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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Jesse ruminates on alone time and... William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe".
Jason Kottke, master collector of the internet's most fascinating links (assembled at his website, kottke.org), shares some current favorites. He recommends diving in to explore the world's unexplained sounds and David Chang's new PBS show, The Mind of a Chef, airing now on PBS and also available online.
Years before he became famous in Britain for skewering celebrities on Popworld and Nevermind the Buzzcocks, Simon's Amstell's childhood ambition was to be on TV. And unlike most kids with dreams of TV stardom, he made it a reality -- but found it less fulfilling than he had hoped. Comedian, writer and TV host Amstell joins us this week to share his experiences in the entertainment industry, including navigating the delicate line between crafting clever comedy and bullying his celebrity guests as a TV host, writing and starring in Grandma's House, a sitcom with parallels to his own life, and seeking enlightenment on a Shamanic quest in South America.
In this era of constant hustle and bustle, who can keep up with what's HOT and what's NOT in these United States? Fortunately, expert stuff-ranker Jordan Morris joins us this week to fill us in and set us straight.
Brian K. Vaughan has the kind of strange and epic vision that's made for science fiction and fantasy. He's written award-winning comic book series like Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man, and crafted otherworldly storylines for several seasons of Lost.
His works are notable for their intimacy and beautiful, meticulously crafted characters, despite grandly epic settings. His most recent comic book series Saga is a prime example: Vaughan presents a fundamentally domestic story of parents trying to give their child a good life, backed by a colossal, galactic war. He joins us this week to share why he enjoys storytelling on a grand scale. Vaughan also explains why writing stories about lesser-known comic characters -- like Marvel's weird wildman Ka-Zar -- can be preferable to writing about the big names like Spiderman, and he tracks how fatherhood has affected his writing.
A collection of the first six issues of Brian K. Vaughan's monthly comic book series Saga is available now.
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Please be advised: the content in this week's Outshot may be objectionable to some listeners.
As more details emerge surrounding the BBC's recent horrific pedophilia scandals, Jesse recalls a special episode of the satirical UK television series Brass Eye, called Paedogeddon. The episode was made in response to a similar panic about pedophilia in Britain over a decade ago. Here's a look at Brass Eye's take on media hysteria.
Brian Heater and Alex Zalben join us this week to share some great comics. Brian recommends Skyscrapers Of The Midwest by Joshua Cotter, a beautifully illustrated story of growing up and imagination. Alex suggests Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson, an exploration of young adults living in New York in the 90s, informed by the author’s life experiences.
Brian Heater curates Boing Boing’s monthly comics round-up, Comics Rack. You can also find his work on Engadget. Alex Zalben covers comics for MTV Geek and hosts Comic Book Club Live in New York City.
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. He's added "filmmaker" to an already diverse resume with his directorial debut: the hip hop documentary Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap. The film is now available on DVD and VOD.
Ice sits down with us to talk about 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. He'll also answer that lingering question: did he ghostwrite for an 80s rap album by Mister T? This interview originally aired June 12, 2012.
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. Earlier this year, 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". This interview originally aired June 12, 2012.
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 in Damsels in Distress, Lola Versus, and Woody Allen's To Rome with Love. All are available now on DVD.
Greta joins us to discuss her artistic upbringing in Sacramento (complete with dreams of being a ballerina) and her meteoric and slightly serendipitous rise as an actress. This interview originally aired June 12, 2012.
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. This segment originally aired June 12, 2012.
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.
Brian Heater and Alex Zalben return with more of their favorite comics. Brian recommends Gabrielle Bell’s collected diary comics in The Voyeurs. Alex Zalben suggests you check out The Manhattan Projects: Volume 1, which begs the question -- what if the creation of the atomic bomb was a cover for even more sinister and weird activities?
Brian Heater is the founder of indie comics site The Daily Cross Hatch and the new comics contributor at BoingBoing. Alex Zalben writes about comics for MTV Geek and hosts NYC’s Comic Book Club Live. He’s also currently Kickstarting a new mystery comic called Detective Honeybear.
The Nigerian band leader Fela Kuti had a vision for a new kind of music that would synthesise traditional African rhythms, highlife and pop music and American jazz and funk. He decided to sing in pidgin English, so the music could be understood and enjoyed throughout Africa. The music became known as afrobeat, and Fela is widely celebrated as a pioneer of the form.
