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
Brian Heater of BoingBoing and Alex Zalben of MTV Geek join us to talk comics. Brian's pick is Wimbledon Green by Seth, an unusual and wonderful sketchbook story about "the greatest comic book collector in the world." Alex recommends Jason Brubaker's reMIND, a graphic novel about a woman and her cat, who mysteriously gains the ability to talk.
Almost everyone experiences trials and tribulations in childhood to come out as a reasonably functioning adult on the other side. But in the case of comedian Moshe Kasher, that change was virtually miraculous.
He was a child shuttled between two divorced deaf parents, a Hasidic father in New York and a hippie mother in Oakland. By the age of twelve, he'd been in psychoanalysis for eight years. He had a burgeoning interest in drugs. And he was just getting started. He's chronicled his early years in a memoir called Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16, and that title should give a good idea of the wild stories it contains. The book is engaging, redemptive, and wildly funny. We spoke to Moshe last year, and the book is out in paperback this month.
Moshe joins us to share stories from his upbringing, and shed some light on how he eventually got right and saved himself from addiction, anger, and violence.
This interview originally aired in March 2012.
Lateef the Truthspeaker is an Oakland MC and one of the founding members of the hip-hop collective / record label Quannum Projects, whose members include DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born and Blackalicious. He talks to us about the song that changed his life, Cloudburst, by the jazz group Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross.
Lateef and longtime collaborator Lyrics Born released a new EP, Disconnection, late last year under the name Latyrx. A full-length album is due out in 2013.
This segment originally aired in March 2012.
Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin are the directors behind the Academy Award-winning, emotionally-charged sports documentary Undefeated. The film follows a challenging season for the Manassas Tigers, an underdog football team in North Memphis, Tennessee. The Tigers had traditionally been a team with troubles both on and off the field. Its fortunes changed under volunteer coach Bill Courtney, dedicated not only to excellence on the field, but in fostering resilient players off of it. As Coach Courtney says, "There's a story under every helmet," and Undefeated tells a few of them.
Dan and T.J. talk to us about developing the story of the film, the challenges of shaping a narrative when the events unfolding are out of your control, and the experience of following a handful of teens throughout their senior year of high school.
After a long wait, Undefeated is now out on DVD and on VOD.
This interview originally aired in March 2012.
Jesse shines a light on one of the lesser-known members of Atlanta's Dungeon Family hip-hop collective. Witchdoctor (born Erin Johnson) might not be as famous as Family members OutKast, Cee-Lo Green or Goodie Mob, but his 1998 album A S.W.A.T. Healin' Ritual just might be the best record of its time and place.
This segment originally aired in March 2012.
The AV Club's Music Editor Marah Eakin and Head Writer Nathan Rabin discuss a few of their all-time favorite albums. Marah is a fan of the layered, sampled feel of Fleetwood Mac's post-Rumors album, Tusk. Nathan Rabin suggests a listen to Warren Zevon's intimate but ferocious live album Stand in the Fire.
Like a lot of funny people, Aisha Tyler often found herself on the outside looking in as a kid. She was the only black girl in her school and thought of herself as kind of a geek... Standing six-feet tall by third grade didn't help things, either. Ultimately, feeling out of place gave her the feeling that she could survive anything -- and the confidence to pursue performance. She's since performed stand up, hosted E!'s Talk Soup, appeared on CSI, 24, Friends...and even competed on an episode of Jeopardy.
She also has a starring role on the FX animated series Archer, where she voices Lana Kane, a beautiful and brilliant secret agent who plays the straight man to her idiot co-workers.
Aisha joins us to talk about her choice to do comedy in her own voice, the challenges of voice acting, and about living a real-life version of Fame in high school.
Archer airs on Thursdays at 10/9c on FX. The show is in its fourth season; it was just renewed for a fifth. Aisha will host The CW’s reboot of Whose Line Is It Anyway? this summer. You can also catch Aisha at a performance of Archer Live!.
