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Paul Dano is Sitting Pretty

Paul Dano is Sitting Pretty (photo)

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When he’s in his birthplace of New York City, actor Paul Dano says he’s most recognized for playing Daniel Day-Lewis’s evangelical nemesis, whose proverbial “milkshake” of oil gets drained in “There Will Be Blood.” Outside of major cities, the 26-year-old is more instantly familiar as the mute Nietzschean road-tripper from lighter Best Picture Oscar nominee, “Little Miss Sunshine.” And one time recently, at an ice creamery in Brooklyn (where he currently lives), a delighted scooper spotted him from one of her favorite films, “The Ballad of Jack and Rose.” It’s a credit to Dano’s gifts that he can shine in projects so diversely night and day, including his first summer blockbuster, “Knight and Day.”

For “American Splendor” filmmakers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s new comedy “The Extra Man” (adapted from a novel by “Bored to Death” creator Jonathan Ames), Dano plays Louis Ives, a NYC newcomer, friendless daydreamer and secret cross-dresser who begins subletting from unsuccessful playwright Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline). More than merely mismatched, the two quickly develop an unusual mentorship as the deeply eccentric Henry teaches Louis how to make ends meet as an escort to wealthy old ladies. I met Dano to discuss weird roommates, his band Mook, the collaborator who took him to tranny bars, and why wearing women’s clothing is scary.

Have you had any unusual mentors in your life?

Not in the way that Kevin Kline’s character is to this guy. I’ve definitely had mentors, whether parents or friends or actors who I like. That’s just something that I consider lucky. I liked getting to work with Kevin, and we remain buddies. He’s a hilarious dude and a great actor. He’s somebody I can easily go to and say, “Hey, man, what do you think about this?” I try to steal any nuggets of wisdom he has. I’ve had a few of those, which has been great, but there hasn’t been a super-eccentric mentor.

07272010_PaulDanoExtraMan7.jpgBesides being a mentor to Louis, Henry makes for an odd roommate. Do you have your own stories of weird roomies?

I lived with two guys in the East Village for three or four years. My grandma sent me this vat of her amazing chicken soup. It was frozen in a big Tupperware [container]. I came home one night, it must have been 4am, and one roommate had almost eaten the whole thing straight out of the freezer. I was so angry — not only did he eat my soup, but that’s not the way to eat my grandma’s chicken soup, which takes a few days to make. It was a strange sight to behold a guy guzzling a vat of chunky, frozen soup. He would do that with a jar of horseradish or mustard. There would be repercussions the next morning, waking up to certain sounds in the bathroom. [laughs]

Our apartment was a disaster. The first time my girlfriend came over, it was just a shithole. Flies over the sink. We had a fish tank that was sludge green. No fish, ever. We tried, but they never made it. The thing stunk. I don’t have any stories beyond that. One of my friends is an eccentric to the truest form, but I don’t want to say. He’s my friend.

The scene in the Russian Tea Room in “The Extra Man” reminded me how many NYC landmarks I’ve still never visited. Are there any local treasures you could say that about as a native New Yorker?

I’m sure there are, but I’d probably be ashamed to admit if I could think of them. That was one of the things that piqued my interest about the film. It was a piece of New York that I didn’t really know. Getting to go to the Russian Tea Room was a thing. You should go. They gave us a little caviar, it was quite good.

I grew up in Manhattan, and now I live in Brooklyn. Getting to know Brooklyn has been like grabbing my hat. Brooklyn was way over there. [laughs] I never went as a child, so that’s a whole part of the city I now know. I don’t know Queens well, except for Astoria and Sunnyside, and I need to get up to the Bronx. I know it’s not like going to the Russian Tea Room, but I feel I should get there and see what’s up. Apparently, this Boom Boom Room is a happening place. I haven’t gone there. I got invited the other night, and I was like, “Ugh, sounds awful.” A whiskey on the rocks is probably a hundred bucks.

07272010_PaulDanoExtraMan4.jpgDid you spend any time with writer Jonathan Ames?

Oh, yeah. He lives a block away from me. I like Ames, man. He’s a singular guy. We met because of the film, and I spent time with him before we started. He liked to come around during filming. We obviously bump into each other on the street, but also catch up every now and again. He’s a source of endless amusement. If you want eccentric stories, that’s the dude to talk to. We went to some tranny bars together, that was interesting. He’s written a bit about what he knows. He knew the ropes and helped me find research. The movie seems pretty out there, but some of it’s not far from the truth.

Was this the first time you’ve worn drag?

Yeah, full drag. I’ve probably put on a wig, and I’ve definitely worn girls’ clothing before, whether it was a joke, or a dare with your girlfriend. This was heels, stockings, panties, bra, slip, wig, eyeliner and lipstick. I’ve never done that. It’s a little scary at first because you ask yourself, “How am I going to feel about this? What if I’m turned on by it? Am I going to want to do it again? What does it say about me?”

But I felt totally like myself. I was shocked that I did: “Okay, I can do this. It doesn’t make me feel that weird.” The clothing didn’t bother me, but the lipstick did. It was uncomfortable. That was when the line got crossed. I was like, “Oh shit, how long am I going to have to stay like this?” But it was interesting. I don’t know when I would’ve done that if not then.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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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