The Outshot

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Nick Hornby & Luis Guzmán

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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 nominees An Education and Brooklyn.

His recent 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.

Nick Hornby 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 in paperback.

The interview originally aired in March 2015.


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Luis Guzmán 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 currently see Luis Guzmán in the role of Jesse Sallander on the CBS hospital drama, Code Black. On the show, he plays the role of the trauma unit’s senior nurse, affectionately referred to as “Momma”.

The interview originally aired in March 2015.

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.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Dwayne Kennedy & Noel Fielding

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Dwayne Kennedy on His Debut EP, Using Jokes About Race as a Barometer, and Playing Different Kinds of Crowds

Dwayne Kennedy has been in the stand up comedy game for about thirty years now, performing everywhere, from Showtime at the Apollo to the Late Show with David Letterman, but he's still a bit of a comic's comic.

He'll talk to Jesse about why he's recorded plenty of his sets, but is only releasing his debut stand up EP this month. Plus, he'll explain how he's adapted his comedy for different audiences and how he's used jokes about race as a barometer.

His debut record is called Oh No! It's Dwayne Kennedy and is available now on Bandcamp. You can also check out Dwayne Kennedy's site for a schedule of his upcoming shows. See if he's coming to a city near you!

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Photo by Jesse Thorn

British Cult Comic Noel Fielding on 'The Mighty Boosh' and Creating New Worlds

If audiences in the United States know Noel Fielding, it's for his cult comedy show The Mighty Boosh, a comedy double-act turned radio program and then TV show. It aired here on Cartoon Network's adult swim. But Fielding is much better known in his native UK for not only the Boosh (which has done arena tours) but his appearances on quiz shows and his specific sense of style.

Fielding is touring the United States this spring with a live show called An Evening with Noel Fielding, which features some of his beloved characters and frequent collaborators (like Rich Fulcher).

Fielding sits down with us to talk about his comedy "marriage" with his Mighty Boosh creative partner Julian Barratt, his personal aesthetic, and creating new worlds on the radio, on TV, and on the stage.

His show The Mighty Boosh is available now on Seeso.com. Find out if An Evening with Noel Fielding is coming to a city near you by checking out Fielding's site.

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The Outshot: Beyoncé's "Formation" and Taking Space

Jesse considers the backlash to Beyoncé's new single, and explains why he thinks it's worth your attention.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Kaitlin Olson & Jeff Chang

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Kaitlin Olson on "Sweet Dee" and the Morally Bankruptcy in It's Always Sunny on Philadelphia

Kaitlin Olson plays Sweet Dee on the long-running sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Dee is the only female member of "The Gang", a bunch of depraved, self-centered pals who run a bar. The Gang is constantly looking for ways to get rich quick, humiliate their enemies, get out of work, and prove once and for all the talent, charisma and brilliance they hold to be self-evident. In an unusual move for a solo female character, Dee doesn't serve to counterbalance the guys' bad behavior -- she absolutely matches their pace.

Olson talks to us about creating a more fully-fleshed character for Dee, how she came to comedy, and how she ended up dating (and marrying) her showrunner.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia just began its eleventh season. It airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on FXX.

This interview originally aired in January 2015.

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Jeff Chang on Art, Race, and How Diversity Now Means "Them"

About ten years ago, Jeff Chang published his book Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. His new book is a sort of follow-up -- it chronicles some of the cultural and racial shifts we've experienced as a nation. It's called Who We Be: The Colorization of America. It's now available in paperback.

Chang talks to us about what "diversity" means to us today, the struggle for artists to defy racial categorization, and how and why corporations embraced multiculturalism.

This interview originally aired in January 2015.

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The Outshot: What It Means to Be Superhuman

Jesse tells us about the life and legend of Andre the Giant.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Allison Janney & Ishmael Butler

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Ishmael Butler on the Short Life of Digable Planets and the Cosmic Hip Hop of Shabazz Palaces

In the early 1990s, the hip hop group Digable Planets broke through with their single "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)". The single was jazzy and laid-back, and became a crossover hit. The trio were pegged by some as a counterpoint to gangsta rap, but they didn't love the efforts to categorize their sound. They went further on their next boundary-pushing release, the classic record Blowout Comb. The album was critically acclaimed, but didn't sell well, and the group drifted apart shortly afterward.