This interview originally aired in January 2012.
You'd think that God would be pretty focused on the choice of a new Pope right about now. But might some of that attention be diverted to.... spring training? Has the Almighty ever swayed athletic outcomes? Does He care for sports at all? Get the straight truth from The Man Himself (as relayed to David Javerbaum). 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 Seth Morris, who is also on Twitter at @SethISMorris.
This segment originally aired in April 2012.
Here's one way a musical artist can succeed: artist records album, sends it off to the label, label rejects album, album is leaked online, fans and critics love album, artist goes independent.
That's exactly what happened to jazz and soul singer Bilal, who wanted to follow up his debut album, 1st Born Second, with something a little more experimental. That album (titled Love For Sale) was never officially released, which left a nine-year gap between his debut record and his second album, Airtight's Revenge. That album earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.
The wait between Bilal albums this time around is a little more manageable: his new album, A Love Surreal, was just released last week. It's a beautiful, headspinning collision between 1960s soul and modern hip-hop, sounding like neither the past or the present.
We spoke with Bilal back in 2010 right around when Airtight's Revenge was released. Bilal talked to us about his high school identity, growing up with jazz music, and his choice to go wild on Jay Leno.
Bilal's new album, A Love Surreal, is available now.
This interview originally aired in September 2010.
Looking for the perfect cold open? Jesse's found it. Newsradio. Season 2, Episode 9.
The pop culture luminaries at the AV Club return to recommend some of their favorite new releases. Josh Modell suggests a listen to the new album Amok from Atoms for Peace, a supergroup featuring Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Scott Tobias recommends a new Romanian drama, Beyond the Hills. The movie enters limited US release on March 8th.
Josh Modell is the AV Club's Managing Editor and Scott Tobias is the site's Film Editor.
When he was a kid growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, Andrew Rannells never pictured his face beaming out to millions of television screens. He loved acting, but his future was on the stage. The most realistic way to make it big? Broadway.
Now, he's garnered a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Elder Price in the Broadway run of The Book of Mormon and made his way to TV, co-starring in The New Normal on NBC and popping up as a regular on HBO's Girls.
Andrew talks to us about growing up gay in Nebraska, finding his characters' voices for The Book of Mormon and The New Normal -- and how to avoid uncomfortable moments when
filming nude scenes.
The New Normal airs Tuesdays at 9:30 / 8:30c on NBC. A new episode, "Rocky Bye Baby", airs this evening.
Thao Nguyen fronts the folk-pop band Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. The band's new album, We The Common, has an intense and spirited sound. The songs feature rhythmic guitar, taut drums, and Nguyen's clear and passionate vocals.
Thao remembers when music became important to her and the song that changed her life -- Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got a Hold On Me."
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down head out on a cross-country tour this week. Find their tourdates and more information here.
Jim Lehrer anchored the Newshour on PBS for more than three decades and remains its executive editor to this day. He's also moderated twelve presidential debates and in 2011 he wrote a memoir about those experiences called Tension City. Yet another hat that Lehrer wears is that of a novelist. He's written 20 of them, the most recent of which is a charming mystery called Super.
Lehrer talks to us about his early job at a bus depot, the benefits of producing media on a tight budget, and the role public broadcasting ought to play in the future.
[This interview originally aired in May, 2010]
Jesse suggests a look at his favorite Mike Judge creation. It's not Beavis and Butthead, and it's not Office Space. It's a low-key workplace comedy starring Jason Bateman, called Extract.
This week, a live recording of Bullseye, held at the Punchline Comedy Club as part of SF Sketchfest.
The San Francisco Chronicle's pop culture critic, Peter Hartlaub, joins us to share some of his favorite San Francisco films.
He recommends Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation for its realistic depiction of San Francisco, as well as the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which, in spite of its terrifying story, might give San Francisco's public transit planners some food for thought.
Peter Hartlaub writes for the San Francisco Chronicle and blogs about pop culture at The Big Event.
