I'm Jesse Thorn, host of NPR's Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, a culture show wherein I interview amazing people, get culture picks from critics and write a weekly essay. I started the show as my college radio show, and we're now on in New York, LA, DC, Philly, and about fifty other places.

In an effort to pay the bills, I expanded into a podcast network called MaximumFun.org, a comedy-and-music theme cruise called BoatParty.biz, a menswear blog and video series called Put This On and an annual retreat called MaxFunCon.

My favorite interview subjects of all time are Bill Withers, George Saunders and Andrew WK.


Comments: 307 • Responses: 109  • Date: 

andyhannon20 karma

Do you still enjoy making JJGO? And do you see it sticking around for a while?

JesseThorn30 karma

I LOVE making JJGo. It's hard work, but it's the highlight of my week.

I don't see JJGo going anywhere. Luckily Jordan got a job in LA, but even if he had gotten something in New York or something, we'd have found a way to keep doing it. Because A) we love it and B) the listeners love it and C) because the listeners love it we actually get paid to do it. Which is more than I can say of Bullseye :).

splorng4 karma

Do you not get paid to do Bullseye? Or do you not love to do Bullseye?

travisncs11 karma

Not to take Jesse's answer, but in case he doesn't get to it...

From what I can tell, the money put into Bullseye is not covered by the people donating to it specifically and NPR money. Other monies from MaxFun are used to keep Bullseye afloat.

It's a shame too, because Bullseye is an incredible show. Nothing else like it. Hopefully it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world catches up.

JesseThorn8 karma

Yep. The money Bullseye earns covers Nick and Julia and rent, pretty much. I work free and lose a little money to boot.

CaptainDinosaur19 karma

Hi Jesse, I'm a huge fan of Maximum Fun, I was wondering how long you knew about/listened to MBMBAM before deciding that you wanted them to join your network?

JesseThorn4 karma

I'd seen the discussion thread on our forum, and I listened to a couple on a car trip, liked it and emailed them. Turns out they knew about us and were excited to join up.

patcartelli13 karma

Hi Jesse! Very excited to be attending BoatParty.biz for a second year in a row!

I know you have a lot of great people working with you, but I'm wondering how you personally manage your time on all of your projects. What's a daily Thorn day like?

JesseThorn6 karma

That's a tough question, because I don't really keep a regular schedule.

If I have an interview, it's usually either 11-noon or at 1 or 2 in the afternoon, because I sort of eat at the same time every day (migraine trigger thing). I generally prep all morning before that, in addition to some the day before.

On Wednesday afternoons, we tape Judge John Hodgman - we do two at a time because Hodgman's schedule with the TV show he's on (and just generally) is kind of unpredictable.

We track Bullseye on Thursdays, so generally on Thursday afternoons I'm writing the outshot, then recording everything around 4:30-5:30. Sometimes it takes longer to do the outshot than others (like if I rewatch a movie or something).

Saturdays I tape JJGo 4-6.

When I write PTO stuff, it's usually like when I get up in the morning, before I go into the office.

Other office stuff I just do as I find time.

Amosis10 karma

First off, Put This On inspired me to dress like an adult, and MaxFun is the home of many of my favorite podcasts, so thanks!

That said, being in a position where you have to constantly hustle for funding and to continuously fight for what you do, how do you handle those times that things just don't work? What inspires you to keep going despite the adversity?

Thanks again, I appreciate the work that you're doing.

JesseThorn9 karma

It's really hard. We tried to launch a business conference that I put a lot of work into this year, and couldn't quite make it work, and it was very disappointing.

Because of the size of the company, we try not to take big financial risks, but that often means that the risk is me, personally, putting a lot of extra work into something that might not work out.

And we also miss out on growth opportunities sometimes that if I were less (necessarily) risk-averse I might have been able to take advantage of. I mean, look at the growth of Earwolf and Nerdist, for example.

wilphred9 karma

Who is more likely to be podcasting naked you or Judge John Hodgman?

JesseThorn12 karma

Hodgman - he's alone in his office, and I'm in a studio with my producer looking through a window. If I were naked, it would be an employment law issue.

I did recently record an episode while literally rolling on the floor in pain from a migraine, though. THERE'S SOME FUN GOSSIP FOR YOU.

txag2k8 karma

Who or what inspired you... to do what you do?

JesseThorn14 karma

It was more circumstantial... no access to video equipment, didn't want to act any more because I hated auditioning (and the emotional work required to act dramatically). And there was a radio station on campus.

But to have my own public radio show? Definitely Ira Glass. TAL was the first show that I heard on public radio that made me feel like there was room there for someone like me, even though his show is completely different from mine.

And to be a radio host, probably Hank Greenwald, the (great) former play-by-play announcer of the SF Giants. I listened to a lot of sports talk as a kid.

And to do it independently? I think it's because of psychological scarring from my childhood :).

fakename3118 karma

I heard from my friend Kurtis that basketball is your favorite sport. Can you confirm this?

JesseThorn24 karma

Correct. I like the way they dribble up and down the court.

daveweigel7 karma

How much prep work do you do before the average interview? You seem to be in the fortunate position of mostly interviewing guests you find fascinating already, but before, say, talking to Bill Withers, do you dig through his old Q&As? Do you listen to all of his records?

Also, what do you think of this "happy socks" trend, where men are now shamed if they wear black socks instead of brightly-colored European-designed clown socks? (I am biased.)

JesseThorn9 karma

You're right that I'm mostly interviewing people in whom I'm already interested, though that prep work is still prep work, especially now that I have two young kids, and thus about 40 minutes a day of leisure time to watch TV or whatever.

Generally, I'd say that I spend about a day's worth of time prepping for a given interview, not counting whatever background I had before.

