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DID YOU READ

The doubtful harm of the comedy.

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"And in these films, this is jamming. This is actor jamming."
At Slate, Bryan Curtis writes that "Only someone truly uncharitable could resist the charms of Christopher Guest, the ringleader of an agile troupe of mockumentarians. After watching Guest’s oeuvre, including his latest, For Your Consideration, I am afraid I am that man." We’ve been off Guest for, oh, a decade now, so we’re not ones to argue. Why would we need to when David Poland is there to do it for us? Curtis takes issue with the fact that Guest "rarely chooses satirical targets that present much of a challenge," and that he’s given critical leeway because his films are improvised: "To read his reviews, you would get the idea that improvisation is a funnier—and more authentic—form of comedy than conventional mirth-making." At The Hot Button, Poland responds that

Consensus is not a valueless thing. I am happy to have Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. But taking a critical position based on one’s perceived notion of consensus is insanity. And had Curtis bothered to check RT before getting so upset that Guest was "getting away with it," he would have seen a 53% rating for Guest’s latest film.

If Curtis’ piece were more of a hatchet job that would seem a bit more reasonable, but it’s not, and we’d still agree with him that Guest is a bit of a sacred cow. While on the subject of "For Your Consideration," Susan Wloszczyna at USA Today writes of Catherine O’Hara‘s fearsome end facelift face:

"She did it herself," says director Christopher Guest, who has used the actress in all his improv satires, including Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. "I said to her, ‘You play a character who has a face lift.’ She said, ‘I can’t put anything on my skin. It’s too sensitive. But I can do that look myself.’ She can only do that face for three minutes, it’s so tiring. But she is brilliant."

And a quick update on the "Borat" backlash: Carl DiOrio at the Hollywood Reporter writes about Fox’s current legal troubles, and adds that:

Meanwhile, much has been made of whether British-born Baron Cohen — who came to prominence in this country on HBO’s similar mockumentary series "Da Ali G Show" — will be able to pull off his phony-interview high jinks again in a planned picture for Universal, "Bruno," based on another one of his fictional characters. But film and legal community observers also have been wondering whether Universal will be watching for legal lessons learned in the process of Fox’s defending itself from "Borat"-related litigation.

George Saunders at the New Yorker suggests some "reshoots":

“GANGSTA” SECTION: The scene where Borat says something intentionally offensive to the inner-city black guys—where is that scene? I have been unable to find it. Here I definitely suggest a reshoot. In the attachment, I have provided a list of common racial slurs that Sacha could try out on “the brothers,” just to see what they do to him. My thought is, that seems to be the ethos of the rest of the film—i.e., Sacha saying/doing the most offensive things possible, in order to elicit a reaction—so I sense a little inconsistency here. Thoughts?

Hah. Jeremy Dauber at the Christian Science Monitor has a "modest proposal" (but Swift, he is not) that we use the threat of satire for foreign relations:

Just imagine Condoleezza Rice suggesting across the negotiating table that, in return for certain guarantees of liberal reform, the "Borat" sequel could be arranged to be set in, say, Turkmenistan rather than Azerbaijan. Or the stick: imagine John Bolton sidling over to a member of a certain UN delegation, slipping a screenplay into their hands, and intimating that if particular non-proliferation treaties aren’t entered into, South Park‘s Trey Parker and Matt Stone will set "Team America II" entirely in their capital city.

The Guardian‘s Joe Queenan does not attempt humor or subtlety:

When Borat was first released, blue-state sophisticates in New York and Los Angeles were delirious, overjoyed that Baron Cohen was savaging evangelicals and cowboys and hicks, as if this were either daring or original. Their rationale was that Cohen was merely playing with our heads, forcing us to reassess our convictions. No, he isn’t. Baron Cohen is just another English public school boy who hates Americans. It is fine to hate Americans; it is one of Europe’s oldest traditions. But the men who flew the bombing raids over Berlin and the men who died at Omaha Beach and the women who built the Flying Fortresses and Sherman tanks that helped defeat Hitler are the very same people that Baron Cohen pisses all over in Borat. A lot of folks named Cohen would not even be here making anti-American movies if it were not for the hayseeds he despises.

And at the Toronto Star, Peter Howell writes about the "Borat effect," linking the film to Michael Richards‘ racist nightclub outburst:

As Borat showed us, shock humour now has to be about something, or rather someone. Find someone to pick on, even if they aren’t your own size, and take ’em down with hate — but remember to keep smiling while you’re doing it. Even better, pretend that you’re doing it to demonstrate the hatred that resides within all of us, which is Cohen’s professed justification.

We? Are simultaneously exhausted by reading about the film and fascinated by the discussion — particularly those who would call into question Baron Cohen’s politics, subversiveness or lack thereof.

+ Christopher Guest (Slate)
+ November 27, 2006 (The Hot Button)
+ ‘Consideration’ gets a lift from O’Hara (USA Today)
+ Fox fires back at ‘Borat’ suit (HR)
+ “BORAT”: THE MEMO (New Yorker)
+ For make benefit of world peace (CS Monitor)
+ ‘The honeymoon is over’ (Guardian)
+ Blame it on Borat effect (Toronto Star)

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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.”

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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. 

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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.