Bullseye

Bullseye is a public radio show about what's good in popular culture. With a keen editorial eye, Bullseye sifts the wheat from the chaff, and brings you hot culture picks, in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary creative people and irreverent original comedy.

Bullseye is equal parts funny and fascinating. Whether you're already plugged in to the culture map, or looking for a signpost, Bullseye will keep you on target. More About Bullseye

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: The Tick creator Bed Edlund

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Bullseye
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Ben Edlund

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Ben Edlund reflects on the origins of 'The Tick' and the revival of the cult comic book character

The Tick is one of the strangest, most compelling superheroes ever. Creator Ben Edlund has lived with the character for over 30 years now. The Tick has been a comic book series, an animated TV show, a video game, and a live action TV show. Now, The Tick is back with another live-action TV show on Amazon.

The Tick is kind of this giant man in a blue suit with antennas on his head. He's got all the classic trappings of a superhero: strength, speed, invincibility. But he's also kind of a dope.He doesn't know where he came from… isn't particularly concerned with money, or jobs, or anything beyond justice and destiny. In this newest show, The Tick is played by previous Bullseye guest Peter Serafinowicz. When he was on last year he talked about playing the superhero.

It's a show that's both preposterous and plausible. The villains are bizarre and goofy - men with chairs for heads, giant trenchcoat wearing lobsters. But there's also people who act like real people. Actions have consequences. And even superheroes aren't immune to government oversight.

Edlund joins us to discuss how his relationship with the character has changed over three decades. Plus, why he feels the latest revival nails the strange, odd tone in ways the other projects haven't. Writing compelling and grounded superhero stories is hard to pull off in a post-Dark Knight world … if you haven't met The Tick by now you're in for a treat!

Note: This interview was recorded before it was announced "The Tick" would not be returning to Amazon.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Paula Pell

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Paula Pell

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Paula Pell on 'Wine Country' and working at 'SNL' for almost two decades

So many of the sketches Paula Pell has written for Saturday Night Live are stone-cold classics. There's the Culps, Ana Gasteyer and Will Ferrell's bizarre pop music duo. The Spartan Cheerleaders. The Tony Bennett Show. Remember when Justin Timberlake brought us on down to Omeletteville? We have Paula Pell to thank for a lot of wonderful and hilarious work on SNL.

Pell spent 18 years behind the scenes as a writer on the show. She's truly an SNL MVP. After her time on SNL she wrote for 30 Rock, the Oscars, and the Golden Globes. She's had roles on Parks and Recreation, Big Mouth, and, most recently, the NBC show AP Bio. She plays Helen, the goofy high school administrator who eats tomato sauce and hair.

Pell joins us to talk about her latest project: Wine Country. She co-stars alongside SNL alums Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, and Rachel Dratch. It’s a story about a group of women reconnecting over a birthday weekend in Napa. The group became life-long friends during their stint working at a Chicago pizzeria. People moved. Got married. Grew apart. This movie deals with preserving those friendships despite life getting in the way. It's based in part from a real wine trip the stars took for Dratch's 50th birthday.

Pell also pulls back the curtain and discusses some of her more controversial work on SNL. Plus: why, when she was a writer on SNL, she was so much more comfortable as a writer than a performer.

Sincerely, one of the funniest people we've ever had on the show. Don't sleep on this one!

A quick warning about this interview you're about to hear: there's some talk about sex in it. Nothing super graphic or descriptive, but we wanted to give you a heads up.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: David Crosby

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David Crosby

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Photo: Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

David Crosby on The Byrds, CSN and his recovery from drugs.

Bullseye takes a look back at our conversation with folk rock legend David Crosby. His work paved the way for the folk rock movement. He was a founding member of The Byrds and performed at Woodstock as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. With a career that has spawned over 50 years and two inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, David is a living legend.

Like many other great rock legends, David had his troubles with drugs. He eventually got sober, but only after an extended stay in a Texas state prison. You might expect a musician to start slowing down in his late 70s, but Crosby’s writing more than ever and working nearly every minute he can. He's the subject of a new documentary about his life called David Crosby: Remember My Name. It premiered at Sundance and is playing at festivals right now all over the country. You can also catch David on tour this year. Click ”here” for tour dates.

