Kickass News

Hosted by Hollywood producer and political media strategist Ben Mathis, KickAss News is a twice weekly podcast that features the most interesting personalities and thought leaders in politics, entertainment, tech, business, science, and more. Enjoy the podcast? Then please support the show and help keep us on the air by making a donation to our GoFundMe campaign at Another way you can support the show is to subscribe to the podcast and leave us a review on iTunes to help keep us ranking strong on the top podcasts charts. For more information visit Thanks for listening!
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Sep 20, 2018

Sir Richard Branson talks about The Virgin Group philosophy, why he likes to act fast when launching a new business, and how many of his best ideas came from his own desires and frustrations as a consumer.  He gives advice to young entrepreneurs and shares what he’s learned from his mistakes.  He reveals his reasons for selling Virgin America to Alaska Air, and he outlines his vision of the future with Virgin Galactic and his latest venture Virgin Hyperloop One.  Plus he talks about his strange lunch with Donald Trump, his most harrowing adventures, and his habit of chopping off people’s neckties.

Order Sir Richard Branson's new book FINDING MY VIRGINITY on Amazon or download the audio book at Audible.  Keep up with Richard Branson at or on Twitter at @richardbranson.  Today’s episode is sponsored by Heineken and I Love You, But I Hate Your Politics podcast  

Aug 20, 2018

National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner has studied the the world's "blue zones" the 5 areas where people live the longest, and today he shares their secrets. He shares how calorie restriction can lengthen your life, what kind of exercises are best for longevity and mobility, and why loners rarely live to be 100.  He talks about an island in Italy where the men outlive the women, why people with daughters live longer than those with sons, and how modern conveniences are driving the world’s blue zones to extinction.  Then he discusses the science of happiness including why people actually get happier with age, how money really can buy happiness (but only to a point),
and why genetics play a bigger role than you might think.  Plus he reveals the one factor that matters most to your happiness and longevity even more than exercise and healthy eating.

Order Dan Buettner's books The Blue Zones, The Blue Zones SolutionThrive, and The Blue Zones of Happiness on Amazon or Audible.  Visit Dan's website at and follow Dan on Twitter at @BlueZones.  Today's podcast is sponsored by Hidden Truth Podcast and Ladder Life Insurance.

Aug 13, 2018

Topher Grace discusses playing David Duke in Spike Lee's latest film Blackkklansman about Ron Stallworth, the black cop who infiltrated the KKK.  Topher talks about the agony of reading David Duke’s autobiography for the role, why Duke still denies that he was ever fooled by a black man, and how Duke was using phrases like “America First” and “Make America Great Again” long before Trump.  Topher shares how director Spike Lee helped him play the king of all racists, what it was like to screen the film to a 10 minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, and how he hopes releasing the movie on the one year anniversary of the violent protests in Charlottesville may help to spur a dialogue about race and hate in America.  Plus Topher gets a Twitter shout out from the not so "grand wizard" himself.

Spike Lee’s Blackkklansman is now showing in theaters.  Check your local listings for show times or visit  Follow Topher on twitter at @TopherGrace.  Today's podcast is sponsored by Purple Mattress and the Move the Sticks Podcast.

Aug 9, 2018

Jenna Elfman talks about joining the cast of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead, shares her strategy for surviving a zombie apocalypse, and reveals how working on the show got her thinking about her own family's emergency preparedness.  She discusses her first experience with a "walker" on set, how doing her own stunts has made her a bit of a badass in the eyes of her two young sons, and what it was like to interact with The Walking Dead’s diehard fans at Comicon.  Plus Jenna talks about how she and her husband learned that the couple that podcasts together stays together and whether it's time to bring back her other hit TV series Dharma and Greg for the Trump-era.

Season 4 of Fear the Walking Dead returns this Sunday, August, 12 at 9/8C on AMC.  Visit for more information.  Check out Jenna and her husband's podcast Kicking and Screaming on iTunes or Stitcher, and follow Jenna on twitter at @JennaElfman.  Today's podcast is sponsored by Monster Espresso and GooglePlay.

