The Song That Changed My Life

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Fred Willard & Vocoders with Dave Tompkins

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Fred Willard on his comedic beginnings, playing the clueless buffoon, and working with Christopher Guest

For over fifty years, Fred Willard played ignorant, self-absorbed buffoons that are impossible not to laugh at. He's a master improviser and comedian who started with his comedy duo, Greco and Willard, and moved on to work with the Second City and improv groups The Committee and the Ace Trucking Company. Today, he's probably best known and loved as one of Christopher Guest's troupe in films like Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show.

Willard tells us about drag-performances in his military school, the real life inspiration for his improvised comedy, and being the exact opposite of the happy-go-lucky optimists he plays on screen. (This segment originally aired in August 2013)

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Eleni Mandell on "Tom Traubert's Blues": The Song That Changed My Life

Singer-songwriter Eleni Mandell had one of those experiences as a kid that was a hallmark of experiencing music before the internet. She heard a song she liked, went out to the record store, and picked an album by the same artist. The problem? It sounded totally uncool, and not at all like the song she'd heard. It did, however, open her up to a whole new way of listening to music.
Eleni talks to us about the song that changed her life, Tom Waits' "Tom Traubert's Blues." Eleni grew up in Los Angeles loving both punk rockers X and folk rocker Bob Dylan, and her own music mixes airy vocals with 60s pop, country, and folk sounds. Her newest album is "Let's Fly a Kite" is available now.
(This segment originally aired in September 2012)

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Todd Martens recommends two perennial favorite albums by Material Issue and Wilco.

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 ideals.

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

You can find Martens' writing in the L.A. Times or on their music blog, Pop and Hiss.

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The power of a robot voice: Dave Tompkins talks vocoders, talk boxes, and how they changed music

You may not know it, but when you talk on your cell phone, you're using technology that was first developed for the vocoder. Bell Labs invented the vocoder to make long distance calls cheaper. But it had another application in World War II, when we used it to encode Allied messages.

The vocoder was in large part an analog machine, but it was also one of the first digitizations of speech. It broke down speech into its constituent parts, its separate frequencies, to create the codes. The technology that was in that huge code-making vocoder in 1944, twenty or twenty five years later, became a musical instrument.

Dave Tompkins is the author of How to Wreck a Nice Beach -- which is the way you might hear the phrase “How To Recognize Speech” if it were rendered through a vocoder. The book describes how the vocoder was created to guard phones from codebreakers during World War II, and soon became a voice-altering tool for musicians. Tompkins talks about how the vocoder changed music, the technology behind it, and some examples of music using a vocoder.
(This segment originally aired on The Sound of Young America in October 2010)

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THE OUTSHOT: The Long Goodbye

Elliott Gould may not seem like the hard-boiled noir type, but in 1973, under the direction of Robert Altman, he had that perfect combination of intellect and self-satisfied cool. With Gould playing Raymond Chandler's most famous character, Philip Marlowe, The Long Goodbye explores the powerful narcissism that governed the streets of 1970s Los Angeles.
(This segment originally aired in July 2013)

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Carl Wilson, Max Greenfield, Moby

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Carl Wilson
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Max Greenfield
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Moby
Guests: 
Carolyn Kellogg

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How We Decide What's Good... and What's Bad: Carl Wilson on Celine Dion and the Nature of Taste

Carl Wilson is a music critic. His job is to tell people why certain music is good, and why other music isn't. You could call him a tastemaker. But he started to wonder. How does taste even work? To find out, he immersed himself in the music, life and fandom of Celine Dion.

Wilson is the author of Let's Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste, a reissued and expanded version of the book he published in 2007. It's about Celine and her bestselling album from 1997, but more importantly it's an exploration of why we like some music and hate other music. Wilson's journey made him question how we place value on art, and has affected the way he approaches his work in music criticism.

He talks about Dion's Quebecois background (and why it matters), how she and her music relate to "coolness," and why experiencing a Celine Dion concert in Las Vegas helped open him up to her true appeal.

Looking for Rich Juzwiak's "Celine Dion is Amazing" compilation video mentioned in the interview? We'll save you a Google search.

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Carolyn Kellogg Recommends Summer Reads

We're joined by Carolyn Kellogg, book critic for the Los Angeles Times, to talk about two new books that recently hit the shelves.

