Bullseye

Bullseye is a public radio show about what's good in popular culture. With a keen editorial eye, Bullseye sifts the wheat from the chaff, and brings you hot culture picks, in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary creative people and irreverent original comedy.

Bullseye is equal parts funny and fascinating. Whether you're already plugged in to the culture map, or looking for a signpost, Bullseye will keep you on target. More About Bullseye

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Penelope Spheeris & Bhi Bhiman

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Penelope Spheeris
Guests: 
Bhi Bhiman

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.

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Photo courtesy Shout! Factory

Penelope Spheeris Unveils the Worlds of Punk, Hair Metal in 'The Decline of Western Civilization'

Penelope Spheeris says that she loved punk rock when she first heard it in the 1970s because "the chaos was attractive and familiar to me." She directed, filmed and organized that chaos, spending time with LA punk bands Black Flag, the Germs, and X among others, for her movie The Decline of Western Civilization. She strived to show everything -- the good and bad -- and let the audience decide how they felt about the people on-screen.

The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years focused on the over-the-top lifestyles and big dreams of hair metal bands in the late 1980s. And the third film in Spheeris' Decline series went deep into the world of gutter punks in the 1990s.

After many years of VHS-to-DVD bootlegging, the Decline films are now available together for the first time in a box set on Blu-Ray and DVD from Shout! Factory, with a collection of bonus materials and commentaries produced by Spheeris and her daughter, Anna Fox.

Spheeris talks to us about the chaos in her own upbringing, the worlds of punk and metal as depicted in her documentaries, and directing a little feature film called Wayne's World.

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Bhi Bhiman on Slyly Subverting the Folk Rocker Stereotype

The Sri Lankan-American singer-songwriter Bhi Bhiman encounters some challenges when he goes on-stage. As he tells it, " I have a couple of things going against me. I’m South Asian looking, I’m playing acoustic guitar and singing and as a general rule people just don’t want to see that. But I have to work up hill against that."

Bhiman's newest album Rhythm & Reason is loosely themed around the immigrant experience, but it's not as earnest as that sounds. He's got a Randy Newman thing going on, too.

Bhiman talks to us about not fitting people's expectations of a folk singer with a guitar, his inspirations for the new album, and why he's got love for the Newm.

The Outshot: Falling in Love with Catastrophe

"What does romance mean when you're a fully formed adult human being?" Jesse explains why he's sold on the new romantic comedy Catastrophe.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Alan Rickman & Sacha Jenkins

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Alan Rickman
Guests: 
Sacha Jenkins

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.

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Photo credit: Matej Divizna/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Alan Rickman on 'A Little Chaos', Hans Gruber in 'Die Hard', and His Training at RADA

Alan Rickman stars in and directs the new movie A Little Chaos. It's a romantic drama, set in the court of the Sun King, Louis Quatorze. Kate Winslet plays a landscape architect who is contracted to design a garden at Versailles.

Rickman says he was attracted to the screenplay because of its love story, and the historical reimagining of the construction of Versailles.

He spoke with us about the logistical challenges of staging an elaborate period film, playing Hans Gruber in Die Hard, the secret conversation he had with JK Rowling before shooting the Harry Potter films, and yes, what it's like to act for sixteen hours with a rubber alien head.

A Little Chaos is in theaters now.

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Photo credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Sacha Jenkins on the Evolution of Hip Hop Fashion in 'Fresh Dressed'

Why is fashion such a meaningful part of hip hop's history? Jesse talks to Sacha Jenkins, the director of the new documentary Fresh Dressed, about the evolution of style in hip hop, from the influence of white biker gangs, to the remixing of luxury brands by Harlem couturier Dapper Dan, to the rise and fall of brands founded by rappers and hip hop artists.

Fresh Dressed is in theaters and available on VOD.

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Photo: Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The Outshot: Reliving Memories with the Golden State Warriors

Jesse describes what it felt like to see his favorite childhood basketball team in the NBA playoffs.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Chris Gethard & Lawrence Weschler

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CLICK HERE FOR A DIRECT DOWNLOAD OF THIS EPISODE.