Aug 6, 2018

Journalist Michael Scott Moore went to Somalia to write an article about Somali pirates only be kidnapped and held hostage for 977 days as his mother tried to come up with his ransom.  He discusses his captivity, his one daring escape attempt, and how he didn’t even believe it when he was finally released.  He discusses how pirates use the media to drive up their ransom demands, their shocking naiveté about America, and how the man known as the Somali pirate kingpin didn't even know about US policy against paying for hostages.  He shares how one of his guards rationalized being a muslim and a pirate, why the supposed ideological motives for Somali piracy are b.s., and the strange fate that befell his pirate captors after he left.

Order Michael Scott Moore's book The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast on Amazon or Audible.  Visit his website at and follow him on twitter at @MichaelSctMoore.  Today's podcast is sponsored by Monster Espresso and GooglePlay.

Jul 16, 2018

Former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes talks about how he survived a full 8 years in the White House, his close friendship with President Barack Obama, and what it was like to travel the world representing America.  Ben says the Arab Spring taught him that sometimes hope and change have to take a back seat to pragmatism and the big picture.  He reveals how he secretly worked with the Pope to reopen relations with Cuba, how sleeplessness led to some frayed nerves during the Iran nuclear negotiations, and how wild conspiracy theories around Benghazi continue to follow him even today.  He throws some cold water on Trump’s accusation that President Obama ordered the FBI to investigate him, discusses how he and Obama emotionally processed Trump’s 2016 victory, and talks about the somber mood on President Obama's final foreign trip as he tried to console/encourage other world leaders like Angela Merkel.  Plus the we talk about the Syrian red line, Hillary Clinton’s private server, sanctions against Russia, and Trump’s North Korean photo-op.

Order Ben's book The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House on Amazon or Audible and follow him on twitter at @BRhodes.  Today's podcast is sponsored by GooglePlay and Morning Brew.

Jun 21, 2018

Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Eugene Jarecki drove across the U.S. in Elvis Presley's 1963 Rolls Royce to talk to people about Elvis as a metaphor for the American dream in his new documentary The King.  He traces Elvis’s journey from his birth in a Mississippi town that's barely kept alive by Elvis tourism to the musical melting pot of Memphis, and ultimately to Las Vegas and the "sweaty sequined jumpsuit Elvis" who became more of a corporate brand than a man.  He reveals how he acuired Elvis’s Rolls Royce, and how it became a beacon for people on both sides of the political divide to have a conversation about the promise of America, the sins of the past, and where our country is headed today.  Plus Eugene Jarecki talks about the perils of driving and directing and roadtripping in a 55 year old car.

The King opens in theaters in NYC on 6/22 and in LA on 6/29. For information and showtimes, visit  Today’s podcast was sponsored by Outside the Box podcast, LegalShieldMichelin Premiere Tires, and LightStream.

Jun 14, 2018

Billy Bob Thornton and Mark Duplass talk about Season 2 of Goliath.  Billy reveals why he’s so attracted to outsider roles,
what he found particularly appealing about playing an attorney,
and how the show’s creators David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro (both former attorneys) helped him prepare for the courtroom.  He talks about some of his own favorite movie lawyers, the death of independent film, and how television has come a long way
since his early days on the 90’s sitcom Evening Shade.  Mark Duplass talks about his excitement to play a bad guy on Goliath, what it's like to be one half of the acclaimed filmmaking duo the Duplass Brothers, why it took a while for them to learn to “individuate,” and what it's like to work as an actor on another director's set.  

Season 2 of Goliath is available on Amazon beginning Friday, June 15. For more information, visit and follow Mark Duplass on twitter at @MarkDuplass.  Today’s podcast was sponsored by Legal Shield.