Her first recommendation is a thriller called The Fever by Megan Abbott. The novel explores what happens when teenagers in a small Northeast town get hit with a mysterious illness, which tests teenage friendships and the strength of a family.

Kellogg also recommends a memoir about a girl and her father. It's not your typical father-daughter-bonding tale. Maria Venegas writes about reconnecting with her estranged father in Bulletproof Vest: Ballad of an Outlaw and his Daughter.

You can find Kellogg's writing in the Los Angeles Times or on their blog, Jacket Copy.

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Moby on "My Way" by Sid Vicious: The Song That Changed My Life

Moby is one of the most successful electronic musicians in the world. But he didn't start fiddling with synthesizers and drum machines as a kid -- he was studying classical guitar. Then, his world changed with just one song.

Moby tells us about the song that changed his life, Frank Sinatra's "My Way" as performed by Sid Vicious.

Moby's newest album is called Innocents.

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Max Greenfield Explains: What Makes New Girl's Schmidt Tick

Max Greenfield stars as Schmidt on FOX's series New Girl. His character is so sweet and enthusiastic in his bro-y-ness, you can't help but love him. Schmidt is frequently shirtless, occasionally naked, and never less than transparent in his striving.

Schmidt was a breakout role for Greenfield, and before he got it, he would read audition lines with his wife, who happens to be a casting director. He talks about how she can be his toughest critic, how he and Schmidt are most alike, and how mispronouncing words like "chutney" came to be part of Schmidt's essence.

New Girl just ended its third season on Fox. Both the show and Greenfield's role have been submitted for Emmy consideration.

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The Outshot: East Side Story

You probably know what a low rider is. But what do you know about low rider oldies? Jesse talks about the perfect music for driving low and slow.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: The Pointer Sisters

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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.

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Pop Culture Happy Hour Talks About Letters to Boys and Anthropomorphic Ants

Linda Holmes and Glen Weldon of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour stop by to recommend a couple of their current favorite new books.

What if instead of pretending your teenage love letters never existed... you published them, and let the world take a look? Linda recommends the new memoir Notes to Boys: And Other Things I Shouldn't Share in Public, by Pamela Ribon. Ribon spent much of her free time in high school penning over-the-top notes to her crushes, and provides original drafts, with asides from her adult self.

Glen recommends the new graphic novel Ant Colony by Michael DeForge -- a debut novel that's psychedelic, surreal, darkly funny, and definitely not for kids.

You can hear Glen and Linda weekly on the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, and find Linda's writing on NPR's Monkey See blog.

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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. Most recently, he's teamed up with his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez to write for Disney's Frozen. The pair's songs have inspired movie singalongs and a score of YouTube covers, and their breakout hit Let It Go, is nominated for an Oscar.

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

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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.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jessica Walter, "Collision Low Crossers" and Annie Hart

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Jessica Walter
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Nicholas Dawidoff
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Annie Hart
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Cameron Esposito
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Ricky Carmona

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Jessica Walter Talks about Vulgar Lines on "Archer", Love for Lucille Bluth and Showbiz Secrets

If you only know the actress Jessica Walter from her recent work, you probably know her from her role as the singularly-focused, boozy, terrifically manipulative matriarch Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development or her voice acting on the animated spy spoof, Archer. But her career stretches back fifty years, with hundreds of TV appearances, from The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Love Boat, and Trapper John, M.D. to a starring role in Clint Eastwood's directorial debut Play Misty for Me.

Jessica sits down with us this week to talk about getting line reads for (the often quite vulgar and racy) scenes on FX's Archer, her love of Lucille Bluth and working with Clint Eastwood. She even divulges a few trade secrets from her role on Flipper.

The fifth season of Archer is airing now on FX on Monday nights.

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Wham Bam Pow Gets Pumped about "Heat" and "Terminator 2"

Sometimes you're in the mood for a foreign film. Or maybe you've got a hankering to binge-watch sitcoms. If you're in the mood for blow-'em-ups and futuristic sci-fi adventures, the folks at the action and sci-fi movie podcast Wham Bam Pow have just the ticket.

Ricky Carmona recommends Michael Mann's Heat, which teamed up Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro for a film about one last heist.

Cameron Esposito recommends Linda Hamilton's approach to taking care of business in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Don't worry if you didn't see the first one -- it's fine to jump right in.

For more high-energy recommendations from the hosts of Wham Bam Pow, subscribe to their podcast and find out what you're missing.