And I think the happy sock thing is pretty tired, and I'm particularly annoyed that all the happy sock companies make such short socks, so it looks like you're really wearing kids socks when your gross hair legs show anytime you sit down.

breckingball7 karma

Hey Jesse. Big fan. I particularly love your appearances on Never Not Funny. Were you able to garner any interest in having them join your softball league?

Also, who is your favorite MC?

JesseThorn7 karma

Both Jimmy and Matt are interested, but they also have kids and busy schedules. I know if we restart the team Mike Schmidt is in, though he'll be playing first, not third, despite his former position :).

And my favorite MC is Devin the Dude.

The_Collector7 karma

Are there ever times when people start talking about men's clothing on Bullseye or Jordan Jesse Go and you have to switch off professional menswear blogger mode just to keep the funny going? Or, conversely, times when you've been in an interview for NPR or with one of the worlds style icons and had to clamp down on a dick joke?

Also, not sure if you've heard it yet, but the last five minutes of John Roderick's recent appearance on MBMBaM where he tries to downplay how wonderful BoatParty.biz is makes up the best advertisement that you will ever have, or could ever possibly hope to have for anything ever.

JesseThorn8 karma

I have to say it's pretty easy to switch gears. The toughest challenge is probably downplaying the dandy/schlub dichotomy between me and Jordan, because it's just not accurate or fair to Jordan. Odds are that when we're recording JJGo on a Saturday afternoon, I'm in a t-shirt and jeans, and Jordan's wearing a button-up shirt.

I'd say that the outfit stuff has rarely crossed over to Bullseye, because I think it's pretty specialized. I did have on the Sartorialist, but it was one of my least favorite interviews I've ever done. Once in a while a guest is a man who's into clothes, and I have a fun conversation with them about that outside of the studio. I gave Rupaul some pocket square tips. Elvis Mitchell is really well-dressed. Paul F. Tompkins, of course. Etc.

concretetales4 karma

Your interview with Tavi Gevinson was excellent. You treated her with respect, which, unfortunately, cannot be said of every interviewer.

As a father of two little people who will eventually be teenage girls, that interview gave me a lot of hope, since teenagers are quite vilified figures in our society.

JesseThorn3 karma

She's pretty amazing.

airelav6 karma

Why did you change or move away from "Sound of Young America"?

I had completely forgotten about you guys (sorry) until my friend reminded me about it by posting a podcast link that he was on.

JesseThorn2 karma

It was very confusing to listeners, especially podcast listeners, and to public radio program directors. We needed a name that didn't alienate people. I'd sort of intended to rename it for years but never come up with anything I liked. Actually Roman Mars thought of Bullseye.

Formatically, it was an accretion of stuff we'd thought "I'd like to try..." over the years. And we had a little more resources than when I was doing the show by myself.

PaperclipHelper6 karma

How have you managed to add a second baby to everything?

JesseThorn5 karma

With great difficulty.

travisncs5 karma

Your fantasy reports(on Sklarbro Country) are some of the funniest writing/performance pieces currently running, in my opinion. How did you and the Sklar Brothers come together for the segment?

JesseThorn5 karma

Thank you!!

It was the Sklars' idea. I've known them for a long time. They basically said, "what if it was a fantasy report, but on like... antiques?" And I went off and wrote it and we recorded it and it went really well.

It's really nice for me, because I don't have any outlet for writing and performing sketch-ish comedy besides that, and I like to think I have some skill in that area. I miss it, when I'm not doing it, anyway.

PotPieSoupInventor5 karma

Is there anyone better than Dave Holmes? I mean, that guy's the best, right?

JesseThorn8 karma

Yup. He's gonna be on JJGo this week!

Combative_Douche2 karma

Has anybody ever mentioned that Dave Holmes' voice sounds exactly like yours but quicker?

JesseThorn3 karma

No, I'm surprised to hear that. Would never have thought it.

starthirteen4 karma

Any tips for who to play in my fantasy beekeeping league this week?

JesseThorn7 karma


torrosie4 karma

Hi Jesse, I just want to say how much I admire you, and how grateful I am for all the great podcasts. I honestly can't imagine my life without them. My one question, why is it that you don't really make appearances on other podcasts on your network? (I'm mainly interested in having you and/or Jordan on SPY) Is it just too much extra work? It would be awesome if you could drop by occasionally, even just for bonus episodes!

JesseThorn2 karma

Well obviously with SPY, they're a thousand miles away from us.

I always agree to go on shows that invite me :).

JesseThorn2 karma

They're really far away :).

swiley19833 karma

I've wondered for a while about The Sound of Young America's original opening music. Did you have permission from David Bowie's publisher? I also really enjoyed both versions of TSOYA's theme music you switched to later.

Bullseye and everything MaxFun is really awesome and I'm very grateful for all of the podcasts you've published over the years.

JesseThorn5 karma

No. If they ever asked, we'd take those ancient episodes down. They were all from before the podcasting era :).

LanceConz3 karma

Hi Jesse! Longtime Max Fun donor here. What are your thoughts about This American Life's decision to self-distribute their show?

Do you think that's a major change in public radio programming, or is it one of those things like Radiohead selling their record on a pay-what-you-want scale (i.e. something that mostly just works because they're a huge operation that already has a pretty big leg up)?

JesseThorn3 karma


I think it works for TAL because they're already established, and because PRI wasn't able to move them forward much anyway. They're on a lot of stations, but I'm sure they'd love to have better placement on those stations. For that reason, being able to put their own money into it without worrying about conflicts of interest or station relations staff being uncomfortable hard-selling the show is really beneficial. And PRX is a perfectly useful and viable platform for that.

