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SXSW 2009: “Trust Us, This Is All Made Up.”

SXSW 2009: “Trust Us, This Is All Made Up.” (photo)

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How to capture improvised comedy, which is the essence of having to be there, on film? Recorded, performances are always going to feel flat without the high wire act immediacy of watching people pull characters, jokes and storylines out of thin air. The central hour or so of Alex Karpovsky’s documentary “Trust Us, This Is All Made Up” is a straight shot of a show that improv specialists T. J. Jagodowski and David Pasquesi did at the Barrow Street Theatre in New York, where they have a standing monthly gig. Filmed on multiple cameras capturing the goings-on from different angles, it’s essentially concert-style footage that suffers from that sense of remove while remaining a lively enough document of what Jagodowski and Pasquesi are legendary for — long-form improv, done on a stage bare except for three chairs, all of it, as Jagodowski assures before the pair start, invented on the spot. But it’s the context that surrounds the show that makes the film interesting.

Jagodowski and Pasquesi, Second City veterans who’ve been performing together for five years, have found a kind of spirituality in what they do. And what they do is a long way from starting out sketches by asking the audience for suggestions of a pet name and a genre of film. They spend the day walking around the city, taking in the sights, and from that spin out a single show scenario, in this case one about office discontents that spans seven characters. But they imagine their performance as akin to joining a show that’s already in progress, channeling something that’s been there all along, needing, zenlike, only to get out of their own way in order to allow the action to unfurl. It’s not an angle that I’d ever have associated with improv, but once the show starts it doesn’t sound flaky at all. Jagodowski and Pasquesi do seem to have a near-mystical ability to understand what’s on the other’s mind and to take cues before they’re even given, a sense that Karpovsky represents visually by having the off-stage bookends play out in split screen, coming together only during the production. Once everything’s done, and the audience files away, the shots break up again as the two comedians excitedly go over what went on, guessing at character backgrounds, marveling at structure as if they really were just mediums, with no more hand in the action than those watching.

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

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.


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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