The Outshot

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Director Nicole Holofcener and the creators of 'Lodge 49'

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Nicole Holofcener
Guests: 
Jim Gavin
Guests: 
Peter Ocko

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Photo: Charley Gallay / Getty Images

Writer and director Nicole Holofcener on her new film: 'The Land of Steady Habits'

Nicole Holofcener is a writer and director probably best known for her films "Friends with Money" and "Enough Said." She's also worked on TV shows like "Parks and Recreation," "Orange is the New Black" and "Sex and the City." Her latest project is a film called "The Land of Steady Habits" – it's out now on Netflix.

Nicole's projects are intimate and always feature strong female leads. For the first time, her movie centers on a man. "The Land of Steady Habits" is about a middle-aged, retired finance guy, named Andres played by Ben Mendelsohn. Anders is going through kind of a late midlife crisis. He just left his wife, Helene, played by Edie Falco. And his relationship with his adult son is drifting away – Anders is losing him to drug use. It's safe to say that Anders has trouble figuring out where he fits in these days.

Nicole will tell us how she adapted the novel by Ted Thompson into this very poignant film, and why she felt this was an important story to tell. Plus, she'll reflect on her childhood – when she moved to Los Angeles as a early teenager she couldn't believe that the guys on the Metro bus would be exactly like the jerks on the New York subway.

Listen to this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Jesse Thorn

Jim Gavin & Peter Ocko on the new Television show 'Lodge 49'

AMC has produced some of the most stunning dramatic television programs in recent memory. "Mad Men," "Better Call Saul," and "Breaking Bad" come to mind – but they're television shows that are grounded in gritty realities. "Lodge 49" is one of the newest shows on AMC, and it's a drama like you'd expect from the network. But it's on a different wavelength, and it's very funny.

The show's about Sean "Dud" Dudley. He's a 30 something burnout who lives in Long Beach, California. One day he's metal detecting on a beach and he finds a ring. He asks around, and it turns out it belongs to a lodge for this secret society - the Order of the Lynx. Sort of like the Freemasons or the Elks. The ring brings him into the lodge, and before long, he becomes a member. He's fascinated by the robes and rituals, charmed and befriended by the members. He gets swept up by the mythology and mystery.

We spoke to Jim Gavin, the show's creator; and Peter Ocko, a TV veteran, showrunner and Executive Producer for "Lodge 49." They'll give us the scoop on all the quirks of the show, and their fascination with fraternal organizations. Jim Gavin grew up in Long Beach, naturally, we asked him some extremely specific Long Beach questions.

Listen to this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

The Outshot: The genius of Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson sang some of the greatest pop hits of all time, but who was the real genius behind those tracks? Michael Jackson, of course!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Boz Scaggs and Comedian Maeve Higgins

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Boz Scaggs
Guests: 
Maeve Higgins

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Boz Scaggs on his latest record 'Out of the Blues'

Boz Scaggs is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He just recorded his nineteenth studio album: "Out of the Blues." With a career that now spans five decades - he's recorded psych rock, folk, soul. He's probably best known for yacht rock smash hits like Grammy award-winning "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle." Both tracks were singles on 1976's critically acclaimed album "Silk Degrees" – the record went platinum five times.

Recently, his work has steered more towards the basics: some blues, some covers here and there, lots of stripped down instrumentation. But behind all that has been a commitment to atmosphere and production - music with an aesthetic that's dark and unsettling in one moment, then in another tender and loving.

We'll listen to a few tunes from his new album, which features a collection of blues songs like "Rock and Stick" and "On The Beach" – a somewhat obscure Neil Young composition. We'll also listen to "Got You On My Mind" from his debut solo album from 1965. His debut solo album was a collection of covers and traditional tunes. This song was originally composed by Howard Biggs & Joe "Cornbread" Thomas. At the time, he still performed under his birth name – William R Scaggs. Boz says it had been decades since he last heard that song.

He'll explain why he pleasantly surprised we were able to dig up the song and play it for him. He'll also tell Jesse why he thinks his singing voice is better now than it ever was before, and describes the first time he felt like a musician.

Boz Scaggs just kicked off a huge nationwide tour with shows in dozens of cities. Check out tour dates here.

Check out this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Brad Barket / Getty Images

Comedian Maeve Higgins on her new book 'Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl Somewhere Else'

Maeve Higgins is a comic and memoirist, very well known back home in Ireland. She moved to the New York City about five years ago. Naturally, she worked her observations about America and the Big Apple into her set.

The new routine really made her question her new reality as an immigrant to the US. She considered what lead her to make the move. What it says about her. What it's like being in this strange, amazing city thousands of miles away from home. She wrote a new book about her experience. It's called "Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else." It's a collection of personal essays that show a touching, funny and really human side to the consequences of immigrating to the US.

She'll talk about her move to the US, how it impacted her personal life, and why she appreciates the openness of strangers she's met here. Maeve also co-hosts the podcast Mothers of Invention, a climate justice podcast alongside former Irish President Mary Robinson. She'll discuss what it's like to host a podcast with one of her childhood idols.

Check out this interview on YouTube!

The Outshot: Detroiters

Jesse explains the charming friendship in the Comedy Central show, "Detroiters," which, ultimately, is about two dumb dummies acting dumb.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jonathan Gold and Beth Ditto

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Bullseye
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Jonathan Gold
Guests: 
Beth Ditto

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Photo: Larry Busacca / Getty Images

Remembering food critic Jonathan Gold

This week, we'll remember the late Jonathan Gold by revisiting our conversation with him from 2011. Jonathan died last month of pancreatic cancer at the age of 57.