Jun 12, 2018

I love sharing new podcasts, and in this special bonus episode, I want to introduce you to my friend Seth Godin and a great new podcast called Akimbo.  The first episode is about the hype around grand openings, whether it’s a summer blockbuster or a new startup, and in the second episode of Akimbo, Seth Godin delves into status roles in society, how we measure up alongside others, and what we’re willing to do to achieve a higher status role.  Subscribe to Akimbo in Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen, or go to  You can also follow Seth Godin on twitter at @ThisIsSethsBlog or at

Jun 11, 2018

Bob Balaban has been a delightful part of many of the best movies and TV shows of the past 50 years including Moonrise Kingdom, A Mighty Wind, Gosford Park, Capote, and Seinfeld.  This Oscar and Emmy-nominated actor, director, and producer shares how a character actor can have a much longer career than a movie star, why he sometimes enjoys auditioning for a role more than actually getting it, and why he likes to study the famous directors with whom he works from Stephen Spielberg to Wes Anderson.  He recalls his family’s early roots in the golden age of Hollywood, his first break playing Linus in the original production of Your A Good Man Charlie Brown, and how he ended up playing Francois Truffaut’s translator (both on and off screen) in Close Encounters.  Bob Balaban discusses reuniting with his old friend William Hurt for the miniseries Condor, getting to play his first role as a "bad guy" in ages, and what this remake of Three Days of the Condor says about America’s growing paranoia the so-called “deep state.”  Plus we talk about Bob’s career as "six degrees of Warren Littlefield," why strangers still come up to him pitching ideas for television, and how to shoot a film about the richest woman in the world on a shoestring budget.

Condor airs Wednesdays at 10PM ET/PT on ATT Audience Network and Direct TV.  Visit to learn more. Follow Bob on Twitter at @BobBalaban.  Today’s podcast was sponsored by Legal ShieldGrasshopper, and Travel Guard.

Jun 7, 2018

Todd Purdum, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a senior writer at Politico, discusses his own life-long love of the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and why their Broadway shows like South Pacific are so timeless.  He reveals how Oklahoma! revolutionized the Broadway musical and how their shows perfectly tapped into the mood of post-war America.  He talks about how Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein bravely addressed social injustices in their work, and how Hammerstein's politics landed him in hot water at the height of McCarthyism.  He discusses their troubled relationship with Hollywood and why the film version of The Sound of Music has been something of a mixed blessing for the R & H legacy.  Plus Todd Purdum talks about how the troubling themes of spousal abuse and suicide in Carousel play with modern audiences in a new Broadway revival, what Donald Trump could learn from The King and I, and the Dominican nun who served as Rodgers and Hammerstein’s behind-the-scenes collaborator.

Order Todd Purdum's fantastic book Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway Revolution on Amazon or Audible, and look for his regular political articles in Vanity Fair.  Today’s podcast was sponsored by Outside the Box podcast, Michelin Premiere Tires, and Legal Shield.

Jun 4, 2018

Author Max Brooks is well known for his bestselling zombie books like World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide, and he applies the same creative thinking to military strategy as a fellow at the Modern War Institute and The Art of Future Warfare Project.  He reveals how he gets military leaders to think outside the box about complex problems, some of the threats for which he fears the US is least prepared, and why American ingenuity and self-reliance will be crucial to surviving modern disasters like an attack on the power grid.  He discusses how his mother the late Anne Bancroft helped him cope with dyslexia, how Alan Alda taught him to write, and why his dad Mel Brooks is still a bundle of energy (and laughs) at age 91.  Max weighs in on everything from President Trump's North Korea policy to the Russian cyber-attacks, plus he shares what the military can learn from the Star Wars movies, how to survive a zombie apocalypse, and why an Ewok insurgency is not so cute.

Order Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict (co-edited by Max Brooks) on Amazon.  Learn more about Max at and follow him on twitter at @maxbrooksauthor.  Today’s podcast was sponsored by US Markerboard, Michelin Premiere Tires, Simple Contacts, Grasshopperand Legal Shield.

May 31, 2018

CNN'S Jake Tapper discusses his foray into writing fiction with his new political thriller The Hellfire Club, his interest in the politics of the 1950s, and the real-life Washington powerbrokers who make up the supporting cast of his story.  He shares how his years of observing how eager young Congressmen slowly sell their souls inspired the central character of The Hellfire Club, and he illuminates some disturbing parallels between Donald Trump and Joseph McCarthy,
the infamous red-baiting Senator who plays a key role in his novel.  He reveals the real secret society on which his story is based, and warns of the danger when the line between truth and conspiracy theories becomes blurred.  Plus Jake Tapper talks about his brief time in film school, Trump’s weirdly aggressive handshake, and why the U.S. Senate once investigated comic books.