That said, they have a lot of credibility, and I think that for a show like mine, having a relationship with NPR, even if it's not that much more than their imprimatur, makes a huge difference with stations, and a fair difference with audience, too. That was my advice to the producers of my friend Luke Burbank's show Live Wire, before they signed with PRI.

One other consideration is that NPR et al can leverage their shows against each other - so for example NPR has used Wait Wait to help launch Tell Me Another and TED. Of course, to the extent that was happening for TAL, it was them being leveraged to help other PRI shows (though sadly never mine).

joshcoles3 karma

You often mention how you completely forget what you guys talked about on JJGO after a week or two. After doing the show for so long, how do you see your conversations on the show? Do you try to recreate the kinds of conversations that you really have with your friends, try to model it after a certain style of comedy, or at this point is it just a matter of pumping out enough content to keep the show going for sponsors and whatnot.

My question isn't very clear. Answer as you please and keep being the voice of all millennials.

JesseThorn5 karma

It's sort of its own thing. We've been doing it so long, that it just kind of comes out. It's sort of like a hyper-real version of our relationship in real life... like what if we were just talking but we didn't actually have to do anything or accomplish anything, so we could just go down whatever hole we found, conversationally. It's a bit like being in college in that way :).

I mean, our friend Jim, The Master of Would You Rather, had this pair of pants he liked, when we were in college. One day, he just said, "Hey! Guys! Love 'em pants!"

We also used to sing and dance a lot - like nonsense songs and dances we made up on the spot.

Those are things that happened in Real Life that are sort of what we're creating on JJGo.

But if me and Jordan go to the movies, we're making jokes to each other, but it isn't as fast or crazy as it is on the show.

LandArchGamer3 karma

I am a millennial, and personally always loved that, after the Isotopes moved to albuquerque, the real albuquerque minor league team changed their name and branding to match. What is it you dislike so much about it?

Related: Is being the voice if a generation a burden? Does it weigh on you that, for instance, now i have to hate the Isotopes because you do, and therefore we all do?

JesseThorn8 karma

I'm not a fan of brand extensions in general.

Being voice of the millennial generation is as natural to me as breathing.

jwmatthys3 karma

Hi Jesse. Big fan here! When I listen to the big public radio shows (All Things Considered, Fresh Air, etc.), I often think how good you would be hosting one of these programs. It's not just your Golden Pipes; it's that so many traditional public radio figures seem pretty out of touch with a lot of mainstream American culture--especially music. (I won't name any names, but I get a good laugh when certain radio hosts try to interview pop musicians.)

Do you have any interest in someday being a host on one of the existing public radio shows, or do you see Bullseye becoming ubiquitous like Fresh Air or TAL?

JesseThorn5 karma

I'd love for Bullseye to be on more stations. I got offered a job hosting another national show last year and ended up turned it down. That's not to say I'd never do that, but I love Bullseye.

makehersquirtz3 karma


JesseThorn4 karma

I've never been a regular Stern listener, but a lot of public radio people are. Ira Glass and Terry Gross, for two. I think he's a pretty amazing interviewer.

The_R4ke3 karma

What's your Blondie Recipe?

JesseThorn5 karma

You'll never know.

WommyTiseau3 karma

Would you mind posting in the Ariel WAYWT thread on /r/malefashionadvice?

JesseThorn3 karma

savoytruffle3 karma

On a scale from one to Maximum Fun, how much fun is Stop Podcasting Yourself?

What other podcasts do you eye for agglomeration?

JesseThorn9 karma

I love SPY, and I listen to it a lot because it's funny and it is so gentle. I find it very comforting, and I just really like those guys.

MiraculousSpaceship3 karma

Do you know who the person is who says "Artist owned" in the tag? This person sounds exactly like me, so much so that I've pretty much just started assuming that it IS me. It's me, right?

Also: I've been a listener since 2008 and donor for a few years. Recently and in particular, though, MaxFun has helped me through a tremendously difficult and dark time in my life. I know you hear stories like this a lot, but seriously: thank you. Don't go anywhere.

JesseThorn3 karma

Thank you!

And sure. It's you. Why not?

elliotharmon3 karma

How much do you think about diversity in the lineup of Max Fun podcasts? Do you worry about shows like The Goosedown or Throwing Shade being perceived as tokenism?

JesseThorn16 karma

I don't think about them being perceived as tokenism at all, but I do think about diversity a lot. I had to sort of get my financial feet under me first, but once I did that, I wanted to do a little affirmative action... meaning in addition to just sort of accepting gifts of great shows (as with, say SPY or MBMBaM), I'd help develop and nurture shows from people I thought were talented, who might not be straight white dudes.

My goal is to have the least straight-white-dudey non-specialist network in the world.

GilbertPersian3 karma

I'm always extremely impressed by your candor with guests. I find it to be blunt, honest and extremely well-suited for coaxing people into talking candidly.

Is this gift a natural extension of your personality "off the job"? How do you work that conversational muscle (and what muscle is it?)?

JesseThorn2 karma

I don't know, you'd sort of have to ask my wife. I'm not an A+ listener in real life, the way say Ira Glass is. Ira IRL is much how you would expect from Ira on the radio - empathetic, really interested in what you have to say, kind, etc. He's funnier IRL.

For me, I think it's like a little job. Not that I'm anti-social, I just don't think it comes naturally. Like with Marc Maron, his personality is well-reflected on his show. He is really a worried open book IRL, who sucks in feelings :). I mean that as a compliment, by the way, somehow. Marc is great.

PotPieSoupInventor2 karma

What is your relationship with Marc like? You helped him start his podcast and you've been on each other's shows. And I know you have kids and have moved, but do you ever see him in a social context?

