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
Jason Kottke brings us this week’s pop culture picks. He's the curator of the blog kottke.org, one of the finest sources of informative and entertaining links on the web. He shares two of his more recent favorites: the contents of the golden record on the spacecraft Voyager and a rare piece of audio of the normally reticent director Stanley Kubrick.
Mark Adams is a critically acclaimed writer and an editor at National Geographic Adventure. Despite his outdoor magazine credentials, he considered himself an armchair adventurer before he embarked on a journey for his latest book, Turn Right at Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu was an old and dependable topic for National Geographic, but Adams was determined to dig a little deeper when revisiting the subject. A hundred years ago, the lecturer turned explorer Hiram Bingham III brought the ruins of Machu Picchu to the attention of the outside world but raised a host of questions about his methods and intentions for doing so. Adams decided to take on some of those questions by retracing Bingham’s expedition, taking his tender-footed self into the wild with an Australian guide and a handful of coca leaves. Adams talks to us about his transformation -- from a man who had never slept in a tent as an adult, to a full-fledged adventurer.
The only constant in this crazy country is change. Even the most well-informed American might throw up their hands over the big questions -- what’s hot? And what’s not? Luckily, comedian Jordan Morris is here for guidance. For more, check out his comedy podcast Jordan, Jesse, Go! or follow him on Twitter @Jordan_Morris.
Dave Hill is best known as a New York-based comedian, but he's dabbled in a lot of things. He's interviewed fans of Chick-Fil-A for This American Life, been a semi-successful rock musician (they're big in Japan), and even had a job as a pedicab driver for a few days.
One of his trademarks is making himself and others uncomfortable during a performance, whether he's asking inane or (alternately) inappropriately suggestive questions in his man-on-the-street interviews, performing stand up or hosting his talk show The Dave Hill Explosion. He mines a number of uncomfortable situations in his new book of essays, Tasteful Nudes: ...and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation.
He talks to us about how being a rock musician made him realize he loved comedy, and how he ended up performing at Sing Sing for maximum security felons.
Are you ready for the pop culture maniac who is Billy Eichner? This week, Jesse recommends his favorite game show, Billy on the Street.
If you know of a must-see show, share it on the MaxFun forum by picking your own Outshot.
Our comic book experts return with new graphic bounty! Alex Zalben recommends the new series Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt, who spins a tale of a plane crash, memory loss and psychic spies. The second issue in the series is out now. Brian Heater suggests you check out Angelman by Nicholas Mahler, which is a story of a man who has superpowers that might be milder or meeker than those of most heroes -- fighting figurative fire with qualities like being a "good listener".
You can find Alex Zalben writing for MTV Geek or co-hosting NYC's Comic Book Club Live. Brian Heater is a journalist and the Editor-In-Chief of The Daily Crosshatch, which highlights alternative comics.
Elvis Mitchell is a critic who's brought his insights on film to the pages of the New York Times and the L.A. Weekly; he's also interviewed scores of film industry writers, actors and directors over fifteen years of hosting the LA-based public radio show The Treatment. He's even ventured into filmmaking himself, producing a series of documentaries about race and success called The Black List.
But while he's been in the business of film criticism a long time, his manner or tastes can't be called conventional. Mitchell talks about his wide-ranging cultural appetite (which has room for well-executed films like Pootie Tang), the interplay between television and film, and how he got into the business of analyzing pop culture.
The brothers McElroy -- Travis, Griffin and Justin -- are in the business of giving advice, though they don't suggest you take it. This week, they answer listeners' queries about the collision of pop culture and personal relationships. The McElroy brothers host a weekly podcast called My Brother, My Brother, and Me.
Kevin Barnes founded the experimental pop group of Montreal over fifteen years ago, and the band's sound has morphed as often as (and alongside) Barnes' various stage personae and personal ups and downs. Of Montreal's original twee pop sensibility gave way to new sounds and increasingly complicated arrangements over the years, as the band experimented with electronic, R&B, funk, disco and psychedelic music within a pop framework.
Barnes discusses why he writes so much of the band's music on his own, the theatricality of the band's live performances (from elaborate costumes and skits, to a live horse), and more.
The band's latest release, Paralytic Stalks, is out now.
Jesse explains what makes David Letterman such an especially gifted late night host in a world of very good late night hosts.
