The Outshot

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Susan Orlean and Jazz singer Gregory Porter

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Susan Orlean
Guests: 
Gregory Porter

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Photo: Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

Author Susan Orlean on her new book 'The Library Book'

Susan Orlean is a staff writer at The New Yorker. Her work has also appeared in Vogue, Esquire and on This American Life. She's the author of eight books, covering topics like New England and Rin Tin Tin. Her first book, "Saturday Night," used narrative journalism to paint a portrait of how Saturday night in America is lived. She's probably best known for "The Orchid Thief." That book ended up being the basis of the Academy Award nominated film "Adaptation," starring Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep.

She now lives here in Los Angeles. Being an author and a reader, she's visited the beautiful, historic central library in downtown Los Angeles dozens of times. Her latest book "The Library Book" is about that library and its history.

It wasn't until she took a tour of the library that she was inspired to write this book. The tour guide opened a book and said some of them still smelled like smoke. A bit perplexed she probed and asked more about the smell. This is how she learned of devastating fire that almost demolished the building in 1986. She always hoped someone would tell this story, and unknowingly years later she would be the one to tell it. The book is also also kind of a paean to libraries everywhere – what they mean to her, and why every library is a vital institution.

We're big fans of Susan Orlean at Maximum Fun. A few years ago she gave a talk at Max Fun Con called: "Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary." You can check out that talk here.

Photo: Valery Hache / AFP / Getty Images

Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter on his new album 'Nat King Cole and Me'

Gregory Porter is a Grammy Award winning jazz vocalist. The route he took to get there is really unique. He was a offensive lineman at San Diego State. Then, during his junior year, an injury ended his football career. During that time he could sing, but he wasn't a singer. That changed when his mom, literally from her deathbed, told him to start singing.

In 2010, he moved to New York with his brother and recorded his debut record "Water." Whereas most young jazz singers start their careers recording standards, Porter recorded an album of mostly originals.

Now, almost a decade later, he's laid down an new album with jazz standards. "Nat King Cole and Me" pays tribute to one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. It's music he grew up on. Porter spent a lot of time researching the music of Nat King Cole - his records, books, and documentaries. He'll tell us what made Cole one of the most unique singers of the civil rights era of the 1950's. He'll also tell us what it was like to grow up in Bakersfield, California and how that's influenced his lyrics.

The covers are great, but if you want to hear some more of his original work, check out his 2016 album: "Take Me to the Alley" – the album was inspired by his mothers teachings as a street minister and it's one of our favorites.

The Outshot: Hot Dog Timmy

Jesse explains why great things can come of simple premises and simple situations. Like in this sketch from "The Whitest Kids You Know."

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Tenacious D and José James

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Jack Black
Guests: 
Kyle Gass
Guests: 
José James

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Photo: Jesse Thorn

Tenacious D on their new album and animated series: 'Post-Apocalypto'

Kyle Gass and Jack Black have been together making music for over two decades now as Tenacious D. Jack's become incredibly famous as an actor, and he keeps busy – he's got two movies out this month alone.

Despite this, Tenacious D is a project Jack and Kyle love to revisit. They're releasing their first album in six years, and putting together an animated series pretty much all on their own. They voiced all the characters in the series, and Jack was also responsible for the illustrations of the series. Safe to say their going back to their DIY roots! They've gone from playing tiny clubs in Hollywood to selling out 85,000 seat stadiums – granted they were opening for Metallica – but still!

The first episode for the new animated series, "Post- Apocalypto" just dropped on Youtube – with new episodes every Friday until November 2nd. In the series, Jack and Kyle survived the apocalypse, and the world is very weird now. There are monsters everywhere and Tenacious D is on the mission to change planet earth back to the way it was before. It's silly, it's dumb, and it's really, really funny.

This week, we'll talk with The D about this exciting new chapter in their music careers. We'll dive deep into their long lasting friendship, get the scoop on how the group formed, and they'll perform a snippet from an unreleased song. Plus, find out what was Jack Black's first paid gig. The answer might surprise you.

To mark the release of the "Post-Apocalypto" album they're also kicking off a huge tour all over North America – check out the tour dates here.

Check out this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Getty Images / Eva Hambach

The Song That Changed My Life, with José James: "Love and Happiness" by Al Green

José James is a singer from Minneapolis. He works a lot in jazz - collaborating with folks like Chico Hamilton and Kris Bowers. But his collaborators go beyond jazz – into hip-hop, electronic, and soul music, too.

