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DID YOU READ

Steve Martin Versus An Angry Audience

Steve Martin Versus An Angry Audience (photo)

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See, I thought I was the only guy who watches Steve Martin plucking away on his banjo on Letterman and thinks to himself, “What I wouldn’t give to see that man get back to comedy.” Apparently, a whole lot of people at the 92 Street Y in Manhattan agreed with me, and they let Martin know about it. In the middle of an interview!

On Monday night, Martin appeared at 92Y at a public interview conducted by The New York Times Magazine‘s Deborah Solomon. Martin has just published a new novel called “An Object of Beauty,” and it — and its subject, the art world — dominated the conversation, much to the chagrin of the assembled audience, who apparently were expecting something more along the lines of an arrow through the head gag. According to the New York Times article about the event:

“Midway through the conversation, a Y representative handed Ms. Solomon a note asking her to talk more about Mr. Martin’s career…according to Mr. Martin, viewers watching the interview by closed-circuit television from across the country sent e-mails to the Y complaining “that the evening was not going the way they wished, meaning we were discussing art.” It was, he said, “a little like an actor responding in Act III to an audience’s texts to ‘shorten the soliloquies.’ ” The audience cheered when Ms. Solomon read aloud the note.”

It wasn’t just the customers who were displeased either. The Y emailed the 900 people who bought tickets offering $50 gift certificates (the price of a seat) along with a letter stating they “were disappointed with the evening.” Jeez, how boring was this thing? Did someone die of acute understimulation?

My first reaction to all of this was to wonder how the event was billed by the 92nd Street Y. Was it “An Evening of Laughs With Steve Martin” or “Steve Martin Conquers the Art World?” The official listing at the Y’s website calls it “Steve Martin with Deborah Solomon.” It namechecks “An Object of Beauty,” but it also mentions “Father of the Bride,” “Bowfinger,” and other movies. The description doesn’t specify the exact nature of the event, and in the Times piece, Solomon claims the Y offered her no direction about the content of the conversation. So broadly this sounds like a case of miscommunication that led to a misunderstanding.

But regardless it brings up another subject, and forgive me because I’m about to talk about art and I know how that can bore some people. Who should control Steve Martin’s — or any artist’s — career: the artist or the audience? Should he walk out on stage and introduce himself by saying “I was born a poor black child” just because we like “The Jerk?” Obviously Steve Martin would have one answer; it seems many of the people in his audience might have another.

Basically, the artist can’t win. If he makes something we like and then challenges himself to do something different — say he’s Woody Allen and he makes “Interiors” after “Annie Hall” — we complain that he’s gotten away from what we loved about him. If he makes something we like and then repeats it with more of the same — say he’s Michael Cera and he follows up “Superbad” with “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” — we call him a one trick pony. So we want range, but only so far. We say one thing and mean another. We expect the impossible: haute cuisine and comfort food all rolled into one.

I can understand the 92Y’s frustration to a point. Who knows, maybe the problem was not the fact that it was a conversation about art but rather a boring conversation about art. Still, it’s hard not to see the audience’s reaction as a pretty horrifying example of our instant gratification culture’s dark side. Instead of giving their customers $50 gift certificates, maybe the 92 Street Y could have stoked further discussion on the subject by giving everyone gift bags of relevant movies like Woody Allen’s “Stardust Memories” and D.A. Pennebaker’s “Don’t Look Back.” I’m sure Bob Dylan feels Steven Martin’s pain.

Personally, I don’t think an artist should spoon-feed. I don’t want my movies to look like the cultural equivalent of baby food. Don’t chew it for me; I’ll chew it myself. In order for that to happen, artists have to be allowed to follow their curiosities. Even if that means playing the banjo once in a while.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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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.