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Jim Lehrer on "Make 'Em Laugh"


I generally will not post advertisements or promotions on this blog -- it's content or nothin' -- but this is PBS, so it gets a pass.

A major new comedy documentary series called "Make 'Em Laugh" is running on PBS in January, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm guessing there's gonnna be a lotta Billy Crystal in there.

Podcast: The College Years: Look! Up in the Sky!


The College Years is a look deep into the vaults of The Sound of Young America. Take a journey with us every week as we post a new program or two from our salad days.

Ladies and gentlemen, this one is a doozy. Join Jordan and Jesse on a particularly poor recording in which a flugtag participant and the Sklar brothers are interviewed. Also: the extreme weatherman, Jim Real's Would You Rather, The New Sincerity Minute, and 60 Minutes commercials.

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On the Hour: Now on CD and MP3

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I've gushed in the past about Chris Morris, the brilliant British satirist whose series "The Day Today" and "Brass Eye" are two of the funniest television shows of the past twenty years. They're news parodies -- a bit like the Daily Show, only even funnier. As in many of the best Daily Show bits, the target is the media, not current events. The team behind the shows devolves jargon into nonsense, sports into mental retardation and drama into absurdity. The result is absolutely amazing.

The Day Today and Brass Eye were preceded by a no-less-brilliant radio program, called On the Hour. It's probably the funniest audio comedy I've ever heard, and now it's available on CD and MP3 for the first time, more than 15 years after it first aired.

You can buy each season of the show in a 4-CD box set from the label re-releasing them, Warp Records. Both On the Hour, Vol. 1 and Volume 2 are available on Amazon for $29 each, as well. The real deal, though, is in iTunes, where you can get each series for $11.99:
On the Hour Vol. 1 (iTunes)
On the Hour Vol. 2 (iTunes)

If you don't believe me, there's also a podcast of (very) short clips from the show, which will run for the duration of this month. Here's an iTunes link, and here's the feed.

Below: Prince Edward's Head, a quick commercial from the show.


And Alan Partridge on Badminton:

Podcast Coyle & Sharpe Episode 46: Nicknames


Welcome to season two of Coyle & Sharpe: The Imposters! In the early 1960s, James P. Coyle and Mal Sharpe roamed the streets of San Francisco, microphone in hand, roping strangers into bizarre schemes and surreal stunts. These original recordings are from the Sharpe family archive, which is tended by Mal's daughter, Jennifer Sharpe. You can learn more about Coyle & Sharpe on their website or on MySpace. Their recent box set is These 2 Men Are Imposters.

On this episode: Coyle and Sharpe try to explain to a San Francisco man the nickname, Levito, for an independent candidate for governor who has the ability to levitate.

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Jordan Jesse Go! Episode 82: Waldorf Schools


Jesse and Jordan discuss billionaire Ted Turner, Waldorf schools, ghosts/aliens and more.

* Holiday Projects
* Should Ted Turner be welcomed into the Maximum Fun fold, or should a jihad be declared against him?
* What are the greatest pranks that you have been the victim or observer of?
* What is your worst holiday memory?


* Review the show on iTunes.
* Do you have a dispute Judge John Hodgman can solve on a future broadcast? Email it to us! Put Judge John in the subject line.
* Need advice? ASK JUANITA!
* Have personal questions for Jesse and Jordan? Call 206-984-4FUN and tell us what they are!
* Would you like to play Would You Rather with us on a future episode? Email us or give us a call at 206-984-4FUN.

Call 206-984-4FUN to share your thoughts on these ACTION ITEMS.

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Our theme music: "Love You" by The Free Design, courtesy of The Free Design and Light in the Attic Records

Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: "The Vinyl Morpher Show"


Nothing quite complements Thanksgiving like a marathon. No, not the challenging kind — a cultural marathon. Clunky holiday movies and such would be go-to marathon constituents, and some public radio stations have proven goodly enough to air This American Life marathons, but for this Podthinker, making Thanksgiving Thanksgiving meant going all the way to another country — to a country that doesn't even celebrate the holiday — for more than a little bit of that which really and truly merits thanks: old school.

