The AV Club's Kyle Ryan and Nathan Rabin join us this week with music recommendations. Kyle suggests The Evens's new album, The Odds. Nathan recommends hip-hop group The Coup's new album Sorry to Bother You. Both albums feature artistic departures from the bands' traditional sounds -- The Odds marks a more melodic take on The Evens's punk-rock aesthetic, while Sorry to Bother You introduces punk and dance-rock elements.
Tavi Gevinson's interest in the artistry of fashion inspired her to start her blog, Style Rookie, when she was in middle school. Drawn to unusual color combinations, proportions, and textures, Gevinson sought to create narratives with her outfits -- which caught flack at school, even as fashion magazines praised her sense of style.
Most recently, Gevinson's founded and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the online magazine Rookie, a beautifully curated website for teen girls featuring content spanning myriad topics, including feminism, fashion, and how to build the very best forts. Gevinson recently collected some of Rookie's first year of content into a book called Rookie Yearbook One.
Gevinson joins us to discuss what sparked her foray into the fashion world, people's tendency to fixate on her age, and the qualities that make people worth writing about.
We may have only known Retta as a neurosurgeon, given her pre-med track in college. But after a few years of working in the pharmaceutical industry post-grad, her casual TV-watching led to a spark of realization -- acting could be a viable path, too. Her newfound dream of working in entertainment led to a stand up act, and eventually the role of Donna on NBC's Parks and Recreation.
Retta talks about her start in show business, her fear of being typecast, and the evolution of her character on Parks and Rec, Donna Meagle. You can catch Parks and Recreation Thursday nights on NBC.
Who is better suited to parody the reality TV show genre as a whole, and Antiques Roadshow in particular, than the folks at The Onion? This week, Jesse recommends Lake Dredge Appraisal, a sly take on your typical appraisal show which often defies your expectations.
What show are you enjoying lately? Why don't you head over to the MaxFun forums and share YOUR outshot?
Fran Lebowitz's literary career had a somewhat inauspicious beginning -- not long after being expelled from high school, she moved to New York, showed up barefoot at a publishing house to submit her poetry collection, and was incredulous when it was rejected. Her determination, fearlessness, and sharp wit were undeniable, however, and she soon became not only a successful author, but one of New York's most important social critics.
Lebowitz shares stories of teenage rebellion, getting started as a writer, and why she considers herself to be the least envious person on the planet. A collection of her essays, The Fran Lebowitz Reader, is now available in audiobook form.
You may not immediately recognize his name, but chances are good you've heard Karriem Riggins's work. He's a jazz drummer who's played with greats like Diana Krall and Ron Carter, and he's produced hip hop for Erykah Badu and The Roots. Riggins' new solo album, Alone / Together, fuses his drumming with his production chops.
He joins us this week to discuss the song that changed his life: "Give it Up or Turnit a Loose" by James Brown.
"It Was a Good Day" is rapper Ice Cube's biggest hit -- a solid rap song with a great beat, it's easy to see why this record was so successful. What makes this song truly great, however, isn't Ice Cube's vivid description of his good day, but looming, omnipresent possibility of a much worse day.
Tom Scharpling, Maggie Serota, and Daniel Ralston from the Low Times podcast join us this week with music suggestions. Maggie recommends “What Have I Done to Deserve This” from Pet Shop Boys, Tom suggests “Stud Spider” by Tony Joe White, and Daniel thinks we should check out Bill Fox’s “Bonded to You.”
You may best recognize Stephen Tobolowsky from his role as Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day, but his considerable body of work spans several mediums. He's appeared as a character actor in hundreds of films and television shows, including the HBO series Deadwood, he hosts The Tobolowsky Files podcast, and he's now written a book called The Dangerous Animals Club.
The stories in his podcast and his new book are about his life, but they aren't Hollywood gossip. They're funny, intimate, and often profound recountings of things from his normal life – like falling in love for the first time, being held at gunpoint at the grocery store, and spending Christmas Eve tripping on acid. He joins us to share some of those stories.
R&B has lost its edge in recent years, but Frank Ocean’s album Channel Orange is a new, exciting example of the genre. Ocean channels emotions and harnesses distance to create beautiful, memorable songs and a masterful record.
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.
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.
The Grammy-nominated jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer began learning classical violin at age three and started improvising on the piano only a few years later. While he studied math and physics at Yale and UC Berkeley, he couldn't stay away from music. He found himself doing academic work by day, and moonlighting as a jazz pianist in Bay Area clubs.
His music is known for its complex, pulsing rhythms and creating unusual covers of artists like Stevie Wonder, Flying Lotus, and Michael Jackson.
He talks to us about exploring rhythm with math (remember Fibonacci's sequence?), the social experience of creating and listening to music, and the idea that "music is action."
Demetri Martin is the kind of person who's obsessed with puzzles and linguistic and cultural ironies, and you've probably seen him explore those on his show Important Things with Demetri Martin. But he's usually got a big sketchpad, slides projected overhead, and a piano to riff on. He's put the theatricality aside in favor of straight ahead one-liners in this clip from his new special, Standup Comedian.
Dave Hill is best known as a New York-based comedian, but he's dabbled in a lot of things. He's interviewed fans of Chick-Fil-A for This American Life, lived the life of a frontman for a semi-successful rock band (they were big in Japan), and even had a job as a pedicab driver for a few days.
One of his trademarks is making himself and others uncomfortable during a performance, whether he's asking inane or (alternately) inappropriately suggestive questions in his man-on-the-street interviews, performing stand up or hosting his talk show The Dave Hill Explosion. He mines a number of uncomfortable situations in his recent book of essays, Tasteful Nudes: ...and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation.
He talks to us about how being a rock musician made him realize he loved comedy, and how he ended up performing at Sing Sing for maximum security felons. This interview originally aired July 2, 2012.)
We're joined this week by the entire cast of the Low Times podcast for their music recommendations. Daniel Ralston goes with Rock Bottom by King Krule, Maggie Serota suggests Your Side by Fear of Men, and Tom Scharpling recommends The Diaz Brothers by The Mountain Goats.
Liam Lynch is a writer, director and musician who's made a career out of a certain kind of alternative musical and skit comedy -- the kind that is "funny the way your friends are funny with each other." That sensibility lent itself well to Lynch's directorial work in Sarah Silverman's Jesus is Magic and Tenacious D's The Pick of Destiny.
His sock puppet duo, Sifl & Olly, found a niche on late-night television on MTV. Joined by the occasional sidekick or home shopping network representative, Sifl and Olly ribbed each other, took calls from the public, and broke out into songs like Lynch's strange and catchy "United States of Whatever."
He's now revived the puppets, more than ten years after the last Sifl & Olly Show broadcast, to conduct fake video game reviews for the YouTube channel Machinima.
Geoff Nunberg is a professor at UC Berkeley, the resident linguist of Fresh Air, and the author of Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years. He talks to us about his studies into the word "asshole," which began life as a bit of slang used by WWII servicemen and has come to envelop the concept of modern incivility.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.