It all started at KZSC.
When Jesse Thorn started hosting The Sound of Young America in 1999 alongside his pals at UC Santa Cruz, the college radio show seemed like an unlikely seed for a media empire. But it sort of was.
Way back in 2004, Jesse started podcasting the show as a way of reaching maybe a few dozen more listeners beyond the confines of Santa Cruz, and Maximum Fun began its foray into what was, at the time, a small and somewhat sleepy world of on-demand audio.
TSOYA would soon cleave into the comedy show Jordan, Jesse Go! and the culture interview show Bullseye with Jesse Thorn. One of these shows has a running gag about Liam Neeson’s American accent, and the other is distributed by National Public Radio to over 150 stations nationwide. It’s a neat metaphor for the network as a whole – a collection of like-minded shows with a particular focus on comedy and culture programming, linked together by the values of curiosity, creativity, inclusivity, and community. These same values, and Jesse’s background in public media and nonprofits, (and his need to eat) inspired him to create a sustainable business model whereby audiences empower and enable the creators who enrich their lives. Since well before it could be described as a company, MaxFun and its shows have relied on community support, and placed the community at the heart of the company.
Over time MaxFun expanded outside of podcasts, into events, video series, and other business lines. All of them are united by a shared desire to make the world a better place through our work.
Bolstered by the support of a growing community of MaxFun members, the network brought kind, smart, hilarious artists to audiences, and developed its own slate of original podcasts, focusing on identifying and giving platforms to voices less represented in the nascent field.
In March 2023, MaxFun announced that it will be converting to a 100% worker-owned cooperative, continuing its long tradition of prioritizing people and values over profits, and setting the company up as a sustainable independent media organization.