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.
Mark Frauenfelder, co-founder of BoingBoing, joins us to share some geeky recommendations: the engaging online / downloadable game Kingdom Rush and David Dufty's tale of robotics in How to Build an Android.
Gun-toting and martial arts-fighting – the blaxploitation heroes of the 1970s might have actually been (or been friends with) pimps, gangsters, and drug dealers, but the goal in the end was cleaning up the neighborhood and beating The Man. The genre inspired Carl Jones and Michael Jai White, both behind the new animated series Black Dynamite.
The series is based on a 2009 cult film and blaxploitation spoof of the same name. Michael Jai White, who co-wrote and starred in the film, lends his voice to the animated Black Dynamite. Director Carl Jones (The Boondocks) was brought on to shepherd the concept from film to animation.
Michael and Carl join us to discuss their favorite blaxploitation films, the troubles of Richard Pryor, and fleshing out the relationships and characters of the film for the series.
Black Dynamite airs Sundays at 11:30pm on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.
Jason Brewer wanted to play guitar since he was four. Today, he's writing music, singing and playing guitar for The Explorers Club, a band that incorporates the sounds of the 1960s-era vocal harmonies and orchestral arrangements that obsessed him in his youth.
He talks to us about the song that changed his life – Johnny B. Goode, by Chuck Berry.
The Explorers Club released their second album, Grand Hotel, earlier this year.
Rachel Dratch is a comic actress best known to audiences as a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1999 to 2006, and from recurring roles on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock. Most recently, she's written Girl Walks Into A Bar...: Comedies Calamities, Dating Disasters & A Midlife Miracle. While there are behind-the-scenes stories from her days at SNL in the book, it's mainly the story of life after the show. With plenty of time on her hands, Dratch dove head-first into the dating pool after years of using being busy with SNL as an excuse not to date. The titular miracle was an unexpected pregnancy at age 44, having been in a long distance relationship with the father for just six months prior.
Dratch joins Jesse to discuss her comedy background in Chicago, the development process of getting some of her most famous SNL characters to air, and the inherent humor of balancing midlife motherhood with a romance still in its infant stages. This interview originally aired April 17, 2012.
Jesse suggests you follow the humorist and travel writer Bill Bryson on his wanderings through the history of the homestead and domesticity (it's not quite as dry as you think). His book is At Home: A Short History of Private Life.
Got a favorite book you want to spread the word about? Head on over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.
Jason Kottke blogs at Kottke.org and every once in awhile he shows up on Bullseye to tell us about the best stuff on the web. This week Kottke points us toward some of his all-time favorites: The Wire Bible and Survival Tips for the Middle Ages.
Bob Newhart is an actor, stand-up and legend of American comedy. A pioneer comedian in every sense, Bob began his comedy career when he and a friend improvised over-the-phone comedy routines to kill boredom at work, and subsequently sold the bits to radio stations. The "phone sketch" would be a schtick that would last throughout Newhart's career, and featured quite prominently in the release of his 1960 comedy album debut Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart. The album was an unprecedented hit as a comedy recording, outselling Elvis Presley and winning the Grammy for Album of the Year. Its success eventually led Newhart to television, first with a variety sketch show in the early '60s, and then a pair of sitcoms: The Bob Newhart Show in the 1970s, and Newhart in the early '80s.
Bob joins us to reflect on his comedy career, from how he honed his craft as a solo straightman -- leaving the wild responses on the other end of his phone conversations entirely in the minds of the audience -- to what keeps him going today when he's accomplished so much as a performer. Newhart still performs dozens of nights a year as a stand-up, while acting in both film and television. You can find him at BobNewhart.com. This interview originally aired April 3, 2012.
Has the Almighty ever swayed athletic outcomes? Does He even care for sports at all? Get the straight truth from The Man Himself. The answer may surprise you.
This excerpt is from The Last Testament: A Memoir By God, with David Javerbaum.
David Javerbaum is an Emmy-winning comedy writer and former executive producer of The Daily Show. You can see more of his work with God on Twitter @TheTweetofGod.
Our voice of God is provided by comedian and Funny or Die writer Seth Morris, who is also on Twitter @SethISMorris. This segment originally aired April 3, 2012.
Christofer and Benjamin Wagner are brothers and the co-directors of the documentary Mister Rogers & Me, about children's television personality Fred Rogers, and the effect he had on the lives of generations of kids. For Ben -- who moonlights as a documentarian between his day-job as an executive with MTV News -- it was a project that began more than ten years ago, when he discovered Mister Rogers really was his neighbor, living next door to him at a vacation home in Nantucket, MA. Rogers' heartfelt sincerity, and his ability to truly live in the moment, compelled Ben to learn more about the man and about the countless lives he'd forever changed.
The Wagner Brothers sit down with Jesse to discuss the film, the overwhelming experience of meeting Mr. Rogers in person, and the way he helped so many grow up in ways they might not even have noticed. Mister Rogers & Me is available now on DVD. This interview originally aired April 3, 2012.
