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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Syl Johnson, Gillian Flynn, and Matt Berninger

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Syl Johnson
Guests: 
Gillian Flynn
Guests: 
Matt Berninger
Guests: 
Tasha Robinson
Guests: 
Scott Tobias

We're joined again this week by guest co-host Julie Klausner.


The AV Club Recommends: The Fantastical Thoughts of Jim Henson and a New Take on Wuthering Heights

Associate National Editor Tasha Robinson and Film Editor Scott Tobias of the AV Club recommend Imagination Illustrated, which journals the various creative efforts of Jim Henson, and a modern, dark adaptation of Wuthering Heights.

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The Enigmatic, Grammy-Nominated Syl Johnson

Inspired by the sounds of Jackie Wilson, Little Walter, and Muddy Waters, Syl Johnson set out to make his own mark in music in the 1950s. His own gritty, bluesy voice and funk rhythms earned him a place in the Chicago soul and blues scene. Over the course of a career on Chicago's Twinight and Memphis' Hi Records, Johnson released several singles that climbed their way up the pop and R&B charts ("Different Strokes", "Come On Sock It To Me", "Is It Because I'm Black?") and but never attained the smash success of contemporaries like Al Green or James Brown.

He found ubiquity later in life, when dozens of hip hop artists from Run-DMC to Kanye West dug into his catalog to sample his sounds (perhaps foremost his signature scream on "Different Strokes"). Johnson found himself in the spotlight again last year when the archival label Numero Group assembled a Grammy-nominated boxset of his early cuts, titled Syl Johnson: The Mythology.

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Matt Berninger: The Song that Changed My Life

Matt Berninger, lead singer of The National, recalls being pelted by golf balls and listening to the song which changed his life, The Boy with a Thorn in His Side by The Smiths.

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Gillian Flynn on the Damaged Psyches in Gone Girl

Armed with childhood memories of watching Psycho and Alien and an insatiable appetite for true crime stories, Gillian Flynn began writing her first thriller, Sharp Objects. The book's success took Flynn from magazine journalist to full-time author. Her newest book, the bestselling Gone Girl, is a twisted and wry look at a marriage gone horribly wrong.

Flynn offers insights on the twisted and damaged psyches of her characters, cherishing the unease that comes with following an unreliable narrator, and how she combats the trope of the female victim.

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The Outshot: Key & Peele

This week, Jesse lauds the commitment and direction of Key & Peele's sketch comedy.

For more, check out our interview with Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele from earlier this year.

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What’s your favorite sketch comedy show? Jump over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Nellie McKay, Rob Delaney, and Jordan Ranks America

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Rob Delaney
Guests: 
Nellie McKay
Guests: 
Jordan Morris
Guests: 
Andrew Noz

Hey Bullseye listeners! You’ll hear a new voice on this show. Guest co-host Julie Klausner joins us for the next two weeks.


Andrew Noz on Autotune and Mixtapes

Andrew Noz of Cocaine Blunts, came by to recommend Turn On the Lights by Future and Bible on the Dash by GunPlay.

Check out more of Noz’s work in his new hip hop column for Pitchfork, Diamonds and Wood.

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Singer-Songwriter Nellie McKay on Shunning Modern Conveniences and Her Silent Spring-Inspired Musical

Nellie McKay is a singer-songwriter, actor and cabaret artist with a wry sense of humor and a throwback aesthetic. Her voice might evoke Doris Day or Peggy Lee, but her lyrics are often sardonic, political and thought-provoking. She’s been a guest on our program in the past, and has since released two albums and created two original cabaret shows. She tells us why she avoids modern conveniences, the reasons why she actually prefers to produce records with her mom, and finds time to play us a few songs on the ukelele, too.

McKay is on a solo tour this fall with her ukelele and piano. You can catch one of her musical cabaret shows, Silent Spring: It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature, and I Want to Live! in New York.

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Jordan Ranks America

Comedian Jordan Morris knows that you meant to make a list of all the things in America today. He went ahead and did it for you, because you’re busy and he’s a nice guy like that.

Jordan is the co-host of the weekly podcast Jordan, Jesse, Go!.

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Comedian Rob Delaney on Alcoholism, Recovery, and Twitter

Rob Delaney is known as the comedian Twitter made. He discovered something about comedy that changed him when he saw an Upright Citizens Brigade show, but it would be years before he was able to capture that spark onstage himself and pursue his calling in comedy. First, he went through a period of alcoholism and survived a devastating car accident and a stint in jail.

He's learned to cope with the physical and psychological damage from his addiction and accident, and he joins us to talk about his recovery, the Twitter evidence of a hard work ethic, and why he's both intrigued and disgusted by the human body.

His new standup special, Live at the Bowery Ballroom, is available now.

