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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)


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.