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Pee-Wee Herman, father of modern comedy.

Pee-Wee Herman, father of modern comedy. (photo)

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In a way, Conan O’Brien’s unceremonious ejection from NBC was the best thing that has happened to Pee-Wee Herman in a while. With ratings through the roof and the nation watching, Pee-Wee — who’d already been on earlier in the show’s run — returned for the penultimate show, explaining O’Brien’s dilemma with a couple of stuffed toys and the usual grating/endearing laugh. Now, it wasn’t just the confirmed Pee-Wee addicts and Angelenos who knew that Pee-Wee was back, live and on-stage, seeking a new movie.

Because the stage show was delayed while venues were switched, Herman (Paul Reubens) has been doing post-show meetings with people who had to change their tickets to explain and apologize. During one such session, he reminded them that the Pee-Wee movie scripts he’s been sitting on for a while were a big factor behind the show; the surge of attention should remind skeptical executives he’s still a good bet. “They’ve remade everything from the ’80s except me,” he said.

That’d be funnier if it wasn’t basically true. What’s interesting, though, is how in some ways a Pee-Wee movie would be redundant. Because who was it if not Pee-Wee who gave benediction to the current, oft-bemoaned generation of man-kids who — at least until recently — ruled American comedy?

01262010_StepBrothers.jpgIt was Reubens who made the man-kid an acceptable comic figure. Granted, he did it his way: make-up, feyness, an ambivalent sexuality, a conceptual weirdness that somehow went down easy. But when Reubens hung up the red bowtie during the early ’90s, a series of developmentally arrested comedians filled the void, starting with Adam Sandler’s slacker take and continuing into the naughts with Will Ferrell regressing from a fraternity die-hard to immature elf to, finally, bratty kid who won’t leave the house in “Step Brothers,” and frequent Ferrell collaborator Judd Apatow perpetuating male adolescence.

It’s “Step Brothers,” of course, that’s the clearest descendant, with not one but two semi-Pee-Wees wandering around being destructive and screaming loudly without waiting for the secret word. But it’s mostly the pretense that comedy was about recognizable adults — not sloppy guys barely controlling their ids — that Herman killed. When he hit the scene in the ’80s, the comedies in vogue were largely T&A teen sex romps (populated by older actors playing teens), ZAZ spoofs (“Airplane!,” “Naked Gun” et al.), Bill Murray and, uh, “Police Academy.” And in all of these, you had people more or less playing themselves.

01262010_anchorman.jpgHowever, it was Pee-Wee who brought the idea that comedy was less about the lines you were saying and more about the voice and twisted perspective you brought to bear on them to the forefront. From Pee-Wee to Ron Burgundy really isn’t that big a leap: you just change the trappings and frame of reference, and it falls into place. Comedy becomes a product of one persona, hammered upon repeatedly.

So Reubens is wrong in a way: they did remake Pee-Wee Herman, but they took off the make-up, added a beer gut and some club nights and a lot more swearing. It’s a watered down version of Reubens’ already filtered version of the initially confrontational, performance arty traditions he was drawing on. Still, a new Pee-Wee film wouldn’t be unwelcome, especially since Reubens appears spry and small enough to pull it off. We could use our own Monsieur Hulot.

[Photos: “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” Warner Bros., 1985; “Step Brothers,” Columbia Pictures, 2008; “Anchorman,” DreamWorks, 2004.]


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.