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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jim Rash, Bob Saget, Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham

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Bullseye
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Jessica St. Clair
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Jim Rash
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Bob Saget
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Mark Frauenfelder

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Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham of Playing House: Improv in the Writers' Room, Showing Real Friendships on TV, and 'Girl Porn'

Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham play best friends on TV, and if their on-screen chemistry seems real, it is. They met doing improv comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, and have been writing partners ever since. They co-created and star in Playing House, a new comedy about female friendship that's more reminiscent of Lucy and Ethel than it is Carrie Bradshaw's gang.

Playing House follows Emma and Maggie, two women who have been friends forever. Maggie stayed in their hometown, got married, and is expecting a baby. Emma has been professionally ambitious, closing business deals in Shanghai, and hasn't been back to visit for what must be years.

Parham and St. Clair join us to talk about the marathon improv sessions that produce the show's jokes, the designer home "girl porn" that provides contrast to their characters' weirdness, and their real-life friendship.

Playing House airs on the USA network Tuesday nights at 10/9c.

Bonus audio: Parham and St. Clair talk about their beginnings at the UCB.

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Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder Recommends: Zombie Dice and Hitman Go

Whether you're looking to zombie-fy yourself, or get absorbed into the world of a contract killer, Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder's got just the game for you. He's the host of the Gweek podcast, and he drops by to suggest a couple of his favorite new games. He recommends checking out the multi-player Zombie Dice to collect brains and avoid shotgun blasts to the head. If you prefer a game you can play solo, he suggests the strategy-based (and bloodless) game for iOS, Hitman Go.

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The Part: Bob Saget on 'Full House'

When Bob Saget was in his twenties, he had a lot of plates spinning. He tried film school (and dropped out after just a few days). He performed stand up. He warmed up sitcom audiences. He appeared in a Richard Pryor movie. He even worked for a few months as a morning talk show host, before he was told he was "too hot for TV."

But the part that changed everything wasn't controversial, or crazy. It was playing the straight man, on a sitcom aimed at families.

And despite the schmaltzy moments and broad jokes aimed at kids, Saget is proud of his role as widower and family man Danny Tanner on Full House. He'll tell us why.

Saget's new memoir is Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian. It's very personal and sweet and also sometimes vulgar, which is pretty much exactly what you might expect. He's also touring his new stand up show. You can find details on his website.

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Jim Rash on Being "TV Ugly", Awkward Dad Talks, and Writing with Nat Faxon

Jim Rash has a lot of irons in the fire. He's a regular on NBC's Community and hosts the Sundance Channel series The Writers' Room. When Rash isn't on-screen, he's writing and directing. With his writing partner Nat Faxon, he wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for The Descendants. The pair also wrote and directed last year's coming-of-age comedy The Way, Way Back, which drew on some of Rash's childhood experiences.

Rash joins us this week to talk about the awkward-yet-motivational summer talks he had with his dad and stepdad as a teenager, exploring writing techniques with TV showrunners on The Writers' Room, and writing for Community during Dan Harmon's absence.

Community airs Thursday nights at 8/7c on NBC.
The Writers' Room airs Friday nights at 9/8c on on the Sundance Channel.

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The Outshot: Wet Hot American Summer

Wanna be pals with Jesse? Here's the litmus test.

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Bullseye With Jesse Thorn: Nathan Rabin, Benjamin Nugent Author of American Nerd

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Brian Heater
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Insane Clown Posse

Becoming an Enthusiast: Nathan Rabin on Loving Phish and ICP

Some bands thrive in the cultural middleground. You can play their music in the grocery store, and no one objects. Neither the jam band Phish nor the horrorcore hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse plays that kind of music. Each group has a rabid, devoted following of fans, and on the flip side, has inspired intense loathing. Phish's noodley covers and original songs are derided as music for druggies and hacky-sack playing college students. Insane Clown Posse and their dark, often violent music is for "Juggalos", their group of Faygo-drinking, clown makeup- wearing fans.

As a longtime culture critic and former Head Writer of The Onion's AV Club, Nathan Rabin thought he was immune to the draw of either group. Their music and communities weren't high-brow. They weren't terribly fashionable or cool. So he set out to write a kind of sociological text about the groups, and find out why they had such die-hard fans. He didn't know he would end up a convert.

Rabin's new book is You Don't Know Me, But You Don't Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, And My Adventures With Two Of Music's Most Maligned Tribes.