Order Jake Tapper's his book The Hellfire Club on Amazon or Audible.  Watch him weeknights on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper and Sunday mornings on CNN’s State of the Union.  Follow Jake on twitter at @jaketapper.  Today’s podcast was sponsored by Outside the Box podcast, Legal Shield, and Adiamor Jewelry.

May 28, 2018

Journalist/documentary filmmaker Sebastian Junger (Restrepo, The Perfect Storm) talks about the new PBS Memorial Day special Going to War and his experience as an embedded reporter covering the War in Afghanistan. He recalls his first close call with an I.E.D. in the Korengal Valley, the fear and exhilaration of first arriving in the combat zone, and how war taps into something primal in all of us. He discusses his own struggle with PTSD, how sharing war stories helps our soldiers reintegrate to civilian life, and why so many men and women in uniform feel uncomfortable when someone says “thank you for your service.”

Going to War airs Memorial Day, May 28, at 9PM ET/PT on PBS. Visit to learn more. Keep up with Sebastian Junger at and follow him on twitter at @sebastianjunger.  Today’s podcast was sponsored by The Brave podcast, Dollar Shave Club, PolicyGenius, and Lightstream.

May 25, 2018

The Today Show's Al Roker talks about his book Ruthless Tide: The Heroes and Villains of the Johnstown Flood, America’s Astonishing Gilded Age Disaster.  He discusses the elite country club that compromised the structural integrity of the South Fork Dam causing the flood, he reveals some of the famous industrialists who belonged to that club, and how they escaped justice for the Johnstown flood in a notorious trial that ultimately led to important changes in US liability laws.  Plus Al Roker relates the lessons of the 1889 flood to global climate change and America’s modern day infrastructure needs, and on a lighter note, the self-described BBQ aficionado offers a few summer bbq tips for the grillmaster in your family.

Order Al Roker's book Ruthless Tide: The Heroes and Villains of the Johnstown Flood, America’s Astonishing Gilded Age Disaster on Amazon or Audible.  See Al weekday mornings on NBC's The Today Show, visit him at, and follow him on twitter at @alroker.  Today's episode was sponsored by Citizen Watches, Outside the Box podcast, Grasshopper, and Adiamor Jewelry.

May 21, 2018

Ethan Hawke joins me on the podcast for wide ranging conversation
covering art, politics, spirirtuality, the environment, and more.  He describes working with Robin Williams on Dead Poets Society, why he finds the most creative fullfillment in music not acting, and what he calls the "spiritual marriage" between an actor and director.  He opens up about how his admiration for the work of Thomas Murton, and his thoughts on the social responsibility of religious leaders, and his own spiritual journey influenced his performance as a parish pastor in his latest film First Reformed.  Plus Ethan talks about what he calls the velocity of depression, why he’s not afraid to take long breaks from the silver screen, his work with the YMCA to help kids overcome divisiveness, and his upcoming project about our favorite “mad scientist” Nicola Tesla.

See Ethan Hawke in Paul Schrader's brilliant film First Reformed now playing in theaters.  Today's episode was sponsored by Adiamor Jewelry.

May 3, 2018

For six years, journalist Vegas Tenold embedded himself
among the members of three of America's most ideologically extreme white nationalist groups including the KKK, neonazis, and the Traditionalist Workers Party.  He reveals how this self-described Norwegian socialist managed to gain access to some of the worst hate groups in America, and why he says the most dangerous groups aren’t the KKK or neonazis, but a new class of well organized activists seeking to take their hateful ideology mainstream.  He recalls covering the notorious Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville 
and explains why law enforcement was partly to blame for the violence.  He talks about some of the dog whistles that politicians use to signal fidelity with white nationalists, his experience watching the 2016 election returns with the head of the Traditionalist Workers Party, and why he says these groups are ultimately doomed to fail.  Plus the dangers of being a bald white Norwegian at a skinhead rally.

