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
Kurt Andersen is the host of Studio 360, co-founder of the satirical Spy Magazine and a novelist. He brought his love of research and cultural criticism to bear when he penned the new novel True Believers, the story of a high profile lawyer who steps away from a nomination to the Supreme Court. True Believers follows her on a quest to piece together a mysterious episode in her childhood during the Cold War and the age of the spy novel.
Andersen fondly recalls his own childhood interests in espionage, and he discusses the leap of faith required for a trained journalist to stop doing research and begin trusting the imagination. The end result is a novel which weaves together generational politics, 1960s counter-culture, and a children's game that becomes all too real.
Ari Graynor plays a lot of outrageous, messy roles -- she was a self-destructive college student on The Sopranos, and she played a drunken best friend in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist -- but her characters have heart and a kind of innocence.
The same is true of her most recent role of Katie Steele, the brash-yet-vulnerable young Manhattanite who runs a phone sex line in the new movie For a Good Time, Call. The film is in select theaters nationwide this week.
Ari talks to us about the 80s films that inspired her, the story's depiction of female friendship, and the strange intimacy and appeal of phone sex.
Jordan shares his passion for the music of the late Tony Sly, of punk band No Use for a Name.
Got a favorite band you want to spread the word about? Head on over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.
Mark Frauenfelder, co-founder of BoingBoing, joins us to share some geeky recommendations: the engaging online / downloadable game Kingdom Rush and David Dufty's tale of robotics in How to Build an Android.
Gun-toting and martial arts-fighting – the blaxploitation heroes of the 1970s might have actually been (or been friends with) pimps, gangsters, and drug dealers, but the goal in the end was cleaning up the neighborhood and beating The Man. The genre inspired Carl Jones and Michael Jai White, both behind the new animated series Black Dynamite.
The series is based on a 2009 cult film and blaxploitation spoof of the same name. Michael Jai White, who co-wrote and starred in the film, lends his voice to the animated Black Dynamite. Director Carl Jones (The Boondocks) was brought on to shepherd the concept from film to animation.
Michael and Carl join us to discuss their favorite blaxploitation films, the troubles of Richard Pryor, and fleshing out the relationships and characters of the film for the series.
Black Dynamite airs Sundays at 11:30pm on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.
Jason Brewer wanted to play guitar since he was four. Today, he's writing music, singing and playing guitar for The Explorers Club, a band that incorporates the sounds of the 1960s-era vocal harmonies and orchestral arrangements that obsessed him in his youth.
He talks to us about the song that changed his life – Johnny B. Goode, by Chuck Berry.
The Explorers Club released their second album, Grand Hotel, earlier this year.
Rachel Dratch is a comic actress best known to audiences as a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1999 to 2006, and from recurring roles on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock. Most recently, she's written Girl Walks Into A Bar...: Comedies Calamities, Dating Disasters & A Midlife Miracle. While there are behind-the-scenes stories from her days at SNL in the book, it's mainly the story of life after the show. With plenty of time on her hands, Dratch dove head-first into the dating pool after years of using being busy with SNL as an excuse not to date. The titular miracle was an unexpected pregnancy at age 44, having been in a long distance relationship with the father for just six months prior.
Dratch joins Jesse to discuss her comedy background in Chicago, the development process of getting some of her most famous SNL characters to air, and the inherent humor of balancing midlife motherhood with a romance still in its infant stages. This interview originally aired April 17, 2012.
Jesse suggests you follow the humorist and travel writer Bill Bryson on his wanderings through the history of the homestead and domesticity (it's not quite as dry as you think). His book is At Home: A Short History of Private Life.
Got a favorite book you want to spread the word about? Head on over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.
Jason Kottke blogs at Kottke.org and every once in awhile he shows up on Bullseye to tell us about the best stuff on the web. This week Kottke points us toward some of his all-time favorites: The Wire Bible and Survival Tips for the Middle Ages.
Bob Newhart is an actor, stand-up and legend of American comedy. A pioneer comedian in every sense, Bob began his comedy career when he and a friend improvised over-the-phone comedy routines to kill boredom at work, and subsequently sold the bits to radio stations. The "phone sketch" would be a schtick that would last throughout Newhart's career, and featured quite prominently in the release of his 1960 comedy album debut Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart. The album was an unprecedented hit as a comedy recording, outselling Elvis Presley and winning the Grammy for Album of the Year. Its success eventually led Newhart to television, first with a variety sketch show in the early '60s, and then a pair of sitcoms: The Bob Newhart Show in the 1970s, and Newhart in the early '80s.