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Annie Hart, L, with Au Revoir Simone members Heather D'Angelo and Erika Forster

"The Song That Changed My Life" with Annie Hart of Au Revoir Simone

Annie Hart of Au Revoir Simone grew up in the suburbs of Long Island. As the story goes for a lot of teenagers, she didn't quite fit in. The kids at her school wanted to spend time at the mall. They weren't interested in making stuff, shooting videos and writing zines.

Annie found a whole new world, and a whole new group of friends, through music. The song that changed her life is "Knew Song", by the Long Island hardcore band Silent Majority.

Au Revoir Simone's most recent album is Move In Spectrums. They'll be on tour with Broken Bells this spring. You can find their tourdates on their website.

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The Secret Inner Life of Football: Nicholas Dawidoff on a Year with the New York Jets

For all of the analysis on sports networks and the countless hours that Americans spend watching it every week, the sport of football is, in a way, inaccessible. It's composed of complicated plays, and there's a distance between the spectator and the quarterback in his helmet on the field. It's enjoyable and exciting to watch, but it's hard to unpack. "While you can see what's been planned, it's all grounded in a plan that's secret and private," says writer Nicholas Dawidoff.

Dawidoff sought to go inside the world of football, to get a glimpse of the working lives of the coaches and players who spend their weeks planning and strategizing, all for a few brief hours of play on the field. He spent a year embedded with the controversial coach Rex Ryan and the players of the New York Jets, and the result is his new book, Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football.

Dawidoff talks to us about why football -- not baseball -- is the real thinking man's sport, the intense and short professional careers of players, and what he thinks the sport will look like over the coming decades.

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The Outshot: Candlestick Park

This week, Jesse says goodbye to an old friend.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Kumail Nanjiani, Lake Bell and Sergio Dias

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Kumail Nanjiani
Guests: 
Lake Bell
Guests: 
Sergio Dias
Guests: 
Andrew Noz

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Kumail Nanjiani on Identity, Comedy, and Shaking Hands with Girls

When Kumail Nanjiani was a boy growing up in Karachi, Pakistan, he absorbed a fair amount of American culture. He loved Ghostbusters and Gremlins. He read MAD Magazine. And he knew that someday, he'd move to the U.S. What he never imagined is that he'd become a comedian.

His first exposure to stand up comedy was a Jerry Seinfeld HBO special, and a few short years later, Kumail was on stage himself. He's performed with The Second City, at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater, and on numerous late night shows. He also co-hosts a stand up showcase, The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail, and now often appears on TV, with appearances on Franklin and Bash, Portlandia, Veep and Newsreaders.

Kumail talks to us about growing up Pakistani, choosing a distinctly American way of life, and creating comedy about things you love, rather than things you hate.

Kumail's new Comedy Central stand up special, Beta Male, is available on CD+DVD and by direct download.

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BONUS AUDIO:
Kumail Studies The Cheesecake Factory for "Portlandia"
Kumail on Mike Judge and the Butthead Voice

Rap Recommendations from Andrew Noz: Earl Sweatshirt's "Hive" and Chief Keef's "Go to Jail"

Hip hop contributor Andrew Noz stops by to share some of his favorite new tracks, incidentally both by rappers still in their teens.

He recommends "Hive", the first single off the new album by the youngest member of the Odd Future crew, Earl Sweatshirt. It's dense, well-written, and long-awaited. Earl Sweatshirt's album Doris is out August 20th.

On the other end of the spectrum, slowed way down, is Chicago-based Chief Keef's autotuned, warbly track "Go to Jail", off his upcoming mixtape Almighty So. You can find that song on Chief Keef's Soundcloud.

Andrew Noz is the columnist for Pitchfork's Hall of Game, and also blogs and Tumblr-s regularly at Cocaine Blunts and Tumblin 'Erb.

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Photo credit Denise Truscello

Sérgio Dias on The Song That Changed My Life: Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock"

Os Mutantes founder and guitarist Sérgio Dias describes the song that opened his mind to the world of rock 'n' roll when he was just a kid living in Brazil. That song was Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock".

The psych rock band that would become Os Mutantes formed in Brazil in the mid-1960s. They experimented with psychedelic guitars, bossa nova and tropicalia to create a distinct sound. The band broke up in 1978, but their music continued to garner fans, from Kurt Cobain to Beck to David Byrne.

