Nathan Rabin and Benjamin Nugent, Author of American Nerd

Episode 78

You’d be hard pressed to find two music groups with more divergent sounds than the jam band Phish and the horrorcore rap duo Insane Clown Posse. But they’ve got something in common. Each of them has a deeply passionate following, and each of them has deeply, deeply passionate haters. When Nathan Rabin tried to write a critic’s look at these bands’ worlds, he found himself sucked in. Then later Jesse talks to Benjamin Nugent about another group of American sub-culture. D&D players, historical reenactors, ham radio enthusiasts. You know, nerds. Ben is the author of American Nerd: The Story of My People. His 2007 book looks at what the word actually means.

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Insane Clown Posse

Becoming an Enthusiast: Nathan Rabin on Loving Phish and ICP

Some bands thrive in the cultural middleground. You can play their music in the grocery store, and no one objects. Neither the jam band Phish nor the horrorcore hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse plays that kind of music. Each group has a rabid, devoted following of fans, and on the flip side, has inspired intense loathing. Phish’s noodley covers and original songs are derided as music for druggies and hacky-sack playing college students. Insane Clown Posse and their dark, often violent music is for “Juggalos”, their group of Faygo-drinking, clown makeup- wearing fans.

As a longtime culture critic and former Head Writer of The Onion’s AV Club, Nathan Rabin thought he was immune to the draw of either group. Their music and communities weren’t high-brow. They weren’t terribly fashionable or cool. So he set out to write a kind of sociological text about the groups, and find out why they had such die-hard fans. He didn’t know he would end up a convert.

Rabin’s new book is You Don’t Know Me, But You Don’t Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, And My Adventures With Two Of Music’s Most Maligned Tribes.

Rabin tells us about his psychedelic experiences at their concerts, his mental breakdown halfway through researching the book, and finding solace in music and community among Phish Heads and Juggalos.

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Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes

Comic Recommendations From Brian Heater and Alex Zalben

Brian Heater and Alex Zalben stop by to recommend their favorite graphic novels as of late.

Brian recommends Aesthetics: A Memoir by Ivan Brunetti. A self-taught artist, illustrator for the New Yorker, and currently on faculty at Columbia College Chicago, Brunetti examines his many influences and how they combined to make his unique, simple, DIY style.

Alex suggests Matt Kindt’s Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes. In the town of Red Wheelbarrow, no crime gets by Detective Gould. But can this hardboiled detective connect the dots between a young woman who obsessively steals chairs, a man who carts dirt around town, and a photographer whose subject matter is others’ private tragedies?

Brian Heater is the author of BoingBoing’s comics column, Comics Rack. He also hosts the new podcast, Recommended if you Like.

Alex Zalben is a producer for MTV Geek and host of the Nerdist podcast Comic Book Club.

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An early “nerd” sketch on Saturday Night Live

Nerding It Up With Benjamin Nugent

This interview originally aired in 2008.

Benjamin Nugent‘s book American Nerd explores a people and their history. Nerds have been an archetype for decades now. But where did they come from? What is a “nerd”, anyway? Benjamin Nugent set out to write a loving portrait of nerds and nerdiness — including his own.

He talks to us about the origins of “nerds” in the humor pages of college newspapers, Saturday Night Live’s first dig at nerds , and the underappreciated toughness of his nerdy friends in middle school.

Nugent released a novel, Good Kids, earlier this year.

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The Outshot: Thief

Jesse recommends the 1981 noir Thief, starring James Caan. It’s a crime thriller about one last job, but it’s just as much about running from loneliness as it is about running from the cops. Director Michael Mann infuses it with a cool, dark beauty unlike any robbery film you’ve seen.

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In this episode...

Producer
Associate Producer
Maximum Fun Production Fellow
Maximum Fun Production Fellow

Guests

  • Nathan Rabin
  • Benjamin Nugent
  • Brian Heater
  • Alex Zalben

About the show

Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.

Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ and McSweeney’s, which called it “the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world.” Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.

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People

Producer

Associate Producer

Maximum Fun Production Fellow

Maximum Fun Production Fellow

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