Bullseye with Jesse Thorn

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Bob Odenkirk & Rickey Vincent

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Bob Odenkirk: Cult-Comedy Icon, Reluctant Celebrity

Millions of Breaking Bad fans know Bob Odenkirk as sleazy criminal lawyer, Saul Goodman. He has reprised the role the spin-off show Better Call Saul which is in its second season.

But comedy fans already knew about Odenkirk from another show -- Mr. Show with Bob and David. Odenkirk’s outrageous and profanity-ridden outbursts were a staple of his performances and helped make him a cult-comedy icon.

Before that he wrote for Saturday Night Live. Perhaps his most notable work was co-writing the sketch Down by the River The bit featured a 35-year-old divorcee motivational speaker played by Chris Farley and is considered one of the best sketches in the history of the SNL.

When Mr. Show ended, Odenkirk appeared in a number of one-off roles for TV before working behind the camera. He directed Let’s Go to Prison, Melvin Goes to Dinner and The Brothers Solomon. Even though he loves directing, it’ll be a while before he decides to gives it another shot. He’ll explain.

Odenkirk talks to us about why writing timeless humor is so difficult, transitioning from comedy to drama and why he still doesn’t consider himself a celebrity.

Odenkirk will also read a selection from his collection of short-fiction humor. It’s called A Load of Hooey and is available now.

Better Call Saul airs Monday nights at 10 pm on AMC.

Cannonball: Touring Parliament's Mothership Connection with Rickey Vincent

Every so often we like to take a closer look at albums that should be considered classics, to find out what makes them great. It's Cannonball.

This week we're joined by author, historian and self-described funkateer, Rickey Vincent. He's going to talk about Parliament's landmark R&B album, Mothership Connection. The album is at once a celebration of the past and a glimpse into the future. It touches on a lot of traditional soul ideas, but delivered with a new funky edge. Vincent will explain more.

Vincent's recent book is called PARTY MUSIC: The Inside Story of the Black Panthers Band and How Black Power Transformed Soul Music. You can also hear his radio show The History of Funk on KPFA.

The Outshot: Why Can't We Live Together by Timmy Thomas

Jesse tells us about a song that makes him imagine a better world: the simple but powerful Why Can't We Live Together by Timmy Thomas.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Gillian Jacobs & Jonathan Gold

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Gillian Jacobs on Surviving Juilliard and the Unique Challenges and Joys of Working on NBC's "Community"

Gillian Jacobs may never know what it’s like to play the ingenue. As an actress, she has an energy that’s hard to pin down, but it’s anything but naive. After a tough stint at Juilliard's acting school, Jacobs pursued a career in film and television, often being cast in dark, gritty roles. However, in 2009 her career took a sudden lurch in the opposite direction when she was cast in a very different role.

Her breakout role was as Britta Perry, the confident and outspoken student opposite Joel McHale’s self-involved lawyer-turned-study group leader Jeff Winger on Community. Britta is exceptionally eager, mostly to the vexation of her peers who often voice their displeasure at her stances on social issues. Her friends often describe her as "the worst", but she's ever-confident in her own identity.

When Jacobs signed up for the role in Community, all she knew was that Joel McHale had been cast in it, but she soon realized that it would be a very unique and ambitious show.
In this extended conversation with Jacobs, we'll talk about why she didn't fit in at Juilliard, her big break on Community, and get a peek behind the scenes on a beloved but aggrieved network show.

Jacobs currently stars in the Netflix comedy Love alongside Paul Rust. Love's first season is available for streaming on Netflix.

The interview originally aired in October 2013.

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Photo: Anne Fishbein

Food Critic Jonathan Gold on Los Angeles and High and Low Dining

The Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold joins us to talk about -- what else? -- food. With his enthusiastic and equal opportunity criticism, he's become known as the authority on where and what to eat in Los Angeles.

