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
Friday, September 23, 2016
London Podcast Festival
90 York Way, London, N1 9AG
Bullseye (formerly known as The Sound of Young America) is a weekly celebration of the best of arts and culture. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring listeners in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.
The show is carried by public radio stations around the United States, and was the first public radio program west of the Mississippi to podcast. It has received plaudits from publications like Time Magazine (which called it ‘Pick of the Podcasts’) and Salon.com. It was also honoured by the iTunes editorial staff as a ‘classic’ Best of iTunes selection. Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.
Long before he was busy in the sound studio making music, Joe Bataan was a young man getting into trouble on the streets of East Harlem. But after a stint in juvenile detention, he left his life as a gang leader behind and became a band leader instead. Joe Bataan and the Latin Swingers helped bring Boogaloo music into the mainstream.
As well as releasing popular songs in the genre including Gypsy Woman, Bataan also helped to create and coin the term SalsaSoul. Later in his career, he wrote and performed an early hip-hop hit, Rap-O Clap-O. Bataan is featured in a new documentary, We Like It Like That: The Story of Latin Boogaloo.
Bataan sat down with Jesse to talk about his life as a juvenile delinquent in the streets of New York, how he dealt with the backlash against his musical innovations and how he came to create one of the earliest hits in hip-hop.
There are many comedians who use their family life as inspiration for their comedy, but Ali Wong took it a step further when she recorded her latest comedy special while seven and a half months pregnant.
Wong’s comedy is rooted in her willingness to be incredibly frank and honest about her personal life including her relationships, her Asian heritage and the challenges of pregnancy while working as a writer on the hit television show, Fresh Off the Boat.
Ali Wong joined Jesse to talk about being a breadwinner, performing while pregnant and how it feels to talk about painful and personal things like miscarriage in front of a comedy audience.
Ali Wong’s new comedy special, Baby Cobra is available now on Netflix.
While many rappers are content to explore the harshness of street life in their lyrics, Chance The Rapper is a performer who isn’t afraid to explore the soft and warm memories of childhood. In his new album, Coloring Book, Chance combines beautiful melodies with an open and warm heart.
DJ Quik is one of the most prolific figures in West Coast hip hop. He's a great rapper, but first and foremost, he's always considered himself a producer. He's produced some of the most inventive samples and beats of the genre. And even though he geeks out about latest and greatest studio equipment, he's always used whatever it takes to capture the sound he wants -- even if it means recording a music sample with a VCR.
Quik first made a name for himself in the hip hop scene in the late 80's and early 90's, handing out homemade mix tapes and deejaying around Los Angeles. He's since released ten albums, and produced records for everyone from Tupac, Snoop Dogg and Xzibit to Tony! Toni! Toné!.
He'll talk about why a leaked record and a couple of guns made him realize he needed a new circle of friends, why he never wants to stop making pretty beats for his records and his inspiration for his awesome, awesome hairstyles over the years.
DJ Quik's new EP is calledRosecrans. It's available now.
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 disarmingly charming smarm made him a perfect fit for the talking-head format of VH1, but it also makes him a terrific author, as evidenced in latest book Navel Gazing: True Tales of Bodies, Mostly Mine (but also my mom’s, which I know sounds weird).
Michael Ian Black performed live at MaxFunCon East in 2012.
Have you ever picked up and actually flipped through one of those in-flight catalogs? Well, the sketch comedy group Kasper Hauser takes all of the grotesque and excessive product offerings of Skymall, and brings them to another level in Skymaul 2: Where America Buys His Stuff.
Maria Bamford is a stand-up whose comedy is equal parts confessional and surreal. Using events from her own life, including her struggles with mental illness, she finds comedy in the painful and absurd, infusing both with an infectious joy that has endeared her to fans around the world.
You might know Maria from her roles on shows like Arrested Development, Comedy Bang Bang, Maron and Louie. She found wider national fame during the 2009-2010 holiday shopping season when she appeared as a super-enthusiastic shopper in a series of Target commercials.
