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TALK: My Brightest Diamond

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my_brightest_diamond_2.jpgYou may recognize her as the captain of Sufjan Stevens’ cheerleading squad, but roundoffs, cartwheels, and pom-poms aside, My Brightest Diamond (Shara Worden) is a lo-fi loving, classically trained vocalist who will make Portishead, PJ Harvey, and Bjork fans stand up and cheer. We met up in Union Square (New York City), months before the release of her highly anticipated album A Thousand Shark’s Teeth (Asthmatic Kitty Records) and weeks before her performance at SXSW:

Jim: You grew up singing along to Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey albums. When did you get into the heavier stuff, so to speak, like PJ Harvey and Bjork?
My Brightest Diamond: Probably my third or fourth year in college. I was a hardcore R&B head for a really long time.

J: So who were you listening to back then?
MBD: It was like Sade and Seal. I listened to Tori Amos, Portishead, PJ Harvey, and Jeff Buckley too. Those were the records I would listen to, but didn’t like. I would keep going back to them, because there’s was something about it that was so intriguing to me. Eventually I really fell in love with those artists.

J: Do you still listen to the R&B?
MBD: Yeah, I do. I love me some Cee Lo.

J: When you came to New York you were studying opera, how did you creep into the rock scene?
MBD: I moved to New York because I knew there was such a strong classical scene and I was also really interested in the downtown avant-garde stuff. That combination really drew me into the city. After about two years of studying in New York, I had to draw a line in the sand and make a decision about what life I was going to pursue–I ended up on the rock-n-roll side.

J: How did you meet Sufjan Stevens?
MBD: I met Sufjan six years ago. We were playing a variety show on the Lower East Side, and we had mutual friends that were like, “Hey, you guys should hang out.” The rest is history.

J: Then you became the captain of his cheerleading squad. How did this happen?
MBD: Sufjan hadn’t done a lot of extensive band touring. When Michigan came out he was trying to do some tours and put together a band, so he called up all his friends.

J: Okay, but how did you become a cheerleader?
MBD: (laughs) Every choirgirl has a fantasy of being a cheerleader, but you’re not allowed to be a cheerleader when you’re a choirgirl because it will ruin your voice. It was a secret fantasy of mine.

J: (laughs) Any training involved?
MBD: Yes we did have to do a lot of extensive stretching and yoga exercises every morning–a lot of strength moves, a lot of lifts and jump.

J: You’ve been know to play a wine glass, so including household items, how many instruments do you play?
MBD: I do alright with keyboard and guitar things, bells and kalimbas. Wine glasses are a favorite. You can also play crystal vases and bowls. Glass bowls have pitches, so you can put marbles in them and do various things to get the pitch to come out. You can also bow thin glass. This is limited only by your imagination!

J: When’s your new album, A Thousand Shark’s Teeth, coming out?
MBD: I hope June 17th. I finished it last week.

J: What are you bringing to the table this time around?
MBD: This one is sort of like Tom Waits meets Peter Gabriel meets a dash of Post/Debut Bjork.

J: Instrument-wise, what’s going on? Do you have strings on the album?
MBD: Strings on every track with a full band, groove-oriented drums and bass, some kalimba and gongs–a lot of marimbas, bassoons, clarinets, French horns, and trombones. The orchestration is quite classical, but it’s still like pop tunes for the most part.

J: Switching gears here, what’s the best stage costume you own?
MBD: I have an ice skating outfit. It’s kind of like a circus, tight-rope-walker costume. That’s one of my favorites. I also have a clown outfit that’s pretty sweet.

J: Will you bust these out on tour?
MBD: Oh yes.

J: You’re doing SXSW this year, right?
MBD: I might do a couple of day parties, but there’s one showcase I’m doing with a string quartet. That’ll be fun. It’s at the Presbyterian Church. I’m also playing with my friend Marla Hansen, I’ll be doing some background vocals for her.

J: Sometimes you shorten My Brightest Diamond to MBD. How often does this occur?
MBD: It’s just a matter of laziness or convenience.

J: Has anyone ever seen your band name and mistaken it for a female hip-hop MC?
MBD: I don’t know. That would be super cool if that’s what they thought. I did some myspace researching and there’s a lot of diamond language floating around in the R&B world. They’re all my friends–I got them listed. Lavender Diamond not to be forgotten!



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.


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…


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.


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


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