His award-winning work has regularly appeared in numerous newspapers including the LA Weekly and the Los Angeles Times, the latter where he is currently a regularly columnist. His articles and reviews have also appeared in Blender, Spin, Rolling Stone and Gourmet magazines. Along with the Pulitzer, he was the first food writer to be honored as a National Magazine Award finalist in criticism by the American Society of Magazine Editors

He joined Jesse to talk about how he manages the day to day eating, the one food fear he just can't overcome, his thoughts and high and low dining and more. Jonathan is also the author of the highly regarded food guide to LA, Counter Intelligence, which details some of his best food discoveries.

Gold is the subject of a new documentary called City of Gold, which is in theaters next week.

The interview originally aired in December 2011.

The Outshot: Sly and the Family Stone's Perfect Album

Jesse explains how Sly and the Family Stone made a perfect album, even as they slowly disintegrated as a group.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Dwayne Kennedy & Noel Fielding

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Dwayne Kennedy on His Debut EP, Using Jokes About Race as a Barometer, and Playing Different Kinds of Crowds

Dwayne Kennedy has been in the stand up comedy game for about thirty years now, performing everywhere, from Showtime at the Apollo to the Late Show with David Letterman, but he's still a bit of a comic's comic.

He'll talk to Jesse about why he's recorded plenty of his sets, but is only releasing his debut stand up EP this month. Plus, he'll explain how he's adapted his comedy for different audiences and how he's used jokes about race as a barometer.

His debut record is called Oh No! It's Dwayne Kennedy and is available now on Bandcamp. You can also check out Dwayne Kennedy's site for a schedule of his upcoming shows. See if he's coming to a city near you!

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Photo by Jesse Thorn

British Cult Comic Noel Fielding on 'The Mighty Boosh' and Creating New Worlds

If audiences in the United States know Noel Fielding, it's for his cult comedy show The Mighty Boosh, a comedy double-act turned radio program and then TV show. It aired here on Cartoon Network's adult swim. But Fielding is much better known in his native UK for not only the Boosh (which has done arena tours) but his appearances on quiz shows and his specific sense of style.

Fielding is touring the United States this spring with a live show called An Evening with Noel Fielding, which features some of his beloved characters and frequent collaborators (like Rich Fulcher).

Fielding sits down with us to talk about his comedy "marriage" with his Mighty Boosh creative partner Julian Barratt, his personal aesthetic, and creating new worlds on the radio, on TV, and on the stage.

His show The Mighty Boosh is available now on Seeso.com. Find out if An Evening with Noel Fielding is coming to a city near you by checking out Fielding's site.

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The Outshot: Beyoncé's "Formation" and Taking Space

Jesse considers the backlash to Beyoncé's new single, and explains why he thinks it's worth your attention.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Kaitlin Olson & Jeff Chang

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Kaitlin Olson on "Sweet Dee" and the Morally Bankruptcy in It's Always Sunny on Philadelphia

Kaitlin Olson plays Sweet Dee on the long-running sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Dee is the only female member of "The Gang", a bunch of depraved, self-centered pals who run a bar. The Gang is constantly looking for ways to get rich quick, humiliate their enemies, get out of work, and prove once and for all the talent, charisma and brilliance they hold to be self-evident. In an unusual move for a solo female character, Dee doesn't serve to counterbalance the guys' bad behavior -- she absolutely matches their pace.

Olson talks to us about creating a more fully-fleshed character for Dee, how she came to comedy, and how she ended up dating (and marrying) her showrunner.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia just began its eleventh season. It airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on FXX.

This interview originally aired in January 2015.

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Photo credit: Jeremy Keith Villaluz

Jeff Chang on Art, Race, and How Diversity Now Means "Them"

About ten years ago, Jeff Chang published his book Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. His new book is a sort of follow-up -- it chronicles some of the cultural and racial shifts we've experienced as a nation. It's called Who We Be: The Colorization of America. It's now available in paperback.

