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Christopher Guest’s new mockumentary will divide America.

Christopher Guest’s new mockumentary will divide America. (photo)

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I felt bad for ignoring the Golden Globes once I found out the U.S. Census Bureau ran a commercial featuring the all-star likes of Bob Balaban and Ed Begley Jr., the first part of their effort to try and make sure people will fill out those damn forms. The puzzling commercial, it seems, is the opening salvo of a five-commercial campaign directed by Christopher Guest. This does not please me.

In writing this up, The Los Angeles Times‘ Dan Neil raises a number of cogent points. The main problem, as he points out, is that the spot in general does nothing to reach out to those reluctant to fill out the form in the first place: the illegal immigrants, the impoverished, the preternaturally suspicious. Per Jeff Tarakajian – the executive VP of the advertising agency in charge of the campaign — this leg of the census advertising blitz is to reach the 84% of Americans inclined to fill out the forms but who get lazy about it. “You’ve got to start with the base,” he says. Specialized campaigns in 27 languages, a NASCAR sponsorship et al., will follow.

However, I have a whole other problem with the campaign: I don’t think Christopher Guest is funny. Okay, so the Stonehenge bit in “This Is Spinal Tap” is a total winner, but “Best In Show” and “For Your Consideration” are two of the more excruciatingly non-hilarious comedies I’ve ever grinded my teeth through. And I know what you’re going to say: “Dude, you’ve never seen ‘Waiting For Guffman’? What the hell?” And I will someday, I swear — but even if it is, as I’ve been promised, his one true landmark, that wouldn’t change my opinion of his body of work as a whole. Like, I love three Kurosawa movies out of the 16 I’ve seen; that doesn’t mean I really like Kurosawa as a whole.

01222010_foryourconsideration.jpgSo even with Guest’s extended three-minute mockumentary spoof that’s currently on YouTube, I wasn’t chuckling. Nor were many others, given its 2,000 views after 5 days, which is pretty pathetic for a national ad campaign. (They should’ve just had Star Wars Kitteh speak for the Census or something.)

But the ads’ biggest stumbling block is the inherent irony of appealing to the American masses by showing how much Hollywood types are out of touch with Americans in such a way that it’s almost meta. It’s part of the genre of Hollywood spoofery that’s supposed to be inside baseball, but uses such well-established tropes that it’s toothless. Take for the example, the profile of fauxteur Payton Schlewitt (played by Begley Jr.), which throws around knee-slappers like “My favorite films are the films that I made. Probably because each is such an intensely personal statement. Especially the ones that grossed over $100 million.” Even with Guest regulars like Jennifer Coolidge and Michael Hitchcock traipsing around, it’s unlikely to appeal to anyone but angry conservatives whose worldview this seems to fit into nicely.

And don’t worry, they’re on it already: the comments streaming through the Times page largely resemble the sentiments of “AZ Resident,” who posted “Protest illegal aliens in America….do not return your census form, do not answer questions if they come knocking. Every form not turned in negates the form sent in by an illegal alien. I know there’s at least 20 – 25 people in my family who won’t participate.” Now let’s see Guest make a comedy out of that.

[Photos: ad campaign screengrab; “For Your Consideration,” Warner Independent Pictures, 2006.]

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

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.


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…


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.


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).


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.


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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