The Thick of It

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

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Guests: 
Armando Iannucci
Guests: 
Billy Bragg
Guests: 
Kyle Ryan
Guests: 
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: Michael Ian Black, Tom Bissell and Pete Holmes

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Michael Ian Black
Guests: 
Tom Bissell
Guests: 
Brian Heater
Guests: 
Alex Zalben

Comic Book Recommendations with Alex Zalben and Brian Heater

Brian Heater and Alex Zalben bring some of their all-time favorites to the table this week.
Brian recommends Cleveland by Harvey Pekar, the self-deprecating writer best known for American Splendor. Alex Zalben suggests you check out Concrete: The Human Dilemma by Paul Chadwick.

Brian Heater is journalist and the Editor-In-Chief of The Daily Cross Hatch. Alex Zalben writes about comics for MTV Geek and hosts NYC’s Comic Book Club Live.

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Michael Ian Black on Marriage, Parenthood and Personhood

Michael Ian Black is an actor, comedian and author perhaps best known from his work with the sketch comedy troupe The State, or from his subsequent collaborations with State-mates both on television (Stella, Michael & Michael Have Issues) and film (Wet Hot American Summer). His charming smarminess made him a perfect fit for the talking-head format of VH1, but that public persona is a troubling aspect of his life -- one of many issues discussed in his memoir, You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations. He goes in-depth on the issues of his marriage, parenthood, and personhood, and the result is a book that is shockingly honest, informative, and incredibly funny.

Michael talks about re-committing himself to marriage in six week intervals, getting into stand-up comedy late in life, and his obsession with Googling "Fat Kevin Federline." He co-hosts the podcast Mike & Tom Eat Snacks and has two new books out this year -- a political commentary with Meghan McCain, and his memoir You’re Not Doing It Right. (Originally aired May 1, 2012)

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Pete Holmes on Awful Sandwiches

If you watch the Super Bowl, or even just television, you probably know comedian Pete Holmes best from commercials, where he adorably doles out financial advice as the voice of the E-Trade baby. Last year he was named one of Variety's Ten Comics to Watch, and with good reason. As a stand-up, Holmes has a mostly goofy and positive energy. But as he reveals on his new album Impregnated With Wonder, there is one thing that can really set him off: a bad sandwich.

You can find Pete's podcast You Made It Weird on iTunes, or by visiting Nerdist.com. (Originally aired May 1, 2012)

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Tom Bissell on Changing Journalistic Paths and Creativity

Tom Bissell is a journalist, video game critic and author whose latest book, Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation, is a series of pieces attempting to capture all angles of the creative process, in all sorts of artistic forms: from Herman Melville, writer of Moby Dick, to Chuck Lorre, creator of Two and a Half Men; from the mind of filmmaker Werner Herzog to the madness of The Room's Tommy Wiseau. Magic Hours collects the best of Bissell's ten-year career, with essays featured in The New Yorker and Harper's, as well as several pieces written solely for the book.

Tom joins us to discuss the dumb luck that makes some books resounding classics of literature while others fade from the collective conscious, and the value (or lack thereof) of a journalism degree. You can find his video game writing online at Grantland.com. Magic Hours is now available in bookstores everywhere. (Originally aired May 1, 2012)

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The Outshot: Malcolm Tucker & The Thick of It

On this week's Outshot, Jesse recommends one of his absolute favorite shows, the brilliantly profane political satire The Thick of It -- particularly its foul-mouthed protagonist Malcolm Tucker. The show is now available to US audiences on Hulu. (Originally aired May 1, 2012)

Got a hilariously profane favorite of your own? Don't just keep it to yourself, f***ing tell someone by heading to the MaxFun forum and picking your own Outshot.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Michael Ian Black, Tom Bissell, Video Game Picks and Pete Holmes

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Michael Ian Black
Guests: 
Tom Bissell
Guests: 
Pete Holmes
Guests: 
Kumail Nanjiani
Guests: 
Heather Anne Campbell

Video Game Recommendations from Kumail Nanjiani & Heather Anne Campbell

We return to the world of video games for this week's culture picks, and our gaming experts, comedian and video game journalist Heather Anne Campbell, as well as comedian and host of the video game podcast Indoor Kids Kumail Nanjiani, have selected a pair of downloadable games for PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. Kumail recommends the sadly haunting experience of the post-apocalyptic thriller I Am Alive, while Heather suggests you check out the almost fully female fighter Skullgirls.

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Comedian, Actor and Author Michael Ian Black

Michael Ian Black is an actor, comedian and author perhaps best known from his work with the sketch comedy troupe The State, or from his subsequent collaborations with State-mates both on television (Stella, Michael & Michael Have Issues) and film (Wet Hot American Summer). His disarmingly charming smarm made him a perfect fit for the talking-head format of VH1, but it also makes him a terrific author, as evidenced in his latest book You're Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations. In Black's second memoir, he goes in-depth on the issues of his marriage and parenthood, and the result is a book that is shockingly honest, informative, and incredibly funny.

Michael sits down with us to discuss recommitting himself to marriage in six week intervals, getting into stand-up late in life, and his obsession with Googling "Fat Kevin Federline". You can hear his podcast, Mike & Tom Eat Snacks, with Ed co-star Tom Cavanagh on iTunes or at Nerdist.com. You're Not Doing It Right is now available wherever books are sold.

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Comedy by Pete Holmes: “Subway”

If you watch the Super Bowl, or even just television, you probably know comedian Pete Holmes best from commercials, where he adorably doles out financial advice as the voice of the E-Trade baby. Last year he was named one of Variety's Ten Comics to Watch, and with good reason. As a stand-up, Holmes has a mostly goofy and positive energy. But as he reveals on his new album Impregnated With Wonder, there is one thing that can really set him off: a bad sandwich.

You can find Pete's podcast You Made It Weird on iTunes, or by visiting Nerdist.com.

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Journalist, Critic, Writer Tom Bissell, author of Magic Hours

Tom Bissell is a journalist, video game critic and author whose latest book, Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation, is a series of pieces attempting to capture all angles of the creative process, in all sorts of artistic forms: from Herman Melville, writer of Moby Dick, to Chuck Lorre, creator of Two and a Half Men; from the mind of filmmaker Werner Herzog to the madness of The Room's Tommy Wiseau. Magic Hours collects the very best of Bissell's ten-year career, with essays featured in The New Yorker and Harper's, as well as several original pieces written solely for the book.

Tom joins us to discuss the dumb luck that makes some books resounding classics of literature while others fade from the collective conscious, and the value (or lack thereof) of a journalism degree. You can find his video game writing online at Grantland.com. Magic Hours is now available in bookstores everywhere.

(Embed or share this interview with Tom Bissell)

The Outshot: Malcolm Tucker & The Thick of It

On this week's Outshot, Jesse recommends one of his absolute favorite shows, the brilliantly profane political satire The Thick of It -- particularly its foul-mouthed protagonist Malcolm Tucker. As creator Armando Iannucci's new show, Veep, is underway on HBO, BBC America is finally bringing The Thick of It to US audiences, Saturday's at midnight. Don't miss it.

Got a hilariously profane favorite of your own? Don't just keep it to yourself, f***ing tell someone by heading to the MaxFun forum and picking your own Outshot.

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