Got a cultural gem of your own? Pick your own Outshot on the MaxFun Forum.>
This week's pop culture picks come to us from The AV Club's Keith Phipps and Tasha Robinson, who share a few of their all-time favorites. Tasha talks up Richard Adams' fantasy novel Watership Down -- a book which, if you weren't already forced to read it in high school, is well worth a look. Keith meanwhile shines a light on perhaps the least renowned of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, Duck, You Sucker! (also known as A Fistful of Dynamite or Once Upon A Time... The Revolution!), in which the Italian master of the gunslinger casts his gaze on the tale of Zapata.
Scott Aukerman is a writer and the host of Comedy Bang! Bang!, formerly known as Comedy Death-Ray. The show began in 2002 as a comedy pub night in Los Angeles, and is now one of the landmark shows at L.A.'s UCB Theater. In 2009, Scott took many of the show's best regular characters and comics with him into a radio environment, launching Comedy Death-Ray Radio on Indie 103.1, and setting the template for what would become one of the internet's premiere comedy podcasts. Comedy Bang! Bang! is now the flagship show on Aukerman's Earwolf podcast network. This month the show made the leap into another medium entirely: as a darkly satirical late night television talk show.
Scott sat down with us to discuss the move to TV, his early years in Hollywood as a sketch writer on HBO's Mr. Show with Bob & David, and the strange business of getting paid to do work that's never produced. Comedy Bang! Bang! airs Friday nights at 10PM on IFC.
Pencil sharpener David Rees was long trapped in an awful job as a satirical cartoonist until he just couldn't take it anymore. In 2010, Rees decided to get back in touch with on old-school writing instrument and took up artisanal pencil sharpening as a profession. His new book, How To Sharpen Pencils, was released earlier this year, and he's now demonstrated his old-fashioned technique in bookstores across the country. David joins us this week to discuss the lost art of pencil sharpening, and treats us to a chapter reading from his book.
Mark Duplass is an actor, writer, director, musician, and a man who can be described as having many irons in the fire. He's the star of two films currently in theaters, Your Sister's Sister and Safety Not Guaranteed, with a third film, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, that he wrote and directed alongside his creative partner (and brother) Jay, due later this summer. The Do-Deca-Pentathlon will be the second Duplass Brothers film to hit screens this year, following the brothers' biggest film to date: Jeff, Who Lives At Home, with Jason Segel and Ed Helms. And as if all that weren't enough, you might know Mark best from his starring role as Pete on the FX comedy series The League, which will be back for a fourth season in the fall.
Mark joins us to discuss the way his musical past has influenced his tendencies as a filmmaker, and why he's not worried about taking his projects to total perfection.
(Embed or share this interview with Mark Duplass)
For The Outshot this week, Jesse highlights the relaxed, harmonious hip hop sound of Digable Planets' revolutionary but commercially disastrous 1994 record Blowout Comb.
Got a cultural gem of your own? Set the record straight by picking your own Outshot on the MaxFun Forum.
This week's pop pundits, Daniel Ralston and Maggie Serota, come care of The Low Times Podcast (co-hosted by Tom Scharpling of The Best Show on WFMU). Daniel is enamored with Caitlin Rose's alt-country spin on The Arctic Monkeys' tune "Piledriver Waltz", while Maggie can't get enough of the infectiously poppy and deceivingly upbeat synth heartache of Lemonade's "Soft Kiss."
Ice-T is a rapper and actor, with more than ten albums and nearly eighty acting credits to his name. He's also one of the forefathers of west coast hip-hop. This week he adds "filmmaker" to an already diverse resume, as he makes his directorial debut with the hip hop documentary Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, in theaters this Friday, June 15th.
Ice sits down with us to talk his desire to bring an artful appreciation to hip hop's origins and about going through his phone book to sit down with friends to discuss the craft, and to resolve the mystery as to whether or not he was a ghostwriter for an 80s rap album by Mister T.
For much of his musical career, Aaron Freeman might have been better known to you as Gene Ween, guitarist and co-founder of the experimental rock band Ween. In May, Freeman released his first solo record, Marvelous Clouds, a collection of covers of songs by 60s poet/songwriter Rod McKuen. And just a few weeks ago, Freeman announced he was retiring the Gene Ween persona for good. This week he tells us about the song that changed his life: Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry".
