BoingBoing comics editor Brian Heater and MTV Geek's Alex Zalben are here to talk comics. Brian suggests checking out Peter Bagge's Other Stuff, a collection of the cartoonist's side projects since the 90s. Alex's pick is Relish: My Life In The Kitchen, a unique comic that's part memoir and part cookbook.
In the late 1970s and early 80s, NBC had a lot in common with...well, NBC today. The network was consistently behind in the ratings, with not a whole lot to lose. That might partially explain why a young executive named Warren Littlefield was able to approve a couple of shows that, on paper, didn’t look all that promising. One of them found itself with the lowest ratings in all of TV at the end of the first season. The other show was a family sitcom that ABC rejected, after executives there proclaimed that family sitcoms were dead. Not the best odds, right? But those two shows – Cheers and The Cosby Show, respectively – went on to become two of the most important sitcoms in television’s history, leading directly to the development of the Thursday night powerhouse that was Must-See TV.
Littlefield left NBC in 1998; since then, the network's fortunes have changed pretty dramatically and Must-See TV no longer exists for ANY channel. So Littlefield is taking a look back at NBC's glory years in an oral history called Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV, which was just released in paperback. Littlefield joins us to discuss how NBC's shows changed primetime, how the shows forged intimate connections with viewers, and the pleasures and sorrows of working with a pre-rehab Kelsey Grammer.
BUT WAIT -- there's more. If you want to know why Warren thinks Norm MacDonald was fired from SNL, or why he backed Leno as the successor to the Late Night throne... Listen here for an extended cut of our interview with him, and share it with your friends.
In Canonball, we take a flying leap into the canon of popular music. We're joined by professor and music writer Oliver Wang to talk about an Al Green album that deserves your attention. No, it's not Green's chart-topping record Let's Stay Together. Wang says that it was Al Green's followup to that album that really rattled him to his core.
Wang talks to us about 1973's I'm Still in Love with You, the record that created a new kind of soul music. Green's beautiful, if flawed voice, was merged with Willie Mitchell's innovative rhythm section and a new sound emerged.
You can find Oliver Wang's thoughts on soul rarities and more on his blog, Soul Sides.
Special thanks to Chris Berube, who edited Canonball for us this week.
What do you do when you’re mad? Not just a little miffed, but angry – so angry that you’re shaking? Jesse finds a way out through Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are.
Bill Carter is the author of two books about the politics and people of late night television, and a media reporter for the New York Times.
His most recent book is The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy, a behind-the-scenes look at the Sturm und Drang of the late night wars over Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, and The Tonight Show.
JESSE THORN: It’s The Sound of Young America, I’m Jesse Thorn. My guest, Bill Carter, is the national media reporter for the New York Times. He’s also made a name of himself as a chronicler of late night television programming. His first book, The Late Shift, was a best-selling story of the battle between Jay Leno and David Letterman for the Tonight Show. His latest book, The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy, is the story of the improbable second act of that drama in which Leno fought it out with Conan O’Brien for that most coveted of television programs. Bill, welcome to The Sound of Young America, it’s great to have you on the show.
BILL CARTER: It’s great to be with you, Jesse.
JESSE THORN: Bill, tell me why this battle keeps happening. What is it that’s so important about this institution of The Tonight Show?
Judah Friedlander is a regular on NBC's 30 Rock and the author of How To Beat Up Anybody. He is the World Champion.
Judah joined us on our live show at WNYC to discuss the differences between a Yeti, a Sasquatch and a Bigfoot (and how to beat up all three). He also delineated his strategies for fighting groups of people and even groups of strippers.
When Friedlander's not beating people up, he plays writer Frank Rossitano on 30 Rock. He's had a long and successful career on stage as a standup comic, and his film roles include an acclaimed turn as the Original Nerd, Toby in "American Splendor."
Standup comedian Nick Adams is the author of Making Friends with Black People and a writer on the upcoming NBC sitcom Perfect Couples. He performed this set at The Sound of Young America Presents: Laugh Night at Art Share in Los Angeles.
Andy Richter is best known as sidekick to Conan O'Brien, on both Late Night and The Tonight Show. He's also a successful comic writer and actor. His acclaimed series Andy Barker, PI and Andy Richter Controls the Universe are both available on DVD. He's also headed out on tour with Conan O'Brien's "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television" tour, which begins April 12th in Eugene, Oregon.
Andy talked with us about his early days, touring with The Real Brady Bunch and eventually falling into the sidekick's chair on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. He talks about why he left that show, and why he rejoined Conan for The Tonight Show, and about what it was like to man a sinking ship after the staff of Tonight found out they were being pulled from the air.