Chang talks to us about what "diversity" means to us today, the struggle for artists to defy racial categorization, and how and why corporations embraced multiculturalism.

This interview originally aired in January 2015.

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The Outshot: What It Means to Be Superhuman

Jesse tells us about the life and legend of Andre the Giant.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Best of Comedy of 2015 Special

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We gave our staff the awesome responsibility of choosing the best comedy albums of 2015. They listened to hours and hours of material, and we're now prepared to showcase some of the best comedy released in the past year.

Like what you hear? Click through to find their albums!

Kyle Kinane - I Liked His Old Stuff Better
Emily Heller - Good for Her
Ron Funches - The Funches of Us
Sara Schaefer - Chrysalis
Hampton Yount - Bearable
Drennon Davis & Karen Kilgariff - I Don’t Care, I Like It
Mike O'Brien - Tasty Radio
Eddie Pepitone - In Ruins
Sheng Wang - Cornucopias Are Actually Horrible Containers
Guy Branum - Effable
Aziz Ansari - Buried Alive
Eugene Mirman - I’m Sorry (You’re Welcome)
Eliza Skinner - Recorded Live at MaxFunCon 2014 - Angry Little Goats Podcast
Matt Braunger - Big Dumb Animal
Wayne Federman - Chronicles of Federman
Beth Stelling - Simply the Beth

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: John Cleese & Dee Dee Penny

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John Cleese on His Early Life and the Road to Comedy

John Cleese is one of the most influential figures of comedy. He's best known as one the creative forces behind the legendary comedy troupe Monty Python. But before that, he was almost a lawyer.

Cleese went to Cambridge, studied law, and was about to accept a job with a big firm when another opportunity came up. This one was perhaps slightly less distinguished, but infinitely more appealing to Cleese. The BBC was impressed by his work with his college comedy revue, The Footlights, and offered him a job writing and producing comedy.

In his memoir So, Anyway… Cleese discusses his journey, from his childhood in prep school, to his early days of sketch comedy at Cambridge, to the co-founding of the Pythons.
Cleese will talk about being one of the "scientific" minds of the Pythons, writing and re-writing with his comedy partner Graham Chapman, and how he felt about the recent Monty Python reunion.

Cleese's memoir, So, Anyway is available now in paperback.

This interview originally aired December 9, 2014.

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Dee Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls Talks about Early Days on MySpace, Creating a Persona, and Overcoming Anxiety and Stage Fright

Kristin Gundred, AKA Dee Dee Penny, is the creative force behind the band Dum Dum Girls. But she wasn't always front and center. She's played in bands for almost fifteen years now, playing drums and singing in other people's groups. Eventually she realized the only way to create the music she wanted was to do it herself. So Dee Dee created a MySpace page and started working on her music.

Now Dee Dee and Dum Dum Girls have three studio albums under their belt, including their most recent, Too True.

Dee Dee talks to Jesse about making music in her bedroom, constructing the persona of Dee Dee Dum Dum, and overcoming anxiety and stage fright to be a rock musician.

This interview originally aired August 19, 2014.

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The The Outshot: Is 'What's Up Fatlip' the Least Braggy Rap Song Ever Written?

Don't call it a comeback. Jesse tells us about the LEAST braggy rap song ever written, "What's Up Fatlip?"

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Ethan Hawke & Michaela Watkins

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Our WORLD TOUR OF SEVERAL AMERICAN CITIES kicks off this Friday November 13th in Los Angeles with William H. Macy, Matt Walsh, Brian Huskey, Chicano Batman and Baron Vaughn - get your tickets now!

Plus check us out in Boston, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Philly and DC with guests Barney Frank, Mission of Burma, Tavi Gevinson, David Cross, John Hodgman, Joel Hodgson, Ray Suarez, Dan Deacon and more. It's all at BullseyeTour.com. Don't miss it!

