MaxFun Intern's blog

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Maria Bamford and George Saunders [R]

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New to Bullseye? Subscribe to the show in iTunes or via the RSS feed, or check out our SoundCloud page to share any or all of these interviews or recommendations!

Maria Bamford: Comedy's Orchid

Maria Bamford's comedy is weird and wonderfully distinctive. For example: she recorded her last stand up special at home, in her living room. The seating? Her couch. The audience? Her parents. She performed her set with breaks "off-stage" to take cookies out of the oven and administer medicine to her pet pug. Her comedy takes on a number of difficult issues, ones that are personal to her -- mental illness, suicidal thoughts, or tough family dynamics (she describes her family's favorite pastime as "Joy Whack-a-Mole"). But she doesn't use humor as a shield. She uses it to confront an issue, point-blank.

Bamford talks to us about why she chose to perform a special in front of her parents, processing awful experiences or feelings into jokes, and why she describes herself as "the orchid of comedy".

The Special Special Special is available now and streaming on Netflix. Her new Comedy Central CD / DVD special, Ask Me About My New God is now available.

This interview originally aired on 2/12/13.

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Dan Deacon on "The Song That Changed My Life"

Dan Deacon is a Baltimore-based composer and electronics musician who has released over a dozen albums since 2003. He talks about why a player piano composition by Conlon Nancarrow changed his life and the way he made music.

This interview originally aired on 1/03/12.

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George Saunders on Creative Challenge and Financial Pressure

George Saunders could have been a geophysicist. In fact, he was one. He graduated from the Colorado School of Mines and worked in the oil fields of Sumatra. He came to fiction writing a little later in life, attending Syracuse University's creative writing program (where he now teaches).

Saunders is now well-recognized as one of the greatest short story writers and satirists of our time. He's been awarded a MacArthur "Genius" grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship, along with piles of literary accolades for his collections, which include Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. His stories often explore a world much like our own, just slightly more grotesque -- societies that are terrifying and recognizable. His writing is incisive, sad, and also really funny. His collection, Tenth of December, is available now in paperback.

Saunders talks to us about how people interpret luck and what they do with it, drawing inspiration from a disturbing dream, and unyielding financial pressure (the kind that doesn't even lift when you win a major award).

This interview originally aired on 2/12/13.

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The Outshot: William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe"

Jesse ruminates on alone time and... William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe".

This segment originally aired on 2/12/13.

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Accompanying Judge John Hodgman Episode 170: Monte Belmonte Python

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Listener Pavek U. wrote in after listening to Episode 170, Monte Belmonte Python, in reference to our docket item at 60:11.

"Thank you, and your staff, for the hours of enjoyment your podcast provides. I took the snakes going out to dinner statement you made and fleshed it out during my workday, and came up with a small progression drawing to thank you guys."

Below is Pavek's lovely drawing, inspired by "Aubrey and Ginger Go Out to Dinner". Thanks, Pavek!


(Click to Enlarge)

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Elizabeth Gilbert and Daryl Hall

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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.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.

Elizabeth Gilbert talks curiosity, life after "Eat, Pray, Love" and writing her most recent novel

If you know of the writer Elizabeth Gilbert, it's probably from her 2006 memoir, Eat Pray Love. Gilbert's book, which was about travel and love and re-gaining a sense of self, spent years atop the bestseller list and inspired a movie starring Julia Roberts. It also saddled Gilbert with a certain kind of fame.

Gilbert was already an accomplished novelist, biographer, and journalist when fame happened. But the massive success of Eat, Pray, Love necessarily transformed Gilbert's creative life.

Gilbert returned to fiction with her first novel in thirteen years, entitled The Signature of All Things: A Novel. She spent several years doing research for the book, which follows the adventures of Alma Whittaker, a 19th century botanist who studies moss. The book shines with Alma's curiosity for life and science, and her struggle of self-discovery.

She'll talk about why she chose to write a "great moss novel", how she chose to write her heroine Alma (homely, brilliant, and moneyed), and how she dealt with a certain kind of fame.
(This segment originally aired in October 2013)

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

This week, a look back at some favorite films. Staff writer Nathan Rabin and Editorial Director Keith Phipps of film site The Dissolve 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.

