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Mike Judge’s ‘Oh’ Face

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By Michelle Orange

IFC News

At last, Mike Judge and Justin Timberlake will have something to talk about over gluey hors d’oeuvres at the MTV Christmas party. Last month, Sony Pictures sent Timberlake’s first film “Edison Force” straight to DVD, and Judge’s second live-action feature, “Idiocracy,” looked like it was going to face a similar fate after Fox postponed its release indefinitely. Last week, it was reported that “Idiocracy” would indeed be released on September 1, but, in a triumph of studio passive-aggression, with zero marketing and only in seven cities: Austin, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Toronto, Atlanta, and Chicago. Sweet of them to look so fondly upon Judge’s home state of Texas (the film was also shot in Austin, where Judge is based), but somehow I’m guessing the gesture was lost on the writer/director, as the glaring omission of New York means the review coverage is considerably cut down.

“Idiocracy” stars Luke Wilson as a dim-witted soldier who agrees to be frozen in a Pentagon experiment, expecting to be revived a year later. Instead he’s forgotten, and five hundred years pass before he wakes to find himself, in a society dumbed-down to the point of plant food, to be the smartest man alive. The film was shot in 2004 and has become the ultimate tease for Mike Judge fans desperate for a fix: budget problems, production problems, and test-screening problems have ratcheted the bad buzz up so high only your Irish setter can hear it; now this.

Of course, Judge’s relationship with Fox has been an awkward one almost from the start; you and your Irish setter may have a more effective system of communication. Around the time that shooting for “Idiocracy” wrapped, Fox was hedging heavily about the fate of “King of the Hill,” Judge’s animated series for the network, to the point that the entire operation was shut down following its eighth season. Judge told the writers and animators to move on, only to have Fox call them scrambling back for one more season. In June of this year an Esquire profile of Judge stressed the strange and strained relationship he has with Fox, and the confusion he expressed about the fate of “Idiocracy” proved prescient. “I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Judge said, describing the process of finishing the photography two years ago only to get the bait and switch from various executives over special effects and then, a year ago, when the film was finally finished, marketing. “They’re just overthinking it, which is what they always do, It’s just about an average dumb-ass person who winds up in the future. It’s not about ‘What if you could travel through time…‘ It’s just dragged on way too long — a good seven months longer than “Office Space.” I could have made another movie after I locked the picture before this one comes out.”

What makes the decision to turf “Idiocracy” to 125 screens nationwide that much more unbelievable is Judge’s track record with 20th Century Fox; namely, “Office Space.” Released in February 1999 on a decent 1740 screens (to compare, “Little Miss Sunshine” is currently on 1400 screens), theories differ about why the corporate satire tanked so hard, but most come down to Fox’s bungled, barely-there marketing campaign. The film limped to 10 million dollars and faded away, but found an audience on DVD so voracious that in 2005 a trumped-up special edition was released (no Judge commentary) to keep the party going. By 2004 the “Office Space” DVD had made over 40 million dollars, is now acknowledged as a bona fide cult hit and has broken every record in Fox video history. That’s the kind of thing gets a studio’s attention, and, you would think, respect. In an interview this May, Judge had this to say about a sequel:

Fox has been asking about it. I don’t know. I finished this last movie I did, and I’ve got something else that I wrote that’s more like “Office Space,” in that it’s smaller and kind of character driven stuff, but I don’t know. I haven’t been working on a sequel. If I don’t just completely retire, I’d like to do another live action movie, something along the lines of “Office Space” I think. I’m kind of thinking about Christopher Guest’s career. How he, in the 90s, started making these little movies that have an audience, and I’d like to do something like that. Kind of lower budget comedies… “Idiocracy,” I think, is coming out Labor Day weekend. They told me that is the official release date. That was kind of a bigger effects movie and I think I’d like to get back to doing at least one or two more like “Office Space.”

What Judge is saying, and has stated more blatantly elsewhere, is that he is done with studio movies, and in future would rather raise money on his own for low budget features. And who can blame him; to quote Dirk Calloway: With friends like this, who needs friends?

Could “Idiocracy” be as bad as Fox clearly thinks it is? Test screening reviews have been mixed, but the general wisdom is that Mike Judge fans will go see Mike Judge movies. Following the quiet opening last Friday, a few reviews have trickled in, including a rave from the LA Times and a pan from Entertainment Weekly. In between are some dogged conspiracy theorists and the expected love letters from Judge die-hards. For most of us it will be a while — Fox has not yet issued a DVD release date — before we can decide whether Fox executives made the right decision or are indeed what the “Idiocracy” director might call “ahead of their time.”

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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