JesseThorn3 karma

We see each other once in a while. I mean, I don't see most people in a social context, because of my family obligations and general disinclination to party, but we are very friendly. I really like Marc. And we are still very nearby each other, at least by LA standards.

jimmymarks3 karma

Will we be seeing more 'Put This On' episodes soon?

JesseThorn3 karma

Probably not. Maybe in the future, but not in the near future. We were honestly a little disappointed with the reception of our second season.

BiggieAndTheMets8 karma

As in there was too much negative feedback or that there was just not much positive feedback?

JesseThorn3 karma

Not that many people watched them.

kamida3 karma

Do you have any plans to appear on the new International Waters as a guest? You are still the best host.

JesseThorn2 karma

I'd love to some time.

2headed_boi3 karma

Do you feel that people who listen to podcasts are pretty homogeneous? Is there a particular group of people you wish you could reach with your podcasting or just podcasting in general?

JesseThorn4 karma

Yeah, there are always a lot of straight, white, male, young, affluent geeks. Which is great, but I would love to continue expand that, and I think we've made great strides.

gamgeestar3 karma

you've subbed for John Hodgman on occasion on the Judge John Hodgman podcast. What do you do to prepare for each case? What's it like working so remotely with him almost every week? (John lives in New York/Massachusetts.) Also, I'm going to LA next month, what's your favorite place to eat there?

JesseThorn3 karma

I try to give the issue a lot of thought beforehand, and consider what issues I think are really germane, and why I might decide either way. Then I sort of half-craft in my head where I want it to go, but I'm pretty open to that changing. These days Hodgman generally comes back basically immediately with his ruling, but I generally take ten minutes to write something out.

PotPieSoupInventor3 karma

Every time I hear Ice Cube's "It Was A Good Day", I think of your Outshot on Bullseye. I'd never really thought about that song deeply and now it's the only way I think about it. I just wondered if you ever hear from artists you mention on the show? Cube? Chance the Rapper?

Also, I'm from Minnesota. Do you have a favorite Minnesota Twin? Don't forget, we had Boof Bonser for a minute!

JesseThorn4 karma

Bubba Sparxxx agreed to come on for an interview in part because he'd heard my piece about Deliverance. Other than that I can't think of anyone, though.

As for favorite twin, maybe Rick Aguilera.

mannequin_hands3 karma

What's next for Jesse Thorn? Do you feel like you have made your dreams happen and can just continue growing what you already successfully do, or do you plan on expanding your empire into new experiences and media? For example, starting boatparty.biz was a totally unexpected direction to take, but it is an awesome thing that completely fits the MaxFun mission.

JesseThorn3 karma

I'd really like to find something that makes more money than the stuff I do now. Right now, my overall income is actually fine, but I need to be able to scale my workload back to spend time with my kids while they're still imprintable :). I'd really like to hire a CEO for MaxFun, and just function as a Chairman.

da_fashion_expert3 karma


JesseThorn5 karma

Honestly the main difference is that I get less weird, fucked up emails/tweets/web comments about looking "like a molester" or something.

itscrunchtime3 karma

No question, and I am sure that this will get buried, but I just wanted to say thanks for putting out such great content. I discovered JJ-Go at the end of last year and got caught up over a few months, then moved on to Stop Po9dcasting Yourself.

Since I work in public accounting, I needed something to listen to for 60-70 hours per week during tax season, and my life was greatly improved as a result of Maximum Fun. Keep up the great work, and rest easy knowing that you make a huge, positive impact on a lot of people.

Adding a ? because the robots will remove this without it.

JesseThorn3 karma

Thank you!

Rachtacular2 karma

Firstly, I would like to say how much I admire your work and the empire you've built. I always have a perma-grin when listening to your shows. How do you deal with the weirdness of meeting fans (particularly of JJGo) who know SO much about you, yet you know nothing about them? Have there been any particularly awkward moments? Has it gotten easier for you over the years?

JesseThorn4 karma

It really isn't awkward. It's like a lifehack that's just for me. Awkward is maybe when people forget to introduce themselves, and I have to force their name out of them :).

Almost always it's totally fine. Our fans are very nice, in general. I imagine it's harder for like Bill Burr or something - I'm sure some of his fans are assholes. (Bill Burr is wonderful, by the way, and a genius and a very sweet guy.)

Weebos2 karma

What is the process for incorporating a podcast into the MaxFun network? Do they come to you? Do you come to them? Are there guidelines?

JesseThorn4 karma

I look for things that fit the tone, are good, and I put some extra effort into stuff that isn't just for/by straight white guys.

Bolognaous_Monk2 karma

Hello Jesse. Huge fan of JJGO69 and JJH. I must ask would you rather fight 1 Jordan Morris sized crow or 100 crow sized Jordan Morris's?

JesseThorn4 karma

The latter, and my secret weapon would be 50 crow-sized arcade boxes of Street Fighter 2. A house divided, etc.

PotPieSoupInventor2 karma

The black canvas Chuck Taylors seem to be a pretty ubiquitous shoe right now (across genders even). Do you own a pair, and should everyone own a pair? It's a pretty great shoe, IMO.

JesseThorn4 karma

I don't own a pair, because I find them uncomfortable. I think they're a genuine classic, though, and had many in many colors as a kid. Personally I prefer Jack Purcells for my feet, and have two pair.

hossafy2 karma

The ascot: friend or foe?

JesseThorn4 karma

I like the idea but few wear it successfully.

mistermannequin2 karma

Once every couple months or so I'll remember you talking about Hot Dog Timmy, and it'll always make me laugh. Just wanted to say thanks for introducing me to that among other things. Oh, also, I was at the recent Seattle show, and it was great!

