Brian Heater and Alex Zalben join us this week to share some great comics. Brian recommends Skyscrapers Of The Midwest by Joshua Cotter, a beautifully illustrated story of growing up and imagination. Alex suggests Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson, an exploration of young adults living in New York in the 90s, informed by the author’s life experiences.
Brian Heater curates Boing Boing’s monthly comics round-up, Comics Rack. You can also find his work on Engadget. Alex Zalben covers comics for MTV Geek and hosts Comic Book Club Live in New York City.
Ice-T is a rapper and actor with more than ten albums and nearly eighty acting credits to his name. He's also one of the forefathers of west coast hip-hop. He's added "filmmaker" to an already diverse resume with his directorial debut: the hip hop documentary Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap. The film is now available on DVD and VOD.
Ice sits down with us to talk about his desire to bring an artful appreciation to hip hop's origins and about going through his phone book to sit down with friends to discuss the craft. He'll also answer that lingering question: did he ghostwrite for an 80s rap album by Mister T? This interview originally aired June 12, 2012.
For much of his musical career, Aaron Freeman might have been better known to you as Gene Ween, guitarist and co-founder of the experimental rock band Ween.
In May, Freeman released his first solo record, Marvelous Clouds, a collection of covers of songs by 60s poet/songwriter Rod McKuen. Earlier this year, Freeman announced he was retiring the Gene Ween persona for good. This week he tells us about the song that changed his life: Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry". This interview originally aired June 12, 2012.
Greta Gerwig is an actress and filmmaker, whose starring role in the 2007 comedy Hannah Takes the Stairs put her right at the heart of the mumblecore movement. She's since gone on to leading roles in bigger indies alongside Ben Stiller in Greenberg, as well as major motion pictures like Arthur, opposite Russell Brand. The indie darling has had a particularly prominent year in 2012, with starring roles in Damsels in Distress, Lola Versus, and Woody Allen's To Rome with Love. All are available now on DVD.
Greta joins us to discuss her artistic upbringing in Sacramento (complete with dreams of being a ballerina) and her meteoric and slightly serendipitous rise as an actress. This interview originally aired June 12, 2012.
On this week's Outshot, Jesse misses the old days of pure wacky comedy insanity exemplified by the unfiltered goofiness of Mel Brooks' History of the World, Part I. This segment originally aired June 12, 2012.
Is there a film that never fails to make you laugh like a mad man? Share the laughs on the MaxFun Forum by picking your own Outshot.
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.
Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are actors, comedians, and the creators and co-stars of the Comedy Central sketch show Key & Peele. They met during their years as cast members on MADtv; you might also recognize Jordan from adult swim's Childrens Hospital or perhaps you caught them both as commune-dwelling hippies in the film Wanderlust. In their show, Keegan and Jordan go from stand-up, to sketches about Scrabble, to a top-notch presidential impersonation.
Their series gives them full creative control over their comedy, but that hasn't always been the case. They join us to discuss the behind-the-scenes creative process of MADtv (and the difficulties therein), the keys to developing strong impressions, and exploring the humor of their bi-racial identities. Plus, Jordan divulges the details of an original card game he invented for movie buffs!
Key & Peele airs Wednesday nights on Comedy Central. Season one is availabile in stores now on DVD and Blu-ray. This interview originally aired February 28, 2012.
Our resident pop culture advice columnists, the McElroy brothers of My Brother, My Brother and Me take on questions about movie posters as art, what happens when you judge a child's abominable TV watching choices, and more. This segment originally aired February 28, 2012.
Are you ready to sacrifice hours, days, weeks of your life and your relationship to the outside world in favor of improving your archery skills and gathering herbs? If so, join Jesse in this week's Outshot, the role-playing game Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. This segment originally aired February 28, 2012.
Hip hop blogger Andrew Noz joins us again this week to recommend some of his favorite tracks of the moment. What's he listening to now? Aesop Rock's ode to a haircut in Racing Stripes and Alpoko Don's stripped down track All I Know.
The Grammy-nominated jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer began learning classical violin at age three and started improvising on the piano only a few years later. While he studied math and physics at Yale and UC Berkeley, he couldn't stay away from music. He found himself doing academic work by day, and moonlighting as a jazz pianist in Bay Area clubs.
His music is known for its complex, pulsing rhythms and creating unusual covers of artists like Stevie Wonder, Flying Lotus, and Michael Jackson.
He talks to us about exploring rhythm with math (remember Fibonacci's sequence?), the social experience of creating and listening to music, and the idea that "music is action."
The Vijay Iyer Trio's newest album is Accelerando.
