a show that revolves around a mean and unlikeable character, how he contended with the sudden fame that came with The Hangover and what it’s like be dissed on public radio.

Baskets airs on Thursday nights at 10 pm on FX.


Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Michael K. Williams on His Club Kid Days, Breaking Ground with The Wire and Why a Pop Song Touches Him So Deeply

Michael K. Williams is an actor and dancer who broke out in the role of Omar Little on HBO’s The Wire. His characterization of a criminal “with a code” made the show a favorite among critics and viewers, one of whom was President Obama.

He was a club kid turned professional dancer, and later turned to acting. His resume includes everything from Boardwalk Empire to Twelve Years a Slave to Inherent Vice. He currently co-stars in the new Sundance TV series, Hap and Leonard, which begins its second season in March.

Williams sat down with us to talk about his memories of being a New York club kid, the difference that playing Omar made in his life and others and the opportunity that led him to realize that being a performer could be a career, rather than just a job.

The second season of Hap and Leonard begins airing on March 15.

The Outshot: Gravediggaz’s Poetic

Jesse remembers the poignancy of the late rapper Poetic, who detailed his harrowing fight with cancer in one of his final songs.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Cristela Alonzo and Stretch Armstrong

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Cristela Alonzo
Guests: 
Stretch Armstrong

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Photo: Tommaso Boddi / Stringer

Cristela Alonzo has a new stand-up special on Netflix, Lower Classy

Cristela Alonzo is a veteran standup comedian, actress, writer, and producer. She's also something of a pioneer. You might remember her from the ABC sitcom Cristela, where she was the first Latina to create, write, produce, and star in her own show.

In this week's episode, she talks to Jesse about her formative years growing up in South Texas with an undocumented parent. Hiding from police and immigration raids were daily realities in her small border town. Her family was also desperately poor--she recalls squatting in an abandoned diner.

Down the road, Cristela discovered she had a talent for weaving those tough experiences into comedy gold. That gift is on full display in her new Netflix standup special, Lower Classy, as she takes on difficult topics including racial stereotypes, immigration, poverty, and parenting, all with her trademark smile and laugh. Cristela recalls the long journey that led to the special, and how being a comedian is, for her, about more than simply making people laugh.

Cristela Alonzo's new standup special, Lower Classy, is available to stream on Netflix now.


Photo: John Phillips / Stringer

Stretch Armstrong

Stretch Armstrong is a renowned DJ, record collector, and writer. It's impossible to tell the story of New York rap in the 1990s--what some people consider the Golden Era of Hip-Hop--without at least mentioning The Stretch and Bobbito Show, the influential college radio program that he and Robert "Bobbito" Garcia co-hosted from 1990 to 1998.

In their time, Stretch and Bobbito were among the only FM radio outlets for a generation of New York rappers. MCs like Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious BIG, and Nas. The behind-the-scenes stories from those days are the stuff of hip-hop folklore, and the subject of documentary that came out a little over a year ago, called Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives. It's available to stream on Netflix now.

Stretch, whose real name is Adrian Bartos, also recently co-authored a book. He and Evan Auerbach teamed up to make a visual history of New York City's club scene, called No Sleep: NYC Nightlife Flyers 1988-1999.

The Outshot: "Wells for Boys"

In this week's Outshot, Jesse shares a Saturday Night Live sketch that spoke to him in a particularly magical way. Behold, Wells for Boys:

Bullseye: Aparna Nancherla & Clams Casino

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Aparna Nancherla
Guests: 
Clams Casino

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Aparna Nancherla on Mining Comedy From Anxiety and Depression

Though most people find it difficult to find anything funny about depression and anxiety, comedian Aparna Nancherla. has used her own struggles with mood disorders to inspire her comedy. A rising star in the comedy world, Nancherla bravely reveals her struggles with depression in a way that makes the experience both relatable and hilarious.

Named by Variety as one of the Top 10 Comics to Watch in 2016, Nancherla has appeared as a performer on Conan and Inside Amy Schumer. She's also written for Late Night with Seth Meyers and Totally Biased with Kamau Bell.

Nancherla sat down with Jesse to talk about about her experiences living with anxiety and depression, the ups and downs of writing comedy for television and how she deals with hecklers on Twitter.

Aparna Nancherla new album is called Just Putting It Out There. She is currently on tour and you can find out more by visiting aparnacomedy.com.

Clams Casino

As with any established musical genre, there is a quality of sameness that can pervade artists. It’s no less so in the world of hip-hop. But Clams Casino (born Michael Volpe) provides a unique and surprising voice in that world. As an electronic musician and music producer, he has created a distinctive body of work of his own as well through his collaborations with artists including ScHoolboy Q, FKA Twigs and Vince Staples.