In this context, the term "old school" carries a specific meaning. First, it refers to music. Second, it refers specifically to the "soul", "funk" and "R&B" fiefdoms on the great musical kingdom's map. Third, it refers more specifically to music released chiefly within the time period spanning from 1975 through 1985, as distinct from the "classic" soul of an earlier era or the "nu-soul" to follow. Fourth, it refers even more specifically to quite possibly the best music ever produced, which also happens to be the wheelhouse of Vinyl Morpher Dave, London club DJ and host of The Vinyl Morpher Show.

Since June, the Morpher has been regularly laying down two-hour mixes packed with old school, and it is these mixes — punctuated with his own enthusiastic commentary, which to the untrained American ear sounds almost exactly like the voice of Ricky Gervais' David Brent — that constituted the sonic background of your Podthinker's turkey-laden holiday. It was nonstop fat bass, smooth strings, electric keys, laid-back wah-wahing rhythm guitar and beats that don't come any more solid. Your Kashifs. Your Cheryl Lynns. Your The Times. And the experience couldn't have been replicated by merely firing up one of (rest assured, many) finely-calibrated Pandora old school stations, becase Morpher's presence is vital. He's nothing like the knowledge-free blowhards looking to chash their paychecks that litter the music radio spectrum; his love for old school is the real thing. When he declares that the track upon which he's about to drop the needle is an "absolute tune", as he very often does, he clearly means it from the bottom of his 808-beating heart. (This stuff delights not only Americans and Brits, but enthusiasts the world over, as is evidenced by the recorded messages from Germans and such woven into the program.)

But perhaps it's reductive to imply that The Vinyl Morpher Show is about the old school and the old school only. As much as that would suit your Podthinker, the Morpher diversifies, but he does so in a way that doesn't stray from his core mission of serving up a certain impressively dialed-in musical feel and flavor. Doing conscientious DJ duty, he's actually built sample mixes of every subgenre from which his program draws, including but not limited to Brit funk — no, seriously, it's really its own thing — 80s electro-funk and the soul of love. There's even some jazz tossed in the mix, though, of course, it's from the funkier corners of the realm: Herbie Hancock, Bob James, those types of guys.

This music, served straight up, would be more than enough, but the Morpher goes the extra mile with a couple regular features as well. In "Three from One", he spins three cuts from a single group or artist, often using the chance to put a spotlight on lesser-known acts. (Remember Central Line?) And the "Listener's Top Three" is pretty much self-explanatory. So here, Morpher, are Colin the Podthinker's top three old school cuts:

  1. The Whispers' "Keep on Lovin' Me"
  2. The Loose Ends' "Tell Me What You Want"
  3. Fonzi Thornton's "(Uh Oh) There Goes My Heart"

Let's hear 'em.

Vital stats:
Format: music
Running since: June 2008
Duration: 2h
Frequency: just about weekly
Archive available on iTunes: none (only available through a sluggish free filesharing service, alas)

[Podthinker Colin Marshall also listens to new jack swing, though it's a shame that Al B. Sure could never top In Effect Mode. Get him — Colin, not Al — at colinjmarshall at gmail or discuss Podthoughts on the forum here. Submit your own podcast for the next by-Max-Funsters column here.]

The Dirtbombs' Mick Collins and Ben Blackwell Interview on The Sound of Young America


The Dirtbombs are a Detroit-based rock band, who blend punk, soul, psychadelia and garage rock into a driving sound. Their newest record is We Have You Surrounded. We talked with founder and frontman Mick Collins and drummer Ben Blackwell about the band's roots in punk, the music culture of Detroit and much more.

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If you enjoyed this show, try these:
Les Savvy Fav
Steve Albini
Swamp Dogg

Jesse's Holiday Gift Guide


PRI apparently authors a holiday gift guide every year, and I was asked to contribute five items. The items I chose will likely be familiar to regular TSOYA listeners and readers of this blog, but if they're not, they should be.

Louis CK - "Chewed Up" and "Shameless"

Until Louis CK had his first child, parenthood was the subject matter where good comics went to die. And bad comics went to die worse. Like women going to the bathroom in pairs, children being adorable and confounding was such a well-worn subject that it was tough to imagine anyone wringing any real surprises from it. Over the past five years, though, CK has made fatherhood his own, with two brilliant hour-long comedy specials that use anger and frustration to shed light on the love he has for his kids. I'd never have imagined that a man could show love by calling his toddler the c-word, but CK pulls off the trick. Along the way, CK (who wrote for Letterman, Conan and The Chris Rock Show, among others) throws in a little incisive social commentary to boot. If you ask me, Louis CK has surpassed his close friend Rock as the best standup comic in America today.