Order Everything You Love Will Burn: Inside the Rebirth of White Nationalism in America on Amazon or Audible and follow Vegas Tenold on twitter at @vegastenold.  Today's episode was sponsored by Everquote, Grasshopper, and Zyppah

Apr 30, 2018

Comedian Paul Rodriguez tells stories from his 40 year career in showbusiness, including his first time on The Tonight Show, why Johnny Carson banned him from the NBC studios, and the "higher power" who intervened on his behalf.  He talks about getting his start as a valet at the Comedy Store and how that led to his being a runner for Richard Pryor, he shares some advice Comedy Store owner Mitzi Shore gave him when he started out, and recalls some wild times from his days living in a comedians dormatory above the Comedy Store.  Plus Paul Rodriguez shares his worst gig ever.

Paul Rodriguez's new standup special The Here & Wow
is available May 1 via Comedy Dynamics Network
The album of The Here and Wow comes out May 4.  For Paul’s upcoming shows, visit his website at
and follow him at @ThePaulRod.  Today's episode was sponsored by Intercom, Citizen Watches, Dollar Shave Club, and Policy Genius.

Apr 26, 2018

Journalists Michael Isikoff and David Corn discuss Russia’s long simmering plan to undermine American democracy, and how the U.S. Intelligence Community failed to see the warning signs in 2016.  They delve into a rogue’s gallery of Russia enablers from Paul Manafort to Carter Paige and analyze why the Trump campaign and Russian cyberattackers seemed to be so suspiciously in sync.  They talk about President Donald Trump’s strange infatuation with Vladimir Putin, why President Obama didn’t do more to stop Russian interference before it was too late, and what was Donald Trump up to in that infamous Moscow hotel room in 2013.

Order Michael Isikoff and David Corn's book Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump on Amazon or Audible.  You can read more by Michael Isikoff on Yahoo News or on twitter at @Isikoff and subscribe to his podcast Skullduggery wherever you listen to podcasts.  You can read David Corn’s articles at and frequently hear his expert political analysis on MSNBC.  Follow David on Twitter at @DavidCornDC.  Today's episode was sponsored by Grasshopper, Untuckit, and Intercom.

Apr 23, 2018

Rerun of 9/5/17 episode w/ guest Bryan Cranston. Actor Bryan Cranston recalls a difficult childhood and the two year road trip that changed his life.  He shares some of his adventures before acting including traveling as a carny, catching shoplifters as security guard, and the time he ended up a suspect in a murder investigation.  He talks about getting a crash course in comedy from Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, landing the role of a lifetime on Breaking Bad, and how he built one of the most iconic characters in the history of television.  Bryan Cranston also gives some advice for aspiring actors, reveals how his life has changed since "Walter White," and why he loves making small talk with old people.

Order Bryan Cranston's bestselling memoir A Life in Parts on Amazon or download the audiobook at  Bryan Cranston stars in Last Flag Flying which opens in theatres November 3.  Follow Bryan on Twitter at @BryanCranston.


Apr 19, 2018

Professor Steven Pinker (Bill Gates' favorite author) discusses the irony that the news media has become measurably more negative at same time as our quality life has dramatically improved.  He outlines how the top 15 objective metrics of human progress indicate that life is getting better not worse, and he says fear of things like globalism and income inequality is greatly exaggerated and largely unfounded.  He calls for the left and the right to stop politicizing science, the embrace of humanism over tribalism, and more critical thinking and less political correctness in our universities.

Order Steven Pinker's book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress on Amazon or Audible.
Keep up with Steven Pinker at or on twitter at @sapinker.  Today's episode was sponsored by Grasshopper, Untuckit, and Adiamor Jewelry.

Apr 16, 2018

Comedian Louie Anderson returns to talk about mining the more poignant moments of his childhood for comedy and some of the comedic expressions he borrowed from his own parents.  He discusses how his mother Ora Zella Anderson inspired his Emmy-winning role on Baskets, he reveals the questions he’d most like to ask his mother if she were still alive, and opens up about learning to forgive his abusive father and also himself.  Plus Louie Anderson on finally learning to eat healthy after 65 years, what he says to fans who fear a skinny Louie won’t be funny anymore, and his curious connection to silent movie star Fatty Arbuckle.