Clams Casino joined Jesse to talk about the influences that lead to his unique sound, and some of the ways he paid his dues coming up in the world of hip-hop production. They also discuss his new album, 32 Levels, and how he developed his relationship with rapper Lil’ B. The two of them have long been collaborators, including on the new album, but didn’t really get to know each other until making of the new record.

Clams Casino’s new album is called 32 Levels.

The Outshot: Jaws

Jesse checks in on the classic movie you should see before going swimming this summer.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Zach Galifianakis & Michael K. Williams

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Zach Galifianakis
Guests: 
Michael K. Williams

If you liked this episode of Bullseye, you can help support our production by becoming a monthly member! It's our annual MaxFunDrive, the time of year we ask for your help. Visit www.maximumfun.org/donate today and help us reach our network goal of 5000 new and upgrading members, and you'll not only get the satisfaction of sustaining the show -- we'll send you some nice swag, too!

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: Jesse Thorn

Zach Galifianakis on Unlikeable Characters, Sudden Fame and Facing “Heartbreaking” Criticism on Public Radio

Zach Galifianakis is an actor, writer and stand-up comedian whose humor isn’t for everyone. His comedic observations and characterizations in television and film have made him a unique voice that some people love and others love to hate.

Galifianakis is probably most widely known for his role as Alan in The Hangover films, but he's also been in everything from Up in the Air, Birdman and Bored to Death. He's now the star and co-creator of the new FX series, Baskets. He plays a clown who can't keep up with the tuition or his classmates at his French clowning school, and returns to his hometown of Bakersfield, California to work in a rodeo.

Galifianakis sat down with Jesse to talk about creating a show that revolves around a mean and unlikeable character, how he contended with the sudden fame that came with The Hangover and what it’s like be dissed on public radio.

Baskets airs on Thursday nights at 10 pm on FX.


Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Michael K. Williams on His Club Kid Days, Breaking Ground with The Wire and Why a Pop Song Touches Him So Deeply

Michael K. Williams is an actor and dancer who broke out in the role of Omar Little on HBO’s The Wire. His characterization of a criminal “with a code” made the show a favorite among critics and viewers, one of whom was President Obama.

He was a club kid turned professional dancer, and later turned to acting. His resume includes everything from Boardwalk Empire to Twelve Years a Slave to Inherent Vice. He currently co-stars in the new Sundance TV series, Hap and Leonard.

Williams sat down with us to talk about his memories of being a New York club kid, the difference that playing Omar made in his life and others and the opportunity that led him to realize that being a performer could be a career, rather than just a job.

Hap and Leonard can be seen Wednesday nights at 10 pm on Sundance TV.

The Outshot: Gravediggaz’s Poetic

Jesse remembers the poignancy of rapper Poetic’s examination of his own mortality in the music he produced with Gravediggaz.

Pop Rocket: Episode 48 - Favorite Holiday Music Special

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Wynter, Margaret, Guy & Oliver
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Wynter Mitchell
Guests: 
Margaret Wappler
Guests: 
Oliver Wang

The team talks about their favorite holiday jams from traditional to contemporary. .

With Guy Branum MaximumFun.org(http://www.guybranum.com), Wynter Mitchell (http://wyntermitchell.com), Margaret Wappler (http://www.margaretwappler.com) and Oliver Wang (http://www.margaretwappler.com)

Holiday Favorite Tunes

Waitresses’ Christmas Wrapping

Vince Guraldi’s Christmas is Here

Fiona Apple Frosty the Snowman

John Lennon War is Over

Wham Last Christmas

Barbra Streisand Jingle Bells

The Pogues Fairytale in New York

The Maccabeats Candlelight

Run DMC Christmas in Hollis

Matisyahu Miracle

Wings Wonderful Christmas Time

Juice Crew Cold Chillin Christmas

Rufus Wainwright & Sharon Van Etten Baby It’s Cold Outside

The Temptations Silent Night

Nat King Cole The Christmas Song

Billy Elliot Broadway Soundtrack Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings White Christmas

Mariah Carey All I Want for Christmas is You

Destiny’s Child 8 Days of Christmas

Favorite Piece of Holiday Culture

Guy Branum Avacado Nog, Rug Rats Chanukuh & The Ref

Wynter Mitchell Surviving Christmas, The Holiday and Bridget Jones Diary

Oliver Wang The Yule Log on Netflix

Margaret Wappler Elf, Smoked Turkey w/ Chutney Sauce & Star Wars

Each week we'll add everyone's jams to this handy Spotify List.

You can let us know the media you consume when faced with difficult times in our Facebook or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Andy Daly & Jean Grae

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Andy Daly and "Review": Rating Life Experiences, from Addiction to Pancakes to the Prom

Comedian, actor and writer Andy Daly recognized early in his career that his audience was responding to him as a "nice, little boy". Who could blame them? He's a nice-looking guy, with an all-American charm about him. So he used his Howdy Doody look to his advantage, and began creating characters. The kind of characters that start off as unthreatening nice guys, and slowly escalate into extreme sociopaths.

