BY JONATHAN VALANIA Jessie Thorn has been dubbed “America’s radio sweetheart” by, well, Jessie Thorn. It started as a joke, but each week it comes closer to self-fulfilling prophecy courtesy of the thoughtful and illuminating interviews Thorn conducts with underground rappers, indie-rockers, and edgy comedians as part of The Sound Of Young America, the nationally-syndicated public radio talk show Thorn tapes in the spare bedroom of his apartment in Los Angeles. Heard locally on WHYY Friday nights at 9PM, The Sound Of Young America has morphed in recent years from an unpaid hobby dating back to Thorn’s college years into one of the most consistently compelling, entertaining and insightful broadcasts kicking around the airwaves — public, commercial or otherwise. Tonight, Thorn brings TSOYA to the Philadelphia Fringe for a live-taping of the show — featuring the Spinto Band, graphic novelist Charles Burns, Mutter Musueum director Robert Hicks, and comedian Kent Haines — at the Adrienne Theater. Recently, we got Jesse on the horn to find out how one goes about becoming America’s Radio Sweetheart.
PHAWKER: Let’s start at the beginning, what inspired you to want to have a career in radio? Who were your radio heroes?
JESSIE THORN: You know, I certainly had heroes, although I don’t know if they were the ones who made me want to have a career in radio. I think I almost have a career in radio by default, but if I were going to name my radio heroes they would probably be: former San Francisco Giants play-by-play host Hank Greenwald, certainly Ira Glass, host of This America Life which started on KQED-KKLW in San Francisco, where I group up, when I was about 16 and probably Terry Gross, host of Fresh Air. They’re sort of boring choices, but they’re honest.
PHAWKER: So growing up were you sort of an NPR-head as a young man?
JESSIE THORN: Yeah, well you know, my folks listened to Public Radio for as long as I can remember, and I was into some Sports Talk radio as a kid and I used to listen to KMEL, which was the hip-hop station in the Bay Area as a kid, but I also listened to Public Radio. By the time I was 17, I couldn’t listen to the hip-hop station anymore and I had realized that I knew more about baseball than the Sports Talk hosts and didn’t care about any of the other sports enough to listen somebody talk about them for an hour, so I was pretty much left with public radio and I‘ve basically been in that place ever since.
PHAWKER: So you could no longer listen to the hip-hop station because hip-hop changed, or because Jessie Thorn changed by that point?
JESSIE THORN: Because I wasn’t a 13 year old anymore. I think when you’re a 13 year old I think you have a lot more tolerance for listening to the same song over and over and over. I mean, if I turn on the hip-hop station now, I don’t think it’s any worse than it ever was before but while I don’t really mind listening to “Blame It On The Alcohol” once or twice a week, the idea of listening to it 40 times a week is not very appealing to me.
PHAWKER: So, speaking of hip-hop, you once interviewed Jay-Z?
JESSIE THORN: No, that’s a lie. It’s a lie perpetrated by the New York Times. I interviewed somebody about Jay-Z and I guess the fact checkers of the New York Times didn’t catch that fact and they didn’t check it with me. They also got the wrong member of Monty Python. I had interviewed two of the four members, or two of the five members of Monty Python, two of the four living members and they named one of the ones I hadn’t interviewed.
PHAWKER: They had you with Eric Idle, I believe?
JESSIE THORN: Yeah, and I have interviewed Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. And I may interview Eric Idle in the coming weeks actually, but I haven’t to this point in my life ever interviewed him.
PHAWKER: Well, we will set the record straight on this. Could you speak to what the disconnect is between what radio is, commercial radio is I suppose, and what Jessie Thorn thinks it should be?
JESSIE THORN: Well, I don’t think anybody cares what I think it should be.
PHAWKER: I do, Jessie.