Chris Gethard on Public Access, Comedy, and Confronting an Internet Hater In Person

Jesse talks with comedian Chris Gethard about taking his anarchic stage show to television, how being bipolar has affected his creative work, and confronting one of his Internet haters in real life. His book is called A Bad Idea I'm About To Do.

The Chris Gethard Show started out life at the UCB Theater in New York, moved to public access TV and the internet, and recently found a new home on the cable network Fusion. You can see The Chris Gethard Show on your television, or live streaming on Tuesday nights.

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Lawrence Weschler on Goat Sacrifice, Storytelling, and the Uncanny Valley

Jesse talks with a master of creative nonfiction, Lawrence Weschler, about a goat sacrifice at UC Santa Cruz, the dangers of humans' bias toward narrative, and why the CGI faces in movies never look quite right. Weschler's most recent book is The Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative.

This interview originally aired in January 2012.

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Photo credit Gerard Victor

Karriem Riggins on The Song That Changed My Life: "Give It Up or Turnit a Loose"

Drummer and producer Karriem Riggins explained how James Brown's "Give It Up or Turnit a Loose" changed his life. It all started because he liked the album cover.

Karriem's most recent album is called Alone Together.

This interview originally aired in November 2012.

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The Outshot: Quick Change

People often talk about two phases of Bill Murray's career. Think of Caddyshack and Ghostbusters in the 80s. Then, Lost In Translation and Broken Flowers in the 2000s. But there’s an oft-overlooked Bill Murray movie that was released in 1990; and you’ve got to watch it.
Jesse shares his love for the only movie Bill Murray has ever directed -- Quick Change.

This segment originally aired in May 2014.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jen Kirkman & Bryce Dessner

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Jen Kirkman
Guests: 
Bryce Dessner

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Jen Kirkman's Unapologetic, Unafraid Thoughts on Marriage, Divorce, and Comedy

Jen Kirkman is fierce when it comes to pain and fear and figuring stuff out, both in her stand up comedy and her writing. In her new stand up special I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine), a lot of her material is about getting married, getting divorced, and why she thinks we're all just doing our best. While her jokes about being divorced at 40 and physical aging could be sad sack in someone else's hands, Kirkman's take is unapologetic and unafraid. She's OK with those things. Why aren't we?

Kirkman explains how part of her opening sequence is an homage to Joan Rivers, how she found her audience after spending years playing rooms of alternative comedy fans, and why she thinks dying alone doesn't have to be a bad thing.

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Photo credit: Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Bryce Dessner on "The Day I Became an Artist"

Bryce Dessner is a classically educated composer and musician. He grew up playing classical guitar, piano and flute. He also plays guitar for the rock band The National.

As a kid, classical music was something he did by himself. That changed as he grew older, and he collaborated and played with friends and took on small commissions.

For "The Day I Became an Artist", he talked to us about a pivotal moment in his career as a composer -- writing his composition "Aheym" for the Kronos Quartet.

You can hear Dessner's music many ways -- a new recording of his composition Music for Wood and Strings was just released. You can hear him in the rock band The National. And if you want to hear his compositions live, you can find them being performed all over the world. Details of current performances are available on his website, BryceDessner.com.
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"The Red Umbrella", Saul Leiter (1957)

The Outshot: Saul Leiter

Jesse talks about the photographer Saul Leiter, whose great talent lay in not telling you the whole story.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Baron Davis & Paul Dano

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Bullseye
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Baron Davis
Guests: 
Paul Dano

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

"How Hard Are You Willing to Play for Nothing?" NBA All-Star Turned Documentarian Baron Davis on 'The Drew', LA's Pro-Am League

Baron Davis is a two-time NBA All-Star. He was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, and went on to play for several other teams before his most recent stint in the New York Knicks. He was barely middle-school age when he started playing in the Drew League, a pro-am league named after Charles R. Drew Junior High School in South Los Angeles. The Drew was a place for amateurs to play competitively, to begin careers, and help build existing ones. A number of NBA players, including Baron Davis, have returned to the Drew in the off-season to hone their skills. The Drew has also fostered a sense of community, and created a safe haven away from gang activity.

