We're delighted to have blogger, book critic, and LA Times writer Carolyn Kellogg with us to give this week's pop culture picks. Her first suggestion is Ken Ilgunas's Walden on Wheels, a memoir about a three-year cross-country journey that he took to pay off his student loans. If you're looking for something from the world of fiction, Kellogg says to check out Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, a darkly funny novel about an early 20th century girl that Atkinson repeatedly (and gleefully) kills off over the course of the novel.
It seems strange now, but when Huey Lewis and The News released their first record in 1979, music executives weren't expecting them to become a huge success. With bombastic hair bands on one end of the rock spectrum and sneering punk rockers on the other, there didn't seem to be much of a place for Lewis and company's fun, bluesy pub-rock. But thumbing their noses at industry naysayers turned out to be the right move for Huey Lewis and The News. Case in point: 1983's Sports, their first record to hit number one on the Billboard charts.
Thirty years later, the band's commemorating the thirty-year anniversary of that album with an expanded re-issue of Sports, featuring remastered tracks and live versions of songs like "The Heart of Rock & Roll" and "I Want a New Drug". Huey Lewis sat down with Jesse to talk about the album that brought them to stardom, as well as his experiences writing songs for Back to the Future and Pineapple Express, how to stow away on an airplane to Europe (well, it worked in the seventies), and how a trip to Morocco convinced him that a career in music was possible.
Huey Lewis and The News' 30th Anniversary Edition of Sports will be released on May 14. For more information about the band and their US tour, you can check out their website.
(And as a bonus for our podcast listeners: want to hear about how Huey Lewis met Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, and just about every other super-famous singer…all in one night? Then be sure to check out our extended interview with him on our SoundCloud page, where he talks about recording the eighties anthem "We Are The World".)
Remember the seventies, before phones got smart? It was a simpler time. There were no apps, no texts, and jailbreaking was something you could only do in a prison. But there was still plenty of trouble to get into using a phone.
As Phil Lapsley explains in his new book, Exploding The Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws who Hacked Ma Bell, the early seventies marked the beginning of phone phreaking. Phreaking involved tricking the systems that controlled phone lines by re-creating frequencies that phones used to communicate with one another. Just by using a tone-generating device called a blue box, a phone phreaker could fool phone networks into connecting them to long-distance calls – calls that usually cost hundreds of dollars – for free. But it didn't take long for phone companies to take notice.
In this interview, Lapsley explains that phone phreaking changed the world as we know it. He talks about why phone companies were initially hesitant to prosecute phreakers, why enthusiasts involved with phreaking despite having no one in particular to call, and why Steve Jobs once said that there'd be no Apple without phone phreaking.
Exploding the Phone is available now. And if you pick up a copy of the book, keep an eye out for phone numbers in the text... They could lead you to some interesting places.
There's a pretty simple formula to Antiques Roadshow: someone comes in with a knickknack and has it assessed by an expert. Next comes everyone's favorite part: the big reveal, where they find out what their item is really worth. That's part's pretty great, Jesse says – but there's something about Antiques Roadshow that he loves even more.
It's the final week of MaxFunDrive! Visit maximumfun.org/donate to find out more and support this show.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Special thanks this week to FreeSound.org user juskiddink for the sound effects used during our BoatParty.biz promo.
It's the MaxFunDrive, April 1st - 12th! Visit maximumfun.org/donate to find out more and support this show.
Erik Adams and Claire Zulkey from The AV Club join us this week to talk about what you should be watching this spring. Erik's pick is Happy Endings, a great sitcom from ABC with undeservedly less-than-great ratings. And speaking of ABC sitcoms: Claire's recommendation is Suburgatory, a single-camera sitcom about a couple of Manhattanites who make the big move upstate.
Lily Tomlin has a remarkable range as an actress and comedian. Whether she's playing a precocious six-year-old on Laugh-In or a pill-popping sixty-six year old on HBO's Eastbound and Down; whatever character she plays, Lily inhabits her roles in a way that few performers can.
Now, she appears in the new film Admission, playing a tough second-wave feminist mom to an uptight college admissions officer played by Tina Fey. Though she may not have as much screen time as Fey, Tomlin made the most of the role (and insisted on the proper accoutrements, including a fake tattoo of founding feminist Bella Abzug).