He'll tell us about "Love and Happiness" by Al Green. José's introduction to Al Green was through the "Pulp Fiction" soundtrack. Soon after listening to "Let's Stay Together," he fell in love with Al Green's music. But it wasn't until he heard "Love and Happiness" that something really clicked. He'll tell us how the song changed how he listened to soul music, and how it influenced how he makes music.

José James' new album, "Lean on Me," features 12 renditions from another one of his favorite soul singers – Bill Withers. The record is out now, and he'll be
hitting the road this fall
.

Check out this segment on YouTube!

Instead of The Outshot this week we're doing something a little different. It's a standup routine from the comedian Ted Alexandro. It was recorded a few weeks ago at the Comedy Cellar, in front of the same brick wall that Louis CK stood in front of when he returned to the standup stage. He talks about CK and Bill Cosby, who was recently sentenced to prison for sexual assault.

A quick warning: Ted talks frankly here about sexual assault and abuse – there isn't anything too graphic, but if those subjects are sensitive to you or inappropriate for anyone you're listening with please keep that in mind.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Director Nicole Holofcener and the creators of 'Lodge 49'

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Nicole Holofcener
Guests: 
Jim Gavin
Guests: 
Peter Ocko

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Photo: Charley Gallay / Getty Images

Writer and director Nicole Holofcener on her new film: 'The Land of Steady Habits'

Nicole Holofcener is a writer and director probably best known for her films "Friends with Money" and "Enough Said." She's also worked on TV shows like "Parks and Recreation," "Orange is the New Black" and "Sex and the City." Her latest project is a film called "The Land of Steady Habits" – it's out now on Netflix.

Nicole's projects are intimate and always feature strong female leads. For the first time, her movie centers on a man. "The Land of Steady Habits" is about a middle-aged, retired finance guy, named Andres played by Ben Mendelsohn. Anders is going through kind of a late midlife crisis. He just left his wife, Helene, played by Edie Falco. And his relationship with his adult son is drifting away – Anders is losing him to drug use. It's safe to say that Anders has trouble figuring out where he fits in these days.

Nicole will tell us how she adapted the novel by Ted Thompson into this very poignant film, and why she felt this was an important story to tell. Plus, she'll reflect on her childhood – when she moved to Los Angeles as a early teenager she couldn't believe that the guys on the Metro bus would be exactly like the jerks on the New York subway.

Listen to this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Jesse Thorn

Jim Gavin & Peter Ocko on the new Television show 'Lodge 49'

AMC has produced some of the most stunning dramatic television programs in recent memory. "Mad Men," "Better Call Saul," and "Breaking Bad" come to mind – but they're television shows that are grounded in gritty realities. "Lodge 49" is one of the newest shows on AMC, and it's a drama like you'd expect from the network. But it's on a different wavelength, and it's very funny.

The show's about Sean "Dud" Dudley. He's a 30 something burnout who lives in Long Beach, California. One day he's metal detecting on a beach and he finds a ring. He asks around, and it turns out it belongs to a lodge for this secret society - the Order of the Lynx. Sort of like the Freemasons or the Elks. The ring brings him into the lodge, and before long, he becomes a member. He's fascinated by the robes and rituals, charmed and befriended by the members. He gets swept up by the mythology and mystery.

We spoke to Jim Gavin, the show's creator; and Peter Ocko, a TV veteran, showrunner and Executive Producer for "Lodge 49." They'll give us the scoop on all the quirks of the show, and their fascination with fraternal organizations. Jim Gavin grew up in Long Beach, naturally, we asked him some extremely specific Long Beach questions.

Listen to this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

The Outshot: The genius of Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson sang some of the greatest pop hits of all time, but who was the real genius behind those tracks? Michael Jackson, of course!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Boz Scaggs and Comedian Maeve Higgins

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Boz Scaggs
Guests: 
Maeve Higgins

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Photo: Raffi Kirdi / Getty Images

Boz Scaggs on his latest record 'Out of the Blues'

Boz Scaggs is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He just recorded his nineteenth studio album: "Out of the Blues." With a career that now spans five decades - he's recorded psych rock, folk, soul. He's probably best known for yacht rock smash hits like Grammy award-winning "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle." Both tracks were singles on 1976's critically acclaimed album "Silk Degrees" – the record went platinum five times.

Recently, his work has steered more towards the basics: some blues, some covers here and there, lots of stripped down instrumentation. But behind all that has been a commitment to atmosphere and production - music with an aesthetic that's dark and unsettling in one moment, then in another tender and loving.

