The Outshot

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Big Boi & Catherine O'Hara

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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. His most recent release is called 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.

This interview originally aired in April 2013.

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All-Time Favorites with Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder

Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder joins us this week to share some all-time favorites: a great dungeon crawler for iOS called The Sword of Fargoal and Chandler Burr's The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession, a fascinating book exploring the science of scent.

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Canonball: A Tour of Led Zeppelin's III with Brad Tolinski

For our segment Canonball, we 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.

This segment originally aired in January 2013.

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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.

Most recently, she's starred in the sitcom Schitt's Creek with Chris Elliott and O'Hara's longtime collaborator Eugene Levy.

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.

This interview originally aired in April 2013.

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The Outshot: The Throne Of The Third Heaven of the Nations' Millenium General Assembly

In this week's Outshot, Jesse tells the story of a man who secretly spent the last fifteen years of his life building something amazing in a rented garage.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: James Burrows & Future Islands

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James Burrows
Guests: 
Samuel Herring

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Photo by Jesse Thorn

Sitcom Guru James Burrows on Andy Kaufman, Teaching Ted Danson to Tend Bar, and Why He's Still Directing

Forty-one years ago, James Burrows stepped on the set of The Mary Tyler Moore Show to direct an episode. It was his very first gig as a TV director. Since then, he co-created Cheers and became known as the go-to guy to direct your sitcom pilot. He's directed more than fifty pilot episodes, including those for Taxi, Frasier, Will & Grace, Friends, Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, and he adds more to his resume every season.

Burrows is the son of the famous playwright Abe Burrows, who wrote the book for Broadway musicals like Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

James Burrows will talk about creating his own career path on television, working with Andy Kaufman (and Andy's alter-ego Tony Clifton), brainstorming the elements that would become Cheers, and why he continues to direct.

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Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Samuel Herring of Future Islands Explains Why Joy Division's "Digital" Changed His Life

Samuel Herring, the frontman for the synth-pop band Future Islands, grew up loving hip hop (as he still does).

But there's a rock song that helped him put him on the path to forming the band Future Islands with bandmate William Cashion. And that song is Joy Division's "Digital". It's the song that changed his life.

Future Islands just released two brand-new singles, and they're out on tour this summer and fall to promote their newest album, titled Singles.

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The Outshot: The Revolutionary Afrobeat of Fela Kuti

Jesse pays tribute to the feeling of Fela.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Paul Feig & Combat Jack

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Bullseye
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Paul Feig
Guests: 
Combat Jack

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Photo by Jesse Thorn

Paul Feig on Outer Space Comedy and His Ghostbusters Reboot

The writer, director and producer Paul Feig has developed a kind of reputation. His movies and TV shows often feature characters who are awkward and nerdy and trying to figure out their relationships to other people (see: Freaks and Geeks). They also often showcase hilarious women (see: Bridesmaids, The Heat). And now he's keeping the comedy, the feelings and relationships, and upping the stakes. His new series, Other Space, is about a crew on a spaceship stranded in a parallel universe.

We'll talk to Paul Feig about why he grew up wishing aliens would take him away, why he was so determined to bring female-lead comedy movies into the mainstream, and his plans for remaking the stuff of America's childhood -- from Ghostbusters, to Peanuts, to Play-Doh.

Paul Feig's series Other Space is available now on Yahoo! Screen.

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Combat Jack Forges His Own Path Through Hip Hop

For years, Reggie Osse (also known as Combat Jack) worked as a music industry lawyer, helping hip hop producers and artists broker deals.

He loved the music. But he reached a point where he didn't want to be the guy taking care of other people's careers. He had lots of creative ideas, but none of his clients wanted their lawyer's take on that stuff. So Osse decided to try doing something new for him: blogging about hip hop.

We'll talk about how he parlayed the blogging into an interview podcast called The Combat Jack Show, where he's interviewed artists and producers like J Cole, Common and Big Daddy Kane among many, many others.

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The Outshot: The Thrill Ride of Rick James

What made Rick James irresistible? Jesse explains.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jon Ronson & Peter Guralnick

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Jon Ronson
Guests: 
Peter Guralnick
Guests: 
Guy Branum

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Photo by Jesse Thorn

Jon Ronson on the Aftereffects of Public Shaming and Why He Values People Over Ideologies

If the name Justine Sacco rings a bell with you, we'd guess it's because you remember this poorly-conceived and ill-judged tweet she sent that was heard around the world.

"Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!"

People on Twitter piled on, Justine Sacco publicly shamed and fired, and everyone went about their business. Except for Justine, that is.

