This week, the gang (minus Guy) is joined by Gerrick Kennedy, music writer at the Los Angeles Times, to discuss the best album releases of 2017. For the first time in 33 years, there are no women in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100's chart. The gang discusses whether they think this is a fluke or a trend, how they think streaming services affect the numbers, and what this means for women musicians of color. They discuss the importance of the new Kendrick Lamar album Damn. and about early contestants for "The Song of the Summer" title. They talk about whether they think Ed Sheeran is creepy and why Harry Styles is a #HeForShe hero. Then, in lieu of jams and because Coachella just kicked off the start to the music festival season, the panel tells us about their dream music festivals-where they would be, who would be playing, and how much they would cost. All of this, plus each panelist tells us what they're all about.
Each week we’ll add everyone’s jams to this handy Spotify playlist.
This week, the Pop Rocket panel has some extra help to talk about the 5 years and 6 seasons of Girls that ended this past Sunday from the New York based comedy duo Las Culturistas. As you can imagine, the gang has a lot to say during this post mortem. They talk about whether we got closure from the final episode, and whether Lena should have just stopped at the penultimate episode. Did the producers of Girls do enough to deal with the lack of racial diversity on the show over the 5 years? What role did nudity and sex play on show, and why was it so refreshing? Was Elijah used as a trophy or seen as a peer by Hannah? And did we think that this was a genuinely funny show? All of these questions will be answered, plus Bowen and Wynter are all about new video games, and Matt can't stop listening to the new Gaga. In lieu of jams this week, we get a master class in the signature segment on the Las Culturistas podcast, "I Don't Think So Honey"-- things get rowdy.
We also want to thank everyone who donated during the MaxFun Drive this year, and give a particular shoutout to those who donated on our shows behalf. Tweet at us if you made a donation to us and didn't receive your voicemail from Karen Tongson.
If you will be in the Los Angeles area this Friday, April 21st, make sure to check out Matt and Bowen's improv group Pop Roulette at UCB Sunset at 10:30 p.m.
Each week we’ll add everyone’s jams to this handy Spotify playlist.
Guy Branum is a comedian, writer, actor, podcaster, and now host of his own new TV show, Talk Show The Game Show. Before his career in media, he had his sights set on being a lawyer, completing a law degree and passing the bar exam before leaving that life behind. He realized he had an overwhelming passion for pop culture, and he began his career in stand-up. Eventually, he landed a writing and commentator position on Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, and is now a writer on The Mindy Project. He is the host of Bullseye's sister show and Maximum Fun's own Pop Rocket podcast.
In this extended interview, Guy tells Jesse about his new show and some of the challenges that came with creating it. He shares what it was like growing up gay in a farming town outside of Sacramento, his journey of coming out to his family and friends, and why he uses the word "charming" so often.
You can watch Guys show every Wednesday at 10/9c on truTV.
Academic and writer Emily Lordi makes the case for why Donny Hathaway's live album deserves to be added to the canon of classic music. She tells us why this 1972 record, largely made up of covers of other people's songs, is so essential to understanding the black artistic experience at the time.
If you want to know more about this album, Emily's 33 ⅓ book on the album is out now.
In honor of the premier of Guy Branum's new truTV show, the gang is talking about game shows this week! Karen reminisces about the implicit corniness of 70's and 80's game shows, Wynter talks about the accessibility differences between quiz shows like Jeopardy and Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader, and Margaret tells us about the time she was on The Price is Right. Plus, we learn about Wynter's new obsession with ASMR-adjacent Youtube click-holes, and Guy tells us why he was stunned by the latest episodes of Feud, Girls, and the gang discuss the series finale of Big Little Lies. Finally, the gang tell us which tracks they can't stop listening to.
**There are many plot revealing spoilers in this episode, particularly about the series finale of Big Little Lies**
Rocketeers, don't forget to tune into Guy Branum's NEW tv program called Talk Show The Game Show every Wednesdy at 10/9c on truTV, with a premier date of April 5th!
Each week we’ll add everyone’s jams to this handy Spotify playlist.
This week Jesse talks to Oakland Athletics' reliever Sean Doolittle, who's been called one of the most interesting players in baseball.
Sean had an improbable journey to the majors. He was originally drafted as a hitter in 2007 before being sidelined by knee injuries. He didn't play for two years as a result. Sean talks to Jesse about the physical and mental obstacles he faced during recovery. At one point, he thought about giving up and going back to college to earn his degree.
Eventually, Sean was encouraged to try his hand at pitching instead. As it turns out, he had an excellent arm and could throw in the mid-to-high-90s. He's been on the A's since 2012, and was selected as an All-Star in 2014.