Rabin tells us about his psychedelic experiences at their concerts, his mental breakdown halfway through researching the book, and finding solace in music and community among Phish Heads and Juggalos.

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Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes

Comic Recommendations From Brian Heater and Alex Zalben

Brian Heater and Alex Zalben stop by to recommend their favorite graphic novels as of late.

Brian recommends Aesthetics: A Memoir by Ivan Brunetti. A self-taught artist, illustrator for the New Yorker, and currently on faculty at Columbia College Chicago, Brunetti examines his many influences and how they combined to make his unique, simple, DIY style.

Alex suggests Matt Kindt's Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes. In the town of Red Wheelbarrow, no crime gets by Detective Gould. But can this hardboiled detective connect the dots between a young woman who obsessively steals chairs, a man who carts dirt around town, and a photographer whose subject matter is others' private tragedies?

Brian Heater is the author of BoingBoing's comics column, Comics Rack. He also hosts the new podcast, Recommended if you Like.

Alex Zalben is a producer for MTV Geek and host of the Nerdist podcast Comic Book Club.

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An early "nerd" sketch on Saturday Night Live

Nerding It Up With Benjamin Nugent

This interview originally aired in 2008.

Benjamin Nugent's book American Nerd explores a people and their history. Nerds have been an archetype for decades now. But where did they come from? What is a "nerd", anyway? Benjamin Nugent set out to write a loving portrait of nerds and nerdiness -- including his own.

He talks to us about the origins of "nerds" in the humor pages of college newspapers, Saturday Night Live's first dig at nerds , and the underappreciated toughness of his nerdy friends in middle school.

Nugent released a novel, Good Kids, earlier this year.

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The Outshot: Thief

Jesse recommends the 1981 noir Thief, starring James Caan. It's a crime thriller about one last job, but it's just as much about running from loneliness as it is about running from the cops. Director Michael Mann infuses it with a cool, dark beauty unlike any robbery film you've seen.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Charlie Wilson of the Gap Band, Mark Frauenfelder

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Mark Frauenfelder Recommends: "Good Dog" and Super Durak

Mark Frauenfelder, founder of BoingBoing and host of the Gweek podcast joins us to weigh on his latest obsessions in the form of geeky pop culture. This time, it's Graham Chaffee's Good Dog and the virtual version of Russian card game Super Durak, for iOs.

Chaffee's book, out this week, is a tour through a stray dog's life as he weighs a life of independence against the security of being a house pet, exploring the psychology of dogs in a vein similar to White Fang. Frauenfelder also suggests downloading the Super Durak app for a card game with a unique twist -- there are no winners.

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Charlie Wilson: Creating Funk Jams with the Gap Band, Overcoming Addiction, and Recovering a Career

From his years as the frontman of the funk-R&B group the Gap Band, to singing hooks for rappers like Snoop Dogg and Kanye West, to his solo career recording R&B hits in his airy tenor, Charlie Wilson has been all about music. He grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the son of a Pentecostal preacher and a music minister mother. Wilson spent his early years singing for his father's congregation and formed the Gap Band with his brothers, Ronnie and Robert, as a teenager.

In the late 1970s and early 80s, the Gap Band took their signature funk and R&B sound and made chart-topping hits like "Burn Rubber on Me", "Outstanding", "You Dropped a Bomb on Me", and "Party Train". The band's management was rocky in the mid 1980s, and Wilson's life took a downturn. A few years later, he was addicted to drugs and living on the streets. But a love for music and sense of pride helped right the course, and he retooled his career into Grammy-nominated solo work.
Wilson talks to us about crafting the now-classic sounds of the Gap Band, encounters with Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone, and why he returned to music after years of isolation and addiction.

Charlie Wilson's newest record is Love, Charlie. He'll receive BET's Lifetime Achievement Award on June 30th.

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Comedy: Al Madrigal Meets the "Cholo Soccer Dad"

There's a very specific kind of subculture you might encounter in East Los Angeles. Al Madrigal explains his encounter with it in this clip from his new stand up special, Why Is the Rabbit Crying?.

Al Madrigal is a stand up comic. You can catch him on the road in selected cities this summer and fall, and on TV as The Daily Show's Latino Correspondent.

The Outshot: "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton" by The Mountain Goats

Jesse explores a song about two high school friends, a death metal band, and dreams. It's "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton".

The Mountain Goats are on tour this summer. You can find those dates on their website.