You'd think that it'd be almost impossible to tell stories about architecture and design in a completely invisible medium, but Roman Mars makes it work. The public radio host and producer's stories show that design is everywhere – he's produced stories about the unintentional music of escalators, failed prison designs, and reclusive monks who make the best beer in the world.
These stories are all a part of 99% Invisible, "a tiny radio show about design" that Roman hosts and produces. The show is truly tiny; it airs for only five minutes on a handful of public radio stations, including KALW. But the podcast is another story. Episodes of the podcast version of 99% Invisible are longer and more detailed – and they reach a much larger audience. Last year, Roman led a massive Kickstarter campaign to fund the show's third season. Fans gave more than $170,000, making it the most successful journalism Kickstarter to date.
Roman joins Jesse onstage to discuss his theory of creativity, his reasons for exchanging his dream of becoming a scientist for a career in public radio, and his Doogie Houser-esque college experience.
99% Invisible is available on iTunes and Soundcloud. You can follow Roman on Twitter at @RomanMars.
Why did God invent the internet? Steve Agee has an idea. It's probably not what you think.
Steve Agee is a writer, actor, and standup comedian. He's a former writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live! and appeared as Steve Myron on the beloved Sarah Silverman Program.
You can follow him on Twitter at @SteveAgee.
Boots Riley's life has always been about change, and never about complacency. He was already an leftist activist in high school, staging walkouts on school grounds, and he followed his parents' lead into community organizing. He was immersed in rap and hip hop in his hometown of Oakland, California, but didn't make the connection between the power of music and activism for several years.
Boots has fronted the hip hop group The Coup for over two decades as an MC and producer, and the group's positive, funky, and danceable music is still clearly message-driven in 2013. Their lyrics confront injustice, police brutality, and the rise of corporatism with aggressive wit. The group released a new album, Sorry to Bother You, late last year.
Boots talked to us about why he thinks an active engagement with world makes life worth living, finding humor in the disturbing reality of poverty and injustice, and what he learned from his time in, of all things, telemarketing.
What says "Bay Area" to you? For Jesse, it's all about I Got 5 On It by the Luniz – specifically, the Bay Ballers remix.
Brian Heater and Alex Zalben join us this week to share some comics picks. Alex suggests you check out Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon, a superhero comic about everyday stuff -- like attending a BBQ. Brian recommends Anders Nilsen's Don't Go Where I Can't Follow, a very moving pastiche of a couple's relationship.
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 new collection, Tenth of December, is out now.
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).
Maria Bamford's comedy is weird and wonderfully distinctive. She's just released a new special, recorded at her home, where she performs a stand up 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. Her new Comedy Central CD / DVD special, Ask Me About My New God, is due out later this year.
Jesse ruminates on alone time and... William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe".
It’s official: starting in April, Bullseye with Jesse Thorn will be distributed by National Public Radio! This is the culmination of months and months of meetings, negotiations and planning, and we’re so, so proud to make it public today. (And so, so proud of the sweet illustration that we just made (above).)
We’re excited to be joining forces with the big dogs in public radio, and excited that we’ll no longer have to spend like half of every conversation at every cocktail party explaining the complicated square-rectangle relationship between “public radio” and “NPR.” (From now on, we can just be all, “yup, I do a show on NPR.” It’s gonna be great.)
We’ll be on the same team as our all-time favorites like Terry Gross and Brooke Gladstone, and our new jack favorites like Glynn Washington and Jad Abumrad. It’s an ideal situation.
If you’re a longstanding Bullseye listener, you’ve got nothing to worry about. The show will continue to be produced independently by MaximumFun.org, but now we’ll also have the cachet and manpower of NPR helping us to bring it to public radio stations around the country. Our hope is that this partnership will mean a better show, better guests and a bigger station lineup.
This is the next chapter in a story that started at my college radio station when I was 19. Twelve years later, I think our show is the best it’s ever been, and now we’re in position to take advantage of that fact.
