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DID YOU READ

A selected history of Larry King cameos.

A selected history of Larry King cameos. (photo)

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Larry King has been in the news (well, “the news”) lately because of speculation his CNN contract won’t be renewed next year, taking him off the air at age 77.

Even if King — whose famously non-confrontational, no-preparation approach to interviewing has inexplicably given him a lengthy career — will no longer be gracing the small screen, his legacy on the big screen will live on. King is a well-known film buff of sorts, whose place as the king of cameos is undeniable. Here are seven of his appearances throughout the year as King’s societal prominence kept changing.

0531_2010_ghost.jpg“Ghost Busters” (1984)

King’s cinematic debut came pre-CNN, back when he was the New York-based host of talk radio about everything and nothing in particular. In “Ghost Busters,” he’s part of a montage of media coverage for crew, who are fodder for everything from the Atlantic to USA Today. King, as it happened, was part of the Today empire: from 1982 to 2001, he had a regular column, described by the New York Times’ Felicity Barringer as “a weekly offering studded with plugs, superlatives and dropped names — all usually in close proximity to one another.” Here’s King vs. the Ghostbusters, sitting in a radio station, smoking up a storm the old-fashioned way.

05312010_dave.jpg“Dave” (1993)

The late ’80s/early ’90s were a lean time for King, cameo-wise: despite his increasing prominence as the face of CNN, he was relegated to forgettable fare like Dudley Moore’s “Crazy People” and “The Exorcist III.” “Dave,” then, represented a breakthrough for King’s career, and quite possibly its peak. Reunited with “Ghostbusters” director Ivan Reitman, King brings Oliver Stone onto the show to discuss whether or not the “president” is an imposter — which he is, since regular joe Kevin Kline has temporarily taken over from president Kevin Kline for complicated reasons. This is a bit of meta-genius: Stone’s appearing in a Warner Bros. movie (which also made “JFK,” the peak of his conspiratorial worldview) mocking his image as a paranoiac — but he’s right!

05312010_long.jpg“The Long Kiss Goodnight” (1996)

Shane Black’s screenplay for “The Long Kiss Goodnight” was mild commercial redemption for Renny Harlin after the “Cutthroat Island” debacle, though it only made $89 million worldwide. King shows up at the very end, after the plots wound down and everyone’s safe. Samuel L. Jackson is in the studio to talk about his role in saving the free world and explains to King that initially CNN’s reporter Carla didn’t believe the story because she “failed to realize that I’m always frank and earnest with women. In New York I’m Frank, in Chicago I’m Ernest.” Jackson proceeds to laugh like a maniac and King (who’s been married seven times to eight women) creepily joins in. It’s kind of an indelible moment (jump to about 8:50).

05312010_burn.jpg“An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn” (1997)

Joe Esterzhas’ forgotten all-star fiasco of the ’90s, “An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn” was arguably a more entertaining trainwreck than, say, “Waterworld” in terms of pure production chaos. With only the finest cameos 1997 could offer (Whoopi Goldberg! Shane Black!), this would-be satire about Hollywood idiocy and a director wanting to take his name off a film was a prophecy of its own production: Arthur HIller was dissatisfied, tried to take his own name off, and the whole mess eventually discontinued the Alan Smithee psuedonym. Here King’s at the center of the entertainment world as he always wanted to be: his interview with frustrated screenwriter Eric Idle (who’s taken his movie hostage) turns him into a cult hero, thereby confirming what an important player in the film world Larry King thinks he is.

05312010_madcity.jpg“Mad City” (1997)

Bearing the important message that sometimes the news media is exploitative and irresponsible, “Mad City” is a toothless “indictment” of the obvious, nearly 50 years after “Ace In The Hole” did it better. As helmed by a long-past-his-prime Costa-Gavras (this is no “Z”), this is flabby rage: when John Travolta takes hostages and loses his blue collar cool, reporter Dustin Hoffman is in the building and runs with the story. One of the things he does is sell interview rights to Larry King so he can screw over his rival Alan Alda. I’m not entirely sure why King consented to be in a movie in which he’s essentially shown to be an easily manipulated, ratings-crazed journalist who doesn’t really care about the ethics of what he’s doing, but that’s essentially what ends up happening. Also in the movie: Jay Leno, who — like King — has a small cottage industry of cameos.

05312010_bulworth.jpg“Bulworth” (1998)

In the middle of Warren Beatty’s satire — a frustrating mix of brilliant material surrounded by sludge — his Bulworth (a career politician turned unlikely rapping truth-teller) is going crazy on the debate stage, muttering to himself while the lights are out. Coked-up adviser Oliver Platt — at rock bottom, convinced he’s wasted his career on Bulworth — runs into King, who says he has to have Bulworth on his show. At that moment Platt realizes what should’ve been obvious from the beginning: in a country where 20% of the electorate voted for Ross Perot in 1992, eccentric and bold pronouncements are valued for their own sake. Bulworth is going on Larry King? Fantastic! Can they do it tonight? No, Clinton’s on. “Bump him!” he barks.

05312010_johnq.jpg“John Q” (2002

At the end of Nick Cassavetes’ bizarre call to arms for health care reform, John Quincy Alexander — having saved his boy’s life — goes on trial, prompting a montage of news reaction both real and staged. The staged bits include King (and, yes, Leno again). “Hero or vigilante?” muses King. “You decide!” — which is a perfect summation of King’s no-stakes, no-commitments approach to his job. Controversial issue? Don’t think about it! Smile and the world smiles with you. As a Memorial Day bonus, below the “John Q” video (relevant footage starts at 0:15), here’s David Letterman’s proposed cameo for “Iron Man 2,” which really should’ve been in the movie.

[Photos: Larry King photo via Wikimedia Commons, photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, 2006; “Ghost Busters,” Sony, 1984; “Dave,” Warner Bros., 1993; “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” New Line Cinema, 1996; “An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn,” Disney, 1997; “Mad City,” Warner Bros., 1997; “Bulworth,” 20th Century Fox, 1998; “John Q,” New Line Cinema, 2002]

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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.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.