We'll listen to a few tunes from his new album, which features a collection of blues songs like "Rock and Stick" and "On The Beach" – a somewhat obscure Neil Young composition. We'll also listen to "Got You On My Mind" from his debut solo album from 1965. His debut solo album was a collection of covers and traditional tunes. This song was originally composed by Howard Biggs & Joe "Cornbread" Thomas. At the time, he still performed under his birth name – William R Scaggs. Boz says it had been decades since he last heard that song.

He'll explain why he pleasantly surprised we were able to dig up the song and play it for him. He'll also tell Jesse why he thinks his singing voice is better now than it ever was before, and describes the first time he felt like a musician.

Boz Scaggs just kicked off a huge nationwide tour with shows in dozens of cities. Check out tour dates here.

Check out this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Brad Barket / Getty Images

Comedian Maeve Higgins on her new book 'Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl Somewhere Else'

Maeve Higgins is a comic and memoirist, very well known back home in Ireland. She moved to the New York City about five years ago. Naturally, she worked her observations about America and the Big Apple into her set.

The new routine really made her question her new reality as an immigrant to the US. She considered what lead her to make the move. What it says about her. What it's like being in this strange, amazing city thousands of miles away from home. She wrote a new book about her experience. It's called "Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else." It's a collection of personal essays that show a touching, funny and really human side to the consequences of immigrating to the US.

She'll talk about her move to the US, how it impacted her personal life, and why she appreciates the openness of strangers she's met here. Maeve also co-hosts the podcast Mothers of Invention, a climate justice podcast alongside former Irish President Mary Robinson. She'll discuss what it's like to host a podcast with one of her childhood idols.

Check out this interview on YouTube!

The Outshot: Detroiters

Jesse explains the charming friendship in the Comedy Central show, "Detroiters," which, ultimately, is about two dumb dummies acting dumb.

Check out this segment on YouTube!

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jonathan Gold and Beth Ditto

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Jonathan Gold
Guests: 
Beth Ditto

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Photo: Larry Busacca / Getty Images

Remembering food critic Jonathan Gold

This week, we'll remember the late Jonathan Gold by revisiting our conversation with him from 2011. Jonathan died last month of pancreatic cancer at the age of 57.

His work in food criticism was legendary. He was the restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times. His award-winning work regularly appeared in numerous newspapers including the LA Weekly. His articles and reviews also appeared in Blender, Spin, Rolling Stone and Gourmet magazines.

In 2007, his work earned him a Pulitzer. To this date, he's still the only food critic to ever earn that honor. Along with the Pulitzer, he was also the first food writer to be honored as a National Magazine Award finalist in criticism by the American Society of Magazine Editors

If you're not familiar with Jonathan Gold, a documentary from 2015 called "City of Gold" might be a good place to start. Or you might want to check out the segment he did for This American Life in the late 90's, which revisits his astonishing exploration of mapping Pico Boulevard using his sense of taste.

When he joined Jesse they talked about about the one food fear he just couldn't overcome, and how he discovered Los Angeles one meal at a time. Plus, he threw shade at the burritos from the Mission District in San Francisco.

Friends of Jonathan Gold have organized a online fundraiser to help his wife and children with funeral and other ongoing expenses. You can visit the page for the drive here.

Listen to this interview on YouTube

The interview originally aired in 2011.


Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Beth Ditto on Going Solo

Beth is a singer and songwriter. She was born and raised in Searcy, Arkansas and moved to Washington State out of high school and made a name for herself as the singer in Gossip.

The band first broke through in the early 2000s, coming up with dance punk groups the Rapture, LCD Soundsystem, and Liars. But Gossip was different – they were proudly queer, and female led. Gossip broke up in 2016, and in the wake of all that, Beth Ditto has released her first ever solo record called Fake Sugar.

In conversation with Jesse, Beth opens up about her childhood, from setting up punk shows in her small Arkansan town to her move to Olympia, Washington after high school. Beth talks about the process of creating her new solo album, and about her time fronting Gossip.

Beth's album Fake Sugar is available now.

She'll be opening for Sam Smith this summer. Check out the tour dates here.

The interview originally aired in 2017.

The Outshot: Sly and the Family Stone's Perfect Album

Jesse explains how Sly and the Family Stone made a perfect album, even as they slowly disintegrated as a group.

Listen to this segment on YouTube!

This segment originally aired in 2016.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: H. Jon Benjamin and Sara Driver

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
H. Jon Benjamin
Guests: 
Sara Driver

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Photo: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

H. Jon Benjamin on his new book 'Failure is an Option: An Attempted Memoir'

If you don't know H. Jon Benjamin you certainly might recognize his voice. He's best known for his extensive voice work. Over the years, he's played slackers like Ben, the son of Dr. Katz, in "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist;" and the hilarious Coach McGuirk and Jason on "Home Movies." Most recently, you know him as the voice of Sterling Archer from FX's "Archer," and as Bob from Fox's "Bob's Burgers."