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The Outshot: Movin' with Nancy

Our guest co-host Julie Klausner suggests you to immediately track down Nancy Sinatra’s 1967 TV special, Movin’ with Nancy, and find the way to becoming a groovier, happier person.

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Is there a classic television special that speaks to you? Jump over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Antibalas, Beauty is Embarrassing, and Brent Weinbach

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Martin Perna
Guests: 
Jordan McLean
Guests: 
Wayne White
Guests: 
Neil Berkeley
Guests: 
Alex Zalben
Guests: 
Brian Heater


A panel from Gabrielle Bell's The Voyeurs

Comics with Alex Zalben and Brian Heater

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.

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The Afrobeat Stylings of Antibalas with Martín Perna and Jordan McLean

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!.

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Comedian Brent Weinbach Relays Some Acting Tips

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.

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Punk Rock Puppets, Southern Roots and Pee-wee with Wayne White and Neil Berkeley

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.

BONUS AUDIO: Hear a longer cut of this interview, with more talk about White’s childhood influences and puppetry inspiration HERE!


The Outshot: LiveLoveA$AP

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.

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Is there a mixtape that’s stuck with you? Jump over to the MaxFun forum and suggest it as your own Outshot.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: W. Kamau Bell, Mike Birbiglia and Eleni Mandell

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
W. Kamau Bell
Guests: 
Jason Kottke
Guests: 
Mike Birbiglia
Guests: 
Eleni Mandell


Jason Kottke With the Best of the Web: Dr. Seuss the Ad Man, and Sports Fans After Death

Jason Kottke, from one of our favorite repositories of web links, Kottke.org, joins us to tell us about his favorite stuff on the web right now. First we talk about Dr. Seuss's past as an ad man, then we tackle Errol Morris' new short film Team Spirit

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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 gentrication, and remaining true to his own comedic voice.
Totally Biased airs Thursday nights at 11pm on FX.

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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 headed out on tour this month with Nick Lowe. You can those dates and more about her at EleniMandell.com

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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 to transform these thoughts into a one-man show, a book, and now, 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 in theaters nationwide.

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The Outshot: Winning Time

Jesse recommends the new 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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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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Judge John Hodgman Episode 73: Gavelbangers Ball

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Guests: 
Monte Belmonte
Guests: 
Special Guest

Complainant Caroline and her boyfriend Will share many interests, but there's one thing they just can't agree on. Will says that metal is an important genre to him, musically and personally, and that Caroline hasn't given it a fair shake. Caroline finds the music jarring and distasteful and says she's heard enough to say so. Who is right, and who is wrong?

Guest bailiff Monte Bailiff Belmonte of WRSI offers his assistance this week, and we are joined by a SECRET EXPERT WITNESS.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Michael Jai White, Carl Jones, Rachel Dratch and Jason Brewer

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Michael Jai White
Guests: 
Carl Jones
Guests: 
Rachel Dratch
Guests: 
Jason Brewer
Guests: 
Mark Frauenfelder


Mark Frauenfelder Shares His Favorite Geeky Indulgences

Mark Frauenfelder, co-founder of BoingBoing, joins us to share some geeky recommendations: the engaging online / downloadable game Kingdom Rush and David Dufty's tale of robotics in How to Build an Android.

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Michael Jai White and Carl Jones on Blaxploitation and Black Dynamite

Gun-toting and martial arts-fighting – the blaxploitation heroes of the 1970s might have actually been (or been friends with) pimps, gangsters, and drug dealers, but the goal in the end was cleaning up the neighborhood and beating The Man. The genre inspired Carl Jones and Michael Jai White, both behind the new animated series Black Dynamite.

The series is based on a 2009 cult film and blaxploitation spoof of the same name. Michael Jai White, who co-wrote and starred in the film, lends his voice to the animated Black Dynamite. Director Carl Jones (The Boondocks) was brought on to shepherd the concept from film to animation.

Michael and Carl join us to discuss their favorite blaxploitation films, the troubles of Richard Pryor, and fleshing out the relationships and characters of the film for the series.

Black Dynamite airs Sundays at 11:30pm on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.

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Jason Brewer on Johnny B. Goode

Jason Brewer wanted to play guitar since he was four. Today, he's writing music, singing and playing guitar for The Explorers Club, a band that incorporates the sounds of the 1960s-era vocal harmonies and orchestral arrangements that obsessed him in his youth.

He talks to us about the song that changed his life – Johnny B. Goode, by Chuck Berry.

The Explorers Club released their second album, Grand Hotel, earlier this year.