Founding member Ishmael Butler was only in his mid-20s when Digable Planets broke up. And so he tried other things, like filmmaking. He still made music, but the releases were few and far between. About six years ago, he teamed up with Tendai Maraire to form a new group, called Shabazz Palaces.

Shabazz Palaces' latest release is called Lese Majesty, and it expands on their interstellar sound.

Butler spoke to us about his days as a indie label gopher, the awkward audition Digable Planets had to endure for a record company executive, and the the transformative sounds of Shabazz Palaces.

Digable Planets will be teaming up for a reunion show in Seattle this December.

Todd Martens on Young Love and Defying Expectations

Beyond interesting conversations with people in culture, we like to tell you about interesting cultural stuff. There's so much stuff out there, you don't have time to listen to everything. That's why we've brought in Todd Martens, who writes about music for the LA Times, to tell you about two albums you can dive into without hesitation.

Martens recommends Material Issue's 1991 album, International Pop Overthrow, a combination of cynicism and idealism.

He also recommends Summerteeth by Wilco, an album which explores a different side of Wilco.

You can find Todd's writing in the LA Times and on their blog, Pop and Hiss.


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"The Song That Changed my Life": Director Michel Gondry Gets Nostalgic for "Le Sud" by Nico Ferrer

There's a certain kind of feeling to the director Michel Gondry's films. A little bit of happiness mixed with sadness. Nostalgia for something that you experienced, or maybe something you wish you had experienced. You may have felt it watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, or his new film Mood Indigo.

For "The Song That Changed My Life", Gondry describes the feeling of saudade and how he felt watching Nico Ferrer perform the song "Le Sud" on a Saturday night.

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Allison Janney, from Loose Cannon Sitcom 'Mom' to Intimate Drama in 'Masters of Sex'

If you've seen Allison Janney on television lately, it's been in one of two very different roles. On the Showtime series Masters of Sex, Janney guest stars as a somewhat naive, vulnerable 1950s housewife who experiences a breakthrough after many years in a sexless (but not loveless) marriage. Her story is both heartbreaking and hopeful. In the CBS sitcom Mom, she plays Bonnie, a recovering alcoholic who's outrageous, biting, and very funny. Bonnie's been down, but she's making peace with her estranged daughter and getting her life back together. Janney's characterizations are versatile; they allow her to be warm, steely, confident, and thin-skinned by turns. Janney has won Emmys for both roles.

She spoke to us about her early acting days (including auditioning for an intimidatingly handsome Paul Newman), getting comfortable with the inevitable nude scenes for Masters of Sex, and the ways that her mom's background and brother's struggle with addiction gave her insight and empathy for her current roles.

Mom is in its third season on CBS. You can see it Thursdays at 9/8c.

The Outshot: Orson Welles and 'Touch of Evil'

Jesse explains why the last Hollywood picture Orson Welles directed, Touch of Evil, tells us so much about Welles as an artist.

This episode originally aired in August 2014.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Ethan Hawke & Michaela Watkins

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Our WORLD TOUR OF SEVERAL AMERICAN CITIES kicks off this Friday November 13th in Los Angeles with William H. Macy, Matt Walsh, Brian Huskey, Chicano Batman and Baron Vaughn - get your tickets now!

Plus check us out in Boston, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Philly and DC with guests Barney Frank, Mission of Burma, Tavi Gevinson, David Cross, John Hodgman, Joel Hodgson, Ray Suarez, Dan Deacon and more. It's all at BullseyeTour.com. Don't miss it!

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Ethan Hawke Considers Life Lessons in 'Rules For a Knight'

Ethan Hawke is one of the rare actors that viewers have seen grow up in front of their eyes. They watched him as a teenager in the films Explorers and Dead Poets Society, saw him as a young adult in Reality Bites and Before Sunrise, and even saw him change over the course of twelve years of filming his Oscar-nominated turn in the Richard Linklater film, Boyhood.