JESSIE THORN: Oh, thank you. You know, I think commercial radio doesn’t have a lot invested in talent and I think that’s partly because it’s a very local business and the kind of talent that I think they should be looking at is national talent. And it’s also just because it’s a business that has been in sort of a process of refinement and consolidation over the course of the last 15 years or so and refinement and consolidation mode is not a place for experimentation. What would I like to see on commercial radio? I would like to see more, higher quality, original programming built around talent. The idea that Adam Corrolla, you know, who whatever you might think of his politics, or the tone of his show, is an exceptionally talented and funny radio host, could get cancelled by a local station in Los Angeles because they’re switching to a Spanish language format and that tanks his show that’s on 50 station around the country is completely absurd and it’s sort of a structural problem in radio that nobody seems to address and you know, in a world where when Corrolla gets cancelled on the radio, he can just start his own podcast and say to heck with all this stupid radio program directors, they don’t have a lot of time left.
PHAWKER: Do you think that is the future of the business, that it will continue to atomize into podcasts?
JESSIE THORN: You know, I think, I just haven’t seen a lot in the commercial radio marketplace to give me hope that radio will do anything other than continue with its present business model and sort of decline gently over the course the course of the next 15 or 20 years. I mean, radio is an incredibly powerful medium and it’s not dead by any means, because everyone has four radios and you can cut a lot on the cost side and they are, but it’s not a long term solution, it’s a short to medium term solution that I think in the long term as the transmitters get less and less valuable the business will gently glide into nothingness.
PHAWKER: Interesting, the transmitters become less and less valuable, it’s similar to the way the Internet has made the newspaper’s printing press less and less valuable.
JESSIE THORN: Yeah, well if you can imagine radio is a business where it’s as though newspapers had been granted exclusive license to their printing presses. Radio as been built — especially the recent consolidation of radio, and when I say recent I mean the last 15 years or so — has been built on stations that have, or business conglomerates essentially accumulating the license to broadcast in every market. I mean, what you’re buying when you’re buying a radio station is not really the talents that works at the radio station or the content on the radio station, but mostly it’s just the right to broadcast in a certain place on a certain frequency and that’s the thing that’s becoming of less and less value. The radio business, the commercial radio business, at least doesn’t seem to have a lot of interest in developing content. I mean you can see some content on the AM side, there is some original content in conservative talk radio, but besides that, there’s not a lot of people making things. It’s mostly just people talking in between other peoples’ content, which is basically playing records.
PHAWKER: In your estimation, what role does satellite play in all of this?
JESSIE THORN: Well, I’m on satellite radio and I’m happy to be on satellite radio. Satellite radio I think has to figure out a business model for a world in which people have access to a lot of content for free. Which I think we’re looking at, not immediately, but 10 years from now when your own personal media collection is accessible in your car. For many people it’s like that already, but when for normal people your own media collection is accessible in your car or possibly even the Internet is accessible in your car, and media over the Internet is accessible in your car, then what are they selling for $10 a month? I think that satellite radio is ahead of broadcast radio in that they do seem to have an understanding of the significance of having content. I wonder if their marriage to one method of content delivery is going to problematic, although they seem to be getting their heads around the idea that it’s not the medium it’s the message, or whatever cliché you want to use to suggest that the content is important, not the method of delivery.
PHAWKER: You strike me as the kind of guy who gets up everyday and puts on a tie.
JESSIE THORN: Mmhmm.
PHAWKER: Are you wearing one right now?
JESSIE THORN: I’m wearing a robe right now because it’s 9 o’clock in the morning and it’s a holiday, but I often do wear a tie in my day-to-day life, this is true.
PHAWKER: I suppose on a related note to that, maybe you could speak to this notion of the “new sincerity”
JESSIE THORN: You know, the “new sincerity” is kind of a silly, philosophical movement that me and some friends made up in college that we haven’t talked much about on the show a lot in the past few years. It’s essentially, it came up when a friend was sitting at our lunch table in the college dining room and she got annoyed with us because she couldn’t tell whether or not we were joking about something and then became even more annoyed with us when we tried to explain that we were kind of joking and kind of not joking and basically everything that we said was a joke, but at the same time it wasn’t all a joke in the sense that we weren’t being arch or we weren’t being campy. While we were talking about ridiculous, funny things we were sincere about them. So the “new sincerity” was our was of making a ridiculous, silly name for a third way that wasn’t about the kind of ironic, scornful detachment that we had gone through adolescent seeing blossom in popular culture, you know with sort of a Generation X talking about how great the sequels to Planets of Ape are attitude and instead celebrating a kind of, the thing is that the same level of absurdity or ridiculousness, but are not intending as camp or irony — like Bootsy Collins or Pee Wee’s Playhouse
PHAWKER: Are you aware of the fact that back in the early to mid-80’s there was a number bands, indie bands, that were tagged the “the new sincerity” a bunch of them came out of Austin, Texas. R.E.M. was actually included in this.
