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: Neko Case & Herb Alpert

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Neko Case
Guests: 
Herb Alpert

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.


Photo credit: Katie Stratton/Getty Images

Neko Case on Self Determination, Loss, and Life on the Farm

Neko Case has been producing exceptional music as a solo artist as well as a collaborator with the indie-rock band, The New Pornographers. Her work has not only revolved around rock, but also the genre of country music.

Case recently released a retrospective vinyl box set, Truckdriver, Gladiator, Mule which collects her music from throughout her career, including some out-of-print and hard to find titles.

Neko Case sat down with Jesse, and told us why she cringed when listening to one of her early songs, how the loss of her parents shaped her personally and creatively, and how living on a farm in Vermont improves her life as artist.

Truckdriver, Gladiator, Mule is available now.


Photo credit: Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Herb Alpert on Discovering, Losing and Redisovering His Musical Voice

Herb Alpert is most famous for the music he created with his band, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. The title song of his first album, The Lonely Bull was not only a hit, but was the first album released by A&M Records, which he co-founded with his partner Jerry Moss.

His musical career has spanned over 5 decades and his roles have included him serving not only as a musician, but also a producer. His work with artists have included collaborations with The Carpenters, Liza Minnelli and Janet Jackson. He has also earned numerous awards including 9 Grammys, a Tony and an 2012 National Medal of Arts award.

Herb Alpert joined Bullseye to talk about his brief career as a film actor, how difficult emotional times helped him to become a better musician and how insecurity can persist even when an artist knows he or she is creating something special.

Herb Alpert's most recent album Come Fly With Me is available now.


photo credit: Slavin Vlasic/Getty Images Entertainment

The Outshot: Danny Hoch’s Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop

Danny Hoch's Jails, Hospitals and Hip-Hop began as a one-man-show which explored the multi-cultural and multi-lingual world of New York during the rise of hip-hop culture. A version of his play was released as a film in 2000.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Best of Comedy of 2015 Special

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New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

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

We gave our staff the awesome responsibility of choosing the best comedy albums of 2015. They listened to hours and hours of material, and we're now prepared to showcase some of the best comedy released in the past year.

Like what you hear? Click through to find their albums!

Kyle Kinane - I Liked His Old Stuff Better
Emily Heller - Good for Her
Ron Funches - The Funches of Us
Sara Schaefer - Chrysalis
Hampton Yount - Bearable
Drennon Davis & Karen Kilgariff - I Don’t Care, I Like It
Mike O'Brien - Tasty Radio
Eddie Pepitone - In Ruins
Sheng Wang - Cornucopias Are Actually Horrible Containers
Guy Branum - Effable
Aziz Ansari - Buried Alive
Eugene Mirman - I’m Sorry (You’re Welcome)
Eliza Skinner - Recorded Live at MaxFunCon 2014 - Angry Little Goats Podcast
Matt Braunger - Big Dumb Animal
Wayne Federman - Chronicles of Federman
Beth Stelling - Simply the Beth

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Barney Frank & Mission of Burma

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Thanks to everyone who came out to our World Tour of Several American Cities! Here's our show recorded in front of a live audience in Boston at Oberon Theater at ART.

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

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


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Barney Frank on Being In (and Out) of the Closet and What He Misses About Congress

The Honorable Barney Frank served as a House Representative for the state of Massachusetts for thirty-two years, from 1981 to 2013. He was the first congressman to come out as gay, and marry his same-sex partner while in office.

His legislative accomplishments included the Dodd-Frank Act, which brought about Wall Street reform and increased consumer protections. He was also influential in the passing of legislation regarding the environment, political reform and civil rights.

His memoir, Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage, is available now.

Barney Frank joined Jesse to talk about his early career in politics and why he felt his career in public service was incompatible with his private life; what he liked most about being a congressman; and why he believes that people who love campaigning are either liars -- or psychopaths.

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Comedian Lamont Price on the Emotional Trauma of Breakfast Cereal

Lamont Price is one of Boston's top comics -- he's the winner of the New York Underground Comedy Festival and has been named as one of Comedy Central’s “Comics to Watch”.

He took the stage at our live show to to talk about coconuts, movies, and... breakfast cereal?

