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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.


(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].


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– I think you will find an intriguing campaign in full swing. You can also try, but, I think is what you are after at this moment.

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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.


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…


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.



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 and the IFC app.

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