Order Louie Anderson's new book HEY MOM: STORIES FOR MY MOTHER, BUT YOU CAN READ THEM TOO on Amazon or  Watch his new standup special BIG UNDERWEAR on Amazon, Comcast, DIRECTV, AT&T, DISH, iTunes, Charter, Google Play and many other platforms.  Visit for his upcoming standup dates and follow him on Twitter at @LouieAnderson.  Today's episode was sponsored by Policy Genius, Grasshopper, and Adiamor.

Apr 12, 2018

Jennifer Palmieri, communications director of the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign, says she wants to turn the results of the 2016 election into something empowering for future female leaders and advises the next woman who runs for President to write her own playbook not emulate her male predecessors.  She shares her insider’s perspective on the Clinton campaign, gives some insight into the candidate who she says was reluctant to run for President in 2016 and was all too aware of the slings and arrows that would come her way.  She also shares some wisdom from another famous female mentor of hers the late Elizabeth Edwards, she re-examines the role of former FBI director James Comey in the 2016 election, and explains why Hillary Clinton’s email problem was about way more than just emails.  Plus Jennifer Palmieri responds to all those armchair strategists who asked “where was THAT Hillary?” after her concession speech, she suggests that candidates for office should cry more and nod less, and she casts the Batman version of the 2016 election.

Order Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World on Amazon or download the audio version at  Follow Jennifer Palmieri on twitter at @jmpalmieri.  Today's episode was sponsored by Grasshopper and AppRiver.

Apr 9, 2018

Director Barry Levinson explores the Penn State sexual abuse scandal that ended Coach Joe Paterno’s career in his new film PATERNO on HBO.  He explains why he wanted to present the straight facts of the case without actually taking sides, talks the about the student riots that broke out when Penn State fired Paterno, and reveals what the film has to say about Americans’ views on issues of loyalty, tribalism, and the truth.  Barry Levinson also recalls his early days teaming up with another "coach" Craig T. Nelson to form a nightclub comedy duo, writing sketches for THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, directing his first movie at the urging of his mentor Mel Brooks, and he shares behind-the-scenes stories from some of his classic films including DINER, TIN MEN, RAIN MAN, AVALON, and more.  Plus Barry Levinson talks about why Hollywood doesn’t make films about human beings anymore, whether he’d like to make a sequel to WAG THE DOG for the age of "fake news," and how an infamous drug kingpin got him into his first acting class.

PATERNO is available now on HBO GO, HBO NOW and HBO ON DEMAND.  Today's episode was sponsored by AppRiver, Adiamor Jewelry, and Grasshopper.

Apr 5, 2018

Actor Ed Helms (THE OFFICE, THE HANGOVER) talks about playing Ted Kennedy's best friend in CHAPPAQUIDDICK, why the Chappaquiddick incident is an often forgotten chapter in America’s modern political history, and how making the film led him to reassess his own ideas about "Camelot."  He also reveals how the Kennedy damage control team used the moon landing to distract from the scandal, ponders Chappaquidick’s place in Ted Kennedy’s larger legacy, and wonders how the scandal might have played out differently in the age of 24 hour news and social media.  Ed Helms talks about working with fellow comic Jim Gaffigan on the film,
mining the Kennedy story for moments of dark comedy, and mastering the notoriously tricky Massachusetts accent.  He also discusses his own politics, gleefully recalls exposing hypocrites and bad guys as a correspondent on The Daily Show, remembers his start in entertainment as a cocky sarcastic voiceover guy, and explains why he says it's good to be "a fool at life."

CHAPPAQUIDDICK opens in theatres tomorrow Friday April 6.  Follow Ed Helms on Twitter at @edhelms, check out his website for bluegrass lovers at and visit his own bluegrass band the Lonesome Trio at  Today's episode was sponsored by AppRiver, Adiamor Jewelry, and Grasshopper.

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