You can follow Lamont on Twitter @LPizzle.

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Mission of Burma on Being Loud, Noise and Post-Punk, and Middle Age

Though the post-punk band Mission of Burma’s initial iteration was short-lived and resulted in only one full-length album, an EP and a few singles, their music influenced generations of musicians outside their home of Boston. Their appeal was still strong when they reformed in 2002 with band members Roger Miller, Peter Prescott and Clint Conley, adding new member Bob Weston.

Since then the band has continued to perform live and has released 4 albums including their most recent, entitled Unsound.

The band performed a live set for us, and sat down with Jesse to talk about reforming the band after almost two decades apart, why they don’t make an effort to be rock stars and the subtle difference between being "legendarily loud" and being "hard to take".

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn Holiday Special: Rob Halford & Ronnie Spector

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Rob Halford of Judas Priest rings in Christmas in his own unique style

Rob Halford is the legendary Metal God, and frontman of seminal heavy metal group Judas Priest. The band's hits include Breaking the Law, You've Got Another Thing Coming and Hell Bent For Leather. One of his solo albums is a heavy metal holiday celebration called Halford III: Winter Songs.

Halford sat down to talk with us about why he included the most spiritual songs on his Christmas record, the early days of Judas Priest, and what it was like to be both a metal god and a closeted gay man.

This interview originally aired in December 2009.

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Girl Group legend Ronnie Spector on Christmas, the Beatles and the perfect coiffure

Ronnie Spector, the very bubbly and Christmas-spirit filled lead singer of legendary 60s girl group The Ronettes, performed what became Christmas classics on A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector, and she's recorded some more recent songs to add to the list with Ronnie Spector's Best Christmas Ever.

This interview originally aired in December 2010.

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The Outshot: The Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special

Jesse doesn't have many holiday traditions. But he'll tell you about the one thing that he makes time for every year: The Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: David Cross, Tavi Gevinson & Pharoahe Monch

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David Cross
Guests: 
Tavi Gevinson
Guests: 
Aparna Nancherla
Guests: 
Pharoahe Monch

Thanks to everyone who came out to our World Tour of Several American Cities! Here's our show recorded in front of a live audience in Brooklyn, New York at the Bell House.

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

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


Photo credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

David Cross on His New Sketch Comedy in 'W/Bob & David', Stand Up Comedy, and Living in NYC

David Cross co-created Mr. Show, one of the most beloved and influential sketch comedy shows, with his comedy partner and collaborator Bob Odenkirk.

Twenty years after the premiere of that program, Cross and Odenkirk recently released a new sketch show on Netflix, W/Bob & David.

Cross joins us to talk about the evolution of his stand up, the decision to create a new show with Odenkirk, and a certain club tour.

W/Bob & David is available now for streaming on Netflix. Cross also created and stars in The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, which returns for a third season on IFC January 7th.

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Comedy: Aparna Nancherla

NYC-based comic and writer Aparna Nancherla has appeared on Conan, @midnight and Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. She currently performs stand up and also writes for Late Night with Seth Meyers.

You can find out more about Aparna (including where to see/hear her!) at www.aparnacomedy.com.

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Tavi Gevinson on Acting, Dealing with Negativity Online, and Editing 'Rookie'

Tavi Gevinson found an audience online when she was still a pre-teen blogging about fashion. Now 19, she's gone to found an online magazine for teenage girls called Rookie, and to act on Broadway, in films and on TV.

A new collection of writings from Rookie is collected in Rookie: Yearbook 4. It's available in bookstores and online now.

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Music: Pharoahe Monch and DJ Boogie Blind with 'Time2', 'Broken Again' and a Special Performance of 'Simon Says'

We were joined for an amazing live set from legendary rapper Pharoahe Monch and DJ Boogie Blind.

Pharoahe Monch's latest full-length is called PTSD. To buy his albums or see where he's performing next, find him at www.pharoahe.com. You can check out DJ Boogie Blind on Twitter @BoogieBlind.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: John Cleese & Dee Dee Penny

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John Cleese on His Early Life and the Road to Comedy

John Cleese is one of the most influential figures of comedy. He's best known as one the creative forces behind the legendary comedy troupe Monty Python. But before that, he was almost a lawyer.

