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Five Actor-Musicians Who Don’t Suck

Five Actor-Musicians Who Don’t Suck (photo)

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“There’s something about the guy that makes me uneasy. He’s not going to say fuck stick in front of the children, is he?”

     –John Ritter as mall manager Bob Chipeska, referring to Billy Bob Thornton’s Santa Willie, in “Bad Santa”

When Billy Bob Thornton recently tripped out in Joaquin Phoenix-rivaling fashion on a Canadian radio interviewer, he inadvertently gave one the worst performances of his acting career — unless we set aside his inability to adapt and play along and judge that bitter character by how incredibly unsettling he was. In that case, it may well rank among his best. Thornton might as well have been wearing his “Bad Santa” costume during the painful exchange, in which he refused to answer or took umbrage to questions, repeatedly took host Jian Ghomeshi to task, swore, and insulted his host country. It’s hard not to imagine there was some John Ritter-like station producer being consoled by a chain-smoking Bernie Mac-like sound engineer in a mixing booth with a pile of orange peels between them, as Thornton dug himself a deeper, more embarrassing hole by the second.

Though he comes off as off his rocker, Thornton did have reason to take objection to Ghomeshi’s line of questioning — Ghomeshi had reportedly been instructed not to discuss Thornton’s film career. You could be argued that Ghomeshi broke the trust between an interviewer and his subject right from the get-go, and without it, any interview is doomed. At least, it wasn’t dull, though it doesn’t seem to have helped Thornton’s musical ambitions either. Referring to Canadians as “mashed potatoes but no gravy” isn’t a good way to sell records or tickets, especially in a country that loves poutine. The remaining Canadian tour dates were canceled after the first post-interview performance of Thornton’s band, The Boxmasters, where the country-rock act was met with a war cry of “Here comes the gravy!” (The official excuse was that members of the band and the crew had come down with the flu.) As for the music itself, despite The Boxmasters’ interesting influences, they’re not nearly as enthralling as their singer. Still, it’s not impossible for an actor-turned-musician to be taken seriously for the latter without having to pretend that no one’s aware of the former. Here are a few whose music is worth checking out.

Ryan Gosling‘s musical endeavors with his friend Zach Shields deserve real attention. What began as a shared fascination with ghosts (and Disneyland’s “Haunted Mansion” ride) and grew into a theatrical project has now morphed into a band, with Dead Man’s Bones being the strange and wonderful result. Shunning professional players and synthetic computer techniques, they sound charmingly amateur, like an early Sebadoh or Silver Jews record if it’d been cut outside in a cemetery. Gosling and Shields play instruments that they’d never picked up before and use a children’s choir liberally throughout. A tour is scheduled and a record should be out sometime in September.

If rumors are true, Gosling is being eyed to portray Kurt Cobain in an upcoming biopic with Scarlett Johansson playing Courtney Love. Johansson already has some real-life experience as a singer. Her album “Anywhere I Lay My Head” received mixed reviews, but her 11-track collection of Tom Waits covers is certainly worth a listen. It has a few standout tracks, as well as some exciting guest singer appearances from David Bowie (!) and Tunde Adebimpe, sprinkles on a cupcake you don’t need but maybe can’t resist. TV on the Radio producer David Sitek keeps most of it interesting, if not as hard-hitting as Waits’ originals.


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.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

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:


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.


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!


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.


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.



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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GIFs via Giphy

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.”


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. 


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.