Maria sat down with Jesse to talk about her own experiences as a patient of various Los Angeles mental health facilities, finding love and how wanting to work less proved to be a good career move.
Wanda Sykes is a comedian and an actor with an incredible force of personality. Her distinctive voice both as a writer and a performer has earned her success on stage, television and film. She’s been nominated for seven Prime-Time Emmy Award including a win for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Special for her work on The Chris Rock Show.
The Curb Your Enthusiasm star joined Jesse to talk about transitioning from a career with the NSA to stand-up comedy, coming out “accidentally” during a rally against California’s Proposition 8 and why she believes that Bob Hope may have been a super spy.
Jesse was especially excited to talk with Wanda about one of his favorite characters in film, Biggie Shorty from the Louis C.K. directed, Chris Rock produced blaxploitation parody, Pootie Tang (or as we had to refer to it on NPR, “shmooty shmang”).
Wanda Sykes is beginning her tour this month which includes recording dates for her next comedy special.
Sykes is performing two shows at the Theater at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles this Saturday, May 21st. The shows will be filmed for her Epix special out later this year. It's called What Happened…Ms. Sykes? Find out more at WandaSykes.com.
Margaret Cho has always found a way to make her life inform her art. With her work as a stand-up comedian, an actor and a singer-songwriter, she has used the events of her life, both good and bad, to inspire her. Whether it’s growing up as a Korean-American girl in San Francisco or breaking through the male-dominated world of stand-up comedy in the early nineties, Cho has always found a way use all of life’s experiences to create entertainment.
Cho famously co-created and starred in the first sitcom that focused on an Asian American family. All-American Girl was cancelled in its first season, but it became a part of American television history and helped lay the groundwork for sitcoms like Fresh Off the Boat. Since then, Cho has continued her standup career, and appeared in numerous film and television shows including Dr. Ken, Family Guy, Sex in the City and on 30 Rock, where in separate episodes, she played North Korean dictators: Kim Jong Il and later his son Kim Jong-un.
Margaret Cho sat down with Jesse to talk about beginning her career during the 90s comedy boom in San Francisco, growing up in a Korean immigrant family, and how the community around her family’s gay bookstore continues to touch and inspire her life.
Margaret Cho’s new album American Myth is now available on iTunes and on her website, MargaretCho.com. She's also out on tour this May and June.
Whit Stillman is a writer-director who makes comedies of manners. With his films Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco, the director often explores the world of young upper-class adults who are struggling to find their way in the world both at home and abroad. The films were each made on modest budgets and received praise from critics; his very first film, Metropolitan, garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay.
His latest film Love and Friendship is adapted from Lady Susan, an unfinished novella by Jane Austen. The movie explores the familiar comedic tropes of Austen’s work including class, sexuality, deceit and manipulation.
Whit Stillman joined Jesse to talk about his love for Jane Austen, the importance of language in his films and how the comedy of Will Ferrell infiltrated his new period piece.
Whit Stillman’s new film Love and Friendship is in theaters this week.
Jesse sings the praises of a basketball scrapper who may not get all the fame, but is no less deserving of the glory.
Geena Davis has made a lasting impression as an actress both on film and television in her roles in Beetlejuice, Thelma and Louise, A League of Their Own, The Accidental Tourist and Commander in Chief. Her performances have resulted in acclaim and a lengthy career both in front and behind the camera. It’s also garnered her a Golden Globe and an Oscar.
Davis is just as committed to her work for gender awareness and diversity in film and television. To turn a light on gender disparity in Hollywood, she created the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, a research-based organization that was created to educate and influence change in the entertainment industry. Davis also founded the Bentonville Film Festival, which showcases films featuring minorities and women in both cast and crew and which guarantees distribution to the festival’s winners.
