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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Lewis Black, Syl Johnson & Annie Hart

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Still Fuming: Lewis Black on Drama School, New York, And Why He's Still Fired Up

No comedian is angrier than Lewis Black. For the past 25 years, America has been infuriating him, and he's been on-stage telling us why.

After graduating from the Yale School of Drama in 1977, Black spent ten years as a playwright at the West Bank Cafe Downstairs Theater in New York. He transitioned to stand-up comedy in the late 1980s and has been regularly featured on The Daily Show's "Back In Black" segment for the past 16 years.

Lewis tells us about nearly getting expelled from Yale, why he loves performing in Bismarck, ND, and how theater is like heroin.

Lewis Black's most recent special, Live at the Borgata, is available now in digital formats. This interview originally aired in August 2013.

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Hip Hop with Andrew Noz: DJ Quik's Pacific Coast Remix and Rammellzee's Beat Bop

Hip hop blogger and Pitchfork columnist Andrew Noz joins us with a couple of his all-time favorite hip hop tracks. His first recommendation is Pacific Coast Remix by DJ Quik (featuring Ludacris), a track devoted to sunny Los Angeles's dark side. He also suggests checking out the 1983 track Beat Bop by Rammellzee and K-Rob. It's a song from an era where the uptown and downtown communities mingled in a way that the rap world would rarely see again. This segment originally aired in June 2013.

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"The Song That Changed My Life" with Annie Hart of Au Revoir Simone

Annie Hart of Au Revoir Simone grew up in the suburbs of Long Island. As the story goes for a lot of teenagers, she didn't quite fit in. The kids at her school wanted to spend time at the mall. They weren't interested in making stuff, shooting videos and writing zines.

Annie found a whole new world, and a whole new group of friends, through music. The song that changed her life is "Knew Song", by the Long Island hardcore band Silent Majority.

Au Revoir Simone's most recent album is Move In Spectrums. This interview originally aired in January 2014.

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The Enigmatic, Grammy-Nominated Syl Johnson

Inspired by the sounds of Jackie Wilson, Little Walter, and Muddy Waters, Syl Johnson set out to make his own mark in music in the 1950s. His own gritty, bluesy voice and funk rhythms earned him a place in the Chicago soul and blues scene. Over the course of a career on Chicago's Twinight and Memphis' Hi Records, Johnson released several singles that climbed their way up the pop and R&B charts ("Different Strokes", "Come On Sock It To Me", "Is It Because I'm Black?") and but never attained the smash success of contemporaries like Al Green or James Brown.

He found ubiquity later in life, when dozens of hip hop artists from Run-DMC to Kanye West dug into his catalog to sample his sounds (perhaps foremost his signature scream on "Different Strokes"). Johnson found himself in the spotlight again a few years ago when the archival label Numero Group assembled a Grammy-nominated boxset of his early cuts, titled Syl Johnson: The Mythology. This interview originally aired in October 2012.

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The Outshot: "Coney Island"

Jesse recommends a portrait of an American caught in between its past and its future in Ric Burns' documentary Coney Island.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Luis Guzman


Looking for information on this week's episode of Bullseye?

Luis Guzman: From activist and social worker to prolific character actor

Luis Guzman is one of America's most successful and prolific character actors. He's appeared in dozens of films and television series, from Short Eyes in the 1970s to Miami Vice in the 1980s to Carlito's Way, Boogie Nights and The Limey in the 1990s. He made a name for himself playing thugs and cops. A few years ago, he was on the short-lived but beloved series How To Make It In America.

He talks with us about growing up in New York's Lower East Side, and about his work there as an activist and social worker. As a teen, he hung out at the legendary New Yorican Poets Cafe, watching poets and writers like Amiri Baraka, Allen Ginsburg and Miguel Piñero. Piñero ended up casting Guzman in Short Eyes, and got him his first television audition for Miami Vice. Since then, Guzman has become a favorite of directors like P.T. Anderson and Steven Soderbergh.

Pitchfork's Ian Cohen on his Favorite Heavy Rock

Ian Cohen, contributing editor at Pitchfork, stops by to recommend some of his all-time favorite heavy rock releases.

He tells us about an album which (in a move unusual for its genre) has an entirely pink cover. Deafheaven’s newest album, Sunbather, has been well-received and is on its way to becoming “an absolute landmark.”

In addition, Ian recommends the most recent Swans album,The Seer. In a bold creative move, the band creates a title track well over thirty minutes long.

Artisanal Pencil Sharpening with David Rees

If you knew about David Rees in the 2000s, it was probably for his indie political cartoon Get Your War On. When we caught up with Rees a few years ago, he had decided to get back in touch with an old-school writing instrument -- the pencil. Rees started his own artisanal pencil sharpening service, sharpening bespoke pencils, and wrote a book called How To Sharpen Pencils. Rees joined us to discuss the lost art of pencil sharpening.