(This segment originally aired in October 2013)

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Comedy: Patton Oswalt explains why sometimes shopping can be embarrassing

When you lose a few pounds it's natural to buy new clothes. You might try on those skin tight jeans that look so great on the model. But, trying on new clothes isn't always fun. Sometimes it's downright embarrassing. Patton Oswalt will explain why he didn't end up with new pants.

His most recent stand up special, Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time, is out now. He's actually gone silent for the summer. Taking a break from the internet. But you can catch him live in LA starting September 13.

Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates on forming a band, creating a signature sound, and hip hop sampling

Daryl Hall, best known as the lead vocalist and co-founder of Hall & Oates, is a singer, songwriter and producer with a collection of #1 songs to his name. He spent his formative years in Philadelphia around soul singers like Smokey Robinson.

Daryl Hall and John Oates met as students at Temple University, and went on to form a best-selling musical duo with chart-toppers like "Rich Girl", "Sara Smile", and "Private Eyes". Hall talks about his first meeting with Oates, and how he used disco and punk rock to help create Hall & Oates' signature sound.

His newest project is a web series called Live from Daryl's House of performances and collaborations with a diverse set of musicians that's included Minus the Bear, Cee-lo Green, Toots and the Maytals, Chromeo and the Neon Trees.
(This segment originally aired on The Sound of Young America in February 2011)

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The Outshot: Bo Jackson

And finally, the outshot for this week – Bo Jackson. How is a guy that fast, that strong? And how is a guy that strong, that fast? Jesse explains.

(This segment originally aired in January 2012)

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Fred Willard & Vocoders with Dave Tompkins

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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.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.

Fred Willard on his comedic beginnings, playing the clueless buffoon, and working with Christopher Guest

For over fifty years, Fred Willard played ignorant, self-absorbed buffoons that are impossible not to laugh at. He's a master improviser and comedian who started with his comedy duo, Greco and Willard, and moved on to work with the Second City and improv groups The Committee and the Ace Trucking Company. Today, he's probably best known and loved as one of Christopher Guest's troupe in films like Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show.

Willard tells us about drag-performances in his military school, the real life inspiration for his improvised comedy, and being the exact opposite of the happy-go-lucky optimists he plays on screen. (This segment originally aired in August 2013)

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Eleni Mandell on "Tom Traubert's Blues": The Song That Changed My Life

Singer-songwriter Eleni Mandell had one of those experiences as a kid that was a hallmark of experiencing music before the internet. She heard a song she liked, went out to the record store, and picked an album by the same artist. The problem? It sounded totally uncool, and not at all like the song she'd heard. It did, however, open her up to a whole new way of listening to music.
Eleni talks to us about the song that changed her life, Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues." Eleni grew up in Los Angeles loving both punk rockers X and folk rocker Bob Dylan, and her own music mixes airy vocals with 60s pop, country, and folk sounds. Her newest album is "Let's Fly a Kite" is available now.
(This segment originally aired in September 2012)

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Todd Martens recommends two perennial favorite albums by Material Issue and Wilco.

Beyond interesting conversations with people in culture, we like to tell you about interesting cultural stuff. There's so much stuff out there, you don't have time to listen to everything. That's why we've brought in Todd Martens, who writes about music for the LA Times, to tell you about two albums you can dive into without hesitation.

Martens recommends Material Issue's 1991 album, International Pop Overthrow, a combination of cynicism and ideals.

He also recommends the album Summerteeth by Wilco, an album which explores a different side of Wilco.

You can find Martens' writing in the L.A. Times or on their music blog, Pop and Hiss.

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The power of a robot voice: Dave Tompkins talks vocoders, talk boxes, and how they changed music

You may not know it, but when you talk on your cell phone, you're using technology that was first developed for the vocoder. Bell Labs invented the vocoder to make long distance calls cheaper. But it had another application in World War II, when we used it to encode Allied messages.

The vocoder was in large part an analog machine, but it was also one of the first digitizations of speech. It broke down speech into its constituent parts, its separate frequencies, to create the codes. The technology that was in that huge code-making vocoder in 1944, twenty or twenty five years later, became a musical instrument.

