Totally Biased

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: W. Kamau Bell and Mike Pesca

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
W. Kamau Bell
Guests: 
Mike Pesca

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Photo: Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

W. Kamau Bell on his television show "United Shades of America"

W. Kamau Bell is a stand-up comic with a handful of albums and specials to his name. He's hosted not one but two TV shows.

In 2012, he landed a television show: “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.” "Totally Biased" was kind of a hybrid between a political satire show and a talk show. And although he was the show's star, Kamau preferred to put the spotlight on his guests and just ask the questions--funny and serious both.

His latest show is the Emmy award-winning "United Shades of America" on CNN. It's up for another Emmy this year in the "unstructured reality programming" category. "United Shades" is basically a show about nuance, and about asking tough questions. "United Shades of America" is available to stream right now on Hulu.

This week, Kamau discusses his relationship with the South, his childhood, why he loves the television show "Doc McStuffins," and what it was like to be the son of Walter Bell, who served as Alabama's Insurance Commissioner. Plus, why he's really proud of his latest show "United Shades of America."

Listen to this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Andreasilenzi via Wikimedia Commons

Mike Pesca on his new book "Upon Further Review"

What if baseball teams only played once a week? What if Title IX never was? Or if basketball rims were smaller than basketballs?

Those are a few of the excellent questions posed in the book compiled by Mike Pesca: "Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History." It's a collection of essays from over 30 different writers - people like Robert Siegel, Nate DiMeo, Jesse Eisenberg and more all asking - then answering, thoughtfully - hypothetical questions about sports that range from the trivial to the existential.

Mike Pesca was a sports reporter here at NPR for a time and still contributes every now and then. He also hosts "The Gist," a daily podcast over at Slate, where he covers the news of the day. But most importantly: Mike Pesca loves a good hypothetical, and to argue about it – exploring every possible outcome.

Mike Pesca will talk about his new book, what it was like working for NPR as one of two sports reporters, how he keeps up with the news for his daily podcast, and how his Long Island accent impacted his work in radio. Plus, what it was like to guest host "Wait Wait … Don't Tell Me" and the outcry he faced when he interviewed Kim Kardashian West when he hosted.

Listen to this interview on YouTube!

The Outshot: Remembering Aretha Franklin

For this week's Outshot Jesse breaks down "Aretha Live at the Fillmore West." This was the second live album by Aretha Franklin recorded in the spring of 1971 in San Francisco.

Listen to this segment on YouTube!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Hari Kondabolu & Jake Kasdan

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Hari Kondabolu
Guests: 
Jake Kasdan
Guests: 
Carolyn Kellogg

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Hari Kondabolu: 'Waiting for 2042' and Stand Up Comedy with Required Reading

Hari Kondabolu is a stand up comedian. You might have seen him on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. He's also performed stand up on Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and The Late Show with David Letterman.

Hari didn't think he would be a comedian. He thought that he was going to law school. Then somewhere between taking an Americorps Job organizing immigrants in Seattle and taking the LSAT, things changed direction. He transitioned into stand-up comedy.

Hari talks to us about the unique profile of his fans, how he fits into the "alternative" comedy scene, and how he actually got into a discussion about the racism of Apu from The Simpsons with Hank Azaria -- the real voice of Apu.

His debut album, Waiting for 2042, is available now through BandCamp and iTunes.

Carolyn Kellogg Talks Westerns

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

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

Kellogg also recommends Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers.

Jason Kempin / Getty Images / Getty Images Entertainment

Jake Kasdan on Directing Jason Segel, Strategic Nudity, and His Unintentional Return to Television

Jake Kasdan grew up in the movie business. His father is Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote two Star Wars films, an Indiana Jones movie, and both wrote and directed The Big Chill. And Jake's been no slouch, either. He directed his first film, Zero Effect, when he was only 24. He's gone on to work on a slew of other projects, from critically acclaimed cult shows like Freaks and Geeks, to the beloved sitcom New Girl, to the hugely commercially successful film Bad Teacher.

His new movie is Sex Tape, which sees Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz re-teamed as a married couple who accidentally release an intimate home video to the internet.

Kasdan talks about his years working with Jason Segel, the strategy involved in shooting a movie that has both feelings and (comedic) nudity, and how he unintentionally returned to working in television on New Girl.

Sex Tape is in theaters now.

The Outshot: The Everyday Wonder of 'American Splendor'

Jesse explains why Harvey Pekar makes putting one foot in front of the other feel like something special.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: W. Kamau Bell, Mike Birbiglia and Eleni Mandell

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
W. Kamau Bell
Guests: 
Jason Kottke
Guests: 
Mike Birbiglia
Guests: 
Eleni Mandell


Jason Kottke With the Best of the Web: Dr. Seuss the Ad Man, and Sports Fans After Death

Jason Kottke, from one of our favorite repositories of web links, Kottke.org, joins us to tell us about his favorite stuff on the web right now. First we talk about Dr. Seuss's past as an ad man, then we tackle Errol Morris' new short film Team Spirit

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Comedian W. Kamau Bell on the Sweet Spot of Gentrification, the TV Talk Show World, and More

W. Kamau Bell wants to talk to you about race. And about urban inequality, and politics, and Spider Man too. He came to his own brand of sociopolitical comedy after working as a comic for years, eventually shaping his work into a one-man show in which he promised to "end racism in about an hour."
A lucky break with an audience member at one of those shows – Chris Rock, to be precise – landed Bell his own TV talk show, called Totally Biased. He joins us to talk about transitioning into the talk show world, the sweet spot of gentrication, and remaining true to his own comedic voice.
Totally Biased airs Thursday nights at 11pm on FX.

(Embed or share this interview with W. Kamau Bell)


Singer-Songwriter Eleni Mandell on the Song that Changed her 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 I Can See the Future. She's headed out on tour this month with Nick Lowe. You can those dates and more about her at EleniMandell.com

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Mike Birbiglia on the Miracle of Actually Making a Movie

Mike Birbiglia knows his own story pretty well by now. After struggling as a stand up, he started working some personal details from his life into his comedy. Some of it was pretty standard, like wrapping his head around the idea of getting married to his longtime girlfriend. And some of it was less familiar stuff, like running out of a window while sleepwalking.

Birbiglia went on to transform these thoughts into a one-man show, a book, and now, a movie. And although talking about the subject matter was second nature, directing a movie about it was not. He joins us to discuss being a first-time director, the difficulty of delivering stand up in a casual, easy way, and why he considered long-lasting marriage to be a totally foreign concept.

Sleepwalk With Me is in theaters nationwide.

(Embed or share this interview with Mike Birbiglia)


The Outshot: Winning Time

Jesse recommends the new ESPN documentary Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks for a look at a volatile shooting guard, an intense basketball rivalry, and some courtside conversations with Spike Lee.

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Are you a sports fanatic with a favorite doc? Head on over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.

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