JESSIE THORN: People are always telling me about something else that was called the new sincerity. I think David Foster Wallace wrote something that was about something called the new sincerity. I think people have called Dave Eggers the new sincerity in some way. We just thought it was a funny name. I have found that most things that are called the new sincerity are just about sincerity, which we in our made up and ridiculous philosophical system would call the old sincerity or the return of the old sincerity. We’re talking about something new and different.
PHAWKER: Fair enough.
JESSIE THORN: We talked about something new and different when we were in college and didn’t have anything better to do.
PHAWKER: Let’s be clear here, this is not just a wholesale rejection of irony it’s a slightly different permutation of it?
JESSIE THORN: We’re not interested in the kind of irony that is about scornfulness. There’s a type of irony that had became very prevalent in popular culture and especially in humor that was essentially presenting something bad and laughing about how bad it was. That we’ve rejected wholesale. It’s one thing to be “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and write a bunch of great jokes about something that’s bad, it’s another thing to just spend your life just dedicated to finding the worst things.
PHAWKER: Old episodes of Charlie’s Angels or something like that?
JESSIE THORN: Exactly.
PHAWKER: How does one go about becoming America’s Radio Sweetheart? Is there a contest or an election, an essay contest?
JESSIE THORN: In order to become America’s Radio Sweetheart, you have to decide when you go on the radio that you want everyone on your show to have a ridiculous nickname and then you have to make up a ridiculous nickname for yourself. Calling myself “America’s Radio Sweetheart” seems stranger, I realize now, in the context of not having a co-host named Jordan Morris, boy detective and a second co-host called Eugene “Big-Time” O’Neill, which is what we used to call ourselves on the old show, but I’ve kept it because every time I’ve mention dropping there’s a sort of insurrection among The Sound of Young America fans and I get even more hate mail than I just get on a day to day basis from Public Radio listeners who tell me that Ira Glass is the real America’s Radio Sweetheart. Then I have to write those people back and say that yes, I agree Ira Glass is America’s Radio Sweetheart. When I say it, it’s a joke.
PHAWKER: And does this satisfy them?
JESSIE THORN: Nothing satisfies this people. These are the people who write to their city councilmen about things.
PHAWKER: In another time, these were the people who were looking for communists?
JESSIE THORN: Yes, exactly. When I was in high school I worked in the mayor’s office of neighborhood services in San Francisco and that’s the office that basically fields citizen’s questions, complaints, phone calls, and letters. It’s essentially the kind of constituents services department of the mayor’s office and it was my job to answer the crazy letters. They just thought I was funny, and so they let me answer the craziest of the letters, the ones they didn’t want to waste actual, professional staff members time on, so I answered letters. For example, this guy called himself James Bond Zero of the Hardware Secret Service, who had a newsletter about what he was up to. The newsletter was sort of 3/4 in that, you know, nonsense letters, and then 1/4 in actual sentences that didn’t really make any sense at all, like really didn’t make sense. Like you could tell they were the product of a person, you could tell that they weren’t randomly generated nonsense, but you could not tell what it was supposed to be saying, what the purpose of the communication was. It was stuff about his mom a lot, it’s really crazy. So, there are just people who just write letters about things. There was one woman who wanted the FBI to pay to cover her house in… What’s that kind of bird that lives in a city called?
PHAWKER: A pigeon?
JESSIE THORN: Yeah, a pigeon, I wanted to say penguin. There was one woman who wanted the FBI to pay to cover her house in pigeon netting, because for some reason they had sent pigeons to spy on her. These are the people that write me letters about calling myself America’s Radio Sweetheart, so I kind of don’t worry about it.
PHAWKER: You know in this post-9/11 world, Jessie, anything’s possible, especially with the pigeons.
JESSIE THORN: Oh, I’m definitely going to become a target of Al-Qaeda. There’s no doubt about that, I’m an enduring symbol of freedom across the world.
