How About a Lil Poison?

How About a Lil Poison? (photo)

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The first thing I need to know is, what do you call your film’s subject? Poison, Lil Poison? Little Vic?

I call him Little Victor. We used to call him Baby Victor, but now he’s 12 and it seems more appropriate to say Little Victor.

Okay, burning question answered. So, what gave you the idea of the film?

Close to four years ago, I first read about Victor in Wired magazine. I saw the picture of him and it jumped out more than the text. It was sort of a dark bedroom, and with some SpongeBob stuff, and Victor sitting there with his headset. This little kid that plays… I wondered where he goes for all those hours every day.

Judging by the trailer, below, it seems like you’ve got two things going on: There’s a glimpse into world of competitive gaming, but also the story of one kid’s family life. What was the first thing you wanted to learn about Poison’s world?

The first thing I wanted to learn was about gaming, and getting insight into that world. I didn’t realize it existed. And I guess just from the photo and the article I though wow, there’s a young generation of gamers out there and this is the first generation you can look at that’s been playing this long.

When I met him and started to hear more stories through him and his dad, and other kids, it became much more of a world. And I realized there are MLG tournaments with thousands of players-a lot of them are teenage boys- who compete all across the country.

It makes sense that most are boys…

Although girls are the fastest growing demographic of gamers. That’s interesting, too.

How did you approach the project conceptually?

I thought it would be more a “Spellbound”-type film, where we’d sort of follow him to the top. Then as I started filming, probably four or five months into it, his parents got divorced and a lot of family drama evolved. So, throughout everything, there was a kind of back and forth. Is this a gaming story? Is this a family story? In the end, we realized the family story really trumped the gaming.

You’ve obviously spent a lot of time with Little Vic and his family. Do you have any idea where his aptitude for gaming might have come from?

I think it’s from his dad, but I think he must’ve been born with some super hand-eye coordination as well. Apparently, Andre Agassi’s dad dangled a tennis ball above his crib. So you have to think that maybe part of it is nature, part of it is nuture. His father definitely played video games before he was born. And I think saw the talent at a young age and maybe he could capture that.

At the beginning of the film, we have footage from Little Victor’s birth. Five hours after his son’s come into the world, his father turns to the camera and says, “I can’t wait until he’s old enough to play Nintendo.”

It’s funny because we don’t think of skills like those being passed on. You can look at, I don’t know, Patrick Ewing’s son and say yeah, he’s tall because his dad was seven feet tall. What Little Victor does is a new sort of competiton that’s not even a generation old, so it’s probably harder to think about the sort of processing and awareness necessary to play games at a pro level as being a genetic skill.

So what kind of preconceptions did you have about video games and people who play them before you started filming? And how did they change over the course of filming?

I thought a lot of them would be sort of stereotypically nerdy gamers. And it turns out there’s a lot of difference subcultures. There’s definitely a range. The kids that play Xbox at the MLG tournaments, I would liken them more to like the skater culture than I would, say, the computer gaming culture. They have girlfriends who get dressed up in outfits and would sit in their laps for five hours while they game, and kind of had loads of gold chains and bracelets. It was you know, a very different look than I was expecting.

Right, not necessarily the kid in their mom’s basement and…

It’s not the type of kids you would expect to be video gaming all day on the inside.

It’s not like they don’t think they’re not cool anymore.

No, I mean it’s like it’s their main after-school activity. So

Were you able to appreciate video games differently after working on the film?

I don’t really like video games. I don’t mind them. I just I don’t play them. My attraction was more this little kid, and this generation. But it was very funny. In college I had a boyfriend that gamed all the time and I always wanted him to stop gaming and playing “FIFA” and “GTA.” And now, during this film, I would call them up and say, have you guys played the beta version of “Halo 3″? And they would say you are so much cooler than you were in college. So yeah, I don’t think my perspective has changed on them other than the fact of how omnipresent they are in the world now, so.

