Jesse Thorn

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Filmmaker Joe Talbot

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Bullseye
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Joe Talbot

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Joe Talbot on his new film "The Last Black Man in San Francisco."

Filmmaker Joe Talbot grew up in San Francisco, just a few blocks away from Bullseye's Jesse Thorn. The two shared similar backgrounds: a love for film and the local movie theaters that played their favorites, Candlestick Park and the local culture that surrounded them. Both men witnessed their town change over the years. As money moved in, housing prices skyrocketed and many of the people who made the city such a unique place to live moved out, Joe began to feel a sense of nostalgia for the way things were.

He decided to make a film about it.

Talbot makes his feature-length film debut with the strikingly beautiful, The Last Black Man in San Francisco. It tells the story of a man named Jimmie and his best friend Walt attempting to get back a home Jimmie believes was built by his grandfather. The cast features Danny Glover, Tichina Arnold, Thora Birch and Jonathan Majors in a mesmerizing and heartbreaking performance.


Photo: Adam Newport-Berra

The film acts in equal parts as a love letter to the city and an indictment of capitalism in its most corrupted form. The big stuff is covered, like gentrification, race, money, so much money. But you don't have to be from the Bay to appreciate the movie. At its heart, it's trying to figure out what home really means and how we long for a yesterday that might have never truly existed.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco is in theaters now.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Filmmaker Sara Driver

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Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Director Sara Driver on independent filmmaking and her love for the "old" New York.

Sara Driver, is an artist and filmmaker. She's a part of the Manhattan independent filmmaking renaissance that the city underwent through the late 1970s through the 90s. When we spoke with the director and actor in 2018, she had just directed a new documentary called Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The movie shows a side of one of the great 20th century artists not often seen - a savvy young upstart painting on the walls all over Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Driver, an artist herself, lived and worked in the same art community that propelled Basquiat to stardom. And because of that, Boom For Real kind of tells two stories: there's Basquiat's - who shows up in archival footage but never speaks. And there's New York City's. Pre-9/11, pre-Reagan, pre-real estate boom. Boom for Real strikes a careful balance between nostalgia and danger, between nuance and hero worship.

The filmmaker discusses what it felt like to capture on film a New York of old, particularly for working artists, and why Whole Foods makes her nostalgic for the past.

Sara Driver currently appears in Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: H. Jon Benjamin

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Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

H. Jon Benjamin on writing a book about failure and the beauty of fatherhood.

The magic of H. Jon Benjamin is kind of a 1-2 punch. First, there's his voice: a deep baritone that's unmistakable when you hear it. Then, his timing: stilted and deadpan, usually - it catches you off guard and it makes him one of the funniest voice actors alive today.

He can play lovable slackers like Ben from Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist or Bob from Bob's Burgers. Jon can also play macho windbags who are imbued with the kind of flawed humanity that also makes you root for them. His Coach McGuirk on Home Movies was a beloved Adult Swim character right up there with the likes of Space Ghost, Master Shake, and Dr. Rockso.

Perhaps Jon's most iconic voice role is that of Sterling Archer, from the TV show Archer. Sterling's a spy, but he's also a narcissist with a pretty terrible drinking problem. A guy who has gone from being extremely self-serving to slightly less selfish over ten seasons. It is to Jon's credit as a voice actor that the audience can see past this deeply flawed man's exterior and laugh along with him and at him.

With lead roles in some of the most popular comedies of all time, it's hard to call H. Jon Benjamin a failure. But he doesn't really mind the label. In 2018, Jon wrote a book called Failure is an Option: An Attempted Memoir.

In it, he recounts his shortcomings in excruciating detail and how, wouldn't you know it, a lot of those failures opened the door to success: failures in family, in work, in serving fajitas. It's a very self-deprecating, self-aware memoir. And since it's written by H. Jon Benjamin, it's also really, really funny.

Season ten of Archer is out now.

This interview originally aired in May of 2018

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Comedian Kulap Vilaysack

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Director Kulap Vilayack on her new documentary "Origin Story."

You're probably familiar with the work of Kulap Vilaysack already. Odds are it's because she made you laugh. Maybe it was on her podcast,Who Charted, which ran for 8 years on the Earwolf network. Maybe you know her from Bajillion Dollar Properties, a show she created which ran on the Seeso network. Maybe you've seen her in a TV role. Kulap has appeared in dozens of shows. She's been on Bob's Burgers, Comedy Bang Bang, and Children's Hospital, just to name a few. One of our favorites was probably her part in Parks and Recreation.

