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: Edie Falco

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Edie Falco on Outside In and her legacy in The Sopranos

Edie Falco was over a decade into her acting career before she got her breakout role as Carmela Soprano in the classic HBO mob drama The Sopranos.

She was brilliant on the show: loving, fierce, tragic and independent. She subverted the mob wife archetypes, too. Above anything else, Carmela wanted a normal life, she wanted her kids to go to a good school, she wanted her husband to show up for dinner.

She then went on to play the lead role in the Showtime dark comedy Nurse Jackie , for which she won an Emmy in 2010 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

In 2018, she joined us to talk about Outside In. In the film, Edie plays Carol, a married high school English teacher who became pen pals with a former student named Chris. He's been serving a 20-year prison sentence. After he gets out of prison, things get complicated between them.

Edie talks to Jesse about landing her first acting gig, which she started the day after she graduated from acting school at SUNY Purchase. Plus, Edie tells us why she thinks comedy isn't for her, and she'll reflect on working with James Gandolfini for nearly a decade on The Sopranos.

Click here to listen to Edie Falco's interview on YouTube.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Linda Holmes

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Writer Linda Holmes on her debut novel "Evvie Drake Starts Over."

If you've arrived from a far-off galaxy and need to quickly ascertain what the most worthy bits of pop culture information are to take back to your home planet, you'd do no better than following the musings of Linda Holmes. Holmes, a pop culture critic and one of the hosts of the NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour is smart, witty, and very funny. She has amazing taste in TV and movies and loves to talk about it. She even recently convinced us that the entire cast of that new Sonic movie is worth pulling for and well… you saw the trailer.

But Linda's first love has always been writing. She's just released her debut novel titled Evvie Drake Starts Over. It's about a young woman dealing with the grief of losing a husband whose life intersects with a major league baseball pitcher who is experiencing a slump in his season.

Linda could have mailed it in. She could have turned in 300 pages about a great TV show or band you've never heard of, but you've probably got a million of those types of books on your bookshelves and tablets already. Instead, she decided to write a book about love, loss, and the power of starting over. It's quite good.

Evvie Drake Starts Over is out now.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Filmmaker Joe Talbot

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Joe Talbot on his new film "The Last Black Man in San Francisco."

Filmmaker Joe Talbot grew up in San Francisco, just a few blocks away from Bullseye's Jesse Thorn. The two shared similar backgrounds: a love for film and the local movie theaters that played their favorites, Candlestick Park and the local culture that surrounded them. Both men witnessed their town change over the years. As money moved in, housing prices skyrocketed and many of the people who made the city such a unique place to live moved out, Joe began to feel a sense of nostalgia for the way things were.

He decided to make a film about it.

Talbot makes his feature-length film debut with the strikingly beautiful, The Last Black Man in San Francisco. It tells the story of a man named Jimmie and his best friend Walt attempting to get back a home Jimmie believes was built by his grandfather. The cast features Danny Glover, Tichina Arnold, Thora Birch and Jonathan Majors in a mesmerizing and heartbreaking performance.


Photo: Adam Newport-Berra

The film acts in equal parts as a love letter to the city and an indictment of capitalism in its most corrupted form. The big stuff is covered, like gentrification, race, money, so much money. But you don't have to be from the Bay to appreciate the movie. At its heart, it's trying to figure out what home really means and how we long for a yesterday that might have never truly existed.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco is in theaters now.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Filmmaker Sara Driver

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Director Sara Driver on independent filmmaking and her love for the "old" New York.

Sara Driver, is an artist and filmmaker. She's a part of the Manhattan independent filmmaking renaissance that the city underwent through the late 1970s through the 90s. When we spoke with the director and actor in 2018, she had just directed a new documentary called Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The movie shows a side of one of the great 20th century artists not often seen - a savvy young upstart painting on the walls all over Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Driver, an artist herself, lived and worked in the same art community that propelled Basquiat to stardom. And because of that, Boom For Real kind of tells two stories: there's Basquiat's - who shows up in archival footage but never speaks. And there's New York City's. Pre-9/11, pre-Reagan, pre-real estate boom. Boom for Real strikes a careful balance between nostalgia and danger, between nuance and hero worship.

The filmmaker discusses what it felt like to capture on film a New York of old, particularly for working artists, and why Whole Foods makes her nostalgic for the past.