Geena Davis joined Jesse on Bullseye to talk about gaining confidence in voicing her opinions on set, how she feels about being recognized in public and how quieting her inner-critic helped her to almost qualify as an archer for the Summer Olympic games.
The Bentonville Film Festival takes place in Bentonville, Arkansas this week. Tickets are available to the public.
Louis C.K. may be known to most as a stand-up comedian, but he's also a writer, an actor, an editor and a producer who thrives when he is creating on his own terms. And that’s what he has been doing with his comedy specials and television shows, including his Emmy-award-winning FX series, Louie.
Louis C.K. has succeeded not only by becoming one the world’s funniest comedians, but by reinventing how an artist succeeds creatively and financially. His direct-to-fan sales of his concerts and videos via his website have proven incredibly successful and have inspired other comedians and artists to offer their content directly to consumers.
He used this model of distribution to release his latest television show, Horace and Pete which features an ensemble cast including Steve Buscemi, Alan Alda, Jessica Lange and Edie Falco. The show, set in a run-down Brooklyn bar, borrows elements from both film and stage plays, to create a unique experience for both the audience and the actors. CK produced the show in complete secrecy, and didn’t leverage pre-press marketing and press junkets to promote the show.
Louis C.K. sat down with Jesse to talk about why he chose to pay for Horace and Pete using his own money, challenging himself as an actor and what inspired him to come up with the family name for the title characters.
Jesse on the lingering amusement provided by the absurd and simple website, Zombo.com.
Mike Judge entered the world of animation with little more than a 16mm Bolex film camera, an audio recorder and a stopwatch. In the early nineties, his animated shorts were extremely popular as part of touring animation shows including Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Animation Festival. These shorts served as the birthplace for some of his most memorable characters, including the iconic Beavis and Butt-Head.
Beavis and Butt-Head were awkward and naive teenage boys, whose vocabulary seemed limited to a series of snickers and grunts. However, the show became a cultural touchstone as well as a lightning rod of criticism for conservative social critics.
The show led to more opportunities for Judge both in film and television. They included the hit animated series, King of the Hill and forays into films with the cult classics Office Space and Idiocracy. His latest show, Silicon Valley is in its third season on HBO.
Mike Judge joined Jesse to talk about the parallels between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, his early years in animation and how the character of Homer Simpson helped him maintain the integrity of his own animated patriarch, Hank Hill.
Sharon Horgan has a knack for the creating shows that reveal her characters as determined, funny, sexy, complex and at times, very flustered. Her comedy is more than a series of jokes (though there are plenty of them), and includes insightful observations into what it means to be a professional woman trying to negotiate her other roles of lover, wife and mother. In other words, a real person. You can see that in full display on her latest show, Catastrophe which streams on Amazon Prime.
Though she may be relatively new to American audiences, she has proven herself a talented actress, writer and producer and enjoyed success with her previous show, Pulling which she co-wrote and starred in. Though it ran only for two seasons on British television, it was nominated for several television and comedy awards and established her as a modern comedic voice.
Sharon Horgan sat down with Jesse to talk about getting past the awkwardness of writing (and then having to film) sex scenes with her co-star, the challenge of showing the evolution of a relationship before and after having kids and why she likes playing a character who can sometimes come off as a jerk.
Jesse remembers how the musician Prince inspired people to dare to be themselves.
Nick Hornby became famous as a literary writer for men. His first three books were about guys, fans specifically, Fever Pitch was a memoir about Hornby’s love of soccer; High Fidelity was about a record store owner, struggling with love. About A Boy was about a sort of boyish man tending to a mannish boy.
Hornby has since written several other books and screenplays, including Oscar nominees An Education and Brooklyn.
His recent novel, Funny Girl, is about a working class young woman in the 1960s who leaves her small town in search of a career on television, and her success on a BBC sitcom.
Nick Hornby sat down with Jesse to talk about why he set his novel in the mid-60s (and why its protagonist is a woman), personal ambition and creativity, and what it's like to be a Hollywood dinner guest.