Long before his recognizable voice work Benjamin's comedy career began in Boston. A lot of his earlier work was often done in groups or duos and emphasized on improvised comedy. He was part of "Tinkle," a live show combining music and sketches co-hosted by David Cross and Todd Barry. Then, there was the popular UCB show "The Midnight Pajama Jam," in New York City with Jon Glaser. Seriously, have you ever seen The Fuggedabuddies?

He just wrote a new book called "Failure is an Option: An Attempted Memoir." In it, he recounts a lot of failures, which eventually opened the door to success. He talks about failures in family, in work, and in serving fajitas.

This week, he talks with Jesse about how the start of his career in comedy meant the end for his parents family business, the differences between voicing Bob and Archer, and an honest look at his ebay purchase history. Plus, he'll reflect on his improv and stage days, and why he felt more comfortable performing with other people.

Click here to listen to this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Rob Kim / Getty Images

Sara Driver on her new film 'Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat'

Then, filmmaker Sara Driver, she just directed a new documentary called "Boom For Real: The Late Teenage years of Jean-Michel Basquiat." The film explores the early career of the great artist through people who knew him. Sara was one of those people. And she remembers what it was like to live near the Lower East Side of New York in the late 70's. She interviewed more than a dozen people who knew Basquiat personally.

In the film, we hear from people like Alexis Adler. Now she's an embryologists, and but back then she was photographer. She was a good friend of Basquiat and often would go to concerts at local clubs in New York. She helped Basquiat find his first apartment when he was struggling to find a place to live. Other people featured in the film include Lee Quiñones. Lee is known for his colorful murals and bold wild style of graffiti on New York Subway trains. He talks about the brilliance of Basquiat's simple graffiti art techniques. The film also explore the bubbling downtown art scene, and music venues like the Mudd Club where Basquiat's band Grey played their first shows.

"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.

Sara Driver will talk about how she scored so much archival footage of Basquiat doing mundane things. Plus, she'll talk about a Whole Foods that opened up in neighborhood a couple years ago. She'll tell us why she loves it, but why it made her miss the old New York.

Click here to listen to this interview on YouTube!


Photo: Josh Edelson / Getty Images

The Outshot: Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's a different one this week. It's not a film, tv show, or album recommendation. But please, enjoy this delicious recipe. Jesse will tell you how to make the best mint chocolate chip cookies you've ever had.

Click here to listen to this segment on YouTube!

Bullseye: Patton Oswalt & "Fresh Off The Boat"

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Patton Oswalt
Guests: 
Nahnatchka Khan
Guests: 
Randall Park

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Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

There was a period of time in the mid to late 1990s when Patton Oswalt spent most of his waking hours indoors. He'd be in a TV writer's room all day, make his way to the movie theater for a film or two, and then hit the stand up stage before going to sleep. Then he'd get up and do it all over again.

His movie obsession was supposed to teach him how to be a filmmaker and create better art, but he found he was missing out on life, and art was no substitute.
Oswalts memoire Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life Through and Addiction to Film is out now.
His Emmy winning stand-up comedy special Talking for Clapping can be seen on Netflix.


Photo: ABC/Bob D'Amico

Fresh Off the Boat is the first network sitcom about Asian-Americans in a long time, and that's a big deal. The creative team behind the show, including memoirist Eddie Huang, showrunner Nahnatchka Khan and star Randall Park have publicly grappled with that blessing and burden. How do you retain the specificity of the Tawainese-American experience and provide that to a group of Americans who are hungry for mass-market representation, and also make a show that's big-tent enough to welcome hundreds of millions of Americans who don't know what bao are?

We're joined by Nahnatchka Khan and Randall Park to talk about trying to achieve those goals, how they see their own American experiences, and how to write a sitcom dad who's not dumb.

Fresh Off the Boat airs Tuesday nights at 9/8c on ABC.

Jesse explains how Sly and the Family Stone made a perfect album, even as they slowly disintegrated as a group.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Nick Hornby & Luis Guzmán

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Photo: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Nick Hornby on 'Funny Girl', Creativity and Ambition

Nick Hornby became famous as a literary writer for men. His first three books were about guys, fans specifically, Fever Pitch was a memoir about Hornby’s love of soccer; High Fidelity was about a record store owner, struggling with love. About A Boy was about a sort of boyish man tending to a mannish boy.

Hornby has since written several other books and screenplays, including Oscar nominees An Education and Brooklyn.

