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Bobcat Goldthwait on “Sleeping Dogs Lie”

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By Aaron Hillis

IFC News

[Photo: Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2006]

When you think of Bobcat Goldthwait, chances are what comes to mind is that anxiously pubescent growl he adopted for such ’80s-defining staples as “One Crazy Summer” and the “Police Academy” series, but that voice is a stigma he’d like to overcome. After starring alongside Dabney Coleman and a talking horse in “Hot to Trot,” an experience he says made him feel as powerless as a “cog in the machine,” he retaliated by making his first short film. In 1992, he made the directorial leap to features with his drunken-bozo extravaganza, “Shakes the Clown,” a hilariously irreverent cult classic that even Martin Scorsese has admitted he loves. Goldthwait’s latest effort as writer-director is “Sleeping Dogs Lie” (formerly titled “Stay” when it premiered at Sundance), which could almost be a mainstream rom-com if it weren’t for its premise… When a young woman (Melinda Page Hamilton) is egged on by her fiancé (Bryce Johnson) to reveal her darkest secret, their relationship is forever distorted after he learns that once, out of curiosity in college, she gave her dog a blowjob. More shocking is that the film is hardly a gross-out comedy, but a straight-faced exploration of honesty in relationships. I sat down with Goldthwait before the film’s release, half-expecting to hear that excitable voice, but was instead charmed by his soft-spoken, self-deprecating demeanor.

I thought the original title, “Stay,” had a far more poignant double-meaning.

I loved that title a lot more myself, actually. It was the decision of whomever owns the other “Stay,” the Marc Forster film, that won out. That’s the reality of it. You know, I bummed out a little bit over it, and then I realized that in making the movie, I didn’t really have any restrictions for good or bad. It’s what I had in mind, so if I had to compromise on one thing, at least I can live with that.

The film certainly has a homegrown, do-it-yourself spirit.

Yeah, it was real guerilla. We shot in 16 days and stole… uh, borrowed things from various productions. I always knew if we were going to make it, it was going to be a really tiny budget. Even in the indie world, if you have people giving you millions of dollars to make a movie, you have other people you need to listen to. And making a movie as small as I did, there were no notes. The thing that really exceeded my expectations was Melinda, who is such a great actress. If she wasn’t as strong as I believe she is in this, it would’ve been a whole different movie and really corny.

Everyone will probably focus on the bestiality, but there’s nothing really subversive beyond that. You’ve made a surprisingly sweet dramedy out of something entirely offensive.

Well, thanks. That was the experiment, the overall kind of big cosmic joke for me, if I could make a heartwarming dog-blowjob movie. It does have serious beats in it, and the upbeat ending is still kind of… well, I don’t want to ruin it. I remember when I was writing the [ending], it made me really happy. (laughs)

What ran through your mind when you chose this particular taboo? Like, why not incest?

The reason is because that involves other people. I wanted it to be something she did alone, that was really it. And it’s about a woman because it’s a fact that men are kind of disgusting. If it was a guy, people would go, “yeah, whatever.” You know what I mean?

Especially after the success of “Jackass: Number Two.” Much worse has hit multiplexes.

It’s funny that you bring that movie up, I know all those fellas. Sarah de Sa Rego produced our movie and did the costume design; everybody had nine jobs. But she just came back from traveling all around with those guys, doing the costumes and things on “Jackass 2.” PJ… uh, Johnny Knoxville was like, “Hey, come over here.” He’s just showing me raw footage and you know the horse [semen-drinking] scene? I threw up. If I had a bigger meal in me, there would’ve been vomit in the room. But it was a chunky dry heave, definitely. It was just like, bam! Dude! I didn’t know that that was coming, so I got sucker-punched.

You’ve kept a fairly low profile since “Shakes the Clown.” What were you up to prior to “Sleeping Dogs Lie?”

I was directing [TV’s “Chappelle’s Show” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live”] for a while, that was a lot of fun, and I just wrote this script. It wasn’t like, “Oh, I’m going to write this movie and it’s going to get into Sundance.” About a year later, Sarah read it and said, “This is pretty good, we should make it.” I had no agenda or plan. I made another movie in-between, “Windy City Heat,” that was on Comedy Central and just came out on DVD [last month]. I think all three of my movies have different tones. “Shakes” is kind of like my take on a John Waters comedy, you know what I mean? Even though “Windy City Heat” is part reality, the other part is very improvisational, so it’s my stab at — and I’m not saying I’m as good as these guys — what Christopher Guest does. Then this was my attempt at a grown-up movie, like Woody Allen or Neil LaBute. If I’m lucky enough to keep directing, I don’t have much interest in doing the same kind of movie over and over again. Until any one of them is a success, then I’ll just do nine versions of that one. (laughs)

If it does become a crossover hit, what would you ideally like to work on next?

You mean, would I make “Stayin,” or actually, it’d be “Still Sleepin”? If this does well, it means that we could possibly make another small movie without breaking and entering. If you had me on a graph, I keep making movies for less and less money. The last script I wrote is probably even smaller than this movie. I have the inverted Hollywood career.

The trade-off is creative freedom and not having to use someone else’s material.

That’s the thing, I certainly didn’t do this to be the poster child for indie films or anything. People can say, “Well, you have connections,” but this really does go to show that in 16 days, anyone can make a movie. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, but I hope other people get inspired to go do it, y’know? It’s almost like the equivalent of what the web has become for musicians and people who make shorts. You can actually make a feature for… well, this movie cost less than a mid-life crisis sports car.

Years down the road, what would you like to be known best for?

I would love someday if I was lucky enough to keep making movies and people say, “He was in ‘Police Academy’? What were those movies?” I know that if I drop dead, my obituary photo is going to be me in a police uniform. But I’d be really happy if I was also known as someone who made movies. I don’t really want to act, and I think fortunately, Hollywood has spoken and nobody is hiring me. (laughs) It’s good that those two things are in sync.

I’m getting married this weekend. Do you have any advice of what I shouldn’t say to my bride-to-be, besides that time I blew a dog?

Yeah, I think you should definitely, uh… lie to your spouse. I think that’s important. Don’t push people to tell the truth, it’s just emotional blackmail. I think you should keep all deceptions going. Lying is very important to a healthy relationship. (laughs)

“Sleeping Dogs Lie” opened in limited release October 20th (official site).

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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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GIFs via Giphy

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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