Bullseye with Jesse Thorn
Bullseye from NPR is your curated guide to culture. Jesse Thorn hosts in-depth interviews with brilliant creators, culture picks from our favorite critics and irreverent original comedy. Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ and McSweeney's, which called it "the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world." (Formerly known as The Sound of Young America.)

Brian Raftery writes for GQ, Wired and Rolling Stone, among others. He just wrote a really interesting book. He called it "Best Movie Year Ever" and in the book's 300 pages, Brian makes the case that one of the most interesting and memorable years in cinema history… was 1999.

The year that saw the release of Office Space. Rushmore. Three Kings. Being John Malkovich... you get the point. It's a great read, tons of interviews and insight into a year that not just saw a bunch of classic movies but changed the way studios marketed them. Listen to this one for a fascinating conversation about film!

Direct download: Bullseye190419_-_Brian_Raftery.mp3
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What follows is one of our favorite interviews we've recorded this year. Seriously.

It's with an artist you probably haven't heard of. His name's Tom Scott. He's from New Zealand. He's been a rapper there for about 10 years now, he's one of the biggest role players in the small, burgeoning scene there.

Last year he created the group Avantdale Bowling Club and released a self-titled record for the group. It combines jazz with hip-hop in the same way Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly did. It's lush and beautiful like Pharoah Sanders or Alice Coltrane. Tom's rhymes are deeply personal and affecting and honest. It's one of our favorite albums of the year. Don't miss this one!

Direct download: Bullseye190416_-_Avantdale_Bowling_Club_podcast.mp3
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Todd Douglas Miller directed Apollo 11, the new documentary. It compiles thousands of hours of footage from the moon landing into one brilliant, compelling narrative feature. There's no narration. No interviews. All images and voices from the mission and the run up to it.

Some of the footage you've seen, but a lot of it you haven't. A lot of breathtaking 70 millimeter shots in Apollo 11 have never been released to the public until now.

Direct download: Bullseye190405_-_Apollo_11.mp3
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It's a strange thing, to be famous, right? Like, really really famous. Famous like Khalid, the singer. He's sold millions of albums. Hundreds of millions of plays on streaming apps. Odds are, there are people right now listening to his music within ten miles of you. People who, right now, constantly check his Instagram for updates. He deals with it in stride, though: making brilliant music and trying to touch the heart of every fan at his shows.

He's today's guest on Bullseye, and we're thrilled to have him on. He talks with Jesse about growing up an army brat, acclimating to newfound fame and how they both have an undying mutual love of Sade.

Direct download: Bullseye190402_-_Khalid.mp3
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Every now and then, we bring you a special segment called The Song that Changed My Life - it's a chance for musicians we love to dish on the song that made them who they are today. This time: Stephen Malkmus, the former frontman of Pavement.

The band's been called one of the best acts from the 90s. They recorded so many songs that capture the decade perfectly: Cut Your Hair. Range Life. Stereo. Malkmus has kept on since the band broke up in '99 - dropping 8 records between then and now. His latest is called Groove Denied and it's kind of a departure for him: a little less like The Fall, a little more like New Order or Kraftwerk.

When we asked him about the song that changed his life, though. He didn't talk about any of those bands. Instead, he threw us kind of a curveball: Captain & Tennille.

Direct download: Bullseye190328_-_Stephen_Malkmus.mp3
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Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle created an star in the brilliant new show PEN15, on Hulu. It's show about middle school. Or, I guess this is more accurate: it's about middle school you might have actually experienced.

It's set in the year 2000 and it captures the era perfectly: N*SYNC songs, lip gloss, bebe tanks and all. But PEN15 digs deeper into what it means to be 12 or 13. It's a scary, weird, uncertain time. And nobody really knows what they're doing. It's a show about kids that definitely isn't for kids - sex and menstruation come up a bit, and we'll talk about that in this interview, too. Don't miss this one - just like their show, Maya and Anna are fascinating, hilarious and profoundly insightful.

Direct download: Bullseye190326_-_Pen15.mp3
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A heads up, first: 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.

It's with Jon Iver Helgaker and Jonas Torgersen, creators of the hit show <i>Norsemen</i>. It's a sitcom about vikings, 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 among themselves. They sacrifice slaves. The jokes are great, absurd but delivered bone dry. And the violence is real, and their actions have real consequences. 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. 

Direct download: Bullseye190322_-_The_Norsemen.mp3
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John Turturro's an acting legend. Lots of directors have actors they like to work with. Turturro's a favorite of both Spike Lee and the Coen Brothers. Starting from "Do The Right Thing," he's appeared in nine of Spike's films, four from the Coens.