Martín Perna and Jordan McLean continue in Fela’s tradition with their NYC-based afrobeat orchestra Antibalas. Perna founded the band in 1998 and was joined by lead trumpeter McLean and a host of other musicians to create a sound reminiscent of both Fela’s Africa 70 and Eddie Palmieri's salsa-fusion group Harlem River Drive.
Their new album is the self-titled release Antibalas.
Perna and McLean discuss the virtues of the bari sax, a pan-American sound, and the Broadway production of Fela!.
Brent Weinbach does stand up comedy, but his past records have included lots of tracks recorded without an audience -- alone, in a studio. His particular brand of weird, brooding and often dark comedy earned him an Andy Kaufman Award just a few years ago.
His new album, Mostly Live, was recorded at the Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles and has more audience interaction. In fact, he gave one lucky audience member a short impromptu acting lesson.
Wayne White's name may not ring a bell with you, but his artwork likely would. You may have been of the age to regularly watch Pee-wee’s Playhouse on Saturday mornings in the late 1980s and early 90s, when he designed sets and puppets for Pee-wee’s amazing and kitschy playhouse. Or maybe you’ve seen the visually striking music videos he worked on for The Smashing Pumpkins and Peter Gabriel. Eschewing the idea that people should “do one thing, and do it well,” White has experimented throughout his career with animation, puppetry, set design and fine art.
Neil Berkeley befriended White when they worked together in design and wanted to showcase White's cultural impact. He’s made his directorial debut with a documentary about White’s life and artwork called Beauty is Embarrassing.
White and Berkeley talk to us about deconstructing puppetry, White’s Southern roots, and the backstage world of Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
Beauty is Embarrassing is in select theaters nationwide and rolling out throughout the fall; you can find a theater near you on the film’s site.
Self-released mixtapes often end up consisting of the dregs of an artist's work. If you’re looking for a mixtape that’s carefully crafted, Jesse suggests LiveLoveA$AP by A$AP Rocky.
Is there a mixtape that’s stuck with you? Jump over to the MaxFun forum and suggest it as your own Outshot.
Brian Heater and Alex Zalben bring some of their all-time favorites to the table this week.
Brian recommends Cleveland by Harvey Pekar, the self-deprecating writer best known for American Splendor. Alex Zalben suggests you check out Concrete: The Human Dilemma by Paul Chadwick.
Michael Ian Black is an actor, comedian and author perhaps best known from his work with the sketch comedy troupe The State, or from his subsequent collaborations with State-mates both on television (Stella, Michael & Michael Have Issues) and film (Wet Hot American Summer). His charming smarminess made him a perfect fit for the talking-head format of VH1, but that public persona is a troubling aspect of his life -- one of many issues discussed in his memoir, You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations. He goes in-depth on the issues of his marriage, parenthood, and personhood, and the result is a book that is shockingly honest, informative, and incredibly funny.
Michael talks about re-committing himself to marriage in six week intervals, getting into stand-up comedy late in life, and his obsession with Googling "Fat Kevin Federline." He co-hosts the podcast Mike & Tom Eat Snacks and has two new books out this year -- a political commentary with Meghan McCain, and his memoir You’re Not Doing It Right. (Originally aired May 1, 2012)
If you watch the Super Bowl, or even just television, you probably know comedian Pete Holmes best from commercials, where he adorably doles out financial advice as the voice of the E-Trade baby. Last year he was named one of Variety's Ten Comics to Watch, and with good reason. As a stand-up, Holmes has a mostly goofy and positive energy. But as he reveals on his new album Impregnated With Wonder, there is one thing that can really set him off: a bad sandwich.
Tom Bissell is a journalist, video game critic and author whose latest book, Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation, is a series of pieces attempting to capture all angles of the creative process, in all sorts of artistic forms: from Herman Melville, writer of Moby Dick, to Chuck Lorre, creator of Two and a Half Men; from the mind of filmmaker Werner Herzog to the madness of The Room's Tommy Wiseau. Magic Hours collects the best of Bissell's ten-year career, with essays featured in The New Yorker and Harper's, as well as several pieces written solely for the book.
Tom joins us to discuss the dumb luck that makes some books resounding classics of literature while others fade from the collective conscious, and the value (or lack thereof) of a journalism degree. You can find his video game writing online at Grantland.com. Magic Hours is now available in bookstores everywhere. (Originally aired May 1, 2012)
On this week's Outshot, Jesse recommends one of his absolute favorite shows, the brilliantly profane political satire The Thick of It -- particularly its foul-mouthed protagonist Malcolm Tucker. The show is now available to US audiences on Hulu. (Originally aired May 1, 2012)
Got a hilariously profane favorite of your own? Don't just keep it to yourself, f***ing tell someone by heading to the MaxFun forum and picking your own Outshot.