Davis joins us to talk about his early days in the Drew, recovering from injury, and why he turned to filmmaking.

The Drew: No Excuse, Just Produce has its world premiere at the LA Film Festival this week.

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Paul Dano on Capturing Brian Wilson's Essence, Slapping Daniel Day-Lewis and Turning 30

The new biopic Love & Mercy shows Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys during two different periods of his life. Paul Dano plays Wilson during the production of the critically acclaimed album Pet Sounds, as Wilson experiments with drugs and descends a bit into darkness. John Cusack plays Wilson in the late 80s and early 90s, as he suffers under the control of his legal guardian and struggles to wrest himself free.

Dano takes on Wilson's quiet spirit and gives us a glimpse into the mind of a musical innovator. His past work includes a breakout role as a silent teenager in Little Miss Sunshine, a novelist in Ruby Sparks, a power-hungry young preacher in There Will Be Blood and an overseer in 12 Years a Slave.

He joins us to talk about how physically playing music helped him connect to his character, feeling out the dynamics of Wilson's relationship with his father, playing opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood and what's changed since he turned 30.

Love & Mercy is in theaters now.

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The Outshot: Finding the Heart of a Song in Five Notes with "The Plum Blossom"

Jesse explains why he loves "The Plum Blossom", a beautiful song Yusef Lateef wrote for an instrument that only produces five notes.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Corin Tucker & Kyle Kinane

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Corin Tucker
Guests: 
Kyle Kinane

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney on The Early Riot Grrrl Scene, Finding Her Voice, and S-K's Return

Sleater-Kinney is one of the most-loved indie bands of the past two decades. The band formed in the latter days of the riot grrrl movement in Olympia, Washington, and found an intense following. They were fierce, and they let their ideas "fill the room".

After recording eight albums and tons of touring, they went on hiatus. The band's members pursued other musical and creative projects, but there was a nagging question -- what would it be like if Sleater-Kinney returned?

In January of this year, the band released a new record called No Cities to Love. It had been nearly a decade since their last LP.

Corin Tucker, the group's co-founder, joins us to talk about soaking up the punk and riot grrrl scenes of the early 1990s, finding her voice, and why Sleater-Kinney returned.

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Kyle Kinane finds "the puzzle that could never be solved" in stand up comedy

Kyle Kinane lives every day as if his good luck is about to run out. Or at least, what he considers to be good luck. Kinane has worked hard refining his stand up comedy for fifteen years and taken the leap from Chicago to Los Angeles to further his career, but part of him still can't believe he gets paid to tell jokes.

His comedy is often a special brand of self-deprecation. So many of his jokes are about him messing up. Falling out of the shower. Literally throwing away money. But he says he finds the joy in these moments.

He joins us to talk about how he started out in stand up, measuring his success in comedy, and his life philosophy of "can, so should".

Kinane's newest stand up special is called I Liked His Old Stuff Better.

Kinane's just finishing up a round of tourdates in the Midwest (if you move fast, you can catch him this week in Ohio and Indiana). You can find all of his upcoming shows on his website, or check out I Liked His Old Stuff Better in audio and video format via Comedy Central.

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The Outshot: What Will $150 Million Buy You? Blockbuster Insanity

So, is Mad Max: Fury Road really worth its $150 million budget? Jesse takes a look and finds out.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: 'I Am Big Bird' & Vince Staples

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CLICK HERE FOR A DIRECT DOWNLOAD OF THIS EPISODE.


L to R: Caroll Spinney on location with Kermit Love who built the original Big Bird puppet from a design created by Jim Henson.
Photo credit: Copper Pot Pictures

'I am Big Bird': Caroll Spinney and Dave LaMattina on Big Bird's Big Heart

Spend a few minutes watching Sesame Street, and you'll recognize some part of yourself in Big Bird. His kindness, curiosity and vulnerability resonate with everyone, young and old. But who brought Big Bird to life?