Bob joins us to reflect on his comedy career, from how he honed his craft as a solo straightman -- leaving the wild responses on the other end of his phone conversations entirely in the minds of the audience -- to what keeps him going today when he's accomplished so much as a performer. Newhart still performs dozens of nights a year as a stand-up, while acting in both film and television. You can find him at BobNewhart.com. This interview originally aired April 3, 2012.
Has the Almighty ever swayed athletic outcomes? Does He even care for sports at all? Get the straight truth from The Man Himself. The answer may surprise you.
This excerpt is from The Last Testament: A Memoir By God, with David Javerbaum.
David Javerbaum is an Emmy-winning comedy writer and former executive producer of The Daily Show. You can see more of his work with God on Twitter @TheTweetofGod.
Our voice of God is provided by comedian and Funny or Die writer Seth Morris, who is also on Twitter @SethISMorris. This segment originally aired April 3, 2012.
Christofer and Benjamin Wagner are brothers and the co-directors of the documentary Mister Rogers & Me, about children's television personality Fred Rogers, and the effect he had on the lives of generations of kids. For Ben -- who moonlights as a documentarian between his day-job as an executive with MTV News -- it was a project that began more than ten years ago, when he discovered Mister Rogers really was his neighbor, living next door to him at a vacation home in Nantucket, MA. Rogers' heartfelt sincerity, and his ability to truly live in the moment, compelled Ben to learn more about the man and about the countless lives he'd forever changed.
The Wagner Brothers sit down with Jesse to discuss the film, the overwhelming experience of meeting Mr. Rogers in person, and the way he helped so many grow up in ways they might not even have noticed. Mister Rogers & Me is available now on DVD. This interview originally aired April 3, 2012.
On The Outshot this week, Jesse looks back on the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and finds his favorite film of the fest is only now getting the theatrical release it so richly deserves. The film is Boy, from Māori writer/director/star Taika Waititi. It tells the story of a young Māori boy named, well... Boy. Boy is given the chance to reconnect with his deadbeat father (Waititi) after years apart, as Dad's been away in jail. You can see and hear our interview with Taika Waititi and James Rolleston here.
It's a story bursting with youthful optimism, while the darkness of adulthood creeps in around the edges. It's screening this summer in theaters around the country. This segment originally aired April 3, 2012.
Got a little-known film of your own you want to spread the word about? Head on over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.
Our culture gurus over at The AV Club delve into film this week: head writer Nathan Rabin suggests the documentary The Queen of Versailles, which follows a billionaire’s family (and their undoing) in the wake of the economic crisis. Film editor Scott Tobias thinks you should look into two classic films, Body and Soul and Force of Evil, both written by screenwriter Abraham Polonsky.
The Queen of Versailles is now in theaters nationwide. Force of Evil and Body and Soul are both available on Blu-Ray and DVD.
What do The Partridge Family, Black Sabbath, and David Bowie all have in common? They all nurtured the music- and pop culture-obsessed minds behind the punk band Redd Kross. Brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald started the band as kids in the late 1970s, growing up in Hawthorne, California near a burgeoning LA punk rock scene.
The band flew mostly under the radar of mainstream culture, but found a devoted fan base and was hugely influential to the punk, grunge, and indie rock scenes. Kurt Cobain regularly included their songs on his mix tapes, and they've been name-checked by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Stephen Malkmus of Pavement, and even Joe Elliott of Def Leppard.
They've just released their first album in fifteen years, called Researching the Blues.
You think you’ve got issues? Todd Barry might give you a run for your money.
Todd Barry is a NYC-based veteran comedian. You can see him regularly at venues across the country. He collects mundane quotes, misprinted receipts, and subversive Tweets. His new stand up album, Super Crazy, is out now.
Matt Braunger began his career as an actor and stumbled into comedy, but now is known for both -- he’s been a feature performer on MADtv and toured the country with his standup, and he’s scored a recurring role as the genial, dorky neighbor on NBC’s Up All Night.
He talks to us about growing up in Portland and creating his own blend of stand-up comedy -- observational stories, mixed in with fanciful musings. His new stand up album and DVD special, both entitled Shovel Fighter, are out now.
Got a favorite musical comedy album? Share it on the the MaxFun forum by picking your own Outshot.
Brian Heater and Alex Zalben bring some of their all-time favorites to the table this week.
Brian recommends Cleveland by Harvey Pekar, the self-deprecating writer best known for American Splendor. Alex Zalben suggests you check out Concrete: The Human Dilemma by Paul Chadwick.