Alex Zalben is a writer and a host of the show Comic Book Club. Brian Heater is a journalist and Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Cross Hatch, which highlights alternative comics.
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Swamp Dogg, born Jerry Williams Jr., is a legendary psychedelic soul musician. He put out his first record in 1954, under the name Little Jerry. Over the next 15 years, his stage name would change to Little Jerry Williams before dropping the "Little" and performing as simply Jerry Williams. Finally, in 1970, he re-christened himself as Swamp Dogg for the release of his first LP, Total Destruction of Your Mind. The album combined humor and social commentary with the acid-soaked psychedelic sound of the late '60s / early '70s, and the Swamp Dogg name stuck.
Swamp sat down with Jesse in 2008 for a laugh-filled conversation discussing his long career in music, from the mindset behind all those name changes, to finding his best successes as a songwriter for country music, including a Grammy nomination for writing the Johnny Paycheck #1 hit "(Don't Take Her) She's All I Got".
We here at Bullseye feel a moral obligation as a public radio show to provide you with some news content, so to get you caught up on all the top stories you've never heard of (as they're entirely made up), here's the latest from our fake news team: the San Francisco-based sketch comedy group Kasper Hauser.
You can catch Kasper Hauser live next month, performing alongside the honorable judge John Hodgman at Cobb's Comedy Club in San Francisco on Sunday, April 29th.
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John Mulaney is a stand-up comedian and comedy writer based in New York City. He served as a writer on the Comedy Central series Important Things with Demetri Martin, but you probably know him best from his current job, writing for Saturday Night Live. One of John's responsibilities on SNL is writing ridiculous recommendation lists for the Bill Hader character Stefon, a regular contributor for Weekend Update. Mulaney has also performed on Update himself, showcasing his upbeat brand of humor on a segment called "I Love It".
John joined Jesse back in 2009 to talk about somehow earning money while getting black-out drunk, and subtle differences between writing for sketch and writing for stand-up. His hilarious new comedy special New in Town is available now on CD and DVD. You can follow him on Twitter @Mulaney.
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On this week's Outshot, Jesse hails the wild-child rock & roll of Jerry Lee Lewis's Live at the Star Club, Hamburg as perhaps the best live album ever recorded. In 1963, at the deepest depths of his career, Lewis went to Germany a man disgraced, and played for a crowd willing to embrace him regardless of his troubles. The result is an historic scorcher of a performance from the man they call "The Killer".
Is there a live album you feel should be considered the best of all time? You can make your pick by heading over to the MaxFun forum and naming your own Outshot.
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Twenty-five years ago, Art Spiegelman created his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Maus. In this documentary-style book trailer, Spiegelman talks about the creation of this classic and we get to preview the soon-to-be-released MetaMaus which explores the materials that he used to write Maus and answers some of the most commonly asked questions about the author's creative process. Metamaus will be sold with a companion DVD that contains a digitized reference copy of The Complete Maus featuring audio interviews with Spiegelman's father, historical documents, and generous excerpts from the author's notebooks and sketches.
MetaMaus will be available on October 4th. Until then, you can find more material from the book on Spiegelman's Facebook page.
I'm secretly in love with Turtie! - an adorable and endearing new cartoon series from Steve Wolfhard (creator of the beloved Cat Rackham and a loyal MaxFunCon attendee). Wolfhard is putting together a mini book of Turtie drawings that document the character's search for work. He'll be selling the mini-books this weekend at SPX.
Steve's drawings have great warmth and charm. I'm a proud owner of both his recent book "Cat Rackham Loses It!" and the print that he created to commemorate MaxFunCon 2010. (Note: You can still purchase the lovely "Warmth and Happiness Print" in the MaxFun store). You should check out more of his work here.But mostly: Turtie!!
I contributed an afterword to this really cool book - Mail Order Mysteries. It's a great-looking collection of ads from old comics for things like Ray Gun plans and X-Ray Specs. Each is presented alongside the actual item you received if you ordered it. I'm guessing they asked me to write the afterword because they thought it would be fun, but what I wrote turned out to be a kind of sad meditation on growing up.
Anyway, it'll hit book stores September 10th, but you can pre-order it now. Great leafing-through book, a great gift, fun stuff. Except for my afterword. That's sad.