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“Love” Finds Larry Doyle

“Love” Finds Larry Doyle (photo)

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Inspired by writers like Woody Allen and Donald Barthelme, Larry Doyle began his writing career with humor pieces for the New Yorker and then moved into television, where he wrote for “Beavis and Butthead” and “The Simpsons.” He also started scripting film, among them “Looney Tunes: Back in Action” and “Duplex.” Doyle estimates that for every four or five screenplays he writes, one might make it to the screen, and so the rejection of one of those scripts — the story of a nerdball high school senior who blurts out his love for the school’s alpha cheerleader during his valedictory speech, and the aftermath of his outburst — wasn’t that unusual. What was was his decision to turn the script into a novel, 2007’s “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” a crossover publishing hit (attracting high school readers and post-grads alike) that immediately drew Hollywood’s attention, as well as that of director Chris Columbus. In a recent interview, the very funny Mr. Doyle spoke about the classic teen comedy’s circuitous route to the screen, the perils of movie marketing, and why some of us never really leave high school.

“I Love You Beth Cooper” started out as an idea you had for a movie that you wrote up into 100 pages of a script treatment that was rejected for being “execution dependent,” and “not castable.” Then an agent convinced you to turn it into a book and it was almost immediately snapped up as a film as well — why do you think the story had to take that journey to the screen?

Well, they like shiny things. Movie people are all about — and these are all executives and studios — they’re all about not having to have an opinion. And so they tend to not judge things on the material, they judge by other things they can ascribe to it that might be commercial or not commercial. And a book — even an unpublished book — is a property, whereas a movie script, as far as they’re concerned, is nothing.

It’s not even an idea?

Well, if the idea is something that can attract talent, that might get a studio interested. You used to have the big idea that could attract the big actor, but now you have to have the actor saying he’ll be a part of the big idea before it will sell. In other words, you have to do the studio’s job for them. I think that a lot of executives feel that their biggest job is to say no, to look for a reason to say no — it’s like, the only way they’ll make movies is if they’re forced to. They operate primarily from fear. They won’t do an idea because they’re afraid of it and the only things they will do are out of the fear of what will happen if another CEO does it.

After the book came out, it got some very generous reviews, including an “A” in Entertainment Weekly. After that, I got calls from 15 different producers and studios interested in the book. [Fox Atomic had bought it before it was published.] I thought that was almost a perfect example of Hollywood, which is: If you can reduce something to a single letter, they get it. It wasn’t too much information: A.

The book seemed positioned to straddle both young adult and contemporary fiction — do you think the audiences for the book and the movie will differ at all? The marketing for the movie obviously plays the cards it has.

The book has a pretty broad audience; the movie, I think, is being targeted to a younger one. I think adults will enjoy it, but that’s not what Fox is doing. It’s probably a good date movie.

You told a story about Danny DeVito making it known that he didn’t want you on the set of “Duplex,” and said his attitude about writers is the prevailing one — that “once the script is written, it would ideal if the writer could just turn into a large pizza and a six pack.”

Yeah — that didn’t happen on this one. This was, by far, my most pleasant experience. Of the three movies I’ve now done, this was ten times better than either of the other two. You’re still the writer, though, no longer the authority on anything. It’s no longer your vision. You can contribute to it and make suggestions and make arguments when you need to, but you’re not necessarily going to get your way. I think the movie turned out really well, but I definitely wasn’t the final authority.

I loved this quote from you: “I wrote a screenplay that later became associated with a film called ‘Duplex.’ ” That says it all. How close is the screenplay you wrote for “Beth Cooper” to the completed movie?

From the screenplay, it’s pretty darn close. I can’t say that [Columbus] undermined the movie in any way — the problem, of course, in making a movie as opposed to making a book is things come out the way they come out. All of these issues of how an actor is going to say a line or the pacing of a scene — and even in a perfect world, you can do thousands of takes and maybe still not get that thing you want, especially after the first 50 or 60 takes. You can ask Danny DeVito about that. So you end up with the movie that you have. And does it match exactly what I thought of in my head? No, but I don’t know that it could.

It is a sort of classic coming-of-age high school story, and the success of the book is largely in the telling. Do you think the movie achieves the same thing? Or did you agree that it’s an “execution-dependent” story?

What the studios mean by execution-dependent — it doesn’t mean there’s going to be a good movie one way or another. They mean they’re going to make their money back even it’s shitty. Technically, all movies are execution-dependent. What they mean is, if the only way this movie is going to make money is for it to be good, we don’t want to be in that business.

I was thinking more along the lines of a disagreement my friend and I had after seeing Greg Mottola’s “Adventureland” — the lights came up and he said something along the lines of, “Well, big deal, I could have written that. Any of my friends could have written that.” And I don’t think that’s a valid reaction. First of all: But you didn’t. And second: Of course the story is a classic narrative, but it’s all in the execution. It’s the way you sing the song.

Yeah, I would also say that the feeling that you could have written the movie is probably one of the successes of the movie that you don’t realize. What he means by that really is that it captured some aspect of his life. I thought “Adventureland” was a great movie — very poorly marketed.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



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.