Bullseye with Jesse Thorn (Podcast)
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.)

This week, we’ve got another Emmy-nominated guest - W.Kamau Bell! He’s known for his stand-up comedy. But he might be even more beloved for the  television shows he’s hosted. “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell,” was kind of a hybrid between a political satire show and a talk show. But unlike, say, “The Daily Show” Kamau wasn’t inclined to be the star. Rather, he let his guests do that. Kamau just asked questions - both funny and serious ones. That made the show really special. W. Kamau Bell’s, “United Shades of America,” airs on CNN and is up for three Emmys. He’ll tell us why he’s particularly proud about the series.

Then, we’ll talk to Mike Pesca about his newest book: “Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs in Sports History”. It’s a collection of essays from over 30 different writers - people like Robert Siegel, Nate DiMeo, Jesse Eisenberg and more. They all ask hypothetical questions about the most pivotal moments in sports history… and what would have happened if things had gone differently. Pesca also talks about what it was like working for NPR as one of two sports reporters and about the time he was the guest host of “Wait Wait.. Don’t Tell Me!” (including the outcry he received for having Kim Kardashian-West on that program).

And finally, for this week’s Outshot, Jesse breaks down “Aretha Live at the Fillmore West” and why the San Francisco-recorded live album might be the perfect showcase for the late Queen of Soul.

Direct download: Bullseye180821_-_W_Kamau_Bell__Mike_Pesca_-_PODCASTc.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 4:33pm EDT

The Bullseye Holiday Special returns for 2014! Music expert Mitchell Kezin talks about his new documentary called Jingle Bell Rocks! It dives into the world of alternative and underground Christmas music. Bill Corbett (the veteran writer and performer from RiffTrax and Mystery Science Theater 3000) talks about his new graphic novel called Super-Powered Revenge Christmas. And there’s another exciting Christmas comic out this year:  TheFlash Gordon Holiday Special: 2014. Jesse will talk to its authors, The Daily Show writers Elliott Kalan, Dan McCoy and their pal Stuart Wellington. Lastly, Jesse reveals his one true holiday tradition.

Direct download: bullseye141216.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:30am EDT

Two comedy giants this week. First, Jesse talks to Chris Rock about what it was like to become one of the world’s best stand-up comics in the 1990s. Rock’s got a new movie out. It’s called Top Five. Then, Jesse sits down with Monty Python member John Cleese. They’ll talk about his early life and about what Cleese really thought about the recent Python reunion. Cleese’s new memoir is called So, Anyway. Plus, we ask Scott Aukerman what piece of culture he wishes he had made. His answer? Twin Peaks. Lastly, Jesse tells you about a TV show that lets people just be people.

Direct download: bullseye141209b.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:30am EDT

Jesse sits down with a cult comedy icon to talk about why Mr. Show influenced an entire generation of new comedians. Bob Odenkirk’s new book of humor fiction is called A Load of Hooey. He’s also got a new stand-up comedy album out. It’s called Amateur Hour. We’ll feature some of it on our year-end Best Comedy of 2014 Special. Plus, the historian, author and DJ Rickey Vincent will tell you about why Parliament’s Mothership Connection ended an era and then started a new one. Lastly Jesse tells you about a song that makes him feel like a better world is possible.

Direct download: bullseye141202.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:30am EDT

Paul Reubens created Pee-wee Herman. Jesse sits down with Reubens to talk about growing up in a circus town, Reubens’ early appearances on The Gong Show, and the plans for a new Pee-wee Herman movie. Jesse also talks with Aasif Mandvi. A longtime correspondent for The Daily Show, Mandvi has a new memoir out. It’s called No Land’s Man.

Plus, avant-pop artist Kimbra talks about the song that changed her life, and Jesse tells you about why Steve Reich helps him hear things differently.

Direct download: bullseye141118.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:30am EDT

Ed Helms talks about the advice he received from Stephen Colbert when he first started on The Daily Show. He also talks about why he’s behind a new bluegrass festival in Los Angeles. Now, he’s behind a Los Angeles bluegrass festival. But first, Tig Notaro will talk about how her career has changed since she revealed her cancer diagnosis on stage in 2012. Plus, Nick Frost talks about a role that helped people view him as more than Simon Pegg’s best friend. Lastly Jesse tells you about one of the most meaningful songs ever recorded about being black and female.