PHAWKER: And that’s why they hate you.
JESSIE THORN: Yep, they hate freedom.
PHAWKER: Who does the theme song?
JESSIE THORN: The old theme song was recorded by me and my friend Dan Grayson, the rock and roll theme song. The theme song we’re using these days is by a hip-hop producer named DJ W, his real name is Dan Wally.
PHAWKER: That’s sort of the organ-y one?
JESSIE THORN: Yeah, exactly. The rock and roll one is me and my friend Dan Grayson in his home studio.
PHAWKER: That’s very cool. Who’s singing?
JESSIE THORN: That’s my friend, Dan. I sing back up, you can hear me singing back up if you listen carefully you hear me singing [in falsetto] maximum fuuuuun.
PHAWKER: And are you playing an instrument on there as well?
JESSIE THORN: Yes, I play the cowbell.
PHAWKER: Is there a cowbell on that?
JESSIE THORN: On that recording and I do the handclaps.
PHAWKER: Sweet. You also have a comedy group that you’re involved in, Prank the Dean, correct?
JESSIE THORN: Prank the Dean is sort of on hiatus. It’s been maybe two years since we’ve done anything.
PHAWKER: And you got married roughly a year ago? You married your high school sweet heart.
JESSIE THORN: I did indeed, that’s very true.
PHAWKER: The New York Times had you in the Vows section, they covered your wedding. It was a bit of a zany affair, at least the reception, you had it catered by a taco truck.
JESSIE THORN: Yes, that’s true. Although, I didn’t look at it as being…I’ve heard that many people look at it as a zany selection. I didn’t really look at it as being zany. It was more a matter of thriftiness, because we had like 200 people at the wedding and I don’t know if you know how much wedding food costs…
PHAWKER: A lot, I hear.
JESSIE THORN: Generally, the lowest end for regular catered wedding food is maybe $60 a plate, at the lowest end. So we couldn’t afford to feed all those people $60 a plates worth of food. Also, I think the reason we chose to get married in San Francisco and the reason we had a taco truck at the wedding, we got married at the church I grew up going to in The Mission, was just because it was a celebration of where we were from and our ‘San Francisco values.’
PHAWKER: What a day in the life of Jessie Thorn like?
JESSIE THORN: I get up around 8 o’clock. I have to keep really regular sleeping hours because I get migraine headaches when my sleep pattern is disturbed, so I really have to go to bed. I go to bed every night basically at about 11 and wake up everyday around 8. So I get up around 8, if someone is coming over, such as a guest or my intern, I get dressed. If a guest is coming over I put on a necktie, unless it’s super, super hot. I kind of wander over to my computer and start dicking around on the Internet for a few hours. If I have to interview that day or have to edit something that day I do that, otherwise I just dick around on the Internet some more. Then I eat lunch, then after lunch that’s usual my time to dick around on the Internet some more and then I walk my dog. Then I come back and dick around on the Internet until 7 or so then I start cooking dinner. It’s a really dick-around-on-the-Internet centered lifestyle. It’s really only interrupted by the occasional, personal hero that shows up at my apartment.
PHAWKER: And food breaks…
JESSIE THORN: Yeah, and food breaks, absolutely, again because of migraine headaches. I have to have a really consistent diet schedule as well.
PHAWKER: I only have a couple questions and I’ll let you get back to dicking around on the Internet. What is the secret of comedy?
JESSIE THORN: I’m trying to leave the house. I’m going to try and do something, because I think going to go to the movies or something.
PHAWKER: What are you planning to see?
JESSIE THORN: I’m going to see Extract.
PHAWKER: I’ve heard mixed things.
JESSIE THORN: I might see Funny People. I haven’t seen Funny People yet. And I might see District 9, but I think I’m going to see Extract.
PHAWKER: Have you seen the Tarantino film yet?
JESSIE THORN: I did see the Tarantino film. Surprisingly living in Los Angeles, right in the heart of Los Angeles, it would be easy for me to go to the movies, but actually all the movies in Los Angeles are in these giant multiplexes and the giant multiplexes are in these semi suburban malls and so it’s incredibly difficult for me to go to the movies. So, I was lucky because the Tarantino movie played at Korea Language movie theater, which is the only one near my house. Anytime a movie that we might want to see plays at the Korean Theater, we go, because it’s so exciting just to be able to take a 10 minute walk to the movie theater. Sometimes the movies have Korean subtitles, but that’s not that big of a deal.
