The Daily Rock Hatch: Jesse Thorn

Categories:  The Daily Rock Hatch

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I first met America’s Radio Sweetheart back in the early aughts. We were in an improv troupe together, along with a dozen or so Santa Cruz students with a wide variety of hygiene habits. Back then he was just a funny guy from San Francisco, though, if I remember correctly, he’d already seen fit to adopt his modest nickname.

In those early years, I watched his talk show The Sound of Young America evolve, co-opted his co-host Jordan Morris for my own radio show (now the co-host of Jordan, Jesse, Go), and generally flexed my authority in as much as the manager for a scrappy college radio station has any authority to flex. Which is to say, none at all.

Even back then it was clear that TSOYA possessed something other shows didn’t—namely Jesse Thorn, a smooth talking an engaging personality with the sort of polish generally lacking from the crap shoot that is college radio, god bless it. Thorn always knew the right people to interview, and he always knew just how to interview them.

Filling in for him one Thursday, Morris and I interviewed David Cross, crashing and burning all the way. Interviewing a comedian takes a very specific sort of skill set—one I’ve yet to fully master, after all these years. Thorn, on the other hand, continues to do it pretty much every week.

The Sound of Young America has continued to live on, outgrowing its college radio roots, and is now syndicated on 25 terrestrial radio stations (via PRI) and XM. Thorn himself is something of a relic of a largely bygone era—a handful of radio show hosts that recall a time when the radio was a vibrant media. As of late, his presence hasn’t gone unnoticed—Thorn has been the subject of write-ups in both Time Magazine and The New York Times.

When Thorn put out a call for “free advertising,” we gladly obliged. Anyone who tunes in regularly to TSOYA know that, on top of his penchant for all things funny, Thorn is also quite the comics fan. Check out what he had to say on the subject, after the jump.

Who are you?

I’m Jesse Thorn.  I usually describe myself as host of the syndicated public radio show The Sound of Young America, but this past weekend at MaxFunCon, my friend Merlin convinced me that I wasn’t a public radio host, but rather a new media entrepreneur.  So I guess I’m actually the proprietor of MaximumFun.org, your home on Internet for things that are awesome.  I blog, host The Sound, do a comedy show called Jordan, Jesse, Go!, and things like that.
You should totally be my Myspace friend because:

I will stimulate you.  (Intellectually).

What are you reading [comic-wise, naturally]?

I regularly re-read Ira Glass and Jessica Abel’s Radio: An Illustrated Guide.  It’s what made me think I could actually manage to make my own radio show, and it still inspires me all the time.  I buy it by the dozen and give it away when people ask me for advice on starting out in audio production.  So simple, so great.

Your favorite comic shop?

I grew up in the Mission in San Francisco, and my local comic shop was called Al’s Comics.  It was a block from my house, on Guerrero Street, and right across from the Boys Club, where I went to play bumper pool and make ceramic bowls.  Al, the proprietor, was a classic comic book store owner, though not fat and extra surly.  He was always good to us kids, but never seemed to be in a good mood.

I read a lot of comics, but Al also saved out Mark Grace cards for me from the baseball cards he (somewhat resentfully) stocked.  He also employed my babysitter, Darius.  I think Darius literally worked for comics.  A couple years ago, 826 Valencia, the literacy charity headed by Dave Eggers, helped Al move to a new location on Market Street when gentrification pushed him out of his old storefront.  I donated some money to the effort, even though I didn’t have much then.

This time next year, I hope to be penning the major motion picture adaptation of which comic:

I’ve been kicking around the idea of a comic based on Jordan, Jesse, Go! with my friend Ian Brill, who works in the comics industry.  We just did a video game of the show, and that worked out so well, it has me pumped to kickstart the comic.  So, first I write that, then the major motion picture.

Assorted Jesse Thorn related comic fun facts:

My favorite Spider-man guy was Erik Larson, even though it was cooler to like Todd MacFarlane.

My favorite comics-related guest on my show was Ariel Schrag, who was a really cool lady.  I loved the comics she wrote in high school. I also really liked Adrian Tomine.  Class act.

My friends Alex and Stefan, who are in the sketch comedy group Elephant Larry, recommended the comic series Concrete to me.  I like it a lot.  It’s not exactly elegantly written, but there’s something really comforting about the art style and the slight over-wordiness.  It feels really lived-in in a great way.

–Brian Heater

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