Cleese went to Cambridge, studied law, and was about to accept a job with a big firm when another opportunity came up. This one was perhaps slightly less distinguished, but infinitely more appealing to Cleese. The BBC was impressed by his work with his college comedy revue, The Footlights, and offered him a job writing and producing comedy.

In his memoir So, Anyway… Cleese discusses his journey, from his childhood in prep school, to his early days of sketch comedy at Cambridge, to the co-founding of the Pythons.
Cleese will talk about being one of the "scientific" minds of the Pythons, writing and re-writing with his comedy partner Graham Chapman, and how he felt about the recent Monty Python reunion.

Cleese's memoir, So, Anyway is available now in paperback.

This interview originally aired December 9, 2014.

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Dee Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls Talks about Early Days on MySpace, Creating a Persona, and Overcoming Anxiety and Stage Fright

Kristin Gundred, AKA Dee Dee Penny, is the creative force behind the band Dum Dum Girls. But she wasn't always front and center. She's played in bands for almost fifteen years now, playing drums and singing in other people's groups. Eventually she realized the only way to create the music she wanted was to do it herself. So Dee Dee created a MySpace page and started working on her music.

Now Dee Dee and Dum Dum Girls have three studio albums under their belt, including their most recent, Too True.

Dee Dee talks to Jesse about making music in her bedroom, constructing the persona of Dee Dee Dum Dum, and overcoming anxiety and stage fright to be a rock musician.

This interview originally aired August 19, 2014.

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The The Outshot: Is 'What's Up Fatlip' the Least Braggy Rap Song Ever Written?

Don't call it a comeback. Jesse tells us about the LEAST braggy rap song ever written, "What's Up Fatlip?"

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: William H. Macy, Matt Walsh & Brian Huskey

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William H. Macy
Guests: 
Matt Walsh
Guests: 
Brian Huskey
Guests: 
Baron Vaughn
Guests: 
Chicano Batman

Thanks to everyone who came out to our World Tour of Several American Cities! Here's our taping in Los Angeles, at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

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


Photos by Ibarionex Perello

Matt Walsh and Brian Huskey on Creating 'A Better You' and Their Best Improv Moments

Matt Walsh and Brian Huskey co-wrote, Walsh directed and Huskey stars in the new improv film A Better You. Walsh and Huskey met through improv comedy, and recently worked together more closely on HBO's Veep before deciding to make a film together

They talked to us about constructing an improv film, their favorite moments over years of performance, and elephants.

A Better You is available now on VOD.

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Photo by Ibarionex Perello

Comedy: Baron Vaughn on Talking to Bugs

LA stand up comic and actor Baron Vaughn talks about bugs, dairy allergies, and more.

You can see Baron in the Netflix series Grace and Frankie, or on tour with his standup at BaronVaughn.com.

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Photo by Ibarionex Perello

William H. Macy on 'Shameless' and Characters Who Strive

William H. Macy talks with us about the evolution of his character Frank Gallagher on Showtime's Shameless, and what happened when he had to go from playing a drunk to a slightly less drunk.

Plus, he'll talk about an actor's responsibility to the writing and working with David Mamet.

Shameless returns in January for its sixth season on Showtime. Macy has also directed the upcoming film The Layover.

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Photo by Ibarionex Perello

Chicano Batman with "Cycles of Existential Rhyme" and "Please Don't Leave Me"

Los Angeles band Chicano Batman were our musical guest for the evening - listen in as they perform two songs from their live set.

The band's most recent LP is Cycles of Existential Rhyme. You can find more about them and their tourdates at ChicanoBatman.com.

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Photo by Ibarionex Perello

The Outshot: Drumline (and The Good Stuff)

Jesse explains why he thought the movie Drumline was worth a watch -- even if it doesn't throw any curveballs.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Allison Janney & Ishmael Butler

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Ishmael Butler on the Short Life of Digable Planets and the Cosmic Hip Hop of Shabazz Palaces

In the early 1990s, the hip hop group Digable Planets broke through with their single "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)". The single was jazzy and laid-back, and became a crossover hit. The trio were pegged by some as a counterpoint to gangsta rap, but they didn't love the efforts to categorize their sound. They went further on their next boundary-pushing release, the classic record Blowout Comb. The album was critically acclaimed, but didn't sell well, and the group drifted apart shortly afterward.

