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Romany Malco Wakes Up in “Vegas”

Romany Malco Wakes Up in “Vegas” (photo)

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Somewhere around the late summer of 2005, actor Romany Malco seemingly materialized out of nowhere to find breakout success in both “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and TV’s “Weeds,” and has continued to be a sly comedic force to be reckoned with in such films as “Blades of Glory,” “Baby Mama” and “The Love Guru.” Unlike so many of his Hollywood co-stars therein, Malco didn’t actually springboard out of stand-up or sketch comedy, and even acting came completely by accident (one could say light coercion, but more on that later). No, Malco’s showbiz path began as a young member of the hip-hop foursome the College Boyz, whose radio hit “Victim of the Ghetto” made the Billboard Hot 100 back in the early ’90s. And while we’re on the subject of rap, one of his earliest performances was in the title role of VH1’s 2001 movie “Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story.” Proper!

In writer-director Hue Rhodes’ oddball feature debut “Saint John of Las Vegas” (loosely inspired by Dante’s “Inferno”), Malco co-stars alongside Steve Buscemi, Sarah Silverman, Peter Dinklage, John Cho and Emmanuelle Chriqui as a daunting insurance claims adjuster named Virgil. After recovering gambler John (Buscemi) joins the company to escape his demons in Vegas, Virgil takes him under his wing at their boss’ request. Together, the new partners head to Sin City to investigate a dubious claim, with their wild road trip involving a wheelchair-bound stripper, a perpetually combusting carnival worker, nude cowboys and surreal dream sequences. Malco called me to chat about the pleasures of Vegas, being the king of a male-enhancement empire, and why it’s hard to get girls when you’re MC Hammer.

The world of auto insurance sends Virgil and John on this bizarre journey. What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?

I worked for this company that repossessed cars. Sure enough, the day after I quit, they repossessed my car, but that would probably be my strangest job to date. You have to work your way up to become a hardcore repo man. You work in the office, process all the paperwork and learn all the codes first. You get these requests from the dealers saying what the car is, and you prepare this sheet with the scenario, who is involved, the address of the people, and where the car may be located. Then the drivers go out and can miraculously cut keys for these vehicles, or they get keys from the dealerships. They track the vehicles down, they get shot at, and the whole deal. I’m thinking, “That’s what I’m working my way up to?” [laughs]

01272010_SaintJohnofLasVegas.jpgWhat’s your opinion of Las Vegas: decadent playground or overrated tourist trap?

It’s a giant adult amusement park. You think Vegas, you think gambling. I’m in Vegas a lot, and rarely am I gambling, but rarely am I bored. I go to shows, I hang out in the bungalows, and I eat the best food. I had read that this one chef was frying the head and shell of the shrimp. Not the shrimp, but the shell, so I had that the last time I was there. I do a lot of shopping, relaxing, and a lot of dating in Vegas. That’s what Vegas is about. Also, research. A lot of times I’m doing these characters that you can only find in Vegas. [laughs]

And I guess I do a lot of promotion. For instance, these publicists might represent the people who own, for instance, Palms Hotel. They’re opening up a new line of condominiums and they want to create a promotion around that. They’ll put me and Bruce Willis and Serena Williams on a plane, fly us all out to give us rooms and let us try them out, and then we’ll do the red carpets and tell the people what we thought about it.

In the film, there’s a scene in which you show quite a bit of flesh. Would you ever go fully nude onscreen, perhaps for the sake of a well-timed laugh?

That’s the thing is that I don’t do things for the laugh. I do things for the story. I think the laugh is making fun of the circumstances in a good story. I would totally go “full monty” if it served the story really well. But I’m not just going to drop a towel.

01272010_RomanyMalco7.jpg“The 40 Year Old Virgin” was your big breakout, but let’s not rely on Wikipedia to tell your backstory. How did that Brooklyn-born kid from a West Indian family grow up to become an actor?

I had a grandmother who would always encourage me to learn about theater and film. My grandmother took me to see “The King and I” when I was a kid in Trinidad. My father was a complete homophobe and totally against it. He sincerely thought that anyone in entertainment was bisexual. [laughs] I never really gave it any thought.

Somewhere along the line, a guy named Timothy had gotten shot at a park we used to play at when I was living in Queens. [His friend] Mark who lived on 222nd Street wrote a rap. He was sitting on my friend’s bed, said the rap and I remember these lines: “I heard a shot / I heard a cry / I said Timmy, Timmy, Timmy / Did you have to die?” I don’t know what it was about his rap, but it literally made me hurt so bad that I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to affect people with words in that way. So rap was my destiny. I was seven at the time. After about 13 years, I ended up signing a deal with Virgin Records. I was a one-hit wonder. But I got frustrated with the music industry. I didn’t feel as though I was respecting my peers, and I no longer respected the process. I didn’t know if that was a fault of my own character disorder, or if it was manifesting within the industry itself.


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.