Demetri Martin is the kind of person who's obsessed with puzzles and linguistic and cultural ironies, and you've probably seen him explore those on his show Important Things with Demetri Martin. But he's usually got a big sketchpad, slides projected overhead, and a piano to riff on. He's put the theatricality aside in favor of straight ahead one-liners in this clip from his new special, Standup Comedian.
Want to learn more about Demetri Martin? Check out our interview with him about This is a Book.
Dave Hill is best known as a New York-based comedian, but he's dabbled in a lot of things. He's interviewed fans of Chick-Fil-A for This American Life, lived the life of a frontman for a semi-successful rock band (they were big in Japan), and even had a job as a pedicab driver for a few days.
One of his trademarks is making himself and others uncomfortable during a performance, whether he's asking inane or (alternately) inappropriately suggestive questions in his man-on-the-street interviews, performing stand up or hosting his talk show The Dave Hill Explosion. He mines a number of uncomfortable situations in his recent book of essays, Tasteful Nudes: ...and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation.
He talks to us about how being a rock musician made him realize he loved comedy, and how he ended up performing at Sing Sing for maximum security felons. This interview originally aired July 2, 2012.)
What's your favorite mashup of genres? Head over to the MaxFun forum and tell us YOUR outshot.
We're joined this week by the entire cast of the Low Times podcast for their music recommendations. Daniel Ralston goes with Rock Bottom by King Krule, Maggie Serota suggests Your Side by Fear of Men, and Tom Scharpling recommends The Diaz Brothers by The Mountain Goats.
Liam Lynch is a writer, director and musician who's made a career out of a certain kind of alternative musical and skit comedy -- the kind that is "funny the way your friends are funny with each other." That sensibility lent itself well to Lynch's directorial work in Sarah Silverman's Jesus is Magic and Tenacious D's The Pick of Destiny.
His sock puppet duo, Sifl & Olly, found a niche on late-night television on MTV. Joined by the occasional sidekick or home shopping network representative, Sifl and Olly ribbed each other, took calls from the public, and broke out into songs like Lynch's strange and catchy "United States of Whatever."
He's now revived the puppets, more than ten years after the last Sifl & Olly Show broadcast, to conduct fake video game reviews for the YouTube channel Machinima.
The Kasper Hauser news team is back with another update. If you’re tired of telling fact from fiction in your news, we'll make it simple for you: this news is completely fake.
Geoff Nunberg is a professor at UC Berkeley, the resident linguist of Fresh Air, and the author of Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years. He talks to us about his studies into the word "asshole," which began life as a bit of slang used by WWII servicemen and has come to envelop the concept of modern incivility.
Jesse shares his enjoyment of the analytical comedy of Bill Burr.
Who’s your favorite standup? Jump over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.
We're joined again this week by guest co-host Julie Klausner.
Associate National Editor Tasha Robinson and Film Editor Scott Tobias of the AV Club recommend Imagination Illustrated, which journals the various creative efforts of Jim Henson, and a modern, dark adaptation of Wuthering Heights.
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 last year when the archival label Numero Group assembled a Grammy-nominated boxset of his early cuts, titled Syl Johnson: The Mythology.
Armed with childhood memories of watching Psycho and Alien and an insatiable appetite for true crime stories, Gillian Flynn began writing her first thriller, Sharp Objects. The book's success took Flynn from magazine journalist to full-time author. Her newest book, the bestselling Gone Girl, is a twisted and wry look at a marriage gone horribly wrong.
Flynn offers insights on the twisted and damaged psyches of her characters, cherishing the unease that comes with following an unreliable narrator, and how she combats the trope of the female victim.
This week, Jesse lauds the commitment and direction of Key & Peele's sketch comedy.
For more, check out our interview with Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele from earlier this year.
What’s your favorite sketch comedy show? Jump over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.
Hey Bullseye listeners! You’ll hear a new voice on this show. Guest co-host Julie Klausner joins us for the next two weeks.
Check out more of Noz’s work in his new hip hop column for Pitchfork, Diamonds and Wood.
Nellie McKay is a singer-songwriter, actor and cabaret artist with a wry sense of humor and a throwback aesthetic. Her voice might evoke Doris Day or Peggy Lee, but her lyrics are often sardonic, political and thought-provoking. She’s been a guest on our program in the past, and has since released two albums and created two original cabaret shows. She tells us why she avoids modern conveniences, the reasons why she actually prefers to produce records with her mom, and finds time to play us a few songs on the ukelele, too.
McKay is on a solo tour this fall with her ukelele and piano. You can catch one of her musical cabaret shows, Silent Spring: It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature, and I Want to Live! in New York.