He can play tough. Devious. Vulnerable. Brooding. Weird. He's never not himself, but no two roles are ever the same.

He talks with Jesse about his latest film, "Gloria Bell." It's directed by the Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Lelio, kind of an English language remake of his breakthrough 2013 film "Gloria." It's a story about relationship from two people in late middle age. Its messy, nuanced, and the performances from both Turturro and Moore… just keep you transfixed.

Direct download: Bullseye190319_-_John_Turturro.mp3
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Another favorite from the Bullseye archives this week. This time: Roy Wood Jr.! He's 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.

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

Direct download: Bullseye190315_-_Roy_Wood_Jr.mp3
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We're replying some favorites from the Bullseye archives this week! Today, we're excited to bring you Bill Hader. You know him 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.

Direct download: Bullseye190312_-_Bill_Hader.mp3
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WARNING: This episode contains some discussion of difficult topics. We cover sexual assault, miscarriage, violence against women and more. If you're sensitive to these kinds of topics, we figured we'd give you a heads up.

Our guest is Jena Friedman. She's a comic, a filmmaker, and a writer. She created and hosts a show on Adult Swim. It's called Soft Focus. It's really funny, just like her all of her comedy, but it also talks about some very difficult, sometimes painful topics. It's satire that cuts deep.

Jesse talks with her about the show, about her earlier work on the Daily Show, and her practice of incorporating hard to talk about stuff into her comedy.

Direct download: Bullseye190308_-_Jena_Friedman_PODCAST.mp3
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Has Stphen Root, the actor, had a million parts? It's not a million, right?

Ok. It's 236. Still: wow! Root is is the kind of character actor that can take even the most basic, dreary TV show or movie and light it up. One or two scenes with Stephen in it, say a by the book police procedural or a saccharine sitcom, and that's all you'll talk about. He'll joins us to discuss some of his most memorable roles:

He'll tell us why his voiceover role in "King of the Hill" was one of his favorite gigs. Plus, he'll tell us how he got the part in his most recent project HBO's "Barry," and how he helped flesh out his character's role.

Direct download: Bullseye190305_-_Stephen_Root.mp3
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Two very special bonus tidbits for you this week - live comedy and music from Bullseye's recent show at the Listen Up Festival in Portland Oregon. You'll hear comedy from the great Katie Nguyen - who's performed at festivals all over the place and has written for the New Yorker.

Then, music from the band Roseblood. The band's fronted by Kathy Foster, who also played in The Thermals and All Girl Summer Fun Band. 

Direct download: Bullseye190303_-_Roseblood_live.mp3
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Aurora Borealis! In your kitchen! May I see it? It's a very special Bullseye with Bill Oakley, the veteran TV writer. He worked on Futurama, Portlandia, and some of the greatest Simpsons episode of all time. Including... you guessed it! Steamed hams! The classic Simpsons bit turned ubiquitous, weird and postmodern meme. Bill's also taking up a new career: reviewing fast food on Instagram!

We talk about all that and more from the stage at the Listen Up Festival in Portland, Oregon.

Direct download: Bullseye190301_-Bill_Oakley_live.mp3
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Bullseye is a show about the creative process. And how artists' lives affect the work they make: their loved ones, friends and family, too. But what about when two artists - two genuine creative geniuses - are married to each other?

Corin Tucker, the singer and guitarist of Sleater-Kinney has been with her husband Lance Bangs for over two decades. Earlier this month, they joined Jesse to talk about how they mix music, movies and love... and how they spent this past Valentine's Day. They couldn't even get a table at the Cheesecake Factory!

This interview was recorded on stage at Revolution Hall in Portland Oregon as part of the first annual Listen Up Festival.

Direct download: Sleater_Kinneys_Corin_Tucker__Filmmaker_Lance_Bangs.mp3
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Filmmaker Nicole Holofcener, one of our favorites, is up for an Academy-Award nomination. It's for the adapted screenplay. and won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the film "Can You Ever Forgive Me?." We'll revisit our conversation with Nicole – when she stopped by we talked about another one of her recent projects, "The Land of Steady Habits." She'll also discuss her childhood growing up among Hollywood royalty.

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Happy Tuesday! This time, we're listening back to our 2018 conversation with filmmaker Debra Granik. In 2010, she wrote and directed "Winter's Bone," the acclaimed drama that launched Jennifer Lawrence's career and was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Now, the long awaited follow-up is available to stream on Amazon. It's called "Leave No Trace" and it's been met with similar acclaim. She and Jesse talk about the new film, about the pitfalls of calling an artist a "genius" and her first ever paid movie gig: shooting weddings!