Sara Driver currently appears in Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: H. Jon Benjamin

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H. Jon Benjamin on writing a book about failure and the beauty of fatherhood.

The magic of H. Jon Benjamin is kind of a 1-2 punch. First, there's his voice: a deep baritone that's unmistakable when you hear it. Then, his timing: stilted and deadpan, usually - it catches you off guard and it makes him one of the funniest voice actors alive today.

He can play lovable slackers like Ben from Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist or Bob from Bob's Burgers. Jon can also play macho windbags who are imbued with the kind of flawed humanity that also makes you root for them. His Coach McGuirk on Home Movies was a beloved Adult Swim character right up there with the likes of Space Ghost, Master Shake, and Dr. Rockso.

Perhaps Jon's most iconic voice role is that of Sterling Archer, from the TV show Archer. Sterling's a spy, but he's also a narcissist with a pretty terrible drinking problem. A guy who has gone from being extremely self-serving to slightly less selfish over ten seasons. It is to Jon's credit as a voice actor that the audience can see past this deeply flawed man's exterior and laugh along with him and at him.

With lead roles in some of the most popular comedies of all time, it's hard to call H. Jon Benjamin a failure. But he doesn't really mind the label. In 2018, Jon wrote a book called Failure is an Option: An Attempted Memoir.

In it, he recounts his shortcomings in excruciating detail and how, wouldn't you know it, a lot of those failures opened the door to success: failures in family, in work, in serving fajitas. It's a very self-deprecating, self-aware memoir. And since it's written by H. Jon Benjamin, it's also really, really funny.

Season ten of Archer is out now.

This interview originally aired in May of 2018

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Wallace Shawn

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Wallace Shawn on acting and his latest book, 'Night Thoughts'

Who comes to mind when you think of a character actor? There's a lot of good ones, sure ... but there's no one quite like the great Wallace Shawn.

On screen he's had over 180 credits! You've seen him in films like Clueless. He played Cher's teacher Mr. Wendell Hall. He had the guts to give her an "C" on her debate speech. As if!

In My Dinner with Andre, Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory play fictional version of themselves. They spend two hours catching up. They're both dramaturgs and have very different world views. Gregory has a very nihilistic view of life in the early 1980's. Wallace might be a bit more of an optimist.

And it would be truly inconceivable if we didn't mention The Princess Bride. In that classic film, Wallace played the villian, Vizzini, his distinct voice shouting "inconceivable" nearly every time he was on screen.

He's also had regular roles on Gossip Girl and Crossing Jordan. Plus, a ton more really great and memorable work. Maybe you've seen him in Manhattan or Radio Days. Perhaps you heard his voice work in A Goofy Movie or The Incredibles.

Wallace is also an Obie award-winning playwright and the author of several books. When he joined us back in 2017, he had just written Night Thoughts, an extended collection of essays touching on topics like politics, morality, and privilege. Plus, he'll talk frankly about how the movie business has changed since he started acting some 40 years ago. You can hear him as the voice of T-Rex in Toy Story 4 later this month.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: John Waters

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

John Waters on his legacy in film, Little Richard, his mustache, and more

John Waters is a director who hasn't made a movie in over a decade, and he doesn't really plan to make any more. He's directed some classics like Pink Flamingos, Cry-Baby and probably most notably Hairspray.

Even though he's not making movies anymore, he keeps busy. He's an actor – he played director William Castle in FX's Feud, Pete Peters in Seed of Chucky and he even had a cameo in one of those Alvin and the Chipmunks movies.

He's done a ton of live performances, released a few compilation albums and he's written seven books. When he joined us in studio he talked about his book Make Trouble. The book was based off a commencement speech he gave at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2015.

Jesse talks with him about Little Richard, trigger warnings, and how the film industry tried (and failed) to make the King of Trash compromise his work. Plus, he'll tell us about the fabulous Commes de Garcon shirt he wore to the recording.

His latest is his memoir, Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder. It's out now. You can also find the recent Criterion Collection re-release of Multiple Maniacs, one of John's first ever movies on DVD.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Comedian Kulap Vilaysack

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Director Kulap Vilayack on her new documentary "Origin Story."

