Pop Rocket

Some sad news about Pop Rocket

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We have a sad announcement to make today: Maximum Fun will no longer be producing Pop Rocket. We started the show in January of 2015, as a chat-show counterpart to Bullseye. Our goal was a place to feature "smart, funny, sometimes sweary chat about everything great in entertainment."

We're proud of the show. We think, thanks to the hard work of the panel and the production team, it featured some of the most insightful, unusual, and hilarious (and profane) commentary on movies, music, television, and culture more broadly. This isn’t a happy day for us.

Some context: Pop Rocket is a production of Maximum Fun. It was created and developed by our founder Jesse Thorn with our former Senior Producer Colin Anderson, and has been produced by Christian Dueñas and our current Senior Producer Laura Swisher, with additional help over the years from MaxFun Production Fellows and producers. As a MaxFun production, Maximum Fun bears the full cost of production of the show, including paying the hosts, staff producers, editors and recording and hosting costs. While the show has developed a passionate community, we haven’t been able to develop revenue that covers those costs at any point in its history, and over the past two years, listenership has declined.

We recently learned that our host Guy Branum, and one of our permanent panelists, Margaret Wappler, will be stepping away from those roles in order to pursue other projects. Given that reality, and the financial picture for the show, we are unable to sustain its production. Over nearly five years, we’ve proudly supported the show as it went through personnel changes, leaves of absence, and the regular challenge of producing a weekly program. It has been a passion project for many of us at MaxFun, and we are sad to see it end. Ultimately, though, we are responsible for the show’s sustainability, and don’t think we can ensure that going forward.

If you’re a MaxFun member and you wish to update your membership, you can do so here. Starting in June, Pop Rocket will no longer factor into revenue split calculations for members who support multiple shows. Practically speaking, this means that the other MaxFun shows you listen to will get a slightly larger piece of the pie. We understand that the timing of this announcement, a bit more than a month after the MaxFunDrive, isn’t ideal. It wasn’t how we would have planned it, but we felt it would be inappropriate to delay or to fail to be frank with our employees, talent and community.

Pop Rocket is one show in a constellation of culture programming at MaxFun. If you are a Pop Rocket fan, we hope you’ll look into some of the other offerings which share the values and DNA of the show we will all miss. We also plan to maintain the Pop Rocket archive for the foreseeable future.

We offer our sincere thanks to Guy, Margaret, Wynter, Karen, Oliver Wang, Colin, Christian, our Production Fellows and producers,and all of our guests and guest hosts. We are proud of our association with all of them, and proud of and grateful for their hard work. We’re also grateful for the hard work of the show’s current producer, Laura Swisher. She and Christian remain on our staff, and are working on other projects at MaxFun.

-- Jesse, Bikram, Laura, and the team at MaxFunHQ.

Ep. 32: Go Fact Yourself with Guy Branum & Emily Heller

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Margaret Cho, J. Keith van Straaten, Guy Branum, Helen Hong, Emily Heller
Guests: 
Guy Branum & Emily Heller
Guests: 
Margaret Cho, Emily Saliers

In honor of the #MaxFunDrive, Go Fact Yourself presents a special network crossover!

Guy Branum is a comedian and host of the podcast "Pop Rocket". He's also a pop culture savant, as detailed in his book My Life as a Goddess. If you want to know more about the pop culture he loves, you'll have to read the book… but he's happy to provide a glimpse through some of his answers today.

His opponent is a fellow comedian for whom he has a lot of respect (and fear): Emily Heller! You can hear her as the host of the podcast "Baby Geniuses". Her show is all about explaining things. Today she’ll key in on a very important topic: Martha Stewart's barnyard animals.

From personal heroes to classic television to the subtleties of regional coffee pot designs, this episode has it all.

This show is directly funded by our Maximum Fun Members. As part of our annual #MaxFunDrive, you can sign up for as little as $5 a month at maximumfun.org/donate to help support this and other Max Fun shows you listen to AND earn great gifts in the process!

What’s the difference: Coffee/Coughy

What’s the difference between a teapot and a coffee pot?

What’s the difference between phlegm and mucus?


Guy Branum and Emily Heller

Areas of Expertise

Emily Heller: The TV show "Frasier," the musical group Indigo Girls and how to have a good time at Disneyland.

Guy Branum: Academy Award nominees for best actress, the TV show "30 Rock" and grains.

Appearing in this episode:

J. Keith van Straaten
Helen Hong
Guy Branum
Emily Heller

With guest experts:

Emily Saliers, Grammy Award winning musician and one-half of Indigo Girls.

Margaret Cho, comedian and actress.

