The National

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jen Kirkman & Bryce Dessner

Jen Kirkman
Bryce Dessner

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Photo credit: Jesse Thorn

Jen Kirkman's Unapologetic, Unafraid Thoughts on Marriage, Divorce, and Comedy

Jen Kirkman is fierce when it comes to pain and fear and figuring stuff out, both in her stand up comedy and her writing. In her new stand up special I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine), a lot of her material is about getting married, getting divorced, and why she thinks we're all just doing our best. While her jokes about being divorced at 40 and physical aging could be sad sack in someone else's hands, Kirkman's take is unapologetic and unafraid. She's OK with those things. Why aren't we?

Kirkman explains how part of her opening sequence is an homage to Joan Rivers, how she found her audience after spending years playing rooms of alternative comedy fans, and why she thinks dying alone doesn't have to be a bad thing.

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Photo credit: Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Bryce Dessner on "The Day I Became an Artist"

Bryce Dessner is a classically educated composer and musician. He grew up playing classical guitar, piano and flute. He also plays guitar for the rock band The National.

As a kid, classical music was something he did by himself. That changed as he grew older, and he collaborated and played with friends and took on small commissions.

For "The Day I Became an Artist", he talked to us about a pivotal moment in his career as a composer -- writing his composition "Aheym" for the Kronos Quartet.

You can hear Dessner's music many ways -- a new recording of his composition Music for Wood and Strings was just released. You can hear him in the rock band The National. And if you want to hear his compositions live, you can find them being performed all over the world. Details of current performances are available on his website,
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"The Red Umbrella", Saul Leiter (1957)

The Outshot: Saul Leiter

Jesse talks about the photographer Saul Leiter, whose great talent lay in not telling you the whole story.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Syl Johnson, Gillian Flynn, and Matt Berninger

Syl Johnson
Gillian Flynn
Matt Berninger
Tasha Robinson
Scott Tobias

We're joined again this week by guest co-host Julie Klausner.

The AV Club Recommends: The Fantastical Thoughts of Jim Henson and a New Take on Wuthering Heights

Associate National Editor Tasha Robinson and Film Editor Scott Tobias of the AV Club recommend Imagination Illustrated, which journals the various creative efforts of Jim Henson, and a modern, dark adaptation of Wuthering Heights.

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The Enigmatic, Grammy-Nominated Syl Johnson

Inspired by the sounds of Jackie Wilson, Little Walter, and Muddy Waters, Syl Johnson set out to make his own mark in music in the 1950s. His own gritty, bluesy voice and funk rhythms earned him a place in the Chicago soul and blues scene. Over the course of a career on Chicago's Twinight and Memphis' Hi Records, Johnson released several singles that climbed their way up the pop and R&B charts ("Different Strokes", "Come On Sock It To Me", "Is It Because I'm Black?") and but never attained the smash success of contemporaries like Al Green or James Brown.

He found ubiquity later in life, when dozens of hip hop artists from Run-DMC to Kanye West dug into his catalog to sample his sounds (perhaps foremost his signature scream on "Different Strokes"). Johnson found himself in the spotlight again last year when the archival label Numero Group assembled a Grammy-nominated boxset of his early cuts, titled Syl Johnson: The Mythology.

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Matt Berninger: The Song that Changed My Life

Matt Berninger, lead singer of The National, recalls being pelted by golf balls and listening to the song which changed his life, The Boy with a Thorn in His Side by The Smiths.

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Gillian Flynn on the Damaged Psyches in Gone Girl

Armed with childhood memories of watching Psycho and Alien and an insatiable appetite for true crime stories, Gillian Flynn began writing her first thriller, Sharp Objects. The book's success took Flynn from magazine journalist to full-time author. Her newest book, the bestselling Gone Girl, is a twisted and wry look at a marriage gone horribly wrong.

Flynn offers insights on the twisted and damaged psyches of her characters, cherishing the unease that comes with following an unreliable narrator, and how she combats the trope of the female victim.

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The Outshot: Key & Peele

This week, Jesse lauds the commitment and direction of Key & Peele's sketch comedy.

For more, check out our interview with Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele from earlier this year.

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What’s your favorite sketch comedy show? Jump over to the MaxFun forum and pick your own Outshot.

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The Alumni Newsletter: January 11, 2011


Matt Berninger of The National: Interview on The Sound of Young America

Matt Berninger

Matt Berninger is the frontman of the Brooklyn rock band The National. Their latest release is High Violet. He talked with us about the bands roots, in Cincinnati, and about slowly developing the group from hobby to headliner.

JESSE THORN: It’s The Sound of Young America, I’m Jesse Thorn. My guest, Matt Berninger, is ten years or a little bit more into his rock and roll career with his band The National. They’ve gone from a tiny, independent label of which they were partly the boss to, with each passing record, a little bit more national renown. They’ve now made the transition from critic starlings to at least the indie mainstream’s darlings, and they’re continuing to grow. Their newest album is called High Violet. Let’s hear a little bit of one of the singles from the record, “Bloodbuzz Ohio.”

Matt Berninger, welcome to the Sound of Young America. It’s so great to have you on the show.

MATT BERNINGER: Thank you, thank you. I’m excited to be here.

Click Here For a Full Transcript of Our Interview

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