As a great American once said… haters don’t be mad, ‘cause it’s all about progression… loiterers should be arrested.
Andrew Noz joins us this week to talk about throwback 90s sounds and a rapper gone viral on Youtube. He talks to us about the DC-based Ras Nebyu's "Washington Slizzards" and Chief Keef's "Laughin' to the Bank".
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 gentrification, and remaining true to his own comedic voice.
Totally Biased airs Thursday nights at 11pm on FX.
(Embed or share this interview with W. Kamau Bell)
This segment originally aired on September 4th, 2012.
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.
(Embed or share Eleni Mandell on the Song that Changed Her Life)
This segment originally aired on September 4th, 2012.
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 finally, 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.
(Embed or share this interview with Mike Birbiglia)
This segment originally aired on September 4th, 2012.
Jesse recommends the 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.
(Embed or share The Outshot: Winning Time)
This segment originally aired on September 4th, 2012.
Are you a sports fanatic with a favorite doc? Head on over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.
Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing and the podcast Gweek zeroes in on his favorite card games. His first pick is The Struggle for Catan, a spin-off of the colony-building board game Settlers of Catan. He also plugs Anomia, a crazy-fast word game that "makes your brain confuse being first with being the loudest."
Nick Kroll has a knack for taking humanity's very worst and turning it into comedy. You can see it in his portrayal of Ruxin, the overly-aggressive lawyer and fantasy football player of FX's The League, but it's even more apparent in his new Comedy Central series, Kroll Show.
Kroll Show features amazingly specific characters that have become familiar as artifacts of our reality-show, fame-gripped culture: self-indulgent trust fund party boys, vapid PR professionals, and a wannabe record producer who lives with his mom.
Kroll returns to Bullseye to discuss how he finds inspiration in people lacking self-awareness – and, on the other hand, the perils of being too self-aware.
Kroll Show airs Wednesdays at 10:30/9:30c on Comedy Central.
This episode marks the debut of our new segment: Canonball. We'll take a flying leap into the canon of popular music and find albums that deserve a closer look.
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.
Comedian Billy Eichner roams the streets of New York with a camera crew, roping unsuspecting pedestrians into playing his game show, Billy on the Street. While Cash Cab paved the way for street-ambush game shows, Eichner's approach has a unique twist.
The correct answers are often subjective (as in the game "Dead or Boring") and his game show persona is hyper-energetic and over-the-top. He's ready to swoon with a contestant who shares his love of Meryl Streep, or yell and stalk angrily away from a contestant who doesn't.
Eichner tells us about his screaming encounters with Madonna, the influence of Pee-wee Herman on his on-screen persona, and the role that game show laws played in the development of his show. (It turns out that "game show compliance lawyer" is a real job.)
Episodes of Funny or Die's Billy on the Street are available online and air Fridays at 10/9c on FUSEtv.
On the Outshot, Jesse features João Gilberto, a musician who stripped away the heat and intensity of samba to create a cool, minimalist genre: bossa nova.
And if you're in the San Francisco Bay area this weekend, come join us at a live taping of Bullseye at the Punchline Comedy Club as part of SF Sketchfest. We'll talk to 99% Invisible host Roman Mars, The Coup's MC Boots Riley, and more. Find tickets and more details here!
The AV Club's Head Writer Nathan Rabin and Music Editor Marah Eakin join us to share some favorite new releases.
Nathan recommends the new DVD release of the documentary film The Imposter: the gripping story of a man who impersonates a family's long-lost son. Marah suggests a listen to the new collaborative album by the Scottish indie band Frightened Rabbit, called Pedestrian Verse.
Maybe you've seen the cult film The Big Lebowski. Maybe you've seen it more than once. The movie lends itself to repeat viewings: it's chock-full of amazing and delirious visuals and wickedly funny and quotable dialogue. But what kind of wisdom can one gain from The Dude, the film's chilled-out slacker hero who's trying simply to "abide"? Maybe the key to living a more Zen life?