His work in food criticism was legendary. He was the restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times. His award-winning work regularly appeared in numerous newspapers including the LA Weekly. His articles and reviews also appeared in Blender, Spin, Rolling Stone and Gourmet magazines.

In 2007, his work earned him a Pulitzer. To this date, he's still the only food critic to ever earn that honor. Along with the Pulitzer, he was also the first food writer to be honored as a National Magazine Award finalist in criticism by the American Society of Magazine Editors

If you're not familiar with Jonathan Gold, a documentary from 2015 called "City of Gold" might be a good place to start. Or you might want to check out the segment he did for This American Life in the late 90's, which revisits his astonishing exploration of mapping Pico Boulevard using his sense of taste.

When he joined Jesse they talked about about the one food fear he just couldn't overcome, and how he discovered Los Angeles one meal at a time. Plus, he threw shade at the burritos from the Mission District in San Francisco.

Friends of Jonathan Gold have organized a online fundraiser to help his wife and children with funeral and other ongoing expenses. You can visit the page for the drive here.

Listen to this interview on YouTube

The interview originally aired in 2011.


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Beth Ditto on Going Solo

Beth is a singer and songwriter. She was born and raised in Searcy, Arkansas and moved to Washington State out of high school and made a name for herself as the singer in Gossip.

The band first broke through in the early 2000s, coming up with dance punk groups the Rapture, LCD Soundsystem, and Liars. But Gossip was different – they were proudly queer, and female led. Gossip broke up in 2016, and in the wake of all that, Beth Ditto has released her first ever solo record called Fake Sugar.

In conversation with Jesse, Beth opens up about her childhood, from setting up punk shows in her small Arkansan town to her move to Olympia, Washington after high school. Beth talks about the process of creating her new solo album, and about her time fronting Gossip.

Beth's album Fake Sugar is available now.

She'll be opening for Sam Smith this summer. Check out the tour dates here.

The interview originally aired in 2017.

The Outshot: Sly and the Family Stone's Perfect 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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This segment originally aired in 2016.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: H. Jon Benjamin and Sara Driver

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Bullseye
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H. Jon Benjamin
Guests: 
Sara Driver

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Photo: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

H. Jon Benjamin on his new book 'Failure is an Option: An Attempted Memoir'

If you don't know H. Jon Benjamin you certainly might recognize his voice. He's best known for his extensive voice work. Over the years, he's played slackers like Ben, the son of Dr. Katz, in "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist;" and the hilarious Coach McGuirk and Jason on "Home Movies." Most recently, you know him as the voice of Sterling Archer from FX's "Archer," and as Bob from Fox's "Bob's Burgers."

Long before his recognizable voice work Benjamin's comedy career began in Boston. A lot of his earlier work was often done in groups or duos and emphasized on improvised comedy. He was part of "Tinkle," a live show combining music and sketches co-hosted by David Cross and Todd Barry. Then, there was the popular UCB show "The Midnight Pajama Jam," in New York City with Jon Glaser. Seriously, have you ever seen The Fuggedabuddies?

He just wrote a new book called "Failure is an Option: An Attempted Memoir." In it, he recounts a lot of failures, which eventually opened the door to success. He talks about failures in family, in work, and in serving fajitas.

This week, he talks with Jesse about how the start of his career in comedy meant the end for his parents family business, the differences between voicing Bob and Archer, and an honest look at his ebay purchase history. Plus, he'll reflect on his improv and stage days, and why he felt more comfortable performing with other people.

Click here to listen to this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Rob Kim / Getty Images

Sara Driver on her new film 'Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat'

Then, filmmaker Sara Driver, she just directed a new documentary called "Boom For Real: The Late Teenage years of Jean-Michel Basquiat." The film explores the early career of the great artist through people who knew him. Sara was one of those people. And she remembers what it was like to live near the Lower East Side of New York in the late 70's. She interviewed more than a dozen people who knew Basquiat personally.

In the film, we hear from people like Alexis Adler. Now she's an embryologists, and but back then she was photographer. She was a good friend of Basquiat and often would go to concerts at local clubs in New York. She helped Basquiat find his first apartment when he was struggling to find a place to live. Other people featured in the film include Lee Quiñones. Lee is known for his colorful murals and bold wild style of graffiti on New York Subway trains. He talks about the brilliance of Basquiat's simple graffiti art techniques. The film also explore the bubbling downtown art scene, and music venues like the Mudd Club where Basquiat's band Grey played their first shows.

"Boom For Real" kind of tells two stories: there's Basquiat's - who shows up in archival footage but never speaks. And there's New York City's. Pre-9/11, pre-Reagan, pre-real estate boom. Boom for Real strikes a careful balance between nostalgia and danger.

Sara Driver will talk about how she scored so much archival footage of Basquiat doing mundane things. Plus, she'll talk about a Whole Foods that opened up in neighborhood a couple years ago. She'll tell us why she loves it, but why it made her miss the old New York.

Click here to listen to this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Josh Edelson / Getty Images

The Outshot: Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's a different one this week. It's not a film, tv show, or album recommendation. But please, enjoy this delicious recipe. Jesse will tell you how to make the best mint chocolate chip cookies you've ever had.

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Bullseye: Patton Oswalt & "Fresh Off The Boat"

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

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Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

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 writer's 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.
Oswalts memoire Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life Through and Addiction to Film is out now.
His Emmy winning stand-up comedy special Talking for Clapping can be seen on Netflix.


Photo: ABC/Bob D'Amico

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 9/8c on ABC.

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

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.


Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

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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Guests: 
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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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Photo credit: Jeremy Keith Villaluz

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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Ethan Hawke
Guests: 
Michaela Watkins

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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Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival

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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