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Rachel Dratch on Her Best Impressions, Dating, and Becoming a Mom

Rachel Dratch is a comic actress best known to audiences as a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1999 to 2006, and from recurring roles on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock. Most recently, she's written Girl Walks Into A Bar...: Comedies Calamities, Dating Disasters & A Midlife Miracle. While there are behind-the-scenes stories from her days at SNL in the book, it's mainly the story of life after the show. With plenty of time on her hands, Dratch dove head-first into the dating pool after years of using being busy with SNL as an excuse not to date. The titular miracle was an unexpected pregnancy at age 44, having been in a long distance relationship with the father for just six months prior.

Dratch joins Jesse to discuss her comedy background in Chicago, the development process of getting some of her most famous SNL characters to air, and the inherent humor of balancing midlife motherhood with a romance still in its infant stages. This interview originally aired April 17, 2012.

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The Outshot: Bill Bryson's At Home

Jesse suggests you follow the humorist and travel writer Bill Bryson on his wanderings through the history of the homestead and domesticity (it's not quite as dry as you think). His book is At Home: A Short History of Private Life.

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Got a favorite book you want to spread the word about? Head on over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.

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The Memory Palace episode 45: Heard, Once

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: R.J. Smith on James Brown, Cameron Esposito, The Low Times

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
R.J. Smith
Guests: 
Cameron Esposito
Guests: 
Maggie Serota
Guests: 
Daniel Ralston


Summer Music with Daniel Ralston and Maggie Serota of The Low Times

For summer music recommendations, we’re joined by our rock music correspondents Daniel Ralston and Maggie Serota of the Low Times podcast. They recommend Henrietta by Yeasayer and Life by Summer Camp.

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R.J. Smith profiles the Godfather of Soul, James Brown

R.J. Smith is a former senior editor at Los Angeles Magazine and a music journalist who's written for the Village Voice and Spin. For his latest project, he took on the task of profiling the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Smith's extensive biography, The One: The Life and Music of James Brown, follows the musician from his childhood, raised in a whorehouse, wearing burlap sack underwear, to stardom, and then to reinvention.

James Brown was a hugely influential musician and performer, known for hits like "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Get Up (I Feel Like a Sex Machine)," and he was one of the driving forces behind the creation and popularity of funk music. But he was also much more than that -- a tenacious businessman who ran his finances into the ground, a man of messy and confusing political alliances, and a hardliner on drug abuse (who eventually fell to his own drug addictions).

Why didn’t Brown’s politics fit neatly into a particular mindset? And why, unlike nearly all of his black contemporaries, did he endorse Nixon? What drew crowds of screaming fans to his performances? And how did he survive the rise of disco? Smith's book delves into Brown's storied and complicated life and music career of six decades, as well as his effects on pop music, politics, and race relations in 20th century America.

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Comedy from Cameron Esposito

Cameron Esposito is a standup comic who's been featured on this show and performed at TBS' Just for Laughs Chicago, South by Southwest, and the Aspen Rooftop Comedy Festivals. She recently moved to Los Angeles right in time for the 4th Annual MaxFunCon, and joined us to perform a set musing on her childhood appearance.

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The Outshot: Cheers

Why not go where everybody goes your name? This week, Jesse recommends that you revisit Cheers.

Do you have a piece of pop culture that keeps you coming back? Share your own Outshot on our forums.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Robert Glasper, Pendleton Ward, and Davy Rothbart

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Robert Glasper
Guests: 
Pendleton Ward
Guests: 
Davy Rothbart
Guests: 
Mark Frauenfelder


Recommendations from Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing

Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing and the Gweek podcast brings us this week's culture recommendations: The Harvey Girls: Little Audrey, Little Dot, and Little Lotta and The Internet Archive's Classic TV feed.

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Jazz Pianist Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper is a jazz pianist and the band leader of the Robert Glasper Experiment. Glasper's life in music began early, as his mother, a jazz and blues vocalist, would often bring her young son along to clubs with her, where he would watch from backstage. His music today blends classic jazz influences with soul music and modern hip-hop, forging something fresh and new out of a genre he says is in dire need of a shake-up. His new album, Black Radio, includes collaborations with hip-hop artists like Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def, as well as old friend and frequent collaborator Bilal.

Glasper sits down with us to reveal some of his more embarrassing musical influences, reflect on working alongside the late J. Dilla, and dish on what he feels is wrong with today's jazz culture. (Originally aired April 10, 2012)

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Found Things, with Davy Rothbart

Davy Rothbart is the editor of Found Magazine, an annual publication collecting lost letters, tests, essays and notes, all found and submitted by readers. Found put out its first issue nearly ten years ago, and Davy has been a regular guest on The Sound of Young America ever since. In his first appearance on Bullseye, Rothbart recounts the cryptic tales found within the pages of some of his favorite lost treasures, brought to him by readers on Found's national tours. (Originally aired April 10, 2012)

If you've found something special you'd like to send in, either digitally or by mail, visit www.FoundMagazine.com/submit.