The Dude himself, Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges, and the renowned buddhist teacher and social activist Roshi Bernie Glassman join us to talk about following The Dude's example, loving, living life and some of the other philosophical riffing from their new book, The Dude and the Zen Master.
Mike Wiebe, vocalist for the punk band The Riverboat Gamblers, reveals the song that changed his life: The Dictators' "Faster and Louder", from 1978's Bloodbrothers. The song showed Wiebe that goofiness and edge weren't mutually exclusive, and inspired the Gamblers' beginnings.
The Riverboat Gamblers have honed their brand of melodic punk rock over the past fifteen years. Last year saw the release of their sixth full-length album, The Wolf You Feed. The band kicks off a European tour this spring.
H. Jon Benjamin is a writer, comedian and a prolific voice actor, but he's not exactly the man of a million voices. In fact, he's really the man of one voice, which depending on the setting could be the shiftless son on Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, the misanthropic dad of Fox's Bob's Burgers, or a self-involved secret agent on FX's Archer. Benjamin has appeared in his own physical form on shows like Parks and Recreation, and in 2011 created and starred in the Comedy Central series Jon Benjamin Has a Van.
Benjamin talks to us about and how his career in comedy and voice acting came together, the humble beginnings of the beloved animated series Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, and the perks inherent in voicing the super-spy and super-jerk Sterling Archer.
This week, Jesse pays tribute to the documentarian Huell Howser -- a California transplant with a Tennessee drawl and perpetual and infectious sense of wonder.
Jason Kottke, proprietor of Kottke.org, a collection of some of the most interesting links the internet has to offer, joins us this week to share some all-time internet picks. First, he enlightens us about the practice of sending children through the mail. He also shares a mind-bending physics thought experiment -- if an airplane moves forward on a conveyor belt that's moving in the opposite direction at the same speed, can the airplane take off?
When Benedict Cumberbatch spoke to us last year, the interview centered on his portrayal of one of the most well-represented heroes in literature -- Sherlock Holmes. Jesse started off their discussion with talk of a more sinister role, however -- Cumberbatch's upcoming portrayal of the Star Trek villain John Harrison. With the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness so far away from the interview's original air date, that part of their chat didn't make the cut. Now that the film's release is a matter of months away, however, it seems a fitting time to revisit it.
Cumberbatch shares his appreciation for the mystery surrounding the new Star Trek film, deconstructs the challenges inherent in bringing a fresh perspective to his interpretation of the legendary detective for the BBC series Sherlock, and details how he emerged from a tremendous trauma with a renewed dedication to living life fully.
(A alternate cut of this interview originally aired 5/15/12)
Craig Finn is the lead singer and guitarist for the Brooklyn rock outfit The Hold Steady. Earlier this year, Finn released his debut solo album Clear Heart Full Eyes. This week he tells us about the song that changed his life: The Replacements' "I Will Dare", off their 1984 album Let It Be.
(This segment originally aired 5/15/12)
Celebrated director Errol Morris's acclaim is well-earned -- his documentary films are all masterfully executed and extraordinarily compelling. Some of his films, such as The Thin Blue Line
(which ultimately helped secure an innocent man's freedom from prison) drive at an objective truth, while others are more concerned with the unique truths of individuals' experiences.
Errol Morris joined us in 2011 to talk about his film making process, celebrating reality versus fiction, and the enduring popularity of his Miller High Life commercials. Morris's most recent film, Tabloid, and most recent book, A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald are available in stores now.
(This interview originally aired 07/18/11)
For The Outshot this week, Jesse basks in the warm, loving glow of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready", and explains exactly why the singer's smiling face hangs on the wall above his son's crib.
If you've got a song that lifts you up like this one does, share the warmth on the MaxFun forum by picking your own Outshot.
(This Outshot originally aired 5/15/12)