Os Mutantes released an album of eccentric and beautiful new tracks earlier this year, titled Fool Metal Jack. The band will embark on a U.S. tour in November.

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Lake Bell on Voiceover Cliques, Racing Cars, and Making the Transition from Actor to Director

Voiceover is everywhere. On commercials, describing the tight curves in a sports car; in movie theaters, reminding you to turn off your cell phone and end your conversation. Those voices are booming and confident. But they're not often female.

Lake Bell found these disembodied voices intriguing. She wrote, directed and stars in the new comedy In a World... The movie is about an an aspiring female voice over artist, her power struggles in the industry and within her own family, and the pursuit of change.

Lake talks to us about her favorite accents, her work on the ensemble comedy Childrens Hospital, and handling the transition from actor to director.

In a World... is in theaters now. You can also see Lake as part of the ensemble of [adult swim]'s Childrens Hospital, which airs Thursdays at midnight on the Cartoon Network.

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The Outshot: The Big Con by David Maurer

Jesse recommends The Big Con, by David Maurer, for a fascinating look at the profession of the confidence man.

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Plus, this week's credits... movie trailer style.

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Bullseye With Jesse Thorn: The Directors of "Doin' It In The Park" And Mary Roach

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Bullseye
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Bobbito Garcia
Guests: 
Kevin Couliau
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Mary Roach
Guests: 
Shirley Caeasar
Guests: 
Sean O'Neal
Guests: 
Alex Dowd

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Doin' It In The Park: Pickup Basketball with Bobbito Garcia and Kevin Couliau

Kenny "The Jet" Smith was an All-American at North Carolina, first round NBA draft pick, and two-time NBA Champion with the Houston Rockets. And yet, his favorite basketball memory? The first time he was allowed to play ball on the "big court" by his apartment in Queens when he was 15 years old. Such is the power that pick-up basketball holds for New Yorkers.

Bobbito Garcia and Kevin Couliau are the filmmakers behind Doin' It In The Park, a passionate and beautiful new documentary about New York City's street basketball culture. One summer, Bobbito and Kevin jumped on their bicycles and set out to play basketball in 180 of NYC's more than 700 public outdoor courts, and talk with the diverse array of people who play there.

They talk to us about meeting the legendary playground figures, learning the history of the parks, and immersing themselves in the unique styles of play that can only be found on New York courts.

Bobbito Garcia (aka Kool Bob Love) is a street ball player and hip hop DJ. He co-founded Bounce Magazine and has been playing basketball in New York City's parks since 1973.

Kevin Couliau is a professional outdoor basketball photographer and film director. He's been playing basketball since age six.

Their film Doin' It The Park is touring the world, and is available for direct download on their website.

Click here to listen or share Doin' It in the Park with Bobbito Garcia and Kevin Couliau on Soundcloud

Shirley Caesar on The Song That Changed My Life: "The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow"

As a little girl growing up in North Carolina, the gospel song "The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow" inspired Shirley Caesar to keep trucking when times were tough. But it wasn't just a stirring piece of music. Just a few years later, that same song catapulted her from anonymity to national tours and a career of over sixty years (and counting).

Gospel singer, eleven-time Grammy winner and pastor Shirley Caesar on the song that changed her life: Thomas A. Dorsey's "The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow".

Pastor Caesar's newest album is Good God. She continues to tour nationwide.

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The AV Club Recommends: "Immunity" by Jon Hopkins and "The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu"

We are joined this week by two critics from the A.V. Club -- news editor Sean O'Neal and film editor Alex Dowd.

Sean recommends a listen to Immunity, the new album from the UK-based electronic music producer Jon Hopkins.

Alex suggests watching The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu, a fascinating documentary compiled entirely from state-sanctioned footage of Ceausescu's brutal reign as dictator of Romania. The movie is out now on DVD.

Click here to listen or share The AV Club's Recommendations on Soundcloud

In One End And Out The Other With Mary Roach

We eat food every day, but for most of us, our exposure to it is confined to the input and output. In her new book Gulp: Adventures On The Alimentary Canal, the bestselling science writer Mary Roach shares some hilarious, enlightening tales about the beginning, middle, and end of this journey, and all of the grossly fascinating science that goes along with it.

Plus, we'll talk about eating dog food and the REAL story behind Elvis' death. Yes, we went there.

