DID YOU READ

Funny Ladies

Funny Ladies (photo)

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Christopher Hitchens once courted controversy by penning an article entitled “Why Women Aren’t Funny” in Vanity Fair, to which this year’s Spirit Awards almost seem intended as a pointed rebuke. The funny business was good for both sexes in 2010, but extraordinary for those without the Y chromosome, resulting a group of pictures that heralds what’s new and next for comedy.

Of course, one of the most nominated films of the evening is “The Kids Are All Right,” Lisa Cholodenko’s comedy about the children of lesbian parents (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) who seek out their biological father (Mark Ruffalo). Cholodenko, who had been best known for drama, took a turn towards comedy with her latest, with the help of longtime comedy screenwriter Stuart Blumberg (“The Girl Next Door,” “Keeping the Faith”), and as it turns out, the sun-dappled San Fernando Valley that seemed so foreboding in her music biz family drama “Laurel Canyon” was ripe for something a little more lighthearted. It’s a sly maneuver on the writer/director’s part since she gets at something deeper under the guise of getting laughs, but that’s true in the case of nearly every one of this year’s nominated funnywomen.

In the case of Lena Dunham’s triple-nominated “Tiny Furniture,” the film’s writer/director/star takes the well-worn story of a college grad overcome by ambivalence about where her life will take her and transforms it into an often hilarious and introspective unromantic comedy built around her unique comic persona after she breaks up with one boyfriend and gauges the interest of potentially another while struggling to discover who she is. Though Dunham is nominated in the Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay categories, it is arguable it’s her second time around doing both, having honed a dry wit and a proclivity to wring humor from soul-baring on the hour-long feature “Creative Nonfiction” a year earlier. Then again, perhaps it’s why “Tiny Furniture” is accomplished as it is, paving the way for Dunham’s upcoming Judd Apatow-produced series on HBO and serving as just the first of what one can expect to be many signature films from the multihyphenate.

Equally fearless if only in an acting capacity — at least on “Greenberg,” since she’s been a credited writer elsewhere — Greta Gerwig’s Best Female Lead-nominated performance in Noah Baumbach’s dramedy about a misanthropic New Yorker (Ben Stiller) trying to regain control of his life while housesitting for his brother in Los Angeles gave the film a light as bright as Gerwig’s ear-to-ear grin, even if she was playing a more self-destructive character than the one in the film’s title. There’s a reason Gerwig has been the actress seemingly anointed by Hollywood to crossover from the low-budget mumblecore movement since her easygoing charms in films like Joe Swanberg’s “Hannah Takes the Stairs” and the Duplass brothers’ “Baghead” are infectious. Yet it’s Gerwig’s vulnerability – a reason she especially adept at both drama and comedy – that has already landed her roles in this year’s “No Strings Attached,” “Arthur” and the eagerly anticipated return of Whit Stillman, “Damsels in Distress” because her humor comes from such a warm, relatable and human place.

Those very same qualities could describe the films of Nicole Holofcener, who could be considered the dean of this year’s class of Spirit Award-nominated comediennes. Appropriately enough, she isn’t only nominated for her screenplay for “Please Give,” the sharply drawn dramedy about a New York family (Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt and Sarah Steele) waiting on their elderly neighbor (Ann Guilbert) to pass on so they can expand their apartment, but that the film will be honored with the Robert Altman Award, which one of the Spirit Awards’ most distinguished prizes to celebrate the year’s finest ensemble cast. There are no small parts in Holofcener’s work, a belief that all these women share in common – that, and a funny bone.

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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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