Go Fact Yourself was devised by Jim Newman and J. Keith van Straaten, and produced in collaboration with Maximum Fun. The show was recorded at The Angel City Brewery in Los Angeles.

Theme Song by Jonathan Green.
Maximum Fun's Senior Producer is Laura Swisher.
The show is edited by Julian Burrell.

Bullseye With Jesse Thorn: Guy Branum

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Emily Lordi

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.


Photo:Jesse Thorn

Guy Branum On His New TV Show and The Importance of Being Charming

Guy Branum is a comedian, writer, actor, podcaster, and host of his own TV show: Talk Show The Game Show. He recently published a book out in stores now. It's called "My Life as a Goddess: A Memoir through (Un)Popular Culture," so we're re-playing our conversation with him from last year.

Before his career in media, Guy had his sights set on being a lawyer, completing a law degree and passing the bar exam before leaving that life behind. He realized he had an overwhelming passion for pop culture, and he began his career in stand-up. Eventually, he landed a writing and commentator position on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, and was a writer on The Mindy Project. He is the host of Bullseye's sister show and Maximum Fun's own Pop Rocket podcast.

In this extended interview, Guy tells Jesse about his show and some of the challenges that came with creating it. He shares what it was like growing up gay in a farming town outside of Sacramento, his journey of coming out to his family and friends, and why he uses the word "charming" so often.

You can watch Guy's show every Thursday at 11/10c on truTV.

Click here to listen to Guy Branum's interview on YouTube.


Photo: Spotify

Cannonball: Donny Hathaway's Live

Academic and writer Emily Lordi makes the case for why Donny Hathaway's live album deserves to be added to the canon of classic music. She tells us why this 1972 record, largely made up of covers of other people's songs, is so essential to understanding the black artistic experience at the time.

If you want to know more about this album, Emily's 33 ⅓ book on the album is out now.

Click here to listen to Cannonball: Donny Hathaway's Live on YouTube.

The Outshot: It's Not Crazy, It's Sports

Photo: ESPN

Jesse tells us why there is no better person to capture the crazy things athletes and fans do than the documentarian Errol Morris.

Click here to listen to The Outshot on YouTube.

Pop Rocket Ep. 183: "Sorry to Bother You" w/ Kevin Avery

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Margaret Wappler and Kevin Avery
Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Margaret Wappler
Guests: 
Kevin Avery

***Warning - this episode contains major spoilers***

This week, Guy Branum and Margaret Wappler are joined by Bay Area comedian and two-time Emmy winning writer Kevin Avery. He was head writer on Totally Biased w/ Kamau Bell, staff writer on Last Week Tonight w/ John Oliver and writer on The Jim Jeffries Show. The gang is deep diving into Boots Riley's new movie Sorry to Bother You. Guy, Kevin and Margaret discover that, like Sorry to Bother You's Cassius Green, they all worked as telemarketers. Plus Guy reveals the film's best actor and Kevin tells us about the time he asked Boots for help on a short film.

All Abouts
Margaret is all about Bhad Bhabie- a troubled Florida teen turned rapper based off of a performance on Dr. Phil where she was a guest with her mom. There's this really smart analysis of the Bhad Bhabie phenomenon in the NY Times by Jamie Lauren Keiles who breaks down what she means for the entertainment industry.

Kevin is all about not being about Drake's latest song and the dance challenge it spawned that's sweeping the nation: In My Feelings. The challenge even got Will Smith dancing on a bridge.

Guy is all about the hard-working, talented, and badass Korean-Canadian actress Sandra Oh, who has had to work twice as hard to get half as far in entertainment. She's finally getting her due as the first woman of Asian descent to be nominated for an Emmy in the category of lead actress for Killing Eve.

With Guy Branum, Margaret Wappler, and Kevin Avery.

That's My Jam:

Margaret - The Coup - 5 Million Ways to Kill a C.E.O.

Kevin- Justin Timberlake - Higher Higher.

Guy - Years & Years - All For You.

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

If you haven't already, follow us on Instagram.

Produced by Laura Swisher for MaximumFun.org. Edited by Shana Daloria.

Pop Rocket Ep. 182: HBO's Sharp Objects and The Wappler Test

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Margaret, Guy, Karen
Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Karen Tongson
Guests: 
Margaret Wappler

This week, Guy Branum, Margaret Wappler and Karen Tongson discuss HBO’s Sharp Objects. It’s based on the Gillian Flynn Novel of the same name and is about a woman, Camille Preaker, played by Amy Adams, who returns to her childhood home to combat her personal demons and look into a number of unsolved murders.