Direct download: bullseye140930.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:30am EDT

[r] Take a listen to Jesse’s interview with the terrific Pharoahe Monch. He was one half of Organized Konfusion. Even though they didn’t sell a ton of records, they were one of the most impactful hip hop duos of the 90s. Jesse asks how Monch maintained a solo career after the group broke up, even after Monch’s passion for monster movies kinda-sorta contributed to the collapse of his record label. In the second half of the show Jesse talks to the 80s rock n’ roll star Huey Lewis. Find out about his pub rock beginnings, his multi-platinum success with Sports, and the time he snuck onto an airplane bound for London. Plus, Coyle & Sharpe will approach an unsuspecting San Franciscan on the street. Music writer Oliver Wang will tell you about two great records: one got him into hip-hop, and the other is a fantastic slice of Northern soul. And Jesse will talk about his favorite part of Antiques Roadshow.

Direct download: bullseye140114b.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:30am EDT

First up, Jesse’s conversation with the rapper Bubba Sparxxx. He grew up in rural Georgia and describes himself as a ‘country white boy’. His dad thought a rap career was preposterous. Bubba did it though. Jesse and Bubba talk about the rapper’s career and why it took him seven years to put out his fourth album. Later, Jesse talks to Ian MacKaye. As a member of Minor Threat and Fugazi, he made history in the punk rock world. They’ll talk about the first punk show he ever went to. Plus, Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt will each tell you about a piece of culture SO amazing that they wish they’d made it themselves. A couple of our pals at NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour share two VERY different movies on DVD that you should check out as soon as possible. And speaking of movies -- there’s something really special in theaters right now. We should celebrate it. Jesse will tell you why.

Direct download: bullseye140107b.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:30am EDT

Elizabeth Gilbert’s new novel traces the life of a woman living in the 19th century as a botanist. Jesse will ask Elizabeth about what the reaction to ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ has meant to her -- both the good and the not-so-good. Then Jesse sits down with Gillian Jacobs. She plays Britta on the NBC sitcom Community. Plus, Portlandia’s Fred Armisen talks about the album he wishes HE had made; our film critic buddies at The Dissolve pick out a couple of films you’ll want to watch ASAP, and Jesse tells you why a perfect balance between the real and unreal makes one particular video game so enticing.

Direct download: bullseye131029b.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:30am EDT


Stephen Merchant says he didn’t get into comedy to become popular. He did it mostly to please himself. But then, with his buddy Ricky Gervais, he made a  TV show called ‘The Office’ and it changed both of their lives. Jesse and Stephen talk  about how the original version of the immensely popular sitcom was created, and why it was tough for the pair to decide on what to make next. They’ll also talk about Stephen Merchant’s new series for HBO called ‘Hello Ladies.’ Plus, comedy from Myq Kaplan, and Jesse plays the one song that is absolutely, 100% guaranteed to get any dance floor MOVING.

Direct download: bullseye130924.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:30am EDT

[r] Stephen Tobolowsky is a veteran character actor. Now he's an author, too, but his book isn't about Hollywood stuff. It's about normal stuff from his life like getting held up at the grocery store, or spending Christmas tripping on acid. Plus, comedian Demetri Martin shares one of his favorite hobbies, we hear some all-time rock picks from music critics at The Low Times, and Jesse talks about how soul-singer Solomon Burke can seriously tear the house down. This episode originally aired in 2012. 

Direct download: bullseye130917.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:30am EDT


From Bob Newhart to George Carlin, the comedy duo Bob & Ray influenced some of the 20th century’s finest entertainers. Jesse will talk with comedy writer David Pollock about how Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding created that bond with their audience. Pollock’s new book is called Bob & Ray, Keener Than Most Persons. And then, we revisit Jesse’s interview with the Emmy-nominated actor Tony Hale. He's having a pretty good year. He's been in a couple of big television series in recent months -- Arrested Development and Veep. Plus, our go-to rap critic recommends some all-time great tracks, and Jesse tells the true story of a man who spent the last decade and a half of his life secretly building something amazing in a rented garage.