JesseThorn7 karma

Me and Jordan were/are obsessed with that. That and Tales of Fraud and Malfeasance in Railroad Hiring Practices are in the category Sketches We've Bonded Over.

marylandmax2 karma

Hey Jesse, I love JJGO and the MaxFun network!

Was there any talk about getting Never Not Funny on Maximum Fun instead of EarWolf? Just interested how that stuff works. Keep up the great work!

JesseThorn3 karma

There wasn't, though I'm good friends with Matt and Jimmy. I presume it was because Jimmy's made no bones about not wanting to ask for donations.

toyskeleton2 karma

How would you suggest getting more involved in the blog/news type industry?

JesseThorn2 karma

Start a blog yourself with an interesting idea behind it. Make personal connections with other bloggers, both on the web and IRL. Pitch yourself for freelance work, even if it doesn't pay what you'd like.

WantToStopRedditting2 karma

I just wanted to say, I listen to many Maximumfun podcasts every day. My wife and I had the fortune of going to Maxfuncon last year. You've created or curated funny, sincere, creative things that bring smiles to me daily. I really just wanted to say thanks for all the hard work and that this person really appreciates it.

But this has to have a question, so my question is this: what is it like being the voice of the millennial generation? ;-)

JesseThorn3 karma

It's a burden, but one I bear gladly.

jgklein232 karma

Any chance you'll do another Alternative Apparel T-shirt purchase through PTO...? Sorry for the repeat question, but I have yet to get an answer.

JesseThorn3 karma

Yes! Very soon.

glowclouds2 karma

What is the best way to support MaxFun besides donations? For people who already donate, but would like to help in other ways, should we buy t-shirts? Click on ads? I'd probably offer to jump into the MacArthur Park cesspool to help keep the MaxFun lights on, but I don't live in LA so what can I use my internet dollars for?

JesseThorn2 karma

All of those things help... I think most important is sharing the shows with others. Send a favorite Bullseye interview to a blogger with a note, post on a reddit thread about loving SPY, whatever...

Schiller212 karma

Jesse, thanks so much for doing this. Bullseye and 99% Invisible are my two favorite podcasts; you and RM always bring me something to think about I won't get anywhere else.

Q: You often talk about wanting to de-homogenize the podcast-listening culture from straight white geeks to something more diverse, and the hip-hop segments of your show really educate me about a culture totally different from the one I grew up with. Do you have a favorite podcast (or other media) that you think does a good job talking about more diverse cultural topics? An example might be Tell Me More with Michel Martin. Thanks!

JesseThorn2 karma

I think The Internets Celebrities and Combat Jack do a very good job.

ageitgey2 karma

Why don't you have a video game podcast with Jordan, Justin and Griffin yet? Is it because you are afraid it would be TOO SUCCESSFUL?

But seriously, have you considered adding shows in the traditional "movie / tv discussion" and "video game discussion" genres? Or do you feel like that's just not what MaxFun is?

JesseThorn2 karma

The McElroys have professional jobs in that arena so I don't want to ask them to compete with themselves.

Definitely have considered some panel-y discussion-y shows, that may be in the future.

CalgaryJoe2 karma

Hi Jesse. Maximum Fun is the first and only time in my life I have given money to something that wasn't a charity. And I'm cheap as borscht. Just wanted to say thanks for all of the amazing programming. Everytime I listed to Bullseye I'm just enthralled, even (especially?) when I don't know the guest. Thanks for making my day better!

JesseThorn3 karma

Thank you!

chadlavi2 karma

Do you think your not drinking, and your need to be careful about migraine triggers, has in some way helped you focus on achieving your goals?

JesseThorn3 karma

To some extent. I think it has also hindered them in some ways, because it makes some socializing, especially when I was younger, inconvenient.

I definitely think that learning to manage my headaches and live with them has helped me... because I just had to learn to TCB when I could, since at my worst I was losing a day or two a week. But it took a long time to get there.

crshank2 karma

Has your distribution agreement NPR met your expectations? How has the feedback you're getting from listeners changed, if at all?

JesseThorn2 karma

I've been really happy with it so far. We still have a long way to go, and NPR has largely been focused on getting budget stuff straight and on their own two new weekend shows (TED and Ask Me Another), but we have really good people there who really care about our show. We're in a much better place to take advantage of the changes on the radio that are happening right now.

elib2062 karma

What guests have surprised you with their humor and all-around coolness?

JesseThorn8 karma

I wouldn't say it was a surprise, but Max Greenfield, who plays Schmidt on New Girl, was just in, and he was such a delight. An absolutely EPIC delight.

I mean, he's really charming on TV, too, that's why we invited him, but when he left I just wanted him to be my friend forever.

Similar with Judy Greer recently, too.

I guess I cite those because you never know with actors and actresses - their characters could be like them, or not. Lots of kinds of people go into those professions, and not all of them are fun.

NurmaKhan2 karma

What's it like being able to interact and interview people you love and respect on a regular basis?

JesseThorn3 karma

Really cool. Just really cool.

TheShittyBeatles2 karma

Greatest white guy in the rap game: MC Serch or Eminem?

JesseThorn3 karma

Eminem's the greatest rapper, easy. My favorite is Bubba Sparxxx, and maybe The Grouch, which is why they've both been on my show.

Metcarfre2 karma

Hey Jesse, I just wanted to say I just listened to the Bullseye with the segment of Song Exploder doing the theme from Bob's Burgers, And it was awesome! I think I'll sub to yet another maxFun podcast!

Also, when do you think you'll be able to convince the gang on Wham Bam Pow that PeeWee's Big Adventure is an action movie so you can do a guest spot?

JesseThorn3 karma

They did Thief without me! I was so steamed. I gotta beg them to let me on. Maybe they'll do Out of Sight. I'd love to do that with them.

obamaisabuddhist2 karma

Hey Jesse! Just wanted to thank you for responding surprisingly promptly to the handful of emails I've sent you over the past few years.

