music

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Shane Carruth of Upstream Color and Rodney Ascher of Room 237

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Shane Carruth
Guests: 
Rodney Ascher
Guests: 
Kumail Nanjiani
Guests: 
Emily V. Gordon

New to Bullseye? Subscribe in iTunes or the RSS feed. You can also find and share all of our segments on our Soundcloud page.


Video Games with The Indoor Kids: Ms. Splosion Man and BioShock Infinite

Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, co-hosts of video game podcast The Indoor Kids, join us to share their favorite new releases. Their first pick is Ms. Splosion Man, an imaginative platformer newly available on iOS. (Think Super Mario meets spontaneous self-combustion.) For a lengthier experience, check out BioShock Infinite, which (literally) takes the first BioShock to even greater heights.

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Upstream Color Director Shane Carruth on Creating Cryptic Cinema

Nearly ten years have passed since the release of writer/director Shane Carruth's first low-budget film, a complex time travel movie called Primer. Film fans are still obsessed with teasing out the intricacies of the story, about a time-travel machine and the men who engineered the machine. But within that story, there are emotional and ethical struggles that keep the audience riveted -- a quality that's become a hallmark of Carruth's small but powerful filmography.

Carruth wrote, directed, starred and composed all of the music for Primer, and he had the same all-consuming roles in his new film, Upstream Color. The movie is just as difficult to explain as his first. Upstream Color's two lead characters seem to have a shared experience of bodily manipulation, and cling to that sameness because they have nothing else. The movie delves deeply into identity and loss, and comes through with a powerful emotional experience.

Shane Carruth joins us to talk about the upsides and downsides of independent filmmaking, why plot summary doesn't always get to a movie's heart, and the best James Bond movie that will never be made.

Upstream Color is in select theaters nationwide. The film is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and on demand on May 7.

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Comedy: Kyle Kinane Goes on a Fast Food Adventure

Kyle Kinane had a problem. He was craving fast food, but he'd had a little too much to drink. But he found a solution. It involved a little bit of ingenuity, a wallet's worth of cash, and a very patient cab driver.

This clip comes from Kyle Kinane's latest special, Whiskey Icarus, which is available as a digital download or a CD/DVD. He'll be performing at MaxFunCon 2013 in late May.

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Director Rodney Ascher Opens The Door On Room 237

Stanley Kubrick's movie The Shining made a huge cultural impression. It's a classic horror movie about the psychological tolls of isolation, the dissolution of a family, the Holocaust, and how Kubrick helped fake the moon landing.

Wait a second. The Holocaust? Moon landing? Yep. The new documentary Room 237 features increasingly eye-widening theories about the hidden subtexts of The Shining. Movies often inspire intense debate over authorial intent, but Kubrick's known perfectionism and deliberate filmmaking often take this discussion to another level.

Room 237's director Rodney Ascher sits down with us to discuss some of the film's more creative theories, as well as whether or not there's such a thing as too much interpretation.

Room 237 is out now in select theaters nationwide and available on video on-demand.

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The Outshot: The Grand Tour by George Jones

Pop music is usually for young people – what better audience is there for short, simple, high-energy music? But what does pop music sound like when it grows up? To answer that question, Jesse takes a look at a song by George Jones, called The Grand Tour.

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

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Big Boi
Guests: 
Catherine O'Hara
Guests: 
Mark Frauenfelder
Guests: 
Justin McElroy
Guests: 
Travis McElroy
Guests: 
Griffin McElroy

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

New to Bullseye? Subscribe in iTunes or the RSS feed. You can also find and share all of our segments on our Soundcloud page.


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: Simon Rich and Bill Burr

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Simon Rich
Guests: 
Bill Burr
Guests: 
Mark Frauenfelder

New to Bullseye? Subscribe in iTunes or the RSS feed. You can also find and share all of our segments on our Soundcloud page.


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: Aisha Tyler, Bilal Oliver, God on Sports

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Aisha Tyler
Guests: 
Bilal Oliver
Guests: 
Seth Morris
Guests: 
Marah Eakin
Guests: 
Nathan Rabin

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to the show in iTunes or via the RSS feed, or check out our SoundCloud page to share any or all of these interviews or recommendations!