Funny Girl is available now in paperback.
The interview originally aired in March 2015.
Luis Guzmán is a veteran character actor. But back in the early 1990s, he was still working as a social worker on the Lower East Side, and acting was more of a side gig. Then he got a role that put him on the map -- the thuggish sidekick Pachanga in the 1993 movie Carlito's Way.
As Guzmán tells it, everything crystallized with that role.
You can currently see Luis Guzmán in the role of Jesse Sallander on the CBS hospital drama, Code Black. On the show, he plays the role of the trauma unit’s senior nurse, affectionately referred to as “Momma”.
The interview originally aired in March 2015.
Jesse explains why Easy Rawlins, of Devil in A Blue Dress, is a different breed of private detective.
Ellie Kemper was introduced to the popular consciousness through her role as Erin Hannon on the NBC sitcom, The Office. Her portrayal of the office receptionist was popular with both fans and critics and showcased her talent and skills as a comedic actress. These talents have also been showcased on the big screen in films including Bridesmaids and 21 Jump Street.
Now, she plays the title character in the Netflix Original series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Despite the show’s dark premise which involves her character being abducted by a cult leader and sequestered in a bunker, the show plays it all for laughs as her character tries to rebuild her life in New York City. Her years of isolation leave her ignorant of many social touchstones, but she pushes through with an enthusiasm and tenacity that is both endearing and hilarious.
Ellie Kemper joined Jesse to talk about her early experiences of living and working in New York, mining material from her time at Princeton and her self-consciousness about privilege.
The second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is available this Friday on Netflix.
For almost 80 years, Batman has changed and evolved to mean something to different generations of fans. Whether his characterization was that of the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader or the campy character of sixties television, Batman has become a lasting icon of popular culture.
In his new book, The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture, author Glen Weldon moves beyond the chronological history of the character. He explores how fans of the various iterations of the character on radio, film, television and the comics have made the character a reflection of their own self-identity, be they straight or gay, cool or geek.
Glen sits down with Jesse to talk about why Batman fans both hate and love the 60s television series, why the character of Robin is so important to Batman’s mythology and how the character also serves as a symbol of gay culture.
Glen Weldon’s book The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture is available in bookstores everywhere.
Jesse fondly remembers Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest.
Thao Nguyen began her career as a singer-songwriter in her teens, while making change for customers at her mother’s laundromat. Her musical influences include country, folk and hip-hop, but her music is uniquely her own.
Her latest album as the frontwoman of the band Thao and the Get Down Stay Down is called A Man Alive, and takes its inspiration from Thao's complicated relationship with her father. Their estrangement began when Thao was a teenager and has continued into her adulthood. Her feelings of affection and resentment results in a musical experience that is both raw and intimate.
Thao Nguyen sat down with Jesse to talk about the importance of her collaboration with producer Merrill Garbus in the making of the album, the diversity of her early musical influences and the struggle to fit in while growing up as a Vietnamese-American.
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down's new album, A Man Alive is available now. The band is currently on a cross country tour; you can find those tourdates here.
Lance Bangs is the kind of filmmaker who would prefer jumping into the backseat of a car with a camera than being responsible for a huge budget and massive crew. His intimate approach to filmmaking has been appreciated and sought after not only for films and television, but also numerous music videos for performers including Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Green Day, Arcade Fire, REM and Kanye West.
He was even brought on to help film the intimate relationships within the MTV reality show Jackass, which focused on its talent performing incredibly dangerous and crude pranks and stunts.
Lance Bangs’ latest television show is the new Viceland series Flophouse. The show profiles the lives of up-and-coming stand-up comics and the sometimes questionable living conditions they live under while trying to make career for themselves in comedy.
Lance Bangs joined Jesse to talk about his why he prefers his intimate approach to filmmaking, his memories of working on Jackass and why he is attracted to the world of comedy.
Jesse talks about the emotional depth to be found in Black Sabbath’s 1970 album, Paranoid.