Caroll Spinney is the man inside the Big Bird suit, and he has been since 1969. (He's also Oscar the Grouch). Dave LaMattina is the co-director, along with Chad Walker, of new a documentary about Spinney. It's called I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story.

Spinney made his television debut in 1955, working on the local Las Vegas show Rascal Rabbit, then moved on to the East Coast and performed on Bozo the Clown. But he was looking for greater purpose in his work, and he found it. He met Jim Henson and began work on the pioneering children's TV show, Sesame Street.

Spinney and LaMattina sit down to talk with us about Big Bird's physical and spiritual evolution, how the 80-year-old Spinney manages to maneuver in a full-body puppet suit, and how Big Bird has helped so many children and adults deal with loss, love and their own feelings.

I Am Big Bird is in theaters nationwide.

This interview originally aired in June 2014.

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Photo courtesy Vince Staples

Vince Staples on Rap, Growing Up in Long Beach, Gang Culture, and Why Being Hard is "Just Corny"

The rapper Vince Staples is now 21 years old. As a teenager, he got jumped into a gang in Long Beach, where he’s from. He didn’t expect to become a rapper. And unlike some rappers, he doesn’t think street life is anything to brag about.

He's been fighting against his own upbringing and the gang culture that surrounded him since childhood, and his verses reflect that. He's released several well-received mixtapes, and he's continually outshone other rappers in guest verses on their own tracks.

Staples talks to us about growing up, why gang banging seemed like fate, and how he became a rapper.

His debut LP, Summertime '06 will be released by Def Jam on June 30th.

A different edit of this interview originally aired in June 2014.

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The Outshot: Game of Thrones

Like the 18 million people who watch it each week, Jesse loves Game of Thrones. But though he finds himself jumping up and down and shouting at the TV, he doesn't care how it all will end. Why? He'll explain.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Big Boi & Catherine O'Hara

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Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Hip Hop Icon Big Boi: Getting Familiar with Uncharted Territory

The rapper and producer Big Boi has sold over 50 million records as a solo artist and as half of the platinum-selling hip hop duo OutKast. The innovative Atlanta-based group broke out in the mid-1990s with "Rosa Parks" and "Elevators", then followed up with crossover pop hits like "The Way You Move" and "Bombs Over Baghdad".

OutKast found huge commercial success with an experimental brand of hip hop, eschewing old-school samples in favor of new sounds. Big Boi has been the more musically prolific member of the group. He's gone on to produce several solo albums and collaborate with artists across the music spectrum, from fellow ATL-based rapper Ludacris to funk-master George Clinton to the indie rock band Wavves. His most recent release is called Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors.

Big Boi joins us to talk about the early days recording in an clay-walled basement, coming to terms with fame, and where to go musically when you've hit monumental commercial success.

This interview originally aired in April 2013.

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All-Time Favorites with Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder

Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder joins us this week to share some all-time favorites: a great dungeon crawler for iOS called The Sword of Fargoal and Chandler Burr's The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession, a fascinating book exploring the science of scent.

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Canonball: A Tour of Led Zeppelin's III with Brad Tolinski

For our segment Canonball, we take a flying leap into the canon of popular music and find albums that deserve a closer look.

This week, we're joined by Brad Tolinski, editor-in-chief of Guitar World and author of the new book Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page.

He'll tell us about Led Zeppelin III. With that album, Led Zeppelin moved away from the 60s obsession with authenticity and deep ideas -- and into a whole new sound.

This segment originally aired in January 2013.

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Photo: Getty Images for Hollywood Pantages/Getty Images

Catherine O'Hara on Being Slightly, Perfectly Odd

Catherine O'Hara's work embodies a particularly special brand of comic absurdity. She helped launch SCTV alongside other burgeoning comedy greats like John Candy and Eugene Levy, quit the show, but still moved on to star in blockbuster comedies. She became spiritually possessed in Beetlejuice, played a memorable, anxiety-ridden mother to Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, and became a critical part of Christopher Guest's ensemble mockumentaries, like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show.

