Ian Cohen

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Luis Guzman

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Luis Guzman: From activist and social worker to prolific character actor

Luis Guzman is one of America's most successful and prolific character actors. He's appeared in dozens of films and television series, from Short Eyes in the 1970s to Miami Vice in the 1980s to Carlito's Way, Boogie Nights and The Limey in the 1990s. He made a name for himself playing thugs and cops. A few years ago, he was on the short-lived but beloved series How To Make It In America.

He talks with us about growing up in New York's Lower East Side, and about his work there as an activist and social worker. As a teen, he hung out at the legendary New Yorican Poets Cafe, watching poets and writers like Amiri Baraka, Allen Ginsburg and Miguel Piñero. Piñero ended up casting Guzman in Short Eyes, and got him his first television audition for Miami Vice. Since then, Guzman has become a favorite of directors like P.T. Anderson and Steven Soderbergh.

Pitchfork's Ian Cohen on his Favorite Heavy Rock

Ian Cohen, contributing editor at Pitchfork, stops by to recommend some of his all-time favorite heavy rock releases.

He tells us about an album which (in a move unusual for its genre) has an entirely pink cover. Deafheaven’s newest album, Sunbather, has been well-received and is on its way to becoming “an absolute landmark.”

In addition, Ian recommends the most recent Swans album,The Seer. In a bold creative move, the band creates a title track well over thirty minutes long.

Artisanal Pencil Sharpening with David Rees

If you knew about David Rees in the 2000s, it was probably for his indie political cartoon Get Your War On. When we caught up with Rees a few years ago, he had decided to get back in touch with an old-school writing instrument -- the pencil. Rees started his own artisanal pencil sharpening service, sharpening bespoke pencils, and wrote a book called How To Sharpen Pencils. Rees joined us to discuss the lost art of pencil sharpening.

Be on the lookout for Rees' upcoming show on the National Geographic Channel, Going Deep with David Rees, this summer.

The Outshot: Threat by Jay-Z

Rap isn't poetry – it's its own thing. But, like poets, many of the best rappers imbue their lyrics with layers of meaning. Need proof? Jesse suggests a close listen to a single verse of Jay-Z's "Threat".

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jack Black and Bun B

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Bullseye

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

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Our guest host this week is the author and The New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean. You can find more from Susan at her website or follow her on Twitter. Thanks, Susan!


ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Jack Black on Musical Snobbery, Childlike Innocence, and the Roles He's Yet to Play

Jack Black always seems to be on the verge of breaking into song. Whether he’s a slacker substitute teacher in School of Rock, an earnest funeral director in Bernie, or a snobby record store clerk in High Fidelity, music has a way of seeping into his performances. Maybe that’s because Black’s portrayals often possess an unbridled joy that’s difficult to capture with spoken dialogue.

Although he's known for his comedic strengths and has often played the "shlubby loser", Black has showed that he's capable of much more. For Peter Jackson’s King Kong, he played a 1930s filmmaker intent on creating an epic narrative, no matter how far into the heart of darkness he has to travel. In Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding, he was a disappointing groom prone to occasional bursts of anger. Most recently, he played the titular character in Richard Linklater’s Bernie, a film based on the true story of a kind, gentle mortician accused of murder in a small Texas town. It’s the subtlety of performances like these mixed with the intensity of a man who also headlines the rock band Tenacious D that truly make Black a unique performer.

Guest host Susan Orlean gets to the bottom of Black’s career, from his early days performing one-man shows in his living room to working with some of the biggest names in show business. They’ll talk about some of his early childhood performances, dissecting musical tastes, a new HBO pilot, and why seeing him on Broadway wouldn’t be entirely out of the question.

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Ian Cohen on New Heavy Music Releases: Death Grips and Iron Chic

Ian Cohen, contributing editor at Pitchfork, stops by to recommend some new heavy music releases.

He suggests a listen to two new records: Government Plates by experimental hip hop and noise group Death Grips, and Iron Chic's The Constant One.

You find Ian's writing at Pitchfork and Grantland, or follow him on Twitter.

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Bun B of UGK on Rhyming, Big Breaks and Mourning Pimp C, "The Yin to My Yang"

Bun B was half of UGK and still is one of the South’s greatest hip-hop lyricists. Alongside partner Pimp C, he spent two decades rhyming and recording classic hip-hop and helped establish Texas as a force to be reckoned with in the national hip-hop scene. Pimp C died six years ago this month, but Bun has continued to record and release music as a solo artist. His newest album, Trill Og the Epilogue, was released in November.

Jesse sat down with Bun B in 2009 to talk about underwriting a music career with street crime, rhyming with Jay-Z, and his reaction to Pimp C's frequent arrests, setbacks, and untimely passing.