There’s been some conversation about Victor’s age and being a professional gamer with regard to content. He competes on some M-rated games. Do you feel like that affected him in any way? I’m not invoking the whole game violence argument, but do you think he was able to kind of…

I don’t think video games breed violence. People said when films came out that they bred violence. It’s just the next step in evolution of what kids are into. I don’t think it has changed that much. They may look realistic, but look at movies; they hit a lot closer to home, as does the news.

I think that they are making kids more socially withdrawn, especially if they’re playing for five hours a day. I don’t think that has to do with the type of games, whether they’re rated Mature. But you’re not having interaction with people. I think they same thing could be said about Second Life and those type of virtual worlds, too.

You know, because some would argue that it’s a different kind of socialization, but I guess what you’re saying is that the in-person element is missing…

Well, I think if the whole world operated like a video game or like “Second Life,” maybe you would be extremely social. But when you then are faced with going into a crowd without a headset on to shake somebody’s hand, or talk to them, it’s a whole different skill set in a way.

Little Victor is a kid who was able to turn his passions into something that became profitable for his family. Do you think that he was more or less able to cope than an average kid whose parents are going through a divorce? Did you see a personality change as his parents were breaking up?

Yes. I think he withdrew a lot more during that time and has now kind of come back and is more himself. It’s important for any kid going through that to have an outlet but for him, because it was video games, he became more socially withdrawn, I think. But you wonder if he had people to talk to? On the surface, it took his mind off of things but perhaps there would’ve been other ways.

And there’s still pressure and obligations associated with games…

There’s one scene in the film you’ll see, but there’s a moment after a fight where he’s in the basement alone playing the Wii. When you see him playing games that he doesn’t compete in, that’s a world that’s all his own. And so when he plays the Wii, or if he’s playing…he had like a virtual pet for a year and I think all he did was press space bar and he would do it for like an hour. It reminded you he was a kid.

If you’re in the New York City area, you can still catch “Lil Poison” today at 6pm, when it screens as part of the New York International Latino Film Festival.


Read Carrie's Book

Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl Is Out Now

Carrie's moving memoir is out now.

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Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein’s memoir, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, is out now at fine local book shops and at online retailers like iBooks, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

The book, a “deeply personal and revealing narrative of Brownstein’s life in music,” is getting rave reviews. The Washington Post writes that, “It’s impossible not to like Brownstein” in their review of her “engaging and witty” memoir. The AV Club called the book “engrossing,” adding that “for fans of Sleater-Kinney, it’s immensely compelling, particularly because Brownstein writes crisply, insightfully, and without vanity.” She even dedicated the book to her Sleater-Kinney bandmates (and Portlandiaregulars) Janet Weiss and Corin Tucker.

Pick up a copy of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl in stores today, and be sure to catch Carrie on her nationwide book tour at one of the dates below where she will be joined by specials guests like Questlove, Amy Poehler and more.


WORD Bookstore at Saint Vitus Bar

In conversation with Questlove


Barnes & Noble Union Square

In conversation with Gaby Hoffman


Philadelphia Free Library at The Merriam Theater

In conversation with Aidy Bryant


Pitchfork at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

In conversation with Jessica Hopper


BookPeople at Central Presbyterian Church

In conversation with Liz Lambert


Vroman’s Bookstore at Pasadena Presbyterian

In conversation with Amy Poehler


Jewish Community Center of San Francisco

In conversation with Dave Eggers


Powell’s Books at The Newmark Theatre

In conversation with a Special Guest TBA


Elliott Bay Book Company at The Neptune Theater

In conversation with Maria Semple


Drawn & Quarterly at The Rialto Theatre

In conversation with Jessica Hopper


Toronto Public Library’s Appel Salon

In conversation with Johanna Schneller

Comedy Crib   Sound Advice – Season Trailer – IFC

Saturday Net Live

10 Hilarious Web Series with SNL Stars

Catch your favorite SNL stars on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Even in its 40th year, joining the cast of Saturday Night Live is still the best way to know you’ve made it in comedy. But while we get to see these stars shine every Saturday night, most had a long road to 30 Rock. Every cast member had to do something to get noticed, and some still find other opportunities to showcase their distinctive comedic chops while they’re still on the show. Web series have quickly become a way to stand out for SNL cast members past, present and future. Before you catch the SNL season premiere, check out a few of the funniest Web series to feature writers and stars from SNL, many of which you can watch right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

10. Sound Advice with Vanessa Bayer

Bayer perfects her chirpy idiot character here as a PR flack for famous musicians, who’s more concerned with her ex-husband than giving good advice. (Watch every episode of Sound Advice on Comedy Crib.)