My question is, how do you find the time to continue to correspond with your fans in that way (assuming my experience is the norm), and why is it important to you to do so?

JesseThorn3 karma

I get about 2/3 of emails. Sometimes they just fall off the table.

I'm interested in what people have to say. Originally I just wanted any feedback I could get... then it was just making a closer relationship with people who might be donating to support my business.

Superschutte2 karma

I'm wearing a bright floral Hawaiian shirt. Is that a fashion faux pas?

I do live in a sub-tropical climate if that factors in.

JesseThorn3 karma

Hawaiian shirts are very much in fashion right now. Sort of depends on the style, but the influence of Japanese Americana brands has pushed them back in.

wilphred2 karma

With issues, such as weakening net neutrality or just making money, do you have an opinion of the future of podcasting? Especially as staying small independent production companies?

JesseThorn6 karma

I think the patent troll is the biggest issue, by far. That's a pretty imminent, existential threat.

After that... I think for audio, net neutrality is less of a huge issue, because bandwidth just isn't as important. Even 3G is fine for audio. Not that I don't care about the issue as a user and American and all that, just for the industry.

A bigger concern is whether the interfaces of the next generation of software - Stitcher, iOS Podcasting, car dashboards - will be open to everyone or pay-to-play.

glowclouds2 karma

How do you decide which podcasts join the MaxFun network? Do podcasters pitch things to you or do you develop a concept and find talented people who are interested?

Thanks for doing what you do. I love MaxFun podcasts, Put This On (and I'm a lady!), and Bullseye. They are all fabulously enriching to both my funny bone and my thinking bone.

JesseThorn3 karma

Thank you!

We get pitches from randos sometimes, and I usually try to kick them to Lindsay in our office, who has a long commute and likes trying stuff. That's actually how Song Exploder came in.

Sometimes it's folks I know have talent and I pitch them, as with Cameron or Jasper. Sometimes they bubble up from our existing audience, as with MBMBaM and SPY. Sometimes it's folks I know who start a show, like with Erin and Bryan.

leftybanks2 karma

Bill Withers seems like one of those artists who could come back and tour successfully, just based on his "greatest hits." I know he has his reasons for not doing that but as a fan: good or bad that he's given up the performing life?

JesseThorn3 karma

As a fan? Bad. I would kill to see him live. He's in good health. I'd love to see him play Largo, secret show, no promo. Just him and a guitar, or an ad-hoc band.

YourFavoriteMuffin2 karma

What type of muffin would you say is the most influential in pop culture?

JesseThorn9 karma

In the 80s, definitely bran. Since then, blueberry.

glentickle2 karma

What difference do you see in releasing Bullseye as a podcast vs. releasing it on terrestrial radio?

JesseThorn3 karma

Well, the difference in the content is that we make a cut of the interviews, specifically, that's sort of the "this is the length we like / the stuff that's worth hearing" cut, and use that in the podcast. Then we cut what we have down to 59 minutes for the radio.

In terms of listening - podcast listening is very linear, and radio listening isn't. We try to be aware, to at least some extent, that people listening on the radio are probably dropping in randomly for 10 or 12 minutes, not starting at the beginning and going to the end.

DCBadger2262 karma

I also loved Base Wars and still remember the game vividly as it was one of the only NES games I owned. Why has the baseball-robot fighting game stuck with you all these years later?

JesseThorn2 karma

I loved Baseball Stars. I joke about Base Wars because when we were in college, it was the only sports video game Jordan had ever played. "Big Time" Gene O'Neill and I played a lot of Madden and NBA2K at the time, though he was much better than I.

crains_a_casual2 karma

Hey Jesse! Huge JJGO fan, been listening since day 1 when I was about 14 and haven't missed an episode since! Your show, and now your whole network (including Put This On), means so much to me. Even though we've never met, I feel like we're old friends, which is so weird, but I love it.

Anyway, a couple questions: 1. What was your most memorable fan interaction?

  1. How did Nick Adams become the go to co-host when Jordan's gone?

  2. How can I get Bullseye on WBHM, my local NPR affiliate in Birmingham, AL?

Keep it up pal, you're awesome.

JesseThorn3 karma

1) Nick and I have been friends for many years. We met on Okayplayer.com, and for the first time IRL when his book came out. He was one of my only friends already in LA when I moved down here.

Basically, when Jordan was working for Fuel, they would fly him places on zero notice, and it was really crazy. We'd reschedule a lot, but we were missing a lot of episodes, and at some point, it was like... "what if I just had Nick co-host with me when we had to."

And my schedule's gotten a lot tighter the last couple years, so it's harder to reschedule stuff... so basically it's gotten to where Nick will sit in with me and usually Hal Rudnick or Chris Fairbanks will sit in with Jordan. They're basically just people who get the show, are really funny, and we can rely on.

DanOlympia2 karma

What music have you been listening to lately? Are there any upcoming releases you are excited about?

JesseThorn2 karma

I've been listening to The Chairmen of the Board a lot.

KeelyPublicRadio2 karma

What is your favorite source of news?

JesseThorn3 karma

This is really boring, but NPR and the New York Times.

chompsthecat2 karma


JesseThorn6 karma

The network isn't what you need. Consider a new show or idea. Sometimes it's great to start over.

polismouse2 karma

Whenever I listen to you talk about living in Los Angeles, I feel like there's a certain amount of ambivalence there. Is that an accurate thought? Is there some tension in the way you view the city?

(ohmygod ohmygod how do i ask the most brilliant question-asker in the world a question ohmygod)

JesseThorn3 karma

Yes of course. But I'm pretty used to it now.