Sean's known as one of the nicest guys in the majors. He's used his platform as a baseball player to raise awareness about a number of causes, including veteran homelessness and the Syrian refugee crisis. Jesse talks to Sean about his outspoken support for LGBT rights, somewhat of a rarity among his fellow players.
You can find out what Sean's up to on Twitter.
For fourteen years, Josh Kantor has been the organist for Boston Red Sox games at Fenway Park. He's known for playing creative renditions of popular songs, and six years ago he started taking fan requests via Twitter.
In this Song that Changed My Life segment, Josh recalls one of first Twitter requests he ever got: "Halo" by Beyonce.
When he's not delighting Red Sox fans, Josh plays keys for a rock band called The Baseball Project, a baseball-themed supergroup that includes members of R.E.M. You can find him on Twitter,
where he's now taking song requests for the new season.
This week Jesse talks to the artist Tabitha Soren. You might remember Soren from her previous life as a newscaster if you watched MTV in the early 1990s. During the era of "Rock the Vote" and Bill Clinton, she was one of the most recognizable young faces on television.
Now Soren is an accomplished artist and photographer, whose work has appeared in galleries around the country. She has a new photography book called Fantasy Life: Baseball and the American Dream, which follows the 2002 Oakland Athletics draft class.
Soren admits she didn't know much about baseball before starting this project. She started shooting the Oakland A's draft class in 2003, while helping her husband with a book he was writing. That book was Moneyball, which became a New York Times bestseller and a movie by the same name. Fantasy Life is an update of sorts to Moneyball. Taken over the last fifteen years, the collection of photographs chronicles the lives of 21 players, most of whom are no longer playing baseball.
Soren talks about the incredible odds that these players faced, and how their struggle is a parable for a uniquely American obsession. She also explains why not knowing much about the game helped her tell a different story than most baseball photographers.
Fantasy Life is now available on Amazon.
Jesse shares about a book that he believes may be the greatest sports book ever written. Curiously enough, it was written by an economics professor, and it's called The Glory of Their Times.
The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It is available on Amazon.
This week the gang is here to talk about the year 1997 in music and culture. There are a surprising number of 20 year old infallible pop hits that were influenced by a number of factors; the internet, CD-R's, Princess Diana passing, the death of Gianni Versace, the 24-hour news cycle, and of course Tupac and Biggies deaths. Wynter and Karen make it clear that they had the best 1997 as they were living in the city of possibilities (San Francisco), Margaret tells us why she doesn't know any Spice Girls songs, and we find out which panelist played sax in a ska band. Plus, in lieu of jams, we hear from each of the panelists what podcasts they are listening to lately.
And remember, if you haven't yet become a member or upgraded your membership, please do it before the end of #MaxFunDrive. Margaret Wappler has vowed to send every new person that joins a denim jacket w/ a celebrity inside, Karen Tongson will eat weird vending machine food for you and Guy Branum will share his family's fruit cobbler recipe. And his family is from Arkansas!
We made a special playlist with all of the songs we talked about in this week's episode (plus some other gems).
This week guest host Linda Holmes talks with Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy, the hilarious three brothers behind the comedy advice podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me. Recently, the brothers became the creators and stars of their very own TV series by the same name on the Seeso streaming network.
The McElroys tell Linda why it was important to them to film their new show in Huntington, West Virginia, where they grew up. They dish on the common misconceptions of their hometown, and what it was like to rope fellow Huntingtonians, including the mayor, into their antics.
The McElroys’ irreverent yet humane sense of humor has won them a following of very passionate fans, especially online. There’s even a McElroy wiki that catalogues the many callbacks and gags that have appeared in their comedy over the years, not to mention the brothers’ other shows with spouses, family members, and friends.
The McElroys tell Linda about how growing up in the same household shaped their comic sensibilities -- and how even after all these years, they’re still trying to make each other laugh.
Gina Prince-Bythewood is a producer and writer who is probably best known for her 2000 movie Love and Basketball. Raised in Pacific Grove, California Gina moved down to Los Angeles to attend UCLA, graduating from the film school with honors. Gina has directed many movies since her 2000 breakthrough, films such as The Secret Life of Bee's and Beyond The Lights.
Her new project called Shots Fired, created with her husband Reggie Rock Bythewood, was a film idea turned mini series dealing with issues of race inequality and police corruption and violence against the black community. The murders of unarmed black men and women at the hands of white police officers and in particular the acquittal of George Zimmerman from the murder of Trayvon Martin were the catalyst for this project.
