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DID YOU READ

“MacGruber” avoids a bomb.

“MacGruber” avoids a bomb. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

To answer the immediate question at hand, “MacGruber” is in fact the funniest “Saturday Night Live” spinoff since “Wayne’s World” in 1992.

But as anyone who follows such things knows, that isn’t necessarily high praise. In the years in the wake of the success of “Wayne’s World,” many recurring characters were granted the feature treatment, mostly after they had already been run into the ground by the show. But films like “Superstar” and “A Night at the Roxbury” seemed driven by creating opportunities for a cast that had not become stars yet on any other night but Saturday and hadn’t yet developed film ideas of their own.

Jorma Taccone and Will Forte were given test runs before getting the keys to the car, with Taccone cutting his teeth on “Hot Rod” and Forte doing the same on “The Brothers Solomon — both films filled with a world of weird — in advance of tackling what is the first sketch-to-film adaptation since 2000’s “The Ladies Man.” The result is an idiosyncratic mix between avant garde comedy, ’80s action bluster and pop cultural tomfoolery that sometimes gets bogged down in its own bizarre behavior, but more often than not delivers the goods.

As Taccone said during the film’s post-screening Q & A at SXSW last night, “We really weren’t trying to be too spoofy with it,” and even though “MacGruber” pokes fun at such action tropes as the getting-the-team-together montage (featuring a parade of WWE stars) and the softly-lit sex scene between the lead and his love interest (set to Mr. Mister’s “Take These Broken Wings,” no less), it mainly works in the way that Forte’s best sketches do — by taking gags further than anyone else would dare. Perhaps that’s why there’s no real allusion to the skit other than an operatic rendition of the “MacGruber” theme song to open the film until the final act, when the audience is worn down to the point of submission by the MacGruber’s heretofore unknown obsession with Blaupunkt car radios or his willingness to drop to his knees to give any of his superiors oral sex when they threaten to block his mission.

03162010_macgruber03.jpgThe movie MacGruber is quite a bit different than the TV one, throwing around “F”-words with wild abandon and willing to shove a stalk of celery up his ass as a diversionary tactic. He’s also got a partner in Ryan Phillippe’s straight-shooting Lt. Dixon Piper and a foe in Val Kilmer’s Dieter Von Cunth, a billionaire who has his sights set on blowing up the U.S. government with a nuclear missile. (The latter has a fondness for painting abstracts of nude octogenarians.) There’s not much more to the plot, except the presence of Kristen Wiig as MacGruber’s reliable assistant Vicki St. Elmo, who harbors a not-so-secret crush on her mullet-lovin’ boss, but then again, there doesn’t actually need to be. Forte’s commitment to the character is admirable and although I thought I had tired of the character around the time of the infamous “MacGruber” Super Bowl spots from a year ago, that was before seeing him outside of a bunker in his red Mazda Miata with a fixation for kicking ass and ripping out throats.

In front of a crowd that included “SNL” scribes Seth Meyers and Akiva Schaffer, as well as Kilmer, who didn’t appear on stage when the cast was called up (“Classic Cunth,” Taccone joked), the cast and crew marveled at finishing the production in less than a month, with an ebullient Phillippe shaking Taccone’s shoulders and exclaiming, “This motherfucker shot this in 28 days!” (Taccone will have a chance to get him back when Phillippe hosts “SNL” on April 17th.) Phillippe went on to explain he would bite the inside of his cheek or dig his index finger into his thumb to keep from laughing opposite Forte, though he went to even greater lengths to get the part after attending a table read before the film was greenlit. “I wondered why my agent wouldn’t let me do something like this,” Phillippe said, before convincing his handlers to go up for the role. Given the track record of these types of adaptations, you can’t blame them, but unlike what happens at the end of every “MacGruber” skit, the film doesn’t self-destruct.

“MacGruber” opens wide on May 21st.

[Photos: “MacGruber,” Rogue Pictures, 2010]

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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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