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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.]

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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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