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The Outshot: The Sorcerer of the Guitar

Guest host Susan Orlean goes under the spell of "Franco" Luambo Makiadi, The Sorcerer of the Guitar.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Bill Withers

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Bill Withers
Guests: 
Ian Cohen
Guests: 
Davy Rothbart
Guests: 
Brad Tolinski

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.

Soul Legend Bill Withers Talks about Dignity, The Music Industry, and Striving to Be a "Complete Human Being"

The singer/songwriter and soul music legend Bill Withers may have written some of the most memorable songs of the past half century, but his person doesn't loom large in the public eye. He wasn't eaten up by fame, and he didn't disappear and try to claw his way back. He just walked away from the music industry, for the most part, making the decision to live life on his own terms.

With no formal songwriting training (he enlisted in the Navy at 17, and then worked as an aircraft engineer), Withers rose to fame with his first album Just As I Am, recorded in his thirties. The album, produced by Booker T. Jones, showed an already fully-formed talent with “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Grandma’s Hands.” Since then, more of Withers' hits, like “Lovely Day,” “Just the Two of Us,” and “Lean on Me” have endured the test of time.

Jesse sat down with the music legend in 2009 to talk about his life and career, around the time that the documentary Soul Power was released. Withers discusses his roots in a coal mining town, enlisting in the Navy, and why he was able to start a music career later in life.

Withers also opens up about his decision to stop performing, his gratitude for the fame when it came to him, and why he continues striving to be “a complete human being.”

Related interviews:
Booker T. Jones

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Pitchfork's Ian Cohen on his Favorite Heavy Rock

Ian Cohen, contributing editor at Pitchfork, stops by to recommend some of his all-time favorite heavy rock releases.

He tells us about an album which (in a move unusual for its genre) has an entirely pink cover. Deafheaven’s newest album, Sunbather, has been well-received and is on its way to becoming “an absolute landmark.”

In addition, Ian recommends the most recent Swans album,The Seer. In a bold creative move, the band creates a title track well over thirty minutes long.

If you liked this, let someone know! Click here to share this segment with your friends.


Davy Rothbart’s Lost and “Found”

Davy Rothbart, editor and publisher of FOUND Magazine, shares some of his favorite "finds".

FOUND collects notes, photos, to-do lists, love letters, and other ephemera (basically society’s flotsam and jetsam). The 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.

Rothbart's new documentary Medora, about a small-town Indiana basketball team, opens in New York City and Los Angeles on November 8.

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Canonball: Remembering When Rock Got Weird, with Led Zeppelin's "III"

With Canonball, we take a flying leap into the canon of popular music to find albums that deserve a closer look.

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

He tells us why we should take another listen at Led Zeppelin III, the band’s third album, which took a strange turn on its unforgettable first track (“Immigrant Song”) and tapped into the zeitgeist of its time with the bold tracks that followed.

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The Outshot: The Cane

Ideally, the cold open on a sitcom (the segment right before the opening credits) should be a self-contained nugget of comedy perfection. This week, Jesse recommends one of his favorites with NewsRadio’s “The Cane,” featuring the comedic talents of the bombastic Phil Hartman and the ultimate straight man, Dave Foley.

After all, it’s just like that old saying: “Everybody loves a cane.”

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Junot Diaz, Carrie Fisher, and My Brother, My Brother and Me

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Bullseye
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Junot Diaz
Guests: 
Carrie Fisher
Guests: 
Griffin McElroy
Guests: 
Travis McElroy
Guests: 
Justin McElroy

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.

Junot Diaz on Immigration, A Love of Books, and Why His Writing Isn't "Sexist Claptrap"

Junot Diaz was already a rising star when his first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was published in 2007 and subsequently won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. His short stories had netted him attention, acclaim, and a published collection of short fiction, Drown.

He's continued to accrue major literary awards and recently received a Genius Grant from the Macarthur Foundation, which noted his use of "raw, vernacular dialogue and spare, unsentimental prose to draw readers into the various and distinct worlds that immigrants must straddle.”

There have been a number of constants throughout Junot's career. He's continued to write fiction about the immigrant experience, specifically from a Dominican-American perspective. And he's returned again and again to the character of Yunior de Las Casas. Like Junot, Yunior was born in the Dominican Republic and was transplanted with his family to New Jersey in the dead of winter. Like Junot, Yunior is intelligent and over-educated, an academic who lives in Cambridge. Like Junot, Yunior grew up with Dominican women who wanted to get the hell out of Dodge, who would do better not to mess with him (or any dude).

That is to say -- Yunior is a well-developed character by now. In his book This Is How You Lose Her, now in paperback, Junot explores Yunior's issues with intimacy and the psyche of a cheater. The reader roots for Yunior to find love, even as they wince, watching him sabotage one relationship after another.

Junot joins us this week to talk about the immigrant experience, accusations of sexism, and the soundtrack that kept him writing through many late nights.