Lily talks to us about shaping her role in Admission, the moment that she decided she wanted to be a professional actor...and yes, a certain YouTube-famous confrontation (link NSFW) with I Heart Huckabees director David O. Russell.
Admission is in theaters now.
But wait! There's more! Click here for an extended interview with Lily Tomlin for talk about how she develops her characters, coming out of the closet as a performer, and why her main priority as a comedian isn't getting laughs. And don't forget to share this one with your friends – it's too good to keep to yourself!
FOUND Magazine co-creator and editor Davy Rothbart is back again to share more pieces of lost and found ephemera: receipts, notes, and letters with stories behind them that we can only imagine...or laugh at.
Davy's new book of personal essays is called My Heart Is an Idiot. FOUND Magazine is on its eighth issue and posts new finds all the time on their website. If you've got a cool find, be sure to share it with them.
When Neil DeGrasse Tyson was a kid, he had a plan: he wanted to be an astrophysicist. But the adults around him had other plans. They thought he'd make a great athlete. But Neil stuck to his guns, and now he's one of the most famous astrophysicists in the world – heck, one of the only famous astrophysicists in the world.
But how did he persevere? Or, to use his words: why was it that he took the "path of most resistance" when there were plenty of other, easier paths around him? Ultimately, it was his passion for the universe itself that kept him going.
Neil joins us to talk about why he thinks the universe is more awesome than anything else...and to maybe try to help Jesse get over his fear of outer space.
Neil is the host of StarTalk, director of the Hayden Planetarium and the author of Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, out now in paperback.
This week, the big thing on Jesse's mind is baseball, specifically opening day – not just for the excitement of the game itself, but for the new beginnings it brings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
This interview originally aired in October 2010.
On this week’s Outshot, Jesse tears the house down with a timeless live album. It’s Solomon Burke’s "Soul Alive."
Julie brings the case against her husband Jason. Julie says Jason is a book hoarder, letting old novels and textbooks rot away in their garage. He says he's acquired a great collection of books and is working his way through the stacks. Who is right? Who is wrong? ONLY ONE MAN CAN DECIDE.
Special thanks to listener Steve Ciabattoni for suggesting a variation of this week's title!
The pop culture luminaries at the AV Club return to recommend some of their favorite new releases. Josh Modell suggests a listen to the new album Amok from Atoms for Peace, a supergroup featuring Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Scott Tobias recommends a new Romanian drama, Beyond the Hills. The movie enters limited US release on March 8th.
Josh Modell is the AV Club's Managing Editor and Scott Tobias is the site's Film Editor.
When he was a kid growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, Andrew Rannells never pictured his face beaming out to millions of television screens. He loved acting, but his future was on the stage. The most realistic way to make it big? Broadway.
Now, he's garnered a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Elder Price in the Broadway run of The Book of Mormon and made his way to TV, co-starring in The New Normal on NBC and popping up as a regular on HBO's Girls.
Andrew talks to us about growing up gay in Nebraska, finding his characters' voices for The Book of Mormon and The New Normal -- and how to avoid uncomfortable moments when
filming nude scenes.
The New Normal airs Tuesdays at 9:30 / 8:30c on NBC. A new episode, "Rocky Bye Baby", airs this evening.
Thao Nguyen fronts the folk-pop band Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. The band's new album, We The Common, has an intense and spirited sound. The songs feature rhythmic guitar, taut drums, and Nguyen's clear and passionate vocals.
Thao remembers when music became important to her and the song that changed her life -- Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got a Hold On Me."
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down head out on a cross-country tour this week. Find their tourdates and more information here.
Jim Lehrer anchored the Newshour on PBS for more than three decades and remains its executive editor to this day. He's also moderated twelve presidential debates and in 2011 he wrote a memoir about those experiences called Tension City. Yet another hat that Lehrer wears is that of a novelist. He's written 20 of them, the most recent of which is a charming mystery called Super.
Lehrer talks to us about his early job at a bus depot, the benefits of producing media on a tight budget, and the role public broadcasting ought to play in the future.
