The New Yorker

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Kamasi Washington & Simon Rich

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Kamasi Washington
Guests: 
Simon Rich

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.


Photo: Jesse Thorn

Kamasi Washington on Street Fighter II, South Los Angeles, and Touring with Snoop Dogg

Saxophonist Kamasi Washington is one of the most talented jazz musicians around. He's collaborated with Thundercat, Ryan Adams, Flying Lotus, Run the Jewels - that's just naming a handful. On Kendrick Lamar's classic "To Pimp A Butterfly," you can hear his saxophone and arranging work, too.

To define Kamasi Washington by the people he's collaborated with, however, would be doing him a disservice. He's recorded about half a dozen solo records. He's a dynamic, thrilling composer and bandleader.

If you love the work of Alice Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders, you'll hear something familiar in Kamasi's music. Like them, Kamasi writes songs from a transcendent, spiritual place. It's strange and lush. There's usually a melody that hypnotizes you. The songs run long, but just like the free jazz greats, you'll lose yourself in them.

Kamasi was born in the 80s, raised in Los Angeles, and he grew up listening to jazz classics, but also N.W.A., Marvin Gaye, and Snoop. The music he makes is eclectic. It's why his albums have ended up on so many critics' top 10 lists, and it's also why those same critics often ask whether Kamasi Washington is the one to make jazz a young person's game again.

His latest album Heaven and Earth is out now, and he's also touring North America.


Photo:Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Simon Rich Reads from His Latest Book: Hits and Misses

Simon Rich is one of Jesse's favorite comedy writers. He started young: first as editor of the Harvard Lampoon, then, at just 23, Simon was hired as a writer on SNL. He's also written for Pixar, The New Yorker, and is the author of seven books. He created the FXX TV series Man Seeking Woman and just had another pilot picked up by ABC.

Simon hasn't even turned 35 yet.

Earlier this year he wrote a book called Hits & Misses. It's a collection of short stories - some of his funniest work to date. This week, he reads us a story called "New Client."

Click here to listen to Simon Rich read from his latest book on YouTube.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Susan Orlean and Jazz singer Gregory Porter

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Susan Orlean
Guests: 
Gregory Porter

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.


Photo: Jesse Thorn

Author Susan Orlean on her new book 'The Library Book'

Susan Orlean is a staff writer at The New Yorker. Her work has also appeared in Vogue, Esquire and on This American Life. She's the author of eight books, covering topics like New England and Rin Tin Tin. Her first book, "Saturday Night," used narrative journalism to paint a portrait of how Saturday night in America is lived. She's probably best known for "The Orchid Thief." That book ended up being the basis of the Academy Award nominated film "Adaptation," starring Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep.

She now lives here in Los Angeles. Being an author and a reader, she's visited the beautiful, historic central library in downtown Los Angeles dozens of times. Her latest book "The Library Book" is about that library and its history.

It wasn't until she took a tour of the library that she was inspired to write this book. The tour guide opened a book and said some of them still smelled like smoke. A bit perplexed she probed and asked more about the smell. This is how she learned of devastating fire that almost demolished the building in 1986. She always hoped someone would tell this story, and unknowingly years later she would be the one to tell it. The book is also also kind of a paean to libraries everywhere – what they mean to her, and why every library is a vital institution.

We're big fans of Susan Orlean at Maximum Fun. A few years ago she gave a talk at Max Fun Con called: "Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary." You can check out that talk here.

Photo: Valery Hache / AFP / Getty Images

Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter on his new album 'Nat King Cole and Me'

Gregory Porter is a Grammy Award winning jazz vocalist. The route he took to get there is really unique. He was a offensive lineman at San Diego State. Then, during his junior year, an injury ended his football career. During that time he could sing, but he wasn't a singer. That changed when his mom, literally from her deathbed, told him to start singing.

In 2010, he moved to New York with his brother and recorded his debut record "Water." Whereas most young jazz singers start their careers recording standards, Porter recorded an album of mostly originals.

Now, almost a decade later, he's laid down an new album with jazz standards. "Nat King Cole and Me" pays tribute to one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. It's music he grew up on. Porter spent a lot of time researching the music of Nat King Cole - his records, books, and documentaries. He'll tell us what made Cole one of the most unique singers of the civil rights era of the 1950's. He'll also tell us what it was like to grow up in Bakersfield, California and how that's influenced his lyrics.

The covers are great, but if you want to hear some more of his original work, check out his 2016 album: "Take Me to the Alley" – the album was inspired by his mother's teachings as a street minister and it's one of our favorites.

The Outshot: Hot Dog Timmy

Jesse explains why great things can come of simple premises and simple situations. Like in this sketch from "The Whitest Kids You Know."

