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DID YOU READ

TALK: The Presidents of the U.S.A.

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In the 90’s, most bands originating from the Pacific Northwest were known for their somber sound and style. That changed when The Presidents of the United States of America arrived on the scene. Their hilarious songs and music videos proved that Seattle, indeed, had a sense of humor. Following their self-proclaimed “Led Zeppelin years,” the Presidents briefly broke up, although by the time they got back together a few years later, their break up seemed more like an abbreviated hiatus.

(left to right: Newest President, Andrew McKeag, and incumbent, Jason Finn)

Last month, The Presidents of the United States of America released their brand new album, These Are The Good Times People. For anyone who lost track of the power-trio near the end of the alternative 90’s, rest assured that the Presidents are still touring, still putting out albums, and still putting on a fun live show. The only difference now is that Andrew McKeag has filled in for original guitarist, Dave Dederer, and their once roll-polly drummer, Jason Finn, is rolly-polly no more.

Jim Shearer: Because there are some music fans that think you dropped off the map at the end of the 90’s, do you ever get upset when people do not realize that the Presidents of the United States of America have been consistently putting out albums?

Jason Finn: We are more or less at peace. Because we took a long break, we have no one to blame but ourselves. This break was so long that we actually called it a “break-up,” even though in the back of our minds we were not really “broken up.” We were just trying to get a little time off, which turned into, you know, four years off, which was nice. We got really well rested.

But yes, if there is the perception that we were gone for a long time–sure–it is even accurate. Plus, when we were first out there, we were inexplicably just gigantic (laughs). We were like Led Zeppelin or something. Which is not really where we fit comfortably.

Jim: The thing I always liked about The Presidents of the United States of America, you guys were always a fun band.

Jason: Not any more.

Jim: (laughs) Oh no.

Jason: We took the fun out.

Andrew: We are sad now. Very sad.

Jason: Back in the mid 90’s when we were like Led Zeppelin, we were surrounded by, I don’t know, bands that we were being told all the time, were grumpy or grungy or whatever. We were supposed to be some sort of reaction to that.

Andrew: This is before we started wearing black though. So I don’t know. You can see how things have come full circle.

Jim: I was a college student in the 90’s and whenever I meet the youngsters of today I always tell them that the 90’s were a good time for music. Is that just me? Or am I romanticzing that era?

Andrew: Probably both.

Jason: Anyone who doesn’t look back on their college years as a great time for music, did something wrong. I mean it is a great age to listen to tons of music.

Jim: Andrew, you said “both”?

Andrew: Yes, because you are always a sucker for your own nostalgia and you are always going to wind up loving that time. It was a good time, but it wasn’t the best time–that is now.

Jim: Jason, was it a good time?

Jason: What I remember was really fun. There are some hazy spots that I don’t remember as clearly as I would like to, but I think that we are certainly in fun times now musically. Also, I think that it would have been really fun to have MySpace pages back then. Would it not have? I mean, what would Nirvana’s MySpace have looked like? When they were doing their first tour, opening for Dinosaur Jr., they would have been blogging every day, “Oh my God we sold 300 t-shirts at the–“

Jim: How has touring changed for you over the years? This morning you were jogging at the crack of dawn. Were you always doing that?

Jason: No, no. I think if you were to see any sort of picture of me from the mid-90’s you would be able to pretty correctly predict that I had not run anywhere–that day, or that week, or anything. Personally, I run like 30 miles a week, but it’s just to keep from smoking–but yes–we take better care of ourselves.

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(left: Peaches–a blessing or curse?)

Jim: Let’s talk about the blessing and the curse of “Lump” and “Peaches”.

Andrew: All blessing.

Jason: That is a wonderful problem to have. The entire planet knows these two things about you, and you know, we tour around and we will go to some town that has a nice little 1,000-seat place and it will be packed with fans of ours that sort of get it and understand our whole thing. But there is always maybe two-thirds of them that are, like, “Hey ‘Lump’ and ‘Peaches’.”

Andrew: We know if we don’t play one of those it is going to be chanted for the encore.

Jim: Have you ever not played one of those songs?

Jason: Why would you? I mean, that would just be mean and showing off.

Jim: A picture that I always remember is the Presidents of the United States of America in Seattle Super Sonic uniforms.

Jason: Our Led Zeppelin years were the mid-90’s when the Sonics were a powerhouse–we had some good years. In ’96 the Sonics went to the finals and got beat by one of the best teams ever, that Bulls team that lost like six games or something. We were in full swing, touring the world then, and we had our Sonics gear that the team was sending us–fresh Kemp and Payton jerseys all the time.

Andrew: Chris also wrote a theme song for Squatch [Sonics’ mascot].

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Jim: What’s your favorite Sonics uniform? The cartoonish, block-lettered uniforms from the 90’s? Or the classic green jersey with the white arch?

Andrew: White arch.

Jason: I like the classic green uni with the gold-block, college-style lettering, which maybe like a Jack Sikma or a Fred Brown [wore]. I sat next to Fred Brown at a baseball game a couple of years ago and I almost barfed I was so excited. I spent the whole game just going, “Downtown Freddie Brown!”

(left: Jack Sikma in Jason’s all-time favorite Seattle Supersonics uniform)

Jim: Finally, 2008 is an election year, what is on the plate for The Presidents of the United States of America?

Andrew: Touring and more touring and selling records.

Jason: And yes, some of that touring will be probably be Rock the Vote.

Andrew: It seems like we have an obvious tie-in there.

Jason: There you go. I would encourage people to try this URL. I am kind of a techie–PUSA2008.org. I think you will find an intriguing campaign in full swing. You can also try Presidentsrock.com, but PUSA2008.org, I think is what you are after at this moment.

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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.