This interview originally aired in November of 2016


Photo:ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images

The Outshot: Ray Barretto

Jesse recommends the groundbreaking 1968 salsa album Acid by percussionist Ray Berretto and how its melding of salsa, bugalú and jazz created something unique for the emerging Latin communities.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Wanda Sykes

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Bullseye
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Wanda Sykes

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Wanda Sykes on her career in comedy.

Wanda Sykes is a legend in the comedy world. Her ability to tackle pop culture and the political spectrum with equal parts agility and wit has earned her many accolades. She's also had several scene-stealing roles as an actor in shows like "Black-ish," "Broad City" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm." She's been nominated for nine Primetime Emmy awards and she won an Emmy for her writing on "The Chris Rock Show."

Wanda is set to star in a live tribute to Norman Lear's "All in the Family" later this month on ABC where she'll be performing alongside Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei, Jamie Foxx, Will Ferrell and so many others in a one-night only special. You can watch it live on May 22.

She also continues to perform comedy across the country. Click here for information about tour dates and to purchase tickets.

This interview originally aired in May of 2016.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Cartoonist Mark Alan Stamaty

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Bullseye
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Mark Alan Stamaty

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Photo: New York Review Comics

Cartoonist Mark Alan Stamaty on 'MacDoodle Street,' 'Who Needs Donuts?,' and more

We're thrilled to share our conversation with cartoonist Mark Alan Stamaty. We're huge fans of his children's book – "Who Needs Donuts?" Mark's wonderfully illustrated book tells the story of a kid in a cowboy suit who's bored with his family. He hitches up his wagon and heads out for the big city in search of donuts. After a wild adventure he realizes there are things far greater than donuts. It's a charming and hilarious book for kids. And, trust us, adults will love it, too!

Mark Alan Stamaty got his start working at a handful of New York papers, with a few regular comic strips. There's Washingtoon, a political strip. A few regular comics in the New York Review of Books. And MacDoodle Street, which he published for the Village Voice in the late '70s.

MacDoodle Street was just released as an anthology collection. In MacDoodle Street, you see New York kind of the way a kid from outside the city might: a wild, bizarre and kind of fantastic place. Overwhelming, but endlessly interesting and stimulating. This new edition features a brand-new, twenty-page autobiographical comic by Stamaty on why the short-lived but treasured MacDoodle Street never returned to the Village Voice. It's a unique, funny, and poignant look at the struggles and joys of being an artist.

We're thrilled to share this conversation with Mark Alan Stamaty. He'll give us the scoop on his new anthology collection, and how his childhood influenced his work. Both of his parents had the same profession as him. Plus, where he gets the silly ideas for his stories and illustrations. Rhinos on the subway wearing fancy hats! Shark-shaped cars!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Mike O'Brien

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Bullseye
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Mike O'Brien

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Photo: Ben Gabbe / Getty Images

Mike O'Brien on the latest season of NBC's 'A.P. Bio'

Mike O'Brien was a staff writer on Saturday Night Live for seven seasons. He worked on the show around the same time as some stellar alum: Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig. In 2014, Mike was a featured player on SNL alongside Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Colin Jost, Kyle Mooney, Bobby Moynihan and Cecily Strong.

His latest work can be seen on NBC's A.P. Bio. Mike is creator, writer and showrunner of the series. The show stars Glenn Howerton, Patton Oswalt and legendary SNL writer Paula Pell.

If you haven't seen the show, here's the premise: Jack portrayed by Glenn Howerton used to teach philosophy at Harvard. Now he doesn't. To make ends meet he gets a job teaching A.P. Biology at a high school in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio. He's a grumpy guy who thinks if the world were a fair place, he'd be getting a MacArthur Genius Grant or whatever. He's a jerk. He knows it. He doesn't care.

Maybe you're thinking you've seen this kind of show before. The teacher returns home. Then he grows as a person, becomes lovable and relatable. But A.P. Bio isn't that show. If our scrooge protagonist learns and grows, well, there isn't a show. And that's what makes it so funny – it takes a sitcom trope you're familiar with, but refuses to play by the rules.

Mike joins us to talk about the latest season of A.P. Bio. He grew up in Toledo, and explains some of the baffling questions the writers room had about his hometown. Plus, working with Paula Pell – and why sometimes it's better to leave the camera rolling on her improvising than spending hours perfecting jokes in the writers room.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Open Mike Eagle

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Open Mike Eagle

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Rapper Open Mike Eagle on taking career advice from his wife.

