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OMG, It’s Zac Efron!

OMG, It’s Zac Efron! (photo)

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Between his roles in the Broadway musical adaptation “Hairspray,” two seasons on the WB series “Summerland” and the unholy Disney Channel trilogy “High School Musical,” blue-eyed, pert-nosed actor and singer Zac Efron’s become a heartthrob to young girls en masse. Now just 22 years old, he’s begun to diversify in his career pickings, following up this past spring’s studio comedy “17 Again” with the Richard Linklater-directed period indie “Me and Orson Welles.”

Based on Robert Kaplow’s novel, the film stars Efron as Richard Samuels, an ambitious teen actor who weasels his way into a 1937 Broadway production of “Julius Caesar,” directed by a megalomaniacal, temperamental genius: yes, one mister Orson Welles (rivetingly played by Christian McKay). As Richard becomes smitten with a tough-minded production assistant (Claire Danes), he learns that both love and success have their complications, but at least he gets to sing. By phone, Efron spoke with me about him and Orson Welles, the worst part about being in a period piece and the odd pressures of being a tweenybopper idol.

In “Me and Orson Welles,” you ask Claire Danes’ character what it’s like to be a beautiful woman. So, on behalf of your squealing girls everywhere, what’s it like to be so dreamy?

[laughs] What’s it like? I don’t know. It’s not tangible, really. Anything you say here is kind of weird. It’s just the way that it is.

I’m being cheeky, but seriously, you’ve achieved a high level of success at such a young age. At 22, I certainly didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Do you feel like you won’t even be able to process some of these experiences until later?

Yes, most definitely. It’s been a whirlwind couple of years, a very exciting time. I feel like I’m in the height of living, and I’m just absorbing everything. That’s one thing that I’m addicted to at this point, having those achievements and raising the standard. That’s the best part of it all is that it’s growing, and there’s still room to grow.

But I’m sure there are some added pressures that come with fame, like with your appearance. I imagine you’re forced to look absolutely fabulous just to leave the house, while the rest of us can unashamedly run errands in any grubby old thing.

Yeah, there are small things you definitely miss. [laughs] The thing about it is if you comment on it, or talk about the negativity around it, it’s not really comprehensible to anybody. It’s one of the weirdest things to talk about with friends or family or anyone, to be honest.

There are little things you have to forgo. If you walk around in sweatpants and don’t shave or shower, or look a bit sleepy, there’s a high probability that there are going to be rumors out there that you’re on drugs or starting some sort of spiral downhill. So I’ve always tried to look my best, and look clean when I go outside. I think I owe it to everybody to show up well-groomed and put in a little effort. It’s the least I can do.

11252009_zacefron7.jpgThis film seems like a logical first step in transitioning to, for lack of a better term, an adult career. How self-conscious are you in planning out what you would like to do next, or five years from now?

You know, that’s a question I’ve been getting a lot recently. It’s like this is a chess game: “What are your next three moves?” Everybody wants to know, as if I’m looking that far down the line, or have some kind of strategy. But it’s really not the case at all, man. It’s more like surfing. I’m just riding it, not planning anything. I’m trying to follow my heart.

My judgment of what is a good film is developing over time, especially the more I work with great directors. I think the transition will come naturally, and I want it to come that way. I’m not going to calculate five moves to fame. To me, success is not victory. I’m trying not to let it become something that ever influences my decisions. In my mind, I’m not successful.

If you could pick any actor’s career of today or yesteryear, whose would you most like to emulate?

I guess Johnny Depp. Someone told me recently, “You should be like Johnny Depp and do something to change your image, something dark and messed up so people take you seriously.” I don’t think that’s what he did at all. He found a brilliant creative partner and mentor in Tim Burton, collaborated and came up with fantastic characters and great movies. I think that’s where I am right now, searching for that mentor. Not that I could ever try to copy those guys.

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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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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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