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DID YOU READ

Inside the Beastie Boys’ Oscilloscope Laboratories

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Yesterday evening, IFC’s Lunchbox crew paid a visit to the Beastie Boys’ Oscilloscope Studios–or as Adam Yauch later corrected me–the Oscilloscope Laboratories. I’d tell you where it was, but besides signing a confidentiality agreement, myself, along with my fellow IFC crewmembers were blindfolded and driven around in the back trunk of a car. I think we went over a couple bridges, but I couldn’t tell you for sure–if I had to guess, I’d say their secret den is somewhere between Jersey City and upstate New York.

(left: Adam Yauch testing the Oscilloscope’s surveillance system.)

We met up with Adam Yauch (aka MCA, aka Preying Mantis, aka nephew of world renown filmmaker Nathanial Hornblower) to tape an episode of Lunchbox, which will air this Tuesday, April 29 (Noon EST) on IFC.com–the same week that Yauch will be premiering his brand new basketball documentary, Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot, at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.* I should also point out that the film features college hoops phenoms, Michael Beasley and Kevin Love, sure to be top picks in the upcoming NBA draft.

*NYC Fun Fact: For all of those not familiar with New York City, Tribeca is the section of town in lower Manhattan known as the TRIangle BElow CAnal Street.

This was my first trip to the Oscilloscope since 2004, when I attended a listening session for the Beastie’s soon-to-be-released album, To The Five Boroughs. Upon entering the Laboratories, MCA told me to follow him into one of the building’s many offices. He showed me a picture I had drawn of the Beastie Boys years earlier, which was resting on the same wall as Nathanial Hornblower’s Grammy Nomination certificate–what an honor!

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Before I go any further, I guess I should point out that drawing pictures of people I admire is a habit I formed as a youngster, which (for some reason or another) I haven’t been able to break. In the early 80’s I sent one of my first drawings to Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Kent Tekulve (left), and I’ve been doing it ever since. Is this an odd ritual? Perhaps, but what are you gonna do?

You’d expect the O-scope offices to be frantic like a newsroom, considering that Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot is set to premiere in just a few days. It was actually quite the opposite though. The 3-man Oscilloscope team seemed pretty laid back, and the halls of the Laboratory had the silence of an after-hours school building.

For those familiar with Beastie Boys-lore, you should know that their lair (which resembles an old-school newspaper office) has been featured in music videos like “Ch-Check It Out” and “Shazam! The Melee” (featured on Awesome; I Shot That’s Gratis Textiles disc). Presently, the Lab resembles the bedroom of a boy who just got back from a long camping trip, or in this case, the room of a band who just got off a busy touring year. The main lobby of the Oscilloscope is stacked high with road cases, organs, empty adidas boxes, and see-through bongos. Hanging from the ceiling is a monstrous-looking salad bowl contraption–which I’m sure the Beastie Boys peer into from time-to-time practicing their fish-eye lens moves.

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(right: The Beastie Boys making good use of the Oscilloscope digs in their “Ch-Check it Out” video.)

To the naked eye, the Oscilloscope looks more like a really cool thrift shop than a film distribution office/music studio. Every few feet you’re greeted with a neat little knick-knack–a 70’s style miniature basketball hoop, a fake-mustache kit, a dollar-store S.W.A.T. team fun-pak, a Roland SP 303 (resting on the same counter as an espresso machine), and the Beastie Boys’ Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, which casually sits atop their refrigerator with a handful of other statues and figurines.

Moments before our interview started, Mike D–with bicycle in tow–popped out of one of the offices. After exchanging a few pleasantries I asked, “So, what have you been up to lately?”

“Ah, not much, just coming up here, makin’ some music, that’s about it.”

“Oh yeah, what kind of music are you making?” I foolishly inquired.

Mike proceeded to list ten or so different genres of music, leading me to believe that the new Beastie Boys’ album–which he said should be out by next year–will be a Latin-infused, Asian hip-hop, hardcore, world-music album. At the end of his lengthy description, a smile appeared on his face, basically telling me, “C’mon Jim, you know better than to ask what a new Beastie Boys album is going to sound like,”

Minutes later MCA and I sat down for our Lunchbox interview. Continuing with the thrift-store-vibe, MCA informed me that the chairs we were sitting on were “finds” from nearby trash heaps. Considering I survived many years of post-college life on garbage-picked treasures, I felt right at home.

Knowing that MCA is a meticulous worker (and also discovering that he was up until 3AM the night before making last-minute adjustments to the film), I felt compelled to ask, “Is it tough being a perfectionist?”

MCA replied, “I don’t know if I’m a perfectionist. Here’s how I look at it. When you’re given a deadline–you work as hard as you can, trying to make something really good, up until that deadline hits.”

Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this Monday night, April 28 (6PM, BMCC), and will hit theaters on June 28. My little sit-down Oscilloscope-chat with MCA can be seen this Tuesday, April 29 on IFC.com’s Lunchbox. Also, make sure to follow all of the Tribeca Film Festival happenings at IFC.com/tribecafilmfestival

Following our interview at the Oscilloscope Laboratories, MCA asked, “So does this take care of one of your blogs for today?”

I thought about it for a second, and responded, “I guess it does–good idea.”

The IFC Lunchbox crew was then bound-and-gagged, stuck into a trunk of a car, and found ourselves on the bank of the Hudson River a few hours later.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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