PHAWKER: So they show them in English, but with Korean subtitles, not the other way around?
JESSIE THORN: Yeah, exactly. Well, they show Korean movies with English subtitles also, but I don’t have that much interest in Korean cinema to be frank. But the problem, what I think, is let’s say your Korean, the Korean-American community is only so big, so in order to appeal to the Korean-American movie with their four screens, it’s usually one or two Korean movies and two or three of the dumbest movies in English that’s currently available. Like, G.I. Joe, which that movie District 9 was in and out of there in a week and I missed it. G.I. Joe has been playing there for like a month now. Because it’s what translates well, it turns out to be not the kind of movie that I want to watch.
PHAWKER: There’s a lot of that going around in this world, Jessie. I have a big question for you and I think you’re up for it. What is the secret of comedy?
JESSIE THORN: The secret of comedy?
JESSIE THORN: Try to be instead of not funny or boring.
PHAWKER: That’s actually quite Zen in its simplicity and directness.
JESSIE THORN: I hate comedy that’s not funny. It’s the worst kind of comedy. You see that sometimes. People are like, it’s about a big idea or something. Like no, it’s supposed to be funny. I think often comedy about a big idea or satire or something like that could be very funny, but I think the responsibility of comedy is to be funny.
PHAWKER: Just a question about how the business of Public Radio works. Your show has been picked up by PRI, Public Radio International. This started when, in 2006 with the New York public radio station, is that correct?
JESSIE THORN: Well, it sort of, the show started many, many years ago when I was in college, 2000ish. We had a brief run on WNYC in New York. 2006 sounds right, if you pull that from somewhere it’s probably correct, but it was really, I think we did four weeks on WNYC in New York. I edited together a ‘best of’ for them and that’s where it came completely serendipitously because a friend of mine, who was at the time just a guy who had been on my show, happened to friends with the program director at WNYC and say hey I was on this weird show out of Santa Cruz, but I thought it was really great, you should listen to it. So we did a few weeks on WNYC and then few months after that we went from KZSC, the college radio station in Santa Cruz to KUSP, the larger Public Radio station in Santa Cruz and then maybe 6 months after, Public Radio International called and decided to pick up the show. The thing about Public Radio is that most shows that are nationally successful have 1 of the 3 major distributors, distributing them that’s PRI, NPR, or American Public Media. Just because you have one of those distributors doesn’t’ mean stations have to pick you up. Every station makes it own programming decisions, so it’s always just continuous, long slog to convince Public Radio stations that your show is worth it.
PHAWKER: How does this work? You own the show, do you get paid a salary by PRI or do you get paid per station that picks you up?
JESSIE THORN: Essentially PRI and I split a small carriage fee that each stations pays PRI to carry my show.
JESSIE THORN: It’s a pretty modest, I don’t, being on the number of station that I am, which is a couple dozen… I don’t make a living from carriage fees. Some stations like WHYY in Philadelphia, which was a very early…
JESSIE THORN: WHYY picked up my show from the start, right at the start. Right when I said up with PRI they were right on top of it. You know, stations like that pay a little chunk of money and I split it with PRI basically.
PHAWKER: Let’s talk about the Philly show, the Fringe show. What prompted your involvement?
JESSIE THORN: The folks from Philly Imrov Theater, the PHIT, have been talking to me about doing a show in Philadelphia for a long time, and I’ve always wanted to do a show in Philadelphia, because basically WHYY was so supportive of me right at the very beginning and I’ve already been proud to be on the radio in Philadelphia. And also because I’ve never been to Philadelphia, so I’m really excited to one of America’s great cities that I’ve never been to before. The PHIT people said to me, hey what if we did it during the Fringe Festival, there’s a sort of active going out type audience that’s hanging around during that time and we can book it in a theater besides, as I understand the PHIT theater is a very small theater, where they do their normal shows. One of the things about touring as a Public Radio show is that I don’t have a booking agent or anything like that. So really my tours are based upon someone being able to say, hey we’ll pay for your plane ticket or in this case half of your plane tickets and then I can you know I can figure out something else to make some money along the way. But my goal in touring is just basically not to lose a lot of money. I like to keep my losses to a minimum.