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Animator Pendleton Ward, creator of Adventure Time

Pendleton Ward is a writer and animator, and the creator of the Cartoon Network series Adventure Time. The show follows the adventures of Finn the boy and Jake the shape-shifting dog, through a magical post-apocalyptic Earth. It's very witty and full of humor, and is one of those rare programs that works just as well for kids as it does for adults. Pen is a born artist, who even during this interview can't help but capture his host on paper. He joins Jesse to discuss drawing as a comedic outlet, the delicate art of writing a quality fart joke, and the influence of Dungeons & Dragons on the fantastical quests of Adventure Time. The show just began its fourth season; you can catch new episodes Monday nights on Cartoon Network. (Originally aired April 10, 2012)

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The Outshot: BESTIE x BESTIE

For this week's Outshot, Jesse delves into the often contrived world of quirky viral videos and finds something genuinely hilarious: the web series BESTIE x BESTIE, starring Jenny Slate and Gabe Liedman. You might know Slate as a former featured player on SNL or as the writer and voice of another internet smash, Marcel The Shell With Shoes On. In BESTIE x BESTIE she and best friend Liedman take turns trying desperately to remain serious while the other does their best to make them crack. The results are often as funny as anything on the internet. (Originally aired April 10, 2012)

Is there a web series that tickles your funny-bone like none other? Help it go viral by sharing it on the MaxFun Forum and picking your own Outshot.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Scott Aukerman, Mark Duplass, and David Rees

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Scott Aukerman
Guests: 
Mark Duplass
Guests: 
David Rees
Guests: 
Tasha Robinson
Guests: 
Keith Phipps

AV Club Culture Recommendations

This week's pop culture picks come to us from The AV Club's Keith Phipps and Tasha Robinson, who share a few of their all-time favorites. Tasha talks up Richard Adams' fantasy novel Watership Down -- a book which, if you weren't already forced to read it in high school, is well worth a look. Keith meanwhile shines a light on perhaps the least renowned of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, Duck, You Sucker! (also known as A Fistful of Dynamite or Once Upon A Time... The Revolution!), in which the Italian master of the gunslinger casts his gaze on the tale of Zapata.

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Scott Aukerman, Host of Comedy Bang! Bang!

Scott Aukerman is a writer and the host of Comedy Bang! Bang!, formerly known as Comedy Death-Ray. The show began in 2002 as a comedy pub night in Los Angeles, and is now one of the landmark shows at L.A.'s UCB Theater. In 2009, Scott took many of the show's best regular characters and comics with him into a radio environment, launching Comedy Death-Ray Radio on Indie 103.1, and setting the template for what would become one of the internet's premiere comedy podcasts. Comedy Bang! Bang! is now the flagship show on Aukerman's Earwolf podcast network. This month the show made the leap into another medium entirely: as a darkly satirical late night television talk show.

Scott sat down with us to discuss the move to TV, his early years in Hollywood as a sketch writer on HBO's Mr. Show with Bob & David, and the strange business of getting paid to do work that's never produced. Comedy Bang! Bang! airs Friday nights at 10PM on IFC.

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Artisanal Pencil Sharpening, with David Rees

Pencil sharpener David Rees was long trapped in an awful job as a satirical cartoonist until he just couldn't take it anymore. In 2010, Rees decided to get back in touch with on old-school writing instrument and took up artisanal pencil sharpening as a profession. His new book, How To Sharpen Pencils, was released earlier this year, and he's now demonstrated his old-fashioned technique in bookstores across the country. David joins us this week to discuss the lost art of pencil sharpening, and treats us to a chapter reading from his book.

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Actor & Filmmaker Mark Duplass

Mark Duplass is an actor, writer, director, musician, and a man who can be described as having many irons in the fire. He's the star of two films currently in theaters, Your Sister's Sister and Safety Not Guaranteed, with a third film, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, that he wrote and directed alongside his creative partner (and brother) Jay, due later this summer. The Do-Deca-Pentathlon will be the second Duplass Brothers film to hit screens this year, following the brothers' biggest film to date: Jeff, Who Lives At Home, with Jason Segel and Ed Helms. And as if all that weren't enough, you might know Mark best from his starring role as Pete on the FX comedy series The League, which will be back for a fourth season in the fall.

Mark joins us to discuss the way his musical past has influenced his tendencies as a filmmaker, and why he's not worried about taking his projects to total perfection.
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The Outshot: Digable Planets’ Blowout Comb

For The Outshot this week, Jesse highlights the relaxed, harmonious hip hop sound of Digable Planets' revolutionary but commercially disastrous 1994 record Blowout Comb.

Got a cultural gem of your own? Set the record straight by picking your own Outshot on the MaxFun Forum.

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