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Revenge of the Seth

Revenge of the Seth (photo)

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Seth Rogen was a stand-up comedian by age 12, a screenwriter by age 13. A few years later, he auditioned for a role on a TV series called “Freaks and Geeks.” That audition, available on the show’s DVD box set and on YouTube, is 82 seconds of excruciating awkwardness: Rogen, visibly nervous, doesn’t know where to look or put his jittery hands. Based on the footage, it’s remarkable that Rogen got the part, and more remarkable still that less than a decade later, that uncomfortable teenager would become arguably the biggest comedy star in Hollywood. By now, Rogen has made not looking the part into an entire comedic persona.

On “Freaks and Geeks,” Rogen played Ken Miller who, for most of the show’s 18 episode run, was the least explored central character. He was primarily used as comic relief, and he quickly proved a dependable presence as the quick-witted deliverer of snarky putdowns. His one chance to show off more emotional range came only after the show had already been canceled and relegated to basic cable. In the series’ second-to-last episode, “The Little Things,” Ken learns that his girlfriend Amy was born with ambiguous genitalia and has to figure out what that means about his sexuality and his feelings for her.

Most of the “freak” side of the “Freaks and Geeks” cast didn’t cut their hair during the show’s run; by episode 17, Rogen had a full-on Jewfro and matching set of muttonchops. That, coupled with the character’s inherently apathetic attitude, made him an unconventional candidate for a tortured romantic dilemma. But that very improbability made the drama all the more compelling, and the couple’s eventual reconciliation all the sweeter. Watching Ken grapple with his predicament made us reevaluate our preconceived notions of his character, and his tender reunion with Amy at the episode’s climax stands as one of the series’ sweetest, happiest moments, even as Rogen leavens the melodrama by smacking his head on his lady’s tuba during their triumphant embrace.

With his curly locks, pudgy features and Jewish-Canadian background, Rogen made for an unusual romantic hero on network television, and this incongruity between appearance and action has been at the core of all of Rogen’s major performances since. It isn’t simply that his looks make him an unlikely leading man: it’s that unlikeliness, as a husband, or a cop, or a father, or a porn star, is written right into each and every one of his roles. As a movie star, Rogen’s characters never fit in and are always butting up against imperfection. Even self-improvement leads to further problems. In his latest film, “Funny People,” Rogen’s weight loss means that now he doesn’t even look the part of comedian. “You shouldn’t have lost all that weight, man.” Jonah Hill’s character says to Rogen’s. “There’s nothing funny about a physically fit man. No one wants to watch Lance Armstrong do comedy.”

Judd Apatow, writer and director of “Funny People,” recognized Rogen’s potential back when he was executive producer of “Freaks and Geeks.” He realized the actor’s unique mixture of slob and sweetie made him a perfect onscreen surrogate for his comedic persona. He’d hoped to make him the star of his follow-up series “Undeclared,” but that idea was nixed by the network. Instead, Rogen was again relegated to supporting performer and member of the writing staff. For Apatow’s first feature, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” he stole scenes from star Steve Carell, and his largely improvised “Do you know how I know you’re gay?” run with Paul Rudd became one of the film’s highlights.

Apatow finally got Rogen front and center for his follow-up film, “Knocked Up,” where the actor plays Ben, an unemployed web designer who lives in a stoner paradise with his buddies. Ben doesn’t seem like ideal father material: he spends all day smoking weed and pretending to work on a website devoted to cataloging all the moments in films where the stars appear naked. A one-night-stand with an entertainment journalist (Katherine Heigl) leads to an unwanted pregnancy, which forces Ben into a moment of self-assessment similar to Ken’s dilemma on “Freaks and Geeks.” The question becomes: what sort of man am I? Eventually, Ben eases up on the getting high, finds a real job in IT, reads a couple baby books and learns, like Ken, to stop being stupid (i.e., like a guy) and to grow up.


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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GIFs via Giphy

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.