For as long as Kulap has been a working actor, comedian, and showrunner she's been working on a different project in the background. A very special project. It's a documentary called Origin Story. Kulap makes her feature-length directorial debut and is the center of the film. It's about family secrets, learning to adapt to them, to empathize with difficult parents, and to connect with brand new ones.

Kulap was raised in Minnesota. Her parents were both refugees from Laos. One night, during a family argument, her mom told her something that would change her life completely: that the man who had raised her isn't her birth father.

In Origin Story, Kulap confronts her history head on. She reckons with her parents, her mom, in particular. She talks about identity and her experience as a second generation immigrant. She finds her birth father, and goes to Laos to meet him. The film is moving. It's healing. We just can't recommend it enough.

Origin Story, is a really compelling, affecting film. You can stream it now on Amazon. If you haven't checked out her show Bajillion Dollar Properties… well, it's completely different from Origin Story in pretty much every way, but it's also great. It's streaming on a handful of platforms, including Amazon.

Tights and Fights Ep. 146: CMLL at Arena Mexico w/ Jesse Thorn

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Jesse Thorn

This week, Hal and Danielle are rejoined by Jesse Thorn. He’s the Max Fun Network’s top Big Boss Man and he’s had almost no experience with wrestling.

But a few weeks ago he and his wife traveled to Mexico City and Arena Mexico where they saw their first live wrestling show, put on by Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre. He’ll share all the fun and absurdity that he experienced, including why he found the heels more entertaining for the wrestling, how indie-wrestling star Colt Cabana helped make this happen and which wrestler inspired his future tattoos.

Hosted by , Danielle Radford,Lindsey Kelk and Jesse Thorn.

Produced by Julian Burrell for Maximum Fun.

If you want to talk about more wrestling throughout the week be sure to join us on Facebook and @TightsFights on Twitter and Instagram.

If you liked the show, please share it with your friends and be sure to leave us a quick review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get podcasts.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Game of Thrones' John Bradley

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Game of Thrones' John Bradley on what it was like playing Samwell Tarly for eight seasons.

John Bradley was around 22 when he got the part that changed his life. He'd just graduated from theater school in Manchester, England. He'd done a little theater work, but never anything on camera before. He had just learned how to hit his mark and where to look when reading his lines.

So he got called in for an audition, literally his first ever. It was for a new show HBO was producing called Game of Thrones.

He got the part.

John played Samwell Tarly, John Snow's close friend, for eight years. The two characters meet when they both join the Night's Watch and the journey Samwell takes on the show is really unique.

In the beginning, it's clear that Sam isn't cut out for the Night's Watch. He isn't a natural warrior. He's heavyset. Kind of soft. He's smart, but he doesn't have a keen sense of realpolitik or manipulation. He's nice, maybe a little goofy.

And on any other show, you can pretty much guess his character's trajectory: maybe he stays a bumbling comic sidekick. Maybe he gets killed off tragically. Or maybe, somehow, he finds the warrior inside him and learns to fight just as well as the Hound or Ser Davos.

On Game of Thrones, none of that happens. The things he was bullied for: his kindness, his empathy, his bookishness… they turn out to be assets, not liabilities. He finds work as a maester and gains access to all of his word's knowledge at the Citadel. Sam plays a vital part in the battle against the dead… he's even the first to kill a White Walker!

And by the show's last episode, when all the great houses meet to figure out the future of Westeros... Sam finally has the respect of his peers.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Kathe Kollwitz, a founding member of feminist art collective The Guerilla Girls

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Guerrilla Girl Kathe Kollwitz in Bilbao, 2013. Photo by Guerrilla Girls, courtesy guerrillagirls.com

A conversation with a founding member of feminist art collective The Guerrilla Girls

If you go to an art museum: contemporary, encyclopedic, local – odds are most of the art displayed was made by white men. Even if you leave out the renaissance painters and the Dutch Masters. It's still not that common to see a solo show by a woman or a person of color these days. This was even more true in the mid-80's. Some of New York's most prominent galleries showed less than 10% of women artists. Others were showing no women created art at all.

In 1984, a group of women started an art collective called The Guerrilla Girls. The group was created in response to the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition: "An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture." The exhibits roster of 165 artists only included 13 women. The number of artists of color was even smaller, and none of them were women.

They decided the best way to fight discrimination in the art world was to make art about the discrimination. They took the art to the streets. They pasted it onto the walls all over lower Manhattan. The group demonstrated in front of the museum with placards and picket lines. And they wore gorilla masks while doing it.

The Guerrilla Girls drew attention to issues of discrimination and representation in galleries and museums all over the world. They have entered their third decade as a collective, morphing in membership as the time went on. They still make art for the streets but have also shown in galleries and museums, too.