Direct download: bullseye130910.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 2:30am EDT


Hear Jesse’s interview with one of comedy’s greatest grumps: Lewis Black. He didn’t become a stand-up until his mid-thirties. Find out why he left the theater for comedy and why he actually considers himself a family comic. The answer will surprise you. Then later, Jesse talks with Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer. They just started their second season hosting a talk show for MTV. They’ve both worked a lot of comedy clubs and comedy theaters for audiences of slightly drunk twenty- and thirty-somethings, so performing for a younger, MTV demographic is a new experience. Plus, Davy Rothbart of Found Magazine shares some of his newest discoveries, and Jesse reveals the TV food show that he actually really likes.

Direct download: 84_Lewis_Black_Nikki_Glaser_and_Sara_Schaefer.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:30am EDT

If a director is looking for the perfect guy to play an oblivious, cocky buffoon then Fred Willard is their man. Jesse talks to Fred about his entire career, and finds out why he turned down the lead in the movie Airplane! Then later Jesse talks to David Gordon Green. He’s directed everything from pensive, dramatic movies like All The Real Girls to huge stoner-action comedies like Pineapple Express. His new movie, Prince Avalanche exists somewhere in between. Plus, Pitchfork’s Ian Cohen recommends a couple of great new heavy rock records, we share an episode from Nate DiMeo’s The Memory Palace, and Jesse talks about his favorite Robin Thicke record. Yes. He has a favorite Robin Thicke record. It’s great, too.

Direct download: bullseye130806.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:30am EDT

Dive into the empire that Cheers built. Whether it was The Cosby Show, Seinfeld, Frasier, or Friends, Warren Littlefield oversaw all of it. NBC was a Thursday night powerhouse in the 80s and 90s. But now? That's all pretty much crumbled. Hear an extended interview with a real-life television executive. His book is called Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV. Plus, Oliver Wang explains how a forgotten Al Green record helped create a new kind of soul music.

Direct download: bullseye130326.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:30am EDT

Simon Rich is an absolutely hilarious writer. He sits down with Jesse, and says that he doesn't write about the way love happens, he writes about the way love feels. Rich has a new book out -- Last Girlfriend on Earth. Plus, we revisit an interview with comedian Bill Burr. The first time you hear Burr, you might think he’s just a macho, in-your-face type of comic. But most of the time you’ll find him pointing that aggression at himself.

Plus, Eugene Mirman finds an old notebook in his parents basement and hear how soul singer Solomon Burke absolutely, positively tears the house down.

Direct download: bullseye130319.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:30am EDT

Lynda Barry is a legend of alternative comics. Her strip Ernie Pook's Comeek earner her a reputation as sweet, funny and fearless. Her two most recent books are about how to create art and writing.

Direct download: tsoya110103_lyndabarry.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 11:30am EDT

Matt Berninger is the frontman of the Brooklyn indie rock band The National.  The band's latest album is High Violet.

Direct download: tsoya101122_national.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 7:11pm EDT

Judah Friedlander is a regular on NBC's 30 Rock and the author of How To Beat Up Anybody.  He is the World Champion.

Direct download: tsoya101108_friedlander.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 10:12pm EDT

Lee Unkrich is the director of Toy Story 3.  He's worked at Pixar for more than 15 years, and co-directed Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc. and Toy Story 2. 

Direct download: tsoya101105_leeunkrich.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 11:32am EDT

Chris Morris is a comedy writer, director and performer.  He was voted one of the all-time top 12 "comedians' comedians" in a BBC poll, and his past work includes the news satires Brass Eye and The Day Today.  His new film is a farce about a group of would-be suicide bombers called Four Lions.

Direct download: tsoya101102_chrismorris.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 11:01am EDT

William Gibson is a science fiction writer whose works, increasingly, take place in a realistic present.  His latest book, Zero History, is about fashion, authenticity and identity.

Direct download: tsoya101020_gibson.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 2:02pm EDT

Jordan Ranks America for October of 2010.