[This interview originally aired in May, 2010]
Jesse suggests a look at his favorite Mike Judge creation. It's not Beavis and Butthead, and it's not Office Space. It's a low-key workplace comedy starring Jason Bateman, called Extract.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And if you're in the San Francisco Bay area this weekend, come join us at a live taping of Bullseye at the Punchline Comedy Club as part of SF Sketchfest. We'll talk to 99% Invisible host Roman Mars, The Coup's MC Boots Riley, and more. Find tickets and more details here!
The AV Club's Head Writer Nathan Rabin and Music Editor Marah Eakin join us to share some favorite new releases.
Nathan recommends the new DVD release of the documentary film The Imposter: the gripping story of a man who impersonates a family's long-lost son. Marah suggests a listen to the new collaborative album by the Scottish indie band Frightened Rabbit, called Pedestrian Verse.
Maybe you've seen the cult film The Big Lebowski. Maybe you've seen it more than once. The movie lends itself to repeat viewings: it's chock-full of amazing and delirious visuals and wickedly funny and quotable dialogue. But what kind of wisdom can one gain from The Dude, the film's chilled-out slacker hero who's trying simply to "abide"? Maybe the key to living a more Zen life?
The Dude himself, Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges, and the renowned buddhist teacher and social activist Roshi Bernie Glassman join us to talk about following The Dude's example, loving, living life and some of the other philosophical riffing from their new book, The Dude and the Zen Master.
Mike Wiebe, vocalist for the punk band The Riverboat Gamblers, reveals the song that changed his life: The Dictators' "Faster and Louder", from 1978's Bloodbrothers. The song showed Wiebe that goofiness and edge weren't mutually exclusive, and inspired the Gamblers' beginnings.
The Riverboat Gamblers have honed their brand of melodic punk rock over the past fifteen years. Last year saw the release of their sixth full-length album, The Wolf You Feed. The band kicks off a European tour this spring.
H. Jon Benjamin is a writer, comedian and a prolific voice actor, but he's not exactly the man of a million voices. In fact, he's really the man of one voice, which depending on the setting could be the shiftless son on Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, the misanthropic dad of Fox's Bob's Burgers, or a self-involved secret agent on FX's Archer. Benjamin has appeared in his own physical form on shows like Parks and Recreation, and in 2011 created and starred in the Comedy Central series Jon Benjamin Has a Van.
Benjamin talks to us about and how his career in comedy and voice acting came together, the humble beginnings of the beloved animated series Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, and the perks inherent in voicing the super-spy and super-jerk Sterling Archer.
This week, Jesse pays tribute to the documentarian Huell Howser -- a California transplant with a Tennessee drawl and perpetual and infectious sense of wonder.
Andrew Noz joins us this week to share a couple of his current favorite rap tracks. His first pick is Mouse On Tha Track's smooth and mellow "Get High Get Loaded," featuring Fiend. His second recommendation is Mystikal's incredible new song "Hit Me."
Aimee Mann rose to prominence in the 80s with the success of her new wave band 'Til Tuesday's single, "Voices Carry," but she found the limelight uncomfortable. Tired of contending with record companies' attempts to pigeonhole her and her work, Aimee struck out on her own. She joins us this week to discuss that transition from frontwoman to solo artist, the stresses of fame, and coping with uncertainty at a time in her life when she thought she would have had everything figured out.
Aimee's new album, Charmer, is available now.
2013 is a whole new year chock full of things that want ranking -- who has the time to tackle that task? Fortunately, we have Jordan Morris to tell us what's what!
Seth Godin is best known as a marketing guru, but he brings far more compassion and genuine insight to his work than the title might lead you to expect. And his observations aren't just valuable for CEOs. He makes his work for content creators operating on every scale. He joins us this week to delve into the "assets that matter" -- the qualities and values critical to creating great, meaningful work.
Seth Godin's new books are V Is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?, and Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck?.
Trickery and deception are featured prominently in some of Orson Welles's finest works, so it is fitting that the existence of an objective truth and its relative importance is most thoroughly explored in Welles's final major film, F for Fake. Part documentary, part film essay, F for Fake features tricks and truths layered atop each other, creating a mesmerizing narrative.