Writing

Bullseye: Aparna Nancherla & Clams Casino

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Aparna Nancherla
Guests: 
Clams Casino

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Aparna Nancherla on Mining Comedy From Anxiety and Depression

Though most people find it difficult to find anything funny about depression and anxiety, comedian Aparna Nancherla. has used her own struggles with mood disorders to inspire her comedy. A rising star in the comedy world, Nancherla bravely reveals her struggles with depression in a way that makes the experience both relatable and hilarious.

Named by Variety as one of the Top 10 Comics to Watch in 2016, Nancherla has appeared as a performer on Conan and Inside Amy Schumer. She's also written for Late Night with Seth Meyers and Totally Biased with Kamau Bell.

Nancherla sat down with Jesse to talk about about her experiences living with anxiety and depression, the ups and downs of writing comedy for television and how she deals with hecklers on Twitter.

Aparna Nancherla new album is called Just Putting It Out There. She is currently on tour and you can find out more by visiting aparnacomedy.com.

Clams Casino

As with any established musical genre, there is a quality of sameness that can pervade artists. It’s no less so in the world of hip-hop. But Clams Casino (born Michael Volpe) provides a unique and surprising voice in that world. As an electronic musician and music producer, he has created a distinctive body of work of his own as well through his collaborations with artists including ScHoolboy Q, FKA Twigs and Vince Staples.

Clams Casino joined Jesse to talk about the influences that lead to his unique sound, and some of the ways he paid his dues coming up in the world of hip-hop production. They also discuss his new album, 32 Levels, and how he developed his relationship with rapper Lil’ B. The two of them have long been collaborators, including on the new album, but didn’t really get to know each other until making of the new record.

Clams Casino’s new album is called 32 Levels.

The Outshot: Jaws

Jesse checks in on the classic movie you should see before going swimming this summer.

Bullseye: Mary Roach & William Bell

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Mary Roach
Guests: 
William Bell

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.


Photo: Jesse Thorn

Mary Roach on Shark Repellant, Submarines and “The Suck”.

Though she didn’t earn a degree in the sciences, author Mary Roach has a knack for writing about them with insight and wit. Whether she’s describing what happens to the body after death or the many aspects of human sexuality, Roach makes her topics accessible and fun.

Roach has authored half a dozen books including: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, as well as articles for magazines including Vogue, GQ, and National Geographic.

Mary Roach sat down with Jesse about whether shark repellant actually exists, life on submarines and how leaches inspired her to write a book on military science.

Mary Roach’s new book is Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War


Photo: Jesse Thorn

William Bell on the Family at Staxx Records, His Career Before and After Being Drafted and His Voice, Then and Now

William Bell is a soul singer and songwriter whose distinctive sound is forever associated with the legendary Stax Records. Along with with performers like Otis Redding, Sam and Duke, Isaac Hayes and the Staple Singers, Bell helped create music that continues to entertain and inspire.

He is famous for his hit songs including You Don’t Miss Your Water, Private Number, A Tribute to the King and Everybody Loves a Winner. He also co-wrote the classic song, Born Under a Bad Sign which was originally performed by Albert King and later covered by Jimi Hendrix, Etta James, Cream and even Homer Simpson.

William Bell joined Jesse to talk about what it was like beginning his musical career while still a teenager, how he returned to his career after being drafted and what he thinks about his own voice, now that he is in his seventies.

William Bell’s new album is This is Where I Live.


Photo: Peter Kramer/Getty Images

The Outshot: Tanya Tucker’s What's Your Mama's Name

Jesse shares why Tanya Tucker’s voice and classic song, What’s Your Mama’s Name manages to move him every time he hears it.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jesse Eisenberg & Brian Regan

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Jesse Eisenberg
Guests: 
Brian Regan
Guests: 
Sara Watkins

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with this RSS feed in your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.


Photo credit: Marzena Wasikowska

Jesse Eisenberg Opens Up about Writing, Acting and Insecurities

Actor, playwright and now author, Jesse Eisenberg wasn’t a fan of school. It wasn’t that he was bullied or picked on, but he describes himself as just "overlooked". It wasn’t until he began to perform in Off-Broadway theater productions that he began to understand his place in the world as an actor. It also provided a way to get out of school, which was an added bonus.

Eisenberg has been able to take his passion for acting into a number of film roles, including a neurotic college student in the horror-comedy Zombieland, a stoner who is unknowingly a government agent in American Ultra and his Oscar-nominated performance as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network.

He's written and starred in three Off-Broadway plays. And for the past few years, he's also been writing short fiction, which has appeared in the New Yorker and McSweeney's. He's collected that work, along with new stories, for a new book called Bream Gives Me Hiccups.

Eisenberg joins us to talk about wending his way through the social dynamics of his teenage years (both in high school and in the theater), the therapeutic power of acting, and why his fiction is often fraught with insecurities and anxiety.

Jesse Eisenberg’s book Bream Gives Me Hiccups is available now.


Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Blackbird Productions/Getty Images

Sara Watkins Finds the Ferocity in "The Song That Changed My Life"

For our recurring segment "The Song That Changed My Life", fiddle player and vocalist Sara Watkins of the Watkins Family Hour talks about discovering the tough and ferocious sound of Fleetwood Mac's "What Makes You Think You're the One".

The Watkins Family Hour's debut record is available now.


Photo: Scott Wintrow/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Brian Regan on Stand Up Comedy and the Process of Finding Out What's Funny

Brian Regan is a comedian’s comedian, admired for his dedication to the craft of stand up. And he's unusual in that he's successful and well-known by audiences for his stand up comedy, and hasn't been bolstered by roles in TV or film. Regan's jokes are well-honed, and he finds the funny in the mundane, whether it's microwave instructions on Pop Tarts or a simple request for a glass of water in a restaurant.

In the leadup to his live-to-air stand up comedy special, Regan joins us to talk about the importance of not having a fall-back plan, the autonomy he enjoys as a stand-up comedian and why his happiest moment as a comic happened in a little comedy club in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Brian Regan: Live From Radio City Music Hall airs live on Comedy Central on September 26.


Photo: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

The Outshot: The Funky Disco Fusion of Hugh Masekela

Hugh Masekela shoots for the stars, and succeeds, with his funky disco fusion.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jemaine Clement & Jonathan Ames

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Jemaine Clement
Guests: 
Jonathan Ames

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.


Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Jemaine Clement on Fighting, Flight of the Conchords, and Comic Drama in People Places Things

Jemaine Clement’s upbringing in a small community in New Zealand could have led him to career making cookies or cheese. Instead he found a way to transform his sense of humor into a career making other stuff -- things like music and comedy.

Along with his partner, Bret McKenzie, he is a member of musical comedy duo, Flight of the Conchords which aired as a television show for two seasons on HBO. Clement has also written and produced with McKenzie and other longtime collaborators on movies like What We Do in the Shadows.

He stars in the new movie People Places Things, about a graphic novelist and professor who's grappling with loneliness and fatherhood in the wake of a breakup. The film is in theaters and available on VOD.

Clement join us to talk about working in the comic drama People Places Things, his early comedic influences back in New Zealand, the challenges he faced producing a television show, and how the word “grommet” resulted in his last physical altercation.

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Jonathan Ames on Valets, Questing and 'Blunt Talk'

Jonathan Ames is a writer who has earned a reputation for ruthless honesty when writing about his own life and those of his fictional characters. Whether the topic is alcoholism, sexuality or depression, Ames’ books and television projects delve deeply into what it means to be human, with wit and care.

Ames created the beloved HBO show Bored to Death. Now, he's the creator and showrunner of the new Starz show Blunt Talk, featuring Patrick Stewart as cable news host Walter Blunt.

Blunt Talk airs Saturday nights at 9 on the Starz network.

Ames sat down with Jesse to talk about how he came to create his new show, why he's obsessed with the "valet", and why his characters are constantly "questing" with greater purpose.

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The Outshot: The 'Who Moved My Cheese' Incident

Our takeaway? ALWAYS BE PREPARED.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards and John Darnielle

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Merrill Garbus
Guests: 
John Darnielle
Guests: 
Josh Dorman

If you're in Los Angeles, come see Bullseye with Jesse Thorn LIVE on Wednesday, October 15th at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Featuring conversation with Rob Corddry (Wedlock, Childrens Hospital) and Dan Harmon (Community, Harmontown), music from Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek, Watkins Family Hour), comedy from Steve Agee (New Girl, The Sarah Silverman Program) and Andy Kindler (Maron, Letterman) and more! Plus, your ticket gets you a free beer after the show at our meet-and-greet sponsored by NPR's Generation Listen.

Tickets are going fast - get yours now!

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Michael Loccisano/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs on Discovering the Ukulele, Hip Hop, and a Sense of Place

Merrill Garbus is the creative force behind the musical project tUnE-yArDs. The group’s first album, BiRd-BrAiNs, was released in 2009 and if it sounds lo-fi, it's because it is. Garbus recorded the album almost entirely on handheld voice-recorder. All those music loops? She created them by copying and pasting the sound files over and over on her computer.

tUnE-yArDs released a new album earlier this year. It’s called Nikki Nack. It still features the band's signature mix of drum loops, samples and ukulele, but it’s a much smoother-sounding production than their debut.

Garbus talks to us about why she was drawn to the ukulele as a hormonal teenager, how she fell into producing Bay area hip hop, and how to weave political and social issues into music without getting preachy.

If you liked this, share it! Click here for a streaming, embeddable version of this interview.


Landscape with Yellow Birds, Paul Klee


Memento Mori, Josh Dorman

"I Wish I'd Made That": Josh Dorman Experiments with Childlike Vision

Artists are always influenced by the work of others. And sometimes, something that an artist sees is so good, so perfect that they wish they had made it themselves.