His recent novel, Funny Girl, is about a working class young woman in the 1960s who leaves her small town in search of a career on television, and her success on a BBC sitcom.

Nick Hornby sat down with Jesse to talk about why he set his novel in the mid-60s (and why its protagonist is a woman), personal ambition and creativity, and what it's like to be a Hollywood dinner guest.

Funny Girl is available now in paperback.

The interview originally aired in March 2015.


Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

Luis Guzmán on 'The Part'

Luis Guzmán is a veteran character actor. But back in the early 1990s, he was still working as a social worker on the Lower East Side, and acting was more of a side gig. Then he got a role that put him on the map -- the thuggish sidekick Pachanga in the 1993 movie Carlito's Way.

As Guzmán tells it, everything crystallized with that role.

You can currently see Luis Guzmán in the role of Jesse Sallander on the CBS hospital drama, Code Black. On the show, he plays the role of the trauma unit’s senior nurse, affectionately referred to as “Momma”.

The interview originally aired in March 2015.

The Outshot: Devil in a Blue Dress

Jesse explains why Easy Rawlins, of Devil in A Blue Dress, is a different breed of private detective.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Dwayne Kennedy & Noel Fielding

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Dwayne Kennedy
Guests: 
Noel Fielding

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Dwayne Kennedy on His Debut EP, Using Jokes About Race as a Barometer, and Playing Different Kinds of Crowds

Dwayne Kennedy has been in the stand up comedy game for about thirty years now, performing everywhere, from Showtime at the Apollo to the Late Show with David Letterman, but he's still a bit of a comic's comic.

He'll talk to Jesse about why he's recorded plenty of his sets, but is only releasing his debut stand up EP this month. Plus, he'll explain how he's adapted his comedy for different audiences and how he's used jokes about race as a barometer.

His debut record is called Oh No! It's Dwayne Kennedy and is available now on Bandcamp. You can also check out Dwayne Kennedy's site for a schedule of his upcoming shows. See if he's coming to a city near you!

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Photo by Jesse Thorn

British Cult Comic Noel Fielding on 'The Mighty Boosh' and Creating New Worlds

If audiences in the United States know Noel Fielding, it's for his cult comedy show The Mighty Boosh, a comedy double-act turned radio program and then TV show. It aired here on Cartoon Network's adult swim. But Fielding is much better known in his native UK for not only the Boosh (which has done arena tours) but his appearances on quiz shows and his specific sense of style.

Fielding is touring the United States this spring with a live show called An Evening with Noel Fielding, which features some of his beloved characters and frequent collaborators (like Rich Fulcher).

Fielding sits down with us to talk about his comedy "marriage" with his Mighty Boosh creative partner Julian Barratt, his personal aesthetic, and creating new worlds on the radio, on TV, and on the stage.

His show The Mighty Boosh is available now on Seeso.com. Find out if An Evening with Noel Fielding is coming to a city near you by checking out Fielding's site.

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The Outshot: Beyoncé's "Formation" and Taking Space

Jesse considers the backlash to Beyoncé's new single, and explains why he thinks it's worth your attention.

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Kaitlin Olson & Jeff Chang

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Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Kaitlin Olson on "Sweet Dee" and the Morally Bankruptcy in It's Always Sunny on Philadelphia

Kaitlin Olson plays Sweet Dee on the long-running sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Dee is the only female member of "The Gang", a bunch of depraved, self-centered pals who run a bar. The Gang is constantly looking for ways to get rich quick, humiliate their enemies, get out of work, and prove once and for all the talent, charisma and brilliance they hold to be self-evident. In an unusual move for a solo female character, Dee doesn't serve to counterbalance the guys' bad behavior -- she absolutely matches their pace.

Olson talks to us about creating a more fully-fleshed character for Dee, how she came to comedy, and how she ended up dating (and marrying) her showrunner.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia just began its eleventh season. It airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on FXX.

This interview originally aired in January 2015.

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Photo credit: Jeremy Keith Villaluz

Jeff Chang on Art, Race, and How Diversity Now Means "Them"

About ten years ago, Jeff Chang published his book Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. His new book is a sort of follow-up -- it chronicles some of the cultural and racial shifts we've experienced as a nation. It's called Who We Be: The Colorization of America. It's now available in paperback.

Chang talks to us about what "diversity" means to us today, the struggle for artists to defy racial categorization, and how and why corporations embraced multiculturalism.

This interview originally aired in January 2015.

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The Outshot: What It Means to Be Superhuman

Jesse tells us about the life and legend of Andre the Giant.

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