George Saunders and Maria Bamford

Episode 57

The writer George Saunders talks about his early creative challenges, the slight constant pressure of capitalism, and Tenth of December, his new book of short stories. Maria Bamford explains why she filmed her new comedy special in front of an audience of two (her parents), and why it’s important to talk about scary stuff on stage. Plus, Jesse shares one of his favorite poems by William Carlos Williams.

Episode notes

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Comics Recommendations: Hawkeye and Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow

Brian Heater and Alex Zalben join us this week to share some comics picks. Alex suggests you check out Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon, a superhero comic about everyday stuff — like attending a BBQ. Brian recommends Anders Nilsen’s Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, a very moving pastiche of a couple’s relationship.

Brian Heater curates Boing Boing’s comics column, and Alex Zalben writes about comics for MTV Geek.

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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 new collection, Tenth of December, is out now.

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).

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Maria Bamford: Comedy’s Orchid

Maria Bamford‘s comedy is weird and wonderfully distinctive. She’s just released a new special, recorded at her home, where she performs a stand up 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. Her new Comedy Central CD / DVD special, Ask Me About My New God, is due out later this year.

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The Outshot: William Carlos Williams’ “Danse Russe”

Jesse ruminates on alone time and… William Carlos Williams’ “Danse Russe”.

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In this episode...

Producer
Associate Producer
Maximum Fun Production Fellow
Maximum Fun Production Fellow

Guests

  • George Saunders
  • Maria Bamford

About the show

Bullseye (formerly known as The Sound of Young America) is a weekly celebration of the best of arts and culture. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring listeners in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.

The show is carried by public radio stations around the country, and was the first public radio program west of the Mississippi to podcast. It has received plaudits from publications like Time Magazine (which called it “Pick of the Podcasts”) and Salon.com. It was also honored by the iTunes editorial staff as a “classic” Best of iTunes selection. Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.

If you would like to pitch a guest for Bullseye, please email producer@maximumfun.org. Follow @Bullseye on Twitter and join the Bullseye Facebook group.

People

Producer

Associate Producer

Maximum Fun Production Fellow

Maximum Fun Production Fellow

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