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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, 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”



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.