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Mary Lynn Rajskub Lets the “Sunshine” In

Mary Lynn Rajskub Lets the “Sunshine” In (photo)

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“24” star Mary Lynn Rajskub (pronounced “rice-cub”) is having an art show next month, which actually isn’t half as surprising as the path that led to her widely recognized dramatic role as tech analyst Chloe O’Brian. Having attended college for fine art painting, Rajskub realized she could make people laugh doing performance art, and so in her early 20s, alongside cutting edge talent like Jack Black, David Cross and Janeane Garofalo, she became a stand-up comedian. From acclaimed programs like “Mr. Show” and “The Larry Sanders Show” to films like “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Punch-Drunk Love,” Rajskub’s career is chock-a-block with memorable characters, even if most first think of her as the hardware expert who helps Kiefer Sutherland fight terrorists. Most recently, Rajskub can be seen in the indie dramedy “Sunshine Cleaning,” in which she plays the lesbian daughter of a woman who has recently died, as discovered by two sisters (Amy Adams and Emily Blunt) who run a crime scene cleaning company. By phone, Rajskub and I spoke about awful jobs, playing guitar, stalkers and the sci-fi movie she and Alan Arkin are destined to make someday.

In the spirit of the film’s titular business, what are some of the most degrading jobs you’ve ever held?

I don’t think I can top cleaning up after the remains of people. I worked in a greenhouse, which I thought would be really quaint: “I’m going to be around plants and flowers.” But it was just cleaning up piles of dirt and moving heavy stuff onto a truck. I worked at a movie theater, which again doesn’t seem like it would be disgusting, but when you have to sweep up and clean the bathrooms, it’s pretty gross. I waited tables at Denny’s, which was kind of exciting for me because it was one of my first jobs. It has a special place in my heart because there was nowhere else to hang out where I’m from. You could be a teen sitting there drinking cups of coffee, and I got to see the inner workings. You have to memorize the codes of all the meals, and put it into the computer. And their guacamole is frozen in a can. I didn’t know what an avocado was. I had never had that until I moved to California. I have a fond memory of making a big vat of ranch dressing with the buttermilk. It’s super depressing, but there’s something weirdly comforting about it, too.

In the film, Emily Blunt’s character befriends you after stalking you. Have you ever had any uncomfortable run-ins with overeager fans, harassing exes, or other undesirables?

03112009_Sunshinecleaning2.jpgI dated a guy who I wasn’t really attracted to, but I thought, “I’m going to go out with him again, just to see. Maybe the attraction will grow.” We went to kiss, and right away, I was like: “I’m not into this.” And he said, “That’s the meanest thing anyone has ever said to me.” He proceeded to write me longer e-mails than I’ve ever written in my life. If you took all the e-mails I wrote in a week and put them together, it would add up to one of the 40 e-mails he wrote me describing how I just don’t know that I’m into him yet, and he’s a really good guy. I’m like, “You’re a great guy, but it’s just not happening.” I don’t even understand how he found so much to say about us. For a while, I was talking to him, and then I was like, “Why are we still talking about this?” He couldn’t stop. He was begging me to call him so we could talk about it. Really weird.

Then last night, I was coming out of this restaurant, and this guy asked me for my autograph. It was [one of] these guys with white cards, which means that they sell them on the Internet. He was like, “You snubbed me at the Walk of Fame.” Kiefer was getting a star on the Walk of Fame, so I guess this guy was there, where I did sign some autographs. I was thinking about that this morning: “You snubbed me.” What are you talking about? You want something from me, I don’t know you, I don’t really know what you want. It’s not like I wouldn’t do it. I just happened to not do it that day. That sucks! I did not snub you! [laughs]

That kind of thing probably happens more often than you’d like. With the success of “24,” how strange is it to be so easily recognized on the street?

It’s totally bizarre. You know, it’s fine, I enjoy it. I’m lucky to be on a show that people like so much. Most of the time, it’s people saying, “I love the show,” which is cool. You feel the attention: “Oh, I’m on this thing, and people watch it,” and that’s nice. But then the day before yesterday, this guy came up to me. I had my baby in the stroller, and I was crossing the street. I was looking at the baby, then suddenly he was right next to me, and his voice was really loud. He was nice, but he was like, “Hey! Are you the girl on ’24’?” I said yes. He said, “You look so much better in real life. I just wanted to tell you that.” What do I say, but thank you? He didn’t have the faintest idea of why that might not be a compliment.

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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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