This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.


Toback on “Tyson”

Toback on “Tyson” (photo)

Posted by on

The old chestnut is that opposites attract, which might explain how maverick filmmaker James Toback (“Fingers,” “Two Girls and a Guy”) became such good buddies with Mike Tyson in 1985, long before the boxing legend had his face tattooed or threatened to eat anyone’s children. Toback even went so far as to give Iron Mike cameo roles in two of his films, “Black and White” and “When Will I Be Loved,” setting the stage for Toback’s ultimate cinematic gift to his friend: an eponymous documentary. More first-person confessional than standard doc portrait, “Tyson” does feature ring footage and other archival memories, but it mostly focuses on the champ, here and now, poignantly chronicling his own life to the camera. Recalling his troubled youth, his meteoric rise to the championship, his relationship with beloved mentor and coach Cus D’Amato, and even the ugly stuff (including his tumultuous marriage to Robin Givens, his three-year prison sentence for rape and the notorious ear-biting incident), Tyson proves an entertaining and brutally candid storyteller. Speaking by phone, Toback and I knocked around about Kid Dynamite, being an outsider, LSD madness and why he’s not at all bothered by people calling his new film one-sided.

I’m less interested in how you and Tyson first met, so much as how you two became friends.

The first night we met, we had a terrific, long conversation. He’d come by the set of [1987’s] “The Pick-up Artist,” which I was shooting at the Museum of Natural History. We went, at five in the morning, for a two-hour walk in Central Park. He was 19 years old and about to become Heavyweight Champion. We got into my experience at Jim Brown’s house in the Hollywood Hills, and we just had a bracing conversation. I felt, this is a guy I could spend a lot of time with, and I think he had a similar response. There was a feeling that we’ve each got a lot to learn from the other, a back-and-forth, rhythmic connection that you have when you each feel: “I’m in the presence of somebody whose friendship will be valuable.”

So what have you learned from him?

A great deal about the psychology of fighting, about early exposure to violent criminal life, the closeness to death and the acceptance of it at a very early age because of its sociological proximity. He was fascinated with my experience with madness on LSD, which he couldn’t get over. He kept saying, “What do you mean, ‘madness’?” I had a huge dose of LSD and eight days of insanity under it, and he was absolutely riveted by the notion that there was such a thing. Of course, years later, when he goes to solitary confinement in [the] penitentiary, he was lying in a corner one day and said to himself, suddenly, “This is what Toback meant. Now I’m insane.”

04152009_Tyson3.jpgWhat do you two ever disagree about?

It’s quite remarkable. In 24 years of friendship, the only unpleasant moment I had with him was when he was going to hire Don King as a manager. I said to him, “But you yourself have always said that you would never go with Don King because of things you’d heard from other fighters,” including Ali, who he idolized. He got very upset and angry, said he didn’t want to discuss Don King, and I insisted that he was the one who had said it. I was simply quoting him back to himself. He said he wouldn’t talk about it anymore. He was going to do it, and that was it. That’s the only time we had a moment like that.

I imagine he’s not someone to question after putting his foot down.

I never felt any physical fear in his presence. In fact, we were posing for photos a couple weeks ago, and we were facing each other. I looked right into his eyes, and he cracked up. He said, “You could frighten a lot of fighters with that look.” It’s funny in light of the section of the movie where he talks about staring into fighters’ eyes and crippling them with the fear he was feeling before. He seems to have fear as a sort of operative reality. It’s the thing he’s reacting to in himself, and his whole ability to function seems to be a driven reaction to his own fear.

He’s very candid about his trust issues in the film. Why do you think he trusts you?

Well, I’ve never taken anything from him. My interest has been in him, not in what I could get from him. We’ve had a collaborative, even-keel friendship. He talks about “leeches” in the movie — he’s even leeched off people, and he must like it, because he’s had these leech-like relationships. I’d say that I might be the only candidate for a non-leech relationship.

Watch More

WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

Posted by on

Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

Watch More

Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

Watch More

G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

Posted by on

Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

Watch More