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Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida Pass “Go”

Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida Pass “Go” (photo)

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McSweeney’s founder and editor Dave Eggers has penned six books (including his acclaimed 2000 memoir “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”), and his wife Vendela Vida is no slouch herself as a founding co-editor of The Believer with three books to her name (such as New York Times Notable Book of the Year “And Now You Can Go”). But even these two distinguished literary voices admit they’d never have guessed that sitting on their couch, taking turns typing while trying to make the other laugh, would ultimately yield a screenplay for the next project from “Revolutionary Road” director Sam Mendes. A tender, character-driven comedy that’s pretty damn hilarious, “Away We Go” stars John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph as Burt and Verona, an expectant couple in their thirties who aren’t sure where to plant roots after Burt’s parents suddenly decide to move to Europe. Taking off on a cross-country road trip, the two reconnect with family members, friends and co-workers in search of that place you hang your hat — or in their case, bonnet. Eggers and Vida called up to yak about Hal Ashby, undramatic couples, that other 2009 movie Eggers co-wrote and a high-speed threequel you probably haven’t seen.

You’ve said that “very little” of the screenplay is truly autobiographical, so I’d love to know which part that is.

VENDELA VIDA: [laughs] We say “very little” in that we have quite an undramatic relationship. We thought it’d be fun to write a couple who also had an undramatic relationship, and went through life seeing things similarly.

DAVE EGGERS: We have children. That’s the only thing we really have in common. We took great pains to say, “Who are these people, and how can we make them as different from us as possible within the realms of realism?” We’re older, we’re sort of settled, our kids’ grandparents live a few minutes away, and so we thought, “What if they were untethered, and had to figure these things out that we luckily figured out when we were a bit younger?” We also made sure that all the characters they meet along the way didn’t seem to be anyone we knew. We had a screening here in San Francisco where there were so many friends and family in the audience that we had to clarify before the movie: “It’s not about you, or you, or you.”

Burt and Verona are certainly undramatic, as you say. They don’t even bicker.

DE: We thought it was important. Romantic comedies often have that period halfway, or two-thirds of the way through, where they break up, they walk around separately, there’s a montage, one of them goes to a bar, and the other one goes to her parents’ or sister’s house. That works in a lot of movies. But we thought, with a baby on the way, we hope they’re serious enough that they’re not trifling with that. What if they just stayed together the whole time? They’re side-by-side the whole time, so the drama and conflict come from an outside place.

Did any specific incidents as expectant parents influence the situations you wrote?

DE: Vendela would come home with these incredible stories anytime she went to mail a letter, or anything. There was always somebody putting hands on her, telling her that it’s going to be twins, or if she ordered a latte, telling her to make sure that it’s decaf. People get really boundary-less. We thought, “Wow, no one’s mentioned that before. We haven’t seen that in a movie, or even in fiction, really.” Pretty soon, we had a lot of different scenes, moments and lines that might tie together in some way. We didn’t sit down one day with a project to write a screenplay. We were surprised when we ended up with something that made sense, and very surprised when Sam Mendes called. One of the more surreal days of our lives.

05272009_AwayWeGo2.jpgSpeaking for one another, how do you fill in each other’s gaps as collaborators?

DE: Vendela’s better at dialogue. I’ve always been jealous of her dialogue, and also at remembering funny things that happen in her life — and surgically, just being able to nail a character with one line. I take a lot longer to get to the point. [laughs] We learned a lot about writing by working in this medium because it has to be more economical. Sam taught us so much, “Well, you don’t really need this line, this one’s implicit, and this one will come across through the performance,” and so we kept being able to pare back. He saved us from our worst impulses, and made it a much more elegant script than what we started with.

VV: Definitely. And Dave’s really good at knowing how to make something not sound [like] the usual terrain. He’s good at saving us a lot of labor writing out a whole scene before realizing it wouldn’t work.



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.


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.