Bullseye

Bullseye is a public radio show about what's good in popular culture. With a keen editorial eye, Bullseye sifts the wheat from the chaff, and brings you hot culture picks, in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary creative people and irreverent original comedy.

Bullseye is equal parts funny and fascinating. Whether you're already plugged in to the culture map, or looking for a signpost, Bullseye will keep you on target. More About Bullseye

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Avantdale Bowling Club

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Tom Scott

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New Zealand rapper Tom Scott on his latest project: 'Avantdale Bowling Club'

Tom Scott is a rapper from New Zealand's underground hip-hop scene. He's been rapping for over a decade now. He grew up in Auckland – the biggest city in a very small country. Last year, Tom released an amazing, beautiful album under the name Avantdale Bowling Club. He named it after the place where he grew up.

On the record, he reflects on his roots. His childhood. The friendships he's lost. The places he's been. His family. He kicks things off with an autobiography on "Years Gone By." It's an intimate hip hop record with jazz instrumentation. The sound is lush. Maybe less Low End Theory, more to Pimp a Butterfly. It's pretty remarkable.

Tom explains why he left Auckland for Australia, and what brought him back to his hometown after spending many years away. Plus, what it's like to write an album that brings back somber memories, and why Tom felt it was important to use original jazz songs, rather than jazz samples.

Check out the self-titled record by Avantdale Bowling Club here.

Check out this interview on YouTube!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Mike Leigh

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Mike Leigh

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Photo:BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

Mike Leigh on his new film 'Peterloo'

Mike Leigh is an acclaimed writer and director. His films are honest, touching and real. He has a clear, distinct work ethic guiding all of his films: to draw the realest possible performance out of his actors. It starts with a deep, collaborative study of the character. Followed by a lengthy, collaborative rehearsal process. Leigh made the films Naked, Topsy-Turvy, Secrets & Lies, just to list off a handful.

Mike joins us to discuss his new film Peterloo. It's a historical drama set in Manchester, in the Northern part of England. Leigh's hometown. It tells the story of the Peterloo Massacre. If you're rusty on your English history, here's a refresher: The Peterloo Massacre took place in 1819. The UK was still recovering from a lengthy war against Napoleon and his allies. The economy faltered, hitting England's North especially hard.

People were asking for change. Demanding it. And on August 16 that year, they took to the streets for a demonstration. When British authorities tried to arrest one of the speakers, things spiraled out of control quickly. 18 people were killed. Hundreds more injured. Among the dead were women and children.

Mike tells us how he values finding emotional truth in historical films - even if it means fast-forwarding a year or two. Or four.

Peterloo is in theaters now.

Check out this interview on YouTube!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: 'Apollo 11' director Todd Douglas Miller

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Todd Douglas Miller

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Todd Douglas Miller on his new film 'Apollo 11'

There aren't many events in American history more covered in film than the moon landing. You know the story. Neil Armstrong landed the U.S. Apollo Lunar Module Eagle and stepped out first. Then, Buzz Aldrin touched down on the moon’s surface 19 minutes later. But you've never seen anything quite like the new documentary "Apollo 11."

The film is a monumental achievement in filmmaking. It uses never before seen archival footage to tell the amazing tale. There's no narration. No interviews. All images and voices from the mission guide us through the journey. We'll chat with director Todd Douglas Miller about the stunning new film. He'll give us behind the scenes look at what it was like to browse hundreds of hours of footage from the 1960's to tell the incredible story.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Khalid

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Khalid

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Khalid on his wild ride to fame, and making intimate R&B music

R&B singer Khalid has recorded about a dozen legitimate hit songs. He's sold millions of albums. Plus, has hundreds of millions of plays on streaming apps. He plays to huge crowds. Madison Square Garden. MGM Grand Garden. Staples Center. You can catch him on tour this summer at an arena near you.

Khalid's breakthrough single was called "Location." It was one of the first songs he ever wrote. He was 18 when it dropped. He's only 21 now. People thought he was easily 10 years older. There's a richness to his voice, a kind of grace, too. He sings like a person who's seen some stuff. Khalid doesn't really record outright dance tracks, but he doesn't have a lot of ballads, either. His songs are steady. They're almost always plainly spoken.

His debut album American Teen was a sincere look at what he believes it's like to be young person nowadays. Songs like "Young Dumb & Broke" and "Another Sad Love Song
"
convey emotions most teenagers have, but his songwriting shines when he's specific and intimate. In "8Teen," he's concerned his mom is going to kill him because his car smells like weed. You know teenager stuff.

He's got a new record coming out later this week, it's called Free Spirit. Khalid tell us about the weird, amazing world of being super famous. We'll also talk about his childhood, growing up in and around several different army bases. And why some people have a hard time believing he's only 21. We know Khalid can sing, but can he rap? We'll get him to freestyle some bars. You don't want to miss it!

Check out this interview on YouTube!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Stephen Malkmus on the song that changed his life

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Stephen Malkmus

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The Song That Changed my Life: Stephen Malkmus

Stephen Malkmus is the singer and co-founder of Pavement - one of the most beloved and influential modern rock bands of the 90s or ever, for that matter. They recorded so many songs that capture the decade perfectly: Cut Your Hair, Range Life and Stereo just to name a few.

The band broke up in 1999, but Malkmus has kept on, as prolific as ever, dropping 8 records since 2001. His latest just dropped, it's called Groove Denied and includes a different sound including drum machines, vintage synths and a lot of voice reverb. It's a departure for him. A little less like The Fall, a little more like Suicide or Kraftwerk.

What is the song that changed his life? Love Will Keep Us Together by Captain & Tenille.

