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A Stolen Moment with Jon Hamm

A Stolen Moment with Jon Hamm (photo)

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Having won a Golden Globe for his iconic role on TV’s “Mad Men” as the conflicted ad executive Don Draper, St. Louis-born actor Jon Hamm might seem like he’s most at ease in a sharply pressed suit and with a stiff drink in his hand, but that’s acting, isn’t it? In the new indie murder mystery “Stolen” (formerly called “Stolen Lives”), the square-jawed hunk stars as Tom Adkins, a small-town police chief who hasn’t accepted that his son may be dead, having disappeared some eight years before. When the mummified remains of a murdered child are uncovered, the case speaks to Tom’s troubled soul and soon becomes his quest to find the truth. In a curious twist, the film introduces parallel flashbacks to 50 years earlier, as Matthew Wakefield (Josh Lucas), the father of the boy in the box, seeks his own catharsis. Hamm called me to talk about “Stolen,” what he has in common with Adam Sandler’s “Billy Madison,” and two kinds of comics: both the graphic novels he loves, and the stand-ups he’s friends with.

I’m sure you’ve had a slew of movie offers in the last couple years, so how did you come to take a chance on a little indie with a first-time director?

We shot this film between season one and two of “Mad Men” a little over two years ago. I thought it was an interesting script, and I didn’t have to play somebody in the ’60s, which was a refreshing change of pace. [laughs] You roll the dice on any independent film, whether or not the thing will ever see the light of day. But I sat down with Anders [Anderson, the director] and [cinematographer Andy Steinman] and they seemed to know what they were doing — they weren’t just guys with more enthusiasm than actual intelligence: “Which way do we point the camera?” They seemed to have a firm handle on how to tell that story, so as you said, I took a chance.

03032010_Stolen2.jpgYour character is a broken man, in utter denial about his son. Is it draining to shoot an entire film from that headspace?

It was tough, especially given the rigors of an independent film schedule. You’re cramming a lot of work into a small amount of time because of the money involved — basically, there is none. So you have to sprint the whole way and hope you have the movie when the well runs dry. You don’t want to play this character as just one note, a bummed-out sad guy, but there is that driving obsession. My mother passed away very suddenly when I was young, but she passed away — there was no chance of her ever coming back. When you lose somebody and there’s this question mark hanging, I would imagine it [would] be a life-long obsession. What happened? Obviously, it’s to the detriment of the rest of your life, your relationships and your family.

Have you had any of those “question marks,” perhaps not to that extent, for which you’ve done something seemingly absurd in search of answers?

I can tell you right now that if my dog ever disappeared, if would be a life-long obsession of trying to find out what happened. [laughs] It’s a completely different kind of film, and I can’t believe I’m actually going to quote it, but I will: “Billy Madison,” Adam Sandler’s movie, when he’s talking about how he lost a dog, he’s like, “You gotta get out there and FIND THAT DOG!” You literally need to drop everything. It’s a tortured analogy, almost infantile in its ridiculousness, but that’s how I feel about my dog.

Would you ever want to have a son someday?

If the opportunity presented itself, sure. I think the realities of that, and given [long-term partner Jennifer Westfeldt of “Kissing Jessica Stein”] being an actress and what that takes away career-wise from you, are tricky. I don’t think either one of us will rule anything out, but I don’t know how ready I am to be a dad. Anybody can have a kid, but it takes a lot of work to be a dad. We actually have another script that we’re developing that Jen recently wrote about what happens when people start having kids and how it changes your life. It’s a cool script, so hopefully we’ll get that made.

Speaking of dads, Ryan Cutrona has a small role in “Stolen,” and he also plays Don Draper’s father-in-law on “Mad Men.” Was there any casting connection to the show?

How about that, right? No, I didn’t know when it happened. I was like, “Oh my god, what are you doing here?” Ryan’s a fantastic actor. It was just a bit of serendipity.

03032010_MadMen.jpgSince doing “Mad Men,” how much more hypersensitive have you become to advertising?

Even as a kid, I was always a bigger fan of commercials than programming. People who say, “Advertising doesn’t work on me”? I had that attitude. Meanwhile, I want Nike shoes and can sing the jingles to 1500 ads by memory. So I haven’t become more sensitive to it, but I’ve certainly become more appreciative of how hard people work to make it so effective.

In interviews I’ve read, you don’t seem to share much in common with Don Draper. How do you think you’re most diametrically opposed to that character?

Don has a very fleeting relationship with the truth. I think that’s a survival tactic for the most part, but it’s also a business approach. A lot of people, when the show first came out, said “This is such a bad guy.” He is in many ways, but he also has a weird, specific sense of morality. So I guess the thing I have least in common with Don is I’m honest to a fault — I have a very hard time lying. Don does not. [laughs]

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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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