9. Notary Publix with Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant

Along with Portlandia‘s Candace and Toni, McKinnon and Bryant may be responsible for bringing back the shoulder pads in this hard-hitting look at the exciting life of notary publics. (Watch Notary Publix now on Comedy Crib.)

8. If I Was In It with Will Stephen

Will Stephen is a new addition to the SNL writing staff this season, but he showed off his acting chops with this Comedy Crib series about two “self taught film students” who explain what they would do in famous movies like Jaws and The Matrix. (Watch If I Was In It now on Comedy Crib.)

7. Pursuit of Sexiness with Sasheer Zamata

This series about two friends navigating life, love and sex in the city helped get Zamata noticed by SNL. The rest is history.

6. The Bu with The Lonely Island

The Lonely Island ushered in the era of the SNL Digital Short, and helped make YouTube what it is today, but before they hit the big time, they were just three guys making goofy videos in their living room. The Bu, which ran as part of the popular Channel 101 showcase in Los Angeles, was their first viral success.

5. 7 Minutes in Heaven with Mike O’Brien

Mike O’Brien shuffled through many iterations during his SNL tenure. Cast member. Writer. Digital Short mastermind. He also had a Web hit with this absurdist interview series where he chats with guests like Tina Fey, Paul Rudd and even the Insane Clown Posse while inside a closet.

4. Fresh Perspectives with Beck Bennett

Before his SNL run, the majority of people probably recognized Bennett from his popular AT&T commercials, in which he talked down to groups of children. Supposedly, Fresh Perspectives, a Web series with a strikingly similar premise, helped him land that gig.

3. Carpet Bros with Tim Meadows

SNL writer Matt Piedmont enlisted Meadows to star in this Funny or Die series about a group of carpet selling brothers who never seem to get around to actually making a sale.

2. Funny People Reading Books with Simon Rich

Author and former SNL scribe Simon Rich reads from his book Ant Farm: And Other Desperate Situations in this Comedy Crib series where funny folks like Megan Amram, Dave Hill and more share their literary masterworks. (Watch Funny People Reading Books now on Comedy Crib.)

1. FCU: Fact Checkers Unit with Bill Murray

Bill Murray is more folklore than man these days, and this episode of the Funny or Die series about an elite team of fact checkers does little to dispel that notion. It’s not entirely clear if Murray even knew he was on camera, but the result is a video that allows us all to feel like we got to hang with the elusive buster of ghosts.

That 70s Hyde

Higher Learning

Stoner Wisdom From That ’70s Show’s Circle

Catch That '70s Show Mondays and Tuesdays from 6-11P on IFC.

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The gang from That ’70s Show had some of their deepest conversations in “The Circle.” They also never failed to crack themselves (and us) up. Get high on knowledge with some deep thoughts from “The Circle.”

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Sounds Like Fun

The 15 Funniest Fictional Bands Ever

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Just because a band is fictional doesn’t mean it can’t be as popular as its real world counterparts. (Admit it, you still have that Zack Attack album buried in your closet somewhere.) Whether spoofing a famous act, or creating their own inept sound, these fake bands often wear their love of the music world on their sleeves. Documentary Now!‘s chronicling of the soft rock giants Blue Jean Committee is just the latest example.

It’s no surprise that the folks behind the show (Fred Armisen in particular) have a long track record of finding the funny in the music industry. (It takes musical talent, along with some serious comedy chops, to pull off the smooth lyrics of “Catalina Breeze.”) So, while Blue Jean Committee, or A Mighty Wind’s The Folksmen, could easily have been on this list, it’s not a shock that the folks behind them are. If you love music and comedy in equal measure, you’re going back to that well more than once. Here are some of the funniest fake bands to ever turn it up to eleven.

