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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.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

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

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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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.

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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.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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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 IFC.com and the IFC app.

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