You could call Open Mike Eagle a rapper on the rise. But it's been a long, steady, unique rise. He was born in Chicago, moved to LA later on. For the first part of his adult life he was a teacher - he actually didn't release his first album until he was almost 30.

In his rhymes there's humor, which you see a lot in rap. But it's weirder, kind of self-deprecating at times, too. His first album, "Unapologetic Art Rap” was a great example of that.

Alongside Baron Vaughn, Mike co-stars in a new Comedy Central show called
”The New Negroes.” It's sort of a variety show - combining live stand up with original music videos Mike made with other artists.

When Bullseye talked to Mike in 2017, he'd just released a record called “Brick Body Kids Still Daydream.” His latest record - ”What Happens When I Try to Relax” - is out now.

Mike talked to Bullseye about why he used to call his music “art rap,” and why it was a lot harder to be weird in hip-hop back in the day.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Laurie Metcalf

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Laurie Metcalf

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Photo: Dan MacMedan/Getty Images

Laurie Metcalf on her Academy Award nominated role in 'Lady Bird'

Laurie Metcalf is a veteran actor. In the late 1970s, while she was in college, she and a few of her classmates started putting on plays at a Unitarian Church in Deerfield, Illinois. Those classmates included people like Gary Sinise, John Malkovich, and Tracy Letts.

The theater, called Steppenwolf, became one of the most acclaimed theatre companies in the US. Maybe you were lucky enough to see Laurie in the Off-Broadway rendition of Balm in Gilead back in the 80s - she won a bunch of awards for her part in it.

You almost definitely know Laurie from TV's Roseanne. For 9 years she played Jackie, Roseanne's sister on the show. She's now starring in The Conners, the ABC produced spinoff of the show.

In 2017, she was nominated for her first Academy Award for her starring role opposite Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird, the fascinating, beautiful coming of age film directed by Greta Gerwig.

The movie centers around the title character, Lady Bird McPherson, a high school senior living in Sacramento, California. She's played by Ronan. Lady Bird dreams of leaving Sacramento, moving to the east coast, going... wherever writers live, she says.

These days, Laurie's been working a lot on Broadway. She's been nominated for a bunch of Tony's and won 2017's Best Actress award for her role in A Doll's House Part II. In a profile earlier this month the New York Times called her "The First Lady of American Theater."

This interview originally aired in February of 2018

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Was 1999 the Best Movie Year Ever?

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Brian Raftery

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Brian Raftery on his new book 'Best. Movie. Year. Ever. : How 1999 Blew Up The Big Screen'

Author Brian Raftery talks with us about his new book, which makes the case that 1999 was one of the best years in movie history. Office Space. Three Kings. Rushmore. Being John Malkovich. Eyes Wide Shut. Magnolia. The Matrix. The Blair Witch Project. Yep, '99 wasn't just pagers, portable CD players, and Y2K – there was a lot of groundbreaking, influential movies.


Photo: Simon & Schuster

The book is meticulously researched - featuring interviews from pretty much every person who was making movies back then. Brian joins us to talk about a few of these movies, the careers those movies launched, the way studios marketed them, and the impact they've had on film, 20 years later.

You might not be able to rent these movies at your nearest Blockbuster, but you can buy Brian's new book "Best. Movie. Year. Ever. : How 1999 Blew Up The Big Screen" now.

Check out this interview on YouTube!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Avantdale Bowling Club

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Bullseye
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Tom Scott

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Photo: Bandcamp

New Zealand rapper Tom Scott on his latest project: 'Avantdale Bowling Club'

Tom Scott is a rapper from New Zealand's underground hip-hop scene. He's been rapping for over a decade now. He grew up in Auckland – the biggest city in a very small country. Last year, Tom released an amazing, beautiful album under the name Avantdale Bowling Club. He named it after the place where he grew up.

On the record, he reflects on his roots. His childhood. The friendships he's lost. The places he's been. His family. He kicks things off with an autobiography on "Years Gone By." It's an intimate hip hop record with jazz instrumentation. The sound is lush. Maybe less Low End Theory, more to Pimp a Butterfly. It's pretty remarkable.

Tom explains why he left Auckland for Australia, and what brought him back to his hometown after spending many years away. Plus, what it's like to write an album that brings back somber memories, and why Tom felt it was important to use original jazz songs, rather than jazz samples.

Check out the self-titled record by Avantdale Bowling Club here.

Check out this interview on YouTube!