You're probably familiar with the work of Kulap Vilaysack already. Odds are it's because she made you laugh. Maybe it was on her podcast,Who Charted, which ran for 8 years on the Earwolf network. Maybe you know her from Bajillion Dollar Properties, a show she created which ran on the Seeso network. Maybe you've seen her in a TV role. Kulap has appeared in dozens of shows. She's been on Bob's Burgers, Comedy Bang Bang, and Children's Hospital, just to name a few. One of our favorites was probably her part in Parks and Recreation.

For as long as Kulap has been a working actor, comedian, and showrunner she's been working on a different project in the background. A very special project. It's a documentary called Origin Story. Kulap makes her feature-length directorial debut and is the center of the film. It's about family secrets, learning to adapt to them, to empathize with difficult parents, and to connect with brand new ones.

Kulap was raised in Minnesota. Her parents were both refugees from Laos. One night, during a family argument, her mom told her something that would change her life completely: that the man who had raised her isn't her birth father.

In Origin Story, Kulap confronts her history head on. She reckons with her parents, her mom, in particular. She talks about identity and her experience as a second generation immigrant. She finds her birth father, and goes to Laos to meet him. The film is moving. It's healing. We just can't recommend it enough.

Origin Story, is a really compelling, affecting film. You can stream it now on Amazon. If you haven't checked out her show Bajillion Dollar Properties… well, it's completely different from Origin Story in pretty much every way, but it's also great. It's streaming on a handful of platforms, including Amazon.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Game of Thrones' John Bradley

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Game of Thrones' John Bradley on what it was like playing Samwell Tarly for eight seasons.

John Bradley was around 22 when he got the part that changed his life. He'd just graduated from theater school in Manchester, England. He'd done a little theater work, but never anything on camera before. He had just learned how to hit his mark and where to look when reading his lines.

So he got called in for an audition, literally his first ever. It was for a new show HBO was producing called Game of Thrones.

He got the part.

John played Samwell Tarly, John Snow's close friend, for eight years. The two characters meet when they both join the Night's Watch and the journey Samwell takes on the show is really unique.

In the beginning, it's clear that Sam isn't cut out for the Night's Watch. He isn't a natural warrior. He's heavyset. Kind of soft. He's smart, but he doesn't have a keen sense of realpolitik or manipulation. He's nice, maybe a little goofy.

And on any other show, you can pretty much guess his character's trajectory: maybe he stays a bumbling comic sidekick. Maybe he gets killed off tragically. Or maybe, somehow, he finds the warrior inside him and learns to fight just as well as the Hound or Ser Davos.

On Game of Thrones, none of that happens. The things he was bullied for: his kindness, his empathy, his bookishness… they turn out to be assets, not liabilities. He finds work as a maester and gains access to all of his word's knowledge at the Citadel. Sam plays a vital part in the battle against the dead… he's even the first to kill a White Walker!

And by the show's last episode, when all the great houses meet to figure out the future of Westeros... Sam finally has the respect of his peers.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Kathe Kollwitz, a founding member of feminist art collective The Guerilla Girls

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Guerrilla Girl Kathe Kollwitz in Bilbao, 2013. Photo by Guerrilla Girls, courtesy guerrillagirls.com

A conversation with a founding member of feminist art collective The Guerrilla Girls

If you go to an art museum: contemporary, encyclopedic, local – odds are most of the art displayed was made by white men. Even if you leave out the renaissance painters and the Dutch Masters. It's still not that common to see a solo show by a woman or a person of color these days. This was even more true in the mid-80's. Some of New York's most prominent galleries showed less than 10% of women artists. Others were showing no women created art at all.

In 1984, a group of women started an art collective called The Guerrilla Girls. The group was created in response to the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition: "An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture." The exhibits roster of 165 artists only included 13 women. The number of artists of color was even smaller, and none of them were women.

They decided the best way to fight discrimination in the art world was to make art about the discrimination. They took the art to the streets. They pasted it onto the walls all over lower Manhattan. The group demonstrated in front of the museum with placards and picket lines. And they wore gorilla masks while doing it.

The Guerrilla Girls drew attention to issues of discrimination and representation in galleries and museums all over the world. They have entered their third decade as a collective, morphing in membership as the time went on. They still make art for the streets but have also shown in galleries and museums, too.

Jesse talks to a founding member of The Guerrilla Girls, who goes by Kathe Kollwitz. She'll reflect on the origins of the group, her anonymity in the art world and what the group means now more than 30 years later.

You can learn more about The Guerrilla Girls by visiting their website.