Getting the joke.

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"We support your war of terror!"
"Borat" (and check out that awesomely hideous new website) has prompted some interesting writing on the nature of Sacha Baron Cohen‘s particularly transgressive form of comedy — all with the somewhat smug caveat of "we know this is brilliant and subversive and laugh at it for the right reasons, but will the rest of America?" Carina Chocano at the LA Times observes:

This, I think, is where the genius and horror of Borat’s explorations really lie: The joke is not on the U.S. or Kazakhstan or even the fake Kazakhstan of Cohen’s imagination. The joke is on petrified, inward-looking nationalism of all stripes. What’s funny is a jingoism so blinkered it can’t see the joke in a fake Kazakh singing the fake Kazakh national anthem to the tune of the American one. (Or the irony, for that matter, in the malaprop: "I support your war of terror!")

But she also writes that "it made me wonder what percentage of Borat’s legions of fans see past the crazy stunts and poop humor and into the heart of Cohen’s trenchant satire. Certainly, the screening I attended was packed mostly with a low-humor crowd that isn’t necessarily representative of his admirers. The median age seemed to fall somewhere between first shave and learner’s permit, and the scene was fittingly rowdy." Chocano’s piece is paired with one from Mark Olsen and John Horn that attempts awkwardly to tie the film to a trend of subversive comedy that, they insist, also includes "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" (a "sly sendup of NASCAR culture"), a thought generous enough to have even the director, Adam McKay, questioning it: "I don’t want to speak for my movies; you could say my movies are just completely silly and dumb, but in the case of ‘Idiocracy’ and ‘Borat,’ without a doubt there is a really subversive and sophisticated assault on American culture." (Conversely, Tim Robey has a piece in the Telegraph on the endurance of the dumb frat-boy movie, and includes in his list of five favorites in the genre "Harold and Kumar," which as we recall was written up as subversive and socially relevant by plenty of critics here.)

Entertainment Weekly offers up their cover story on "Borat" — Josh Rottenberg runs down the controversy surrounding it, including general unhappiness from the government of Kazakhstan and the Anti-Defamation League, with its fears that "the audience may not always be
sophisticated enough to get the joke." There’s also some insight into the development of the film, including the fact that Baron Cohen consulted Trey Parker and Matt Stone, among others, before settling on a form:

Baron Cohen recognized that, for all his debts to past satirists, from Jonathan Swift to Mark Twain and beyond, what sets his work apart is its total demolition of the boundary between the wildly surreal and the all-too-real. South Park, The Onion, and The Daily Show all offer their critiques from a self-consciously wry, above-the-fray perspective. Even Stephen Colbert does his Bill O’Reilly-ish shtick with a twinkle in his eye, and both guests and viewers are in on the gag. Baron Cohen, by contrast, allows his subjects and his audience no comforting recourse to ironic detachment, giving his social commentary a unique gut-punching immediacy. ”You can’t top reality,” says South Park’s Parker. ”We’re basically still just in the business of making cartoons.”

Both Stephen Armstrong at the London Times and Josh Rottenberg at EW have interviews (with loads of overlap) with Baron Cohen, who will apparently only speak to the press via email, in character, leading up to the film. We haven’t seen the film yet ourselves — we are looking forward to it (and the idea that an ostensibly broad comedy was the most interesting and provocative film at Toronto thrilled us to no end), but surely we weren’t the only ones that found "Da Ali G Show" much more fun in theory than in practice? When we tried to actually watch it, we would cringe so hard we’d fall off the couch and hurt ourselves, and someone would have to tell us what happened afterward.

+ Taking stupid seriously (LA Times)
+ Stupid has never looked so smart (LA Times)
+ The mystery of the frat-boy movie (Telegraph)
+ Beyond the Cringe (Entertainment Weekly)
+ A Star Is Borat (Entertainment Weekly)
+ Welcome to my world! (London Times)


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.