Comedian Jordan Morris knows that you meant to make a list of all the things in America today. He went ahead and did it for you, because you’re busy and he’s a nice guy like that.
Jordan is the co-host of the weekly podcast Jordan, Jesse, Go!.
Rob Delaney is known as the comedian Twitter made. He discovered something about comedy that changed him when he saw an Upright Citizens Brigade show, but it would be years before he was able to capture that spark onstage himself and pursue his calling in comedy. First, he went through a period of alcoholism and survived a devastating car accident and a stint in jail.
He's learned to cope with the physical and psychological damage from his addiction and accident, and he joins us to talk about his recovery, the Twitter evidence of a hard work ethic, and why he's both intrigued and disgusted by the human body.
His new standup special, Live at the Bowery Ballroom, is available now.
Our guest co-host Julie Klausner suggests you to immediately track down Nancy Sinatra’s 1967 TV special, Movin’ with Nancy, and find the way to becoming a groovier, happier person.
Is there a classic television special that speaks to you? Jump over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.
Brian Heater and Alex Zalben return with more of their favorite comics. Brian recommends Gabrielle Bell’s collected diary comics in The Voyeurs. Alex Zalben suggests you check out The Manhattan Projects: Volume 1, which begs the question -- what if the creation of the atomic bomb was a cover for even more sinister and weird activities?
Brian Heater is the founder of indie comics site The Daily Cross Hatch and the new comics contributor at BoingBoing. Alex Zalben writes about comics for MTV Geek and hosts NYC’s Comic Book Club Live. He’s also currently Kickstarting a new mystery comic called Detective Honeybear.
The Nigerian band leader Fela Kuti had a vision for a new kind of music that would synthesise traditional African rhythms, highlife and pop music and American jazz and funk. He decided to sing in pidgin English, so the music could be understood and enjoyed throughout Africa. The music became known as afrobeat, and Fela is widely celebrated as a pioneer of the form.
Martín Perna and Jordan McLean continue in Fela’s tradition with their NYC-based afrobeat orchestra Antibalas. Perna founded the band in 1998 and was joined by lead trumpeter McLean and a host of other musicians to create a sound reminiscent of both Fela’s Africa 70 and Eddie Palmieri's salsa-fusion group Harlem River Drive.
Their new album is the self-titled release Antibalas.
Perna and McLean discuss the virtues of the bari sax, a pan-American sound, and the Broadway production of Fela!.
Brent Weinbach does stand up comedy, but his past records have included lots of tracks recorded without an audience -- alone, in a studio. His particular brand of weird, brooding and often dark comedy earned him an Andy Kaufman Award just a few years ago.
His new album, Mostly Live, was recorded at the Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles and has more audience interaction. In fact, he gave one lucky audience member a short impromptu acting lesson.
Wayne White's name may not ring a bell with you, but his artwork likely would. You may have been of the age to regularly watch Pee-wee’s Playhouse on Saturday mornings in the late 1980s and early 90s, when he designed sets and puppets for Pee-wee’s amazing and kitschy playhouse. Or maybe you’ve seen the visually striking music videos he worked on for The Smashing Pumpkins and Peter Gabriel. Eschewing the idea that people should “do one thing, and do it well,” White has experimented throughout his career with animation, puppetry, set design and fine art.
Neil Berkeley befriended White when they worked together in design and wanted to showcase White's cultural impact. He’s made his directorial debut with a documentary about White’s life and artwork called Beauty is Embarrassing.
White and Berkeley talk to us about deconstructing puppetry, White’s Southern roots, and the backstage world of Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
Beauty is Embarrassing is in select theaters nationwide and rolling out throughout the fall; you can find a theater near you on the film’s site.
Self-released mixtapes often end up consisting of the dregs of an artist's work. If you’re looking for a mixtape that’s carefully crafted, Jesse suggests LiveLoveA$AP by A$AP Rocky.
Is there a mixtape that’s stuck with you? Jump over to the MaxFun forum and suggest it as your own Outshot.
This week, the AV Club’s Assistant TV Editor, Erik Adams, shares his affection for Police Squad!, the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker classic with Leslie Nielsen. His colleague Claire Zulkey recommends Law & Order.
R.A. Dickey is a pitcher for the New York Mets, and the only man in the majors currently throwing a knuckleball. His new memoir, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest For Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball, is a story of perseverance more than anything. He had a difficult childhood marked by abuse and poverty, but found his gift in baseball. Early on in his career, the Texas Rangers offered Dickey a lucrative contract but retracted it when they discovered a physical abnormality that theoretically should have kept him from playing ball. Dickey then bounced back and forth between the major and minor leagues and says he floundered, personally and professionally. But he stuck with it, and worked on mastering the wildly unpredictable knuckleball pitch (and finally found stability and peace in his relationships with his family and friends). Now, at age 37 Dickey is just hitting the prime of his career while many players of his age have long since retired. If anything, the knuckleball means his best days may still be ahead of him.