Greta Gerwig is an actress and filmmaker, whose starring role in the 2007 comedy Hannah Takes the Stairs put her right at the heart of the mumblecore movement. She's since gone on to leading roles in bigger indies alongside Ben Stiller in Greenberg, as well as major motion pictures like Arthur, opposite Russell Brand. The indie darling has had a particularly prominent year in 2012, with starring roles Damsels in Distress and the romantic comedy Lola Versus, both in theaters now, and a supporting role in Woody Allen's latest, To Rome With Love, due later this month.
Greta joins us to discuss her artistic upbringing in Sacramento (complete with dreams of being a ballerina), her meteoric and slightly serendipitous rise as an actress, and the way her public perception seems to change with each role she plays.
On this week's Outshot, Jesse misses the old days of pure wacky comedy insanity exemplified by the unfiltered goofiness of Mel Brooks' History of the World, Part I.
Is there a film that never fails to make you laugh like a mad man? Share the laughs on the MaxFun Forum by picking your own Outshot.
Our pop culture luminaries from The AV Club return for another round of recommendations. Sitting in the hot seat this week are Genevieve Koski and Josh Modell, as they select their all-time favorite records. Josh can't resist the lure of Fiona Apple's 1999 album When The Pawn.... Genevieve, meanwhile, opts for a relative modern selection: it's Dessa's lyrically resonant 2010 release A Badly Broken Code.
Daniel Handler delved into his memories of young love and high school frustrations to pen the novel Why We Broke Up -- the twist? He writes the girl's side of the story. The story is illustrated by a collection of items collected during the relationship; the paintings are provided by New Yorker illustrator Maira Kalman. Daniel Handler is also known by his alter ego, Lemony Snicket, who authored A Series of Unfortunate Events. (Originally aired February 14, 2012)
Nico Muhly is a classical composer who's worked with a wide range of musicians, from high-profile composer Philip Glass, to Icelandic snger-songwriter Bjork to indie rockers Grizzly Bear. His opera Two Boys is set to debut at the Metropolitan Opera in the 2013-14 season. He talks to us about the song that changed his life -- Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. (Originally aired February 14, 2012)
Randy and Jason Sklar, known collectively as The Sklar Brothers, are comedians and actors perhaps best known for their ESPN Classic show Cheap Seats. They're currently hosting a new TV series called United Stats of America, Tuesday nights on the History Channel. Their latest stand up album is Hendersons and Daughters and you can hear them each week as the hosts of the comedy podcast Sklarbro Country.
They sat down with us earlier this year to reflect on forming identities as stand up comedians (and twins), broadening sports comedy for the average Joe, envisioning the writing process for Grimm's Fairy Tales, and more. (Originally aired February 14, 2012)
Americans enjoyed a wave of cringe-inducing awkward comedy in Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office. This week Jesse recommends one of their precedents, the Canadian series The Newsroom. (Originally aired February 14, 2012)
This week’s culture critics are Nathan Rabin and Scott Tobias of The AV Club, here to offer up a pair of humor-fueled recommendations. Nathan suggests checking out comedian Hannibal Buress’s debut one-hour special, Animal Furnace, noting a marked evolution in Hannibal’s stand-up style. Meanwhile Scott is enamored with Wes Anderson’s latest, Moonrise Kingdom, hailing it as the filmmaker’s best work.
Moonrise Kingdom is currently in limited release, opening nationwide on June 15th, while Hannibal Buress’s Animal Furnace is now available on both CD and DVD.
Kurt Braunohler is a stand-up comedian and improviser, as well as one half of the sketch duo Kurt & Kristen, performing alongside writing partner Kristen Schaal. While stand-up consumes much of his time these days, he may soon be best known for IFC's Bunk, putting his disarming charms to work as host of an improv game show where comedians compete in insane challenges on behalf of less than charitable causes.
Kurt sits down with us to discuss the myriad ways in which the conventions of the game show format are begging to be satirized, the serendipitous origin of Kurt & Kristen, and how they took one of our all-time favorite sketches, "Kristen Schaal is a Horse", to Australia's biggest stage. Bunk premieres Friday, June 8th at 10:30 PM on IFC.
Thought you could escape the world of news within the hour of our pop culture program? Think again! Getting you caught up on all the latest stories that may or may not have happened, here's an update from the minds of our fake news team: the San Francisco-based sketch comedy group Kasper Hauser.
For more Kasper Hauser, check out The Kasper Hauser Podcast right here on MaximumFun.org.