The AV Club's All-Time Favorites: Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" and Warren Zevon's "Stand in the Fire"

The AV Club's Music Editor Marah Eakin and Head Writer Nathan Rabin discuss a few of their all-time favorite albums. Marah is a fan of the layered, sampled feel of Fleetwood Mac's post-Rumors album, Tusk. Nathan Rabin suggests a listen to Warren Zevon's intimate but ferocious live album Stand in the Fire.

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Aisha Tyler: Actress, Comedian, and Former Third-Grade Maypole

Like a lot of funny people, Aisha Tyler often found herself on the outside looking in as a kid. She was the only black girl in her school and thought of herself as kind of a geek... Standing six-feet tall by third grade didn't help things, either. Ultimately, feeling out of place gave her the feeling that she could survive anything -- and the confidence to pursue performance. She's since performed stand up, hosted E!'s Talk Soup, appeared on CSI, 24, Friends...and even competed on an episode of Jeopardy.

She also has a starring role on the FX animated series Archer, where she voices Lana Kane, a beautiful and brilliant secret agent who plays the straight man to her idiot co-workers.

Aisha joins us to talk about her choice to do comedy in her own voice, the challenges of voice acting, and about living a real-life version of Fame in high school.

Archer airs on Thursdays at 10/9c on FX. The show is in its fourth season; it was just renewed for a fifth. Aisha will host The CW’s reboot of Whose Line Is It Anyway? this summer. You can also catch Aisha at a performance of Archer Live!.

This interview originally aired in January 2012.

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Comedy: An Excerpt from The Last Testament: A Memoir By God

You'd think that God would be pretty focused on the choice of a new Pope right about now. But might some of that attention be diverted to.... spring training? Has the Almighty ever swayed athletic outcomes? Does He care for sports at all? Get the straight truth from The Man Himself (as relayed to David Javerbaum). The answer may surprise you.

This excerpt is from The Last Testament: A Memoir By God, with David Javerbaum.
David Javerbaum is an Emmy-winning comedy writer and former executive producer of The Daily Show. You can see more of his work with God on Twitter @TheTweetofGod.

Our voice of God is provided by comedian Seth Morris, who is also on Twitter at @SethISMorris.

This segment originally aired in April 2012.

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Bilal and His Unique Blend of Soul, Hip-Hop, and Jazz

Here's one way a musical artist can succeed: artist records album, sends it off to the label, label rejects album, album is leaked online, fans and critics love album, artist goes independent.

That's exactly what happened to jazz and soul singer Bilal, who wanted to follow up his debut album, 1st Born Second, with something a little more experimental. That album (titled Love For Sale) was never officially released, which left a nine-year gap between his debut record and his second album, Airtight's Revenge. That album earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

The wait between Bilal albums this time around is a little more manageable: his new album, A Love Surreal, was just released last week. It's a beautiful, headspinning collision between 1960s soul and modern hip-hop, sounding like neither the past or the present.

We spoke with Bilal back in 2010 right around when Airtight's Revenge was released. Bilal talked to us about his high school identity, growing up with jazz music, and his choice to go wild on Jay Leno.

Bilal's new album, A Love Surreal, is available now.

This interview originally aired in September 2010.

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The Outshot: The Cold Open

Looking for the perfect cold open? Jesse's found it. Newsradio. Season 2, Episode 9.

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The Atlantic Ocean Comedy and Music Festival

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Join your favorite comedians and musicians September 13th through 16th, 2013 for three fun-filled days on the high seas. It’s The Atlantic Ocean Comedy & Music Festival, presented by MaximumFun.org, Splitsider and KCRW!

Our ship sets sail from Miami, Florida for a three-night celebration of good times. We’ll have exclusive parties, a trip to a private Caribbean island, a stop in the Bahamas, and a truly spectacular lineup of comics and musicians, including

Maria Bamford ~ Kurt Braunohler ~ Chuck Bryant


John Darnielle ~ John Hodgman ~ Hari Kondabolu ~ Josie Long


Al Madirgal ~ Marc Maron ~ Nellie McKay ~ Eugene Mirman


Jasper Redd ~ John Roderick ~ Kristen Schaal ~ Nick Thune

And don’t worry, cruise enthusiasts: there will also be shuffleboard and giant plates of shrimp.

