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DID YOU READ

IT’S LIKE THAT: Farewell VMA’s

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Feel free to dock me some indie-cred points, but let it be known that I’ve only missed one MTV Video Music Awards show since 1991 (ironically, I missed the 2006 VMA’s because I was busy working for MTV Networks at the time). My excitement for the VMA’s has waned over the years, but nevertheless I always make sure to tune in. I guess it’s the same reason I’ll occasionally eat a bologna sandwich. They’re not necessarily good, but they remind of me good times I had when I was younger.

I was never really interested in the made-for-TV VMA moments. Michael Jackson planting one on Elvis’ daughter? Big deal. Madonna and Britney kissing? Give Missy Elliot a chance to stick her tongue down Madonna’s throat and then we’ll talk.

The moments I cherished the most were the live performances. It was always thrilling when an up-and-coming talent got a chance to perform under the bright lights of the VMA’s. Even though by the time Nirvana played their first VMA’s they were already signed to a major label and sold a bunch of albums, they still gave the impression of being underdogs. You want a VMA memory? How about when Dave Grohl called out Axl Rose on stage–who at the time was the biggest rock star on the planet–that was a moment!

Throughout the years, the VMA’s have supplied me with many great memories. During my four years of college, I had to make sure to get to the Student Union long before anyone else, so I could squat out the cable TV (which was nonexistent in our dorm rooms) just to make sure I could watch the VMA’s. By the end of each telecast, you could always count on the Student Union being filled with a mixed selection of music and pop-culture nerds, each having something different and interesting to say about the show. In graduate school, I was able to lure a handful of friends away from their studies to witness the greatest host performance in VMA history–Chris Rock ripping everyone a new one in 1999.

Over the years, the quality of the VMA’s has diminished. Maybe the downfall began when MTV started taking its focus off of music? Hard to say though, because around the same time, it seemed like there was an awards show for just about everything. Maybe awards-show fatigue had something to do with it?

Whatever the case, I still made an effort to catch the VMA’s every year–even after two consecutive duds held in Miami, one of which featured the worst VMA performance I have ever seen–R. Kelly standing still on a stage full of props, lip-syncing–quite pathetically–to his multi-chapter hit, “Trapped In The Closet.”

After witnessing last night’s 25th rendition of the MTV Video Music Awards, I believe–sadly–my time has come. I couldn’t tell you what did it. Maybe, as they say, it was a slow burn? Maybe I’m just getting too old? Maybe my tastes have become too indie? Too elite?

You can’t eat bologna forever.

You’d think the 25th Anniversary of the Video Music Awards would be a big deal, but it wasn’t. Besides a quick mention of it by Britney Spears in her intro, you’d never know it was the VMA’s Silver Anniversary. For an awards show that once took place in beautiful venues (Radio City Music Hall, The Metropolitan Opera House), it seemed anticlimactic to hold it on a small sound stage outside of a Hollywood lot. I guess the argument could be made that some of the performances benefited from the various outside sets, but the main room looked tiny on TV and didn’t even seem like it would be worthy of holding a reunion show for The Hills, let alone the VMA’s.

Giving the hosting reigns to British comedian, Russell Brand, was a roll of the dice for MTV, a risky maneuver that I actually respected. However, Brand–who is not a household name here in the states–didn’t seem to connect well with the audience or the celebrity talent. At times he would remain on stage with the presenters, which just made for awkward (and not a good awkward) TV. He continually poked fun at the Jonas Brothers and when former American Idol winner Jordan Sparks poked back–“I just wanna say, it’s not bad to wear a promise ring because not every guy and a girl wants to be a slut, OK?”–did Brand summon the spirit of Chris Rock and rip her and the Jonas Brothers a new one? No, he conceded defeat–very fitting for the entire night.

Sadly, the artists I most wanted to see–The Ting Tings, Lupe Fiasco, LL Cool J, Katy Perry–gave brief, half-song performances before and after commercial breaks.

The only praise I can give MTV for their 25th installment of the VMA’s is that they have–seemingly–fully embraced their younger demographic. Miley Cyrus did a bit where she would rather play the video game Rock Band than announce a performance, Kid Rock passed the mic to Lil’ Wayne in the same way Run DMC passed the mic to Kid Rock almost a decade ago, the Jonas Brothers were given an extravagant set-piece to perform on, which sadly only reinforced their G-rated image, and Britney Spears played the role of over-the-hill pop star on the comeback trail by taking home three moonmen (keep in mind she’s only 26).

Farwell VMA’s, it’s been a good ride, but I believe this is my stop.

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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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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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