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Christopher Walken, unhinged and looking for his hand.

Christopher Walken, unhinged and looking for his hand. (photo)

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Several characters in Martin McDonagh’s “A Behanding in Spokane” spend a good portion of the play handcuffed to the walls, cowering in fear at the feet of Carmichael, a terrifyingly deranged man desperately in search of the hand he lost 47 years earlier. This image also works as a handy metaphor of what it must be like to share a stage with the man who plays Carmichael, the delightfully deranged Christopher Walken. There’s not a whole lot you can do but speak when spoken to, stay out of his way, and watch him work.

Walken on stage speaks exactly like Walken on film — as a man with a punctuation allergy. Sentences string together, pauses arrive seemingly at random. He’s working from a script, but you’d never know it from the way he not only talks but also how he reacts to his own performance. Near the end of the play, Carmichael tells Mervyn (Sam Rockwell, or at the performance I saw, capable understudy Dashiell Eaves), the only employee of the fleabag hotel where he’s staying, “You, Mervyn, are a very brave receptionist.” In context, the line’s funny; in Walken’s one-of-a-kind delivery, it’s hilarious, and after the audience erupted with laugher, Walken seemingly broke character and cracked a huge smile. Or maybe it was a choice, and it was all in character. Who knows? One of the absolute pleasures of seeing Walken on stage is that moment to moment, scene to scene, you genuinely have no idea what he will do or say (or how he will do it or say it) next. In moments like that, he seemed as surprised by what comes out of his own mouth as the audience.

04122010_ChristopherWalkenBehanding2.jpgFans of McDonagh’s feature directorial debut “In Bruges” will recognize and appreciate, some thematic similarities between the film and his latest play. Both “Bruges” and “Behanding” tell stories of displaced underworld figures, waiting in a sort of purgatory, searching for redemption. Both are about violent people who don’t take violence lightly, and feature characters who are not only dangerous and scary, but also funny, sad, and even a little pathetic; when Carmichael believes a couple of con artists (Anthony Mackie and Zoe Kazan) know where his hand is, but the pair don’t come through on their end of their bargain, guns and homemade bombs quickly enter the story. Each piece features a character who not only isn’t afraid of death, but is actively curious about it, and each narrative is instigated by a brutal act of violence against a child.

On the whole, “Bruges” is more poignant than “Behanding,” which pitches its comedy so broadly that at times it starts to resemble a Neil Simon farce as reinterpreted by Quentin Tarantino. It’s also a bit more satisfying. But as strong as its performances by Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes were, “Bruges” didn’t have Christopher Walken live on stage, wandering, riffing, smiling, goofing off, pouring gasoline on people, and cracking dirty jokes. Walken’s great in every film, enlivening even projects like “The Country Bears” and “Gigli,” but watching him in person is something even better. Taking in a performance of “Behanding” is like watching the bomb Carmichael makes out of a gas can, an oily rag, and a candle: you sit there watching in twitchy anticipation for the explosion that could happen at any second.

[Photos: “A Behanding in Spokane,” Joan Marcus, 2010]


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.