Mary Roach has tackled the science behind death, sex, space travel and more in five other books, which can be found here. If you can't get enough of Mary (we definitely can't!), check out this past interview about her last book, Packing For Mars.

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The Outshot: Prince's "Dirty Mind"

Prince is one of the rare artists whose name has become synonymous with an entire era of sound. Jesse explains how Prince's 1980 album Dirty Mind was the turning point in his career, marking a transformation from musician to music god.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Christopher Guest & Dan Kennedy

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Christopher Guest
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Dan Kennedy
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Marah Eakin
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Andrea Battleground

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Christopher Guest on Making "Family Tree" and Pitch-Perfect Parodies

Christopher Guest is best known for his faux-documentary comedies: films like This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, and A Mighty Wind. His very earliest work was in the theater -- he co-wrote National Lampoon's Lemmings -- and then in the mid-80s, he made a quick foray into television on Saturday Night Live.

Now he's returned to TV with a comedy created for HBO, Family Tree. The show follows wayward thirty-something Tom Chadwick (played by Chris O'Dowd), who digs deep into his family's history after being dumped by his longtime girlfriend. Though Guest's films usually follow a specific subculture (that of dog shows, community musical theater, or the world of heavy metal), Family Tree focuses on Tom, his family, and the many people he meets while trying to dig up genealogical dirt.

Guest joins us to talk about what makes bad music parodies so awful, how to keep from being swayed by film critics' reviews, and the most bizarre reaction to a Hollywood pitch that he's ever received.

Family Tree airs Sunday nights at 10:30pm on HBO.

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Summer Rock Recommendations from The AV Club: Mikal Cronin's MCII and Vampire Weekend's "Modern Vampires of the City"

Summer's almost here – so why not celebrate with some new music? The AV Club's Music Editor Marah Eakin and Lead Copy Editor Andrea Battleground have a couple albums in mind. Andrea suggests checking out Mikal Cronin's latest album, MCII, a garage-rock record that brings a poppy, melodic twist to the genre. Marah's pick is Vampire Weekend's Modern Vampires of the City, the latest record from the New York-based indie rock band that she says is just as much fun coming from your speakers as it is live.

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Nick Krill of The Spinto Band on "The Song That Changed My Life": "Pueblo Nuevo" by The Buena Vista Social Club

Nick Krill was stuck in a musical rut. He'd been listening to the same records for years, and was happy doing it. But while he was on tour, he heard something that nudged him to branch out again. That song was "Pueblo Nuevo" by The Buena Vista Social Club – a song that got him thinking about rhythm and composition in totally new ways.

The Spinto Band's latest record, Cool Cocoon, was released earlier this year.

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Dan Kennedy on Making His Most Personal Moments Public

Here's something terrifying about the internet: once something's out there, it's out there. Sure, your Facebook and Twitter posts have a handy delete button next to them, but clicking on them is no guarantee that they'll go away forever.

That's something Dan Kennedy's painfully aware of. As a writer, host of The Moth storytelling podcast, and an acerbically brilliant Twitter user, he gets more mileage than most of us do from taking his most personal moments and making them public. But Kennedy's found that this kind of sharing can have its downsides – hence his first novel, American Spirit, which just came out today. The book has a few anecdotes inspired by Kennedy's real life. American Spirit follows Matthew, a fired media executive whose life is falling apart; in fact, things are so bad, he finds himself divorced and living in his car. But in spite of the plot's direness, American Spirit is strangely hilarious and life affirming.

Dan Kennedy sits down with us to discuss how he inadvertently started working on the book long before he sat down to knock out a first draft, the responsibilities that writing non-fiction brings, and why living each day as if it was your last is actually a really terrible idea.

American Spirit was just released today. You can hear Kennedy as the host of The Moth Podcast.

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The Outshot: "Coney Island"

Ever feel nostalgia for a time or place that you never even experienced firsthand? That's what Jesse felt after watching Ric Burns' documentary Coney Island, a beautiful portrait of America caught somewhere between its past and its future.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Armando Iannucci, Billy Bragg

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus
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Armando Iannucci
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Billy Bragg
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Kyle Ryan
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Nathan Rabin

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The AV Club Recommends: Desperate Ground by The Thermals and It's A Disaster

AV Club Head Writer Nathan Rabin and Managing Editor Kyle Ryan join us this week to give their pop culture picks. Kyle recommends checking out The Thermals' new album, Desperate Ground, a return to the band's loud, punk rock style. From the world of film, Nathan suggests checking out It's A Disaster, a black comedy on VOD and in select theaters about a group of friends dealing with a divorce and the approaching apocalypse.