Lazy-Assed_Destroyer2 karma

Hey Jesse, love Bullseye and I was actually a guest on JJHo last year. Big fan!

Hands down my favorite part of your work is your analysis and love of hip-hop. Your conversations with rappers and producers always seem to connect with their work so much more than the surface level interviews they usually give to promote their work through mainstream media. The Big Boi interview and his reaction to your conversation with him when he thought he was off-air was absolutely priceless.

My question to you is: Have you seen Outkast this year? If not, do you plan to? (ps the tickets just sold out in 20 minutes for the ATL show...sniffle)

JesseThorn2 karma

No but I'd like to see them... not sure about going to an arena show, though, seems like it could be a disaster/disappointment.

raphus_cucullatus2 karma

I'm going to Santa Cruz this weekend. What should I do?

JesseThorn2 karma

I mean... go to the beach?

EmilDeilert2 karma

In Sweden recently, a podcast called "Filip och Fredriks Pod" sold out an arena with over 17 000 seats for a live recording of their last show. What American podcasters do you think could pull something similar of? Also, how cool is that?!

JesseThorn4 karma

Pretty good for a podcast with an unintelligible name.

We have some fans who do a show called Los Hematocriticos out of Spain that's really huge there. Trying to talk them into letting us open for them in Madrid.

EmilDeilert2 karma

That would be awesome. Why not swing by Sweden on your way back? I'm sure we could help you set something up.

JesseThorn5 karma

I once got offered a show in a missile silo in Sweden. I want to say it was in Malmo? We'd love to do a show there, but no one would show up. We aren't even very famous in the US of A.

arigunnar2 karma

Ari from Iceland would show up.

Best, Ari from Iceland who now lives in Sweden.

JesseThorn2 karma

OF COURSE Ari from Iceland chimes in. OF COURSE.

groverjefferson2 karma

As the MaxFun family expands, they've also had a lot of success taking shows on the road to varying degrees (the JJGo live shows in SF/LA, MBMBAM doing NYC/LA, Throwing Shade and Risk! going all over the damn place).

Could you see putting together a MaxFun road show, where two or three podcasts would tour together to cities with vibrant comedy communities, doing one big evening of live performances? Thinking along the lines of the CBB tours that happened the last few years.

Also, let it be noted I've got a potent and persuasive argument prepared for the Research Triangle region of North Carolina being a central stop on such a tour :)

JesseThorn3 karma

We'd really like to. It's mostly a matter of finding a booking agent who's interested, because promoting and booking a real tour is a little beyond what we can do as an organization. I do have a meeting with someone next week, we'll see how it goes.

Knob_Gobbler2 karma

Does Big Time Gene O'Neill have a job?

JesseThorn2 karma

Right now? I actually don't know. He does a lot of production work as a writer/story editor type deal, so it's sort of on-and-off. Nature of the thing.

wilphred2 karma

Has there been any talk about running podcast of Sirius/XM? It seems as though there is enough content out there and they have the channels. I would suspect it would not be just Maximum Fun shows, but all the big podcasts.

JesseThorn2 karma

Seems unlikely to me. They're very radio-oriented.

irich2 karma

Do you think you'll keep going with Bullseye or cancel it to focus on your other shows? You have said that it loses money and I have to imagine at a certain point it isn't viable to keep it going? Or does it work as sort of a loss leader? The fact that you have an NPR show helps out the rest of the network?

JesseThorn6 karma

I've had a few times in my life where I've thought seriously about cancelling it. Right now we're really focusing on giving it a go, though. I really like our people at NPR, and it feels like a much better position.

And yeah, I think there's a sort of halo effect on the network. Kind of like Scott having a TV show helps Earwolf.

concretetales2 karma

How much do you, Jordan and any guest use hand gestures when going on a riff? It seems like it would be hard to know when to keep something going and when a riff is played out.

I have to say, I very rarely think, "Okay, they've gone on too long with this," which is part of the reason I keep coming back. That can't be an easy thing.

JesseThorn2 karma

That's kind of you. The answer, though, is no. I mean, we communicate non-verbally, I'm sure, but mostly it's just me being a host, Jordan being a brilliantly funny improviser, and the two of us having done the show together for many, many years.

wilphred2 karma

As you rise in you popularity (both individually and you business) have you had any weird pitches brought to you yet? Not for podcast shows, but people coming to you make a commercial or turn one of your shows into a reality show...etc...

JesseThorn4 karma

I would love to make a commercial. I wish I had more opportunities to "sell out," because I could use the money. I did recently have a commercial I starred in just out of college re-made with different actors, but they kept my voice, which is pretty odd.

Knob_Gobbler2 karma

Does Jordan still smell like coffee?

JesseThorn2 karma

No! Jordan has eased way off the coffee throttle and smells lovely.

Eatingdogs2 karma

A while a go I said you should ditch your JJGO nickname on r/maximumfun/ and people were pretty pissed. Mostly I got told to fuck off.

Do you actually hate that nickname, or is it just a recurring bit on the show that you hate it?

JesseThorn4 karma

I'm fine with it. It feels like an old joke to me, to some extent, and I worry that it makes people who haven't heard the show think I'm conceited or pompous, which is a problem I have in general. But for something I thought of in 15 seconds when I was 19, it's been surprisingly durable.

travisncs2 karma

I've always been curious as to how many people donate to MaximumFun. Is that something that you share, and if not what is the reasoning for that? ...and I totally understand if it's something you don't talk about publicly.

JesseThorn6 karma

We don't generally share it, but only because there's not much reason to and nobody asks. The answer is, uh, thousands.

NorbitGorbit2 karma

which logistics of forming a theme cruise surprised you the most?