This happens so often to the people we talk to, that we made a segment about it. It’s called I Wish I’d Made That.

Josh Dorman is a fine artist from New York. He specializes in invented landscapes, created in a mixture of collage, drawing and painting. His images play around with the ideas of time and space to create an unusual reality.

Dorman was a sophomore in college when he discovered Paul Klee and his painting Landscape With Yellow Birds. And it really affected him -- maybe too much? He'll explain.

If you’re in New York, you can see Josh Dorman’s solo exhibition, Whorled, at the Ryan Lee Gallery, through October 11.

If you liked this, share it! Click here for a streaming, embeddable version of this interview.

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

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

Now, he’s written his first novel, which is long-listed for the National Book Award for Fiction.

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

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

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The Outshot: The Area Man

Jesse praises the true hero of The Onion: The Area Man.

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You can subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Maria Bamford and George Saunders [R]

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New to Bullseye? Subscribe to the show in iTunes or via the RSS feed, or check out our SoundCloud page to share any or all of these interviews or recommendations!

Maria Bamford: Comedy's Orchid

Maria Bamford's comedy is weird and wonderfully distinctive. For example: she recorded her last stand up special at home, in her living room. The seating? Her couch. The audience? Her parents. She performed her set with breaks "off-stage" to take cookies out of the oven and administer medicine to her pet pug. Her comedy takes on a number of difficult issues, ones that are personal to her -- mental illness, suicidal thoughts, or tough family dynamics (she describes her family's favorite pastime as "Joy Whack-a-Mole"). But she doesn't use humor as a shield. She uses it to confront an issue, point-blank.

Bamford talks to us about why she chose to perform a special in front of her parents, processing awful experiences or feelings into jokes, and why she describes herself as "the orchid of comedy".

The Special Special Special is available now and streaming on Netflix. Her new Comedy Central CD / DVD special, Ask Me About My New God is now available.

This interview originally aired on 2/12/13.

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Dan Deacon on "The Song That Changed My Life"

Dan Deacon is a Baltimore-based composer and electronics musician who has released over a dozen albums since 2003. He talks about why a player piano composition by Conlon Nancarrow changed his life and the way he made music.

This interview originally aired on 1/03/12.

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George Saunders on Creative Challenge and Financial Pressure

George Saunders could have been a geophysicist. In fact, he was one. He graduated from the Colorado School of Mines and worked in the oil fields of Sumatra. He came to fiction writing a little later in life, attending Syracuse University's creative writing program (where he now teaches).

Saunders is now well-recognized as one of the greatest short story writers and satirists of our time. He's been awarded a MacArthur "Genius" grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship, along with piles of literary accolades for his collections, which include Pastoralia and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. His stories often explore a world much like our own, just slightly more grotesque -- societies that are terrifying and recognizable. His writing is incisive, sad, and also really funny. His collection, Tenth of December, is available now in paperback.

Saunders talks to us about how people interpret luck and what they do with it, drawing inspiration from a disturbing dream, and unyielding financial pressure (the kind that doesn't even lift when you win a major award).

This interview originally aired on 2/12/13.

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The Outshot: William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe"

Jesse ruminates on alone time and... William Carlos Williams' "Danse Russe".

This segment originally aired on 2/12/13.

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Humor Writing Class with Kasper Hauser at the San Francisco Grotto

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Rob Baedeker and James Reichmuth of Kasper Hauser will be teaching a class on writing and workshopping humor for the page (e.g. comic essays, genre parodies, humor-book concepts and short comic fiction). The six-week course will be held at the San Francisco Writers' Grotto and is open to all folks, including those who don't consider themselves comedy writers.

The class starts on September 19th and you can find out more information, including how to register, here.

Lynda Barry, author of Picture This and What It Is: Interview on The Sound of Young America

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry is a legendary comic strip author whose Ernie Pook's Comeek has run for many years in alternative newspapers around the country. Her two most recent books, What It Is and Picture This are about writing and creating art, respectively. The former won an Eisner Award, comics' most prestigious prize. The books take the form of a notebook, filled with text, collage and drawings. The content is based on a series of seminars Barry has taught on getting creative work done. In our interview, Barry talks with Jesse about activating the brain and the benefit of doing creative work that doesn't need to fall into the dichotomy of beautiful/not beautiful, good art/not good art, or being productive/being nonproductive.

JESSE THORN: It’s The Sound of Young America, I’m Jesse Thorn. My guest on the program is Lynda Barry. She’s one of the nation’s most accomplished comics artists, graphic novelists, comic strip writers, artists, etc. etc. Her comics have run in alternative newspapers across the country for many, many, many years and more recently she’s turned much of her time towards writing longer works. Her book of just a couple of years ago, What It Is, was about the process of writing, and her latest, Picture This, is about the process of making art. They’re beautiful multimedia comics collage works that, as I said, are about process.

Lynda Barry, welcome to The Sound of Young America.

LYNDA BARRY: I’m delighted to be here.

Click Here for a Full Transcript.

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