Along with his work on-screen, he has also enjoyed success as a novelist with his books. His newest is a set of parables, inspired by Hawke's experiences as a parent, called Rules for a Knight. In it, a knight fears that he may not return from battle, and leaves behind a letter with important life lessons for his children. In the book, Hawke explores themes of honesty, courage, solitude and patience.

Ethan Hawke joins Jesse to share how life as a divorced father has influenced his work as an author and an actor, why child stardom was a double-edged sword, and how a favorite line from one of his films helped him to complete a marathon.

Rules for a Knight is now available in hardback and as an e-book.

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Michaela Watkins on Dating In Real Life and On-Screen, SNL, and Going For the Joke

Michaela Watkins is an actress who is in her element when she can go all-out for the joke. Whether she’s practicing sketch comedy as she did in her time with The Groundlings or her one-year stint on Saturday Night Live or performing on a sitcom like the Trophy Wife, Watkins creates characters that are both funny and memorable.

Now, Watkins brings her wit to the lead role of Valerie Myers in the new Hulu series, Casual. In it, she plays a newly divorced woman who finds herself living with her adult brother, while learning to navigate the dating world as a middle-aged woman.

Michaela Watkins joined Jesse to talk about how taking time for herself helped her to improve her relationships, the insane pacing of Saturday Night Live, and her contributions to Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.

Casual is now in its first season on Hulu.

You can find a bit of bonus audio from our interview with Michaela Watkins here.

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The Outshot: The Musicality of an MC

From the early days of rap, the role of the MC was an ancillary one. They were there to support the work of the DJ by keeping the energy level up. The rapper Rakim helped to change that by bringing the role of the MC front and center using a unique blend of words, music and an intoxicating beat.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Elvis Costello & Elizabeth Banks

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Elvis Costello on His Reputation, Memories of His Father, and Writing Music for Friends

Elvis Costello grew up surrounded by music. His mother ran the record section of Selfridges, and his father was an accomplished working musician. As Costello describes in his new memoir, Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink, he didn't intend to make music himself, but felt eventually drawn to it.

The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter and record producer has enjoyed a long career, working on his own and collaborating with everyone from Burt Bacharach, Paul McCartney and Annie Lennox to Solomon Burke.

Elvis Costello joins Jesse to talk about his father’s career and love of music, why Alzheimer’s in his family inspired him to write the book and what it was like to have Christmas with Johnny Cash.

Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink is available now.


Photo by Jesse Thorn

Elizabeth Banks on Finding the Heart of 'Love and Mercy'

'Love and Mercy' was a bit of a tough sell for Elizabeth Banks. She'd acted in biopics before, but this one, about the Beach Boys' resident genius Brian Wilson, was on another level. The director Bill Pohlad would have two actors playing Brian at different stages of his life, and the film would tackle both Brian's mental illness and the budding love story between him and his wife Melinda Ledbetter. The film, and the roles of Melinda and Brian, would carry high expectations. But after speaking with the real Melinda about her love for Brian and the complexities of their story, Banks fully committed to doing their story justice.

Banks has had a successful career in TV and film, including roles in 30 Rock, The Hunger Games, and Wet Hot American Summer. She also directed, produced and acted in a small role in this summer's smash hit comedy, Pitch Perfect II.

Elizabeth Banks joins us to talk about the challenges in making a film which explores loving someone with a mental illness, how she's dealt with the frustration of being undervalued and underutilized in Hollywood, and what she did with some of the... questionable advice she received from a prospective agent early in her career.

Love and Mercy is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.

The Outshot: Dad’s Style

Jesse explains why Dad's Style is so attractive.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Brad Bird & Ernie Isley

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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.

Come see Bullseye LIVE in Los Angeles, Boston, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Philadelphia and Washington DC next month! Live interviews, comedy, music and more. Get your tickets now, they're going fast. Check out BullseyeTour.com for tickets.


