Last year I started getting more and more into podcasts. This coincided directly with the download of NPR One. Of course, Pop Culture Happy Hour became my must-hear event. I grew to really enjoy Freakonomics Radio as well. I tried a few others that didn’t do much for me.
Eventually, a friend recommended Bullseye with Jesse Thorn. My friend said that Pop Culture Happy Hour got a little tired for him, but that Bullseye addressed some of the same topics in a far more interesting way.
I found Bullseye on the NPR One app and took a look at past titles. They typically featured two public figures of some sort, usually actors, comedians, or musicians. None of the names I saw really interested me. I moved on.
Not too long after, I kept running out of podcasts to listen to. I didn’t have a deep rotation, so within a few days of a new week I would already be searching for something fresh. I remembered my friend’s recommendation.
I dove in and listened to a few Bullseye episodes a week, and I did this whether the interviewee appealed to me or not. Finally, Bullseye found my sweet-spot. The episode focused on interviewing interviewers. Jesse spoke with Katie Couric, Marc Maron, and Audie Cornish. I listened to Jesse asking the most interesting questions, and I found his interviewees being far more candid than I expected. That’s when I realized the magic of Bullseye — Jesse Thorn makes everyone interesting.
My friend, once again, was right.
Thorn has such an ease about him. His voice is incredibly pleasant; he’s got a fantastic radio voice. He’s warm and unafraid to laugh. Yet, he’s bold in what he decides to ask. He’s direct. I’ve heard him forge ahead with difficult questions despite trepidation. I’ve also heard him pump the brakes and check on his guest’s comfort when the conversation’s direction became a little too intense. Sometimes he barely speaks at all because his guest gets going on such a roll.
Thorn has an innate ability to ask about things that his guests often want to discuss. However, those questions are also things he knows his listeners will find interesting. This seems to be a rare instinct in his field.
That’s why Bullseye works. It took me too long to discover this. I had several starts and stops with Bullseye, but it eventually dawned on me that every interview, no matter who the guest, will entertain and prove educational. I’d never heard of Beth Ditto, yet Jesse’s interview with her is among my favorites. Jesse showed me a whole new side to Julia Louis-Dreyfus. He made me realize Rick Moranis is probably a genius. He and Louie Anderson damn near made me cry while I mowed my lawn. Every episode touches me in some way — there are no wasted moments.
Honestly, though, it’s Jesse himself who keeps me coming back. I’ve listened to enough installments now to piece together a bit of the man himself, and he’s someone I want to support. His life has not always been easy, and I love that he is willing to share that with his audience and guests. I started following him on Twitter and I find him wise, funny, blunt, and receptive. In fact, he’s actually interacted with me on occasion, which is always a thrill. (The folks at Pop Culture Happy Hour? Not so much as a “like.” Not even once. But, who’s keeping score? [I guess I am … apparently.])
So if you’re looking for a new podcast, I completely recommend Bullseye with Jesse Thorn. Keep in mind it will take a few episodes to really win you over, but once you get a feel for it, you will look forward to it every week. You can find the show at NPR One or Maximum Fun. Let’s go.
(Did you enjoy this article? Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)