JesseThorn3 karma

The captain really is in charge of everything on the ship. So like when we're booking venues, the captain has to approve them, which typically won't happen until the last minute. So we're sort of held at the captain's whim. You think it's either a technical or semi-honorary job, but actually she was literally in charge of everything, military-style.

andru3652 karma

Should I convert my traditional ira to a roth ira?

JesseThorn3 karma

I have a Roth and a SEP, but honestly, all I know is that you should buy a low-cost index fund and just let it be.

jmeh_20002 karma

Mustache or Beard?

JesseThorn3 karma

I'm fine with both, but have a beard myself.

seabass02 karma

What led to your interest in hip-hop?

JesseThorn3 karma

I dunno. Seemed natural to me? It was the popular music on the radio when I was a kid, and it was the current music that related to the music my parents listened to (which was mostly jazz for my mom and R&B/soul for my dad).

felonychi2 karma

are there are clothing brands that changed in a surprising way? Do you wish they would have stayed the same, or chose a different direction?

JesseThorn3 karma

I'm really not very brand-oriented, honestly. I thought Allen Edmonds attempts at fashion shoes last year (iirc) were pretty goofy.

boonjamin2 karma

Have you been able to master George Plimpton's Video Falconry?

JesseThorn3 karma

Hell no.

mrtatulas2 karma

OK, before I ask my question, I have to say that I listen to Bullseye & JJGo religiously, to the point that I can hear your voice in my head as I read your comments in this AMA. JJGo is one of the best comedy/fellas talking podcasts I've ever heard, and Bullseye rivals This American Life and Radiolab as one of the greatest radio shows/podcasts out there right now. I've learned about so many great musicians - Pharaohe Monch, the Gap Band, I could go on. Oh, and sometimes your outshots make me weep like a little girl (The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly, anyone?). So thank you for everything you do.

Anyway, I have this idea for a podcast that plays like a retrospective of a fictional record company stretching from the early days of rock'n'roll to the modern era. I've got fake bands, fake songs, all that stuff. But I need to get that real deep radio voice. Do you do any sort of vocal exercises, or are you just naturally endowed with that buttery-smooth baritone? And what microphones do you use/suggest?

JesseThorn2 karma

A) That is a very complicated idea. B) You can change your voice some, but not a huge amount. The really short version (and you can learn this by buying some book about voice for actors) is that your vocal cord goes from point x to point y inside your body. You want to relax its full length so that you're vibrating the whole thing when you talk, and you want to use your natural pitch. You can do the former just by making a sort of "ahhh" sound and feelign it inside yourself. The latter you can find by putting your hand on your chest and going from the lowest note you can make to the highest, and feeling where there is the most resonance.

ramuilar2 karma

Jesse, would you show up if put together a MaxFunsters meetup in LA?

JesseThorn2 karma

I'd try.

Djinnker2 karma

I was just listening to JJHo on my daily stroll through the countryside! I love the chemistry that you and John Hodgman have. Have you ever thought about making it into a TV show? It seems like it would translate beautifully!

Also, please convey to Theresa and Biz a big "Thank You" for One Bad Mother. That show is so important to me, I can't even express. It's so fantastic to have other moms out there talking about real mom shit.

JesseThorn3 karma

1) Yes.

2) Will do. Tell a friend to listen!

BiggieAndTheMets2 karma

Angie Martinez just announced her resignation from Hot 97- if they offered you her job, would you take it?

JesseThorn5 karma

The money would be tempting, but I don't think so. Commercial radio is a real cesspool. Not that there aren't exceptions, I just wouldn't have the stomach for it.

bwbloom2 karma

Hey Jesse,

Big NPR fan. From your name I assumed you were a female porn star. Have you ever considered a sex change and going into the adult entertainment industry?

JesseThorn4 karma

I made some inquiries, but no one was interested :(.

andru3651 karma

Are you still driving the TT? What is on the top of the list for your new ride?

JesseThorn4 karma

I am. I'm thinking about a Jaguar X-type from the early 2000s, and I'm also considering just getting my wife's old Scion xB back from my brother and driving it into the ground.

andru3653 karma

Jag X-Type would be classy as fuck. British racing green or GTFO

JesseThorn5 karma

My feeling, as well.

chicagomags2 karma

Jesse, I love your work, but as a poor person who scrounged up a $5/mo max fun donation, hearing you talk abut Jaguars made me feel kinda icky. Just putting that out there.

JesseThorn5 karma

I'm talking about a $10,000 car, here. I think that's pretty reasonable.

MontyAshley1 karma

Have you heard about Nate Silver's 538 blog going on a big quest to find the nation's best burrito? The frontrunner is El Farolito, so you have a rooting interest.

JesseThorn3 karma

Good for El Farolito, but I'm not getting involved. Those kinds of contests are, honestly, the height of what I don't like about the internet.

(I do like Nate Silver generally - I was a fan since he worked for Baseball Prospectus.)

earbox1 karma

I'm a short guy (5'4") who is also moderately round. I'm attempting to lose weight, but it's not working.

What do you recommend I wear to combat this? Bearing in mind that I live in New York and overheat easily.

JesseThorn2 karma

There are no secrets here. Mostly it's the same as anyone else.

The main thing is to remember that most people don't care about this that much. There are some girls who aren't into a guy who's smaller than them, but there's nothing you can do about that, and there are plenty who either don't care or are smaller than you.

Generally, though, people care much more about how you carry yourself, etc, than they do about your size.

concretetales1 karma

Would you get drunk if you were invited to do Drunk History?

That could be a wonderful disaster.

JesseThorn2 karma

I've wondered about that, actually. I know a lot of the people on there. But I don't know Derek well, so I can't imagine that I'd ever be invited.