PHAWKER: Well I see you have these handsome tour posters that you’re selling to sort of deflate costs.
JESSIE THORN: yeah, exactly. This is my new scheme, we have these beautiful tour posters and I think if we can sell a couple hundred of those for 12 bucks a piece then we’ll make enough money to cover the other half of our planes tickets and stuff. Especially, because it’s impossible to make any money on a show in New York as it turns out. You’d think with it being the largest city in America that you’d be able to sell tickets and then keep some portion of that ticket revenue, but New York’s venues feel otherwise.
PHAWKER: They literally just say, you can come to your show here, but we to keep all of the money?
JESSIE THORN: The comedy theaters in New York, yeah. WNYC is being very helpful in terms of my show there. I’m doing the Sound of Young America Live at their performance venue, and they’re being very good about that. But yeah, comedy theaters in New York, we’re doing the show at the UCP, and we’re very proud to be doing it in such a wonderful theater, but they don’t pay. And you know, the other comedy theaters in New York also generally don’t pay.
PHAWKER: Let’s talk about the Philly show. Did you pick the guests yourself?
JESSIE THORN: Yeah, I’d love to live in a world where someone else booked my guests for me. But yeah, I selected and booked the guests myself.
PHAWKER: If we could just go through the guests real quick, and you could just give a little as to why you chose them. Charles Burns you had him on the blog before, love his work, but you tell me…
JESSIE THORN: One of the things about booking a show in Philadelphia is that when your show draws largely on the entertainment industry Philadelphia’s entertainment industry, is generally not a national entertainment industry, so it’s challenging to book guests in Philadelphia. So, when I found out Charles Burns lives in Philadelphia I was ecstatic, because he’s such a gifted comic’s writer. I actually was trying to figure out what to call him. Is comic’s writer what you call a guy who makes comics? Because cartoonist seems like it the right word, but then you think that the guy writes Marmaduke.
PHAWKER: Comic’s maker? A graphic novelist? I don’t know.
JESSIE THORN: Graphic novelist, I’ll take graphic novelist, so Charles Burns is such a gift graphic novelist and illustrator that it was just really fortuitous that he happened to live in Philadelphia. He’s somebody that I would book on my show any day given the opportunity. I love talking to comic’s creators. I’m not a super comic book dude, but it’s such a remarkable form. The kind of level of auteurism that’s required to write a graphic novel by yourself, I mean it’s sort of this solitary, year’s long pursuit that is absolutely amazing to me. The fact that anyone can bring themselves to do it is amazing to me. I mean, it’s like writing 5 novels at once or something like that and Charles Burns is an exceptional creator, so I’m very excited to have him on the show.
PHAWKER: Interesting aside about him is that, he is an amazing creator of imagery, but by his own admission his penmanship is so atrocious he has his wife actually do all the lettering.
JESSIE THORN: That’s awesome.
PHAWKER: The Spinto Band.
JESSIE THORN: Yeah, The Spinto Band, well you know we were trying to book a music guest and you know Philadelphia has this amazing hip-hop community, but we sort of, based on past experience, we were sitting around, when I say we I mean me and my intern, trying to decide, if we spent the tens of hours that it would take to book say Beanie Sigel, who I love by the way, one of my favorite MCs, on the show, whether Beanie Sigel would take the time to show up. We decided that we had no confidence so we shifted to indie rock guys and it’s one of those things we just try and bring in the leading lights of Indie rock communities in the places where we are, when we’re booking Indie rock people. When we did a show in Portland and we had Blitzen Trapper on, like who would, who exemplifies an area? Obviously, Spinto Band is from Delaware I guess.
JESSIE THORN: Who exemplifies a region, and also who sounds good without a lot of microphones, because we can’t depend on the engineer in a random place we show up in to be able to effectively mic a big electric band with, for both a public address system and recording at the same time. So anybody acoustic is great because an acoustic recording is the same as what goes out to the public address system. There’s no loud drums, so anybody who would sound good in an acoustic context is like double points for us. So that’s how we ended up with The Spinto Band. And it turns out they know about this show and they’re just super nice guys. I’m really excited to have them on.
