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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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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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