July 2009, I get on BART after a day of development data entry at the Red Cross. I sit down, pull out my Sudoku and key up an AJ Jacobs audiobook. As I’m settling in, I notice a guy in his late-20s with a black “the Sound of Young America” (TSOYA) t-shirt. I had listened to this radio show/podcast a few times, so thought, neat. At this point, I only listened to a handful of podcasts and was always interested in finding new ones and meeting other fans. But, this is public transit, and I’m not going to strike up a conversation over a t-shirt.
At least not on a normal day, but this train ride was unusual. About 15 minutes into the normally 25 minute train ride, the BART train stops. We wait. And wait. And wait. At about 10 minutes into the waiting process, I give up on the puzzle and have made eye contact with the t-shirt guy. I comment on the shirt, and we end up having a five minute conversation about TSOYA and “Jordan, Jesse, Go!” It turns out he went to college with Jesse Thorn and recommended I dive deep into both shows. Then, finally, the train resumed and our conversation ended.
I am forever thankful to that random train ride. As my data entry job continued, I devoured the many excellent interviews and well curated comedy of TSOYA. And I fell in love with JJGO, a bantering comedy podcast also park of the Maximum Fun media empire. I began to support MaxFun with monthly donations in the spring of 2010, and continue to do to this day. I tell everyone I can, I go to live shows, and last year, to the wonderful MaxFunCon. So, yes, I’m a bit of a fan girl.
But I’m also someone who would not listen if the quality was not there. Thorn, who has many admirers in public radio and elsewhere, picks excellent and interesting guests across many genres of culture – he doesn’t differentiate between high and low and most importantly always has interesting questions that show he really dove into the work of his interview subject.
Today, TSOYA is rebranded as Bullseye with Jesse Thorn and you should listen immediately. The blurb says:
Bullseye is a public radio show about what’s good in popular culture. With a keen editorial eye, Bullseye sifts the wheat from the chaff, and brings you hot culture picks, in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary creative people and irreverent original comedy.
In the first 50 minute episode, Thorn talks to the AV Club, cast members from the amazing Downton Abbey, Chris Lilley (Australian comedian and creator of Summer Heights High), Dan Deacon (Baltimore musician) and Thorn’s love for E-40’s anthem “Fuck Them.” So if you like costume dramas, comedy, or rap music there is something for you. And the best part is, if you listen to Bullseye for the Downton Abbey chat, you can be easily pulled into the humor of Lilley or the compelling lyrics of a rap song that I, at least, would never have otherwise heard.
Of course, the bit with the cast of Downton was my favorite, so I’ve embedded that here for you. Bullseye Downton Abbey Interview
After you check out the new Bullseye, I recommend diving into the past episodes of TSOYA.Thorn and TSOYA introduced me to the great authors Colson Whitehead (Sag Harbor, Zone One) and Sarah Vowell (Wordy Shipmates, Assaination Vacation). He has great interviews with creaters I already loved from the Mountain Goats to Doctor Who cast members. And his year end comedy special (2011 here) are wonderful looks at brilliant pieces of standup and sketch and other comedy gems.
This is a quality radio production – an analysis of what doesn’t suck in the culture landscape. I love it, and think you would too.
If you are already a fan, what is your favorite episode of TSOYA? What are you hoping Bullseye will cover?