Michael Ian Black is an actor, comedian and author perhaps best known from his work with the sketch comedy troupe The State, or from his subsequent collaborations with State-mates both on television (Stella, Michael & Michael Have Issues) and film (Wet Hot American Summer). His charming smarminess made him a perfect fit for the talking-head format of VH1, but that public persona is a troubling aspect of his life -- one of many issues discussed in his memoir, You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations. He goes in-depth on the issues of his marriage, parenthood, and personhood, and the result is a book that is shockingly honest, informative, and incredibly funny.
Michael talks about re-committing himself to marriage in six week intervals, getting into stand-up comedy late in life, and his obsession with Googling "Fat Kevin Federline." He co-hosts the podcast Mike & Tom Eat Snacks and has two new books out this year -- a political commentary with Meghan McCain, and his memoir You’re Not Doing It Right. (Originally aired May 1, 2012)
If you watch the Super Bowl, or even just television, you probably know comedian Pete Holmes best from commercials, where he adorably doles out financial advice as the voice of the E-Trade baby. Last year he was named one of Variety's Ten Comics to Watch, and with good reason. As a stand-up, Holmes has a mostly goofy and positive energy. But as he reveals on his new album Impregnated With Wonder, there is one thing that can really set him off: a bad sandwich.
Tom Bissell is a journalist, video game critic and author whose latest book, Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation, is a series of pieces attempting to capture all angles of the creative process, in all sorts of artistic forms: from Herman Melville, writer of Moby Dick, to Chuck Lorre, creator of Two and a Half Men; from the mind of filmmaker Werner Herzog to the madness of The Room's Tommy Wiseau. Magic Hours collects the best of Bissell's ten-year career, with essays featured in The New Yorker and Harper's, as well as several pieces written solely for the book.
Tom joins us to discuss the dumb luck that makes some books resounding classics of literature while others fade from the collective conscious, and the value (or lack thereof) of a journalism degree. You can find his video game writing online at Grantland.com. Magic Hours is now available in bookstores everywhere. (Originally aired May 1, 2012)
On this week's Outshot, Jesse recommends one of his absolute favorite shows, the brilliantly profane political satire The Thick of It -- particularly its foul-mouthed protagonist Malcolm Tucker. The show is now available to US audiences on Hulu. (Originally aired May 1, 2012)
Got a hilariously profane favorite of your own? Don't just keep it to yourself, f***ing tell someone by heading to the MaxFun forum and picking your own Outshot.
For summer music recommendations, we’re joined by our rock music correspondents Daniel Ralston and Maggie Serota of the Low Times podcast. They recommend Henrietta by Yeasayer and Life by Summer Camp.
R.J. Smith is a former senior editor at Los Angeles Magazine and a music journalist who's written for the Village Voice and Spin. For his latest project, he took on the task of profiling the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Smith's extensive biography, The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, follows the musician from his childhood, raised in a whorehouse, wearing burlap sack underwear, to stardom, and then to reinvention.
James Brown was a hugely influential musician and performer, known for hits like "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Get Up (I Feel Like a Sex Machine)," and he was one of the driving forces behind the creation and popularity of funk music. But he was also much more than that -- a tenacious businessman who ran his finances into the ground, a man of messy and confusing political alliances, and a hardliner on drug abuse (who eventually fell to his own drug addictions).
Why didn’t Brown’s politics fit neatly into a particular mindset? And why, unlike nearly all of his black contemporaries, did he endorse Nixon? What drew crowds of screaming fans to his performances? And how did he survive the rise of disco? Smith's book delves into Brown's storied and complicated life and music career of six decades, as well as his effects on pop music, politics, and race relations in 20th century America.
Cameron Esposito is a standup comic who's been featured on this show and performed at TBS' Just for Laughs Chicago, South by Southwest, and the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festivals. She recently moved to Los Angeles right in time for the 4th Annual MaxFunCon, and joined us to perform a set musing on her childhood appearance.
Why not go where everybody goes your name? This week, Jesse recommends that you revisit Cheers.
Do you have a piece of pop culture that keeps you coming back? Share your own Outshot on our forums.
We can't contain our excitement about our new flea market finds for Maximum Fun HQ -- discovered with American Picker Danielle Colby -- and we've got to share them with you. Enjoy!
And as promised, a video of Bullseye editor Nick White showing us the rocketship in action! (FYI: There's some NSFW language going on.)
What’s worth watching on TV this summer? Our TV critics Erik Adams and Claire Zulkey of the AV Club have a few suggestions (yes, other than Breaking Bad). Adams suggests Disney Channel’s Gravity Falls, which airs on Fridays. Zulkey recommends The Franchise, which airs on Showtime on Wednesdays at 10pm.