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Ethan Hawke Considers Life Lessons in 'Rules For a Knight'

Ethan Hawke is one of the rare actors that viewers have seen grow up in front of their eyes. They watched him as a teenager in the films Explorers and Dead Poets Society, saw him as a young adult in Reality Bites and Before Sunrise, and even saw him change over the course of twelve years of filming his Oscar-nominated turn in the Richard Linklater film, Boyhood.

Along with his work on-screen, he has also enjoyed success as a novelist with his books. His newest is a set of parables, inspired by Hawke's experiences as a parent, called Rules for a Knight. In it, a knight fears that he may not return from battle, and leaves behind a letter with important life lessons for his children. In the book, Hawke explores themes of honesty, courage, solitude and patience.

Ethan Hawke joins Jesse to share how life as a divorced father has influenced his work as an author and an actor, why child stardom was a double-edged sword, and how a favorite line from one of his films helped him to complete a marathon.

Rules for a Knight is now available in hardback and as an e-book.

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Michaela Watkins on Dating In Real Life and On-Screen, SNL, and Going For the Joke

Michaela Watkins is an actress who is in her element when she can go all-out for the joke. Whether she’s practicing sketch comedy as she did in her time with The Groundlings or her one-year stint on Saturday Night Live or performing on a sitcom like the Trophy Wife, Watkins creates characters that are both funny and memorable.

Now, Watkins brings her wit to the lead role of Valerie Myers in the new Hulu series, Casual. In it, she plays a newly divorced woman who finds herself living with her adult brother, while learning to navigate the dating world as a middle-aged woman.

Michaela Watkins joined Jesse to talk about how taking time for herself helped her to improve her relationships, the insane pacing of Saturday Night Live, and her contributions to Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.

Casual is now in its first season on Hulu.

You can find a bit of bonus audio from our interview with Michaela Watkins here.

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The Outshot: The Musicality of an MC

From the early days of rap, the role of the MC was an ancillary one. They were there to support the work of the DJ by keeping the energy level up. The rapper Rakim helped to change that by bringing the role of the MC front and center using a unique blend of words, music and an intoxicating beat.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Tig Notaro & John Darnielle

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Come see Bullseye LIVE in Los Angeles, Boston, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Philadelphia and Washington DC next month! Live interviews, comedy, music and more. Get your tickets now, they're going fast. Check out BullseyeTour.com for tickets.


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"I Have Nothing to Lose Now": Tig Notaro on Life and Stand Up Comedy After Cancer

In 2012, the stand up comic Tig Notaro had a famously bad year. She caught pneumonia, which snowballed into C. Diff. She and her girlfriend broke up. Her mother passed away unexpectedly. And then, she learned she had breast cancer.

You’re probably familiar with what came next. Notaro headed out to a stand up gig in Los Angeles, at the Largo. But she didn’t feel right performing her usual set. She decided to open up like she had never before. Hours after she received the diagnosis, she went on stage and said to the audience, “Hello, I have cancer”.

She took the audience through the pain she had experienced over the last few months. It was still in her deadpan style, with jokes and stories that were brave and sometimes uncomfortably funny.

Notaro is in remission now, and she’s continued to perform stand up. A recent documentary on her called Tig, tells the story of the Largo performance and her life since. It’s available for streaming on Netflix. Her recent national tour, Boyish Girl Interrupted is now a comedy special airing on HBO.

Tig Notaro spoke with Jesse last year.

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John Darnielle on 'Wolf in White Van', Working with Teenagers, and Artistic Responsibility

You probably know John Darnielle as a lead member (and sometimes only member) of the band The Mountain Goats. His music is known for its poignant lyrics and simple instrumentation. Darnielle started the band in 1991 and has since released 14 albums.

Now, he’s written his first novel Wolf in White Van. The novels tells the story of Sean, a young man who has survived a suicide attempt, but is horribly disfigured in the process. Sean goes on to create a mail-order role-playing game, only to find out how his imagination can have real-world consequences.

Darnielle talks to Jesse about why lyrics are so important to him, subliminal messaging, and how much artistic responsibility we should assign to writers, musicians and other creative people.