Most recently, she's starred in the sitcom Schitt's Creek with Chris Elliott and O'Hara's longtime collaborator Eugene Levy.

O'Hara talks to us about the difficulties of being a woman in the SCTV writers' room, creating memorable characters with her longtime friend and collaborator Eugene Levy, and her own secret comedic formula.

Oh, and in this outtake, hear about the best boyfriend ever: Dan Akroyd.

This interview originally aired in April 2013.

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The Outshot: The Throne Of The Third Heaven of the Nations' Millenium General Assembly

In this week's Outshot, Jesse tells the story of a man who secretly spent the last fifteen years of his life building something amazing in a rented garage.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Sam Elliott & Kay Cannon

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Sam Elliott
Guests: 
Kay Cannon

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.

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Many thanks to our guest host this week, Erin Gibson! Check out her podcast Throwing Shade for more Erin every week.


Photo credit: Michael Buckner/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Sam Elliott on Westerns, Comedy & 'I'll See You In My Dreams'

Guest host Erin Gibson sits down with the veteran actor Sam Elliott. He's currently starring in FX's Justified and co-stars in the new movie I'll See You In My Dreams with Blythe Danner.

He talks to us about being resistant to change, the ways in which his on-screen roles as cowboys and bikers do (and don't) mirror his real life, how the Coen brothers snagged him for The Big Lebowski, and his stint on Parks and Recreation.

I'll See You In My Dreams is in theaters this week.

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Pitch Perfect 2 Writer Kay Cannon on Returning to the World of A Capella and Her 30 Rock Days

Jesse sits down with comedy writer and producer Kay Cannon. She started off her TV career writing on 30 Rock, later moving on to write and executive produce New Girl. We're also pretty sure she's the first person to tackle the world of collegiate a cappella on the big screen in the screenplay for Pitch Perfect.

Cannon returned to that world to write the sequel, Pitch Perfect 2, which is in theaters this week.

She talks to us about why she sees Pitch Perfect as a sports movie (and not as a musical), coining new lingo for the world of a cappella singers, and honing her joke-writing at 30 Rock.

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The Outshot: Nuns, Nurses and Babies in Call the Midwife

Erin tells us about the warmest, funniest, most feminist show to be set in a mid-century convent.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: James Burrows & Future Islands

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Bullseye
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James Burrows
Guests: 
Samuel Herring

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Photo by Jesse Thorn

Sitcom Guru James Burrows on Andy Kaufman, Teaching Ted Danson to Tend Bar, and Why He's Still Directing

Forty-one years ago, James Burrows stepped on the set of The Mary Tyler Moore Show to direct an episode. It was his very first gig as a TV director. Since then, he co-created Cheers and became known as the go-to guy to direct your sitcom pilot. He's directed more than fifty pilot episodes, including those for Taxi, Frasier, Will & Grace, Friends, Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, and he adds more to his resume every season.

Burrows is the son of the famous playwright Abe Burrows, who wrote the book for Broadway musicals like Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

James Burrows will talk about creating his own career path on television, working with Andy Kaufman (and Andy's alter-ego Tony Clifton), brainstorming the elements that would become Cheers, and why he continues to direct.

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Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Samuel Herring of Future Islands Explains Why Joy Division's "Digital" Changed His Life

Samuel Herring, the frontman for the synth-pop band Future Islands, grew up loving hip hop (as he still does).

But there's a rock song that helped him put him on the path to forming the band Future Islands with bandmate William Cashion. And that song is Joy Division's "Digital". It's the song that changed his life.

Future Islands just released two brand-new singles, and they're out on tour this summer and fall to promote their newest album, titled Singles.

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The Outshot: The Revolutionary Afrobeat of Fela Kuti

Jesse pays tribute to the feeling of Fela.

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