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Ian Cohen Recommends Heavy Rock for October

Ian Cohen, contributing editor at Pitchfork, stops by to recommend some new heavy rock releases.

He recommends an album that "finds people at the edge of both pop and metal", the new release Everyday I Get Closer to the Light From Which I Came from the solo project Jesu.

Ian also suggests checking out the Tim Hecker's upcoming release, Virgins, an ambient album that doesn't fade into the background.

Jesu's Everyday I Get Closer to the Light from Which I Came is out now via Avalanche.
Tim Hecker's Virgins is out October 14 via kranky records.

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Pop Culture Advice from My Brother, My Brother and Me: Water Cooler Talk, Comic Book Movies, and Vinyl Snobbery

Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy and Griffin McElroy return to Bullseye to answer some of your most pressing pop culture problems and end up taking on Duck Dynasty, James and the Giant Peach, Lionel Richie, grandparents and more.

If you've still got questions that need anwers, the McElroy brothers host a weekly advice show for the modern era called My Brother, My Brother, and Me. You can subscribe wherever you download podcasts, and send your queries to mbmbam@maximumfun.org.

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Carrie Fisher on Growing Up Famous, Star Wars, and Shock Therapy

Carrie Fisher is best known for her role as Princess Leia in the seminal Star Wars films, but she began her celebrity life as a baby -- as the daughter of America's sweethearts, the actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher.

Carrie has battled addiction, bipolar disorder and the ups and downs of celebrity to reinvent herself as a successful novelist and memoirist. Her book Shockaholic recalls her relationships with Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and her parents, self-medication with drugs, and the last resort of electroconvulsive therapy.

Today, we're revisiting our conversation with Carrie Fisher from 2011. Her book Shockaholic is available now in paperback.

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The Outshot: Bubba Sparxxx

So maybe The Accidental Racist didn't go over so hot. But this week, Jesse will tell you about a record that actually mixed country and hip-hop to the benefit of both. It's Bubba Sparxxx's 2003 release, Deliverance.

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Bullseye With Jesse Thorn: Fred Willard & David Gordon Green

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Fred Willard
Guests: 
David Gordon Green
Guests: 
Ian Cohen
Guests: 
Nate DiMeo

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.

Playing The Buffoon: Fred Willard On Improv, Christopher Guest, and Missed Opportunities

For over fifty years, Fred Willard has played ignorant, self-absorbed buffoons that are impossible not to laugh at. He's a master improviser and comedian who started with his comedy duo, Greco and Willard, and moved on to work with the Second City and improv groups The Committee and the Ace Trucking Company. Today, he's probably best known and loved as one of Christopher Guest's troupe in films like Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show. Willard can be seen in Jeff Garlin's new film Dealin' With Idiots.

Willard tells us about drag-performances in his military school, the real life inspiration for his improvised comedy, and being the exact opposite of the happy-go-lucky optimists he plays on screen.

You may also like these interviews:
Catherine O'Hara
Christopher Guest
Jeff Garlin

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Heavy Rock with Ian Cohen: Forest Swords and Crash Of Rhinos

Ian Cohen, contributing editor at Pitchfork, stops by to recommend some new heavy rock releases, both out in the U.S. this month.

His first recommendation is Engravings, the new record from UK producer Matthew Barnes, aka Forest Swords. The album is out August 26.

Ian also recommends the UK emo/hardcore band Crash of Rhinos' new album Knots, out on August 27.

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The Memory Palace: Origin Stories

We share a segment from Nate DiMeo's more-than-just-a-history-podcast, The Memory Palace. Nate takes us on a tour of his own family's history, including his grandfather's nightclub act.

Nate DiMeo is a public radio producer and a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor.

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David Gordon Green, right, with actors Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd

David Gordon Green on Prince Avalanche, Camping Alone, and Clint Eastwood

It's not easy to sum up the booming career of writer and director David Gordon Green. While he's best known for his slacker-comedies such as Pineapple Express and the HBO series Eastbound and Down, he also makes films that are sentimental, cerebral, and poignant, like George Washington and All The Real Girls. His new film, Prince Avalanche, starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, is somewhere in between.

David talks to Jesse about his love for camping alone in the woods, his affinity for characters like Kenny Powers (who are likeable in spite of everything they say and do), and how it felt to direct a cinema legend like Clint Eastwood.

Prince Avalanche is in select theaters and On Demand August 9th.

You may also like this interview:
Lily Tomlin

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The Outshot: Robin Thicke's A Beautiful World

Love it or hate it, Robin Thicke's number-1 with a bullet single "Blurred Lines," and its accompanying NSFW music video, have been impossible to avoid these past few months. But Jesse is here to tell you that there is more to Robin Thicke than cowbell laden beats and dancing half-nudes--and it starts way back in 2002 with his neo-soul debut album Cherry Blue Skies (re-released in 2003 as A Beautiful World).

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