Founding member Ishmael Butler was only in his mid-20s when Digable Planets broke up. And so he tried other things, like filmmaking. He still made music, but the releases were few and far between. About six years ago, he teamed up with Tendai Maraire to form a new group, called Shabazz Palaces.

Shabazz Palaces' latest release is called Lese Majesty, and it expands on their interstellar sound.

Butler spoke to us about his days as a indie label gopher, the awkward audition Digable Planets had to endure for a record company executive, and the the transformative sounds of Shabazz Palaces.

Digable Planets will be teaming up for a reunion show in Seattle this December.

Todd Martens on Young Love and Defying Expectations

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

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

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

You can find Todd's writing in the LA Times and on their blog, Pop and Hiss.


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"The Song That Changed my Life": Director Michel Gondry Gets Nostalgic for "Le Sud" by Nico Ferrer

There's a certain kind of feeling to the director Michel Gondry's films. A little bit of happiness mixed with sadness. Nostalgia for something that you experienced, or maybe something you wish you had experienced. You may have felt it watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, or his new film Mood Indigo.

For "The Song That Changed My Life", Gondry describes the feeling of saudade and how he felt watching Nico Ferrer perform the song "Le Sud" on a Saturday night.

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Allison Janney, from Loose Cannon Sitcom 'Mom' to Intimate Drama in 'Masters of Sex'

If you've seen Allison Janney on television lately, it's been in one of two very different roles. On the Showtime series Masters of Sex, Janney guest stars as a somewhat naive, vulnerable 1950s housewife who experiences a breakthrough after many years in a sexless (but not loveless) marriage. Her story is both heartbreaking and hopeful. In the CBS sitcom Mom, she plays Bonnie, a recovering alcoholic who's outrageous, biting, and very funny. Bonnie's been down, but she's making peace with her estranged daughter and getting her life back together. Janney's characterizations are versatile; they allow her to be warm, steely, confident, and thin-skinned by turns. Janney has won Emmys for both roles.

She spoke to us about her early acting days (including auditioning for an intimidatingly handsome Paul Newman), getting comfortable with the inevitable nude scenes for Masters of Sex, and the ways that her mom's background and brother's struggle with addiction gave her insight and empathy for her current roles.

Mom is in its third season on CBS. You can see it Thursdays at 9/8c.

The Outshot: Orson Welles and 'Touch of Evil'

Jesse explains why the last Hollywood picture Orson Welles directed, Touch of Evil, tells us so much about Welles as an artist.

This episode originally aired in August 2014.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Ethan Hawke & Michaela Watkins

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Ethan Hawke
Guests: 
Michaela Watkins

Our WORLD TOUR OF SEVERAL AMERICAN CITIES kicks off this Friday November 13th in Los Angeles with William H. Macy, Matt Walsh, Brian Huskey, Chicano Batman and Baron Vaughn - get your tickets now!

Plus check us out in Boston, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Philly and DC with guests Barney Frank, Mission of Burma, Tavi Gevinson, David Cross, John Hodgman, Joel Hodgson, Ray Suarez, Dan Deacon and more. It's all at BullseyeTour.com. Don't miss it!

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

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


Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival

Ethan Hawke Considers Life Lessons in 'Rules For a Knight'

Ethan Hawke is one of the rare actors that viewers have seen grow up in front of their eyes. They watched him as a teenager in the films Explorers and Dead Poets Society, saw him as a young adult in Reality Bites and Before Sunrise, and even saw him change over the course of twelve years of filming his Oscar-nominated turn in the Richard Linklater film, Boyhood.

Along with his work on-screen, he has also enjoyed success as a novelist with his books. His newest is a set of parables, inspired by Hawke's experiences as a parent, called Rules for a Knight. In it, a knight fears that he may not return from battle, and leaves behind a letter with important life lessons for his children. In the book, Hawke explores themes of honesty, courage, solitude and patience.