15. Citizen Dick, Singles

Citizen Dick, the band from Cameron Crowe’s alt rom-com Singles, was both a spoof of, and a turning point for, the Seattle grunge scene of the early ’90s. While many of the bands from that scene were cult hits, the Singles soundtrack helped turn them into superstars. It’s no surprise that the made-up band, fronted by Matt Dillion’s Cliff Poncier, could hold its own with so many grunge standouts, considering 3/4ths of its members were in a little group called Pearl Jam. Heck, Dillion even wore Pearl Jam’s bassist Jeff Ament’s clothes for most of the shoot. Now that’s commitment.

14. Titannica, Mr. Show with Bob and David

With hits like “Try Suicide” and “Try Again,” no one rocked harder than Titannica, the heavy metal band made famous in one of the downright weirdest sketches from the cult hit Mr. Show. But no matter how messed up their music was, the boys of Titannica knew it couldn’t hold a candle to the creep show that was their biggest fan, a chipper kid with the body of a wet cigar. This sketch is a surreal lesson in the power of music.

13. Sonic Death Monkey/Kathleen Turner Overdrive/Barry Jive and the Uptown Five, High Fidelity

You can watch Jack Black become a star in the final minutes of the 2000 cult hit High Fidelity, as his character Barry takes the stage to front his frequently renamed band. While Barry may not be able to decide on a sound for his band, Jack Black knows how to deliver when given the chance. A fun movie about and for music lovers, this scene is the cherry on top. It doesn’t matter what type of music you’re playing, as long as you leave it all on the stage.

12. Dethklok, Metalocalypse

When Metalocalypse co-creator Brendon Small was working on his previous Adult Swim hit, Home Movies, few would’ve guessed that he’d be responsible for one of the most face-meltingly metal bands to ever grace the small screen. And Small didn’t just dream up Dethklok he writes and performs every one of their songs with co-creator Tommy Blacha. While Dethklok has surpassed mere superstardom on their show, becoming the seventh largest economy in the world, their popularity in the real world isn’t far behind. Small and Blacha have fronted more than one tour as the band, and recently played the comedy/music festival Festival Supreme, created by none other than Barry Jive himself, Jack Black.

11. David Brent and Foregone Conclusion, BBC’s The Office

In The Office Christmas Special, which served as the final episodes of the beloved BBC series, co-creator Ricky Gervais revealed his character David Brent had finally chased his dreams of stardom too far, by recording a cover version of the hit “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” But while the show was wrapping up, this sojourn into music was just the beginning for the former general manager of the Slough branch of Wernham Hogg. Gervais has kept up with his most famous character, recording a song for Comic Relief and creating a series of YouTube guitar tutorials. This all culminated in a tour with the made up band Foregone Conclusion. Rumor has it, he’s even been prepping a movie to cover Brent’s presumably delusional journey through the English music scene. While knowing when to say goodbye is a gift, it’s not something David Brent would be capable of, so why should we expect any different from his creator?

10. Dr. Fünke’s 100% Natural Good-Time Family Band Solution, Arrested Development

Playing in Dr. Fünke’s 100% Natural Good-Time Family-Band Solution was a great excuse for some family bonding time, while promoting a worthwhile product to boot. At least that’s what David Cross’ Tobais Fünke thought on the first season of Arrested Development, forcing his family to play in the pharmaceutical funded family band. More a promotional vehicle than a hit maker, any chance to see the dysfunctional Fünke family interact is worth inclusion on this list. The music may not be worthwhile, but the fury behind Maeby’s eyes is.