Dave Tompkins is the author of How to Wreck a Nice Beach -- which is the way you might hear the phrase “How To Recognize Speech” if it were rendered through a vocoder. The book describes how the vocoder was created to guard phones from codebreakers during World War II, and soon became a voice-altering tool for musicians. Tompkins talks about how the vocoder changed music, the technology behind it, and some examples of music using a vocoder.
(This segment originally aired on The Sound of Young America in October 2010)

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THE OUTSHOT: The Long Goodbye

Elliott Gould may not seem like the hard-boiled noir type, but in 1973, under the direction of Robert Altman, he had that perfect combination of intellect and self-satisfied cool. With Gould playing Raymond Chandler's most famous character, Philip Marlowe, The Long Goodbye explores the powerful narcissism that governed the streets of 1970s Los Angeles.
(This segment originally aired in July 2013)

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Atlantic Ocean Comedy & Music Festival 2014 Tickets On Sale Now

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Click here to get your tickets today.

The time has come! Tickets for the Atlantic Ocean Comedy & Music Festival 2014 are now available. Here's what you need to know:

THE DATES: July 25-28, 2014

THE BOAT: This year we're on Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas, which is bigger and newer than last year's (every level of room is larger!)

THE DESTINATIONS: We're leaving from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and headin' back to the Bahamas!

THE LINEUP: Oh man, we're so excited about the lineup. Check out who we've got performing this year!

Greg Behrendt
W. Kamau Bell
Chris Fairbanks
Jean Grae
Moshe Kasher
Karen Kilgariff
Kyle Kinane
Natasha Leggero
Morgan Murphy
John Roderick

With More To Be Announced!

If you came on the Boat Party last year, you know it was a blast. If you haven't gone yet, what are you waiting for? Grab your ticket here and join us for the first (or second!) time. We can't wait to see you on the high seas!

From Manifesto To Conference: Make Your Thing in Los Angeles This October

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Head to makeyourthing.LA to see our video and support our Kickstarter!

Amazing news, people! We just launched our Kickstarter campaign to support Make Your Thing, found at makeyourthing.LA. Born from Jesse's Make Your Thing Manifesto, the most popular article in transom.org history, Make Your Thing aims to create a physical meeting place to foster independent creation. Make Your Thing is a conference about making a living creating what you love. We're hosting parties, live music, comedy, and a marketplace, in addition to an exceptional lineup of speakers that can only be heard at Make Your Thing.

Our speakers come from a variety of backgrounds and creative outlets. They include:

Jane Espenson, (TV Writer/Producer: Game Of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica, Torchwood, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls)
Vernon Reid (Musician: Living Colour, Black Rock Coalition)
John Vanderslice (Musician/Producer: Tiny Telephone, Spoon, The Mountain Goats)
Merlin Mann (Back To Work), @hotdogsladies)
Chris Gethard (Creator and host of The Chris Gethard Show)
Kate Beaton (Comics artist: Hark! A Vagrant)
Colt Cabana (Professional wrestler, The Art of Wrestling)
Ayesha Siddiqi (Writer: New Inquiry, Buzzfeed)
Brad Bell (Producer/Writer/Actor: Husbands, VH1's Pop-Up Video)
Jay Allison (Radio Producer: The Moth, This American Life, Transom.org, Public Radio Exchange)
Julie Sabatier (Radio Producer: Destination DIY, Oregon Public Radio's Think Out Loud)
Camas Davis (Founder of The Portland Meat Collective)

What's that? You want more? You want to...party?

We’re so excited about the amazing folks speaking at Make Your Thing, but we really see this as an opportunity to interact with your peers. Towards that end, we’re already planning gatherings and gathering places, formal and informal, to get people sharing their experiences. Many of these will have drinking.

This is Kickstarter funded project, so we need your support! You can read all about our campaign at MakeYourThing.LA, and we have an embeddable video here.

Seeking Indie Animator

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We need an animator for a short, cool, paid (not a lot) project - someone whose style is, in Jesse's words "sweet/lovely/pretty."

Email henry@maximumfun.org with any reels, clips, resumes, questions, comments, etc.

Live Taping of Jordan, Jesse Go! and International Waters in London!

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On August 25th we will be recording special live tapings of Jordan, Jesse Go! and International Waters in London and we want to invite all of our friends in the UK to the show!

Jordan, Jesse Go! 2pm. Tickets!

