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DID YOU READ

When Major Leaguers Play Themselves: “Safe at Home!” and “Seinfeld” – The Boyfriend

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By Matt Singer

In honor of the start of the 2008 baseball season, IFC.com has been paying tribute to the national pastime’s long relationship with the movies every day this week by giving you everything you’d ever want to know about the odd little quasi-autobiographical ditties in which baseball players have played themselves. Peanuts and crackerjacks not included.

04042008_safeathome.jpg“Safe at Home!” (1962)
Directed by Walter Doniger
As Themselves: Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle

Game Story: A young baseball fan living in Florida named Hutch (Bryan Russell) boasts to his Little League team that his inattentive father is, in fact, best friends with Yankee greats Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. When his teammates call his bluff, Hutch hitches his way to Fort Lauderdale and sneaks into the Yanks’ spring training complex, where he’s befriended by — who else? — Maris and Mantle, over the objections of coach Bill Turner (“I Love Lucy”‘s William Frawley). Though the Bronx Bombers admire Hutch’s determination, they refuse to return home with him in order to teach him a lesson about the dangers of lying, shortly before they throw all that out the window by inviting Hutch’s Little League team to train with the Yankees back in Fort Lauderdale. And thus did a generation of young baseball fans learn that it’s okay to run away from home, break into private property and harass baseball players.

On-Field Achievements: Maris is best remembered for breaking Babe Ruth’s record for the most home runs in a single season with 61, much to the chagrin of many in baseball, including those who would have preferred that the record belong to Mantle, who was then the most popular Yankee. The record has since been broken twice more, first by Mark McGwire in 1998 (70) and then by Barry Bonds in 2001 (73). Mantle never did top the Babe, but he still holds the career records for the most home runs and RBIs in the World Series.

On-Screen Achievements: Does sheltering a minor who’s run away from his loving family count as an achievement?

Errors Committed: In his attempt to convince Bill Turner not to turn their underage guest over to the authorities, Mantle tells the coach that Hutch reminds him of a bunch of kids “who couldn’t get enough of baseball and used to follow the players around wherever they went,” implying that he and Maris were boyhood chums, a blatant fabrication probably designed to combat reports in the press that the two didn’t get along at the time. Not surprisingly, there’s no mention made of Mantle’s legendary off-field debauchery, though the movie does pause long enough for a few maids at the Yankee hotel to look at a framed picture on the Mick’s nightstand and remark, “That Mr. Mantle sure has a lovely family!”

Discoveries: Based on the brief glimpses we get in “Safe at Home” — since the movie takes place during the spring, there’s lots of conditioning drills and not a lot of competitive play — Mickey Mantle may have had the prettiest swing in baseball history.

Substitutions: The rivalry between Maris and Mantle during the 1961 season and the fight to claim Babe Ruth’s record was captured, with a good deal of eloquence, by Billy Crystal’s telefilm “61*” (the asterisk represents the one that was allegedly going to be placed after Maris’ record by Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick because he accomplished the feat in eight more games than Ruth). Mantle was played by Thomas Jane, Maris by Barry Pepper.

Final Score: Baseball fans would expect Maris to be a poor actor — he was quiet by nature and never particularly good with the press — and he doesn’t disappoint. But it’s a bit surprising to see that the famously magnetic Mantle perform about as badly. Sure, he’s got that great smile, but his line readings are delivered just as blandly as his less photogenic co-star.

04042008_seinfeldtheboyfriend.jpgExtra Innings: “Seinfeld”: The Boyfriend (1992)
Directed by Tom Cherones
As Himself: Keith Hernandez

Game Story: Jerry meets former New York Met first baseman Keith Hernandez in a health club locker room and the two become friends, much to the chagrin of Kramer and Newman, who claim that Hernandez spit on them after a particularly painful loss. Jerry and Keith’s relationship is tested when Keith becomes interested in Elaine, while George is busy trying to extend his unemployment benefits by claiming that he’s close for a job as a latex salesman at an imaginary company named “Vandelay Industries.”

On-Field Achievements: Hernandez was a member of the 1986 Mets team that defeated the Red Sox for the franchise’s second (and, thus far, last) world championship. As Jerry and George repeatedly mention, he played in the legendary “Game Six,” where the Buckner Ball helped propel the Mets to the title. Though his bat was always strong, Mex’s reputation wrests on the quality of his defense at first base, where he won eleven consecutive Gold Glove awards. From my subjective perspective, he had one of the best gloves of any first baseman and unquestionably, the single finest mustache of the 1980s.

On-Screen Achievements: Hernandez isn’t a natural thespian — the former first baseman has recounted how “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David had to provide him with line readings for his immortal line “I’m Keith Hernandez!”. But he’s better than a lot of the other guys we’ve looked at this week, and he fits into the “Seinfeld” ensemble pretty nicely. He makes out with Julia Louis-Dreyfus (the action that prompts the aforementioned declaration) and takes part in the show’s classic spoof of “JFK”‘s “Magic Bullet Theory.”

Errors Committed: Kramer and Newman explain that the infamous spitting incident took place on June 14th, 1987 after a home game against the Phillies. In fact, the Mets were in Pittsburgh on that date, where they beat the Pirates by the score of 7-3.

Discoveries: Roger McDowell — the real expectorant in Kramer and Newman’s story — has five-tool saliva glands.

Substitutions: Sadly, there is no “Keith Hernandez Story” to speak of, and the 1986 Amazin’ Mets haven’t gotten their own movie yet, either. We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed for that one — but hey, ya gotta believe. The Hernandez casting would be crucial to any such endeavor — that would be some big facial hair to fill.

Final Score: Hernandez’s mustachular contributions help make the two-part “Boyfriend” saga one of the finest episodes in “Seinfeld” history.

[Photos: Poster for “Safe at Home!”, Columbia Pictures, 1962; “Seinfeld” – The Boyfriend, Castle Rock Entertainment, 1992]

Part 1: Babe Ruth in “Headin’ Home”
Part 2: Joe DiMaggio in “Manhattan Merry-Go-Round”
Part 3: Lou Gehrig in “Rawhide”
Part 4: Jackie Robinson in “The Jackie Robinson Story”

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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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