Ethan Hawke joins Jesse to share how life as a divorced father has influenced his work as an author and an actor, why child stardom was a double-edged sword, and how a favorite line from one of his films helped him to complete a marathon.

Rules for a Knight is now available in hardback and as an e-book.

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Michaela Watkins on Dating In Real Life and On-Screen, SNL, and Going For the Joke

Michaela Watkins is an actress who is in her element when she can go all-out for the joke. Whether she’s practicing sketch comedy as she did in her time with The Groundlings or her one-year stint on Saturday Night Live or performing on a sitcom like the Trophy Wife, Watkins creates characters that are both funny and memorable.

Now, Watkins brings her wit to the lead role of Valerie Myers in the new Hulu series, Casual. In it, she plays a newly divorced woman who finds herself living with her adult brother, while learning to navigate the dating world as a middle-aged woman.

Michaela Watkins joined Jesse to talk about how taking time for herself helped her to improve her relationships, the insane pacing of Saturday Night Live, and her contributions to Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.

Casual is now in its first season on Hulu.

You can find a bit of bonus audio from our interview with Michaela Watkins here.

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The Outshot: The Musicality of an MC

From the early days of rap, the role of the MC was an ancillary one. They were there to support the work of the DJ by keeping the energy level up. The rapper Rakim helped to change that by bringing the role of the MC front and center using a unique blend of words, music and an intoxicating beat.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Matt Braunger & Margaret Atwood

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Bullseye
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Matt Braunger
Guests: 
Margaret Atwood

Our WORLD TOUR OF SEVERAL AMERICAN CITIES kicks off next week in Los Angeles on Friday, November 13 with William H. Macy, Chicano Batman and Baron Vaughn - get your tickets now!

Plus check us out in Boston, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Philly and DC with guests Barney Frank, Mission of Burma, Tavi Gevinson, David Cross, John Hodgman, Joel Hodgson, Ray Suarez, Dan Deacon and more. It's all at BullseyeTour.com. Don't miss it!

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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Matt Braunger on Class Clowning, Trying Even if You Fail, and Teenage Rapping

Actor, writer and stand-up comedian Matt Braunger always knew that he wanted a life in comedy. He was so sure of this career path that he never seriously considered a backup plan. It was, as he puts it, comedy or die.

Thankfully, it’s been the former and his observant sense of humor is on full display in his latest comedy special, Big Dumb Animal. Along with being a cast member on the final season of the sketch comedy show, MADtv, he’s acted on numerous television shows including the United States of Tara and Pushing Daisies. He’s also made appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman, the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien and Chelsea Lately.

Braunger joins Jesse to talk about playing the dumb, clueless husband in television commercials, how he’s worked to be less negative and enjoy the present moment, and why it’s so important to try (even if you fail).

Big Dumb Animal is available now for streaming on Netflix.

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Margaret Atwood on Sex in 'The Heart Goes Last', Childhood Brutishness and Shakespeare

Canadian-born author and poet Margaret Atwood has had an extremely successful career as writer, despite, as she relays to us, the fact that she was not the most memorable or exceptional English student. Her work includes the novels Cat’s Eye and The Handmaid’s Tale as well as many volumes of poetry, and often deals with feminism and politics.

Her latest novel, The Heart Goes Last is a dark comic take on the near future, where lawful people are imprisoned and the lawless are free. The narrative was first introduced to readers in serial form on the website Byliner, and takes on its full shape as a novel which explores issue of sexuality and sexual politics.

Atwood spoke with our contributor Guy Branum to discuss why she believes a novel is an opportunity to share an experience rather than a pulpit from which to preach, delves into her favorite aspects of Shakespeare, and shares her favorite version of her own origin story as a writer.

The Heart Goes Last is available now.

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The Outshot: The Sound of the Apocalypse

In 1977, the country of Jamaica was in economic and social turmoil. Only 15 years after it gained its independence, the country was experiencing difficulties that some believed were signs of the coming apocalypse, specifically on the date of July 7, 1977, the day the two sevens would clash. Jesse shares how the voice of hope came in the form of Joseph Hill, the frontman of a reggae band called Culture.

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