Wolf in White Van is now available in paperback.

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The Outshot: Nina Simone’s “Four Women”

Jesse talks about one of his favorite singers, Nina Simone, and “Four Women”.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jemaine Clement & Jonathan Ames

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Guests: 
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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Jemaine Clement on Fighting, Flight of the Conchords, and Comic Drama in People Places Things

Jemaine Clement’s upbringing in a small community in New Zealand could have led him to career making cookies or cheese. Instead he found a way to transform his sense of humor into a career making other stuff -- things like music and comedy.

Along with his partner, Bret McKenzie, he is a member of musical comedy duo, Flight of the Conchords which aired as a television show for two seasons on HBO. Clement has also written and produced with McKenzie and other longtime collaborators on movies like What We Do in the Shadows.

He stars in the new movie People Places Things, about a graphic novelist and professor who's grappling with loneliness and fatherhood in the wake of a breakup. The film is in theaters and available on VOD.

Clement join us to talk about working in the comic drama People Places Things, his early comedic influences back in New Zealand, the challenges he faced producing a television show, and how the word “grommet” resulted in his last physical altercation.

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Jonathan Ames on Valets, Questing and 'Blunt Talk'

Jonathan Ames is a writer who has earned a reputation for ruthless honesty when writing about his own life and those of his fictional characters. Whether the topic is alcoholism, sexuality or depression, Ames’ books and television projects delve deeply into what it means to be human, with wit and care.

Ames created the beloved HBO show Bored to Death. Now, he's the creator and showrunner of the new Starz show Blunt Talk, featuring Patrick Stewart as cable news host Walter Blunt.

Blunt Talk airs Saturday nights at 9 on the Starz network.

Ames sat down with Jesse to talk about how he came to create his new show, why he's obsessed with the "valet", and why his characters are constantly "questing" with greater purpose.

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The Outshot: The 'Who Moved My Cheese' Incident

Our takeaway? ALWAYS BE PREPARED.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Corin Tucker & Kyle Kinane

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney on The Early Riot Grrrl Scene, Finding Her Voice, and S-K's Return

Sleater-Kinney is one of the most-loved indie bands of the past two decades. The band formed in the latter days of the riot grrrl movement in Olympia, Washington, and found an intense following. They were fierce, and they let their ideas "fill the room".

After recording eight albums and tons of touring, they went on hiatus. The band's members pursued other musical and creative projects, but there was a nagging question -- what would it be like if Sleater-Kinney returned?

In January of this year, the band released a new record called No Cities to Love. It had been nearly a decade since their last LP.

Corin Tucker, the group's co-founder, joins us to talk about soaking up the punk and riot grrrl scenes of the early 1990s, finding her voice, and why Sleater-Kinney returned.

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Kyle Kinane finds "the puzzle that could never be solved" in stand up comedy

Kyle Kinane lives every day as if his good luck is about to run out. Or at least, what he considers to be good luck. Kinane has worked hard refining his stand up comedy for fifteen years and taken the leap from Chicago to Los Angeles to further his career, but part of him still can't believe he gets paid to tell jokes.

His comedy is often a special brand of self-deprecation. So many of his jokes are about him messing up. Falling out of the shower. Literally throwing away money. But he says he finds the joy in these moments.

He joins us to talk about how he started out in stand up, measuring his success in comedy, and his life philosophy of "can, so should".

Kinane's newest stand up special is called I Liked His Old Stuff Better.

Kinane's just finishing up a round of tourdates in the Midwest (if you move fast, you can catch him this week in Ohio and Indiana). You can find all of his upcoming shows on his website, or check out I Liked His Old Stuff Better in audio and video format via Comedy Central.

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The Outshot: What Will $150 Million Buy You? Blockbuster Insanity

So, is Mad Max: Fury Road really worth its $150 million budget? Jesse takes a look and finds out.

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