Direct download: Bullseye190219.mp3
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Dream interview alert! Today: Jesse talks with Barbara Kruger. 

Kruger is a fascinating and profoundly influential artist. She works in big, bold text usually in white font over ribbons of red. The text is usually superimposed over black and white photos, usually of people. The messages say stuff like "YOUR BODY IS A BATTLEGROUND," "WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER HERO," or "DON'T BE A JERK."

If all that doesn't ring a bell yet, you can find thousands of samples of her work on the internet. Maybe the fonts and colors remind of you something: the Supreme logo? That Instagram Stories filter? It all started with Barbara Kruger.

Jesse talks with Kruger about why she dropped out of art school, how she found footing in the contemporary art world, and what she's trying to communicate these days in her work.

 

 

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Every now and then we like bring you a segment we call to the Song That Changed My Life. It's a chance to find out what makes some of our favorite musicians the person they are today. Stepping up this time: Ludwig Göransson.

Maybe you don't know him by name. But you've heard almost certainly heard his work. He was in Sweden and moved to the States in 2007. And before long, he started working in TV shows and movies as a composer. One of his first was Community. It was actually on the set of Community where he met Donald Glover. The two became friends, then, when he found out Glover could sing and rap, collaborators. Göransson's been the principal producer on all of Glover's Childish Gambino records. He actually just scored several Grammy awards for the song "This is America" by Glover.

He's scored some pretty big films, too: Fruitvale Station, Creed, Venom… and Black Panther. The music he wrote for Black Panther is up for the Academy Award for Best Original Score at this year's Oscars.  

So we asked Ludwig, this brilliant composer and hip-hop producer, to tell us about the song that changed his life. His pick? Enter Sandman by Metallica.

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Adam McKay has had a pretty eclectic career. He started in sketch comedy first as a founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade, then as a writer on Saturday Night Live. He studied at Second City, too, so throw that in there.

Then, movies: He collaborated with Will Ferrell to make some stone cold comedy classics: AnchormanStep BrothersTalladega Nights. Lately, though, his work has been more serious. Topical. Political.

A few years back, he wrote and directed The Big Short, which deconstructed and explained the 2008 financial crisis. He helped create the HBO show Succession - a drama about a family that owns a colossal American media empire.

Now there's Vice, his latest movie, which is the story of former Vice President Dick Cheney. It's playing in theaters now and is up for eight Academy Awards.

The common thread with McKay's work is that it's never boring, never forced. He'll take an extremely dumb joke and frame it in a way that's so clever and compelling that you just lose it. He'll find a way to explain credit default swaps that are so entertaining and engrossing that you forget you're learning about... credit default swaps.

In this conversation, Adam tells Jesse how he manages to keep his films fresh, funny and weird, and also shares some of the more reckless tales in improv comedy from his time in Chicago.

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Ladies and germs... Killer Mike! It's been more than a decade since Killer Mike joined us on Bullseye. These days, he's busier than ever. Along with El-P, he's one-half of Grammy nominated duo Run the Jewels. Together they've put out three great albums – with a fourth on the way later this year.

Now, he's got his very own Netflix series, "Trigger Warning with Killer Mike." Killer Mike joins us to talk about the new show. Plus, how he ended up becoming friends with legendary comedian and activist Dick Gregory, and what it was like hitting the road campaigning with Bernie Sanders.

Direct download: Bullseye190208podcast.mp3
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Jesse talks with John David Washington, star of the critically acclaimed film BlacKkKlansman, directed by Spike Lee.

Before John David Washington was an actor, he was lacing up the pads every week for a career in professional football. He traveled the globe from Sacramento to Dusseldorf, Germany trying to make it work. It seems fitting, then, that when he took up acting, his breakthrough role was the portrayal of an NFL player on HBO's "Ballers." He joins us to chat about his role in BlacKkKlansman: a compelling and complex look at the life of the first black police officer and detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department, and his undercover journey to expose David Duke and the KKK.

Direct download: Bullseye190205podcast.mp3
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Jesse talks with Tituss Burgess, actor from "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," "30 Rock" and more. On UKS, Tituss plays a struggling, needy and desperate Broadway actor. He’s transparently conniving and manipulative, but he’s also sweet, charming and super lovable. He shows his tough past, his lonely circumstances and he’s a real friend to Kimmy.

That warmth comes from Tituss Burgess. Burgess was himself a struggling Broadway actor many moons ago, living in a basement apartment in Harlem, just like his character on TV.