Jesse talks to a founding member of The Guerrilla Girls, who goes by Kathe Kollwitz. She'll reflect on the origins of the group, her anonymity in the art world and what the group means now more than 30 years later.

You can learn more about The Guerrilla Girls by visiting their website.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Timothy Simons of HBO's Veep

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Timothy Simons on playing Veep's Jonah Ryan for 7 seasons

One of the most iconic things about HBO's Veep was the way the characters insulted one another. Each insult was delivered with laser-like precision to get at each character's insecurities. Perhaps no character on the show received more of these zingers than Jonah Ryan. He was an unlikable White House aide who went on to become one of New Hampshire's least popular members of Congress.

Veep starred Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer. A narcissistic politician who, despite constantly sabotaging herself, manages to ascend to the Oval Office.

Only to lose it almost as quickly.

Jonah, Simons' character, starts the show as a lowly staffer in the West Wing. By the final season, he's a presidential candidate facing off against Selina. It's a wild and funny ride.

Simons talks with Bullseye about his unique, fascinating journey to Veep. He dreamed of being a film and TV actor since he started out in Chicago. He and his wife had only been married a short time before they dropped everything and left the Windy City for Los Angeles. At the time it was a big risk. He didn't have a gig lined up. He had never even been to California. The first time he saw LA was on his drive in from the long haul.

It was a tough transition, but soon after he landed the part as Jonah. When he went into audition he did not look the part at all. The casting directors were looking for someone short, bearded and kind of chubby. Simons, who's slender and tall, gave the writers something different to work with. But it worked.

Simons explains why thick skin doesn't always protect you from fictional insults. Plus, how being a dad has impacted his acting career and knowledge of elementary school handball.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: The Last Poets

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Photo: Sound Evidence

The Last Poets on their legacy and new album "Transcending Toxic Times."

The Last Poets are more than a band, although, you could call them that as well. A collective? An idea? A movement? Sure!

Let's back up, though. The year is 1968. In Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, a group of black musicians, writers and activists formed a group. They called it The Last Poets. They read poems, played drums, brought in other instruments later. And when they spoke, they spoke plainly. Their message was about unity. About social justice. About empowerment. About all that was wrong with their world and all that could be done to make it better.

Their groundbreaking self-titled debut album was pressed by the same small record label that produced the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis. The Last Poets are widely considered to be the grandfathers of hip hop genre along with Gil Scott Heron.

Over 50 years have gone by since the group formed. Dozens of members joined and left the group within that time frame. Dozens of albums were recorded. You can feel the spirit of the Last Poets in rap legends like Common, Kendrick Lamar, and Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest. They've been sampled in hundreds of hip-hop records including songs by NWA, Biggie Smalls, Digable Planets, Snoop, Dre, Madlib and many more.

Two of the groups original members Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan have a new album called Transcending Toxic Times. It fuses spoken word with jazz rhythms and hip hop. It's out now and it's wonderful.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Tuca and Bertie Creator Lisa Hanawalt

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Lisa Hanawalt

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Photo: Kim Newmoney

Lisa Hanawalt, creator of the new Netflix animated series Tuca & Bertie

Lisa Hanawalt is a cartoonist, writer, and author of four brilliant books, including "Hot Dog Taste Test" and "My Dirty Dumb Eyes." Her latest book, "Coyote Dog Girl," is also great. She also co-hosts a podcast here at Maximum Fun called "Baby Geniuses" along with the comic Emily Heller. You may be familiar with her work on the popular animated Netflix series "BoJack Horseman" where she's a producer. Hanawalt is the creator of the new show "Tuca & Bertie." It's an animated series on Netflix and it's very funny.

Tuca & Bertie is a show about two women. Anthropomorphic bird women, to be exact. They live in Bird Town. Tuca is a toucan. She's outgoing and fun, but kind of a mess, too. She doesn't really have a solid job. Bertie, her best friend, is a songbird, kind of a homebody, a little shy and deferential. When the show starts, she's just moved in with her boyfriend.

A lot of the problems Tuca and Bertie encounter are fairly human and grounded: relationship stuff, work problems, sexual harassment. But the world they live in is anything but. The show is breathtakingly drawn and totally surreal: Phones talk. Hospital equipment talks. Plants walk. Lisa based Tuca & Bertie off of characters from her books, characters she's lived with for a long time and sees sort of as extensions of herself.

Lisa talks to us about how intuitive creating Tuca & Bertie was at times,on deciding what to ground in reality and where to take flight, and why she should be allowed to ride Martha Stewart's pony.

A quick warning about this interview you're about to hear: there's some talk about sex in it, mostly just talking about body parts. If you or someone you're listening with might be sensitive to that kind of thing, we're giving you a heads up now.

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