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Funny ha-ha?

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"The poor bastard."
The New York Times Magazine‘s Movie Issue is dedicated to comedy, which means it’s for the most part drastically unfunny. We had forgotten how hard it is to write about comedy before the triumph of "Borat"; reading so many writers struggling to elucidate the appeal of that particularly thorny laffer made us wonder if the reason dramas always win the big awards is that no one wants to get stuck explaining the significance of a comedy.

We like John Hodgman‘s "How to Be Funny" piece, in which various comedians explain, ReadyMade-style, how to be funny.

Paul Rudd on being funny and good-looking:

7. Try alcohol to break down those inhibitions and see where that takes you. Who’s better looking, Jerry Lewis or Dean Martin? Got it? O.K., now who was more drunk? Exactly.

Patton Oswalt on "punching up" a script:

The only people who get asked to do punchup are people who have already written some very decent original scripts of their own. The kind of scripts where you racked your brain coming up with an original concept, ground your teeth making sure the characters and their dialogue were alive and funny and, finally, drank a lot of Red Bull to finish the thing on the last night of the eight-week period you had to write it. These scripts then make the rounds of the studios, where studio people read them, roll them into a tube, put the tube in a rocket and then shoot it into the ocean.

Luke Wilson on playing the straight man:

I think I’ve been playing the straight man ever since I first realized I was in over my head academically. Math in particular. And science, come to think of it. Not to overlook foreign languages. Not really knowing what was going on in class — and not really caring to understand or actually taking the time to study — I put a great deal of effort into my expression. Earnest yet vacant. Yearning yet lost. I had one simple goal for the teachers. I wanted them to think: This Wilson kid might not be that bright, but damn it, he’s trying. The poor bastard.

Also in the issue, Alex Witchel talks to Christopher Guest, who we’ve often felt does interviews rarely for a reason. He comes across as a bit supercilious and impatient in print.

Sara Corbett explains the appeal of Anna Faris:

Playing the thimble-brained [Cindy] Campbell [of the "Scary Movie"s], Faris does her share of repellent things, though mostly unwittingly. She obliviously backs her car over a little boy and accidentally gives an old woman a sponge bath with urine. Somehow, though, she adds a touch of wide-eyed virtue to the "Scary Movie" films. She is not a hyped-up female version of Jim Carrey. She doesn’t do a dastardly eyebrow wiggle like Jack Black or engage in a sly form of stupid like Owen Wilson. Faris plays her stupidity softly and without a lick of guile. It is reliably funny. And more important, there is something in it that can make her male counterparts look as if they’re working far too hard for a laugh.

And A.O. Scott wonders at the universality of the sight gag:

A particular kind of cinematic language began to
atrophy when the screen’s silence was broken. It cannot be entirely
coincidental that 1949, the year [critic James] Agee’s tribute to the silent clowns
appeared in Life, was perhaps the last moment when the word “screen”
could refer exclusively and unambiguously to the cinema. Almost
immediately, television commenced its long march through the American
living room, bringing with it new, smaller-screen comedians and new
comic forms — the late-night host’s opening monologue, the sitcom
double take, the satirical sketch, the fake newscast — that refined
Agee’s taxonomy of involuntary amusement. In addition to the titter,
the yowl, the belly laugh and the boffo, connoisseurs of comedy could
contemplate the wry chuckle, the weary groan, the embarrassed guffaw
and, perhaps above all, the smirk.

For a cross-Atlantic view, John Patterson at the Guardian hails the new British comedy invasion (lead by King Sacha Baron Cohen), the success of which he chalks up to the internet.

+ How to Be Funny (NY Times Magazine)
+ The Shape-Shifter (NY Times Magazine)
+ The Ditz Ghetto (NY Times Magazine)
+ Falling-Down Funny (NY Times Magazine)
+ The kingdom of comedy (Guardian)


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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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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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.