PHAWKER: Excellent. And Robert Hicks, director of the Mutter Museum.
JESSIE THORN: Yeah, well I mean, if there’s one thing, if there’s one legendarily awesome thing in Philadelphia, it’s probably the birth of America, but if there’s two legendarily awesome things in Philadelphia, it’s probably the birth of America and the Mutter Museum. So, it seemed like, unless we could get Cosby to show up, we would just get somebody from the Mutter Museum to show up. And I’m still wondering, still trying to decide what an interview with the director of the Mutter Museum is, because I kind of want him to show some weird things from the Mutter Museum, but then I remember that it’s a radio show. So, we’ll see what it ends up being, but I talked to him on the phone and he’s just a super interesting, classy guy, as you would expect him to. I’m really looking forward to talking to him.
PHAWKER: One thing you might want to ask him about, is they actually have, you haven’t been there, you haven’t been to Philadelphia?
JESSIE THORN: No, I haven’t been yet.
PHAWKER: They actually have these filing cabinets after filing cabinets of stuff that people swallowed. That’s just like safety pins and nails. You might want to ask about that. That might work on the radio. There’s also this sort of, I think it’s a stillborn Siamese twin fetus, it’s floating in a jar of formaldehyde, I mean it’s very David Lynch-ian, the whole thing is very David Lynch-ian. I know, they’re Philadelphian, well, Philadelphia identified guy.
JESSIE THORN: It’s really amazing. One of the cool things about getting to go somewhere is that there are these places. I mean, I grew up in San Francisco and there’s a place in San Francisco called the Musee Mechanique which is, it’s like an arcade, like a video game arcade, only all of the games are from the turn of the century and so many of them are these kind of mechanized, displays where you put in a quarter, you put in a nickel I think. There’s one where you put in a nickel and it goes through this complicated, it’s a display of a Chinatown opium den, and like the opium addicts smoke opium pipes and it’s crazy. And I feel like the Mutter Museum is the Musee Mechanique of Philadelphia. Like, it’s the secret, amazing place that defines the kind of magic of Philadelphia.
PHAWKER: Well, I have to say for never having put boots on the ground here, I think your first show here you’ve lined a very intriguing and representative crew of guests. Looking forward to it. That’s all the questions I have for now. Anything you want to add, anything you want to say to Philadelphia before we leave?
JESSIE THORN: Well, I should say about Kent Haines, who’s going to be on the show doing some standup comedy.
PHAWKER: Oh, I’m sorry I forgot about him.
JESSIE THORN: Kent, last year won the funniest man in Philadelphia competition and it was really exciting for me because we sponsored with a moderately fly-by-night company that was underwriting our show at the time this comedy talent competition, maybe three or four years ago now and Kent was still a college student at Brown when he entered it, but he entered it solo. It was mostly sketch comedy groups that were entering it and he entered it solo and put together some really amazing work. He ended up losing because his last piece wasn’t as good as his first and second pieces because he was actually making them in the timeline of the competition. He was competing against sketch groups that sort of a vault of sketches that would just run out there. I was lucky enough to meet Kent in Florida, where we had the finale of the contest and I was just really impressed by him and sort of took note that this is a guy to keep an eye on. You know, two years later he won the funniest stand up in Philadelphia contest, and so when we booked a show in Philadelphia it was such a great chance to book him on the show to perform. So I’m really looking forward to seeing him perform standup live, which I’ve never seen. I’ve watched videos of him on the internet and he’s a really funny guy, but it’s great, you know, I’m only 28, so I haven’t gotten to see a lot of careers blossom because of some sort of vague input that I had at the beginning in a way that other people do, they can say, I was there when he was blah, blah, blah. With Kent, I think I can say that, despite the fact that he’s only three years younger than me or something like that, so I’m really excited to have Kent perform on the show.
PHAWKER: Awesome. Jessie thanks for your time I look forward to seeing you when you get to Philadelphia.
JESSIE THORN: Awesome, it was pleasure. Thank you so much.