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Veep Creator Armando Iannucci on Poking Fun at Politics

What does the career trajectory of a lifelong political junkie look like? There are the obvious choices, like a major in Political Science, law school...maybe even a career in politics. But Armando Iannucci took a different path – one that led him to Oxford, an incomplete PhD, and work writing and producing comedy, like his acclaimed political satire The Thick of It and the feature film In the Loop.

Iannucci created a new take on American politics in the HBO comedy Veep. Now in its second season, the show follows a fictional Vice President (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) with lofty ambitions but little actual power. Veep showcases the comedy inherent in the struggle for the political upperhand, the constant panic and exhaustion. Seemingly small gaffes quickly escalate into ridiculous catastrophes. The show's dialogue is marked by careful attention to absurd politi-speak and some especially creative cursing.

Iannucci joins us to talk about the difference between UK and US politics, why he sympathizes with our elected officials, and conducting swearing research in Washington, D.C.

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The Song That Changed My Life, with Billy Bragg: Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'"

Billy Bragg performs politically-minded folk music with a punk rock edge, songs with a tone and attitude somewhere between Woody Guthrie and the Sex Pistols. But what led to him developing his voice as an artist?

As Bragg explains, one of the most pivotal moments in his life happened during his lunch break at a record store. He put on a record that changed his life: Bob Dylan's folk anthem The Times They Are A-Changin'.

Billy Bragg is currently touring the US. You can find dates and tickets through his website.

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Tapping Into Frustation for Seinfeld and Veep

Most of us first knew Julia Louis-Dreyfus from her Emmy-winning role as Elaine on Seinfeld. Elaine flailed, fought, and danced her way into our hearts as the friend to "losers" Jerry, George and Kramer. But Louis-Dreyfus first arrived in entertainment fresh off her college comedy sketch group, as a repertory player in the Dick Ebersol-helmed cast of Saturday Night Live.

After Seinfeld, she went on to anchor several sitcoms, including The New Adventures of Old Christine, with delightful guest appearances on shows like Arrested Development and 30 Rock. Her career has now taken her to a different cast of skewed characters on HBO's Veep.

On Veep, Louis-Dreyfus plays Selina Meyer, Vice President of the United States. Though the vice-presidency is a prestigious position, Meyer's day-to-day work is less than impressive. Her staff members claw at each other for power and prestige. She suffers awkward encounters with the media and consistent snubs from the President (a running gag on the show is Selina's off-hand question, "Did the President call?" The answer is usually no).

Julia Louis-Dreyfus joins us to talk about the similarities she's discovered between show business and politics, the boys' club that was SNL in the 80s, and a certain terrible dance that still haunts her to this day.

Veep airs on HBO on Sundays at 10/9 PM central.

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The Outshot: Threat by Jay-Z

Rap isn't poetry – it's its own thing. But, like poets, many of the best rappers imbue their lyrics with layers and layers of meaning. Need proof? Jesse suggests a close listen to Jay-Z's "Threat".

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Moshe Kasher, Undefeated, Lateef the Truth Speaker

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Comics with Alex and Brian: Wimbledon Green and reMIND

Brian Heater of BoingBoing and Alex Zalben of MTV Geek join us to talk comics. Brian's pick is Wimbledon Green by Seth, an unusual and wonderful sketchbook story about "the greatest comic book collector in the world." Alex recommends Jason Brubaker's reMIND, a graphic novel about a woman and her cat, who mysteriously gains the ability to talk.

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Comedian Moshe Kasher on Growing Up and Getting Right

Almost everyone experiences trials and tribulations in childhood to come out as a reasonably functioning adult on the other side. But in the case of comedian Moshe Kasher, that change was virtually miraculous.

He was a child shuttled between two divorced deaf parents, a Hasidic father in New York and a hippie mother in Oakland. By the age of twelve, he'd been in psychoanalysis for eight years. He had a burgeoning interest in drugs. And he was just getting started. He's chronicled his early years in a memoir called Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16, and that title should give a good idea of the wild stories it contains. The book is engaging, redemptive, and wildly funny. We spoke to Moshe last year, and the book is out in paperback this month.

Moshe joins us to share stories from his upbringing, and shed some light on how he eventually got right and saved himself from addiction, anger, and violence.

