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DID YOU READ

The obligatory “Trapped in the Closet” post.

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Staticin'?
We were at a party not long ago where someone was expounding at great length on levels of irony, inspired by something he’d recently read, and how each theoretical higher level reflected some more complex relationship of what was being said to what was in fact the case. He then left his cigarettes on the table, went outside to smoke a joint and never came back. Everyone speculated that he had somehow gotten himself arrested, but no one actually bothered to go outside to find out.

Our point is, we don’t know where "Trapped in the Closet" is sandwiched on that irony layer cake, being a project that was almost certainly created in earnest, appreciated for camp value, continued for camp value, and now appreciated…in earnest? Regardless, we’re enjoying the writers who attempt to engage it as art or as a cultural artifact. Jody Rosen at Slate speculates that "Surely this is the most widely viewed psychedelic chitlin-circuit soap opera in history," and finds metatextual meaning:

Trapped in the Closet is a riot, but it is also, in its way, profound. The real triumph of Kelly’s meta-love-man routine is how it underscores something essential about sex and desire: the comedy and absurdity that so often accompany the desperate lurchings of our loins. This is where Trapped in the Closet (and "Sex Planet" and the "The Zoo" and dozens of other Kelly songs yet to be recorded) shades into autobiography. Kelly will stand trial this September on child pornography charges, stemming from a videotaped encounter in which Kelly allegedly is shown urinating on an underaged paramour. Who can doubt that the outrageous stew of sex, guilt, and violence in Trapped in the Closet reflects its creator’s own outrageous legal troubles? R. Kelly knows as well as anyone that eros can be a farce, and a trap.

Kelefa Sanneh at the New York Times also places "Trapped" in the chitlin’ circuit tradition:

Some “Trapped” fans may think they’re flattering Mr. Kelly by praising his alleged insanity or naïveté, but that’s the kind of praise that can easily sound like condescension, especially when directed (as it often is) at African-American performers. And some IFC viewers might not know that Mr. Kelly is deploying some of the same dramatic devices you can find in the world of urban theater, sometimes affectionately or derisively called the chitlin circuit.” Many of his stock characters (the pastor with a secret, the nosy neighbors, the semireformed ex-con, the stuttering pimp) and melodramatic revelations would be at home in a play by Tyler Perry, Shelly Garrett, Angela Barrow-Dunlap or David E. Talbert.

Alexis Petridis at the Guardian finds the charm in its unlikely "acts of grand folly":

These days, record companies have entire departments dedicated to preventing artists like R Kelly from perpetrating acts of grand folly such as Trapped in the Closet. Whatever you think of the end product, or indeed of Kelly himself – he is due in court on child pornography charges on September 17 – you have to be glad he has circumvented them. The increasingly beige world of rock and pop could use the occasional grand folly, however crass, idiotic, baffling and unintentionally hilarious it may be.

Karina Longworth at Spout offers a more filmic analysis. And back in 2005, Hillary Brown at Flagpole offered the über-literate take on the series, proposing you "Consider the concept of sprezzatura, or artful artlessness, a high Renaissance commitment to at least the illusion of nonchalance."

+ R. Kelly Gets the Joke (Slate)
+ Outrageous Farce From R. Kelly: He’s In on the Joke, Right? (NY Times)
+ How did R Kelly create the world’s strangest soap opera? (Guardian)
+ Trapped in the Closet: It’s Here, But it Could Be Queerer (Spout)
+ Nature Versus Nurture (Flagpole)

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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