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In search of America.We spent a decent portion of "Borat" with our hands over our eyes. We also spent a decent portion laughing, so don’t take that the wrong way. "Borat" isn’t really a film for the likes of us; we have a tough time with the comedy of excruciation, and dread at what was going to happen when our hero was invited to a formal Southern dinner (located, the camera pauses to note, on a street called Secession Lane) almost drove us out of the theater.

Borat Sagdiyev, Kazakhstan’s most famous fictional resident, is the greatest creation of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen. It’s entirely due to Baron Cohen’s gifts as an actor and improviser that Borat, who’s a ludicrous and fantastic conception of a foreigner from a non-threatening third world country, comes across as believable. Baron Cohen totally inhabits the role of Borat, right down to lousy cut of his signature smelly grey suit. He’s invented a family, a hometown, an ersatz language and array of over-the-top customs for Borat; after watching the film, Baron Cohen’s insistence on doing all interviews leading up to the theatrical release in character makes total sense. For him to discuss his character in the third person wouldn’t just be inconsistent — it would verge on blasphemous. Borat is real!

And so are the people he meets. The film’s storyline, that Borat and his overweight producer Azamat Bagatov (Ken Davitian) have come to the US to film a documentary for Kazakhstani television, is only an excuse to get the characters on the road and interacting with the citizens of America’s heartland. Borat’s initial encounters with less-than-welcoming New Yorkers are more wince-inducing than funny; it’s not until he begins meeting people too polite to immediately tell him to fuck off that the film swings into gear.

If you’ve seen Borat segments from "Da Ali G Show," you’ll know what you’re in for. "Borat"’s episodes are a little more grand and a lot more reckless, but they still rest on the ability the character has to pull out the vulnerable worst in others. Borat’s unflappable good nature, his blatant prejudices, his maladroitness and his unwavering adoration of all things American trigger something in people, a mix of the conspiratorial and the condescending that leads them to say jaw-dropping things (when asked which weapon would be best suited for killing Jews, a gun store owner advises without missing a beat that a nine millimeter is probably the way to go).

We are a little mystified by those who would call the film subversive. We wish it was; we wish we could read more satirical value into it. But the bounds "Borat" pushes are ones of audience comfort, not social commentary. Yes, there’s inimitable pleasure in watching Baron Cohen, dressed in a gaudy stars-and-stripes shirt and cowboy hat, garnering a roar of support from the crowd at a rodeo by yelling "We support your war of terror!" But otherwise, "Borat" gets its laughs from the ugly ignorance of others — and what’s new about that?

Opens nationwide on November 3rd.

+ "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" (20th Century Fox)


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.