Got a cultural gem of your own? Share your own Outshot on the MaxFun Forums.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Nile Rodgers, Mark Frauenfelder

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Mark Frauenfelder Recommends: The Hunter by Richard Stark and Every Noise At Once

BoingBoing founder and editor Mark Frauenfelder joins us to share a few of his all-time favorite pop culture picks. His first recommendation is The Hunter, a dark 1962 novel reminiscent of antihero-driven television shows like Breaking Bad. Next, you'll need something to soothe your senses – how about some new music? Check out Every Noise At Once, a website that introduces listeners to obscure genres from Arab soul to zouk.

Disco Pioneer Nile Rodgers on Producing Hits, The Legacy of Disco, and the "Deep Hidden Meaning"

You might not recognize Nile Rodgers, who began his music career as part of the purposely faceless band Chic -- but you'd definitely know his music if you heard it. He founded Chic with bassist Bernard Edwards, launched a string of hits including "Le Freak" and "Good Times", and went on to become a songwriting and producing superstar with a tried-and-true formula.

The anthem "We are Family"? That's one of his, too. He was behind Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out", David Bowie's "Let's Dance", and Madonna's "Like a Virgin". He continues to make and perform music, both with Chic and as a producer. This month, you can hear him on Daft Punk's new album Random Access Memories, contributing a signature guitar sound to the single "Get Lucky".

Back in 2011, Rodgers spoke with us about a beatnik childhood, decades of writing hits (including the gay anthem "I'm Coming Out" for Diana Ross), and the legacy of disco.

His memoir is Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny.

(This interview originally aired in November 2011.)

Nichols and May Examine Doctors

Who are Mike Nichols and Elaine May? You might know them both for their film and theater work (among many other things, Nichols directed The Graduate and May helmed The Heartbreak Kid). But first, they performed as a improvisational comedy duo in the early 1960s on TV and on bestselling comedy albums, often fixed on skewering relationships. Case in point: a classic comedy sketch from 1962's Nichols and May Examine Doctors, in which a workplace fling becomes a matter of life or death.

Nichols and May Examine Doctors was recently reissued as a CD and digital download.

The Outshot: Bill Cunningham New York

Jesse examines the often superficial fashion world and finds a stunningly sincere and emotional portrait of a man. The man is New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, and the portrait is Richard Press's biographical documentary Bill Cunningham New York.

(This segment originally aired in April 2012.)

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Big Boi, Catherine O'Hara, and Pop Culture Advice

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Griffin McElroy

It's the final week of MaxFunDrive! Visit maximumfun.org/donate to find out more and support this show.

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Recommendations with Mark Frauenfelder: Bunk and Marijuanamerica

This week's recommendations come from BoingBoing founder and Gweek host Mark Frauenfelder. His first suggestion is Bunk, a game for iOS that makes good use of your vocabulary, your friends, and your ability to convincingly make stuff up. Looking for something to read? He also suggests Marijuanamerica, a new book about a man who tours the US to understand America's love/hate relationship with pot.

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Hip Hop Icon Big Boi: Getting Familiar with Uncharted Territory

The rapper and producer Big Boi has sold over 50 million records as a solo artist and as half of the platinum-selling hip hop duo OutKast. The innovative Atlanta-based group broke out in the mid-1990s with "Rosa Parks" and "Elevators", then followed up with crossover pop hits like "The Way You Move" and "Bombs Over Baghdad".

OutKast found huge commercial success with an experimental brand of hip hop, eschewing old-school samples in favor of new sounds. Big Boi has been the more musically prolific member of the group. He's gone on to produce several solo albums and collaborate with artists across the music spectrum, from fellow ATL-based rapper Ludacris to funk-master George Clinton to the indie rock band Wavves. He's headed out on the nearly 50-city "Shoes for Running" tour to support his newest release, Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors.

Big Boi joins us to talk about the early days recording in an clay-walled basement, coming to terms with fame, and where to go musically when you've hit monumental commercial success.

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Pop Culture Advice from My Brother, My Brother and Me

MaximumFun's own McElroy Brothers provide advice to wayward individuals – some more wayward than others – on their weekly podcast, My Brother, My Brother and Me. This week, they're helping out Bullseye listeners with their pop-culture quandaries. For instance: are you allowed to like dubstep and be from the suburbs?