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Geena Davis and Jack Handey

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Geena Davis
Guests: 
Jack Handey

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.


Photo: Jesse Thorn

Geena Davis on Gender Diversity, Archery and Quieting the Inner Critic

Geena Davis has made a lasting impression as an actress both on film and television in her roles in "Beetlejuice," "Thelma and Louise," "A League of Their Own," "The Accidental Tourist" and "Commander in Chief." Her performances have resulted in acclaim and a lengthy career both in front and behind the camera. It's also garnered her a Golden Globe and an Oscar.

Davis is just as committed to her work for gender awareness and diversity in film and television. She founded the research-based Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, to educate, and influence, the entertainment industry with regard to gender representation on screen. Davis also founded the Bentonville Film Festival, which showcases films featuring minorities and women in both cast and crew and which guarantees distribution to the festival's winners.

Geena Davis joined Jesse on Bullseye in 2016 and spoke about gaining confidence in voicing her opinions on set, how she feels about being recognized in public and how quieting her inner-critic helped her to almost qualify as an archer for the Summer Olympic games.

Today, her work at the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is still going strong and they're doing a lot of really insightful, fascinating work. You can also see Geena Davis on the new season of "Grey's Anatomy" on ABC.

Click here to listen to Geena Davis's interview on YouTube.


Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Humorist Jack Handey confirms that yes, he is a real person

Make a few clicks on the internet and you'll run across ten fake "Deep Thoughts," and if you're lucky, a few real ones. Our guest Jack Handey created the seminal "Saturday Night Live" interstitial segment and authored several book collections of the material. He also wrote numerous other classic Saturday Night Live sketches, from "Happy Fun Ball" to "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer." He's been writing in The New Yorker's Shouts and Murmurs section, and these writings, plus work for Outside Magazine and other publications, have been collected in the hilarious "What I'd Say To The Martians: and Other Veiled Threats."

We spoke to Jack in 2008. What's he up to lately? Jack is still writing for The New Yorker, still putting out books, too. His latest book is "Please Stop The Deep Thoughts," which just came out last year.

Click here to listen to Jack Handey's interview on YouTube.

The Outshot: Zombo.com

Jesse on the lingering amusement provided by the absurd and simple website, Zombo.com.

Click here to listen to Jesse's Outshot on Zombo.com on YouTube.

The Turnaround: Susan Orlean

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Show: 
The Turnaround
Guests: 
Susan Orlean

New to The Turnaround? Subscribe in Apple Podcasts or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get two new interviews a week through August 18th.

Susan Orlean has been a journalist for over 30 years, writing for publications like The Rolling Stone and Vogue. In 1992 she was made a staff writer at The New Yorker and has been contributing ever since. She has also written eight books. One of them, The Orchid Thief, was the basis of Adaptation, Charlie Kaufman's 2002 film starring Nicholas Cage and Meryl Streep.

Susan talks to Jesse about how some of her best pieces start as one thing and end up as another, especially once she begins talking to living, breathing human beings. She did just that in her 1994 piece about disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding, which she wrote by talking to locals in Harding's hometown of Clackamas, Oregon. She also shares about her experiences interviewing celebrities, including the valuable lesson she learned when profiling Tom Hanks for Rolling Stone.

Visit Susan Orlean's website to learn more about her work, including the many articles and books she's written.

The Turnaround is a production of Maximum Fun in partnership with the Columbia Journalism Review. Visit their website to learn more about their "mission to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society," and to read edited transcripts of our other Turnaround episodes.

Hosted and created by Jesse Thorn
Produced by Kara Hart and Nick Liao
Senior Producer: Laura Swisher
Managing Director: Bikram Chatterji

Music for The Turnaround provided by Mobius Van ChocStraw.

Special thanks to Kyle Pope and his team at CJR, Darrel Frost, and Emilie Erskine.

Rin Tin Tin with Susan Orlean: Interview on The Sound of Young America

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Susan Orlean

Bestselling nonfiction author and The New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean talks to us about the fascinating life of the iconic screen star, Rin Tin Tin.

Rin Tin Tin went from being an abandoned puppy in a bombed-out dog kennel to being one of the best-recognized and best-loved dogs in recent history. His owner Lee Duncan devoted his life to showing the world the fantastic stunts his dog could do, including jumping 12-foot fences and climbing trees. Rin Tin Tin became "The Wonder Dog" and a star of the silver (and later, television) screen.

Susan's new book, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, is not merely a biography of the dogs that took on the mantle of Rin Tin Tin, but an exploration of what our relationships with dogs have to come mean in the past hundred years.

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