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On the Late Show: Talk Show Hosts in Movies

On the Late Show: Talk Show Hosts in Movies (photo)

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This week, the world of late night television experiences its biggest shakeup in years, as Jimmy Fallon takes the reigns of NBC’s “Late Night” from Conan O’Brien, who, at the start of June, will take over “The Tonight Show” from Jay Leno, who moves on to start his own talk show at 10pm. With talk show hosts on our minds these days, it seemed like a good time to look back and see how they’ve fared on the silver screen.

Qualifications for inclusion were simple: the talk show host in question has to be best known — and most successful — in their show business career as a talk show host. Craig Ferguson, current host of CBS’ “Late Late Show,” carved out a long and successful career as an actor and director of such films as “The Big Tease” before accepting the slot after David Letterman, so he was out. We also disqualified any movie in which the potential subject played him or herself. That meant no entry on Jerry Springer’s turn as “Jerry Springer Farrelly” in “Ringmaster” (Thank God). Of course, even when these men (and one woman) were “acting,” they were often just doing their TV schtick anyway, as cops or stuffed monkey salesmen behaving a lot more like comedians than men of their alleged profession or stature.

Herrrrrre’s the movies. For full effect, say the last sentence like Ed McMahon.

03022009_LenoCollisionCourse.jpgJay Leno
Host of “The Tonight Show” (1992-2009)
Appearing in “Collision Course” (1989)
Directed by Lewis Teague

Jay Leno may be playing Detroit P.D. Detective Tony Costas in the buddy action comedy “Collision Course,” but he looks an awful lot like Los Angeles talk show host Jay Leno. Like the real-life Leno, Costas’ wardrobe is steeped with denim, and a plot involving a stolen prototype for a new sports car called the Starburst (that comes in Orange, Lemon, Cherry, or Strawberry) plays to the automobile milieu that’s a such a key part of his “Tonight Show” persona. Even with all these personal touchstones, Leno still fumbles the role. It doesn’t help that with a physique doughier than a Pillsbury spokesman and a running gait that resembles Barbaro after he broke his leg at the Preakness in 2006, Leno may be the least convincing badass cop of all time. He’s teamed with Pat Morita, a Japanese policeman searching for the same prototype plans, and together they get over their racial hatred while teaching each other the joys of ignoring Miranda rights and murdering suspects in cold blood. It’s too bad Leno and Morita don’t acknowledge the fact that they’re the worst cops ever — some scenes would make great material for a late night monologue. “Now what you want to do when you find a possible murder weapon is to cover it with your own fingerprints while destroying as much of the physical evidence the killer left behind as possible!”

03022009_LettermancABINbOY.jpgDavid Letterman
Host of “Late Night with David Letterman” (1982-1993); “The Late Show with David Letterman” (1993-Present)
Appearing in “Cabin Boy” (1994)
Directed by Adam Resnick

What better way for David Letterman to celebrate his leap from NBC to CBS’s “The Late Show” in 1993 than a bit part in Chris Elliot’s bizarre magnum opus “Cabin Boy”? Written and directed by “Late Night” scribe Adam Resnick, and starring frequent contributor Elliot, Letterman’s appearance ended up being one of the most famous cameos of all time, at least among talk show junkies. Appearing early on as a salty seaside merchant with a healthy disdain for Elliot’s “fancy lad,” he poses the evocative question, “Would you like to buy a monkey?” while holding the stuffed simian aloft. He later immortalized the query during his Oscar hosting gig, which unearthed auditions of Paul Newman and Madonna putting their own unique spin on the line. (Watch for yourself here.) Clearly not ascribing to the “Method” school of acting, Letterman delivers it with his usual ironic bemusement, and aside from the newsboy cap, puts little effort into fitting into the wonderfully strange seafaring mythos of the movie. He’s still just Dave, the wisecracking, non-sequitur loving man-child, wandering on set with a chewed-up cigar in his mouth and a knit monkey in his hand.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.