Walter Mosley is an author of nearly forty books, but perhaps he's best known for his work in detective fiction. His Easy Rawlins detective series began with 1989's Devil in a Blue Dress. Lately Mosley's penning the stories of a new detective: Leonid McGill. His latest serial novel is All I Did Was Shoot My Man, the most recent entry in the McGill series, and it's loaded with the kind of snappy, hard-boiled noir writing Mosley is famous for.
Walter joined us back in 2010 to talk about the existential crises at the heart of the detective genre, and how he made the move from computer programming to detective fiction so many years ago.
For The Outshot this week, Jesse makes the case for Jay-Z as hip hop's greatest of all time -- if only for the effortlessly perfect rhythm of his lyrical flow, best represented on the track "Hovi Baby".
Got your own pick for rap's best flow? Stake your claim on the MaxFun Forum by picking your own Outshot.
This week's pop culture picks come care of Jason Kottke, of Kottke.org. Jason tracks down the best the internet has to offer, but this week he's all about documentaries. First up, it's a pair of short documentaries about Allan Benton and his ham. Allan is the owner of Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams, and we travel inside both his office and curing house in the films.
Next, it's the feature-length documentary Senna, profiling the thrilling and ultimately tragic tale of Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna. Senna is not just for Formula One fans -- it's a gripping profile, and the racing footage is thrilling no matter who you are. It's currently available on Netflix Instant.
Benedict Cumberbatch is a British actor currently bringing Sherlock Holmes to life in PBS's Masterpiece series Sherlock, alongside Martin Freeman of The Office as John Watson. While Cumberbatch and Freeman are the latest in a long line of actors to play these characters, there is something fresh about their adaptation: Sherlock takes place in the present day, updating the classic detective to our modern era. In the past year, Cumberbatch has memorably stolen scenes in period dramas like War Horse and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Benedict tells us about bringing a new take to an iconic character, and what keeps Holmes relevant to both writers and audiences all these years later. He also opens up about how a life-threatening altercation while filming in South Africa in 2004 left him changed as a person. The Series Two finale of Sherlock airs this Sunday, May 20th, on PBS's Masterpiece. Series Two will be available on DVD just two days later, on Tuesday the 22nd.
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.
Morgan Webb is a video game journalist and the co-host of X-Play on the G4 TV network. Webb fell into work in front of the camera entirely by accident via a research position on Tech TV's The Screen Savers, and it wasn't long before she wound up in front of the camera. Tech TV would eventually merge with G4, and X-Play is now the longest-running program on the network.
Morgan talks about what it means to be a gamer, what she loves about the gaming experience, and her struggle for journalistic legitimacy.
Thanks to Dave Ciaccio for editing this segment.
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 week's culture picks come care of the The AV Club's Claire Zulkey and Erik Adams, who dig deep to select some of their all-time favorite TV series. Claire recommends the pop culture infused British sitcom Spaced, which launched the careers of its stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as well as director Edgar Wright. Erik meanwhile suggests you go back and revisit David Lynch's eerily atmospheric foray into television mystery, Twin Peaks, assuming you've already seen it. If not, both Spaced and Twin Peaks are now available to own on DVD, as well as for online streaming via Netflix Instant.
This week on the show we revisit some of our favorite interviews of 2012. Comedian Chris Gethard talks about booking megastar P. Diddy at a tiny theater in New York, using both mania and depression to shape his comedy, and confronting Internet trolls in person. His most recent book is called A Bad Idea I'm About to Do. (Originally aired the week of January 10th, 2012)
Brothers by all accounts, and experts by some – Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy of My Brother, My Brother and Me offer offer solutions to listeners' pressing pop culture problems. This week the brothers wonder whether parents should introduce Justin Bieber, Star Wars, and Ke$ha to their children. (Originally aired the week of January 10th, 2012)
Jesse talks with a master of creative nonfiction, Lawrence Weschler, about the dangers of humans' bias toward narrative, and why the CGI faces in movies never look quite right. Weschler's newest book is Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative. (Originally aired the week of January 10th, 2012)
And The Outshot: The Civil War, reimagined in 140-character bursts. Jesse talks about one of his favorite Twitter accounts, @FakeCivilWar. (Originally aired the week of January 10th, 2012)
BONUS AUDIO from this week! Lawrence Weschler talks to Jesse about the incredible and unusual Museum of Jurassic Technology in LA.