Ready to join us? BOOK NOW!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Andrew Rannells, Jim Lehrer, and Thao Nguyen

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Andrew Rannells
Guests: 
Jim Lehrer
Guests: 
Thao Nguyen
Guests: 
Josh Modell
Guests: 
Scott Tobias

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to the show in iTunes or via the RSS feed, or check out our SoundCloud page to share any or all of these interviews or recommendations!

The AV Club Recommends: 'Beyond the Hills' and Atoms for Peace's 'Amok'

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.

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Andrew Rannells on Broadway Life and Beyond

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.

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Thao Nguyen on The Song That Changed My Life: "You've Really Got a Hold On Me"

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.

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Jim Lehrer on His Days Down at the Bus Depot and a Changing Media Landscape

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]

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The Outshot: Mike Judge's 'Extract'

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.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Roman Mars and Boots Riley, Live at SF Sketchfest

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Roman Mars
Guests: 
Boots Riley
Guests: 
Steve Agee
Guests: 
Peter Hartlaub

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to the show in iTunes or via the RSS feed, or check out our SoundCloud page to share any or all of these interviews or recommendations!

This week, a live recording of Bullseye, held at the Punchline Comedy Club as part of SF Sketchfest.


From 1978's Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Peter Hartlaub Recommends San Francisco on Film: "The Conversation" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"

The San Francisco Chronicle's pop culture critic, Peter Hartlaub, joins us to share some of his favorite San Francisco films.

He recommends Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation for its realistic depiction of San Francisco, as well as the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which, in spite of its terrifying story, might give San Francisco's public transit planners some food for thought.

Peter Hartlaub writes for the San Francisco Chronicle and blogs about pop culture at The Big Event.

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Roman Mars on 99% Invisible, Public Media and Crowd-Funding

You'd think that it'd be almost impossible to tell stories about architecture and design in a completely invisible medium, but Roman Mars makes it work. The public radio host and producer's stories show that design is everywhere – he's produced stories about the unintentional music of escalators, failed prison designs, and reclusive monks who make the best beer in the world.

These stories are all a part of 99% Invisible, "a tiny radio show about design" that Roman hosts and produces. The show is truly tiny; it airs for only five minutes on a handful of public radio stations, including KALW. But the podcast is another story. Episodes of the podcast version of 99% Invisible are longer and more detailed – and they reach a much larger audience. Last year, Roman led a massive Kickstarter campaign to fund the show's third season. Fans gave more than $170,000, making it the most successful journalism Kickstarter to date.

Roman joins Jesse onstage to discuss his theory of creativity, his reasons for exchanging his dream of becoming a scientist for a career in public radio, and his Doogie Houser-esque college experience.

99% Invisible is available on iTunes and Soundcloud. You can follow Roman on Twitter at @RomanMars.

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Comedy: Steve Agee on Movie Trivia in the Pre-Internet Age

Why did God invent the internet? Steve Agee has an idea. It's probably not what you think.

Steve Agee is a writer, actor, and standup comedian. He's a former writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live! and appeared as Steve Myron on the beloved Sarah Silverman Program.

You can follow him on Twitter at @SteveAgee.

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The Coup's Boots Riley on Merging Music with Social Activism, and What to Learn From Telemarketing

Boots Riley's life has always been about change, and never about complacency. He was already an leftist activist in high school, staging walkouts on school grounds, and he followed his parents' lead into community organizing. He was immersed in rap and hip hop in his hometown of Oakland, California, but didn't make the connection between the power of music and activism for several years.

Boots has fronted the hip hop group The Coup for over two decades as an MC and producer, and the group's positive, funky, and danceable music is still clearly message-driven in 2013. Their lyrics confront injustice, police brutality, and the rise of corporatism with aggressive wit. The group released a new album, Sorry to Bother You, late last year.