This interview originally aired in March 2012.

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Lateef the Truthspeaker on "The Song That Changed My Life"

Lateef the Truthspeaker is an Oakland MC and one of the founding members of the hip-hop collective / record label Quannum Projects, whose members include DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born and Blackalicious. He talks to us about the song that changed his life, Cloudburst, by the jazz group Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross.

Lateef and longtime collaborator Lyrics Born released a new EP, Disconnection, late last year under the name Latyrx. A full-length album is due out in 2013.

This segment originally aired in March 2012.

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Undefeated: The Story of the Underdog

Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin are the directors behind the Academy Award-winning, emotionally-charged sports documentary Undefeated. The film follows a challenging season for the Manassas Tigers, an underdog football team in North Memphis, Tennessee. The Tigers had traditionally been a team with troubles both on and off the field. Its fortunes changed under volunteer coach Bill Courtney, dedicated not only to excellence on the field, but in fostering resilient players off of it. As Coach Courtney says, "There's a story under every helmet," and Undefeated tells a few of them.

Dan and T.J. talk to us about developing the story of the film, the challenges of shaping a narrative when the events unfolding are out of your control, and the experience of following a handful of teens throughout their senior year of high school.

After a long wait, Undefeated is now out on DVD and on VOD.

This interview originally aired in March 2012.

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The Outshot: Witchdoctor's "A S.W.A.T. Healin' Ritual"

Jesse shines a light on one of the lesser-known members of Atlanta's Dungeon Family hip-hop collective. Witchdoctor (born Erin Johnson) might not be as famous as Family members OutKast, Cee-Lo Green or Goodie Mob, but his 1998 album A S.W.A.T. Healin' Ritual just might be the best record of its time and place.

This segment originally aired in March 2012.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Andrew Rannells, Jim Lehrer, and Thao Nguyen

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The AV Club Recommends: 'Beyond the Hills' and Atoms for Peace's 'Amok'

The pop culture luminaries at the AV Club return to recommend some of their favorite new releases. Josh Modell suggests a listen to the new album Amok from Atoms for Peace, a supergroup featuring Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Scott Tobias recommends a new Romanian drama, Beyond the Hills. The movie enters limited US release on March 8th.

Josh Modell is the AV Club's Managing Editor and Scott Tobias is the site's Film Editor.

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Andrew Rannells on Broadway Life and Beyond

When he was a kid growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, Andrew Rannells never pictured his face beaming out to millions of television screens. He loved acting, but his future was on the stage. The most realistic way to make it big? Broadway.

Now, he's garnered a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Elder Price in the Broadway run of The Book of Mormon and made his way to TV, co-starring in The New Normal on NBC and popping up as a regular on HBO's Girls.

Andrew talks to us about growing up gay in Nebraska, finding his characters' voices for The Book of Mormon and The New Normal -- and how to avoid uncomfortable moments when
filming nude scenes.

The New Normal airs Tuesdays at 9:30 / 8:30c on NBC. A new episode, "Rocky Bye Baby", airs this evening.

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Thao Nguyen on The Song That Changed My Life: "You've Really Got a Hold On Me"

Thao Nguyen fronts the folk-pop band Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. The band's new album, We The Common, has an intense and spirited sound. The songs feature rhythmic guitar, taut drums, and Nguyen's clear and passionate vocals.

Thao remembers when music became important to her and the song that changed her life -- Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got a Hold On Me."

Thao and the Get Down Stay Down head out on a cross-country tour this week. Find their tourdates and more information here.

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Jim Lehrer on His Days Down at the Bus Depot and a Changing Media Landscape

Jim Lehrer anchored the Newshour on PBS for more than three decades and remains its executive editor to this day. He's also moderated twelve presidential debates and in 2011 he wrote a memoir about those experiences called Tension City. Yet another hat that Lehrer wears is that of a novelist. He's written 20 of them, the most recent of which is a charming mystery called Super.

Lehrer talks to us about his early job at a bus depot, the benefits of producing media on a tight budget, and the role public broadcasting ought to play in the future.

[This interview originally aired in May, 2010]

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The Outshot: Mike Judge's 'Extract'

Jesse suggests a look at his favorite Mike Judge creation. It's not Beavis and Butthead, and it's not Office Space. It's a low-key workplace comedy starring Jason Bateman, called Extract.

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