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Brad Bird on Creating an Atypical Animated Hit in 'The Iron Giant', Following Filmmaking Instincts, and Shaping 'The Simpsons'

Brad Bird started out in animation early, being recognized and mentored early on by Milt Kahl, one of Disney's legendary animators. His career includes eight seasons of The Simpsons, the animated films The Incredibles and Ratatouille, the big budget action film Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and his animated feature debut, 1999's The Iron Giant.

The Iron Giant has just been remastered and re-released with several new scenes as a Signature Edition. It's available now on your favorite online video service, and will be out on DVD and Blu-Ray next year.

Bird talks to us about creating an atypical animated feature film in The Iron Giant, the reward of following your instincts when it comes to making movies, and how he helped create the look and feel of The Simpsons as an executive consultant on the show for eight seasons.

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Ernie Isley on The Isley Brothers' Evolution Through the Decades, Joining the Band as a Kid Brother and Jimi Hendrix

The Isley Brothers' first hit on their debut album was 'Shout', that classic call-and-response rock song. It was 1959 and Ernie Isley was seven years old. In the 1960s, they had 'Twist and Shout' and a run with Motown. Jimi Hendrix made his first recordings with the band and lived in a spare room at their mom's house. In 1969, they reintroduced themselves to the world, with little brother Ernie on bass. The song was 'It's Your Thing'.

The band continued to reinvent their sound and create hits through the 70s and into the 80s, songs like 'Who's That Lady' with Ernie's now-classic guitar riffs, 'Fight the Power', and 'Between the Sheets'.

A new 23-disc box set of the band's work is called The Isley Brothers: The RCA Victor and T-Neck Album Masters (1959-1983). It's available now.

Isley joins us to talk about playing his first gig alongside his brothers (filling in on drums for Martha and the Vandellas), being one of the only bands to actually play live on Soul Train, the band's evolution through the years, and his memories of the group's friend and sometime housemate Jimi Hendrix.

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The Outshot: The Pope Comes to Visit

What is Jesse reminded of when the Pope comes to visit? Why, this sketch, of course.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Tig Notaro & John Darnielle

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Come see Bullseye LIVE in Los Angeles, Boston, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Philadelphia and Washington DC next month! Live interviews, comedy, music and more. Get your tickets now, they're going fast. Check out BullseyeTour.com for tickets.


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"I Have Nothing to Lose Now": Tig Notaro on Life and Stand Up Comedy After Cancer

In 2012, the stand up comic Tig Notaro had a famously bad year. She caught pneumonia, which snowballed into C. Diff. She and her girlfriend broke up. Her mother passed away unexpectedly. And then, she learned she had breast cancer.

You’re probably familiar with what came next. Notaro headed out to a stand up gig in Los Angeles, at the Largo. But she didn’t feel right performing her usual set. She decided to open up like she had never before. Hours after she received the diagnosis, she went on stage and said to the audience, “Hello, I have cancer”.

She took the audience through the pain she had experienced over the last few months. It was still in her deadpan style, with jokes and stories that were brave and sometimes uncomfortably funny.

Notaro is in remission now, and she’s continued to perform stand up. A recent documentary on her called Tig, tells the story of the Largo performance and her life since. It’s available for streaming on Netflix. Her recent national tour, Boyish Girl Interrupted is now a comedy special airing on HBO.

Tig Notaro spoke with Jesse last year.

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John Darnielle on 'Wolf in White Van', Working with Teenagers, and Artistic Responsibility

You probably know John Darnielle as a lead member (and sometimes only member) of the band The Mountain Goats. His music is known for its poignant lyrics and simple instrumentation. Darnielle started the band in 1991 and has since released 14 albums.

Now, he’s written his first novel Wolf in White Van. The novels tells the story of Sean, a young man who has survived a suicide attempt, but is horribly disfigured in the process. Sean goes on to create a mail-order role-playing game, only to find out how his imagination can have real-world consequences.

Darnielle talks to Jesse about why lyrics are so important to him, subliminal messaging, and how much artistic responsibility we should assign to writers, musicians and other creative people.

Wolf in White Van is now available in paperback.

