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Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 15, “Noshing and Moshing”

Revived and Derived: “Freaks and Geeks” Ep. 15, “Noshing and Moshing” (photo)

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“Freaks and Geeks” is now airing on IFC, and we thought we’d take this opportunity to revisit the show that launched a thousand bromance movies. Every week, Matt Singer and Alison Willmore will be offering their thoughts on that night’s episode.

Episode 15
Noshing and Moshing
Written by J. Elvis Weinstein
Directed by Jake Kasdan

“I’m leaning towards undeclared.” — Barry Schweiber

Matt: Sadly, we’re all leaning toward “Undeclared” at this point; we’ve got just three more episodes left before we all graduate to Judd Apatow’s “Freaks and Geeks” follow up set in the world of college. In the meantime, we do get a small taste of university life from guest star David Krumholtz, who plays Neal’s older brother Barry, back on a break from college. Everyone seems to like Barry, but no one more than Lindsay, who decides to attend the Schweiber’s annual party just to spend some time with him. After several scenes of flirtation and sexual tension, the two share a kiss that’s interrupted by Neal, who finally hits his breaking point and reveals the secret of his father’s infidelity that he’d discovered back in “The Diary.” By the way, the People Magazine that one of the teachers reads has a cover story about John Hinckley’s assassination attempt of President Reagan, which means Neal’s been holding this information for two whole months.

But before Neal interrupts, Barry has some inspirational words for Lindsay. College, he tells her, is awesome. In high school, Barry was the geek who got beat up constantly (in other words, he was Neal). But in college, he was able to reinvent himself as “the handsome, dashing Jew.” Best of all: people bought it. Lindsay certainly has, anyway. Or maybe Lindsay’s attracted to Barry because she’s tried to reinvent herself too, with less than spectacular results.

10082010_fandg15_3.jpgBeing a freak always gets her in trouble and her new freak friends don’t “inspire or challenge” her, as she tells Barry in a moment of shockingly brutal honesty. Barry’s living proof that you really can redefine yourself as someone totally new in college. For a girl who feels trapped by Midwest suburbia — this week she rails against the idiocy of not allowing kids to do their homework in detention — such upward mobility and freedom has to be extremely alluring.

Reinventing yourself in high school is much trickier, as evidenced by both main freaks and geeks storylines this week. On the freak side, Daniel breaks up with Kim for the umpteenth time and takes a liking to a punk dropout convenience store clerk named Jenna (Shawnee Free Jones). To impress her he tries to spike up his hair, safety pin his jacket and “rise above” — but finds punk shows just as disillusioning as everything else in his crummy life. Meanwhile, Neal, struggling with his dad’s cheating ways, claims to have discovered something that will change the geeks’ lives. “It will bring us power, respect, and money.”

Yes, Neal truly believes the key to unlocking all of life’s pleasures is a ventriloquist dummy — excuse me, figure — named Morty. Not surprisingly, Morty does not deliver a bump in social status (at least not a positive one). Though Lindsay seems to draw some hope for the future from her conversation with Barry, the net result of the Daniel and Neal storylines makes this episode another (awesomely entertaining) downer, even if both characters seem to find a modicum of comfort by returning their old ways during a powerful final montage set to Dean Martin’s “You’re Nobody till Somebody Loves You.”

Can you really create a whole new identity for yourself in college? We’ll have to wait a month until we get to “Undeclared” to answer that question. In the meantime, Alison, my first question for you is this: whose home life is more screwed up, Daniel or Neal’s? Sure Daniel’s got the mother who actually wants him to drop out, but Neal’s dealing with a dad who cheats, a mom who seemingly permits it, and a brother who’s macking on his favorite girl. Who wins (or, in this case, loses)?

Alison: Matt, I can’t believe you didn’t manage at least one mention of the cold open, in which Bill displays his incredibly fierce dance face in another showcase of Martin Starr’s fearlessness. But to answer your question — I’d say Daniel’s home life is worse. Neal is confronted with the terrible truth that everyone in his family has been living a lie, aware that of his father’s peccadilloes but keeping them a secret to protect him and their own nuclear structure, at least until he goes to college (and there’s the added sting of Neal learning his father has almost certainly had more than one affair, since the woman his brother spotting him out with was a redhead). But all least those lies all come out of their caring for one another. Even Dr. Schweiber expresses regret in “The Garage Door,” telling Sam (who’s trapped in his dentist’s chair) about his infidelity coming from some desire for self-exploration he sees as passing — “All I need is time.”

The brief look we get at Daniel’s home life just reeks of despair and desperation, from that first glimpse of the junk-filled front yard. We learn his (unseen) father is seriously sick, his brother Joey apparently can’t be trusted to pick up his father’s pain meds and his mother would rather Daniel be around to work a minimum wage job and help her out than bother with finishing high school. The Desario household may even best previous dysfunction record holders the Kellys — no wonder Daniel and Kim have such a connection, one that’s showcased in this episode, despite their ups and downs. This episode sheds new light on Daniel’s character, on his aloofness and his moodiness. He deservedly has a lot on his mind, and his flirtation with being a “punker” is so goddamn sad, at least to us, because of what we’ve been shown.

10082010_fandg15_4.jpgTo Ken and Nick, as far as I can tell, the excursion to The Armpit is just another novelty, their default leader Daniel testing the waters (and the hairstyle — and as any former punk kid can tell you, his mistake came in using the whole egg and not the white alone to make those liberty spikes) of another cool subculture. But we’ve watched him come home with that Black Flag album and listen to it on headphones, alone in his room. Punk seems, for a second, like armor to Daniel, a way to channel the anger and frustration, to wear it like a bade, to embrace the cuts and bruises as “just another battle scar,” as he tells Jenna, trying to play tough. He wants to be a whole new person who doesn’t give a fuck about anything — but in actuality he’s lonely and wants the girl, and when things don’t work out the way he’d imagined, he goes running back to Kim, who embraces him without a word.

It’s a nice touch that the visit to the punk club wasn’t entirely in vain. Daniel may have gotten his head and nose split open and revealed himself to be a poser several times over (“Puss rules!” “It’s Pus.”), but Ken, out in the mosh pit at the end, is obviously having a grand time. But Matt, in many ways, Neal’s social suicide-embrace of ventriloquism — at school, even! — comes across as edgier, or at least more risk-taking, than Daniel’s safety pins and near nose piercing. What did you make of his implosion of a performance at the end of the Schweiber family’s traditional dental party?

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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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GIFs via Giphy

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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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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