Be on the lookout for Rees' upcoming show on the National Geographic Channel, Going Deep with David Rees, this summer.

The Outshot: Threat by Jay-Z

Rap isn't poetry – it's its own thing. But, like poets, many of the best rappers imbue their lyrics with layers of meaning. Need proof? Jesse suggests a close listen to a single verse of Jay-Z's "Threat".

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: George R.R. Martin and 'E' from Eels


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George R.R. Martin: Killing Off Characters, Critiquing Tolkien, and Dealing with Angry Fans

We look back at John Hodgman's conversation with George R. R. Martin author of the very popular series of fantasy books called A Song of Ice and Fire. The novels have been adapted for the acclaimed HBO series Game of Thrones. At the time of this interview, the fifth book in Martin's series, A Dance with Dragons, had recently been released. There are two more novels in the series and fans eagerly await their arrival.

Martin joins us to talk about killing off characters, creating new religions and dealing with the expectations of fans.

For a longer version of this interview, check out its original broadcast in 2011.

Vol Libre and The Tommy Westphall Universe with Jason Kottke

Jason Kottke of Kottke.org, a collection of some of the finest links the internet has to offer, brings us this week’s culture picks. Jason starts us out by recommending Vol Libre, a short animation from 1980 that wowed people with its fractal-generated graphics when it was made and still impresses today.

Next, Jason recommends The Tommy Westphall Universe, an exploration of all of the television programs connected to St. Elsewhere and therefore relegated to dream status by the final reveal that St. Elsewhere itself was a dream.

Pop Culture Advice from My Brother, My Brother and Me: Water Cooler Talk, Comic Book Movies, and Vinyl Snobbery

Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy and Griffin McElroy return to Bullseye to answer some of your most pressing pop culture problems and end up taking on Duck Dynasty, James and the Giant Peach, Lionel Richie, grandparents and more.

If you've still got questions that need anwers, the McElroy brothers host a weekly advice show for the modern era called My Brother, My Brother, and Me. You can subscribe wherever you download podcasts, and send your queries to mbmbam@maximumfun.org.

The Outshot: The Fania All-Stars

This week, Jesse recommends that we all overcome any reluctance to let salsa music into our lives, and to begin with the Fania All-Stars.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Bootsy Collins, Oliver Wang on Al Green


Looking for information on this week's episode of Bullseye?

Ahh...The Name Is Bootsy, Baby! Bootsy Collins Pushes James Brown's Buttons and Gets Wild with George Clinton's P-Funk

Bootsy Collins is a legend in the world of funk. He's a bassist who came to his instrument by happenstance and fell in love. He was only in his teens when he was discovered and hired by the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, to be part of his backing band, The J.B.'s. Bootsy went on to play with another notoriously inventive and pioneering funk artist, George Clinton, as part of Funkadelic and Parliament.

He continued the funk with Bootsy's Rubber Band and a number of other musical collaborations. His most recent album is Tha Funk Capitol Of The World, and he currently teaches bass at his own Funk University. He's also playing a couple of festivals this spring and summer.

Bootsy talks to us about being on the forefront of funk, playing with James Brown, doing LSD on stage, quitting and/or being fired from The JB's, pushing the boundaries of black popular music with George Clinton, and his own amazing solo career.

He and Jesse spoke in 2011. Find an extended version of that original conversation here.

The Dissolve Talks about All-Time Favorite Movies: "Real Life" and "To Be or Not to Be"

This week, a look back at some all-time favorite movies from our pals at The Dissolve. Staff writer Nathan Rabin and Editorial Director Keith Phipps join us to talk about some of their all-time favorite films.

Nathan recommends Albert Brooks' 1979 satire Real Life, a prescient look at documenting "real life" in pre-reality television times.

Keith recommends the 1942 Ernst Lubitch classic To Be or Not to Be (Criterion Collection), starring Jack Benny and Carole Lombard.

Canonball with Oliver Wang: Al Green’s I’m Still In Love With You

In Canonball, we take a flying leap into the canon of popular music. We're joined by professor and music writer Oliver Wang to talk about an Al Green album that deserves your attention. No... it's not Green's chart-topper, Let's Stay Together. Wang says that it was Al Green's followup to that album that really rattled him to his core.

Wang talks to us about 1973's I'm Still in Love with You, the record that created a new kind of soul music. Green's beautiful, if flawed voice, was merged with Willie Mitchell's innovative rhythm section and a new sound emerged.

You can find Oliver Wang's thoughts on soul rarities and more on his blog, Soul Sides.

The Outshot: Orson Welles's F for Fake

Jesse recommends Orson Welles' final masterwork, F for Fake. Part documentary, part film essay, it features tricks and truths layered atop each other, creating a mesmerizing narrative.

Geekosystem Investigates General Lee for Judge Hodgman


Glen Tickle at Geekosystem performs a public service and answers Judge John Hodgman's question from this week's episode, Honk If You Love Justice:


As he says, "the short answer is racing regulations", and the long answer is explained here.