Direct download: tsoya101022_jordanranks.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 5:07pm EDT

Dave Tompkins is an acclaimed music journalist.  His new book, How To Wreck A Nice Beach, is a history of the vocoder from its military applications to its musical ones.

Direct download: tsoya101018_tompkins.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 12:12pm EDT

Duo God's Pottery offer very, very serious advice on battling some common vices. 

Direct download: tsoya101016_godpottery-drugs.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 11:17pm EDT

The AV Club join us from North America's largest film festival with some tips on upcoming films worth watching out for (and avoiding).

Direct download: tsoya101011_avclub.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 11:39am EDT

Greg Behrendt talks about meeting one of his heroes, David Lee Roth.  Recorded live at The Sound of Young America's "Laugh Night" at ArtShare in Los Angeles.

Direct download: tsoya101006_behrendt.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 1:45pm EDT

Bill Burr is a standup comic.  His ferocious style is leavened by the fact that he often trains the ferociousness on himself.  His latest special, now on DVD, is called Let It Go.

Direct download: tsoya101004_billburr.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 1:37pm EDT

Bilal is a jazz and soul singer based in New York.  His second album, Airtight's Revenge, was just released.  He's worked with artists from Jay-Z and Dr. Dre to Common and DJ Premier.

Direct download: tsoya100930_bilal2.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 10:52am EDT

Flying Lotus is a Los Angeles-based musician.  His critically-acclaimed music blends electronica with progressive hip-hop.

Direct download: tsoya100930_flyinglotus2.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 12:20pm EDT

Jonathan Ames is a novelist, non-fiction and television writer.  He created and writes the HBO series Bored to Death, which returns with its second season this month.

Direct download: tsoya100920_ames.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 11:51am EDT

He's best known for his role as "The Fonz" on Happy Days, but Henry Winkler's added a number of other acting, producing, and directing credits to his name over the years. He's also co-written a series of children's books. You can catch him right now as Dr. Sy Mittleman on Childrens' Hospital on Cartoon Network's [adult swim].

Direct download: tsoya100917_henrywinkler.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 1:54pm EDT

Actor Donal Logue stars in the new FX series Terriers.  He won best actor at the Sundance Film Festival for his role in The Tao of Steve, and he created the iconic MTV character Jimmy the Cab Driver.

Direct download: tsoya100913_donallogue.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 2:00am EDT

Rob McElhenney is the creator of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, as well as a writer, director and star of the show ("Mac").  Glenn Howerton plays Dennis on the show, and is also involved in writing, directing and production.

Direct download: tsoya100910_alwayssunny.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 9:47pm EDT

Tasha Robinson and Genevieve Koski join Jesse for September's pop culture picks.  Tasha chooses the Australian modern noir The Square and the upcoming season of the TV show Glee.  Genevieve's picks are Mavis Staples' new album You Are Not Alone and a new stand-up comedy album from past Sound of Young America guest Hannibal Buress.

Direct download: tsoya100908_avclub.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 4:07pm EDT

Elijah Wood has worked as a professional actor since he was seven years old.  His credits include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the upcoming release The Romantics.

Direct download: tsoya100906_elijahwood.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 9:47pm EDT

Mary Roach is the author of several best-selling books of science journalism, the most recent of which is Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void.

Direct download: tsoya100827_maryroach.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 10:45am EDT

Simon Rich imagines the conversation at Mount Sinai.  Featuring Seth Morris and Paul Scheer.

Direct download: tsoya100825_godmoses.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 1:01pm EDT

Jon Glaser is a comedy writer and performer.  His show on Cartoon Network's [adult swim], Delocated, is entering its second season.

Direct download: tsoya100823_glaser.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 11:41am EDT

Standup comic Chelsea Peretti recorded this set at our live show in Washington, DC.  She was recently selected one of Variety Magazine's Ten Comics to Watch for 2010.

Direct download: tsoya100816_chelseaperetti.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 10:06pm EDT

Roberta Flack is a singer, songwriter and pianist. She won back-to-back Grammy Awards for Record of the Year for her songs "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and "Killing Me Softly With His Song." We spoke to her for a new feature, "The Song That Changed My Life."

Direct download: tsoya100805_robertaflack.mp3
Category:Podcast -- posted at: 4:48pm EDT