The last episodes of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" are now available on Netflix. 

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Jesse talks with legendary character actress Carol Kane about the last season of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and her 45-year career in the biz.

Carol started acting in 1971 and pretty quickly landed big roles. One of her first films was in the Mike Nichols drama "Carnal Knowledge." She'd later work on other classics like "Annie Hall," "Dog Day Afternoon," and was even nominated for a best actress Oscar for her part in the 1975 film "Hester Street."

But ultimately, Carol found her home in comedy — something she never expected she'd do coming up. She appeared on "Taxi" as the wife of Latka, Andy Kaufman's character. She was in "The Muppet Movie," "The Princess Bride," "Scrooged," and lots more.

On "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," Carol plays Lillian, long-time New Yorker and Kimmy's landlord. The last six episodes of UKS just dropped on Netflix by the way, and what a lovely run it has been.

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Jez Butterworth is a veteran of both stage and screen, he's written about a dozen films along with his seven plays. You can see the wisdom that only experience can bring in action during "The Ferryman," his latest play that's now on Broadway. A younger playwright might have the same grand vision as Butterworth did for the production, but would they have the finesse and thoughtfulness to make it work?

"The Ferryman" will be running in New York until July 7th and if you're in a position to do it, go see it!

Direct download: Bullseye190125podcast.mp3
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If you're in Hollywood, the stereotype goes that you're either a character actor or a *star*. A character actor shows up in a couple scenes for about five minutes, and, even in that small moment, they make the film. Tony Shalhoub has done that plenty of times.

While a star, of course, is someone you can build an whole movie or TV show around. They're relatable, usually charming, sometimes vulnerable. Tony Shalhoub does that all the time, too.

Tony Shalhoub of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," "Monk" and more sits down with Jesse Thorn to discuss his long career on the big and small screens.

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A warning about this episode, which originally aired in 2017: the second half of this interview contains some honest and frank talk about sexual assault.

Stephanie Beatriz stars in Brooklyn Nine Nine as Detective Rosa Diaz - easily the toughest cop in the precinct - she's brave, serious, and rides a motorcycle. The sixth and newest season just premiered at its new home: NBC!

Stephanie also starred in the 2017 movie The Light of The Moon. She plays Bonnie, a young woman living in Brooklyn with her boyfriend. Towards the beginning of the film, she goes through a vicious sexual assault, and the movie tells the story of the aftermath of that event - its effect on her work life, relationship, and even mundane daily decisions - like whether or not she wears headphones when she's walking off the subway. It's brutal to watch, but it's also nuanced, realistic, and really touching.

We'll talk about all of that and also how she and her Dad cemented their father-daughter bond by watching Seinfeld:

Direct download: Bullseye190118podcast.mp3
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We've got a favorite from the Bullseye archives to kick off the week: Elvis Costello.

Costello grew up surrounded by music. His mother ran the record section of Selfridges, and his father was an accomplished working musician. As Costello describes in his memoir, Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink, he didn't intend to make music himself, but felt eventually drawn to it.

The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter and record producer has enjoyed a long career, working on his own and collaborating with other musicians like Burt Bacharach, Paul McCartney, and Annie Lennox.

Elvis Costello joins Jesse to talk about his father’s career and love of music, why Alzheimer’s in his family inspired him to write the book, and who knows him by his birth name, Declan McManus.

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Jesse talks to Karyn Kusama, one of the most unique voices in film right now. She just directed the new film "Destroyer," it's a dark crime drama, told in mostly flashbacks. Karyn discusses why it's important to portray complex female characters in film and media. She also talks at length about "Jennifer's Body," which she directed in 2009. It was very funny and very scary. She'll tell us about the look book she drew inspiration from, and why she thinks the film struggled to find an audience when it was first released. Plus, how she finds pleasure in horror movies. And, sure, a lot of people find pleasure in horror films, but Karyn's answer will still surprise you.

Direct download: Bullseye190111.mp3
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Chris and Bridey Elliott are father and daughter. Chris is, of course, Chris Elliott. The guy who starred in Cabin Boy and Something About Mary. Who's currently a regular on the TV show Schitt's Creek. Tons more.

Bridey, his daughter, wrote and directed a new movie called Clara's Ghost, which you can buy or rent now. It's a family collaboration: Bridey also stars in the movie, along with Chris, her sister Abby, and her mother Paula.

And it's also kind of a horror movie? Listen to see what we mean. Jesse and the Elliotts talk about the film, family dynamics, and why Chris Elliott did an impression of Marlon Brando dancing around a bunch of bananas on Letterman.

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