On The Outshot this week, Jesse looks back on the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and finds his favorite film of the fest is only now getting the theatrical release it so richly deserves. The film is Boy, from Māori writer/director/star Taika Waititi. It tells the story of a young Māori boy named, well... Boy. Boy is given the chance to reconnect with his deadbeat father (Waititi) after years apart, as Dad's been away in jail. You can see and hear our interview with Taika Waititi and James Rolleston here.
It's a story bursting with youthful optimism, while the darkness of adulthood creeps in around the edges. It's screening this summer in theaters around the country. This segment originally aired April 3, 2012.
Got a little-known film of your own you want to spread the word about? Head on over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.
Our culture gurus over at The AV Club delve into film this week: head writer Nathan Rabin suggests the documentary The Queen of Versailles, which follows a billionaire’s family (and their undoing) in the wake of the economic crisis. Film editor Scott Tobias thinks you should look into two classic films, Body and Soul and Force of Evil, both written by screenwriter Abraham Polonsky.
The Queen of Versailles is now in theaters nationwide. Force of Evil and Body and Soul are both available on Blu-Ray and DVD.
What do The Partridge Family, Black Sabbath, and David Bowie all have in common? They all nurtured the music- and pop culture-obsessed minds behind the punk band Redd Kross. Brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald started the band as kids in the late 1970s, growing up in Hawthorne, California near a burgeoning LA punk rock scene.
The band flew mostly under the radar of mainstream culture, but found a devoted fan base and was hugely influential to the punk, grunge, and indie rock scenes. Kurt Cobain regularly included their songs on his mix tapes, and they've been name-checked by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Stephen Malkmus of Pavement, and even Joe Elliott of Def Leppard.
They've just released their first album in fifteen years, called Researching the Blues.
You think you’ve got issues? Todd Barry might give you a run for your money.
Todd Barry is a NYC-based veteran comedian. You can see him regularly at venues across the country. He collects mundane quotes, misprinted receipts, and subversive Tweets. His new stand up album, Super Crazy, is out now.
Matt Braunger began his career as an actor and stumbled into comedy, but now is known for both -- he’s been a feature performer on MADtv and toured the country with his standup, and he’s scored a recurring role as the genial, dorky neighbor on NBC’s Up All Night.
He talks to us about growing up in Portland and creating his own blend of stand-up comedy -- observational stories, mixed in with fanciful musings. His new stand up album and DVD special, both entitled Shovel Fighter, are out now.
Got a favorite musical comedy album? Share it on the the MaxFun forum by picking your own Outshot.
Brian Heater and Alex Zalben bring some of their all-time favorites to the table this week.
Brian recommends Cleveland by Harvey Pekar, the self-deprecating writer best known for American Splendor. Alex Zalben suggests you check out Concrete: The Human Dilemma by Paul Chadwick.
Michael Ian Black is an actor, comedian and author perhaps best known from his work with the sketch comedy troupe The State, or from his subsequent collaborations with State-mates both on television (Stella, Michael & Michael Have Issues) and film (Wet Hot American Summer). His charming smarminess made him a perfect fit for the talking-head format of VH1, but that public persona is a troubling aspect of his life -- one of many issues discussed in his memoir, You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations. He goes in-depth on the issues of his marriage, parenthood, and personhood, and the result is a book that is shockingly honest, informative, and incredibly funny.
Michael talks about re-committing himself to marriage in six week intervals, getting into stand-up comedy late in life, and his obsession with Googling "Fat Kevin Federline." He co-hosts the podcast Mike & Tom Eat Snacks and has two new books out this year -- a political commentary with Meghan McCain, and his memoir You’re Not Doing It Right. (Originally aired May 1, 2012)
If you watch the Super Bowl, or even just television, you probably know comedian Pete Holmes best from commercials, where he adorably doles out financial advice as the voice of the E-Trade baby. Last year he was named one of Variety's Ten Comics to Watch, and with good reason. As a stand-up, Holmes has a mostly goofy and positive energy. But as he reveals on his new album Impregnated With Wonder, there is one thing that can really set him off: a bad sandwich.
Tom Bissell is a journalist, video game critic and author whose latest book, Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation, is a series of pieces attempting to capture all angles of the creative process, in all sorts of artistic forms: from Herman Melville, writer of Moby Dick, to Chuck Lorre, creator of Two and a Half Men; from the mind of filmmaker Werner Herzog to the madness of The Room's Tommy Wiseau. Magic Hours collects the best of Bissell's ten-year career, with essays featured in The New Yorker and Harper's, as well as several pieces written solely for the book.
Tom joins us to discuss the dumb luck that makes some books resounding classics of literature while others fade from the collective conscious, and the value (or lack thereof) of a journalism degree. You can find his video game writing online at Grantland.com. Magic Hours is now available in bookstores everywhere. (Originally aired May 1, 2012)
On this week's Outshot, Jesse recommends one of his absolute favorite shows, the brilliantly profane political satire The Thick of It -- particularly its foul-mouthed protagonist Malcolm Tucker. The show is now available to US audiences on Hulu. (Originally aired May 1, 2012)
Got a hilariously profane favorite of your own? Don't just keep it to yourself, f***ing tell someone by heading to the MaxFun forum and picking your own Outshot.