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Catherine O'Hara on Being Slightly, Perfectly Odd

Catherine O'Hara's work embodies a particularly special brand of comic absurdity. She helped launch SCTV alongside other burgeoning comedy greats like John Candy and Eugene Levy, quit the show, but still moved on to star in blockbuster comedies. She became spiritually possessed in Beetlejuice, played a memorable, anxiety-ridden mother to Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, and became a critical part of Christopher Guest's ensemble mockumentaries, like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show.

More recently, she's been in HBO's critically-acclaimed biopic Temple Grandin and Tim Burton's Frankenweenie, and she'll star in a Fox comedy pilot later this year.

O'Hara talks to us about the difficulties of being a woman in the SCTV writers' room, creating memorable characters with her longtime friend and collaborator Eugene Levy, and her own secret comedic formula.

Oh, and in this outtake, hear about the best boyfriend ever: Dan Akroyd.

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The Outshot: Fast, Cheap & Out of Control

At first, Errol Morris's documentary Fast, Cheap & Out of Control looks like it's about four men and their professional occupations: a lion tamer, a topiarist, a roboticist, a scientist who studies naked mole rats. But the movie is about much more than just weird jobs.

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Special thanks this week to FreeSound.org user juskiddink for the sound effects used during our BoatParty.biz promo.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: NBC’s Must See TV with Warren Littlefield, former NBC executive

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Comics with Alex and Brian: Other Stuff and Relish: My Life In The Kitchen

BoingBoing comics editor Brian Heater and MTV Geek's Alex Zalben are here to talk comics. Brian suggests checking out Peter Bagge's Other Stuff, a collection of the cartoonist's side projects since the 90s. Alex's pick is Relish: My Life In The Kitchen, a unique comic that's part memoir and part cookbook.

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Former NBC President Warren Littlefield on Making Must-See TV

In the late 1970s and early 80s, NBC had a lot in common with...well, NBC today. The network was consistently behind in the ratings, with not a whole lot to lose. That might partially explain why a young executive named Warren Littlefield was able to approve a couple of shows that, on paper, didn’t look all that promising. One of them found itself with the lowest ratings in all of TV at the end of the first season. The other show was a family sitcom that ABC rejected, after executives there proclaimed that family sitcoms were dead. Not the best odds, right? But those two shows – Cheers and The Cosby Show, respectively – went on to become two of the most important sitcoms in television’s history, leading directly to the development of the Thursday night powerhouse that was Must-See TV.

Littlefield left NBC in 1998; since then, the network's fortunes have changed pretty dramatically and Must-See TV no longer exists for ANY channel. So Littlefield is taking a look back at NBC's glory years in an oral history called Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV, which was just released in paperback. Littlefield joins us to discuss how NBC's shows changed primetime, how the shows forged intimate connections with viewers, and the pleasures and sorrows of working with a pre-rehab Kelsey Grammer.

BUT WAIT -- there's more. If you want to know why Warren thinks Norm MacDonald was fired from SNL, or why he backed Leno as the successor to the Late Night throne... Listen here for an extended cut of our interview with him, and share it with your friends.


Canonball with Oliver Wang: Al Green’s I’m Still In Love With You

In Canonball, we take a flying leap into the canon of popular music. We're joined by professor and music writer Oliver Wang to talk about an Al Green album that deserves your attention. No, it's not Green's chart-topping record Let's Stay Together. Wang says that it was Al Green's followup to that album that really rattled him to his core.

Wang talks to us about 1973's I'm Still in Love with You, the record that created a new kind of soul music. Green's beautiful, if flawed voice, was merged with Willie Mitchell's innovative rhythm section and a new sound emerged.

You can find Oliver Wang's thoughts on soul rarities and more on his blog, Soul Sides.

Special thanks to Chris Berube, who edited Canonball for us this week.

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The Outshot: Where The Wild Things Are

What do you do when you’re mad? Not just a little miffed, but angry – so angry that you’re shaking? Jesse finds a way out through Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Simon Rich and Bill Burr

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Mark Frauenfelder Recommends: Spaceteam and The Magazine

Mark Frauenfelder of BoingBoing and the Gweek podcast joins us again this week to talk about some of his current favorite things. Mark suggests a turn at the multiplayer iPhone game Spaceteam, which is all about yelling techno-gibberish at friends. In the mood for something a little more quiet? Mark also recommends The Magazine, a minimalist, ad-free digital publication "for geeks and curious people."

