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Hey, what’d Tom Cruise ever do to you?

Hey, what’d Tom Cruise ever do to you? (photo)

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I never had a strong opinion on Tom Cruise. He seemed an amiable enough actor, his movies tended to be better than those of many other marquee names’ (Cruise is good at knowing and working within his range) and that was about it.

And then Cruise starting ranting about Scientology, jumping on couches, calling psychiatry a “Nazi science” — and his career, or at least his popularity, went to hell. As Wikipedia pointedly reminds us, Cruise’s ratings in various polls slid not only from his former beautiful people rankings, but one “revealed that Cruise is the celebrity people would least like as their best friend.” (The fact that people can rank the celebrities they’d like to be friends with is bizarre in itself.)

All of which makes me… like Cruise more.

The issue is coming up again because “Knight and Day” underperformed during its opening week. The entertainment world bowed its head and resolved not to rest until every possible explanation for this has been investigated. At the LA Times, Patrick Goldstein ran an interview with Fox co-marketing president Tony Sella, who was surprisingly candid for a studio man and swore up and down this wasn’t Cruise’s fault.

People e-mailed Goldstein en masse to counter that everything is Cruise’s fault. Per Goldstein: “the mail is running about 50-1 against Cruise.” (This is actually the default negative/positive response ratio for everything that happens online every day.)

07012010_maguire.jpgSomeone named “Di Landau” wrote “I think many of us are very ‘over’ Tom Cruise, if in fact, we were ever into him (not me btw).” Landau goes on to say it’s not just couch-jumping; “it’s multiple marriages, a narcissistic personality and the fact that a million dollar smile goes just so far.”

All true, I guess, but given that a lot of Cruise’s work from “Jerry Maguire” onwards is a series of disguised, panicky self-portraits and investigations into this (culminating in “Vanilla Sky” and “Minority Report,” two movies about mid-life crises with father figures who aren’t what they seem), it’s not like he’s unaware of the problem.

What I like about Cruise is his willingness to act like a jack-ass on-screen even as his public image goes to hell. He’s okay at being charming, but he’s even better at being manic. And overall, his offenses are pretty minimal. It’s more shocking that, say, John Cusack — half of whose Twitter feed consists of sniping at people who point out his spelling and typing are atrocious — has any fans left who still think he’s charming Lloyd Dobler rather than a weird guy fixated on liberal talking points and being a crank about his right to illiteracy.

I’m surprised more stars don’t alienate their fans on a regular basis. Cruise at least has the conviction of his weirdness to run with it both on- and off-screen, and it doesn’t appear to be hurting anyone. The fact that he’s not actually Jerry Maguire shouldn’t really be news to anyone, any more than the fact that Cusack is best experienced on screen and not online.

07102010_kanye.jpgYet hating Cruise is now some kind of national sport, up there with mocking Kanye West’s egotism and — before his death — joking at the expense of Michael Jackson. It’s hard to think of a mainstream star who’s alienated so many of his fans without really doing anything.

Then again, that’s why most actors have handlers who tell them how to keep their mouths shut in public. The only difference between Cruise and anyone else is that no one can tell him to shut up. He’s reviled in ways that go beyond regular internet trolling, and it just doesn’t seem justified.

[Photos: “Knight and Day,” 20th Century Fox, 2010; “Jerry Maguire,” Sony, 1996; “South Park,” Comedy Central, 1997-present]



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.


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…


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.


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


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