Thanks, Glen!

Judge John Hodgman's Nightmare Gerbil Winner!


This gerbil's goin' home.

Congratulations to our Nightmare Gerbil Contest Winner Shalyn Claggett, who wrote the fine poem (with footnotes, no less) that you see below! [Edited to add: footnotes were not considered in the judging process - two versions of the poem were submitted.]

And to runner up, Lydia Comer, who creates AMAZING art out of dead animals (check out her submission here!).

And THANK YOU for all of the creative entries. We wish we had a dead gerbil to send to each and every one of you.

(M.A., Ph.D., M.B.M.L.S., & Practicing Phrenologist)

Zoonomic Muse!1 Your powers I enlist
To persuade Hodgman, Judge, and Jesse, Fist
Of Justice! True and righteous, they must see
The Nightmare Gerbol2 should belong to me.

I long have labored to find and collect
Those artifacts time too oft will forget.
To this assortment fine I hope to add
A rodent fierce, rogue taxidermiéd:

A Wedgewood dish from Silver Jubilee,3
The signature of Makepeace Thackeray,4
A cross from wood of Wesley’s pew have I,5
And dust from Sir James Simpson’s diary6

If fit with gerbol, all would want to see
My cabinet of curiosity,
And for this reason, may this poem move
Your Judge’s heart, and my request approve.

1The invocation of the Zoonomic Muse alludes to Erasmus Darwin’s Zoonomia, which fittingly addresses things fantastic in nature, and (much like the evolving species it addresses) prefigures the inchoate ideas which would later emerge fully developed from the mind of his illustrious grandson.
2Issuing from the fear of having her pie hole prematurely closed, the poet has adopted a spelling that reflects Bailiff Jesse’s pronunciation of the word.
3More specifically, from the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in the year 1977—also the year of the poet’s birth. This dish, procured by the poet’s uncle and bequeathed to her on her twenty-first birthday, reflects said Uncle’s remarkable prescience regarding his niece’s then nascent Anglophilia.
4 Acquired from Ebay for merely forty-seven dollars, this signature is almost certainly a forgery. The poet bases her belief in its possible authenticity on the supposition that an actual forger would not list such an item as “Victorian author. Handwriting.”
5 The pews from the first church founded by evangelical and obsessive-compulsive Christian John Wesley were
dismantled in 1977. An enterprising parishioner raised money for the church by selling small crosses made from
the wood—a plan which Wesley would almost certainly have detested. As a former Methodist with a high-church affection for the “bells and smells” of Catholicism, the poet relished the rare opportunity to acquire this most rare of rarities: a Protestant relic.
6 The medical diaries of Sir James Young Simpson, discoverer and popularizer of the anesthetic properties of chloroform, are housed in the manuscript collection of the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. While assessing these as a possible subject of research (quickly rejected after realizing they were in Latin), a quantity of paper “crumbs” fell on the poet’s lap. With fetishistic zeal, she collected these—and to this day, she regards this experience as her most valuable encounter with primary source material.

The Great Reveal - Our Flea Market Finds!


We can't contain our excitement about our new flea market finds for Maximum Fun HQ -- discovered with American Picker Danielle Colby -- and we've got to share them with you. Enjoy!

Photo by Casey Rodgers/Invision for History/AP Images

Danielle displays one of her finds from a booth with classroom pull-downs.

Photo by Casey Rodgers/Invision for History/AP Images

Jesse and Danielle point out the find of the day: a fully-functional rocketship ride, perfectly in line with the Maximum Fun logo! At 10 cents a ride, we'll make our money back in no time.

And as promised, a video of Bullseye editor Nick White showing us the rocketship in action! (FYI: There's some NSFW language going on.)

SF Sketchfest Ticket Giveaway for Adult Swim's Eagleheart Panel!


Bullseye with Jesse Thorn is co-sponsoring this weekend's SF Sketchfest show, An Afternoon With Eagleheart!

The panel features Chris Elliot, who plays the titular character, alongside Maria Thayer (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Strangers with Candy), Brett Gelman (Bored to Death, Funny or Die), Andy Blitz (Late Night with Conan O'Brien) and co-creators of the show Michael Koman and Andrew Weinberg.

Did I mention - they're in conversation with Eugene Mirman?

You can buy your tickets here, but we're also giving away three pairs of tickets to the show if you can switch on your trivia brain for a moment.

QUESTION: What are the character names of Eagleheart's two deputies on the show? (Just first names is OK!)

Tweet us @Bullseye, reply on our Facebook page with the answer and we'll pick three random entries with the correct answers. Deadline extended! Enter by midnight PT on Wednesday, January 18th!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: The Outshot on The Cold Open


Jesse describes the perfect cold open -- and it happens to be from season 2, episode 9 of NewsRadio.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jordan Ranks America, January 2012


Comedian Jordan Morris spends his time ranking what's hot in America right now, so perhaps you can spend your time a little more productively?

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