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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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

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

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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