A very special live edition of Jordan, Jesse, GO!, the freewheeling comedy podcast about life and everything else. Your hosts are Jesse Thorn, "America's Radio Sweetheart," and Jordan Morris, "Boy Detective," who are in the UK because they thought the Olympics happened here every year...

There will be a brilliant special guest TBC.

International Waters 4:30pm. Tickets!

International Waters is the pop culture comedy quiz show where land laws do not apply.

Join host Jesse Thorn and competing teams of world-famous comedians from the US and UK in a hilarious and lively test of pop culture knowledge (and the ability to make up baloney when that knowledge fails).

It's part panel show, part trivia quiz and all laughs. It's also a little embarrassed it wrote that last sentence.

We'll be announcing our teams closer to the taping but we have some GREAT people ALMOST lined-up!

The Phoenix, Cavendish Square, London United Kingdom
The venue opens 30 minutes before each recording. The phoenix has good food, good booze and there's going to be a MaxFun meet-up afterwards.

Emmy Nominations 2013!

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We're not surprised to see some of our favorite past Bullseye guests got Emmy nods this year! Take a listen to some of our past conversations with these Emmy contenders.

Julia Louis Dreyfus: nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series for her performance as Vice President Selina Meyer in Veep.

She talked to Jesse about crafting the character of Vice President Meyer, similarities between showbiz and politics, and, yes, the Elaine dance from Seinfeld.

Tony Hale: nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series for his performance as Gary Walsh, aide to the Vice President, in Veep.

He talked to us about behind-the-scenes humor in Veep, selling Volkswagens to the tune of "Mr. Roboto," and returning to the role of Buster in the newest season of Arrested Development.

Hugh Bonneville: nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series for his performance as Robert, Earl of Grantham in Downton Abbey.

He joined Jesse along with Downton co-stars Dan Stevens and Joanne Froggatt to talk about what makes their show's romances so compelling, and how they keep old customs fresh and exciting.

Benedict Cumberbatch: nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie for his performance as the brilliant aristocrat, Christopher Tietjens, in Parade's End.

We talked about playing the title character in PBS's Sherlock Holmes adaptation Sherlock, and how his traumatic kidnapping in South Africa transformed his outlook on life.

Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein: nominated for Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series for their hipster-sketch show Portlandia.

Armisen and Brownstein joined us to talk about their respective music careers before comedy, Armisen's "other job" on Saturday Night Live, and why Portland is such a rich subject for relentless satire.

Bob Newhart: nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series for his appearance as the children's science show host Arthur Jeffries a.k.a. Professor Proton on Big Bang Theory.

Newhart reflected on a comedy career spanning more than 50 years, and shares some of his own tricks for continuing the funny.

Mel Brooks, whose HBO special Mel Brooks Strikes Back! was nominated for Outstanding Variety Special.

Brooks talked to us about making Germans laugh when he fought in World War II, being dangled out of Chicago hotel window by Sid Caesar, and much, much more.

Jane Lynch: nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series for her role as cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester on Glee.

Jane and Jesse talked about Jane's cult sitcom Party Down, the first big break in her acting career, and (not) coming out Ellen Degeneres-style.

Bill Hader: nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series for his assorted roles on Saturday Night Live.

Hader talked to Jesse about his first stab at impressions for the SNL audition, "breaking" during sketches, and the wonderful bizarreness of actually working with Tom Cruise.

Pendleton Ward: creator of Adventure Time, which was nominated for Outstanding Short-Format Animated Program.

Literally drawing Jesse while they talked, Pen told Jesse about finding inspiration in Dungeons and Dragons, writing the perfect fart joke, and his creative process for the show Adventure Time.

Louis C.K.: nominated for (wait for it) Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series, Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series, Outstanding Variety Special, Outstanding Writing For A Variety Special, Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Special, Outstanding Picture Editing For Short-Form Segments and Variety Specials, and Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series. These are for his original series Louie, his HBO special Louis C.K.: Oh My God, and his hosting stint on Saturday Night live, respectively.

Louis and Jesse have talked a couple times and their interviews get just as philosophical, inward-looking, and hilarious as you would expect. Listen and share here and here.

Throwing Shade LIVE: Coming to a Town Near You!

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Over the next few months, Erin and Bryan will take Throwing Shade on the road for some fantastic, in-the-vicinty-of-your-face live shows! Check the following pages for more info:

More dates will be announced soon!

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