Greg Mottola’s Best Worst Summer Job

Greg Mottola’s Best Worst Summer Job (photo)

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While going to Columbia University in the late ’80s, writer/director Greg Mottola (“Superbad,” “The Daytrippers”) worked in a Long Island amusement park, the embarrassing experiences from which form the backdrop of his wonderful third feature “Adventureland.” Jesse Eisenberg stars as James, a smart, neurotic college grad whose big plans to trek through Europe are squashed when his family suffers some economic duress (oh, it never ends!) just before the summer of 1987. Instead, the poor kid takes on the humiliation of the aforementioned job from Hell (here transplanted to Pennsylvania), where he runs game booths, avoids roller coaster vomit, tunes out the all-day loops of “Rock Me, Amadeus” on the loudspeakers and falls in love for the first time with arcade girl Kristen Stewart. It’s a bittersweet coming-of-ager made all the more hilarious by a top-notch supporting cast that includes Martin Starr, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig and Ryan Reynolds. I sat down with Mottola in Austin, just after his film’s regional premiere at the SXSW Film Festival, to discuss an even more bizarre summer job he once held, the two best things 1987 had to offer, and how he once blew it with Brian Setzer.

If we can just define “semi-autobiographical” for a moment, how much of this film directly mirrors your real-life encounters at the amusement park where you worked?

Let me put it this way: I didn’t meet anyone as beautiful as Kristen Stewart or Margarita Levieva. But there were girls I was in love with. Everyone is a composite of or direct reference to somebody I’ve known. Martin Starr’s character Joel is based on people I’ve met over the years, the kind of guys who I’ve felt are smarter than me, better read — the people who turned me on to great books, movies or cool music — but who were for some reason just stuck. They’re self-sabotaging, or let their bitterness get the best of them, and they were kind of constipated in life. [laughs]

I have real affection for a lot of those people because they personally gave me things along the way, so I wanted that character to be portrayed with a certain degree of compassion, and Martin’s got a soulfulness that makes him really likable. I knew a rocker dude similar to the Ryan Reynolds character who was someone we laughed at behind his back, but also looked up to at the same time. We had that strict dichotomy, like, this guy’s ridiculous, but we also thought he was cool.

Then there’s the central story of first love, which was very much taken from relationships I’ve had — the learning curve of having naïve fantasies that falling in love was about finding the person who’s perfect for you, and realizing that actually, falling in love is about accepting the person for who they are, because everyone has flaws or baggage. It’s rare you meet someone at the perfect point in their life, especially when you’re young. To me, whatever drama the film has, it’s [James] trying to decide whether to run toward or away from someone who’s complicated [and] in the middle of their own personal tragedy. I wanted to capture that in a way that feels real to people and isn’t just the Hollywood wish fulfillment of boy meets girl, they’re soulmates and everything is perfect, because that doesn’t happen in the real world. [laughs]

04012009_Adventureland_2.jpgIf working at the park and first love didn’t intertwine for you in real life, what would you say was your defining summer?

The next summer, because I was so ashamed having worked a minimum wage job at an amusement park, I thought I had to get out of town and not go home to Long Island. I went to Chicago for a summer. About a week into it, I realized I needed to make money because I don’t come from any. I started to apply for jobs, and realized no one’s going to hire me as a waiter because I’d never done it before, and it was the same thing all over again: I ended up working at an elevator parts factory. I felt like I was in a turn-of-the-century novel. They were moving from the city to the suburbs, so I was categorizing and packing up elevator parts all summer long. But it was my first actual urban living. It was the first time I ever saw The Smiths. I kept reading about this band, before “The Queen is Dead” had come out, and I thought, “I should just check them out.” Literally, the first time I heard the band was live, and I’m kind of an emo nerd, so it totally changed my life.

I love all the music in the film, too. How much of it seemed appropriate for the story and characters, and how much of it was just your own personal nostalgia from that era?

It runs the risk of being indulgent or the audience feeling like: “The filmmaker is making me listen to their record collection.” But it had to be the music I cared about because it didn’t make sense to me to pick someone else’s music. I had rough times in college when I was very lonely and depressed, and I was that guy who got a lot of solace from music. The Replacements saved my life at certain points. [laughs] It was exciting to discover that stuff. I almost feel bad for young people today, maybe because I’m sentimental about how we heard music — it just doesn’t seem the same to me that anyone can say, “I’ll just go to iTunes and download it,” rather than to try to tune in to the college radio station that you can only get in the middle of the night because the signal’s so weak, and hear these bands for the first time.


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.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.