Andy continues to use this element of surprise in his new Comedy Central show, Review. Andy plays Forrest MacNeil, who is a reviewer. But he doesn't review books, or movies, or consumer products. He reviews life experiences, rating them on a scale of one to five stars. In the first few episodes, he answers viewers' questions from "What would it feel like to steal?" to "Will prom really be the best night of my life?" to "What is it like to get a divorce?"

No life experience is too insignificant or too life-altering for Forrest MacNeil, who takes his job very seriously.

Andy joins us to talk about his first acting job (working with a rollerblading mime), developing his own style of comedy, and how he identifies with Forrest, who's devoted so much of his life and energy to his work.

Review is currently in its second season on Comedy Central

This interview originally aired February 25, 2014.

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Jean Grae on an Accidental Hip Hop Career

Rapper Jean Grae, formerly known as What? What?, has been a stalwart member of New York City's underground hip hop community for decades. She was born into a musical family, though she didn't exactly follow in her parents' footsteps. Her father, Abdullah Ibrahim (also known as Dollar Brand), helped to found South African Jazz and her mother, Sathima Bea Benjamin, was a gifted singer and composer. Grae was born in South Africa and her parents made sure she knew her roots -- but she was also a New Yorker, through and through.

She joins us this week to tell us about growing up with talented musicians as parents, her accidental hip hop career, and why she doesn't shy away from outrageous, cartoonish violence in her lyrics.

Jean Grae has had a busy couple of years. At the time we last spoke with her, she had a new LP called Gotham Down, a new EP called Jeannie, an audiobook entitled The State of Eh, and a webseries in which she writes, directs and stars, Life with Jeannie.

She's since released more new music, including the new EPs Saix and iSweaterGawd, all available on her Bandcamp page.

This interview originally aired January 28, 2014.

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The Outshot: Paul Anka on Showmanship

Paul Anka, a consummate entertainer with few peers, has very high standards. This week, Jesse shares what he dubs as one of the greatest after-show recordings of all time and reminds us to live and move with conviction. And to slice like a... well, you know.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Lynda Barry & Tom Arnold

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Lynda Barry
Guests: 
Tom Arnold
Guests: 
Brian Coleman

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Photo: Guillaume Paumier, CC-BY

Lynda Barry Inspires Us to Get Creative with Monsters

Lynda Barry is a self-identified "freak", a cartoonist, a writer, and for the last couple of years, she's also been a college professor teaching interdisciplinary creativity at the University of Wisconsin.

What does that mean? Well, she encourages students to abandon their fears of creating and embrace their work and process.

Her most recent book, Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor collects her lesson plans and writing and drawing exercises.

Lynda talks with us about using monsters as a tool, why we're sometimes afraid to draw, and how elementary school aged kids can teach us a thing or two.

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Canonball: Brian Coleman Talks about Mantronix: The Album

Every so often we interview music journalists and experts, and ask them which records they think should be part of the pop music canon. It's Canonball.

This week, we're talking with the acclaimed rap journalist Brian Coleman, author of the series Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip Hop Junkies. He chose to talk to us about Mantronix.

In the mid-1980s, producer Kurtis Mantronik and MC Tee joined forces and created the hip hop group Mantronix.

Kurtis Mantronik rocked the TR-808 drum machine, and MC Tee moved the party along with his lyrics.

Together, they recorded Mantronix: The Album, and influenced the producers who followed them.

Brian Coleman's newest edition of "liner notes" is Check the Technique Volume 2.

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Tom Arnold Talks About Shaking Off the Bullies and Making His Own Way

Tom Arnold is a real show business survivor. In the mid 1990s he got famous -- both the kind you want to be, and the kind you don't want to be. His first big job in Hollywood was as a writer on Roseanne. He ended up married to her. He became a regular on the show and their relationship was tabloid fodder for five years. By the time they broke up in 1994, you couldn't make it through a late night monologue without a Tom Arnold joke.

But that was just the beginning of Tom Arnold's ride. A star making performance in a huge hit movie, True Lies, made him a star. Then a disastrous series of broad comedies made his career a punchline again.

But Arnold never stopped working, as a character actor, as a sports talk show host, as a stand up comic, and now in his 50s he's a dad for the first time and he's now been a star in Hollywood for thirty years. His new show is Yahoo's Sin City Saints. Arnold also continues to perform stand up across the country.

Tom talks with us about growing up in Iowa and fighting bullies, the difficulties of working in Las Vegas, his enduring respect for Roseanne, and the way he's found satisfaction with his work.

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The Outshot: MacGruber

Jesse heartily disagrees with A.O. Scott's review of the film version of MacGruber. In short: MacGruber exists, and the world is better for it.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: DJ Quik

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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!


Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

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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