Jon Ronson's new book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed, explores the effects that public shaming has on the shamed and the shamers.

He joins us to talk about Justine's tweet and whether or not public shaming is always a force for good.

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Photo by Seth Olenick

Comedy: Guy Branum in the Caribbean

Maybe you've heard our new sister podcast about culture, Pop Rocket. It’s hosted by a comic called Guy Branum. His new stand up album Effable was just released, so we thought this’d be a good opportunity to play you some of his set from last year’s Atlantic Ocean Comedy and Music Festival, AKA Boat Party dot Biz. So here’s the great Guy Branum, recorded live on a ship in the Caribbean.

Canonball: Peter Guralnick Gets "Knocked Out" by the Blues

It's time for Canonball. We take a leap into the deep end and talk to experts about classic albums -- or albums that should be considered classics -- and find out what makes them great.

This week, we’re joined by music historian and journalist Peter Guralnick. He's written about rock, soul and blues musicians for decades, profiling Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Sam Cooke, and Elvis among dozens of others.

But for our segment, he chose a record that captures what he loves about live music. It was recorded by the ethnomusicologist Harry Oster in the late 50s and early 60s, and it was released on as Country Negro Jam Sessions. (Please excuse the anachronistic title).

Several of Peter's books, including his acclaimed biography of Elvis, are now reissued with video and audio in e-book format. You can find more at PeterGuralnick.com.

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The Outshot: Man Seeking Woman

What if a bad date was literally one of the worst things ever? Jesse explores Simon Rich's unique talents in Man Seeking Woman.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Tom Scharpling & Andy Summers

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Tom Scharpling
Guests: 
Andy Summers

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Photo by Jesse Thorn

Tom Scharpling on The Best Show's Past and Future

For most of the past fifteen years, Tom Scharpling has hosted a free-form comedy show called The Best Show. It began on the New Jersey community radio station WFMU, and it grew into its own universe. That universe includes regular calls in character from Scharpling's comedy partner Jon Wurster, and a thriving community of listeners and callers.

A few years ago, the show moved from its home on the radio to a new home on the internet, where it still streams each Tuesday evening night and podcasts every week.

Tom Scharpling joined us to talk about his on-air personality, his community of listeners, and the creation of The Best Show's aesthetic.

A new box set from the Numero Group of Scharpling and Wurster's work is called The Best of the Best Show.

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Photo by Eric Michael Pearson

Comedy: Sara Schaefer's Tale of Deodorant

Sara Schaefer is a comedian, writer and performer who's appeared on @Midnight, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Best Week Ever, and Inside Amy Schumer. You may have also seen her work with her comedy partner Nikki Glaser on MTV's Nikki and Sara Live.

On her new stand up album, she shared a memory of her treasured middle school years.

Sara Schaefer's debut stand up album is called Chrysalis. You can find Sara's upcoming stand up dates here.


Photo by Jesse Thorn

Andy Summers of The Police on Songwriting and Rock Stardom

By the time The Police released "Roxanne", their first single from their debut album in 1978, guitarist Andy Summers had gone through several phases of his career. By sixteen, he was playing in local clubs and in short order he was playing with the London-based R&B group, Zoot Money's Big Roll Band. That group evolved into a psychedelic rock band in the late 1960s. Summers played a brief American tour with The Soft Machine, then rejoined Zoot Money to play with a new incarnation of The Animals before finally taking a break.

He studied classical guitar for a few years in Los Angeles, and by the time he formed The Police with Sting and Stewart Copeland in 1977, he had playing music professionally for over fifteen years.

Summers' story with that band is documented in the new documentary Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police. The movie is in theaters now.

He joined us to talk about the origins of some of the band's songs and the strange experience of being a rock star.

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The Outshot: The Nicest Guy in Showbiz

Jesse tells us about one of the folks who made Conan O'Brien's show the weird and wonderful thing it is today. He's Brian Stack, nicest guy in showbiz.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Lynda Barry & Tom Arnold

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Lynda Barry
Guests: 
Tom Arnold
Guests: 
Brian Coleman

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Photo: Guillaume Paumier, CC-BY

Lynda Barry Inspires Us to Get Creative with Monsters

Lynda Barry is a self-identified "freak", a cartoonist, a writer, and for the last couple of years, she's also been a college professor teaching interdisciplinary creativity at the University of Wisconsin.

What does that mean? Well, she encourages students to abandon their fears of creating and embrace their work and process.

Her most recent book, Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor collects her lesson plans and writing and drawing exercises.

Lynda talks with us about using monsters as a tool, why we're sometimes afraid to draw, and how elementary school aged kids can teach us a thing or two.