R.A. sits down with us to discuss his search for peace from a troubled past, the art of throwing the perfect knuckleball, and exactly why he names his bats after fantasy swords. Wherever I Wind Up is available in bookstores now. This interview originally aired May 22, 2012.
To say Jim Coyle and Mal Sharpe were ahead of their time would be putting it mildly. The duo produced hundreds of man-on-the-street interviews in San Francisco during the mid-1960s, always claiming to be something they weren't, all in the name of comedy. Their efforts would go mostly unappreciated for decades, though the dedication of Mal's daughter Jennifer would ensure their work would eventually find an audience.
In this classic clip, the pair try to convince a Navy serviceman to rob a bank for them. You can hear more from Coyle & Sharpe right here on MaximumFun.org, where their archives have been converted to The Coyle & Sharpe Podcast. This segment originally aired May 22, 2012.
On the Outshot this week, Jesse makes the rather unconventional move of recommending a radio show that isn't this one -- but you'll want to check it out all the same. It's The Best Show on WFMU, the music show turned character-based comedy call-in program whose cryptic host Tom Scharpling can satirize the role of the radio host while perfecting it in the same breath. This segment originally aired May 22, 2012.
Is there a show on the radio that you consider appointment listening? We want to hear it, so let us know on the MaxFun Forum by picking your own Outshot.
Jason Kottke, from one of our favorite repositories of web links, Kottke.org, joins us to tell us about his favorite stuff on the web right now. First we talk about Dr. Seuss's past as an ad man, then we tackle Errol Morris' new short film Team Spirit
W. Kamau Bell wants to talk to you about race. And about urban inequality, and politics, and Spider Man too. He came to his own brand of sociopolitical comedy after working as a comic for years, eventually shaping his work into a one-man show in which he promised to "end racism in about an hour."
A lucky break with an audience member at one of those shows – Chris Rock, to be precise – landed Bell his own TV talk show, called Totally Biased. He joins us to talk about transitioning into the talk show world, the sweet spot of gentrication, and remaining true to his own comedic voice.
Totally Biased airs Thursday nights at 11pm on FX.
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.
Mike Birbiglia knows his own story pretty well by now. After struggling as a stand up, he started working some personal details from his life into his comedy. Some of it was pretty standard, like wrapping his head around the idea of getting married to his longtime girlfriend. And some of it was less familiar stuff, like running out of a window while sleepwalking.
Birbiglia went on transform these thoughts into a one-man show, a book, and now, a movie. And although talking about the subject matter was second nature, directing a movie about it was not. He joins us to discuss being a first-time director, the difficulty of delivering stand up in a casual, easy way, and why he considered long-lasting marriage to be a totally foreign concept.
Sleepwalk With Me is in theaters nationwide.
Jesse recommends the new ESPN documentary Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks for a look at a volatile shooting guard, an intense basketball rivalry, and some courtside conversations with Spike Lee.
Are you a sports fanatic with a favorite doc? Head on over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.
Kurt Andersen is the host of Studio 360, co-founder of the satirical Spy Magazine and a novelist. He brought his love of research and cultural criticism to bear when he penned the new novel True Believers, the story of a high profile lawyer who steps away from a nomination to the Supreme Court. True Believers follows her on a quest to piece together a mysterious episode in her childhood during the Cold War and the age of the spy novel.
Andersen fondly recalls his own childhood interests in espionage, and he discusses the leap of faith required for a trained journalist to stop doing research and begin trusting the imagination. The end result is a novel which weaves together generational politics, 1960s counter-culture, and a children's game that becomes all too real.
Ari Graynor plays a lot of outrageous, messy roles -- she was a self-destructive college student on The Sopranos, and she played a drunken best friend in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist -- but her characters have heart and a kind of innocence.
The same is true of her most recent role of Katie Steele, the brash-yet-vulnerable young Manhattanite who runs a phone sex line in the new movie For a Good Time, Call. The film is in select theaters nationwide this week.
Ari talks to us about the 80s films that inspired her, the story's depiction of female friendship, and the strange intimacy and appeal of phone sex.
Jordan shares his passion for the music of the late Tony Sly, of punk band No Use for a Name.
Got a favorite band you want to spread the word about? Head on over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.