9. The Rutles, All You Need Is Cash

The Beatles were no stranger to parody, as you’ll see later in this list. But what separated The Rutles from the legion of spoof bands that plagued the world as the ’60s turned to the ’70s was the guidance of Monty Python Hall of Famer Eric Idle, and a will to not just send up, but really satirize the boys from Liverpool. The band first premiered in 1975 on Rutland Weekend Television, a sketch show fronted by Idle, and immediately took on a cult following. George Harrison was such a fan, he ended up appearing in The Rutles‘ feature film All You Need Is Cash.

8. Ian Rubbish and the Bizzaros, Saturday Night Live

Long before Fred Armisen made his name on Saturday Night Live, he was a drummer for underground punk bands. The Clash in particular was an inspiration, and even with a right turn into comedy Armisen’s love of punk never diminished. That’s evident in this SNL sketch about a very Sid Vicious-like rock star who hates everything…except for Margaret Thatcher. Initially just a one time performance, the bit struck such a chord that Armisen reunited The Bizzaros for his last sketch as an SNL cast member. Still not done with his alter ego, he’s since taken the band into the real world, playing gigs as the foul mouthed punk rocker with a love for the Iron Lady.

7. Wyld Stallyns, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

If your band is responsible for world peace, you probably deserve a spot on this list. While Bill and Ted start off as musically inept, one visit to the utopian future brought about by their sweet jams reveals them to be more than a mere rock band. They’re modern day messiahs, which is most excellent.

6. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, The Muppet Show

For many of us, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem was the first exposure we ever had to a rock band, real or otherwise. For the better part of four decades the Electric Mayhem has kept at it, managing to cover everything from classical to “Crocodile Rock” with a drummer so wild he has to literally be chained to the set. Even Keith Moon wasn’t kept in shackles.

5. Faith +1, South Park

It’s tough to pick between the two most famous bands to ever be fronted by foul mouthed fourth grader Eric Cartman. While the boyband Fingerbang is for sure a classic, Cartman’s Christian rock band Faith +1 combines his megalomania, cynicism and racism into a beautiful collage of sacrilegious majesty. And considering South Park is far from done, who knows what other bands creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have up their sleeves.

4. PoP!, Music & Lyrics

Hugh Grant is perfectly cast as one half of a Wham!-esque group in this charming rom-com. And he learned from the best — Martin Fry from the new wave group ABC served as Hugh’s vocal coach.

3. Sexual Chocolate, Coming to America

Both “good and terrible,” Randy Watson may not have been the legend he believed himself to be, but to fans of Coming to America, he and his perfectly named backup band were responsible for one of the funniest scenes in this classic comedy. Eddie Murphy was at his peak here, donning the puffy faced prosthetics necessary to truly inhabit the pitchy son of Jackson Heights. And having Morris Day of The Time fame on guitar didn’t hurt either.

2. The Blues Brothers, Saturday Night Live, The Blues Brothers

As the ’70s gave way to the ’80s, The Blues Brothers, along with their creators John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, were forces of nature. The two comedians and friends first premiered their creation on Saturday Night Live, promptly launching a sensation. At one point, Belushi found himself the star of the week’s number one film (Animal House), number one television show (Saturday Night Live), and singing on the number one album (Briefcase Full Of Blues). Belushi and Aykroyd would soon add a hit Blue Brothers movie to that hot streak. Combining their perfect chemistry with a whole lot of soul, Jake and Elwood transcended comedy, and helped relaunch the popularity of the blues genre itself.

1. Spinal Tap, This Is Spinal Tap

If the last two entries show you anything, it’s that the ’80s were the high water mark of fake bands in popular culture. And yet, with all the classics that came out in that decade, there was never any doubt who would sit at the top of this list. Spinal Tap isn’t just a movie. They aren’t just a band. They’re the id of rock music, manifested into reality by the all-star team of Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. In the ridiculous world of rock and roll, which already operates in a perpetual cycle of self parody, finding the balance of comedy and reality is no easy task. By using the form of a documentary, director Rob Reiner allowed his brilliant cast to improvise their way through the movie, creating the gold standard of fictional bands in the process. The film also introduced the “mockumentary” form to a mainstream audiences, which has gone on to become one of the most popular styles of comedy over the last three decades.

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