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Josh Radnor Talks “Happythankyoumoreplease”

Josh Radnor Talks “Happythankyoumoreplease” (photo)

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No sooner than I sat down with Josh Radnor does he tell me that he’s going to give me an exclusive, as he scrolled through his smartphone. “I just found out I’ve been named to my high school’s hall of fame,” he says, clearly taken by the honor with a smirk that suggested a mix of nostalgia and bemusement. Oddly enough, it’s somewhere in between where “Happythankyoumoreplease,” Radnor’s debut as a writer/director, resides.

Not easily described as either a comedy, a drama or the usual variation thereof, Radnor’s graduation into film after years of starring on “How I Met Your Mother” is a bit more melancholy than one would expect from its emphatic title, tracking the lives of five New Yorkers all having to let go of considerable baggage if they are to face the commitments standing in front of them. Since Radnor wrote the film to star in himself, naturally he has the most on his plate as a creatively-blocked novelist who takes in a young boy he sees abandoned on the subway around the same time he becomes smitten with another stray (Kate Mara), a waitress he meets at a local pub. Meanwhile, his alopecia-stricken best friend (Malin Akerman) fights off the advances of a well-meaning but plain-looking co-worker (Tony Hale) and his sister (Zoe Kazan) fears her longtime boyfriend’s desire to move to Los Angeles.

Whether they’re successful at charting a new direction for their lives is something that needs to be seen in the film, but it’s clear Radnor’s own turn behind the camera has been, already having garnered an Audience Award at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Thankfully, after a yearlong delay that can be attributed to a change in distributors [from the nascent Hannover House to Anchor Bay], audiences outside of Park City will have the chance to see it and I caught up with Radnor recently to talk about what went into making his directorial debut.

Are you relieved the film is finally coming out? It seems like it must be frustrating to do everything right, coming out of Sundance, and then discovering you need to find another home for your film.

I always had great faith that it would come out. I knew, given the Sundance reception and we kept winning audience awards at festivals, I felt like this is a movie that audiences respond to and someone’s going to want to put this out and get it to an audience. So there was confusion in the midst of it, but Anchor Bay picked us up a few days after we left the other distributor, so it was kind of immediate. It was a very smooth passage into this other [distributor]. Then the delay happened, which has actually been fine — it’s almost like you get to spend another year at home with your kid before he gets to go to school. There’s a sweet time before it’s released before the world gets ahold with it, so I got to spend a little more time with the film, which was okay with me.

03032011_Happythankyoumoreplease1.jpgThe end credits note a bunch of actors (including Chris Messina, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Westfeldt, Sarah Chalke, among others) that “participated in readings of the script…and helped immeasurably in its development.” As an actor yourself, do you think you developed the film in a different way than if you were strictly a writer and how did those readings impact the film?

The first reading I did was in New York with, I think, I had 80 pages or something. It was like two acts of the movie and every time I would hear it out loud, I would hear what was working, what wasn’t working, what needed to be addressed and then actors actually have really good instincts about story and about structure because they’re inside the script and kind of feel like “oh that didn’t feel right.” So I ended up doing about seven readings and they were all so helpful, both in New York and L.A. — it was really fun too, to gather all these great actors together and just hear this thing you had written take on some other life in the room. But the process of doing the readings was so invaluable to me that I felt like I wanted to thank them at the end. No one obviously did it for anything other than some wine and some crackers, but I wanted to tip my hat to that whole process because it felt important to me.

It just seemed like a different way of approaching a film.

It’s more because I come from the theater where you do a lot of readings, you do a lot of workshops. Before it’s on its feet, you might do like a one or two-week workshop where you just show it to people where you still have scripts in your hand and it’s a more fluid process where you allow it to be in process rather than a finished product, so I just learned a lot about the movie and I learned that I should probably direct a movie from those readings.

The script made the Black List and there’s usually some frenzy surrounding that. Were you hearing versions of it from other directors that made you think I really should do this?

I never had an extensive conversation with a potential director on it, so I didn’t really hear about other people’s visions. It was more my vision of it was so strong and so sharp that I felt it was probably best for me to assume to reins of the whole thing.

Other actors sometimes describe the transition from doing comedy on TV to film as being a bit rough since it’s a different rhythm. Did you actually find that affecting what you did as a director or writer?

It’s hard for me to say what this is. It’s certainly not a straight-up comedy because there’s moments of real genuine feeling and anguish and all those things and it’s also certainly not a tragedy. There’s a happy ending to the whole thing. So as a writer, if a scene was a little mopey, I would feel it was time for a joke and if a scene was really funny, I would try to end it on maybe a more somber note. But that was more reflecting what I feel what life is, which is both tragic and comic in equal measure on some level.

03032011_Happythankyoumoreplease2.jpgOn a multi-camera sitcom, you’re beholden to a certain rhythm when it comes to laughs. Like 20 seconds go by, you’re going to have a laugh. I think one of the things “How I Met Your Mother” does really well is it balances that, where we’ll go to some really serious terrain and we’ll let it live there for a while. And it’s bold in the world of sitcoms for a show to do that. That said, a movie gives you a lot more latitude in that I didn’t have to have laughs in a scene at all. And that’s okay because things aren’t funny all the time.

After seeing the film, the title makes perfect sense, but did you worry with something quirky announcing your film like that, along with some of the other superficial elements of the plot that scream “this is an indie film” that you were putting a target on your back?

I don’t know because I don’t feel like a great student of indie film. It’s not like I thought, “Demographically, I think there need to be more films about young people in urban environments!” I didn’t think that and I don’t think that. But I knew this was a story I wanted to tell and I’m not a cynical person. I think a lot of indie films get really dark and if I was doing any kind of subversion, it was flipping that on its head. But I think a lot of people go in expecting the film to be one thing and it’s really not that thing and most of those people are pleasantly surprised by that.

“Happythankyoumoreplease” opens in New York and Los Angeles on March 4th.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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