Boots talked to us about why he thinks an active engagement with world makes life worth living, finding humor in the disturbing reality of poverty and injustice, and what he learned from his time in, of all things, telemarketing.

BONUS AUDIO: Boots and his longtime collaborator Eric McFadden performed several songs live on stage. You can listen and share those tracks here.

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The Outshot: "I Got Five On it" by The Luniz

What says "Bay Area" to you? For Jesse, it's all about I Got 5 On It by the Luniz – specifically, the Bay Ballers remix.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: George Saunders and Maria Bamford

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
George Saunders
Guests: 
Maria Bamford

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to the show in iTunes or via the RSS feed, or check out our SoundCloud page to share any or all of these interviews or recommendations!

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: W. Kamau Bell, Mike Birbiglia, Eleni Mandell, Noz

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Bullseye
Guests: 
W. Kamau Bell
Guests: 
Mike Birbiglia
Guests: 
Eleni Mandell
Guests: 
Andrew Noz

Rasnebyu - Washington Slizzards from The New Chill


"Washington Slizzards" and "Laughin' to the Bank" with Andrew Noz

Andrew Noz joins us this week to talk about throwback 90s sounds and a rapper gone viral on Youtube. He talks to us about the DC-based Ras Nebyu's "Washington Slizzards" and Chief Keef's "Laughin' to the Bank".

Andrew Noz is the proprietor of the blog Cocaine Blunts, and he writes about hip hop for Pitchfork, the Fader, and Hip Hop Pit Stop.

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Comedian W. Kamau Bell on the Sweet Spot of Gentrification, the TV Talk Show World, and More

W. Kamau Bell wants to talk to you about race. And about urban inequality, and politics, and Spider Man too. He came to his own brand of sociopolitical comedy after working as a comic for years, eventually shaping his work into a one-man show in which he promised to "end racism in about an hour."

A lucky break with an audience member at one of those shows – Chris Rock, to be precise – landed Bell his own TV talk show, called Totally Biased. He joins us to talk about transitioning into the talk show world, the sweet spot of gentrification, and remaining true to his own comedic voice.

Totally Biased airs Thursday nights at 11pm on FX.

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This segment originally aired on September 4th, 2012.


Singer-Songwriter Eleni Mandell on the Song that Changed her Life

Singer-songwriter Eleni Mandell had one of those experiences as a kid that was a hallmark of experiencing music before the internet. She heard a song she liked, went out to the record store, and picked an album by the same artist. The problem? It sounded totally uncool, and not at all like the song she'd heard. It did, however, open her up to a whole new way of listening to music.

Eleni talks to us about the song that changed her life, Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues." Eleni grew up in Los Angeles loving both punk rockers X and folk rocker Bob Dylan, and her own music mixes airy vocals with 60s pop, country, and folk sounds.

Her newest album is I Can See the Future. She's currently touring Europe with Sylvie Lewis. You can see tour dates and more about her at EleniMandell.com

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This segment originally aired on September 4th, 2012.


Mike Birbiglia on the Miracle of Actually Making a Movie

Mike Birbiglia knows his own story pretty well by now. After struggling as a stand up, he started working some personal details from his life into his comedy. Some of it was pretty standard, like wrapping his head around the idea of getting married to his longtime girlfriend. And some of it was less familiar stuff, like running out of a window while sleepwalking.

Birbiglia went on transform these thoughts into a one-man show, a book, and finally, a movie. And although talking about the subject matter was second nature, directing a movie about it was not. He joins us to discuss being a first-time director, the difficulty of delivering stand up in a casual, easy way, and why he considered long-lasting marriage to be a totally foreign concept.

Sleepwalk With Me is now available on Netflix Instant and on DVD and Blu-Ray.

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This segment originally aired on September 4th, 2012.


The Outshot: Winning Time

Jesse recommends the ESPN documentary Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks for a look at a volatile shooting guard, an intense basketball rivalry, and some courtside conversations with Spike Lee.

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This segment originally aired on September 4th, 2012.

Are you a sports fanatic with a favorite doc? Head on over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.

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

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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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