This comic book series imagines that a plague has wiped out all the men on earth but one, a dorky escape artist named Yorick. An agent from a secret government agency and a genetic scientist escort him (and his monkey) across the messy wasteland of a male-less America in an effort to find out what happened. There's plenty of comic-bookish thrills, but it's also funny and thoughtful. The series full run has been collected into ten trade paperbacks, which you should be able to find at any large bookstore or comic shop.

Years before Jon Stewart took over the Daily Show, the British comic Chris Morris and his writing partner Armando Ianucci made mincemeat of the news media with two short-run TV series, "The Day Today" and "BrassEye." While DVDs of the former are only available in UK format, DVDs of the latter will play in any DVD player. "BrassEye" is a satire of Hard Copy-style newsmagazine shows, with the incomparable Morris as anchor and in many cases, correspondent. I have never seen satire so funny or trenchant. Morris and crew tear apart the fear mongering of the media and government with both fictional characters and real interviews with real British celebrities and news makers (the inspiration for Ali G, Bruno and Borat, by the way). To say the show is scathing and hilarious is to sell it far too short. Better than the Daily Show and South Park put together. Available from (and they ship to the US) or most other British online DVD retailers, like

Handey is the brilliant absurdist writer behind Saturday Night Live's "Deep Thoughts," as well as some of the show's most hilarious sketches, like "Happy Fun Ball," "Tales of Fraud and Malfeasance in Railway Hiring Practices," and "Toonces, the Cat Who Could Drive a Car." He's also a contributor to The New Yorker and PRI's Studio 360. The essays collected in this book are Handey at his best, spinning childhood fantasies (and childhood belligerence) to bizarre heights. If you don't find this hilarious, we can't be friends.

Daly is best known as former castmember of the mediocre FOX sketch series Mad TV, but that credit barely hints at his remarkable talent. This CD collects nine of Daly's character monologues, which blend grandpas-and-apple-pies optimism with bizarre and distressing depravities. Daly's sunny disposition and general geniality carry the listener through characters like Patty O'Herlihy, champion of the 2008 Limerick, Ireland Blarney Contest. With a wink and a charming Irish brogue, O'Herlihy tells us all about the delightful blarney he's spread this year -- to cover for increasingly sad and horrific acts of violence. Listening to this CD was the funniest 90 minutes of my year. Available from iTunes, Amazon MP3, or on CD from

Holiday Greetings To You And Yours!


Hey friends --

I hope this email finds you enjoying the holidays. My wife Theresa and I are in the Bay Area, spending time with our families and enjoying some fresh, clean NorCal air. I even participated in something called a "Turkey Trot Fun Run." Seriously.

A couple of seasonal bits of business:

* If you're a MaxFun donor, take a second to check out your donations. If you change credit cards (even just a new expiration date), your donations will be automatically cancelled. And check out your address on PayPal. We don't want stuff we send you to go to the wrong address. If your address is wrong on PayPal, can you correct it and let us know the right address? Email Casey at

* Check out the entries in the JJGo holiday contest! People have been submitting their projects which capture the spirit of the holiday season. So far the amazing entries have included a meticulously documented holiday-liquer-making process, a day of apple butter cauldron cooking, and an awesome baby in an elf suit. I'm even giving out $100 in completely capricious prizes. You can see the photos (and post your own projects) here.

* With help from Casey the Intern, I've been busting my butt to bring in some really cool guests for you this winter. You can check out recent guests like John Hodgman, Dan Savage and Sarah Vowell here. And look out for cool upcoming guests like Ben Folds and The Kids in the Hall.

* If you're getting ready to do some end-of-year giving, please consider including The Sound of Young America and We only bother you with a real pledge drive once a year, but our needs are of course ongoing. At present, only about one in twenty listeners donate. In the new year, we're unveiling some exciting new stuff, but we can only do so with your help. You can donate now here.

Have a very happy holiday, with lots of friendship and fond feelings from me and Jordan and everybody at MaxFun.

Your pal,

Happy Holidays!


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Hey -- if you're a MaxFun Donor, could you take a second right now to check that your mailing address is correct in PayPal? If it's not, fix it and let Casey know -- I CAN'T TELL YOU WHY.

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