Lisa Kudrow broke out to TV stardom on the hugely popular sitcom Friends, portraying the clueless but street-wise Phoebe Buffay. The cast members of Friends were practically America's Sweethearts, but Kudrow has pursued roles as less easily lovable characters in movies like Easy A and the short-lived but critically acclaimed cable series The Comeback.
Most recently, Kudrow has co-created and stars in the improv-comedy series Web Therapy, about a self-centered therapist who has an unusual "modality" approach -- she insists on cutting the usual 50-minute dreams and feelings session to a three-minute web chat. Web Therapy was adapted for TV by Showtime last year, and just began its second season on the network.
Kudrow talks to us about her early career in science research, how the fickleness of middle-schoolers set her on the path to acting, and being mentored by none other than Jon Lovitz.
Maximum Fun Headquarters recently relocated to a beautiful, but barren, new office -- and it needed a touch of character. There's probably no better place to find it than at the huge Rose Bowl flea market in Los Angeles, but we needed a seasoned antiquer to help us out. Enter Danielle Colby, star of the History Channel's series American Pickers, who helped us pick a doozy.
Eric Andre isn't a comedian with a household name, but that didn't stop him from getting his own talk show. And it didn't stop him from breaking every rule in the book when it comes to doing monologues or interviewing guests, either. The Eric Andre Show is hard to describe, but if you know that Andre isn't averse to pouring ketchup down his own pants or borderline abusing his guests, you might start to get the idea. His extremely low-key straight man Hannibal Burress provides a counterpoint to the madness.
Andre talks to us about literally deconstructing the talk show, setting up unexpected situations for guests, and more.
The Eric Andre Show airs Sundays at 12:30am on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.
This week, Jesse recommends that we all overcome any reluctance to let salsa music into our lives, and to begin with the Fania All-Stars.
Do you have a new music love? Tell us about it in your own outshot.
Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing and the Gweek podcast brings us this week's culture recommendations: The Harvey Girls: Little Audrey, Little Dot, and Little Lotta and The Internet Archive's Classic TV feed.
Robert Glasper is a jazz pianist and the band leader of the Robert Glasper Experiment. Glasper's life in music began early, as his mother, a jazz and blues vocalist, would often bring her young son along to clubs with her, where he would watch from backstage. His music today blends classic jazz influences with soul music and modern hip-hop, forging something fresh and new out of a genre he says is in dire need of a shake-up. His new album, Black Radio, includes collaborations with hip-hop artists like Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def, as well as old friend and frequent collaborator Bilal.
Glasper sits down with us to reveal some of his more embarrassing musical influences, reflect on working alongside the late J. Dilla, and dish on what he feels is wrong with today's jazz culture. (Originally aired April 10, 2012)
Davy Rothbart is the editor of Found Magazine, an annual publication collecting lost letters, tests, essays and notes, all found and submitted by readers. Found put out its first issue nearly ten years ago, and Davy has been a regular guest on The Sound of Young America ever since. In his first appearance on Bullseye, Rothbart recounts the cryptic tales found within the pages of some of his favorite lost treasures, brought to him by readers on Found's national tours. (Originally aired April 10, 2012)
If you've found something special you'd like to send in, either digitally or by mail, visit www.FoundMagazine.com/submit.
Pendleton Ward is a writer and animator, and the creator of the Cartoon Network series Adventure Time. The show follows the adventures of Finn the boy and Jake the shape-shifting dog, through a magical post-apocalyptic Earth. It's very witty and full of humor, and is one of those rare programs that works just as well for kids as it does for adults. Pen is a born artist, who even during this interview can't help but capture his host on paper. He joins Jesse to discuss drawing as a comedic outlet, the delicate art of writing a quality fart joke, and the influence of Dungeons & Dragons on the fantastical quests of Adventure Time. The show just began its fourth season; you can catch new episodes Monday nights on Cartoon Network. (Originally aired April 10, 2012)
For this week's Outshot, Jesse delves into the often contrived world of quirky viral videos and finds something genuinely hilarious: the web series BESTIE x BESTIE, starring Jenny Slate and Gabe Liedman. You might know Slate as a former featured player on SNL or as the writer and voice of another internet smash, Marcel The Shell With Shoes On. In BESTIE x BESTIE she and best friend Liedman take turns trying desperately to remain serious while the other does their best to make them crack. The results are often as funny as anything on the internet. (Originally aired April 10, 2012)
Is there a web series that tickles your funny-bone like none other? Help it go viral by sharing it on the MaxFun Forum and picking your own Outshot.