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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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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.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.