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Canonball: Brian Coleman Talks about Mantronix: The Album

Every so often we interview music journalists and experts, and ask them which records they think should be part of the pop music canon. It's Canonball.

This week, we're talking with the acclaimed rap journalist Brian Coleman, author of the series Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip Hop Junkies. He chose to talk to us about Mantronix.

In the mid-1980s, producer Kurtis Mantronik and MC Tee joined forces and created the hip hop group Mantronix.

Kurtis Mantronik rocked the TR-808 drum machine, and MC Tee moved the party along with his lyrics.

Together, they recorded Mantronix: The Album, and influenced the producers who followed them.

Brian Coleman's newest edition of "liner notes" is Check the Technique Volume 2.

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Tom Arnold Talks About Shaking Off the Bullies and Making His Own Way

Tom Arnold is a real show business survivor. In the mid 1990s he got famous -- both the kind you want to be, and the kind you don't want to be. His first big job in Hollywood was as a writer on Roseanne. He ended up married to her. He became a regular on the show and their relationship was tabloid fodder for five years. By the time they broke up in 1994, you couldn't make it through a late night monologue without a Tom Arnold joke.

But that was just the beginning of Tom Arnold's ride. A star making performance in a huge hit movie, True Lies, made him a star. Then a disastrous series of broad comedies made his career a punchline again.

But Arnold never stopped working, as a character actor, as a sports talk show host, as a stand up comic, and now in his 50s he's a dad for the first time and he's now been a star in Hollywood for thirty years. His new show is Yahoo's Sin City Saints. Arnold also continues to perform stand up across the country.

Tom talks with us about growing up in Iowa and fighting bullies, the difficulties of working in Las Vegas, his enduring respect for Roseanne, and the way he's found satisfaction with his work.

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The Outshot: MacGruber

Jesse heartily disagrees with A.O. Scott's review of the film version of MacGruber. In short: MacGruber exists, and the world is better for it.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Patton Oswalt, 'Fresh Off the Boat' & Jemaine Clement

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Patton Oswalt
Guests: 
Randall Park
Guests: 
Nahnatchka Khan
Guests: 
Jemaine Clement

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Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Patton Oswalt on Immersion in Art (and Life)

There was a period of time in the mid to late 1990s when Patton Oswalt spent most of his waking hours indoors. He'd be in a TV writers' room all day, make his way to the movie theater for a film or two, and then hit the stand up stage before going to sleep. Then he'd get up and do it all over again.

His movie obsession was supposed to teach him how to be a filmmaker and create better art, but he found he was missing out on life, and art was no substitute.

Oswalt's new book is called Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life From an Addiction to Film.

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Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Jemaine Clement on Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life"

You likely know Jemaine Clement best as half of the New Zealand comedy-music duo The Flight of the Conchords. Their show ran for several seasons on HBO.

More recently, Clement co-wrote, -directed and -stars in the new movie What We Do in the Shadows, about modern day vampire housemates.

What song changed his life? Stevie Wonder's recording of "For Once in My Life".

What We Do in the Shadows is in theaters now.

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Photo: ABC/Bob D'Amico

The Asian-American Sitcom in 2015: Randall Park and Nahnatchka Khan on 'Fresh Off the Boat'

Fresh Off the Boat is the first network sitcom about Asian-Americans in a long time, and that's a big deal. The creative team behind the show, including memoirist Eddie Huang, showrunner Nahnatchka Khan and star Randall Park have publicly grappled with that blessing and burden. How do you retain the specificity of the Tawainese-American experience and provide that to a group of Americans who are hungry for mass-market representation, and also make a show that's big-tent enough to welcome hundreds of millions of Americans who don't know what bao are?

We're joined by Nahnatchka Khan and Randall Park to talk about trying to achieve those goals, how they see their own American experiences, and how to write a sitcom dad who's not dumb.

Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesday nights at 8/7c on ABC.

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The Outshot: The Perfect Sly & the Family Stone Album

Jesse explains how Sly and the Family Stone made a perfect album, even as they slowly disintegrated as a group.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Nick Hornby & Luis Guzmán

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Nick Hornby
Guests: 
Luis Guzmán

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Photo: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Nick Hornby on 'Funny Girl', Creativity and Ambition

Nick Hornby became famous as a literary writer for men. His first three books were about guys, fans specifically, Fever Pitch was a memoir about Hornby’s love of soccer; High Fidelity was about a record store owner, struggling with love. About A Boy was about a sort of boyish man tending to a mannish boy.

