DID YOU READ

Truly Outrageous

Truly Outrageous (photo)

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“Outrage,” the new film from Oscar-nominated documentarian and redoubtable muckraker Kirby Dick (“This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” “Twist of Faith”), isn’t an inflammatory exercise in outing politicians, though it certainly isn’t afraid to name names. It hones in on how closeted politicos have tended, perversely, to have the most steadily anti-gay rights voting records, counting on the gay community to keep their secret even as they’ve legislated against it. And as the title promises, “Outrage” is angry, but it’s also undoubtedly sad, an analysis of the psychological effect that years of lying, hiding and fear have had on these very public figures. A week after “Outrage”‘s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, I sat down with the filmmaker to talk about outing as a political act, Ed Koch and his challenge to fellow documentary makers.

One of the most interesting elements of the film is the argument that the mainstream media just doesn’t want to cover this story. Why do you think that is?

In some cases, it’s an issue of access. If a reporter ever asks, “There are a lot of rumors that you’re gay, you’re voting anti-gay, this is an issue of hypocrisy, I just want to ask you…” they might not ever get access to that politician again, and access is their stock in trade. They need that.

Another issue is that, although it is improving, there’s an “ick” factor to writing about gay sexuality in the mainstream press. The gay press is saying, “Look, we want complete parity between the way you treat stories that deal with gay sexuality and straight sexuality, even to the point of scandal,” because it’s like [US Representative] Barney Frank says in the film: If a reporter will write about a scandal surrounding straight sex, but won’t write about a scandal surrounding gay sex, it’s like saying there’s something wrong with gay sex. And that permeates the culture and keeps this homophobia alive.

Your film poses a challenge to itself in that sense — what can a documentary accomplish that a cover story in the Advocate can’t?

I think it can do a lot. That was one of the reasons [for making it]. This film is built on the shoulders of the gay press. It surprised me and surprises a lot of journalists I talk to, why these stories — that are often very well-researched, very well-sourced — are not reported on. We’ve seen that the mainstream press has struggled to keep control of the message. Blogs are changing that some, but I think the documentary comes out from an entirely different direction. People have to write about the documentary, it gets reviewed — it’s entertainment. It’s another avenue in.

05082009_outrage2.jpgObviously the movie is not just about outing people, but there have been journalists who’ve taken the outing of any public figure as a kind of political act. What do you think of that?

Is it a political act or is it a journalistic act? Maybe it’s both. It’s certainly a journalistic act. My film isn’t about outing gay politicians, it’s about reporting on the hypocrisy of closeted politicians voting anti-gay. That’s something that journalists and documentary filmmakers not only have a right to do, they have an obligation to do. There’s no reason that a journalist shouldn’t report on this hypocrisy the way they would report on any other hypocrisy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

It’s more complex when you deal with celebrities. We had a section in our film that looked into that, and it just opened a whole panorama that didn’t get resolved. It diluted the focus. But it’s interesting — if an A-list actor came out, that could be one of the most important things that could happen for the gay rights struggle in this country, more important than if someone like Larry Craig, when he was closeted, had come out and started voting pro-gay. There’s an argument to be made that these people are benefiting financially by putting on a charade of heterosexuality, and that allows the feeling that there’s something wrong with being gay and it keeps the homophobia at play. It isn’t quite the same bright line that was in my film, where I focused on people who had direct influence over other’s lives, so I decided not to go into that. I think that a very interesting film could be made on that.

Because “Outrage” is angled at exposing the hypocrisy of people who are closeted and then vote against gay rights issues, you end up taking on majority Republicans. Why did you choose to include Ed Koch?

I was interested to look at the closet historically. And certainly you can partially trace the anti-gay hysteria to the AIDS crisis. So this is an early step, when you had a closeted politician who was mayor of a city at the center of the epidemic and who had the opportunity to step forward right at the beginning and put funds into the AIDS crisis, and he chose not to. And that had a very serious impact on the whole epidemic.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.