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.


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.