Yeah. You read that right.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: PEN15’s Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle

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Maya Erskine
Guests: 
Anna Konkle

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Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle on their new Hulu show 'Pen15'

Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle join us to discuss their new coming of age show Pen15. It’s a show about middle school. Or, more accurately: it's about a version of middle school you might have actually experienced.The show is set in the year 2000 with plenty of cuts from N*SYNC and Lit and Mandy Moore. The characters wear Bebe tanks, Ruff Ryders shirts and UFO pants. It's a show about kids that definitely isn't for kids - sex and menstruation come up a bit, for example. The show digs deeper into what it means to be 12 or 13. A time in your life when a lot of kids are very, very insecure.

On Pen15, Maya and Anna play middle school aged versions of themselves. They’re best friends. Maya has a bowl cut. Anna has braces. They're starting 7th grade at the beginning of the show and while 6th grade wasn't great, they have a pretty good feeling that this year is gonna be different.

Maya and Anna tell us how they mined stories from their own lives to make the show. And why they cast Richard Karn - yes, Al from Home Improvement - as Maya's dad.

Pen15 is now streaming on Hulu

Listen to this interview on YouTube!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Netflix's 'Norsemen' co-creators Jon Iver Helgaker and Jonas Torgersen

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Bullseye
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Jon Iver Helgaker
Guests: 
Jonas Torgersen

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Netflix's Norsemen co-creators Jon Iver Helgaker and Jonas Torgersen

WARNING: There's some talk about sexual assault in this conversation. Nothing graphic, just some discussion of the use of it in comedy, in the abstract. If you're sensitive to these kinds of topics, we figured we'd give you a heads up.

Jon Iver Helgaker and Jonas Torgersen join us to discuss their hit Norwegian show Norsemen. It's a sitcom about vikings. It has a particularly Norwegian sense of comedy. Deadpan but brutal. It's set around the year 790 AD. Throughout the series we see the villagers and vikings deal with daily life. The vikings pillage. The vikings fight amongst themselves. They sacrifice slaves.

The jokes are great. Sometimes it's straight-faced like The Office, sometimes they play it big and absurd like Monty Python. Except, the violence is real, and their actions have real consequences to the storyline. And at the heart of the show, modernity is closing in on them. New inventions. New norms. Pillaging towns doesn't pay like it used to.

Jon and Jonas will give us a behind the scenes look at the show. Plus,
they'll explain Taco Friday: the latest food craze in Norway. The first two seasons of Norsemen are available to stream on Netflix now.

Check out this interview on YouTube!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: John Turturro

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Bullseye
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John Turturro

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John Turturro on 'Do the Right Thing,' 'The Big Lebowski,' his new film 'Gloria Bell' and more

Acting legend John Turturro joins us to chat about his latest project Gloria Bell. It's a movie about a relationship between two people who've both already been through a lot. Turturro plays Arnold, a retired Navy officer. He stars opposite Julianne Moore, who plays Gloria.

It's filled with both the highs and lows that come with new relationships. They're both divorced. And things are especially complicated for Arnold. His adult children still turn to him for money. Gloria, on the other hand, is more free-spirited and for the most part is independent from her family. She's never really had a reason to settle down. She works a regular nine to five, and spends her nights at clubs around Los Angeles dancing to Earth, Wind and Fire and Anita Ward.

It's a love story that's messy and nuanced. The performances from both Turturro and Moore are touching, emotional and engrossing. Turturro will tell us how he nailed down the subtleties and complexities of playing a character that might seem like an average joe. Plus, he'll share stories from his time working on some true classics – Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing and the Coen Brothers The Big Lebowski.

Check out this interview on YouTube here!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Roy Wood Jr

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Roy Wood Jr

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Roy Wood Jr. on writing jokes and working on "The Daily Show"

Roy Wood Jr. is a comedian. You've probably seen him as a correspondent on "The Daily Show." He's done comedy pretty much his entire life, but he majored in broadcast journalism and for a while, it was looking like that was gonna be his career. He was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama and first got his start in radio, working at a handful of stations. Sometimes he wrote, sometimes he produced or reported, but at heart, Roy's always been a standup, doing his act whenever he found the time.

In 2010, he finished third on NBC's "Last Comic Standing," which is when his career took off - he got his own radio show, got acting roles, started getting booked in bigger venues. He soon released his stand-up comedy album called "Father Figure," which made a bunch of top 10 lists for 2017. This year, Roy released his new one-hour stand-up special called Roy Wood Jr: No One Loves You on Comedy Central which accompanies his digital album and features original sketches based on his act.

Roy talks with Jesse about the difficulty of writing original jokes, gang colors, and how being on the Daily Show has given an opportunity to share some of his bolder takes on politics and race.

This interview originally aired in April of 2018.

Click here to listen to Roy Wood Jr.'s interview on YouTube.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Bill Hader

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Bullseye
Guests: 
Bill Hader

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Season 2 of Barry premiers March 31

You know Bill Hader from his time on Saturday Night Live. He was kind of an impressions guy - he did a mean Vincent Price. His most famous character was Stefon, from the Weekend Update sketches. He left the show in 2013 and went on to perform in movies like Trainwreck, Inside Out and the smash hit Sausage Party. Along with Fred Armisen, he also starred in the IFC show, Documentary Now!.

His latest project is an HBO TV show called Barry, which enters its second season later this month. Hader stars as the show's title character, Barry Berkman. Barry's an ex-marine, turned low rent hitman in Ohio, turned aspiring actor in Los Angeles. Bill tells Jesse about working as a production assistant when he first came out to Los Angeles, the influence his parents had on his taste in film, and the struggle he had to project his voice.

This interview originally aired in April of 2018.