Margaret is all about Won't You Be My Neighbor?, the Fred Rogers biopic that’s guaranteed to conjure up feelings of love and kindness even in this divisive time. Karen is all about the second season of the Netflix series GLOW, especially the eighth episode, which may be the show’s crowning achievement. Guy is all about the video game Fobia on Steam, which finally gave him the type of gaming that he can embrace.

The group will give their thoughts on the HBO series Sharp Objects, including why Amy Adams works so well playing a real person. They also discuss what makes the HBO television production model work so well, and why that might change in the future. Plus, they’ll introduce some new elements to the podcast: The Wappler Test and the Pop Rocket seal of approval.

The Pop Rocket 2018 Summer Book Club is a go! We’re reading Crazy Rich Asians. Join the Facebook group and get in on the conversation.

With Karen Tongson, Guy Branum and Margaret Wappler.

That’s My Jam:

Margaret - Kiira - Messy.

Karen - Swingout Sister - Breakout.

Guy - Pitbull - Free Free Free.

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

If you haven't already, follow us on Instagram.

Produced by Laura Swisher for MaximumFun.org. Edited by Julian Burrell.

Pop Rocket Ep. 181 Unplugged: Declaring Independence from Glowing Screens

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Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Margaret Wappler
Guests: 
Karen Tongson

This week, Guy Branum, Margaret Wappler and Karen Tongson are declaring their independence from screens, push notifications and batteries. That’s right, it’s all about the pop culture that you’ll still be able to experience after the grid goes down.

Margaret is all about The Moment app which displays just how much time you spend on your phone every day, which she hopes will help keep her phone out of her motherhood. Karen is all about LeBron James being signed to the LA Lakers and everyone celebrating something good finally happening for the Lakers. Guy is all about the Amazon Prime movieThe Little Hours which features plenty of effective comedy and just the right amount of Aubrey Plaza.

The group will take an extensive look at modern media that doesn’t require a screen; everything from drawing, tarot cards, The Joy of Cooking, the card game Set and so much more

The Pop Rocket 2018 Summer Book Club is a go! We’re reading Crazy Rich Asians. Join the Facebook group and get in on the conversation.

With Karen Tongson, Guy Branum and Margaret Wappler.

That’s My Jam:

Margaret - My Bathroom Is a Private Kind of Place.

Karen - 10,000 Maniacs - These Are Days

Guy - Betty Who - Taste.

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

Produced by Laura Swisher for MaximumFun.org. Edited by Julian Burrell.

Pop Rocket Ep. 180: Dietland is Unapologetically Fat w/ Lindy West

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Lindy, Guy, Karen, Margaret
Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Lindy West
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Karen Tongson
Guests: 
Margaret Wappler

This week, Guy Branun, Margaret Wappler and Karen Tongson are joined by Lindy West, New York Times opinion writer and bestselling author of the book Shrill to discuss the AMC show Dietland and one of TV’s best fat characters ever: Plum Kettle.

Lindy is all about is all about the UK show Grand Designs, which offers a respite of pleasantness in the current world of television. Margaret is all about Michelle Goldberg's NYT op-ed We Have a Crisis of Democracy, Not Manners, which takes a look at the morality behind Sarah Huckabee Sanders being kicked out of a restaurant. Karen is all about The World Cup, especially the Group that includes Mexico, Sweden, Germany and South Korea. Guy is all about the Netflix series Alex Strangelove a show with a lot of potential…but suffers from the unfortunate issue of being stuck in white suburbia.

The group will take an extensive look at Dietland and the history of fat characters on television. Why is it that even the “good” takes on this archetype often end up feeling incomplete? What would it take for people to get past the message of “body empowerment” when writing stories about fat bout fat people?

The Pop Rocket 2018 Summer Book Club is a go! We’re reading Crazy Rich Asians. Join the Facebook group and get in on the conversation.

With Lindy West, Karen Tongson, Guy Branum and Margaret Wappler.

That’s My Jam:

Margaret - The Carters - NICE.

Karen - Germans - Cruel

Lindy - Bobby McFerrin - Don’t Worry Be Happy.

Guy - Lizzo - Boys.

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

Produced by Laura Swisher for MaximumFun.org. Edited by Julian Burrell.

Pop Rocket Ep. 179: What's in YOUR (pop culture) Bubble? w/ Jordan Morris and Sudi Green

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Sudi, Guy, Jordan, Karen
Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Jordan Morris and Sudi Green
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Karen Tongson

This week, Guy Branun and Karen Tongson are joined by Jordan Morris, writer of the new Maximum Fun scripted series Bubble, and Sudi Green, former Totally Biased w/ Kumau Bell production assistant, current model and current writer for Saturday Night Live. In honor of Bubble the team will discuss which shows and films help create their safe bubble from the rest of the scary world.

