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.)

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
Category:general -- posted at: 1:48pm EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 12:21pm EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 11:49am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT

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
Category:general -- posted at: 11:32am EDT