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The Outshot: Nina Simone’s “Four Women”

Jesse talks about one of his favorite singers, Nina Simone, and “Four Women”.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Bill Withers & Joe Randazzo

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Guests: 
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Our big announcement this week? Our "World Tour of Several American Cities"! We'll be putting on live tapings of Bullseye in LA, Boston, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Philadelphia, and Washington DC in November! Visit BullseyeTour.com for more details. Tickets go on sale this Friday, September 25th!

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.

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Bill Withers Returns: Music, Career Advice and Living Life on Your Own Terms

Bill Withers is a man who prefers his life and his music on his own terms. The Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter’s last album was released over thirty years ago, and he has no regrets about walking away from a career in music. His back catalog, which include classics like Ain’t No Sunshine, Grandma’s Hands and Lean on Me, is still as vibrant and influential as it was decades ago.

Withers was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and he is also being honored on October 1st with a tribute concert at Carnegie Hall. Lean on Him: A Tribute to Bill Withers features a lineup that includes D'Angelo, Aloe Blacc, Keb’ Mo’, Gregory Porter and Ledisi among many others.

Bill Withers sits down with Jesse to talk about growing up in coal-mining town in West Virginia, why he didn’t dress-up on stage or dance like his contemporaries, and what his relationship to music is like now.

Joe Randazzo Explains How to Be "Funny On Purpose"

Joe Randazzo knows funny. Starting with his career as section editor for The Onion and continuing with his role as head writer for @Midnight, he has enjoyed a diverse career that has allowed him access to some of the industry's best comedic talents.

He plumbed his own experiences, and that of many of his colleagues and extended network, for the advice he offers in his new book Funny On Purpose: The Definitive Guide to an Unpredictable Career in Comedy.

Randazzo interviewed writers, performers, directors and producers about how they each have managed to create comedy careers in television, film, podcasting and on YouTube. Interviews include conversations with Judd Apatow, Joan Rivers, Jack Handey and -- disclaimer -- our own podcast impresario Jesse Thorn.

Joe Randazzo joins us to discuss what he learned during his career as an editor at The Onion, his forays into stand-up and improv and why it’s essential to build and sustain relationships with other people in comedy (even if it feels like you're competing with them).

Randazzo’s book Funny On Purpose: The Definitive Guide to an Unpredictable Career in Comedy is available now.

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The Outshot: The Kid Spellers of 'Spellbound'

Jesse talks about his great American hero - a kid named Harry Altman from the Academy Award winning film, Spellbound.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Keegan-Michael Key & Tituss Burgess

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Guests: 
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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Keegan-Michael Key on Race and Comedy and Why 'Key & Peele' Is Coming to an End

Keegan-Michael Key’s comedy is inexorably tied with his experiences straddling cultural and racial lines as a young man in the Midwest, and he became a keen observer of his surroundings as a child.

His work with his partner Jordan Peele on the Comedy Central show Key & Peele has earned Key Emmy nominations in five categories including Outstanding Variety sketch series, Writing for a Variety Series, Writing for a Variety Special, Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program, and Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.

Key & Peele's final season is airing now.

Key sits down with Jesse to talk about the differences of approaching comedy from stand up or improv backgrounds, why it’s so easy to immerse himself in distinctive characters like the substitute teacher Mr. Garvey, and why Key & Peele's fifth season will be its last.

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Tituss Burgess on Being 'Titus Andromedon' on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Following Your Instincts

Tituss Burgess is an actor who has pursued the truth within himself and his performances. Whether it's been in a church choir or on the Broadway stage, Burgess is ready to give it his all.

His successful audition for a small recurring role on 30 Rock put him on Tina Fey's radar, and he's since been cast as Titus Andromedon on the Netflix original series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Burgess's performance on the show has earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is available for streaming on Netflix.

Burgess joins us to discuss his early days growing up in Georgia, inhabiting the character of Titus Andromedon on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and how he contended with a broken microphone while performing live at the Tony Awards.

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The Outshot: Fletch

Jesse explores the top-notch bluffing going on in this week's recommendation, the 1985 Chevy Chase movie Fletch.

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