Jordan is all about is all about Hearts Beat Loud, a summer film that offers the perfect respite from the deluge of CGI battles on the silver screen. Sudi is all about the book Educated, a memoir from Tara Westover that’s startlingly dark, but compulsively readable. Karen is all about The Showtime series The Affair, which just began its latest season and has all the hetero-disaster-kink that fans of the show have come to expect. Guy is all about the Netflix film Set it Up, a rom-com that’s getting a lot of love online… but he just couldn’t quite get into.

The group will take an extensive look at their personal pop culture bubbles; the things that help define their outlook on life in an unchallenged way. But as this country feels more and more divided, not just politically but in media tastes, what shows and films are there that transcend the borders of the Bubble and unite everyone in their consumption? They’ll provide the answers.

With Sudi Green, Karen Tongson, Guy Branum and Jordan Morris.

The Pop Rocket 2018 Summer Book Club is a go! We’re reading Crazy Rich Asians. Join the Facebook group and get in on the conversation.

That’s My Jam:

Sudi - Rachel Crow - Dime.

Karen Tongson - Huey Lewis and the News - Do You Believe in Love?

Jordan Morris - Rachel Cantu - Love Rush.

Guy Branum - Calvin Harris (with Dua Lipa) - One Kiss.

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

Produced by Laura Swisher for MaximumFun.org. Edited by Julian Burrell.

Pop Rocket Ep. 179: Strike a Pose with Las Culturistas

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Guy, Bowen, Matt, Karen, Margaret
Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Matt Rogers
Guests: 
Bowen Yang
Guests: 
Guy Branum
Guests: 
Karen Tongson
Guests: 
Margaret Wappler

This week, Guy Branum, Margaret Wappler and Karen Tongson are joined by Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers, the hosts of the Las Culturistas podcast. The gang will discuss the show Pose which focusses on the Ball culture of 1980’s New York.

Bowen is all about everything going down at E3, especially the long-awaited crossover madness that is Kingdom Hearts III. Margaret is all about Ocean's 8, a film that may be full of missed opportunities, but also has enough iconic moments to make it worth the watch. Karen is all about Hannah Gadsby and her newest show Nanette which showcases plenty of laughs and an explanation for why she’s quitting comedy. Matt is all about the trailer for A Star is Born. Guy is all about the Netflix show Lost in Space a sci-fi show that he says is a perfect example of “Competence Porn.”

The group will take an extensive look at Pose, including which characters they enjoy (and which they can’t stand), how they first learned about Ball culture, and why fans of Ru Paul’s Drag Race might enjoy the show.

With Guy Branum, Margaret Wappler, Karen Tongson, Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers.

That’s My Jam:

Matt Rogers - Shea Couleé - Crème Brûlée.

Karen Tongson- Christine and the Queens - dis-moi

Margaret Wappler - Bryan Ferry - Slave to Love.

Guy Branum - Little Big Town - Summer Fever.

Bowen Yang - Big Freedia - Play feat. Goldiie

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

Produced by Laura Swisher for MaximumFun.org. Edited by Julian Burrell.

Pop Rocket Ep. 178: We Say Goodbye to The Americans

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Margaret, Alonso, Karen
Show: 
Pop Rocket
Guests: 
Alonso Duralde
Guests: 
Karen Tongson
Guests: 
Margaret Wappler

**Warning: This episode contains spoilers from The Americans series finale. If you, like Margaret, want to avoid the spoilers, skip from 7:01 to 14:20.**

This week, Margaret Wappler and Karen Tongson are joined by Alonso Duralde, one of the hosts of the Max Fun podcast Who Shot Ya?, a movie podcast that isn’t hosted by dude-bros. The gang will discuss the finale of FX Series The Americans and the effect of the Cold War on pop culture.

Alonso is all about is all about National Drive-In Day, which is on June 6th but can absolutely be celebrated all month. Margaret is all about Ali Wong’s new Netflix Special Hard Knock Wife , which has gained a lot of attention for being equal parts hilarious, honest and raunchy. Karen is all about the finale of The Americans which - SPOILER ALERT - she and Alonso will discuss in detail.

And in honor the Russian spy drama coming to an end, the team will take a look at what effect the Cold War, nuclear anxiety and cloak-and-dagger politics had on pop culture, both in the modern context and in the 80’s.

With Margaret Wappler, Karen Tongson and Alonso Duralde.

That’s My Jam:

Alonso Duralde - The Police - Miss Gradenko.

Karen Tongson- Sting - Russians

Margaret Wappler - The Smiths - Ask.

You can let us know what you think of Pop Rocket and suggest topics in our Facebook group or via @PopRocket on Twitter.

Produced by Laura Swisher for MaximumFun.org. Edited by Julian Burrell.

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