Hornby has since written several other books and screenplays, including Oscar nominee An Education.

His new novel, Funny Girl, is about a working class young woman in the 1960s who leaves her small town in search of a career on television, and her success on a BBC sitcom.

He sat down with Jesse to talk about why he set his novel in the mid-60s (and why its protagonist is a woman), personal ambition and creativity, and what it's like to be a Hollywood dinner guest.

Funny Girl is available now.

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Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

Luis Guzmán of Ana Maria in Novela Land on 'The Part'

Luis Guzmán is a veteran character actor. But back in the early 1990s, he was still working as a social worker on the Lower East Side, and acting was more of a side gig. Then he got a role that put him on the map -- the thuggish sidekick Pachanga in the 1993 movie Carlito's Way.

As Guzmán tells it, everything crystallized with that role.

You can see Luis Guzmán playing evil lawyer Licenciado Schmidt in the new movie Ana Maria in Novela Land, in theaters now.

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The Outshot: Devil in a Blue Dress

Jesse explains why Easy Rawlins, of Devil in A Blue Dress, is a different breed of private detective.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: The Pointer Sisters

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--

Download this week's episode here.

The Pointer Sisters Get Excited (About Music, Clothes, and More)

The Pointer Sisters have always been musical chameleons. They had huge dance-pop hits in the 1980s, like "I'm So Excited" and "Jump (For My Love)", but at that point they had already found success in genres from jazz to R&B to disco, and even won a Grammy for their country hit, "Fairytale". The sisters grew up in Oakland, California and were taught by their reverend father that rock and roll was 'the devil's work'. However, when their parents weren't around, they snuck in listening sessions to Elvis, The Supremes, and James Brown.

Sisters Bonnie and June Pointer formed the earliest incarnation of the group in 1969, joined within several years by Ruth and Anita. They recorded their debut self-titled album in 1973, and the single "Yes We Can Can" became their first hit. They went on to record more hits over the next few decades, including "How Long (Betcha' Got a Chick on the Side)", a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Fire", and "He's So Shy".

Ruth and Anita Pointer join us for a wild and entertaining interview about their signature vintage style, forging their own musical path, and mixing family with business.

This interview originally aired February 18, 2014.

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Carolyn Kellogg Talks Westerns

Every week we like to check in with one of our favorite culture critics to get some recommendations of things that are worth your time. This week, Los Angeles Times book critic Carolyn Kellogg stops by to talk about some of her all-time favorite westerns, starting with one that broke the mold.

Her first recommendation is Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses.

Kellogg also recommends Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers.

This segment originally aired July 22, 2014.

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Bobby Lopez on The Song That Changed My Life: "Pure Imagination"

Think of a song you know by heart. A song that's been in your life for such a long time, you don't even remember when you first heard it. Maybe it was in your favorite movie as a kid.

Bobby Lopez writes those kind of songs. He's a composer for musicals and movies, and co-created the hit Broadway shows The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q. He and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez are behind the enormously successful songs for Disney's Frozen, including Let It Go.

This week, Bobby shares the song that changed his life: the inspiring and magical Pure Imagination, from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

This segment originally aired February 18, 2014.

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The Outshot: The Muppet Movie

Why do folks get into showbiz? If you think it's all to get attention, fame, or money, let The Muppet Movie show you why you're wrong.

This segment originally aired February 18, 2014.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Spike Lee & The Creators of 'High Maintenance'

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Bullseye
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Spike Lee
Guests: 
Katja Blichfeld
Guests: 
Ben Sinclair

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Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Spike Lee on 'Da Sweet Blood of Jesus', the Knicks, and Gentrification

Jesse sits down with acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee. Spike tells us about how addiction is made explicit in his new movie, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, how he really feels about Larry Bird and about his own very serious addiction.... to Air Jordans.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is in theaters now and available on VOD.

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Photo courtesy Matt Doyle

High Maintenance: Co-Creators Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair Talk About Marijuana, Their Webseries, and Asking for Money

Jesse sits down with Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair. Katja Blichfeld is a casting director who previously won an Emmy for her work on 30 Rock; Ben Sinclair is an actor. The two are a married couple, and created the series High Maintenance, a “not on television” show that follows a New York City marijuana delivery guy as he visits his various clients.

The series has evolved over two seasons and several years of production. Sinclair and Blichfeld released the second half of season 2 on Vimeo earlier this month.

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The Outshot: Wonder Showzen

MTV2's Wonder Showzen looked like a kids' show. But it wasn't. It really, really, wasn't. Jesse tells us why Wonder Showzen is his favorite TV satire of the past decade.

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