Gina tells Linda how rejection has influenced her work ethic, why she thinks it's important to represent diverse experiences and casts, and why she think Love and Basketball is cherished by so many people.
You can watch Shots Fired on Fox every Wednesday at 8/7c.
Linda tells us about a musician who can turn literally anybody into a great singer, doesn't matter who you are.
This week we have a bonus Pop Rocket episode for all of you Rocketeers!
Jesse Thorn, our boss and creator of Pop Rocket, interviewed Guy for Pop Rocket's sister show Bullseye with Jesse Thorn about his new truTV show Talk Show the Game Show. Although the Bullseye interview won't air for a couple of weeks, Jesse wanted to release this episode to you, our beloved listeners, as a thank you for your continued support.
As I'm sure you know by now, it is the MaxFun Drive, the 2 weeks out of the year where we ask you, our listeners, to give back in whatever way possible. You can go to the MaxFun website to donate at whatever level you can. You can also pick up some awesome thank you gifts, among which is the INCREDIBLE Pop Rocket enamel pin designed by Megan Lynn Kott. We really can't make this show without you and we so appreciate anything that you can give. Make sure to make some noise about your contribution to Maximum Fun by using the astag #MaxFunDrive.
Guy, Wynter, and Karen are joined by comedian and actress Tara Jepsen to examine Hollywood's depiction of lady love on the big screen, and TV.
The panel delves into what gets them all hot and bothered, and what just gets them bothered. Plus, Tara throws down for her sapphic sister Rachel Maddow over Trump's tax releases, Guy discusses the wonder that is Throwing Shade the TV show, Wynter reports back from SXSW, and Karen is all about drunk Asians on Fresh Off the Boat.
But there's more! Pop Rocket debuts our newest segment, 4 Questions, with our first guest Lisa Loeb! Everyone should check out her new album Feel What U Feel. It's a jam-packed show, Rocketeers!
That's My Jam:
Tara Jepsen - Herb Alpert - Spanish Flea
Karen Tongson - Maria Katindig Dykes - Triste
Wynter Mitchell - Drake - Teenage Fever
Guy Branum - Las Culturistas Podcast
Lisa Loeb w/ Craig Robinson - Feel What U Feel
Each week we'll add everyone's jams to this handy Spotify playlist.
Paul Shaffer is best known for his work as the band leader and music director on David Letterman’s late night TV shows, from the late 80’s until 2015. Though he was in charge of choosing and playing the music that would appear on the show, Shaffer was kind of a sidekick to Letterman, pulling things out of hats and setting up joke punchlines for him. Before Shaffer was on The Late Show, he was a band member on Saturday Night Live. He would appear in sketches with Bill Murray and would play piano during the Blues Brothers sketches. Letterman took notice and decided he wanted that rapport to be a part of his show.
Shaffer is not just known for working with Letterman. He has written a couple of really great disco tunes, including the 1983 jam It's Raining Men, and plays with The Late Show's The World's Most Dangerous Band.
He and Jesse talk about his expansive career, what it was like working on a show everyday for half of his life then not, and his impressive eyewear.
Javaka Steptoe is a children's book author and illustrator who has made a career of biographizing his heroes and creating books that reflect the diversity of his neighborhood. He makes an effort to illustrate books that have people of all races, all kinds of families, from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds present.
Growing up in New York and being the son of children's book author/illustrator John Steptoe, Javaka knew he was going to be an artist from the time he was a child. His first book In Daddy's Arms I am Tall, received the Coretta Scott King award for Illustrators in 1997, and many of his subsequent books recieved awards and recognition. His newest book, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat has won the 2017 Caldecott award, which is basically the Pulitzer Prize for children's books.
Javaka joins Jesse to talk about what it was like to grow up with a well known father, where his passion and interest in Jean-Michel Basquiat came from, and why he finds it important to create diversity in the books that children read.
Javaka's book Radiant Child:The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is out now.
Louis Theroux is a British documentarian whose career has found himself interacting with some of the most depraved and despised people in our society. He reported on the family who runs the Westboro Baptist Church and spent time with the the leader of the White Aryan Resistance and his family. Louis, whose main interest is finding out why members of niche political parties and subcultures do what they do, also spends time with less harmful people, such as UFO hunters and Swingers on his BBC program Weird Weekends. As a part of this series, he reported on the pro-wrestling community in the United States, and took on the challenge of training with the new recruits. Louis recalls that experience for us as the craziest day of his career. Lets just say, things did not end well.
Louis has a new documentary out now called My Scientology Movie.
What makes a perfect action film? No dialogue.