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Comedy Writer Simon Rich: Why Writing Like a Child Can Be a Good Thing

Simon Rich got his first book deal in 2007. Since then, he’s published five books, received a nomination for the Thurber Prize for American Humor, contributed regular essays to the New Yorker, and worked on Saturday Night Live as a staff writer (which he recently left for a top-secret writing job at Pixar). How old is he? 29. Basically, Simon Rich has his act together.

The characters he writes about? Not so much. His latest book, The Last Girlfriend on Earth, is a collection of vignettes about lost characters coming to terms with love. And these aren’t your typical stories of romance and heartbreak; in true Simon Rich fashion, his stories make the mundane profound and vice-versa. (No one else can write a story about God’s girlfriend and follow it up with a touching monologue from a prophylactic’s POV.)

Simon sits down with Jesse to discuss the autobiographical elements of his stories, the appeal of writing from a child’s point of view, and how love is a lot like heroin.

Simon Rich’s new book of essays, The Last Girlfriend on Earth, is available in bookstores everywhere.

Want to hear about Simon's obsession with The Simpsons? It's here, in a longer cut of our interview. Click to embed and share it with your friends.


Comedy: Eugene Mirman Discovers a Notebook From His Past

Digging through old stuff from your childhood can be a lot of different things – insightful, hilarious, wistful, nostalgic. But in comedian Eugene Mirman’s case, it was just embarrassing. In this clip from his latest special, Eugene describes a childhood relic, found in his parents’ basement.

Eugene Mirman’s new special, An Evening of Comedy in a Fake Underground Laboratory, is now available as a combination CD/DVD.

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Bill Burr On Confrontation and Comedy

Conventional wisdom amongst standup comics dictates that a crowd has to be on your side before you can make them laugh. It’s good general advice, but it’s not advice that Bill Burr follows – and he’s all the better for it.

Bill Burr’s comedy is, in a word, aggressive. It’s not just that he looks and sounds tough, qualities that have landed him voice acting work in Grand Theft Auto IV and guest appearances on Breaking Bad. Aggression and confrontation are at the core of Bill’s act; he’s not afraid to curse out unruly audience members or start a set with a joke that, in a lesser comic’s hands, might totally alienate a crowd. But his comedy isn’t all tough-guy machismo. He’s just as likely to direct a rant at himself as he is others, a quality that makes his work all the more hilarious and human.

Bill spoke with Jesse a few years ago to talk about Bill’s style of comedy, challenging himself and audiences in his act, and every performer’s most dreaded nightmare: having to follow a dog or child onstage.

His latest special, You People Are All The Same (which was the subject of a recent Outshot), is streaming on Netflix.

This interview originally aired in October 2010.

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The Outshot: Solomon Burke’s "Soul Alive"

On this week’s Outshot, Jesse tears the house down with a timeless live album. It’s Solomon Burke’s "Soul Alive."

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Moshe Kasher, Undefeated, Lateef the Truth Speaker

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Comics with Alex and Brian: Wimbledon Green and reMIND

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.

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Comedian Moshe Kasher on Growing Up and Getting Right

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.

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Lateef the Truthspeaker on "The Song That Changed My Life"

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.

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Undefeated: The Story of the Underdog

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.

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The Outshot: Witchdoctor's "A S.W.A.T. Healin' Ritual"

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.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: George Saunders and Maria Bamford

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Comics Recommendations: Hawkeye and Don't Go Where I Can't Follow

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.

Brian Heater curates Boing Boing’s comics column, and Alex Zalben writes about comics for MTV Geek.

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George Saunders on Creative Challenge and Financial Pressure

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).

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Maria Bamford: Comedy's Orchid

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.

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The Outshot: William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe"

Jesse ruminates on alone time and... William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe".

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Nick Kroll, Billy Eichner, Brad Tolinski

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Nick Kroll
Guests: 
Billy Eichner
Guests: 
Brad Tolinski
Guests: 
Mark Frauenfelder

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Mark Frauenfelder Recommends: The Struggle for Catan and Anomia

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."

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Nick Kroll in character as "Aspen Bruckenheimer"

Nick Kroll on Finding Comedy in Humanity's Worst

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.

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Canonball: A Tour of Led Zeppelin's III with Brad Tolinski

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.

This week, we're joined by Brad Tolinski, editor-in-chief of Guitar World and author of the new book Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page.

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.

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Billy Eichner and the Pop Culture Maniac That is Billy on the Street

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.

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The Outshot: João Gilberto

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.

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